November 23, 2022 •
National/Federal Cigars, Booze, Money: How a lobbying blitz made sports betting ubiquitous Yahoo News – Eric Lipton and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 11/20/2022 In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal prohibition on sports betting was unconstitutional. […]
Cigars, Booze, Money: How a lobbying blitz made sports betting ubiquitous
Yahoo News – Eric Lipton and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 11/20/2022
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal prohibition on sports betting was unconstitutional. Gambling companies and their allies then deployed a full court lobbying campaign to press for sports betting in state capitals, showering lawmakers with money, gifts, and visits from sports luminaries and at times using deceptive arguments to extract tax breaks and other concessions, according to a New York Times investigation. In state after state, while lobbyists cultivated friendly relationships with lawmakers and regulators, the interests of taxpayers and people at risk of gambling problems were often on the back burner.
GOP Operative Found Guilty of Funneling Russian Money to Donald Trump
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2022
A federal jury convicted a Republican political operative, Jesse Benton, for funneling illegal campaign contributions from a Russian national into Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Benton worked with another GOP operative to arrange for Roman Vasilenko to attend a fundraiser and take a picture with Trump. Since the event required a contribution, Vasilenko sent $100,000 to Benton’s political consulting firm, $25,000 of which Benton donated in his own name to the Trump campaign and the other $75,000 of which he pocketed.
How Carolyn Maloney’s Ticket to the Met Gala Led to an Ethics Inquiry
Yahoo News – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 11/21/2022
When U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney learned in 2016 that she had been dropped from the guest list for that year’s Met Gala, she evidently could not abide it. Maloney called a powerful friend and appeared to have done her own version of trying to talk her way on the list. In an investigative referral, a congressional ethics watchdog contended her cajoling – including reminding the Met “how much she does for the Met” – may have violated House ethics rules or federal laws that bar lawmakers from soliciting gifts, including invitations.
In New Special Counsel, a Prosecutor Schooled in Corruption Cases
DNyuz – Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 11/19/2022
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee a pair of criminal investigations involving former President Trump, thrusting him into a political firestorm that will doubtlessly accompany the job. The special counsel’s purview will include the probe of Trump’s alleged retention of highly sensitive national security secrets at his Florida estate, and aspects of the effort by Trump and his allies’ effort to subvert the 2020 election and disrupt the transition of power to President Biden. Smith has been prosecuting criminal cases, including politically charged corruption investigations involving public officials, for nearly 30 years.
Pelosi to Step Down as House Democratic Leader
Yahoo News – Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/17/2022
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will not seek to lead House Democrats for another term but remain in Congress. The decision, capping a 35-year career in which Pelosi became the most powerful female member of Congress in U.S. history, followed her party’s narrow loss of the chamber in the midterm election. Pelosi is also abiding by a 2018 agreement with fellow Democrats that she would step down from leadership by the end of 2022 to make way for a new generation. Pelosi also said the attack on her husband, Paul, would be a factor in her decision.
Senior Democratic Lawmakers Demand Answers on Alleged Supreme Court Leak
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 11/20/2022
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Hank Johnson are demanding that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the justices considered several years ago. Whitehouse and Johnson are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They made clear if the court will not investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.
Trump Family’s Newest Partners: Middle Eastern governments
Yahoo News – Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 11/21/2022
The Trump Organization signed a deal with a Saudi Arabian real estate company that creates new conflict-of-interest questions for Donald Trump’s just-launched presidential campaign. The deal is for a Trump-branded hotel, villas, and a golf course as part of a $4 billion real estate project in Oman. The agreement continues a practice that had been popular for the Trump family business until Trump was elected president – selling branding rights to an overseas project in exchange for a generous licensing fee.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – APOC OKs Subpoenas for Republican Governors Association Execs in Dunleavy Coordination Case
Midnight Sun – Matt Acuña Buxton | Published: 11/18/2022
The Alaska Public Offices Commission issued subpoenas to two officials with the Republican Governors Association (RGA), Executive Director Dave Rexrode and Chief Financial Officer Erim Canligil. A complaint argues the independent expenditure group illegally coordinated with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign, violating laws intended to keep candidates separated from unlimited corporate spending.
Arkansas – Ethics Commission Reaches Settlements in Cases Involving Advocacy Group and Arkansas Legislators
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 11/18/2022
The Common Ground Arkansas group founded by state Sen. Jim Hendren, along with Sen.-elect Bryan King and state Rep. Mary Bentley, have each been sanctioned with fines and public letters of caution by the Arkansas Ethics Commission. The fines range from $50 to $150. In a complaint, Sen. Trent Garner alleged Hendren, as founder and board member of Common Ground, violated state election law by engaging in expressed advocacy for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election or election of candidates.
California – Anaheim Residents Pressure City Council to Publicly Release Corruption Probe
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 11/16/2022
Anaheim residents will get to see if their elected leaders are corrupt after they pressured the city council to commit to releasing the findings of an internal probe. The results could implicate city staff and officials themselves. It comes after revelations of an FBI probe into City Hall and former Mayor Harry Sidhu. Federal agents allege Sidhu tried ramming through the Angel Stadium land sale for $1 million in campaign support from team officials.
California – California Raises Campaign Contribution and Gift Limits for 2023-2024
Lexology – Kimberly Railey (Covington & Burling LLP) | Published: 11/18/2022
The California Fair Political Practices Commission voted to increase limits on campaign contribution and gifts to public officials. The new caps take effect on January 1, 2023.
Connecticut – After Record Spending in CT Governor Race, Questions Arise Over Future Spending by Wealthy Candidates
CT Insider – Ken Dixon | Published: 11/21/2022
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and challenger Bob Stefanowski avoided the state’s public campaign financing program in this year’s gubernatorial election, dipping into their own wealth to spend more than $30 million and raising the question of whether top of the ticket candidates will continue doing this in the future and just how wealthy someone must be to run for the state’s highest office. If the current maximum $9 million grant is not increased for governor candidates, it could subvert the purpose of the law aimed at removing lobbyist and special-interest money from statewide and General Assembly races while opening the pool of potential candidates.
Connecticut – Manager at CT State Pier Recommended Itself for $87M in Contracts
Connecticut Mirror – Andrew Brown | Published: 11/21/2022
The company hired to oversee the redevelopment of the State Pier in New London, Kiewit Corporation, recommended itself for tens of millions of dollars in subcontracts under the project, even in some cases where another construction firm submitted a lower-priced bid to the state. That arrangement is now drawing criticism from a few Connecticut lawmakers who are concerned about the potential for a conflict-of-interest. Sen. Paul Formica, who represents the district where the new pier is being built, argued it was a poor business practice to allow Kiewit to both manage the public bidding process and submit offers for work at the site.
Florida – Judge Blocks DeSantis Law on Barring ‘Woke’ Education
Yahoo News – Anthony Izaguire (Associated Press) | Published: 11/17/2022
U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker blocked a law pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in colleges. Walker issued a temporary injunction against the so-called Stop Woke act in a ruling that called the legislation “positively dystopian.” The law prohibits teaching that contend members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilt for past actions committed by others. It also bars the notion that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race or gender, or that discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.
Georgia – Judge Says Georgia Law Allows Saturday Voting for Runoff
MSN – Kate Brumback and Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 11/18/2022
A judge said Georgia law allows counties to offer early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is the only possibility for Saturday voting before the runoff election between U.S. Sen Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Warnock’s campaign filed a lawsuit arguing that early voting should be allowed that day. They were challenging guidance by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that said it would be illegal to hold early voting on Saturday, November 26, the day after a state holiday.
Idaho – September Special Session Leads to $24,000 in Fines Against 91 Idaho Lobbyists for Late Filings
Idaho Capital Sun – Kelcie Moseley-Morris | Published: 11/21/2022
Ninety-one lobbyists were fined for filing late reports following Idaho’s one-day special session on September 1. There are 393 registered lobbyists in Idaho, meaning about 23 percent of the registered lobbyists were fined. According to emails sent to the affected lobbyists, the report was due October 15, and a fine of $50 is assessed each day the report is late. Those fines are also applicable for campaign finance reports that candidates must file monthly according to election cycles. While 13 of the fines were $150 or less, the rest were $300 after the secretary of state’s office decided to reduce what were initially $700 to $900 fines.
Illinois – Madigan: Indicted but still pitching for (and getting) money
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak and Dave McKinney | Published: 11/18/2022
Since being indicted last March as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation, former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been personally soliciting campaign contributions for his Democratic ward organization and has gotten more than $400,000 for the political fund. These contributions have helped replenish $302,000 in legal fees Madigan’s groups has spent since being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury as part of the ongoing criminal case. It is unusual to see such a large haul associated with someone in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors, someone who no longer can dole out political favors and jobs, as Madigan did for decades.
Illinois – With New Campaign Fund, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Allies Are Raising Cash Outside City Ethics Rules Limits
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/21/2022
The establishment of a new independent expenditure committee in October underscores the political battle that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s supporters are anticipating in the coming months and the loopholes that exist in campaign finance laws and city ethics rules designed to limit the influence political backers have on elected officials’ government actions. The 77 Committee, which is being run by a longtime top adviser to Lightfoot, is allowed to accept unlimited funds for her reelection, including from city contractors who are restricted under ethics rules from contributing to the mayor’s campaign or a Lightfoot-aligned PAC.
Indiana – Doctor Says She Shouldn’t Have to Turn Over Patients’ Abortion Records
MSN – Kim Bellware (Washington Post) | Published: 11/19/2022
A physician who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim has asked a judge to stop the Indiana attorney general from accessing patient medical records as part of an investigation into consumer complaints her lawyers have called a “sham.” Caitlin Bernard’s lawyers said Attorney General Todd Rokita’s efforts to obtain the patient’s medical charts are a troubling violation of patient privacy that, if allowed, would shake trust in doctor-patient confidentiality. The state countered that Rokita’s office is allowed to access the records as it investigates complaints accusing Bernard of professional lapses.
Louisiana – Federal Grand Jury Probing Purchases by LaToya Cantrell’s Image Consultant
NOLA.com – David Hammer (WWL), John Simerman, and Gabriella Killett | Published: 11/17/2022
At least two New Orleans area stores have received subpoenas from a federal grand jury and been questioned by FBI agents about clothing purchases made by Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s image consultant, Tanya Haynes. Gray Sexton, the former lawyer for the Louisiana Board of Ethics Board, said such expenditures are proper under state law only if they are truly spent on consulting, not clothing. He noted a few limited exceptions to that rule, such as people who hold elected positions that might require them to wear a uniform, such as an elected police chief, might be able to tap their campaign funds.
New Jersey – Former Top Aide to NJ Senate Leader Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion and Wire Fraud Conspiracy
Yahoo News – Steve Janoski and Ashley Balcerzak (Bergen Record) | Published: 11/21/2022
The former chief of staff to the New Jersey Senate president pleaded guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud charges. Tony Teixeira admitted he conspired with Sean Caddle, a former Hudson County political operative, to overcharge various campaigns, PACs, and nonprofits for work done by Caddle’s consulting firm. Caddle paid a portion in cash and the rest through checks made out to Teixeira’s relatives to conceal the kickbacks. Teixeira never reported the earnings to the IRS. Caddle remains on home confinement after pleading guilty to a plot in which he hired two hitmen to kill a former friend and associate.
New York – ‘Investment in Democracy’: NY begins matching campaign donations for state candidates
Auburn Citizen – Robert Harding | Published: 11/19/2022
A new program will allow candidates for state-level offices in New York to receive public funds to match small-dollar donations. The Public Campaign Finance Board launched the matching program recently for the 2024 election cycle. Candidates for state Legislature will be the first group eligible to apply and receive matching funds. The program will be in place for statewide candidates running in the 2026 election.
New York – Manhattan Prosecutors Again Consider a Path Toward Charging Trump
MSN – Jonah Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 11/21/2022
The Manhattan district attorney’s office has moved to jump-start its criminal investigation into Donald Trump, seeking to breathe new life into an inquiry that once seemed to have reached a dead end. Under the new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, the prosecutors have returned to the long-running investigation’s original focus: a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump. The renewed scrutiny of the hush money comes amid an intensifying swirl of legal and political drama around Trump.
Texas – Austin Candidates Say Bad Advice from City Made Them Miss Out on Election Funds
MSN – Sarah Asch (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 11/21/2022
Despite following guidance from the city clerk’s office, two Austin City Council candidates will miss out on thousands of dollars they had sought from a fund set up to help candidates pay for election activities. José Velásquez and Ryan Alter filed a lawsuit asking for a restraining order to prevent the city from distributing the funds, which they say they are entitled to receive. The money is held in the Fair Campaign Finance Fund, which was set up in 2008 for candidates who sign a pledge to limit the amount of campaign contributions they accept from special interest groups or from outside the city. A judge denied the restraining order.
Washington – Public Disclosure Commissions Fines Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich for Electioneering, Lobbying; Sheriff Vows Appeal
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Kip Hill | Published: 11/18/2022
Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich violated a pair of state laws prohibiting the use of public office for electioneering and use of public funds for indirect lobbying when he produced a YouTube video attacking Democratic lawmakers for their stance on crime, the Washington Public Disclosure Commission ruled. Knezovich was fined $300.
November 18, 2022 •
National/Federal Conservative Group Pressing States to Adopt Laws Protecting Companies from ‘Political Boycotts’: Report Yahoo News – Jared Gans (The Hill) | Published: 11/11/2022 A conservative group is planning to push state lawmakers across the country to adopt legislation to shield […]
Conservative Group Pressing States to Adopt Laws Protecting Companies from ‘Political Boycotts’: Report
Yahoo News – Jared Gans (The Hill) | Published: 11/11/2022
A conservative group is planning to push state lawmakers across the country to adopt legislation to shield American companies from “political boycotts.” It was reported that the American Legislative Exchange Council will lobby legislators to back its proposal at its States and Nation Policy Summit. The plan would require all government entities to include a clause in their contracts with businesses that they will promise to not “engage in economic boycotts.” The move comes amid strong Republican pushback to financial institutions seeking to distance themselves from industries such as fossil fuels.
Departing Lawmakers Are Lining Up Cushy Lobbying Gigs
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 11/17/2022
Departing lawmakers are cashing in on their public service in Washington, D.C. by securing high-paying jobs on K Street. Former lawmakers are prohibited from directly lobbying their onetime colleagues during a waiting period that lasts one year for House members and two years for senators. But they may begin advising clients – except for foreign entities intending to influence the government – immediately. In that capacity, they can offer guidance on the inner workings of their congressional conference and access to their list of contacts.
DHS Blocked Vital Research on Domestic Threats, Say Terrorism Experts
MSN – Hannah Allam (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2022
As attacks rose in 2019, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials pledged to step up their response to domestic terrorism, funding in-depth research that would help them understand the scale of the problem. But that data collection has not begun, and $10 million languishes unused. About 20 research projects faced delays because of rulings by the department’s Privacy Office that deemed them high-risk even after researchers explained the information they intended to use was available to the public. A DHS official said federal agencies are facing criticism by both major parties for their response to political violence.
Documents Show Big Foreign Government Spending at Trump Hotel
MSN – Bernard Condon (Associated Press) | Published: 11/15/2022
The Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. took in more than $750,000 from six foreign governments at sensitive moments in their U.S. relations, with guests spending as much as $10,000 per room a night, according to documents released by a congressional committee. The Trump hotel near the White House, now a Waldorf Astoria, drew criticism from the start of Trump’s presidency for taking money from Republican politicians, companies, and foreign governments eager to curry favor with him.
FEC Targets Digital Ad Disclosure
Axios – Lachlan Markey | Published: 11/10/2022
The FEC is taking a significant step towards regulating digital political ads, taking up a measure to force disclosure of paid advertising on leading social and streaming platforms. The proposed regulation would require digital ads to disclose the entity paying for them. It would also expand the types of digital ads subject to the regulations, not just traditional banner ads or videos, but also paid social media endorsements and “influencer marketing” efforts.
Feds End Ukraine-Related Foreign Lobbying Investigation into Rudy Giuliani Without Filing Charges
MSN – Kara Scannell (CNN) | Published: 11/14/2022
Federal prosecutors investigating Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine closed their probe and said no criminal charges will be brought. Prosecutors have been investigating Giuliani, the onetime personal attorney to former President Trump, for possible violations of foreign lobbying laws since early 2019. Prosecutors had examined whether Giuliani operated on behalf of Ukrainian officials when he sought the ouster of the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, while urging Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Judge Fines Trump Lawyers in Clinton Case Thrown Out in September
MSN – Azi Paybarah (Washington Post) | Published: 11/11/2022
A federal judge fined lawyers for former President Trump more than $66,000 and admonished them for filing frivolous and baseless claims in Trump’s defamation case against Hillary Clinton and her allies stemming from the 2016 presidential election. The fines include a $50,000 sanction to the court and an additional $16,274.23 payment to one of the 29 defendants in the case for expenses incurred as a result of the suit, which the judge dismissed in September.
McConnell Reelected Senate GOP Leader: ‘Not going anywhere’
Yahoo News – Lisa Mascaro, Brian Slodysko, and Mary Clare Jalonick (Associated Press) | Published: 11/16/2022
Sen. Mitch McConnell was reelected as Republican leader, quashing a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott after a disappointing performance in the midterm elections that kept Democrats in control. The unrest in the Senate GOP is similar to the uproar among House Republicans in the aftermath of the midterm elections that left the party split over Donald Trump’s hold on the party. The challenge by Scott, who was urged by Trump to confront McConnell, escalated a feud between Scott, who led the Senate Republican’s campaign arm this year, and McConnell over the party’s approach to try to reclaim the majority.
Questions About Donald Trump’s Campaign Money, Answered
MSN – Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 11/15/2022
With his formal announcement of a third presidential bid, Donald Trump now will face new limits on raising and spending money ahead of the 2024 election. But election lawyers and campaign finance experts said loopholes in federal election rules, and lax enforcement by federal regulators of existing laws, still offer Trump several potential routes to capitalize on the massive fundraising operation he and his aides have built since his 2020 loss.
Republicans Narrowly Win House, Ending Full Democratic Control of Congress
MSN – Hannah Knowles, Marianna Sotomayor, and Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2022
Republicans were projected to win back control of the U.S. House with a narrow majority, dealing a blow to President Biden and his agenda even as Democrats defied predictions of a rout to limit the GOP’s power. Republicans sought to harness dismay at inflation, crime, and the direction of the country. Their gains fell far short of the red wave they once envisioned, as Democrats countered with campaigns centered on abortion rights and fighting Republican extremism. The GOP gains the ability to launch investigations and block legislation.
They Rallied in D.C. on Jan. 6. Now They’ll Join Congress.
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 11/14/2022
While the Republican Party suffered surprising losses in the midterms, including defeats of many who bought into Donald Trump’s false election claims, the arrival of freshman lawmakers in Congress who had come to Washington as pro-Trump activists on January 6, 2021, underscores the extent to which the House Republican caucus remains a haven for election deniers. At least 150 election deniers were projected to win House races, compared with the 139 who voted against certifying President Biden’s election.
Trump Wanted IRS Investigations of Foes, Top Aide Says
Yahoo News – Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 11/14/2022
While in office, former President Trump repeatedly told John Kelly, his White House chief of staff, that he wanted a number of his perceived political enemies to be investigated by the IRS, Kelly said. Kelly said Trump’s demands were part of a broader pattern of him trying to use the Justice Department and his authority as president against people who had been critical of him. Kelly said he made clear to Trump there were serious legal and ethical issues with what he wanted.
Trump, Who as President Fomented an Insurrection, Says He Is Running Again
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf (Washington Post) | Published: 11/15/2022
Donald Trump, who refused to concede defeat and inspired a failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election culminating in a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, officially declared he is running to retake the White House in 2024. The announcement came in a moment of political vulnerability for Trump as voters rejected his endorsed candidates in the midterm elections. Since then, elected Republicans have blamed Trump for the party’s performance and potential rivals are already plotting to challenge him for the nomination.
Two Anonymous $425 Million Donations Give Dark Money Conservative Group a Massive Haul
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 11/16/2022
One of the biggest conservative “dark money” organizations in the nation was boosted last year by two separate anonymous gifts, each totaling more than $425 million dollars. The money was sent to DonorsTrust, a 501(c)(3) charity that has become one of the most influential conduit of funds in Republican-leaning circles. They are among the largest ever donations to a politically connected group. Under law, the individual or individuals behind those $425 million donations were not required to be disclosed to the public. DonorsTrust did not reveal them.
U.S. Intelligence Report Says Key Gulf Ally Meddled in American Politics
MSN – John Howard (Washington Post) | Published: 11/12/2022
A classified report outlines legal and illegal efforts by United Arab Emirates (UAE) to steer U.S. foreign policy in ways favorable to the country. It reveals the UAE’s bid, spanning multiple administrations, to exploit the vulnerabilities in American governance, including its reliance on campaign contributions, susceptibility to powerful lobbying firms, and lax enforcement of disclosure laws intended to guard against interference by foreign governments. The intelligence community’s scrutiny of the UAE indicates a heightened level of concern and a departure from the laudatory way the country is discussed in public by U.S. officials.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Katie Hobbs Elected Arizona Governor, Defeating Trump-Backed Election Denier Kari Lake
MSN – Stacey Barchenger (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/14/2022
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, built a national profile by standing up to false claims about the 2020 presidential election, won the state’s gubernatorial election. With her win, Arizonans followed voters in other battleground states who rejected gubernatorial candidates who pushed false claims about election results. Hobbs will be the fifth female to hold the top elected office in Arizona, more than in any other state.
Arizona – Supreme Court Turns Down Arizona GOP Head’s Request to Shield Records
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 11/14/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a request from Arizona Republican Party Chairperson Keli Ward to shield her phone records from the congressional committee investigating the assault on the Capitol. A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had said it was proper for the committee to issue a subpoena seeking information about calls placed from Ward’s cellphone between November 2020 and January 202. Ward argued that would violate her First Amendment right to freedom of association.
California – Anaheim and Its Ex-Mayor Won’t Disclose His Emails and Texts, So We Took Them to Court
MSN – Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/16/2022
The Los Angeles Times asked a judge to compel the city of Anaheim and former Mayor Harry Sidhu to disclose records related to an FBI corruption investigation into a self-described “cabal” that allegedly ran the city. The Times is also seeking records of other city business, including any messages related to negotiations surrounding the aborted Angel Stadium sale, which collapsed after the probe became public. Sidhu, who resigned while under criminal investigation, has refused to turn over emails and text messages from personal accounts he used to conduct city business.
California – Capt. Hollywood: Who is the ex-LAPD commander who tipped off CBS to assault claim?
MSN – Richard Winton and Meg James (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/13/2022
Known around the Los Angeles Police Department as “Capt. Hollywood,” Cory Palka played the part. He was a regular at Hollywood Boulevard star dedication ceremonies and picked up a lucrative off-duty assignment as a bodyguard for CBS’ former chief, Leslie Moonves. His actions now are under scrutiny after it was revealed that five years ago, Palka tipped off CBS executives to the existence of a confidential complaint alleging Moonves sexually assaulted a co-worker. Palka, then captain of the Hollywood station, worked closely with CBS to contain the allegations.
California – Jury Finds L.A. Skyscraper Developer Paid Jose Huizar More Than $1 Million in Bribes
MSN – Michael Finnegan (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/10/2022
The development company Shen Zhen New World I was convicted of paying former Los Angeles City Council member Jose Huizar more than $1 million in bribes to win his support for a proposed skyscraper in the city. It was the second conviction of a developer accused of paying off Huizar, who left office in 2020. A federal jury found developer Dae Yong Lee guilty of paying Huizar $500,000 in cash. Huizar is scheduled to go on trial in February. From 2013 to 2018, prosecutors say, he used his city office as an extortion racket to secure more than $1.5 million in illicit payments from developers seeking city approval of projects.
California – Karen Bass Elected Mayor, Becoming First Woman to Lead L.A.
MSN – Julia Wick (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/16/2022
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass defeated Rick Caruso in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, making her the first woman and second Black Angeleno elected to lead the city. Confidence in local government is seemingly at a nadir after a series of City Hall indictments in recent years, and the release of a leaked audio recording less than a month before the election that revealed top officials making racist comments and scheming to maintain political power. The city’s first competitive mayoral race in nearly a decade was a story of contrasts, with two candidates who symbolized divergent visions of the city.
Georgia – Democrats Sue to Allow Saturday Voting in Georgia Runoff Amid Holiday Dispute
MSN – Mattherw Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2022
Democrats are suing to force Georgia election officials to allow early voting on a Saturday ahead of the U.S. Senate runoff election on December 6. The suit comes in response to a determination by state officials that the law forbids voting right after Thanksgiving and a state holiday that once honored Robert E. Lee. The lawsuit argues that current guidance “applies only to primary and general elections, not runoffs.” The early voting period is set for November 28 through December 2, a stretch that does not include a weekend day, which voting rights advocates say makes it more difficult for some people to cast ballots.
Hawaii – County Ethics Watchdogs Need More Money to Do the Job Right, State Panel Says
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 11/11/2022
A commission wants Hawaii’s county ethics watchdogs to have more funding to monitor, and if need be, investigate public officials after a string of public corruption cases put a spotlight on government ethics and transparency. Unlike the Honolulu Ethics Commission, with 11 full-time staff and a total budget over $650,000, the ethics boards for Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii island operate with either no funds or very little to cover travel or food expenses. Staff members are usually limited to a secretary and attorney in the county’s corporation counsel office, both of whom may have other responsibilities outside of helping the all-volunteer ethics board.
Hawaii – Hawaii Lawmakers Honored Federal Lobbyist Despite Her Conviction in a Foreign Lobbying Scandal
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 11/14/2022
The Hawaii Senate approved an honorary certificate for businessperson Nickie Lum Davis, lauding her for her “public service and outstanding contributions to her community.” What the certificate did not mention was that Davis pleaded guilty in 2020 to federal charges and was awaiting sentencing in a criminal case. The U.S. Justice Department accused her and others of secretly lobbying the Trump administration on behalf of Chinese and Malaysian interests. Davis has submitted the certificate to a judge to bolster her character and avoid prison.
Illinois – Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin ‘Not Medically Fit’ for Trial, Her Lawyers Say Days After She Voted on City Budget
Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Seidel | Published: 11/11/2022
Lawyers for indicted Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin told a judge she is “not medically fit to stand trial” and they will seek to have her prosecution put on hold. Austin is accused of taking home improvement materials as kickbacks from a developer overseeing a $50 million development in her ward. The lawyers said Austin “cannot cooperate fully with counsel or withstand the stress of a trial.” Austin has been attending city council meetings and voting on legislation. Austin was receiving supplemental oxygen while in the council chambers recently.
Illinois – Where is Ald. Walter Burnett Jr.’s Missing $300,000 in Campaign Money?
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak and Lauren FitzPatrick | Published: 11/11/2022
Since 1999, Chicago Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. reported investing $375,000 of the $4.2 million in campaign contributions he received from political supporters, but $300,000 of the invested money has disappeared from his campaign finance reports. Burnett has declined to answer reporters’ questions about his campaign reports, which he has frequently amended, some of them as many as five times. the State Board of Elections says it has known for several months that Burnett’s campaign fund stopped reporting what it has done with the invested contributions, which it is required to do under state law.
Kansas – Ex-Kansas Democratic Party Officers Disciplined for ‘Unprecedented’ Campaign Finance Errors
MSN – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital Journal) | Published: 11/16/2022
The Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission disciplined two former state Democratic Party officers over errors in the group’s campaign finance reports that occurred over a seven-year period. Ethics officials termed the scope of the mistakes, which total over $1.5 million in expenditures and contributions that were misreported, to be “unprecedented.” Between 2009 and 2016, the party had underreported over $500,000 in contributions, as well as $507,000 in unreported expenditures, plus additional assets that were overreported.
Kansas – Legislative Veto of Regulations Amendment Fails in Closest Vote of Kansas 2022 Election
MSN – Jason Tidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 11/16/2022
Kansas voters appear to have narrowly rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have created a so-called legislative veto over administrative rules and regulations. Supporters of the amendment viewed it as a way to ensure the legislative branch, which generally delegates regulatory authority, had sufficient checks and balances over the executive branch, which typically promulgates and enforces regulations. Opponents feared the extent to which legislators, who are not typically experts on regulations, could be influenced by lobbyists or political motivations.
Kentucky – Lobbyists Who Engage Louisville Officials Must Register with City Under New Ordinance
Yahoo – Billy Kobin (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 11/11/2022
A new ordinance in Louisville requires lobbyists and principles to register if they engage with public officials and file expenditure reports. It sets a $500 limit on gifts from lobbyists to candidates and officials and their families. Lobbyists may pay the cost for an official to attend certain events as long as it does not exceed $300. When he introduced the proposal, Metro Councilperson Bill Hollander said it would fix “a gaping shortfall of our ethics ordinance.”
Louisiana – NOPD Investigating Officer Frequently Inside Cantrell’s City-Owned Apartment
MSN – Lee Zurik and Dannah Kirby (WVUE) | Published: 11/9/2022
Surveillance video has led to more questions about how New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is spending her time and taxpayer dollars. While investigating whether Cantrell was living at a city-owned apartment complex, the video showed she spent many hours inside the apartment, often during the workday, and sometimes stayed overnight. The head of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, Rafael Goyeneche, said that could be a violation of a policy that states city property is for work-related purposes and not personal benefit. The videos also show Cantrell is also spending hours there with one member of her security team.
Maryland – Carroll County Commissioners Approve Updated Ethics Rules on Financial Disclosures and Gifts
MSN – Sherry Greenfield (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 11/11/2022
The Board of Carroll County Commissioners approved new provisions in the county’s ethics ordinance to reflect changes in state law regarding gifts and financial disclosures. Commissioners have been discussing since September state law measures enacted by the General Assembly in 2021 that changed ethics law requirements for local governments.
Nevada – Democrats Keep Control of the Senate with Win in Nevada
MSN – Hannah Knowles and Liz Goodwin (Washington Post) | Published: 11/13/2022
Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate, clinching a narrow majority as they showed strength in battleground races in a daunting midterm year that handed President Biden a major victory as he looks to his next two years in office. The final blow to Republican hopes of retaking the chamber came in Nevada, where Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection, ensuring Democrats a 50th seat, with a runoff election still to come in Georgia that could pad their slim majority.
New Mexico – NM Supreme Court Throws Out Couy Griffin’s Appeal
Source New Mexixo – Austin Fisher | Published: 11/15/2022
Former Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin failed to explain to the New Mexico Supreme Court how he would challenge his removal from elected office, so the justices threw out his appeal. A lower court ruling also barred him for life from serving in elected federal and state positions. It was the first time an elected official was unseated by court order as a result of participating in or supporting the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
New York – Free Speech of Ex-State Workers Under Scrutiny in APA Case
Albany Times Union – Gwendolyn Craig (Adirondack Explorer) | Published: 11/11/2022
A retired Adirondack Park Agency staff member’s stymied attempt at submitting input this summer during the agency’s open public comment period could lead New York’s Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government to consider the matter and what it could mean for past and present state employees’ participation in solicited feedback. APA Associate Counsel Sarah Reynolds wrote Linck that his written comments “appear to contain confidential information” and may violate post-employment restrictions. Reynolds said the agency would not consider them and referred Linck to the state ethics commission.
New York – Groups Urge State Ethics Watchdog to Probe $5M Cuomo Book Approval, Failed Policies
Spectrum News – Kate Lisa | Published: 11/14/2022
Good-government groups want New York’s new ethics commission to learn from the mistakes of its predecessor, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which was disbanded this year. The coalition sent a letter to the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, pushing it to revisit the decisions that led to the approval of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $5 million book deal and JCOPE’s policies. In September, the new commission voted to follow precedent from JCOPE when making decisions, pushing watchdogs to file a complaint. In October, the commission voted to continue any pending cases JCOPE did not finish.
New York – New York City Football Club Stadium Deal Provides Affordable Housing – and a Win for Lobbyist with Ties to Adams
MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt and Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 11/16/2022
A $780 million soccer stadium deal in Queens approved by New York City Mayor Eric Adams was a win for one of his top political advisers, who lobbied City Hall for months on behalf of the project’s developer. Nathan Smith, a political strategist who served as a top aide in Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign, signed a lobbying contract with City Football Group to lobby the mayor’s team to develop a facility for the New York City Football Club. So far, Smith’s firm, Red Horse Strategies, has been paid $20,000 by the club’s owner.
Ohio – Jury Convicts Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen of Six Theft-Related Charges
Yahoo News – Nancy Molnar (The Times-Reporter) | Published: 11/16/2022
Dover Mayor Richard Homrighausen was convicted on theft in office and five other criminal charges. The jury found him guilty of four counts of soliciting improper compensation for taking fees for performing wedding ceremonies. He was also convicted of dereliction of duty for failing to deposit the payments in the city treasury. The theft in office conviction bars Homrighausen from holding public office for life. Authorities said Homrighausen did not claim the fees on his federal, state, or local taxes or declare the payments on financial disclosure forms.
South Dakota – Ethics Board Subpoenas DCI for Investigation Report into If Gov. Kristi Noem Misused the State Airplane
Yahoo News – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 11/14/2022
The Government Accountability Board issued a subpoena for the Division of Criminal Investigation relating to its investigation into South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s alleged personal use of the state airplane. The move comes after the Hughes County state’s attorney found there were “no facts to support a criminal prosecution under current law” and returned the complaint to the board.
Tennessee – Campaign Finance Watchdog Files Complaint Against Harwell
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 11/15/2022
The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint against former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell claiming she violated the law by moving $47,000 in “soft money” into her failed congressional campaign this year. The complaint say Harwell appears to have broken federal rules by directing $35,000 from the Beth Harwell Committee and $12,000 from the Harwell PAC, both state accounts, into a super PAC that purchased advertising supporting her Fifth Congressional District campaign in advance of the August primary.
Texas – Texas Investigating Voting Difficulties in Houston’s Harris County
MSN – Molly Hennessey-Fiske (Washington Post) | Published: 11/16/2022
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for a criminal investigation into “widespread problems” and “allegations of improprieties” in Harris County’s election. He noted voting in the nation’s third-largest county was plagued by understaffing, broken voting machines, and paper ballot shortages, even though turnout was lower than county officials expected. Abbott and other Republicans have claimed the problem was especially acute in conservative areas, although complaints came from Democratic areas as well.
Washington DC – D.C. Housing Authority Internal Auditor Alleges Illegal Contracting
MSN – Steve Thompson (Washington Post) | Published: 11/13/2022
The District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) illegally contracted with a software company, spending about $1 million without competitive bidding and splitting the amount into smaller purchases to escape scrutiny from the agency’s board, according to a report by the authority’s internal auditor. The review alleges that DCHA under its previous director, Tyrone Garrett, entered the first of the “illegal contracts” in 2019. But in a more immediate concern for the agency’s board, the review also accuses DCHA’s current executive staff of improperly trying “to use emergency contracts to cover up the error of obtaining an illegal contract.”
November 11, 2022 •
National/Federal Democrats Buck Midterm History to Win Control of 4 States Yahoo News – David Lieb (Associated Press) | Published: 11/9/2022 Defying historic midterm trends, Democrats wrested control of state legislative chambers away from Republicans in Michigan and Minnesota while also […]
Democrats Buck Midterm History to Win Control of 4 States
Yahoo News – David Lieb (Associated Press) | Published: 11/9/2022
Defying historic midterm trends, Democrats wrested control of state legislative chambers away from Republicans in Michigan and Minnesota while also gaining full control of state Capitols in Maryland and Massachusetts. The Democrats’ gains gave them power to set agendas in four states that previously had politically divided governments. Only twice since 1900 had the president’s party posted a net increase in state legislative seats during a midterm election – in 1934 and in 2002, a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
‘Espionage Lite’ or Deal Making? Prosecutors Struggle to Draw a Line.
DNyuz – Rebecca Davis O’Brien (New York Times) | Published: 11/7/2022
Thomas Barrack, an adviser to former President Trump, was acquitted of violating federal law by acting as a foreign agent without authorization while trying to help the United Arab Emirates influence the Trump administration. The charges included acting as an agent of a foreign government without notifying the attorney general, a charge the Justice Department has referred to as “espionage lite,” a violation of Section 951 of the U.S. criminal code. In recent cases, the misconduct charged under the law more closely resembles lobbying, business dealings, or management consulting. “[Prosecutors] are now using the statute in this very fuzzy context of influence,” said Robert Kelner, an expert on government ethics law.
Fed Up with Political Text Messages? Read On.
Yahoo News – Natasha Singer (New York Times) | Published: 11/5/2022
In October, people in the United States received an estimated 1.29 billion political text messages, about twice as many as in April, according to an app that blocks Robocalls and spam texts. Many voters have complaints about it. Many were rife with divisive language or deceptive content. Political texting is becoming a go-to method for spreading doomsday scenarios, lies, and campaign smears. FEC rules requiring political ads on broadcast television, cable, and radio to disclose their sponsors do not apply to political text messages.
Federal PAC Supporting Ron DeSantis’ Presidential Bid Sues FEC Over List-Sharing Ruling
Open Secrets – Taylor Giorno | Published: 11/3/2022
Ready for Ron sued the FEC after the agency blocked the hybrid PAC from sharing a petition with tens of thousands of supporters and their contact information with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to encourage him to run for president in 2024. At the heart of the lawsuit is whether that list, something campaigns typically spend a lot of money compiling, is political speech or an in-kind contribution. If successful, the lawsuit could poke more holes in regulations barring coordination between super PACs and campaigns, experts said.
Former Government Officials’ Details Missing from Hundreds of Lobbying Returns
thejournal.ie – Stephen McDermott and Cormac Fitzgerald | Published: 11/9/2022
Dozens of former government officials who subsequently lobbied senior figures have incorrectly appeared as ‘ordinary; lobbyists on Ireland’s register of lobbying. An analysis found almost 400 returns on the Lobbying Register in which ex-ministers, ministerial advisers, and secretaries general were not listed as what are known as former Designated Public Officials as required by law. The incomplete entries included lobbying returns filed on behalf of multinationals such as Google, Huawei, Diageo, and Merck.
GOP Exuberance Crashed into Democratic Resistance to Defy Midterm Expectations
MSN – Dan Balz and Dan Keating (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2022
Few foresaw that Democrats would defy expectations of a “red wave” in the midterm elections, but the pattern of results has been a part of the country’s politics for some time, ever since Donald Trump won the White House in 2016. The forces that aligned against Trump in 2018 and 2020 were evident again on November 8. Abortion and concerns about extremism in the GOP proved as potent in energizing voters on the left as inflation, crime, and illegal immigration did in aiding Republicans. President Biden’s low approval ratings turned out to be less catastrophic for Democratic candidates than history would have suggested.
How Trump’s Bogus Election Day Claims Broke Through Facebook and Twitter Bans
MSN – Mark Scott (Politico) | Published: 11/9/2022
Donald Trump spent Election Day posting unfounded allegations on his own Truth Social platform, as well as on the encrypted messenger Telegram. Those platforms are far smaller than Facebook and Twitter, which have banned Trump, and state officials quickly debunked the claims. But his accusations boomeranged onto more mainstream platforms as candidates, high-profile influencers, and voters shared his allegations. It offers a preview of how hard it will be for even powerful platforms to contain false or misleading statements by the former president in 2024.
Investigators Search for Pricey Gifts to Trump from Foreign Leaders
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2022
Congressional investigators are looking for dozens of pricey mementos gifted to former President Trump and his family members by foreign governments. The House Oversight Committee has asked for help in locating the items from the National Archives, which is among the agencies charged with keeping presidential gifts. The committee asked the archives to check whether the gifts are among the items transferred there from the White House at the end of Trump’s presidency as required by law. The committee is also seeking records from Trump’s team about its record keeping, a Trump adviser said.
Private Equity Firm Bets on Washington
MSN – Theodoric Meyer (Washington Post) | Published: 11/10/2022
Private equity is pouring more money into Washington, D.C., investing in a group of polling, public relations, lobbying, and political consulting firms. Seidler Equity Partners, a private equity firm based in California, has taken a minority stake in a conglomerate of 10 firms. Seidler’s investment will allow GP3 Partners to buy more companies to become a bigger player in Washington, said Darrell Lauterbach, GP3’s chief executive. K Street is highly fragmented, with hundreds of lobbying, law, communications, and political consulting firms competing for business.
Spanish Govt Proposes Rules for Lobbyists, Public Officials
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 11/8/2022
Spain’s Council of Ministers introduced a bill to increase the transparency of interactions between public officials and lobbyists. Officials involved in any stage of policymaking would have to report their meetings with representatives of companies or groups that hoped to influence governmental decisions. Lobbyists would need to enroll in a new electronic registry of interest groups to carry out any encounters with any members of the government, among other provisions.
The FEC Isn’t Enforcing the Law. Does It Even Matter?
Mother Jones – Russ Choma | Published: 11/8/2022
With the three Democratic commissioners and the three Republican commissioners on the FEC deadlocked for years, the agency has failed to reach any meaningful consensus on major enforcement issues. Transparency activists are upset over the actions of the FEC’s newest Democratic member who joined the agency in August. Dara Lindenbaum has several times voted with the Republicans to dismiss enforcement cases that advocates had hoped would be pushed to the courts to decide. Lindenbaum and Republican Chairperson Allen Dickerson say that by finding a kind of bi-partisan agreement they are getting the FEC moving again.
Trump Called a Protest. No One Showed. Why GOP Efforts to Cry Foul Fizzled This Time.
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Patrick Marley, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2022
After two years of promises from Donald Trump and his supporters they would flood polls and counting stations with partisan watchers to spot alleged fraud, after threats lodged against election workers, and after postings on internet chat groups called for violent action to stop supposed cheating, a peaceful Election Day drew high turnout and only scattered reports of problems. Election officials said they believed the relative normalcy resulted from a combination of concerted effort on the part of well-prepared poll workers and voters, as well as that some of Trump’s loudest supporters were less potent than they had claimed.
U.S. Judiciary Launches Online Database of Judges’ Financial Disclosures
Reuters – Nate Raymond | Published: 11/7/2022
Members of the public will be able to search federal judges’ financial disclosure reports detailing their assets and stock trades through a congressionally mandated online database that went live recently. The launch comes after President Biden in May signed into law a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for the public to see if a judge has a financial conflicts-of-interest warranting his or her recusal from hearing a case. The law was prompted by a Wall Street Journal report that more than 130 federal judges had failed to recuse themselves from cases involving companies in which they or their family members owned stock.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Voters Back Ballot Measure Taking Aim at ‘Dark Money’
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2022
Arizona voters approved a ballot measure that aims to curb “dark money” in elections. The money is veiled because it travels through nonprofits, which are exempt under current law from disclosing their donors. Proposition 211 requires any group making independent expenditures of at least $50,000 in statewide races or $25,000 in other races to report donors contributing more than $5,000. Approval of the measure could galvanize similar efforts elsewhere, said Terry Goddard, the former Arizona attorney general who spearheaded the move to put the issue on the ballot,
California – Inside the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department Corruption Investigation of Its Own Watchdogs
MSN – Michael Finnegan and Laura Nelson (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/3/2022
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department searched the home of county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s after it had spent three years looking into an allegation that Kuehl, one of Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s harshest critics, had taken bribes from a friend in return for Metropolitan Transportation Authority contracts. A Los Angeles Times review of the case found it is based on the testimony of one person, a former Metro employee named Jennifer Loew, who brought her bribery complaint to at least four law enforcement agencies but found a receptive audience only at the Sheriff’s Department. The Times found no evidence to support Loew’s allegation.
California – Jury Returns Guilty Verdicts on All Counts in Santa Clara County Sheriff Corruption Trial
MSN – Robert Salonga (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 11/3/2022
A jury reached guilty verdicts on all six counts in the civil corruption trial of now-former Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith, capping a monthlong trial that Smith nearly upended with her abrupt resignation, though a judge ordered the case to continue. A grand jury’s formal accusations alleged she illicitly steered concealed-carry weapons permits to donors and supporters, undermined state gift-reporting laws, and stifled a civilian auditor’s probe into a high-profile injury case at the county jail.
Florida – Conflicts of Interest, Cronyism at SFRTA, Tri-Rail’s Operator, Amid Furtive Renewal of Costly Lobbying Contract
Florida Bulldog – Dan Christensen | Published: 11/7/2022
The governing board of the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA), ditched staff plans to seek bids for lobbying services and instead rehired its longtime lobbyist amid apparent cronyism, conflicts-of-interest, and possibly wasteful spending. The rehiring of lobbyist Candice Ericks, vice president of TSE Consulting, the lobbying arm of the Tripp Scott law firm, came during a March meeting. Among the SFRTA board members who voted to abandon seeking bids and renew Ericks’s expiring $246,000-a-year contract was Ericks’s own boss – Tripp Scott co-founder, fellow TSE lobbyist, and SFRTA Vice Chairperson James Scott.
Georgia – Georgia’s Senate Race Will Go to a Runoff Between Warnock and Walker
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2022
The U.S. Senate race in Georgia between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker is heading to a December 6 runoff. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the state has looked at “the outstanding vote totals and neither one would be on 50 percent,” the threshold needed for victory. Georgia is one of two states, along with Louisiana, in which runoffs are required during general elections when no candidate secures more than half the votes.
Georgia – Gingrich Ordered to Appear Before Ga. Grand Jury Probing 2020 Election
MSN – Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/9/2022
A Virginia judge rejected an attempt by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to evade a summons for his grand jury testimony in Georgia, where Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating efforts by supporters of former President Trump to overturn the 2020 election results in that state. Gingrich’s lawyers argued the federal law that normally requires states to honor out-of-state grand jury summonses should not apply in this case because the special grand jury in Georgia lacks the power to indict. But Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Robert Smith said the law does not parse out a difference between types of grand juries.
Hawaii – Hawaii May Soon Have More Tools to Prosecute Public Corruption
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 11/9/2022
A statewide standards commission recommended new felonies dealing with fraud, false claims, and statements that may allow state and county prosecutors to bring charges against public officials similar to those brought by federal prosecutors in a string of public corruption cases this year. The U.S. Department of Justice has brought a handful of cases dealing with bribery and other forms of public corruption in Hawaii under the broad federal crime of honest services wire fraud. “It would have been difficult if not impossible to charge those cases under the existing state laws,” Flo Nakakuni, a deputy Honolulu prosecutor.
Kentucky – Kentucky Rejects Amendment 1, in Blow to Legislature’s GOP Supermajority
MSN – Joe Sonka (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 11/8/2022
Kentucky voters rejected a ballot referendum that would have amended the state constitution to allow lawmakers to call themselves into a special session, a victory for Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear over the supermajority Republican Legislature. Only the governor can call legislators into a special session, during which they are only permitted to pass bills that are within the parameters set by the governor, as Beshear did in August to address flood relief.
Kentucky – ‘Shocks the Conscience.’ Panel Orders Kentucky Judge Removed Over Ethics Violations
MSN – Bill Estep (Lexington Herald Leader) | Published: 11/4/2022
A Kentucky judge committed a long list of violations that included mismanaging his courtroom, pressuring people for campaign contributions, violating people’s rights, and rigging bids for a home-detention monitoring service, a state ethics panel ruled. The Judicial Conduct Commission issued an order removing Circuit Court Judge James Jameson from office. Jameson was up for reelection, but the panel went further to say he is unfit for office in a new term as well.
Maine – Maine Gives Companies More Time to Disclose PFAS Use After Requests from Lobbying Groups
Bangor Daily News – Mehr Sher | Published: 11/7/2022
Maine lawmakers passed a law last year to require all manufacturers selling items in the state, from cars to T-shirts, to disclose whether their products contain toxic chemicals. Requiring disclosure was also a step toward Maine’s plan to prohibit the sale of products containing the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, known as PFAS. As the deadline to make the information public approaches, the state has been allowing national lobbying groups to delay the requirement on behalf of their members, some of whom said they did not even know they had been granted an extension.
Massachusetts – AP Sources: Justice Dept. watchdog probing Mass. US attorney
Yahoo News – Alanna Durkin Richer and Michael Balsamo (Associated Press) | Published: 11/7/2022
The Justice Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation of the top federal prosecutor in Massachusetts, prompted by U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins’ appearance at a political fundraiser featuring first lady Jill Biden. The inspector general’s office is focusing on Rollins’ attendance at the Democratic National Committee event in July as well as her use of her personal cellphone to conduct official business. An investigation by the department’s internal watchdog targeting one of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys, is highly unusual.
Massachusetts – Former State Police Union Head Dana Pullman, Lobbyist Anne Lynch Convicted of Racketeering, Fraud
MSN – Tom Matthews (MassLive) | Published: 11/3/2022
The former president of the Massachusetts State Police union, Dana Pullman, and former lobbyist Anne Lynch were convicted by a federal jury of racketeering, fraud, obstruction of justice, and tax crimes. Pullman was the president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM) from 2012 until his resignation in 2018. Lynch’s lobbying firm represented SPAM during the same time. Pullman and Lynch defrauded SPAM members and the state when Lynch paid Pullman a $20,000 kickback in connection with a settlement agreement between SPAM and the state, officials said.
Michigan – Proposal 1: Michigan voters pass term limits, financial disclosure reform measure
Detroit News – Carol Thompson | Published: 11/8/2022
Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that would require state lawmakers to disclose some information about their personal finances and relax legislative term limits. Michigan is one of few states that do not require lawmakers to disclose anything about their personal finances while in office. Proposal 1 requires legislators, the governor, secretary of state, and attorney general to file annual financial disclosure reports starting in April 2024.
New Jersey – Lawmaker Calls for Review of State Office That Prosecutes Public Corruption Cases
New Jersey Monitor – Dana DiFilippo | Published: 11/4/2022
New Jersey Joe Cryan is calling for an independent review of the state attorney general’s office of public integrity and accountability after a Bergen County judge dismissed a public corruption indictment and raised questions about the office’s ethical conduct. Cryan’s demand comes after several high-profile losses for the office, which former Attorney General Gurbir Grewal launched in 2018 to prosecute public officials and law enforcement for misconduct.
New Mexico – State Files Lawsuit Against Political Action Committee
KRQE – Curtis Segarra | Published: 11/9/2022
New Mexico’s Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit against a political advocacy group, alleging the Working Families Organization, which funded a text message campaign to influence voters, did not properly disclose who was funding the campaign. The lawsuit also alleges the group did not properly register with the New Mexico secretary of state’s office as a political committee.
New York – Trump’s Company to Get a Court Monitor, Judge Rules
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 11/3/2022
A judge granted the New York attorney general’s request that former President Trump’s business be overseen by an independent monitor. The order requires the Trump Organization’s dealings with banks and sale of major assets be subject to supervision by a third-party expert to be named by the court. The monitor will oversee attempts to transfer assets and will screen any future reports of Trump’s net worth to financial and insurance institutions.
North Dakota – North Dakota Voters OK Term Limits for Governor, Legislators
Associated Press News – James MacPherson | Published: 11/9/2022
Voters in North Dakota approved term limits for their governor and state legislators. The ballot measure adds an article to the state constitution limiting lawmakers to eight years each in the state House and Senate. A governor could not be elected more than twice.
Ohio – Ohio County Auditor Wins Reelection Weeks Before His Corruption Trial
MSN – Erin Glynn (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 11/9/2022
An indicted county auditor in Ohio won his reelection race just weeks before he is scheduled to face trial on six charges related to public corruption. If Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds is convicted of a felony, the county Republican Party would appoint his replacement. Reynolds has pleaded not guilty and said the charges are false and politically motivated.
Oregon – NRA Committee to Be Fined for Delay in Reporting Donation to Campaign against Oregon Measure 114 Gun Control Initiative
Portland Oregonian – Maxine Bernstein | Published: 11/7/2022
The Oregon Elections Division said it will fine a National Rifle Association political committee more than $8,000 for the tardy reporting of a $25,700 donation to the campaign opposing Measure 114, a gun control ballot proposal. The NRA Oregonians for Freedom committee received the contribution from the NRA Political Victory Fund on July 29 but did not report it until November 1, far beyond the 30-day deadline.
Oregon – Oregon Voters Pass Measure 113, Punishing Lawmakers for Walkouts
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud and Gosia Wozniacka | Published: 11/8/2022
Oregon lawmakers who boycott the state Capitol for an extended period to defeat legislation they oppose could now face a penalty after voters approved Measure 113. The ballot measure amends the state constitution so that going forward, any lawmaker with at least 10 unexcused absences will be disallowed from serving in the Legislature during the subsequent term. Republicans used walkouts in 2019 and 2020 to kill Democrats’ environmental reform plans and to defeat vaccine and gun regulation bills.
Pennsylvania – Kenyatta Johnson and His Wife, Dawn Chavous, Acquitted at Federal Bribery Trial
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck and Oona Goodin-Smith (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/2/2022
A federal jury found Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson not guilty of participating in a bribery scheme that allegedly saw him accept thousands of dollars from two former nonprofit executives in exchange for political favors. Jurors also acquitted Johnson’s wife, Dawn Chavous, along with former executives at Universal Companies, Abdur Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan. The jury rejected the government’s accusations that Johnson sold the powers of his office to the executives, who funneled their payoffs through a sham $67,000 consulting contract with Chavous.
Pennsylvania – Mistrial Declared in Trial of Nonprofit Executives Accused with Kenyatta Johnson
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/7/2022
A federal judge declared a mistrial in the case of two codefendants of Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson who were facing separate charges of embezzling funds and bribing a school official in Wisconsin. The decision came after one of the jurors who had been hearing the case against Rahim Islam and Shahied Dawan, former executives at the nonprofit Universal Companies, contacted COVID during the trial. Typically, that juror would have been replaced and the trial would have continued. But due to a high jury turnover rate throughout the trial, there were no alternate jurors left.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Member Faces Ethics Inquiry After Constituent’s Car Towed
MSN – Cassandra Stephenson (The Tennessean) | Published: 11/9/2022
A Nashville Councilperson Joy Styles is facing accusations she misused her authority to have a constituent’s car towed. The Metro Ethical Conduct Board reviewed a complaint against Styles and voted to hold a hearing in December to review allegations of improper use of official power. Nicole Weatherspoon, a resident of Styles’ district, filed an ethics complaint that accused Styles of improperly authorizing a company to tow Weatherspoon’s vehicle, which had a flat tire, from a public road. The complaint says a Performance Towing & Recovery employee told Weatherspoon the vehicle was towed under the authorization of “your councilwoman.”
Texas – Ads Against Abbott, Other Texas Republicans by Coulda Been Worse Test Campaign Ethics Law
MSN – Allie Morris and Robert Garrett (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 11/4/2022
The third biggest spender in Texas elections this year is a shadowy group that has not disclosed any information to the state, and is testing the limits of campaign finance law, experts said. Coulda Been Worse LLC has dumped more than $25 million into ads opposing Gov. Greg Abbott and other top Republicans. Since forming out of state in late August, Coulda Been Worse has not revealed its donors or leadership. Ethics experts and open government advocates say voters deserve to know who is trying to influence elections.
Texas – Fifth Circuit Parses Texas Ban on Boycotting Israel
Courthouse News Service – Cameron Langford | Published: 11/7/2022
Palestinians started the so-called boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement to protest Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. It advocates for refraining from doing business with the Israeli government or companies that benefit from Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Texas passed an anti-BDS law but pared it down later, excluding sole proprietorships, companies with nine or less employees, and contracts under $100,000. A company sued Houston and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, seeking an injunction ordering the city to remove the clause from its contract offer and declare the law unconstitutional.
Washington DC – D.C. Elections Board Denies Silverman’s Request to Vacate Ruling on Ward 3 Poll
MSN – Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2022
The District of Columbia Board of Elections ruled city Councilperson Elissa Silverman’s due-process rights were not violated when the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF) determined she misspent public campaign funds on polling for the Democratic primary, despite her objections about the breadth and timeline of the probe. The OCF ordered Silverman to return $62,000 for the cost of two polls she commissioned ahead of the June primary.
Wisconsin – Military Ballots in Wisconsin Will Be Counted Under Judge’s Ruling
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2022
A judge declined to delay or prevent the counting of military ballots in Wisconsin in a lawsuit that came after a disaffected election worker said she reached a “breaking point” and created three fake ballots to highlight flaws in the state’s voting system. Kimberly Zapata, who at the time was Milwaukee’s deputy elections director, told prosecutors she ordered the fake ballots because she was frustrated by Republicans focusing on baseless claims instead of actual weaknesses in Wisconsin’s voting procedures. Prosecutors charged Zapata with felony misconduct in office, and she was fired from her position with the city.
November 4, 2022 •
National/Federal Architect of Capitol Abused Government Car Privileges, IG Report Finds MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 11/1/2022 A report from the Architect of the Capitol inspector general suggests Architect Brett Blanton drove to Florida at the government’s expense, […]
Architect of Capitol Abused Government Car Privileges, IG Report Finds
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 11/1/2022
A report from the Architect of the Capitol inspector general suggests Architect Brett Blanton drove to Florida at the government’s expense, let his daughter use the office’s “free gas” for Walmart runs, allowed his wife to give prohibited private Capitol tours, and may have misled others into thinking he was an off-duty cop. During the investigation, the inspector general’s office discovered social media posts on September 30, 2020, from Blanton’s wife, one of which asked “ALL PATRIOTS” to contact her for private tours of the Capitol at a time when the building was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Capitol Police Cameras Caught Break-In at Pelosi Home, But No One Was Watching
MSN – Aaron Davis, Carol Leonnig, Mariana Sotomayor, and Paul Kane (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2022
If the Capitol Police were going to stop an attack at the home of any member of Congress, they had perhaps the best chance to do so at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, according to law enforcement officials. But hours after Pelosi left San Francisco recently and returned to Capitol Hill, much of the security left with her, and officers in Washington, D.C. stopped continuously monitoring video feeds outside her house. The subsequent attack on Pelosi’s husband, Paul, demonstrated the immensity, and perhaps the impossibility, of law enforcement’s task to protect the 535 members of Congress at a time of unprecedented numbers of threats against them.
Chief Justice Roberts Temporarily Delays Release of Trump Tax Records
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 11/1/2022
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts temporarily halted the release of former President Trump’s tax records to a congressional committee and called for more briefings in the case. Without the Supreme Court’s intervention, the records could have been handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee as early as November 3. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to review earlier rulings that found lawmakers are entitled to the documents in the legal battle.
Churches Are Breaking the Law by Endorsing in Elections, Experts Say. The IRS Looks the Other Way.
MSN – Jeremy Schwartz and Jessica Priest (ProPublica/Texas Tribune Investigative Unit) | Published: 10/30/2022
Eighteen churches over the past two years appeared to violate the Johnson Amendment, a federal law barring churches and nonprofits from directly or indirectly participating in political campaigns. Some pastors have gone so far as to paint candidates they oppose as demonic. At one point, churches fretted over losing their tax-exempt status for even unintentional missteps. Although the provision was mostly uncontroversial for decades after it passed in 1954, it has become a target for both evangelical churches and former President Trump. But the IRS has largely abdicated its enforcement responsibilities as churches have become more brazen.
Companies Often Don’t Match Climate Talk and Lobbying, Study Says
MSN – Ellen Meyers (Roll Call) | Published: 11/3/2022
Major corporations’ advocacy for clean energy and climate policies falls well short of the nearly unanimous support for cutting emissions and boosting renewable energy in the U.S, according to a report from sustainability nonprofit Ceres. Of listed companies in the S&P 100 index, nine out of every 10 acknowledge climate change is a material risk to their industry. Yet only half of the 100 companies disclosed they lobbied for climate policies aligning with the objectives of the Paris Agreement in the past three years.
Former Trump Aide Kash Patel Set to Testify in Mar-a-Lago Docs Probe: Report
MSN – Julie Shapero (The Hill) | Published: 11/2/2022
Former Trump aide Kash Patel is set to testify before a federal grand jury about the classified documents recovered from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home after being granted immunity for any information. Patel, who has claimed Trump had declassified the documents found at Mar-a-Lago, previously refused to provide information to the grand jury, instead invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Patel told The Wall Street Journal in August he witnessed Trump issue verbal declassification orders.
He’s an Outspoken Defender of Meat. Industry Funds His Research, Files Show.
DNyuz – Hiroko Tabuchi (New York Times) | Published: 10/31/2022
After three dozen leading researchers sounded a warning in a scientific journal that to fight climate change and improve human health, the world needed to dramatically cut back on eating red meat. The findings were quickly attacked by Frank Mitloehner, the head of an agricultural research center at the University of California, Davis. Mitloehner’s academic group, the Clear Center, receives almost all its funding from meat industry donations and coordinates with a major livestock lobby group on messaging, Critics say that close financial ties between a research center and the industry it studies create the potential for conflict-of-interest.
‘I Think It’s an Earthquake’: The political world reckons with a Musk-owned Twitter
MSN – Rebecca Kern, David Siders, and Meridith McGraw (Politico) | Published: 10/28/2022
Elon Musk formally took control of Twitter and after firing four key executives, tweeted “the bird is freed” – touching off a wave of both anxiety and relief in different corners of the political world. Conservatives, especially on the far right, view Musk as something of a savior, liberating Twitter from what they see as a progressive approach to what content is allowed. Liberals worry about what happens to a key information platform without a gatekeeper, especially if Musk allows Donald Trump back onto the platform.
Lawyers Who Advanced Trump’s Election Challenges Return for Midterms
DNyuz – Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon (New York Times) | Published: 11/2/2022
At least three dozen lawyers and law firms that advanced Donald Trump’s failed attempt to overturn the 2020 election are now working for Republican candidates, parties, and other groups, filing lawsuits and other complaints that could lay the groundwork for challenging the results of midterm elections. Though the 2020 legal push failed, with just one victory out of more than 60 lawsuits, scores of lawyers behind it have continued to work on election litigation.
Perkins Coie Dials Back Politics, Doubles Down on Corporate Work
Bloomberg Government – Justin Wise | Published: 11/2/2022
Perkins Coie, the law firm that has long been a top adviser to Democrats, is looking to expand its work for tech and emerging companies while pulling back from politics. The firm’s work in the political sphere has plummeted in the current election cycle, after the departure of prominent elections lawyer Marc Elias and a group of attorneys. It has been best known recently for fighting off Republican lawsuits challenging President Joe Biden’s 2020 election win and advising the Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton campaigns.
Political Advertisers Shift Spending from Facebook to Streaming Platforms Ahead of Midterms
CNBC – Lauren Feiner and Jonathan Vanian | Published: 11/2/2022
Political advertisers are spending less on Facebook for the 2022 midterms after flocking to the social network in previous cycles. Apple’s iOS privacy update in 2021 has made it more difficult for campaigns to reach potential voters with targeted ads. Laura Carlson, digital director of the Democratic Governors Association, said her organization is pushing the other half of its $10 million budget to areas like traditional email and text campaigns as well as newer platforms like streaming services.
Their Messages, Skirting Political Ad Rules
DNyuz – Stephanie Lai (New York Times) | Published: 11/3/2022
Social media influencers are paid hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars per post to circulate political messages, and they are part of a growing group of people who are being paid by campaign operatives to create content aimed at influencing elections. No federal guidance has been published on the specifics of influencer political advertisements. That means users and marketing campaigns are effectively bound by no more than an honor system for disclosures. Some worry it could exacerbate the spread of misinformation and allow shadowy political messaging to flourish.
Trump Lawyers Saw Justice Thomas as ‘Only Chance’ to Stop 2020 Election Certification
MSN – Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 11/2/2022
Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails disclosed to congressional investigators. Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro contended Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.” Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have been the one to receive any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Court.
U.S. Capitol Police Officer Convicted of Obstructing Jan. 6 Probe
MSN – Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/28/2022
After he went into the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and then posted about it on Facebook, Jacob Hiles was arrested. In speaking with the FBI, Hiles mentioned something that caught the attention of investigators: “following the riot he had become friends with a Capitol police officer.” The FBI found a screenshot on his phone of a Facebook message sent to him by U.S. Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley on January 7. Riley deleted all his messages with Hiles. A jury recently convicted Riley on one obstruction count, for deleting his Facebook messages with Hiles, and failed to reach a verdict on the issue of his initial message to Hiles.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Alaska Campaign Finance Regulators Issue Warning to the Republican Governors Association
Yahoo News – Iris Samuels (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 10/26/2022
The Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) deferred a decision on a complaint alleging the Republican Governors Association (RGA) was illegally spending money to support Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reelection bid. The decision allows A Stronger Alaska, the independent expenditure group funded by the RGA, to continue spending money before the November election. But in their ruling, commissioners issued a warning to the RGA and A Stronger Alaska, saying they “continue to make expenditures at their own peril.”
Arizona – Judge Limits Ballot Drop Box Monitoring in Arizona After Intimidation Claims
MSN – Annabelle Timsit (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2022
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against a far-right group accused of intimidating voters in Arizona. The ruling dramatically restricts what Clean Elections USA or its allies can do or say near ballot boxes. Donald Trump and his supporters have made the drop boxes the focal point of baseless claims they were used in a large-scale scheme to submit false ballots during the 2020 presidential election. The order extends to voters who use ballot drop boxes some of the same protections that are typically afforded at polling places.
California – Bribery Trial Opens for Hotel Company Linked to José Huizar Case
Spectrum News – City News Service | Published: 10/27/2022
A federal prosecutor told a jury that a China-based hotel company owned by a fugitive real estate developer bribed former Los Angeles City Councilperson José Huizar with over $1.5 million in cash, trips on private jets, and “casino chips and prostitutes” in exchange for his official support of a redevelopment project. The defense countered that city officials “universally loved” the project, so “there was no reason to bribe anyone.” Shen Zhen New World I, owned by developer Wei Huang, is charged with bribing Huizar to make sure city officials approved the proposed 77-story mixed-use skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles.
California – Judge Denies Motion to End Corruption Trial after Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Resignation
East Bay Times – Robert Salonga (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 11/2/2022
A judge ruled the civil corruption trial for Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith will continue after Smith suddenly resigned and asked the court to dismiss the case now that she cannot be removed from office. The arguments highlighted the lack of precedent for removal-from-office trials spurred by a civil grand jury; the only other one in known memory was in 2002 involving the ouster of a Mountain View city council member.
California – Years Later, City Leaders Still Often Don’t Comply with Disclosure Laws
San Francisco Examiner – Adam Shanks | Published: 11/2/2022
Many top city officials in San Francisco still do not comply with a 1999 law that requires them to maintain a daily public calendar that documents who they meet with and what they talk about. There remains a lack of uniformity in how those officials interpret the law, which may be as relevant today as ever thanks to the widespread distrust San Franciscans have of city government due to recent incidents of corruption.
Colorado – Judge Rebuffs GOP Candidate’s Request to Be Exempt from Spending Limits
Colorado Springs Gazette – Michael Karlik (Colorado Politics) | Published: 11/2/2022
A federal judge rejected a Colorado House candidate’s request to spend freely in the final days of the election, after he had inadvertently signed up for voluntary spending limits when he registered his candidacy. Although Paul Archer registered to run in February and realized in June that he had opted into a campaign financing mechanism that requires him to limit his overall spending, Archer only sought a judge’s order to block the spending limits two days after county clerks began mailing ballots. The judge faulted Archer and his campaign committee for the unreasonable delay.
Connecticut – Former CT State Rep. Michael DiMassa Pleads Guilty to Stealing About $1.2 Million in Pandemic Relief Money
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 11/1/2022
Former Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa pleaded guilty to charges that he stole about $1.2 million that West Haven was awarded to cover expenses arising from the coronavirus pandemic. DiMassa was empowered by West Haven’s mayor to approve spending for prevention measures and other unexpected costs. He admitted he conspired with his wife and two others to embezzle the federal grant money by creating dummy invoices and directing payments to sham companies.
Florida – Watchdog Files FEC Complaint Against Nonprofits Tied to ‘Ghost’ Candidate Scandal
MSN – Jeff Weiner (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 10/28/2022
The “dark-money” nonprofit central to Florida’s so-called ghost candidate scandal, as well as several related organizations, may have violated federal campaign finance laws to conceal political spending, according to a complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The complaint alleges violations under the Federal Election Campaign Act, which prohibits contributions made “in the name of another,” typically by funneling money intended to support a cause or candidate through a network of entities to conceal its true origins.
Georgia – An Ethics Watchdog Criticized Stacey Abrams. His Boss Retracted It.
DNyuz – Michael Powell (New York Times) | Published: 11/3/2022
When Craig Holman, a campaign finance and ethics expert, criticized Fair Fight Action, a politically powerful voting rights group, and its founder, Stacey Abrams, who happens to be running for governor of Georgia, his boss took notice. The day the article appeared, an official with Fair Fight Action complained to Public Citizen. The next day, Public Citizen retracted Holman’s criticism. It then congratulated Fair Fight Action for “heroic work” in protecting the vote and stated it was “proud to partner with them.” This partnership, Public Citizen officials said, was unofficial and not financial.
Georgia – Supreme Court Denies Lindsey Graham Appeal to Block Subpoena in Election Subversion Case
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 11/1/2022
The Supreme Court denied U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bid to block a subpoena from prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia. The court agreed that Graham can be required to provide testimony to a grand jury about matters that are not related to his official congressional work. Prosecutors in Fulton County have emphasized they do not plan to question Graham about his legislative work but are probing his December 2020 phone calls to state officials amid a recount and legal challenges by Trump.
Hawaii – Hawaii Standards Commission Moves to Tighten Ethics Rules for Lawmakers and Lobbyists
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 10/26/2022
A commission wants the Hawaii Legislature to post records of legislative allowances online, require lawmakers to disclose any business relationship with lobbyists and other organizations trying to influence government, and make it harder for legislators to vote on bills when they may pose a conflict-of-interest. The Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct advanced several proposals aimed at lobbyists. The bills would mandate annual ethics training for lobbyists, require them to disclose a list of bill numbers they are trying to influence, and prohibit them from giving gifts to legislators and government employees.
Illinois – Pritzker Gives Shoe Leather and Big Bucks to Democrats Running for State’s Top Court – But GOP Says He’s Skirting the Law
Chicago Sun-Times – Tina Sfondeles | Published: 11/1/2022
Gov. J.B. Pritzker dipped into a trust fund to donate to two Democratic candidates for the Illinois Supreme Court, a decision Republicans say is skirting contribution limits the governor set himself. At issue is a bill the governor signed into law earlier this year that caps contributions to judicial candidates to $500,000 from “any single person.” But the Illinois State Board of Elections says Pritzker’s multiple donations are allowed.
Illinois – Tom Cullen, Longtime Brain in Madigan Political Operation, Provided Testimony for Feds
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/30/2022
Tom Cullen, a lobbyist who was an inside operator for years on former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s government staff, testified before a federal grand jury looking into broad aspects of Madigan’s political world, which prosecutors allege included a criminal enterprise aimed at providing personal financial rewards for Madigan and his associates. It has been reported that Cullen and his lobbying firm were at the center of an alleged scheme by AT&T Illinois to pay thousands of dollars to a former member of Madigan’s leadership team in exchange for the speaker’s help on legislation the company wanted.
Kentucky – Are Kentucky Judges Disclosing Everything They Should?
Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting – Lily Burris and Michael Collins | Published: 11/3/2022
The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting obtained financial disclosure forms from 93 sitting judges and challengers running for the bench in Jefferson County, nearby counties in north central Kentucky, and the state Supreme Court. The disclosures do not reveal much about the candidates’ financial holdings, while gaps in oversight and lax enforcement make it difficult to hold judges accountable for potential conflicts-of-interest that might come up in court.
Kentucky – Federal Appeals Court Blocks Effort to Investigate Joe Fischer’s Supreme Court Bid
MSN – Deborah Yetter and Joe Sonka (Louisville Courier Journal) | Published: 10/31/2022
A federal appeals court granted an injunction to temporarily block the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission from investigating complaints about the campaign of Joe Fischer, a candidate for the state Supreme Court. Fischer filed a lawsuit saying he believed the commission was considering possible sanctions against him for alleged campaign violations, largely that he has identified himself as “the conservative Republican” in a nonpartisan judicial race. The appeals court said a letter from the commission seeking information and a meeting with the campaign was a threat to Fischer’s First Amendment rights.
Montana – Commissioner of Political Practices Extends Departure Date
Helena Independent Record – Montana State News Bureau | Published: 10/26/2022
After previously announcing he would step down just before Election Day, Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan said he still plans to leave the position but will remain in place until December 30. Republican lawmakers have for years brought legislation seeking to disband the office or reduce the power commissioners wield. Not since Dennis Unsworth’s departure at the end of 2010 has anyone served out a full term as commissioner.
Nevada – How One Small-Town Lawyer Faced Down the Plans of Election Skeptics
MSN – Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) | Published: 10/30/2022
Among the many anonymous jobs at the grassroots of American democracy, the county attorney is one of the most anonymous of all. Pickens County Attorney Phil Landrum’s days are usually spent advising county boards on the minutiae of state law, a job that has lately included defending his corner of the nation’s voting system against a barrage of attempts to upend it. Thousands of local officials across the country find themselves in a similar position as former President Trump and his allies continue to spread false claims about the security of America’s elections and urge their followers to act.
New York – Trump Organization on Trial for Criminal Tax Fraud
MSN – Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 10/31/2022
The Trump Organization is on trial for criminal tax fraud for what prosecutors say was a 15-year scheme by the company’s former chief financial officer to avoid paying taxes on fringe benefits, including apartments and luxury cars. In opening statements, prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over the company’s culpability for the actions of Allen Weisselberg, who has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify as a prosecution witness. The tax fraud case is the only criminal trial to arise from the Manhattan district attorney’s three-year investigation of Donald Trump and is one of three active cases involving Trump or the company in New York courts.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Court: Ballots in undated envelopes won’t count
Yahoo News – Mark Scolforo (Associated Press) | Published: 11/1/2022
Pennsylvania officials cannot count votes from mail-in or absentee ballots that lack accurate, handwritten dates on their return envelopes, the state Supreme Court ruled a week before tabulation will begin in races for governor, U.S. Senate, and state Legislature. The court directed county boards of elections to “segregate and preserve” those ballots. The justices split on whether making the envelope dates mandatory under state law would violate provisions of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that immaterial errors or omissions should not be used to prevent voting.
Pennsylvania – The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Paid $15K to Take 2 Pa. Lawmakers to Europe
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 11/2/2022
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra paid for Pennsylvania Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman and state Rep. Rob Mercuri, along with their spouses, to travel to Europe to see the orchestra play in nine cities. The symphony, which has received nearly $10 million in state funding over the past five years, picked up the costs for their concert tickets, airfare, hotel, meals, and other incidentals. The orchestra estimated the cost at $15,000. Lawmakers are permitted to accept gifts of any value as long as they are not in exchange for official action and are reported. The Legislature recently without passing a gift ban bill.
South Carolina – SC School Board Member Wanted Taxpayers to Fund Hotel Upgrade Until Ethics Threat, Email Says
MSN – Bristow Marchant (The State) | Published: 11/2/2022
For more than a month, Lashonda McFadden, a member of the board of trustees for the Richland School District, resisted reimbursing the district $425 for upgrading a hotel room at a conference in Atlanta and a pet fee, according to an email sent by the James Manning, the board’s chairperson. Manning said McFadden asked for the money to be taken out of a taxpayer-funded travel account. The money was finally paid back after Manning told McFadden he would refer the matter to the state Ethics Commission.
South Dakota – Federal Court Rules SD Ballot Measure Law Curbs Free Speech
MSN – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 11/1/2022
A federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s decision to block parts of a South Dakota law that would have required ballot petition workers to publicly disclose their personal identification information. The law passed in 2020 was just one attempt by lawmakers in recent years to add barriers to ballot measures, which have given progressive causes a chance at enactment in the politically red state. Steven Grasz wrote in an opinion for a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals that being forced to disclose the information would be “chilling in today’s world” and the law would violate the First Amendment.
Tennessee – Shelby County Alters How It Selects an Ethics Officer, and What Complaints They Can Act On
Yahoo News – Katherine Burgess (Memphis Commercial Appeal) | Published: 10/31/2022
How the ethics officer of Shelby County is selected will change after a vote by commissioners. Now, the officer will be nominated by the county mayor with a concurrent resolution by the county commission. That ethics officer will no longer be able to act on anonymous complaints. Instead, they will be able to act only those that are “in writing and signed under oath by the person making the complaint.”
Tennessee – State Sen. Brian Kelsey Files Motion to Change Not Guilty Plea in Federal Campaign Finance Investigation
MSN – Adam Friedman (Tennessean) | Published: 10/28/2022
Lawyers for Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey filed a motion to change his plea of not guilty, indicating he may have reached an agreement with federal prosecutors in the campaign finance investigation into his failed 2016 campaign for the U.S. House. The motion comes nearly two weeks after Nashville club owner Joshua Smith pleaded guilty a spart of the probe. Smith’s guilty plea suggests he was cooperating with prosecutors ahead of a trial that is scheduled for January.
Texas – For Third Time This Year, AG Ken Paxton Fails to Disclose Campaign Donors as Required by Law
MSN – Taylor Goldenstein (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 11/1/2022
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has failed to file fundraising disclosure forms with complete lists of donors three times in the past year. Paxton has long had an antagonistic relationship with the Texas Ethics Commission, the agency that levies fines for violations such as late or incomplete reports. As of July, it had been almost three years since his office had sued candidates who have not paid their fines, though it is part of his job. He has also declined to represent the commission in court as his political allies seek to dismantle it with a lawsuit.
Vermont – ‘So Blatantly Illegal’: Liam Madden admits to funneling money through family to inflate campaign finance numbers
VTDigger.org – Sarah Mearhoff | Published: 10/28/2022
During a radio interview, Liam Madden, the Republican nominee in the open race for Vermont’s seat in the U.S. House, described in detail a self-funded scheme to inflate his campaign donations during the primary cycle to qualify for candidate debates. Madden claimed to have “drained” his wife’s business’s bank account and distributed roughly $25,000 amongst family members – including his toddler son – who then donated the money to his campaign. Madden said he is now recouping the money by collecting a salary from his campaign.
Washington DC – At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman Misspent Public Campaign Funds on Poll, Says Regulator
DCist – Martin Austermuhle | Published: 10/28/2022
The Office of Campaign Finance said District of Columbia Councilperson Elissa Silverman improperly used public campaign funds to pay for two targeted polls ahead of the June Democratic primary for a race in which she was not a candidate. In its ruling, which Silverman says she will appeal, the office ordered her to refund the city more than $6,000 for the cost of the polls. Silverman participates in the Fair Elections program, which matches small-dollar contributions with public funds.
October 28, 2022 •
National/Federal Bannon Gets 4 Months Jail Term for Defying Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/21/2022 A judge sentenced longtime Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon to four months in jail for defying […]
Bannon Gets 4 Months Jail Term for Defying Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/21/2022
A judge sentenced longtime Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon to four months in jail for defying a subpoena from lawmakers investigating the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. He will also pay a $6,500 fine. U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols said Bannon inappropriately defied the select committee on a matter of significant national interest, and even after roadblocks to his testimony had been removed. A jury convicted Bannon on two charges of contempt of Congress – one for refusing to testify to the January 6 select committee, another for refusing to provide relevant documents to the panel.
Big K Street Players Spend More as Election Uncertainty Brews
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 10/21/2022
K Street’s 10 biggest spenders have shelled out a combined $238.3 million on federal lobbying so far this year, as the industry now gears up for brewing uncertainty when lawmakers return after the midterm elections. Business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as health care, pharmaceutical, and technology interests, topped spending in the first three quarters of this year, as Congress moved climate, health, and tax legislation and a new law to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
Head of UK Lobbying Watchdog Calls for Tougher Disclosure Rules
Guardian – Rowena Mason | Published: 10/26/2022
The head of the United Kingdom’s lobbying watchdog called for tougher disclosure rules to show which ministers have been solicited, as well as a review of exemptions to the rules. Harry Rich, who is in charge of the register of consultant lobbyists and their clients, is making suggestions for more transparent lobbying declarations in a submission to parliament’s public administration and constitutional affairs committee in his first public intervention on the subject since taking the job in 2018.
How Votes Are Cast and Counted Is Increasingly Decided in Courtrooms
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
Disputes over redistricting, voter IDs, voting hours, recounts, and other election-related policies have long run parallel to political campaigns, but the numbers are rising. The increase began after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the 2000 presidential election and the trend reached a high in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic prompted a host of new voting rules. Election experts say courts have the power to clarify vague laws or policies and resolve key questions before ballots are cast, but many also contend the barrage of lawsuits increases the chances of last-minute rulings that can spur voter confusion.
Jan. 6 Panel Issues Subpoena to Trump, Demanding He Testify
MSN – Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick (Associated Press) | Published: 10/21/2022
The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol issued its subpoena of Donald Trump, demanding testimony from the former president who lawmakers say “personally orchestrated” a multi-part effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The panel issued a letter to Trump’s lawyers saying he must testify, either at the Capitol or by videoconference, “beginning on or about” November 14 and continuing for multiple days if necessary. The letter also outlined a request for a series of corresponding documents, including personal communications between Trump and members of Congress as well as extremist groups.
Law Firms Eager for US Regulatory Clarity on Foreign Lobbying
Bloomberg Law – Ben Penn | Published: 10/26/2022
Carrying a maximum prison sentence of five years for willful offenders, the Foreign Agents Registration Act mandates public disclosures when individuals, companies, or nonprofits act on behalf of foreign interests. It contains exceptions that apply to attorneys, which have proven difficult to interpret for work at the border of legal representation and political advocacy. Those exemptions are now slated for a regulatory rewrite, with implications for lawyers, both those hoping to provide clarity to clients on whether they need to register and others concerned about their own need to file. The proposal is expected by the end of 2022.
Mar-a-Lago Classified Papers Held U.S. Secrets About Iran and China
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2022
Some of the classified documents recovered by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter. If shared with others, the people said, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods the U.S. wants to keep hidden from the world. The secret documents about Iran and China are considered among the most sensitive the FBI has recovered in its investigation of Trump and his aides for possible mishandling of classified information, obstruction, and destruction of government records, the people said.
Menendez Facing Another Federal Investigation
MSN – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 10/26/2022
Sen. Bob Menendez is facing another federal ethics investigation. It was reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating Menendez five years after a jury deadlocked on corruption charges against him. Prosecutors at first announced plans to try Menendez again but backed off. The new investigation threatens to cloud Menendez’s expected reelection campaign in 2024.
Social Security Whistleblowers Say They Were Sidelined for Exposing Fines
Yahoo News – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2022
Joscelyn Funnié and Deborah Shaw, attorneys in the Social Security Administration’s inspector general’s office, were removed from their jobs and placed on paid leave after expressing concerns about large fines imposed on disabled and poor elderly people. They were eventually reinstated. But since returning to work under Inspector General Gail Ennis, they said they have been excluded from meaningful assignments, given tasks below their experience and abilities, and denied opportunities for advancement. Experts on whistleblowers describe the treatment as evidence of retaliation in a case that is the focus of three ongoing probes.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – A Retiree Served Food to the Homeless for Years. Then It Got Her Arrested.
MSN – Jonathan Edwards (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
Police often patrolled Community Park in Bullhead City, Arizona, so Norma Thornton ignored two officers when they pulled up in cruisers as she finished serving food to homeless people. When one of the officers said he was arresting her for violating the city’s new ordinance that outlawed people serving prepared food in public parks for “charitable purposes,” Thornton suspected a prank. Only when the officer put her in the back seat of his cruiser did reality set in. Thornton recently filed a lawsuit against Bullhead City, accusing the officers of violating her civil rights. She is asking a federal judge to declare the ordinance unconstitutional.
Arizona – Ariz. Democratic Governor Candidate Hobbs Reports Break-In at Campaign Office
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2022
The campaign for Arizona Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs said its Phoenix office was broken into and police are investigating the incident. A spokesperson for Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, implicitly blamed Hobbs’s Republican rival, Kari Lake, a charge Lake scoffed at as “absurd.” Phoenix police said unspecified items were taken, according to The Arizona Republic. In surveillance images obtained by the newspaper, a young man wearing shorts and a green T-shirt can be seen inside the building.
Arizona – Arizona Sheriff Steps Up Security Around Ballot Drop Boxes
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/25/2022
The sheriff in metropolitan Phoenix said he stepped up security around ballot drop boxes after a series of incidents involving people keeping watch on the boxes and taking video of voters after they were apparently inspired by lies about the 2020 election. Deputies responded recently when two masked people carrying guns and wearing bulletproof vests showed up at a drop box in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb. The secretary of state said her office has received six cases of potential voter intimidation to the state attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as a threatening email sent to the state elections director.
Arkansas – Federal Judge Signs Off on Prosecution’s Motion to Dismiss Charges Against Gilbert Baker
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Dale Ellis | Published: 10/25/2022
A federal judge dismissed bribery and wire fraud charges against former Arkansas Sen. Gilbert Baker. Baker was indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and seven counts of honest services wire fraud. Prosecutors accused Baker of bribing former Faulkner County Circuit Court Judge Michael Maggio in 2013 as part of a scheme to get Maggio to lower a financial judgment against Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. A judge declared a mistrial when jurors acquitted Baker on the conspiracy count but could not reach a verdict on the remaining counts.
California – California Sets Up Age Requirement for Those Handling Political Campaign Bucks
Marin Independent Record – Gabriel Greschler (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 10/20/2022
The California Fair Political Practices Commission passed a rule prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 to be hired for a position that requires them to sign campaign finance documents under penalty of perjury. The change will mostly apply to a campaign’s treasurer but could affect other positions that involve financial decisions. Milpitas City Councilperson Anthony Phan was found to have hired his 14-year-old cousin as his treasurer during a bid for a council seat in 2016.
California – Ethics Reform Proposal Stalled Amid Endless Negotiations Between City, Union
San Francisco Examiner – Adam Shanks | Published: 10/19/2022
A proposal to reform San Francisco’s ethics laws has been stalled for months amid prolonged negotiations with the union that represents top city officials. The union says it needs time to study the proposal and its many ramifications, but the city’s Ethics Commission says it is simply dragging its feet on reform. The Municipal Executives Association has been exercising its right to weigh in on the proposal for nearly a year despite a push from the Ethics Commission, which authored the reforms, to put it before voters in the form of a ballot measure.
California – Ex-Anaheim Mayor Refuses to Publicly Disclose Emails Amid FBI Corruption Investigation
MSN – Nathan Fenno, Gabriel San Román, and Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/25/2022
The criminal defense attorney for former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu claimed Sidhu’s emails and text messages sent while in office about city business on private devices were no longer public because he has resigned and invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Sidhu refusal to disclose the communications could obstruct a probe into a corruption scandal surrounding the sale of Angel Stadium. Public records experts say the refusal flouts California law and could encourage other government officials to use private accounts to conduct official business and avoid public scrutiny.
California – LA Councilwoman Raman Seeks Action on Lobbying Reforms
MSN – City News Service | Published: 10/25/2022
Los Angeles City Councilperson Nithya Raman filed a motion to have her colleagues adopt lobbying reforms presented by the city’s Ethics Commission but placed on the back burner by former council President Nury Martinez. The proposal seeks to make lobbying efforts more transparent and limit financial ties between lobbyists and city officials. The commission sent the council recommended updates to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance in April, but Martinez never placed the report on the council’s agenda.
Colorado – Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser Attends Lavish Event in Hawaii Paid for by Corporations He’s Suing
CBS News – Shaun Boyd | Published: 10/19/2022
The Attorney General Alliance, a group made up of 48 state attorneys general, a private club that corporations and lobbyist organizations pay tens of thousands of dollars to belong to. Their membership buys them access to lavish events where they can schmooze the top legal officers for state government, individuals who have sole discretion over whether to sue, settle, or investigate them. The alliance’s 2021 annual conference in Maui was sponsored by companies like Google, Juul, and Pfizer, all of which were being sued by states at the time.
Connecticut – Connecticut Port Authority Employee Fined for Ethics Violation
Yahoo News – Greg Smith (The Day) | Published: 10/24/2022
Connecticut Port Authority employee Andrew Lavigne was fined $750 and suspended for two days without pay for violating state ethics rules when he accepted hockey tickets from a company doing business with the quasi-public agency. The fine is the settlement reached with the Office of State Ethics, which determined Seabury Maritime had violated the state code of ethics for public officials in 2017 and 2019 when it provided gifts, meals, and overnight accommodations to port authority employees and two board members.
Delaware – State Auditor Kathy McGuiness Sentenced for Public Corruption Convictions
Yahoo News – Xerxes Wilson (News Journal) | Published: 10/19/2022
The only statewide-elected official in Delaware history to be accused and convicted of crimes while in office was spared prison time and resigned her office. Auditor Kathy McGuiness was sentenced to a year of probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $10,000 fine for her misdemeanor conflict-of-interest and official misconduct convictions, guilty verdicts that stemmed from hiring her daughter to work in the auditor’s office.
Florida – Florida Commission on Ethics Recommends Doug Underhill Be Removed from Office
Yahoo News – Jim Little (Pensacola News Journal) | Published: 10/21/2022
The Florida Commission on Ethics asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill from office one month before the end of his term. The commission said Underhill be removed for disclosing a county “shade meeting” transcript before the litigation was officially concluded and be fined the maximum of $10,000. The commission also recommended Underhill be fined $6,250 for each of four additional ethics violations of gift disclosure laws and solicitation donations from a county vendor or lobbyist, bringing the total recommended fine to $35,000.
Florida – Tampa Lawmaker Files Lawsuit Against Campaign Manager, Alleging Sexual Harassment
Yahoo News – Kirby Wilson and Emily Mahoney (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 10/24/2022
Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo is accusing her campaign manager, a well-known Republican communications strategist, of sexual harassment. Fred Piccolo sent “unwanted, unsolicited, inappropriate, and grossly offensive” text messages to her, according to a lawsuit. Toledo, who made an unsuccessful bid this year for a U.S. House seat, also accuses Piccolo of trying to get fired to earn a $100,000 termination payout. She is seeking at least $30,000 in damages.
Georgia – Abrams’ Campaign Chair Collected Millions in Legal Fees from Voting Rights Organization
Yahoo News – Brittany Gibson (Politico) | Published: 10/24/2022
The voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams spent more than $25 million over two years on legal fees, mostly on a single case, with the largest amount going to the self-described boutique law firm of the candidate’s campaign chairperson. Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, Abrams’ close friend who chaired her gubernatorial campaign both in 2018 and her current bid to unseat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, is one of two named partners in Lawrence & Bundy. Some questioned both the level of expenditures devoted to a single, largely unsuccessful legal action and that such a large payout went to the firm of Abrams’ friend.
Georgia – Supreme Court Puts Temporary Hold on Graham Grand Jury Election Testimony
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/24/2022
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas put a temporary hold on an order that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham appear before a Georgia grand jury investigating possible attempts by former President Trump and his allies to disrupt the state’s 2020 presidential election. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied an attempt to block a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, in which Graham claimed a sitting senator is shielded from testifying in such investigations.
Georgia – Trump Chief of Staff Meadows Ordered to Testify Before Ga. Grand Jury
MSN – Amy Wang and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
A judge ruled former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must testify before a Georgia grand jury investigating Republican efforts to reverse the 2020 presidential election results in the state. Meadows has helped promote Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud delivered the presidency to Joe Biden. In her petition seeking Meadows’s testimony, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis noted Meadows’s participation in a telephone call Trump made on January 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find” 11,780 votes that would enable him to defeat Biden in the state.
Illinois – Federal Oversight of Cook County Assessor’s Hiring to End; Supervision Tied to Decades-Old Shakman Patronage Lawsuit
MSN – A.D. Quig (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/25/2022
For years, federal courts have kept watch over the Cook County assessor’s office, making sure workers were not hired for their political connections, and that job descriptions were clear. That oversight will end on November 1. The so-called Shaman oversight is named for Michael Shakman, the man who first sued to end the practice of Democratic patronage, under which city and county jobs were filled by faithful party members, and firings or promotions were based on election-time efforts.
Illinois – Inside AT&T’s Alleged ‘Conspiracy’ to Bribe Powerbrokers at the Illinois Capitol
WBEZ – Jon Seidel (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 10/21/2022
For more than a decade, Brian Gray was AT&T’s top executive in Illinois for a critical area – dealing with politicians in a state known for its corruption. As the director of legislative affairs, he oversaw a stable of lobbyists, and in recent years he also headed the company’s PAC in Illinois. AT&T is cooperating authorities and promised to pay a $23 million fine admitting it used illegal means in efforts to win support for favorable legislation. Sources close to the investigation say the three employees referenced in the indictment are Gray and former company lobbyists Robert Barry and Stephen Selcke.
Maine – Ethics Panel Says Candidate, Outside Group Violated Campaign Finance Laws
Yahoo News – Randy Billings (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 10/26/2022
Maine’s ethics commission ruled in separate cases that a state Senate candidate and an out-of-state political group did not properly disclose the funding sources for campaign communications, a violation of the state’s campaign finance law. October 26 marked the first day that independent expenditures from outside groups need to be reported within 24 hours. Previously, such spending needed to be reported within 48 hours.
Massachusetts – Groups Sue to Put Super PAC Question on 2024 State Ballot
MSN – Steve LeBlanc (Associated Press) | Published: 10/24/2022
Groups pushing for a 2024 ballot question aimed at reining in the spending power of super PACs filed two lawsuits in Massachusetts that target a decision by the state attorney general’s office to block the question on the grounds it would infringe on First Amendment rights. The lawsuits argue in favor of the proposed question, which would change state law to limit contributions by individuals to independent expenditure political action committees to $5,000. Currently, super PACs can raise and spend unlimited funds from individuals as long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
Michigan – Michigan Jury Finds Three Men Guilty of Aiding Plot to Kidnap Governor
MSN – Tyler Clifford and Brendan O’Brien (Reuters) | Published: 10/26/2022
A jury found three men guilty of aiding a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, a plot that prosecutors said grew out of hostility over restrictions she imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joseph Morrison, his father-in-law, Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar were convicted of gang membership, firearm violations, and providing material support for terrorism. They could face up to 20 years in prison. State prosecutors argued the men assisted two others who were found guilty in federal court of kidnapping conspiracy. It stands as the most prominent case involving domestic terrorism and militias in years.
Missouri – State Ethics Board Fines Former Candidate for St. Louis County Executive
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 10/25/2022
A one-time candidate for St. Louis County executive was fined more than $34,000 for campaign finance violations. According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, William Ray Jr. had multiple problems with two campaign accounts, one for him personally and another political committee called Fannie PAC. Among the violations were failures to report more than $11,450 in contributions and more than $9,400 in expenses.
New York – New Ethics Commissioner Attended Assemblyman’s Campaign Fundraiser
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/24/2022
Leonard Austin, who is serving as the vice chair of New York’s Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, recently attended a campaign fundraiser for state Assemblyperson Charles Lavine. Austin’s wife donated to Lavine’s reelection bid. Under state law, ethics commission members are prohibited from contributing to any candidate for state-level office, including Assembly members. The law does not address this situation, where an ethics commissioner attends a fundraiser and their spouse makes a donation.
New York – Trump’s Business, Under Threat, Faces a Tough Test in Court
MSN – Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2022
The Trump Organization is on trial in Manhattan, where the district attorney’s office accused it of tax fraud and other crimes. Although Donald Trump himself was not indicted, he is synonymous with the company he ran for decades. This case centers on special perks doled out by the Trump Organization, which comprises more than 500 corporate entities. The company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to conspiring to carry out the scheme and agreed to testify at the trial.
Ohio – 2 Conservatives Accused in Hoax Robocall Scheme Plead Guilty
MSN – Mark Gillispie (Associated Press) | Published: 10/25/2022
Two right-wing operatives pleaded guilty to single felony counts of telecommunications fraud for having placed thousands of false robocalls in Ohio that told people they could be arrested or be forced to receive vaccinations based on information they submitted in votes by mail. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman could each receive a year in prison when they are sentenced. The have a history of staging hoaxes and spreading false smears against Democrats and public officials.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Cuts Off Its ‘Dark Money’ Spigot in Ohio, Disclosures Show
Yahoo News – Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/24/2022
Besides some nominal payments, FirstEnergy has cut off its contributions to Ohio-based nonprofit entities that spend outside money to support politicians. But the disclosures show FirstEnergy made about $130,000 in similar “dark money” payments to political firms in 2021 in New Jersey and West Virginia, where it also operates utilities. Since the initial arrests in the House Bill 6 scandal, candidates and party committees in Ohio have returned a combined $390,000 in contributions from the company’s state and federal PACs. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy keeps just one lobbyist on hand in the state compared to the 15 it retained in 2019.
Oregon – Portland City Auditor’s Office Issues Penalty Against Gonzalez’s Campaign
MSN – Michaela Bourgeoise (KOIN) | Published: 10/20/2022
Rene Gonzalez’s campaign for Portland City Council is facing another fine after an investigation into the campaign’s rented office and parking spaces revealed it accepted an unlawful in-kind contribution. The city auditor’s office said it issued a $5,520 civil penalty against the campaign for allegedly accepting six months of parking at a Portland office rented from Schnitzer Property Management.
Tennessee – Election Watchdog Disputes Harwell Claim That Shifting State Funds to Federal Campaign Was Legit
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 10/26/2022
Former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell contends the transfer of money from her state PAC to a super PAC that supported her failed congressional bid this summer was legal. But a watchdog group that monitors potential campaign finance violations says Harwell’s actions are “outside the law,” which prohibits state election funds from being used for federal campaigns. Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center, said his organization will consider filing a complaint with the FEC against the Harwell campaign.
Texas – Greg Abbott Ran as a Small-Government Conservative. But the Governor’s Office Now Has More Power Than Ever.
Texas Tribune – Marilyn Thompson (ProPublica) and Perla Trevizo | Published: 10/25/2022
Greg Abbott has consolidated power like no Texas governor in recent history, at times circumventing the Republican-controlled state Legislature and overriding local officials. Abbott’s executive measures have solidified his conservative base and dramatically raised his national profile. Lower courts have occasionally ruled against Abbott, but Texas’ all-Republican highest court has sided with the governor, dismissing many of the cases on procedural grounds. Other challenges to Abbott’s use of executive power are still pending. In no case have the governor’s actions been permanently halted.
Texas – Texas Agencies’ Plan to Monitor Harris County Elections Raises Concerns Among Observers
Houston Public Media – Adam Zuvanich | Published: 10/19/2022
The Texas secretary of state’s office, in a letter submitted days before the start of early voting for the 2022 midterm election, informed Harris County it will send a team of inspectors and election security trainers to observe and help administer the November 8 election in the state’s largest metropolitan area. Representatives of state Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is on the ballot, also will be present to “immediately respond to any legal issues” raised by the inspectors, poll watchers, and others.
Washington – Facebook Parent Company Fined $25M for WA Campaign Finance Violations
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 10/26/2022
A judge fined Facebook parent company Meta nearly $25 million for repeatedly and intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance law. King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North issued the maximum possible fine after finding the company had, between 2019 and 2021, violated a longstanding disclosure law 822 separate times. Each fine carried a penalty of $30,000. It is the largest campaign finance penalty ever issued in the U.S., state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office said.
Washington DC – Bowser Fires Official Who Took Job at insurer after Medicaid Procurement
MSN – Julie Zauzmer Weil and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
A week after the District of Columbia Council awarded multibillion-dollar contracts for insuring Medicaid patients to three companies seeming to end a years-long struggle to right the city’s Medicaid system after court and council fights, Mayor Muriel Bowser called for a new investigation related to the procurement process. Bowser fired the interim director of the Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs after he took a new job with the parent company of one of the insurers awarded the lucrative contract. Bowser referred him to the city’s ethics board and inspector general.
October 21, 2022 •
National/Federal Activists Push for Disclosure of Clients and Income of Judges’ Spouses MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2022 A coalition of judicial advocacy and watchdog groups are calling on Congress to establish greater disclosure requirements for the spouses of […]
Activists Push for Disclosure of Clients and Income of Judges’ Spouses
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2022
A coalition of judicial advocacy and watchdog groups are calling on Congress to establish greater disclosure requirements for the spouses of federal judges. In a letter sent to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the groups cite a Politico report on potential conflicts posed by the professional work of Supreme Court justice’s spouses and the inadequacy of disclosures around that work. The coalition maintains the “concerns are no doubt more acute” among the hundreds of circuit and district court judges. They also point to the spouses of four justices on the Supreme Court whose work remains opaque yet may intersect with cases before the court.
As Campaign Norms Erode, Even Debates Are Under Debate
DNyuz – Lisa Lerer and Jazmine Ulloa (New York Times) | Published: 10/19/2022
In midterm campaigns across the country, direct political engagement has been falling away, victim to security concerns, pandemic-era restrictions, and Republican hostility to the mainstream media. Many candidates are sticking instead to safer spaces: partisan news outlets, fundraisers with supporters, friendly local crowds. The result is a profound shift in the long traditions of American campaigns that is both a symptom of and a contributor to the ills afflicting the country’s politics.
Big Tech Accused of Shady Lobbying in EU Parliament
Politico – Clothilde Goujard | Published: 10/14/2022
Google, Meta, and Amazon have deceived lawmakers by lobbying through smaller front organizations, leading lawmakers claimed. They asked for an investigation into the tech companies, as well as large lobbying groups including trade association the Computer & Communications Industry Association and advertisers’ group IAB Europe. Three other lobbies representing small and medium-sized companies are also targeted by the complaints. The lawmakers say the companies deceived European lawmakers during negotiations on two landmark laws by hiding behind fronts.
Congressional Ethics Watchdog Calls for Ethics Investigation into Kahele
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 10/14/2022
The Office of Congressional Ethics called for an official inquiry into U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele. He came under scrutiny earlier in the year after a media investigation into his proxy voting record that found he had asked colleagues to vote on his behalf more than almost any other member of Congress at the same time he was laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial campaign in Hawaii. The story led to more questions about Kahele’s part-time job as a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines and work he was doing on the House Transportation and Armed Services Committees.
DOJ Asks Appeals Court to End Outside Review of Trump Mar-a-Lago Documents
MSN – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 10/14/2022
An outside review of documents the FBI seized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate should be halted because it interferes with prosecutors’ authority and is legally unjustified, the Justice Department said in a filing with a federal appeals court. Prosecutors said Aileen Cannon, the judge who ordered the “special master” review at Trump’s request, erred in her ruling because there was no indication of malfeasance or infringement of Trump’s rights in connection with the search a magistrate judge ordered.
High Court Rejects Trump Plea to Step into Mar-a-Lago Case
MSN – Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko (Associated Press) | Published: 10/13/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected former President Trump’s plea to step into the legal fight over the FBI search of his Florida estate. The justices did not otherwise comment in turning away Trump’s emergency appeal. Trump had pressed the court on an issue relating to classified documents seized in the search. The move appears to greatly reduce the potential impact of the special master process to the ongoing Justice Department criminal investigation into the classified documents.
House Jan. 6 Committee Votes to Subpoena Trump in Finale Surprise
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Jacqueline Alemany, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2022
The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena seeking testimony from former President Trump, a challenge with little historical precedent. Combining a mix of new evidence gathered by the committee since July and testimony played at previous sessions, members have said the violence was the direct and predictable result of Trump’s choices in the weeks after he lost his bid for reelection. Even after interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses and reviews of hundreds of thousands of documents, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney said their work is incomplete without hearing answers from “January 6th’s central player.”
Investors Resist Efforts to Paint ESG as a Political Issue
MSN – Ellen Meyers (Roll Call) | Published: 10/20/2022
Institutional investment firms and activist asset managers are amplifying their message to congressional and state lawmakers: stop equating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing with a political agenda. Investors of all sizes are doubling down on the importance of ESG considerations ahead of midterm elections. At stake is a growing body of legislation and regulations in states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana aimed at curbing ESG investment and, in some cases, divesting from certain financial institutions over investment policies that incorporate ESG factors such as climate risk and human capital management.
Judge Bucks Trump, Orders Pence Aide to Testify to Jan. 6 Grand Jury
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Josh Dawsey, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2022
A top aide to former Vice President Mike Pence returned before a grand jury to testify in a criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election after federal courts overruled ex-President Trump’s objections to the testimony. In a decision that could clear the way for other top Trump White House officials to answer questions before a grand jury, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell ruled that former Pence chief of staff Marc Short probably possessed information important to the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the insurrection that was not available from other sources.
Judge: Trump signed court document that knowingly included false voter fraud stats
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/19/2022
Former President Trump signed legal documents describing evidence of election fraud he knew were false, a federal judge indicated. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote in an 18-page opinion that emails from attorney John Eastman, an architect of Trump’s last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election, needed to be turned over to the Jan. 6 select committee. Those emails, Carter wrote, “show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.”
Newspapers with a Partisan Aim Filling the Void of Traditional Media
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2022
As local newspapers collapsed amid a rise in online advertising competition, niche news products with private funding sources have sprouted to fill the void. Some function as a sort of direct mail persuasion piece, while others republish content on hundreds of websites with local names like the Fond Du Lac Times in Wisconsin. Other experiments have sought to build actual newsrooms in key swing states to attract audiences to more ideological views. Many worry the newcomers deceive readers, undermine the reputations of existing journalistic brands, and fail, in some cases, to meet even the basic standards of the profession.
Retired U.S. Brass Cash in with Saudis, Other Repressive Governments
MSN – Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones (Washington Post) | Published: 10/18/2022
Foreign governments have long advanced their interests in Washington by paying Americans as lobbyists, lawyers, political consultants, and public relations advisers. But the hiring of retired U.S. military personnel for their expertise and political clout has accelerated over the past decade as Persian Gulf monarchies have splurged on defense spending and strengthened their security partnerships with the Pentagon. For years, the U.S. government withheld virtually all information about the practice. The Washington Post found many military retirees take foreign jobs or gifts without notifying the U.S. government.
Sidley Austin Reveals Work for Chinese Surveillance Firm Under Foreign Agents Law
Reuters – Mike Scarcella | Published: 10/18/2022
The law firm Sidley Austin disclosed its lobbying work for the U.S. subsidiary of Chinese video surveillance company Hikvision under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, revealing about $7.4 million in fees since 2018. The firm said its registration for Hikvision USA was done “solely in response to a request” from the U.S. Justice Department. The firm had earlier reported its lobbying through the Lobbying Disclosure Act in 2018 after it was retained then by Hikvision.
Some Republicans Want to Count Votes by Hand. Bad Idea, Experts Say.
DNyuz – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 10/18/2022
Over the past two years, Republicans have pursued an array of changes to how Americans vote. The past few weeks have drawn attention to a particularly drastic idea: counting all ballots by hand. Experts in election administration said while hand counting is an important tool for recounts and audits, tallying entire elections by hand in any but the smallest jurisdictions would cause chaos and make results less accurate, not more.
Staffers in Rep. Andy Levin’s Office Sign First Union Contract
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 10/17/2022
Courtney Laudick and about a dozen other staff members on Capitol Hill organized the Congressional Workers Union earlier this year. Laudick’s boss, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, sponsored a resolution to allow House staff to unionize, without knowing Laudick was involved in the effort. The resolution was slipped into a rule for supplemental Ukrainian aid funding and passed. Levin and his aides took another historic step recently, agreeing to a tentative contract that raises the average wage for his junior staff to $76,000 and provides all members of the bargaining unit with a $10,000 salary increase.
Steele Dossier Source Acquitted, in Loss for Special Counsel Durham
MSN – Salvador Rizzo, Rachel Weiner, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/18/2022
A jury found Igor Danchenko, a private researcher who was a primary source for a 2016 dossier of allegations about former President Trump’s ties to Russia, not guilty of lying to the FBI about where he got his information. The verdict is another blow for special counsel John Durham, who has now lost both cases that have gone to trial as part of his investigation. Durham is sure to face renewed pressure to wrap up his work following the verdict.
Ted Cruz Reimbursed Himself $555,000 After Successfully Challenging a Political Spending Law at the Supreme Court
MSN – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 10/17/2022
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign has paid him $555,000 to cover personal loans to his Senate committee. The 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act set a $250,000 limit on the amount of money that candidates could raise after the election for the purpose of paying off personal loans to their campaign committee. The Supreme Court ruled the limit was unconstitutional. That is despite concerns not just from good-government groups that argued lifting the cap could fuel corruption by allowing campaign donors to essentially pay candidates directly by contributing to the repayment of their personal loans.
Canada – How a Controversy Over GMOs Exposed Holes in Canada’s Lobbying Laws
National Observer – Marc Fawcett-Atkinsion | Published: 10/17/2022
A controversy over an industry lobbyist’s input into draft guidelines for genetically modified organisms exposed loopholes in Canada’s lobbying laws, experts say. Jennifer Hubert, the executive director of plant bioengineering at CropLife Canada appears to have written an early draft of proposed guidelines for the Canada Food Inspection Agency that would exempt seed companies from disclosing genetically modified products to consumers. These kinds of collaborations happen regularly but typically go unseen thanks to Canada’s lax lobbying rules, said Duff Conacher, the co-founder of Democracy Watch.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Groups Say Pro-Dunleavy Organization Is ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ After Commission Delays Decision on Campaign-Finance Complaint
Yahoo News – Iris Samuels (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 10/18/2022
Two watchdog groups filed another complaint against the Republican Governors Association and an independent expenditure group supporting Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s re-election. The complaint was filed on the same day that the Alaska Public Offices Commission decided its staff would continue to investigate a previous complaint from the groups alleging Dunleavy’s campaign illegally relied on public funds to subsidize the campaign and coordinated with the independent expenditure group, A Stronger Alaska, ahead of the general election.
California – Councilmember Koretz Seemingly Engages in Illegal Lobbying Scheme with Former Employee
Knock LA – Jon Pelz | Published: 10/12/2022
In 2017, Shawn Bayliss, a former senior employee of Los Angeles City Councilperson Paul Koretz, lobbied Koretz for favors while seemingly prohibited from doing so by city ethics laws. Koretz potentially violated the City Charter when he aided and abetted Bayliss in these apparently illegal lobbying activities. Bayliss left Koretz’s office on May 12, 2017. On the same day, the Bel Air Association (BAA) announced Bayliss as its new executive director. He reached out to Koretz’s private email in June 2017 from his BAA email.
California – Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León Stripped of City Council Committee Posts Over Racist Leak
MSN – David Zahniser and Rachel Uranga (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/17/2022
Los Angeles City Council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo were removed from an array of committee assignments, the latest in a series of attempts to pressure them to resign following reports they participated in a secretly recorded conversation where racist and disparaging remarks were made. Cedillo and De León have not been persuaded by calls from numerous political leaders, including President Biden, to step down. The move comes at an extraordinarily turbulent time for the council, with one seat vacant and two others effectively dormant.
California – LA Council Members Call for Ethics Commission to Have Greater Independence
KFI – City News Service | Published: 10/19/2022
Half of the Los Angeles City Council signed onto a motion calling to make the city’s Ethics Commission more independent and streamline and expand its enforcement processes. The council members recommended a number of changes, which would have to be approved by voters because they would require changes to the city charter.
California – New Details Show Sprawling Web of Corruption in Southern California Cannabis Licensing
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, Robert Lopez, and Paige St. John (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/15/2022
As a California lawmaker called for a statewide task force to crack down on corruption in the legal cannabis market, new details are emerging in a bribery scandal that has ensnared local government officials in the Los Angeles area. Federal prosecutors unveiled two plea agreements that detail “pay-to-play” schemes involving cannabis business licensing and corroborate allegations in a recent Los Angeles Times investigation that examined how legalization of marijuana unleashed a wave of corruption across the state.
California – San Jose Mayor Cleared of Fundraising Complaint
San Jose Spotlight – Tran Nguyen | Published: 10/14/2022
A citizen-led city board dismissed a complaint accusing San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo of breaking campaign finance rules through a PAC he formed. The complaint also claimed Liccardo failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions as required and that donations exceeded local limits. The law firm Hanson Bridgett investigated the case and recommended the board dismiss the allegations.
California – Watchdog Investigating 2019 China Trip Made by Top Milpitas Mayor Candidate
MSN – Gabriel Greschler (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 10/16/2022
The California Fair Political Practices Commission opened an investigation against the top contender in the Milpitas mayoral race over a trip she took to China in 2019. The probe centers around a $3,600 gift that Vice Mayor Carmen Montano accepted during the trip and later reported to state authorities. The complaint alleges Montano violated travel policies and rules surrounding lobbying.
Florida – Top DeSantis Advisers Played Hands-On Role in Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard
MSN – Jeffrey Schweers (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 10/15/2022
Florida’s public safety czar Larry Keefe was in San Antonio nearly two weeks before Gov. Ron DeSantis transported migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, and he may have traveled back to Florida with the migrants, records suggest. Those records also show Keefe coordinating the flights with gubernatorial chief of staff James Uthmeier and politically connected contractor Vertol Systems in the weeks leading up to the operation, which is under criminal investigation. The records also confirm a second flight that apparently was headed to near President Joe Biden’s beach house was scrapped after Texas authorities opened a criminal investigation.
Hawaii – Ban On In-Session Campaign Donations Gets Thumbs Up from Hawaii Standards Commission
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 10/19/2022
The Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct is recommending that Hawaii lawmakers stop accepting campaign money during the legislative session. A bill to do that along with nine other measures focused on reforming campaign finance laws will head to lawmakers for consideration during the 2023 session. The commission is scheduled to take up another slate of proposals that seeks to tighten ethics rules for lawmakers and lobbyists.
Illinois – A Powerful Pritzker Administration Insider Cashed in as a Consultant
Better Government Association – Chuck Neubauer and David Jackson | Published: 10/19/2022
Shortly after she left her state job as a senior adviser to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, political operative Nikki Budzinski collected more than $500,000 in consulting and other fees in 10 months, including more than $80,000 from a Springfield lobbyist that Budzinski helped while working for the governor. State workers are generally barred from accepting compensation as a lobbyist for one year after leaving government work. Since Budzinski was not a registered lobbyist, but rather worked as a consultant to the lobbyist paying her, the rule did not apply to her.
Illinois – Ahead of Key Illinois Supreme Court Elections, Federal Judge Blocks State Campaign Contribution Limits in Judicial Races
MSN – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/18/2022
A federal judge issued a temporary injunction barring Illinois from enforcing two recent changes to the state’s campaign finance law. One bars non-Illinois residents from donating to state judicial candidates. The second prevents individual donors from giving more than $500,000 to independent expenditure committees like super PACs involved in state judicial elections. While there is some legal precedent for tighter restrictions on campaign fundraising in judicial races, the lawsuit argues the two Illinois laws go beyond what courts have allowed in the name of preventing corruption.
Illinois – AT&T Illinois Fined for Effort to Illegally Influence Ex-Speaker Michael Madigan as New Charges Against Him Revealed
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/14/2022
AT&T Illinois agreed to pay a $23 million fine and its former president has been indicted on federal charges over a scheme to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was arrested on racketeering and bribery charges earlier this year. AT&T admitted it arranged to make payments to an associate of Madigan in exchange for help in pushing through legislation favorable to AT&T. Paul La Schiazza, the former president of AT&T Illinois, was accused of orchestrating and approving the payments. In exchange for cooperating with the probe, criminal charges will be dropped against the company after two years.
Louisiana – See Lafayette Mayor Josh Guillory’s 2021 Financial Disclosure for Louisiana Ethics Board
Yahoo News – Andrew Capps (Lafayette Daily Advertiser) | Published: 10/17/2022
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s most recent annual financial disclosure was supposed to shed light on his efforts to bolster his income while in office. But the report raises more questions about his side interests than it answers. Guillory’s equipment rental business made headlines shortly before his return from rehab in August, after which he denied any impropriety or conflicts-of-interest. Guillory has continued to work as an attorney since taking office. Dozens of Guillory’s former clients had their criminal charges removed from court records during his tenure.
Michigan – Michigan House Paying for Lawyers for Employees Interviewed in Chatfield Probe
Detroit News – Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc | Published: 10/19/2022
The Michigan House is providing legal representation for employees who are being interviewed as part of an expanding investigation into former House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Court records showed state officials were conducting a wide-reaching inquiry into sexual assault, and financial and drug use allegations related to Chatfield. Search warrant affidavits indicated investigators were looking into claims that Chatfield and others were involved in a “criminal enterprise,” which potentially included campaign finance violations, bribery, controlled substances, and embezzlement.
Michigan – Probe into Shirkey-Tied Nonprofits Continues; $2.33M Conciliation Agreement Declined
MLive – Jordyn Hermani | Published: 10/18/2022
Two nonprofits associated with a 2020 petition effort rejected a multi-million-dollar settlement with state elections officials, paving the way for a criminal investigation to progress. Michigan! My Michigan! and Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility were accused of improperly raising millions of dollars for Unlock Michigan for a ballot petition to limit the executive branch’s powers during health emergencies. Should the groups have settled through a conciliation agreement, paying the Michigan Bureau of Elections a cumulative $2.33 million, then any further civil or criminal action would have been barred.
New Jersey – New Jersey Sues 5 Oil Companies and Trade Group Over Climate Disinformation
State Impact Pennsylvania – Susan Phillips | Published: 10/18/2022
New Jersey filed a lawsuit against five oil companies and a trade organization, saying they knowingly deceived the public about their contributions to global warming. The lawsuit alleges the trade group, American Petroleum Institute, designed public relations campaigns aimed at convincing the public that climate change does not exist and creating confusion and doubt about the role of oil and gas.
New York – New York State Judge Sets Hearing to Decide New York Attorney General’s Motion in Trump Organization Case
MSN – Kara Scannell (CNN) | Published: 10/14/2022
A judge set a hearing date to decide whether to grant New York Attorney General Letitia James’ request to block the Trump Organization from engaging in certain business activities. The hearing will be the first since the state filed a $250 million lawsuit against former President Trump, his three eldest children, and the Trump Organization alleging they engaged in a decade-long fraud. The state says the same day it announced its lawsuit, the company incorporated a new entity in Delaware, Trump Organization II LLC. The state says it has not provided any assurances it will not move assets out of New York to avoid potential liability.
New York – Trump Gives Answers in Rape Accuser’s Defamation Suit Deposition
Bloomberg Law – Erik Larson | Published: 10/19/2022
Former President Trump answered questions under oath during a deposition sought by E. Jean Carroll, who alleges he raped her in a department store dressing room two decades ago and defamed her when he denied it. He had to go ahead with the deposition after a judge rejected Trump’s latest effort to put the questioning on hold. Trump recently issuing a statement about Carroll on social media, repeating the allegedly defamatory statements he made. The move could undermine his key defense in the case, that he cannot be sued for defamation because he was a sitting president at the time he denied Carroll’s claim in crude terms.
Ohio – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Asks Ohio Supreme Court to Keep Former Utility Regulator’s Assets Frozen
MSN – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 10/19/2022
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked the state Supreme Court to press pause on a lower court’s decision unfreezing millions of dollars in assets of a former utility regulator accused of taking a $4.3 million bribe. Attorneys for Yost argued the lower court decision would allow Sam Randazzo to “liquidate” his assets and shield them from judgements the state may win in a civil lawsuit against him down the line. Denying the motion would be a “death knell” ruling in Ohio, Yost argued, setting a precedent that bad actors can move and hide their money while motions are pending.
Oregon – Official Looking ‘Oregon Voter Guide’ May Mislead Voters
Mail Tribune – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 10/18/2022
Oregon voters seeking information about the November election are likely to see a website called “The 2022 Oregon Voter Guide” at the top of their online search results, ahead of the state’s official voters’ guide. Many voters might not realize the online information is not an official state voters’ guide. “The Oregon Voter Guide” is not nonpartisan or neutral. It is funded and designed by a group of Democratic allies, progressive groups, and Democratic PACs. Two years ago, public employee unions, Democrats, and other political allies partnered on a nearly identical official-looking website, as well as mailers.
Texas – In Texas, Where Money Has Long Dominated Politics, Greg Abbott Is in a League of His Own
Texas Tribune – Patrick Svitek, Carla Astudillo, Zach Despart, and Kate McGee | Published: 10/18/2022
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is easily the most prolific campaign fundraiser in the state’s history. His campaign fund has allowed him to scare off potential opponents, intimidate those who challenge him, fund a sprawling grassroots organization, and generally reshape Texas politics in his image. Texas is one of 11 states without contribution limits, enabling Abbott to raise enormous sums from some of the nation’s richest families and individuals. At its worst, critics say, Abbott’s fundraising prowess can give the appearance of a patronage system.
Washington – Ferguson Seeks $24.6 Million from Facebook for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Laurel Demkovich (Spokane Spokesman-Review) | Published: 10/15/2022
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is seeking the maximum penalty of $24.6 million against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, for violations of the state’s campaign finance law. A judge ruled Meta had 822 intentional violations of the law, which requires campaign advertisers, including sites such as Meta that host ads, to make information about the state’s political ads available for public inspection in a timely manner. The penalty is $10,000 per violation, but because a judge found Meta intentionally violated the law, the penalty can be tripled.
October 14, 2022 •
National/Federal A Congressional Campaign Committee Just Reimbursed a Dead Lawmaker for Travel Mileage Yahoo Finance – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 10/12/2022 The campaign committee of a deceased member of Congress reimbursed him for travel mileage months after he died. […]
A Congressional Campaign Committee Just Reimbursed a Dead Lawmaker for Travel Mileage
Yahoo Finance – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 10/12/2022
The campaign committee of a deceased member of Congress reimbursed him for travel mileage months after he died. The Friends of Hagedorn campaign committee refunded Rep. Jim Hagedorn more than $1,100 for “mileage” on September 20. Hagedorn, however, died in February. FEC guidance notes congressional campaign funds can be used to refund travel costs incurred by a lawmaker, as well as their spouse and children, as long as it is “directly connected to the officeholder’s official responsibilities.
A Majority of GOP Nominees – 299 in All – Deny the 2020 Election Results
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022
A majority of Republican nominees on the ballot this November for the U.S. House and Senate, and key statewide offices have denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election, according to a Washington Post analysis. Candidates who have challenged or refused to accept Joe Biden’s victory are running in every region of the country and in nearly every state. Republican voters in four states nominated election deniers in all federal and statewide races. Most of the election deniers are likely to win. Of the nearly 300 on the ballot, 174 are running for safely GOP seats; another 51 will appear on the ballot in tightly contested races.
First Proud Boys Leader Pleads Guilty to Jan. 6 Seditious Conspiracy
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022
A former Proud Boys leader became the group’s first member to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy in the Capitol riot, deepening the government’s case against an organization accused of mobilizing violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden. Jeremy Bertino becomes a potential key witness against five Proud Boys leaders, some of whom had ties to influential supporters of Donald Trump. The Proud Boys defendants are set to face trial in December on charges including plotting to oppose by force the presidential transition.
Government Officials Invest in Companies Their Agencies Oversee
Fox Business – Rebecca Ballhaus, Brody Mullins, Chad Day, Joe Palazzolo, and James Grimaldi (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 10/11/2022
Thousands of officials across the government’s executive branch reported owning or trading stocks that stood to rise or fall with decisions their agencies made, a Wall Street Journal investigation found. More than 2,600 officials at agencies from the Commerce Department to the Treasury Department, during both Republican and Democratic administrations, disclosed stock investments in companies while those same firm were lobbying their agencies for favorable policies. That amounts to more than one in five senior federal employees across 50 federal agencies reviewed by The Journal.
How Trump’s Legal Expenses Consumed GOP Donor Money
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2022
Donald Trump’s political operation has spent more money since he left office on lawyers representing the former president and a pair of nonprofits staffed by former Cabinet members than it has on Republican congressional campaigns. Legal fees are expected to climb, Trump advisers say, as he employs a growing retinue of lawyers to fend off federal, state, and county-level investigations. State-level Republicans have also used party resources to defray legal costs related to Trump’s attempts to stay in power.
Judge Dismisses DOJ Bid to Force Wynn to Register as Foreign Agent
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/12/2022
A federal judge dismissed a Department of Justice (DOJ) effort to force casino magnate Steve Wynn to acknowledge a stint as an agent of the Chinese government. U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg expressed reservations about his own ruling but suggested that long-standing appeals court precedent bars the DOJ from requiring foreign agents to retroactively register once they are no longer performing that work. If the ruling stands, it could deal a blow to the effort to crack down on undisclosed foreign influence campaigns in the U.S.
Justice Dept. Asks Supreme Court to Deny Trump Request in Mar-a-Lago Case
MSN – Perry Stein and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2022
The Justice Department asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny a petition from Donald Trump’s attorneys in the Mar-a-Lago search case, arguing that allowing an outside arbiter to review the classified documents seized from Trump’s residence would “irreparably injure” the government and as a former president, Trump has no “plausible” claims of ownership over sensitive government materials. It is the latest turn in the department’s high-stakes investigation to determine whether the former president or his advisers mishandled national security secrets or hid or destroyed government records.
Leonard Leo Pushed the Courts Right. Now He’s Aiming at American Society.
Seattle Times – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2022
Activist Leonard Leo is best known for his role in pushing the appointments of conservative judges to the center of the Republican Party’s agenda. Now, he has developed a coalition that aims to transform American society. Most of the initiatives were supported by a network shaped by Leo and funded by wealthy patrons, usually through “dark money.” An investigation reveals new details of how he has built that network into one of the most sophisticated operations in U.S. politics, giving him influence as he pushes a broad array of conservative causes and seeks to counter what he sees as an increasing leftward tilt in society.
Misinformation Swirls in Non-English Languages Ahead of Midterms
Yahoo News – Tiffany Hsu (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2022
Unsubstantiated rumors and outright falsehoods spread widely in immigrant communities ahead of the presidential election in 2020. That is happening again in the run-up to this year’s midterm elections, researchers say, but with an insidious twist. The social media accounts pushing misinformation are now targeting audiences in more languages on more topics and across more digital platforms. Multilingual fact checkers say they cannot keep pace with the deluge of falsehoods online. They have called on the big social media platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, to do more for efforts in other languages as they would for misinformation in English.
She Went Out on a Limb for Trump. Now She’s Under Justice Dept. Scrutiny.
Seattle Times – Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2022
This spring, one of the lawyers representing former President Trump made a request to Christina Bobb, who had just jumped from a Trump-allied cable network to a job in his political organization. M. Evan Corcoran asked Bobb to sign a statement that the Trump legal team had conducted a “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago and found only a few files that had not been returned to the government. She later complained she did not have a full grasp of what was going on around her when she signed. Her sworn statement was shown to be false. Bobb’s trajectory is a familiar one in Trump’s orbit: a marginal player thrust into a position where her profile is elevated, but at the cost of serious legal and reputational risk.
Steele Dossier Source Heads to Trial, in Possible Last Stand for Durham
MSN – Salvadore Rizzo and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/10/2022
Former President Trump said special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia probe should “reveal corruption at a level never seen before in our country.” But the nearly three-and-a-half-year examination seems destined for a less dramatic conclusion as Durham put Igor Danchenko on trial. He was indicted on charges of lying to FBI agents who interviewed him about the sources behind his claims to former British spy Christopher Steele. Defense attorneys argue Danchenko made a series of “equivocal” statements to the FBI and should not be penalized for giving wishy-washy answers to vaguely worded questions.
Top House Staffers Are Still Overwhelmingly White, Study Finds
Roll Call – Jim Saska | Published: 10/6/2022
The senior aides who hold the most sway with members of Congress have grown more diverse in recent years, but still not nearly as diverse as the nation. A new study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies finds people of color now occupy 18 percent of the top staff positions in the House, a four-point increase since 2018, but still much lower than the 40 percent of Americans who are not white. People of color have more representation among the actual representatives than their closest aides, the report finds.
Trump Worker Told FBI About Moving Mar-a-Lago Boxes on Ex-President’s Orders
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2022
A Trump employee told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account, combined with security-camera footage, offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material. The witness description and footage offer the most direct account to date of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the FBI’s search, in which agents were looking for evidence of potential crimes including obstruction, destruction of government records, or mishandling classified information.
Why Little-Noticed State Legislative Races Could Be Hugely Consequential
Yahoo News – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2022
With Congress often deadlocked and conservatives dominating the U.S. Supreme Court, state governments increasingly steer the direction of voting laws, abortion access, education, and other issues dominating the lives of Americans. The Supreme Court could soon add federal elections to that list. The justices are expected to decide whether to grant nearly unfettered authority over such elections to state Legislatures. If the court does so, many Democrats believe, lawmakers could have a pathway to overrule the popular vote in presidential elections by refusing to certify the results and instead sending their own slates of electors.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – APOC Says Dunleavy Backers Won’t Respond to Investigation Without Subpoena
Alaska Public Media – Lisa Phu (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 10/11/2022
In an investigation into alleged violations of campaign finance laws, an independent expenditure group supporting Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reelection has refused to respond to requests for information. A complaint says the Republican Governors Association and Dunleavy are “engaged in a scheme” to subsidize and coordinate the campaign activities of the independent expenditure group A Stronger Alaska with those of Dunleavy’s official campaign committee. Coordination between a candidate or a candidate’s representatives and an independent expenditure group is prohibited.
California – Grand Jury Accuses Santa Clara City Council Members of Putting 49ers Ahead of City
MSN – Marisa Kendall (San Jose Mercury News) | Published: 10/7/2022
A grand jury report accuses several Santa Clara City Council members of getting too cozy with the San Francisco 49ers, neglecting their duties to constituents, and potentially violating state law. The report raises a series of concerns about the conduct of five council members who frequently vote in favor of the NFL team’s interests. Frequent closed-door meetings between 49ers lobbyists and those council members raised a “serious question” about whether they are violating state open-meeting laws, according to the report. The report also takes issue with some of the council members’ personal use of the stadium, among other issues.
California – Jose Huizar’s Brother to Testify in Federal Corruption Trial of Former L.A. Councilman After Pleading Guilty
Yahoo News – Nathan Solis (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/12/2022
The older brother of Jose Huizar admitted to lying to FBI agents about receiving envelopes of cash from Huizar and will cooperate with the federal government’s corruption investigation of the former Los Angeles City Council member. Jose Huizar gave his older brother, Salvador, envelopes of cash and asked him to write a check for the exact amount out of his own bank account, federal investigators said. Salvador Huizar admitting to repeatedly lying about the cash, including while under oath before a grand jury and as recently as two weeks ago when he was interviewed again by FBI agents.
California – Nury Martinez Resigns from L.A. City Council in Wake of Audio Leak Scandal
Yahoo News – David Zahniser, Julia Wick, Dakota Smith, and Benjamin Oreskes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/12/2022
Nury Martinez, the Los Angeles City Council member at the center of the scandal over a taped conversation in which she made racist comments about colleagues and constituents, has resigned. The Los Angeles Times published a recording in which Martinez is heard making the remarks while talking with fellow council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and labor leader Ron Herrera about how the city’s council district boundaries should be redrawn. The October 2021 conversation focused on how the group could maintain Latino political power while ensuring they and their colleagues would have districts that help them win reelection.
California – San Francisco Election Watchdog Boss Set to Resign
San Francisco Standard – Alex Mullany | Published: 10/12/2022
LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission since January 2016, will resign on January 23, 2023. Over the years, the commission has been slow to handle complaints and been criticized for using the city attorney’s office as counsel rather than having its own independent attorneys. Yet, Pelham was able to hire more staff and modernize many of the commission’s systems. “I would say that LeeAnn Pelham substantially increased the reach of the commission in terms of accomplishing its mission,” commission member Larry Bush said.
Colorado – Adams County Must Pay Legal Fees of the Treasurer It Sued, Colorado Supreme Court Orders
MSN – John Aguilar (Denver Post) | Published: 10/10/2022
The Colorado Supreme Court ordered Adams County to pay the legal expenses of its elected treasurer, who it sued over allegations she mismanaged her office. The state’s high court called Adams County’s failure to cover Lisa Culpepper’s costs of defending herself against the county’s lawsuit an “abuse of discretion.” Culpepper would normally be represented by the county attorney’s office in legal matters. But because that same office was representing the county commissioners suing her meant Culpepper had to obtain outside counsel.
Colorado – Political Group Agrees to Pay Fine Over Primary Voter Guide That Failed to Disclose Information
Colorado Springs Gazette – Marianne Goodland (Colorado Politics) | Published: 10/11/2022
ProgressNow Colorado agreed to pay a fine of $16,277 for a primary “voter guide” that failed to fully disclose required information. It was the third complaint over ProgressNow’s voter guides in the past 18 months and the second that the organization has settled with the Elections Division. The first complaint, in 2021, resulted in a $3,000 fine.
Florida – DeSantis Broke Florida Precedent and Maybe the Law, Too, in Making Congressional Map
Yahoo News – Joshua Kaplan (ProPublica) | Published: 10/11/2022
An examination of how Florida’s congressional districts were drawn, and who helped decide the new boundaries, show Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration appears to have misled the public and the Legislature and may also have violated state law. Gubernatorial aides worked behind the scenes with an attorney who serves as the national Republican Party’s top redistricting lawyer and other consultants tied to the national party apparatus. The Florida Constitution was amended in 2010 to prohibit partisan-driven redistricting, a landmark effort in the growing movement to end gerrymandering.
Florida – Ethics Panel Finds ‘Probable Cause’ That Miami Commissioner Abused Power with City Car
MSN – Joey Fletchas (Miami Herald) | Published: 10/12/2022
The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust agreed to charge Miami City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla with violating county ethics law and exploiting his official position after a friend who did not work for the city used a city car to pick up alcohol for the commissioner, drop off his dry cleaning, and drive him to a property his family owns. The friend, Jenny Nillo, worked for the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, and should not have had access to the car, according to city policy.
Georgia – Common Cause Georgia Sues FEC Over Dismissed Complaint That Conservative Nonprofit Broke Finance Rules
Georgia Recorder – Stanley Dunlap | Published: 10/11/2022
Common Cause Georgia is suing the FEC for dismissing a complaint alleging conservative election-monitoring organization True the Vote illegally contributed to the Georgia Republican Party during the January 2021 runoffs for two U.S. Senate seats. The lawsuit accuses three Republican commissioners of failing to enforce federal campaign finance law when they went against the agency’s general counsel’s recommendation to open an investigation into the relationship between the Texas-based nonprofit and the Georgia GOP.
Georgia – GOP Crisis in Herschel Walker Race Was Nearly Two Years in the Making
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022
In early 2021, as football star Herschel Walker considered running for the U.S. Senate, he approached some of Georgia’s top Republican operatives about advising his campaign. The operatives were warned about political vulnerabilities in Walker’s past that were openly discussed in the state’s political circles. Walker’s overwhelming name recognition and backing from former President Trump made him so formidable that state and national Republican leaders did not mount a serious challenge in the primary. Now, they are stuck with him as those liabilities threaten to dominate the news and derail his campaign.
Illinois – City Council Debate Over Private Booting Shines Light on Ways Clout and Campaign Cash Work in Chicago
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/10/2022
Faced with a surge of criticism at City Hall, Innovative Parking Solutions owner Michael Denigris did what Chicago business owners have done for decades – he hired an influential lobbyist and poured tens of thousands of dollars into lawmakers’ campaign accounts. But it is not clear whether that expensive and time-consuming effort, which illuminates how wealthy interests get their issues in front of the city council, will pay off for Denigris and his firm.
Iowa – Iowa Board Requires ‘Paid for By’ Statements on Some Political Texts
Bleeding Heartland – Laura Bellin | Published: 9/28/2022
The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board said some political text messages are subject to the state law requiring disclosure of who is responsible for express campaign advocacy. Board Executive Director Zach Goodrich drafted the advisory to clarify when text messages can be considered “electronic general public political advertising.” He decided to address the issue after a mass texting campaign from an undisclosed source reached Kansas voters shortly before a constitutional referendum in August.
Maryland – Allegations Against Vice Chair Deepen Montgomery Planning Board Controversy
MSN – Daniel Wu (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2022
An investigation into Montgomery County Planning Board Chairperson Casey Anderson’s conduct has expanded to include the actions of Vice Chair Partap Verma and the abrupt firing of Planning Department Director Gwen Wright. A complaint sent to the county council levied new accusations against Verma, who already had been publicly reprimanded alongside Casey and fellow board member Carol Rubin, deepening concerns about the planning agency’s governance and rattling employees as a council vote looms on a long-term growth plan.
Missouri – St. Louis County Ethics Committee Stonewalled on Marijuana Questions
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joe Holleman | Published: 10/10/2022
The majority of the main players involved in a conflict-of-interest probe of St. Louis County Councilperson Lisa Clancy continue to give the silent treatment to the council’s ethics committee. Of five people involved in 2019 with Clancy and the county’s zoning laws for medical marijuana industry, all of whom refused to attend a committee meeting on September 6, only one has responded to written questions the committee sent out recently. The committee asked for a response by October 5.
Montana – GOP House Candidate Paid Vendors with Bad Checks and Misreported Debts
Montana Free Press – Arren Kimbel-Sannit | Published: 10/7/2022
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan found a state House candidate tried to pay vendors with bad checks and misreported accrued debts as expenditures, referring the matter to the Lewis and Clark County attorney for possible prosecution. Alden Tonkay misreported a minimum of $2,264 in debts, Mangan found. Those debts stemmed from non-payment to sign-making and catering companies. Tonkay repeatedly said he would send a response to the complaint as well as a full accounting of his campaign finances, but never delivered, according to Mangan’s decision.
Montana – How Montana’s New Election Laws Failed Legal Muster
Montana Free Press – Alex Sakariassen | Published: 10/6/2022
Three new laws that changed how Montanans can vote and access the polls were declared unconstitutional. People will once again be able to register to vote on Election Day, use student IDs and voter registration cards as primary identification at the polls, and accept payment for collecting ballots on behalf of voters unable to return them themselves. A spokesperson was noncommittal on whether Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen would appeal the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.
Nevada – How a Las Vegas Newsroom Set Out to Solve a Colleague’s Killing
MSN – Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022
Executive Editor Glenn Cook sent an email to staff members at The Las Vegas Journal-Review on September 3, informing them that their colleague, Jeff German, had been found dead outside his home. Over four days of relentless reporting, Review-Journal staff would essentially solve the case, delving into German’s old stories and doing their own on-the-ground detective work to identify a surprising suspect, who is now behind bars, facing murder charges.
New Hampshire – In Time of Distrust, How One State Is Trying to Boost Voter Confidence
MSN – Joanna Slater (Washington Post) | Published: 10/10/2022
Since May, the New Hampshire Special Committee on Voter Confidence has traveled the length of the state holding public hearings that are part civics roadshow, part airing of grievances. They have come together for an unusual experiment aimed at bolstering faith in American democracy. The committee’s stated goal is to identify the causes of the decline in voter confidence and recommend ways to reverse it. Left unstated is the unprecedented nature of the current moment, where former President Trump and Republican candidates continue to deny the outcome of the 2020 election.
New Mexico – Vote to Amend Legislature’s Internal Investigative Procedure Fails
Santa Fe New Mexican – Robert Knott | Published: 10/11/2022
A body of lawmakers charged with administering legislative policies and procedures in the New Mexico Legislature deadlocked on a proposal to add a fifth and tiebreaking member to a pair of interim ethics committees, in effect killing the proposal and leaving the Legislature’s embattled internal investigation process unchanged. Calls for reform to the harassment policies and investigation of complaints have grown louder in the wake of accusations by lobbyist Marianna Anaya and others against Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.
New York – Hochul Raises Massive Sum in Final State Election Before New Campaign Finance System Kick In
Gothamist – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 10/12/2022
Since Kathy Hochul became governor of New York in August 2021, 47 people have given the maximum amount, $69,700, directly to her campaign. In total, Hochul’s campaign has brought in $46 million in her first 14 months in office. That massive sum will not be as easy to accumulate in future elections thanks to a new state campaign finance system that will lower individual contribution limits and establish a small-dollar public matching program for state-level offices. The new system goes into effect immediately after Election Day this year for the next election cycles and will apply to statewide offices.
New York – New State Ethics Watchdog Agrees to Chew on Old Cases
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/6/2022
New York’s ethics and lobbying commission is rolling over all pending investigations inherited from its predecessor, a move that increases the odds those inquiries will reach conclusions. As of September 23, the new ethics body had 32 “open investigations” in motion, including that of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had been scheduled to face a hearing over whether he violated the law by using state employees to assist in the production of his lucrative memoir of the Covid-19 pandemic.
New York – New York Lobbyists Hold Sway in Spite of Shake-Ups, Scandals
Poli-Ticks – Rebekah Ward (Albany Times Union) | Published: 10/7/2022
Lobbyists in New York often are key in passing or defeating legislation. Many are veteran lawmakers themselves or had prior jobs, including as agency leaders or legal counsel for top elected officials, that provide them connections and insight into the government’s inner workings, which enable them to shape political outcomes for their clients. They are a constant presence in Albany, customizing pitches to assuage the differing concerns of key officials, strategically framing stories to steer media attention, and using the hectic legislative calendar to their advantage.
Ohio – Ohio Is About to Hold Elections for Unconstitutional Congressional and Legislative Districts. Here’s How It Happened
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/9/2022
Ohio’s congressional and state legislative districts have twice been ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, but one of those maps will be in place for the November elections. It is the result of a previously untested state redistricting process, a months-long fight between Republican leaders and the Ohio Supreme Court, and a federal court finally intervening and picking one of the redistricting plans to use just for the 2022 election. So, despite voters approving two state constitutional amendments to end gerrymandering, the congressional and legislative lines have again been drawn in a way that gives Republicans a clear advantage.
Ohio – Steve Dackin, One-Time Ohio Schools Superintendent, Signs Settlement Agreement for Ethics Violations, Avoids Criminal Prosecution
MSN – Laura Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/7/2022
Steve Dackin, who spent 11 days as the state superintendent of public instruction before resigning amid an ethics investigation, signed a settlement with the Ohio Ethics Commission. The commission will not refer its investigation to any public prosecutor. Dackin will be required to attend three hours of ethics training and agreed to not apply for the state superintendent job again until February 26, 2023. Dackin had access to the applications for the job as the committee conducted its search. Days before the application period ended, Dackin resigned from the Ohio State Board of Education and submitted his own application for the job.
Tennessee – Kelsey Co-Defendant Smith to Plead Guilty in Federal Campaign Finance Case
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 10/11/2022
The co-defendant in a federal campaign finance case against Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey is set to plead guilty to one charge of funneling “soft money” to the senator’s congressional campaign six years ago. Federal prosecutors claim Kelsey and Josh Smith, the owner of The Standard Club in Nashville, conspired with others to illegally shift a total of more than $80,000 from his state account to buy ads that supported his federal race. Prosecutors say Kelsey gave Smith a check for more than $106,000 in July 2016 during a gathering at The Standard to be transferred from his campaign account to the restaurant’s PAC.
Washington – Judge: Facebook intentionally violated WA campaign finance law 822 times
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 10/6/2022
A judge ruled Facebook’s parent company Meta intentionally violated Washington’s campaign finance law 822 times, which may subject the company to millions of dollars in fines. The law requires advertisers to make information about political ads run in Washington that appear on their platforms available for public inspection. The judge said the violations were intentional because of the company’s history of failure to comply with the law, its extensive experience with campaign finance law, and its “lack of good faith and failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for its violations.”
October 7, 2022 •
National/Federal DataVault Requests US Election Agency’s Advice to Send NFTs as a Campaign Fundraising Incentive Cointelegraph – Turner Wright | Published: 10/4/2022 The legal team behind nonfungible token (NFT) firm DataVault Holdings requested an advisory opinion from the FEC on using […]
DataVault Requests US Election Agency’s Advice to Send NFTs as a Campaign Fundraising Incentive
Cointelegraph – Turner Wright | Published: 10/4/2022
The legal team behind nonfungible token (NFT) firm DataVault Holdings requested an advisory opinion from the FEC on using NFTs for campaign fundraising efforts. DataVault’s lawyers proposed sending NFTs as “souvenirs” to individuals who donated to political committees, as well as giving the token holder the option to use it for promoting a campaign “strictly on a volunteer basis and without any compensation.” The firm requested the FEC provide guidance on how it may operate as a commercial vendor, issuing the tokens to political committee members seemingly without violating federal campaign finance laws.
Election Officials Confront a New Problem: Whether they can trust their own poll workers
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 10/4/2022
Election officials are growing concerned about a new danger in November: that groups looking to undermine election results will try to install their supporters as poll workers. The frontline election workers do everything from checking people in at voting locations to helping process mail ballots. Now, some prominent incidents involving poll workers have worried election officials that a bigger wave of trouble could be on the horizon.
In Trump White House, Classified Records Routinely Mishandled, Aides Say
MSN – Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
Aides who worked in Donald Trump’s White House were not surprised when the FBI found highly classified material in boxes at Mar-a-Lago mixed with news clippings and other items. During his four years in office, Trump never strictly followed the rules and customs for handling sensitive government documents, according to 14 officials from his administration. What those ex-Trump aides and advisers saw in an inventory of items recovered by the FBI in August – classified documents in boxes, stored alongside newspaper and magazine articles, books, and gifts – looked to them like the idiosyncratic filing system Trump used in the White House.
Justices Shield Spouses’ Work from Potential Conflict of Interest Disclosures
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs, Josh Gerstein, and Peter Canellos (Politico) | Published: 9/29/2022
Over the past year, Virginia Thomas has gotten attention for operating a consulting business that reportedly includes conservative activist groups with interest in U.S. Supreme Court decisions as clients. Her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, has chosen not to reveal any of his wife’s clients, let alone how much they contributed to the Thomas family coffers, dating back to when her consulting business was founded. A Politico investigation shows potential conflicts involving justices’ spouses extend beyond the Thomas family.
Lawmakers Confront a Rise in Threats and Intimidation, and Fear Worse
MSN – Stephanie Lai, Luke Broadwater, and Carl Hulse (New York Times) | Published: 10/1/2022
Members of Congress in both parties are experiencing a surge in threats and confrontations as a rise in violent political speech has increasingly crossed over into the realm of in-person intimidation and physical altercation. In the months since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which brought lawmakers and the vice president within feet of rioters threatening their lives, Republicans and Democrats have faced stalking, armed visits to their homes, vandalism, and assaults. It is part of a trend that many fear is only intensifying as lawmakers scatter to campaign and meet with voters around the country ahead of midterm congressional elections.
Politics Are Becoming Tougher to Avoid at Work, Survey Finds
MSN – Taylor Telford (Washington Post) | Published: 10/5/2022
Escalating political tensions in the workplace are creating problems for organizations as midterm elections draw nearer, a new survey found. About 26 percent said they have personally experienced differential treatment (positive and negative) because of their political views or affiliation, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Corporations are under pressure from employees and consumers to weigh in on political issues. But the rise of politics in the workplace has consequences for polarization across the country, said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM’s chief executive.
Pro-DeSantis Hybrid PAC to File Lawsuit Challenging Unfavorable FEC Ruling
OpenSecrets – Taylor Giorno | Published: 10/3/2022
The political committee Ready for Ron asked the FEC for permission to share a list of supporters and their contact information with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to encourage him to run for president in 2024. The FEC ruled that Ready for Ron cannot share the list if DeSantis becomes a federal candidate or begins “testing the waters” for federal office, as the value would exceed the federal campaign contribution limit. The commission deadlocked on whether Ready for Ron could share the list if DeSantis is not testing the waters or running for federal office. The PAC plans to fille a lawsuit challenging the FEC’s decision.
Supreme Court to Scrutinize U.S. Protections for Social Media
MSN – Andrew Chung (Reuters) | Published: 10/3/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to federal protections for internet and social media companies freeing them of responsibility for content posted by users. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit, relying on as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. It protects “interactive computer services” by ensuring they cannot be treated as the “publisher or speaker” of any information provided by other users. Democrats have faulted it for giving social media companies a pass for spreading hate speech and misinformation. Republicans painted it as a tool for censorship of voices on the right.
The Onion Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief Defending the Right to Parody
MSN – Rachel Pannett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
A man who was arrested over a Facebook parody aimed at his local police department is trying to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The satirical website The Onion filed an amicus brief in support of Anthony Novak. A jury found him not guilty, and he is trying to sue the city for damages. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the police had qualified immunity, and an appeals court upheld that decision. “Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government?” the brief asked. “This was a surprise to America’s Finest News Source and an uncomfortable learning experience for its editorial team.”
Trump Asks Supreme Court to Intervene in Mar-a-Lago Search Case
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
Former President Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the Mar-a-Lago documents-seizure case, saying the special master appointed in the matter should be allowed to review the classified papers. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit granted the Justice Department’s request to keep about 100 classified documents separate from a review of documents being conducted by a court-appointed legal expert, called a special master. The department has launched a probe to determine if Trump or his advisers mishandled national security secrets or hid or destroyed government records.
U.S.: Oath Keepers, Rhodes attacked ‘bedrock of democracy’ on Jan. 6
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/3/2022
Members of the extremist group Oath Keepers led by Stewart Rhodes planned for an armed rebellion “to shatter a bedrock of American democracy” – the peaceful transfer of presidential power – culminating in their role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, a prosecutor said in the first seditious conspiracy trial of the January 6 investigation. Rhodes’ defense attorney Philip Linder said Oath Keepers came to Washington as “peacekeeping” security guards, believing then-President Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize private militias, put down riots, and remain in power.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Supreme Court Debates Alabama’s Refusal of Second Black Voting District
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices combined for an aggressive and unified defense against Alabama’s efforts to limit creation of voting districts in which minorities have the ability to elect candidates of their choice. The case is another major test of the Voting Rights Act, which the court’s conservative majority has diluted in recent years. At the end of oral arguments, it appeared a majority of the court might not embrace Alabama’s request for a broad reinterpretation of how the law is enforced, and that a narrower compromise was a possibility.
Arkansas – Missouri Health Executives Plead Guilty in Widespread Fraud
Stamford Advocate – Associated Press | Published: 9/29/2022
Two former executives of a Missouri health nonprofit pleaded guilty to their roles in a corruption scheme that ensnared several Arkansas elected officials and lobbyists, federal prosecutors said. Bontiea Goss and her husband, Tommy Goss, were executives at Preferred Family Healthcare, which provided services such as substance abuse treatments and counseling to people in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois. Federal prosecutors said the Gosses and other co-conspirators paid bribes and kickbacks to Arkansas lawmakers to obtain favorable legislation and other official actions that helped the nonprofit.
California – A Cannabis Bribe and Arson: Former Adelanto councilman sentenced to federal prison
MSN – Gregory Yee (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/3/2022
Former Adelanto City Councilperson Jermaine Wright was convicted of taking a $10,000 bribe to help open a cannabis business and hiring someone to burn down his restaurant for an insurance payout. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Wright told an informant the money had to go to a nonprofit set up to conceal their scheme and he would put the informant on the nonprofit’s board so they could receive the money as well, a pre-sentencing report said.
California – New State Law Could Curb Pay to Play Politics in Orange County & California
Voice of OC – Spencer Custodio | Published: 10/3/2022
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that bars local elected officials voting on items benefitting contributors who donated more than $250 within the past 12 months. Elected officials could return the campaign donations within 14 days of finding out about the contribution, which would allow them to vote on the item. In Orange County, an FBI corruption investigation into Anaheim City Hall that touches on Disneyland resort area interests has put a renewed focus on campaign finance, spurring calls of campaign finance reform.
Florida – The Story Behind DeSanti’s Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard
Yahoo News – Edgar Sandoval, Miriam Jordan, Patricia Mazzei, and J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 10/2/2022
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a budget that set aside $12 million to create a program for transporting unauthorized migrants out of Florida. He touted it as the highlight of the state’s new spending when it came to immigration. But just three months later, the money was being used to round up Venezuelan asylum seekers on the streets of San Antonio and shipping them on private planes to Massachusetts. Details have begun to emerge of the clandestine mission. In the middle of it all was a woman with a background in military counterintelligence who investigators believe was sent to Texas from Tampa to fill the planes.
Georgia – Federal Judge Upholds Georgia Election Law in Challenge Brought by Abrams
MSN – Matthew Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2022
A federal judge upheld Georgia’s election laws in a blow to Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, who also is the state’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Abrams’ group filed a lawsuit against the Georgia’s secretary of state soon after her 2018 election defeat, arguing the state’s absentee ballot policies, which require an “exact match” for names and addresses between voters’ IDs and voter registration records, represented “gross mismanagement” of the state’s election systems that violated Georgia voters’ constitutional rights.
Georgia – Georgia DA: GOP bankrolling lawyers for ‘fake’ Trump electors ‘rife with serious ethical problems’
Yahoo News – Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman | Published: 10/4/2022
The Georgia Republican Party is bankrolling the legal defense of most of the so-called fake electors in the state as part of a controversial arrangement that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charges in a new court filing is “rife with serious ethical problems” and “actual conflicts-of-interest.” Wills has launched a sprawling probe into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Willis escalated the legal battle over the issue when she moved to disqualify the two lawyers being paid by the state GOP.
Georgia – Herschel Walker Paid for Girlfriend’s Abortion, Report Says
MSN – Bill Barrow (Associated Press) | Published: 10/3/2022
Herschel Walker, who has vehemently opposed abortion rights as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Georgia, paid for an abortion for his girlfriend in 2009, according to a report. Walker called the accusation a “flat-out lie” and said he would sue. The Daily Beast reviewed a receipt showing her $575 payment for the procedure, along with a get-well card from Walker and her bank deposit records showing the image of a personal check from Walker dated five days after the abortion receipt. The woman said Walker encouraged her to end the pregnancy, saying the time was not right for a baby.
Louisiana – Louisiana Officials Use Campaign Cash to Buy LSU, Saints Tickets
Louisiana Illuminator – Julie O’Donoghue | Published: 10/4/2022
Forty-nine Louisiana politicians spent $181,600 from their campaign accounts and PACs on tickets to collegiate and professional sporting events in 2020 and 2021. Over half of those purchasing the tickets were state lawmakers, but the group also includes the governor, sheriffs, district attorneys, and a state Supreme Court justice. State law prohibits elected officials from using campaign money for “personal use,” but sports tickets have long been considered a legitimate expense. The practice is legal so long as officials can explain why the spending is related to their campaign or job, said Kathleen Allen, the state’s ethics administrator.
Maryland – Nash Seeking Clarity on Lobbying Rules After Ethics Decision
Yahoo News – Ryan Marshall (Frederick News-Post) | Published: 10/5/2022
Frederick Alderwoman Katie Nash will not challenge a decision by the city’s Ethics Commission that some of her professional lobbying activities violated city rules in court and is seeking guidance for future work. The commission found Nash, a lobbyist registered with the state, improperly emailed coordinators for various city Neighborhood Advisory Councils and others, encouraging them to raise concerns with the county about plans to shift coverage of paramedic services in parts of the city. Nash also asked that information about avoiding conflicts be made available to candidates when they file.
Massachusetts – Former State Police Union Boss Dana Pullman and Former Lobbyist Anne Lynch Face Trial for Alleged Kickback Schemes
MSN – Shelly Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/3/2022
Dana Pullman, the former leader of the Massachusetts State Police union, is on trial on charges he took kickbacks totaling $41,250 from a union lobbyist, Anne Lynch, and diverted thousands of dollars from the union for personal expenses, including flowers, gifts, a Florida vacation, and meals at upscale restaurants with a girlfriend. When announcing the charges in August 2019, federal authorities accused Pullman of running the union “like an old-school mob boss” and tapping the union’s account as if it was “his own personal piggy bank.”
Michigan – Michigan’s Proposal 1 Would Change Term Limits, Require Financial Disclosure for Lawmakers
Yahoo News – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 10/6/2022
Michigan voters will have a chance to decide this November whether they want to end the current term limits for state lawmakers in favor of reducing the total number of years lawmakers can serve in Lansing while increasing the number of times they can seek reelection in either chamber. The proposal would also establish new financial disclosure requirements for some elected officeholders. It would require annual reports describing their assets and sources of income, positions held outside of state government, agreements or arrangements regarding future employment, gifts and travel payments received, among other requirements.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Commission Hobbled Again After Parson Pulls Appointees
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/29/2022
The Missouri Ethics Commission again is unable to function, at least temporarily, because it does not have enough members. Gov. Mike Parson removed three members of the panel on recently, said Liz Ziegler, executive director of the commission. Ziegler said Parson took the three members off the ethics commission “due to the special legislative session” the governor had called on tax relief.
Montana – Commissioner of Political Practices to Step Down Before Term Ends
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 10/3/2022
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan announced on social media he will be retiring before his term ends, stepping down just before Election Day. Not since Dennis Unsworth’s departure at the end of 2010 has anyone served out a full term as commissioner. Past commissioners have at times come under fire for bringing a perceived partisan bias to their work investigating political complaints. Republican lawmakers have for years brought legislation seeking to disband the office or reduce the power commissioners wield.
New Mexico – NM Sen. Ivey-Soto Resigns from the Chairman Position of an Influential Committee
Source New Mexico – Shaun Griswold | Published: 9/29/2022
Fallout from a harassment complaint filed against New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto has now affected his position of power as a lawmaker in Santa Fe. Ivey-Soto submitted a letter resigning as chairperson of the Senate Rules Committee. His resignation as chair shields lawmakers from having to take a public position on Ivey-Soto’s behavior at the Capitol. A meeting to discuss Senate committee assignments would have been the first public discussion and vote by lawmakers about Ivey-Soto after an investigation about sexual harassment allegations against Ivey-Soto.
New York – City Council Redistricting Drama Underscores Dropped Commission Ethics Policy
Gotham Gazette – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 10/3/2022
New York City’s redistricting process was thrown into disarray in September after the commission responsible for drawing new city council district lines voted down its own draft map. An aide to Mayor Eric Adams individually lobbied his appointees on the commission to vote no, activity the mayor has denied knowing about. There are few formal barriers in place to prevent conflicts-of-interest between the 15 redistricting commissioners and the elected officials who appointed them.
New York – Contender for Top NYC City Hall Post Left Trail of Penalties and Debt as a Lobbyist
MSN – Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 10/3/2022
Tiffany Raspberry, who currently serves as a senior advisor for external affairs in New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, is being considered as the mayor’s next chief of staff. Before her stint at City Hall, Raspberry worked as a lobbyist through her firm York Group Associates. The firm failed to follow city and state disclosure requirements dozens of times between 2011 and 2020, leading to nearly $38,000 in fines for late and incorrect filings. Records reveal Raspberry’s former clients are still registered to lobby on both the city and state levels.
New York – Hochul Says She Had No Role in New York’s $637M Deal with Campaign Donor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/6/2022
Gov. Kathy Hochul said that before her staff authorized $637 million in payments to a major campaign donor, she was never asked to give final approval to the taxpayer-funded deal for COVID-19 tests from Digital Gadgets. The governor also said she was not briefed about the cost of the purchase orders, which were significantly higher than what other companies had charged for providing rapid tests to New York. Before finalizing the deals, Digital Gadgets had little history as a distributor of COVID-19 tests. The company’s chief executive officer, Charlie Tebele, held campaign fundraisers for Hochul around the time the contract was awarded.
Ohio – Cleveland Police Commander Faces Discipline for Hiding His Work with Private Security Companies, Failing to Pay Taxes
MSN – Adam Ferrise (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/28/2022
Cleveland police Commander Michael Butler faces accusations involving his work for private security companies, including that he hid from city officials his work for the businesses during a time he led the city’s efforts at staffing both officers and security firms for major events, according to an internal disciplinary letter. The city’s letter also said Butler broke state law by failing to pay taxes on income he had earned.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Fights to Keep Records Tied to Bribery Scheme from the Public
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 10/5/2022
FirstEnergy, which has admitted to spending tens of millions of dollars bribing top government officials in Ohio, asked state regulators to shield documents about its bribes from release to the public. The company’s request will soon be decided by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, whose former chairperson, Sam Randazzo, allegedly accepted a $4.3 million bribe from the utility for favorable regulatory treatment. The records could unmask the identities of several government officials and energy executives that FirstEnergy anonymously identified in its deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department.
Ohio – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Creating Public Integrity Unit in Office Reorganization
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/5/2022
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is reorganizing his office to form a “public integrity” unit, a shuffling he said will include hiring of investigators with the authority to issue subpoenas to look into potential elections-related crimes. The secretary of state would make the decision on what cases to pursue. Any cases would be turned over to the attorney general’s office or local county prosecutors, which play a role in enforcing state criminal laws, or the Ohio Elections Commission, which is a clearinghouse for violations of state elections law. The move comes as increasing numbers of Republican voters view the accuracy of elections with suspicion.
Oklahoma – Okla. GOP Ties Hospital’s Covid Funds to End of Gender-Affirming Care
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
Oklahoma lawmakers added a controversial provision before awarding the state’s largest hospital system $108 million in pandemic relief funds. OU Health would only get the money if its Oklahoma Children’s Hospital stopped providing gender-affirming care. The move, which the governor signed into law, marks the first time that conservative state lawmakers have tied gender-affirming care to the receipt of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Some advocates worry it might embolden other Legislatures with GOP majorities to add similar restrictions before allocating money to publicly funded hospitals.
Oregon – City Elections Office Upholds Campaign Penalty Against Council Candidate Rene Gonzalez
Portland Mercury – Alex Zielinski | Published: 9/29/2022
Portland City Council candidate Rene Gonzalez’s appeal of a $77,000 campaign finance violation was rejected by the Small Donor Elections program. Gonzalez had argued that accepting a $250 monthly rate for an office rental in downtown Portland that normally goes for a monthly rate of $6,900 was not an in-kind contribution from property owner Jordan Schnitzer. According to Gonzalez, that is because vacancy rates are so high in downtown Portland the office would have gone unrented if his campaign had not occupied the space.
Pennsylvania – As TV Doctor, Mehmet Oz Provided Platform for Questionable Products and Views
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Lenny Bernstein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/3/2022
As a Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, a key battleground in the fight for control of the chamber, Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is putting his medical background and his popular television show at the center of his campaign pitch. But during the show’s run from 2009 to 2021, Oz provided a platform for potentially dangerous products and fringe viewpoints, aimed at millions of viewers, according to medical experts, public health organizations, and federal health guidance.
Pennsylvania – Unresolved Gray Areas in Pa. Mail Voting Law Likely to Spur Fresh Confusion, Legal Challenges
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso and Katie Meyer | Published: 10/5/2022
Some key questions on mail ballots remain unsettled in Pennsylvania, opening the door for more legal action and confusion after the upcoming gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. State lawmakers in 2019 passed a bipartisan overhaul of the state’s election law and allowed no-excuse mail voting for the first time. That law does not say, for instance, whether counties should be able to contact voters who have submitted mail ballots with errors and allow them to fix them, a process known as ballot curing. The law also does not mention ballot drop boxes or how they should be regulated.
Texas – Ethics Commission Shelves Lobbying Complaint Against Austin Pets Alive! Employee
Austin Monitor – Chad Swiatecki | Published: 10/3/2022
The Ethics Review Commission opted not to move forward with a lobbying complaint against Katie Jarl, a member of the city’s Animal Advisory Commission who also works in a governmental affairs job for Austin Pets Alive (APA). The complaint was based on the likelihood that Jarl was involved in lobbying activity for APA in 2021 when it was negotiating with the city for a long-term lease for a shelter property. City laws bar a registered lobbyist from serving on boards and commissions.
Texas – Fort Worth City Manager Apologizes After Reprimanded for Trip with Sundance Square Owners
MSN – Lana Ferguson (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 10/5/2022
Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke was publicly reprimanded for taking a trip to Colorado on a private plane with Ed and Sasha Bass. Some argue the trip was, in part, to promote the city, but Cooke said it was a “personal trip with friends.” Cooke will remain in his role but must recuse himself from all city business tied to Sundance Square, which the Basses own, and the Downtown Public Improvement District. Mayor Mattie Parker and the city council said Cooke’s decision to take the Labor Day weekend trip to Aspen showed “questionable judgement” and that, when asked about it, he “exercised poor communication to the public.”
Virginia – IT Issues Stall Voter-Records Processing for 107,000 in Virginia
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 10/5/2022
Local registrars across Virginia began scrambling to process about 107,000 voter records dumped on them overnight by the state Department of Elections, where computer network failures had left applications in limbo for months. Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office blamed unspecified technical problems for the backlog, which affected new voter registration applications, address updates, and other changes submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Registrars do not face a hard deadline for processing registrations, but state law requires they notify voters of their polling place 15 days before an election.
Virginia – Virginia Paid Governor Youngkin’s Political Ad Agency $268K to Make a Tourism Ad – Featuring Youngkin.
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 10/5/2022
The political advertising agency behind Glenn Youngkin’s successful bid for Virginia governor, which created his branding, received a $268,600 contract from a state agency to produce a tourism video that heavily features Youngkin himself. The ad will appear in Virginia’s airports and welcome centers at a time when the governor is considering a run for president and is seeking to boost his national image. Poolhouse specializes in digital advertising for GOP candidates. It was formed in 2013 and has never performed marketing work for the state before the Youngkin tourism advertisement.
September 30, 2022 •
National/Federal Brooklyn’s Library Moves to Slip Books Through Red State Bans MSN – Madina Touré (Politico) | Published: 9/24/2022 The front line of America’s culture war now runs straight through the nation’s school libraries, with conservatives in dozens of states outlawing […]
Brooklyn’s Library Moves to Slip Books Through Red State Bans
MSN – Madina Touré (Politico) | Published: 9/24/2022
The front line of America’s culture war now runs straight through the nation’s school libraries, with conservatives in dozens of states outlawing books and instruction and the left working to shield targeted authors. Organizations in deep-blue New York are stepping into the fray by directly lending 25,000 books to non-residents since spring, including thousands of students living under the bans. Hundreds of titles have been shelved in nearly 3,000 schools across 26 states, according to the nonprofit free speech group PEN America.
D.C. Court Asked to Decide If Trump Denied Rape Claim as Part of Job
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2022
A federal appeals court panel asked the District of Columbia’s highest court to decide whether Donald Trump was acting within the scope of his job as president when he denied a rape allegation dating back to the 1990s, a pivotal question that will determine whether the woman can keep pursuing a defamation lawsuit against him. A three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned portions of a federal judge’s previous ruling allowing columnist E. Jean Carroll to pursue a defamation case against Trump over his denials of her rape allegation.
How Kevin McCarthy’s Political Machine Worked to Sway the GOP Field
Raleigh News and Observer – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Arnsdorf, and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 9/27/2022
The political machine around U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has spent millions of dollars this year in a sometimes secretive effort to systematically weed out Republican candidates who could either cause McCarthy trouble if he becomes speaker or jeopardize GOP victories in districts where a more moderate candidate might have a better chance at winning. The allies close to McCarthy have sometimes taken steps to conceal their efforts with money passing from top GOP donors through organizations that do not disclose their donors or have limited public records, federal disclosures show.
In a Big Jan. 6 Case, Oath Keepers Go on Trial for Seditious Conspiracy
NPR – Ryan Lucas | Published: 9/27/2022
In the highest-profile prosecution so far stemming from the attack on the U.S. Capitol, the founder of the Oath Keepers and four other individuals linked to the far-right, anti-government group are on trial, facing seditious conspiracy and other charges stemming from the deadly assault. Stewart Rhodes, who established the Oath Keepers in 2009, and his co-defendants are accused of spending months recruiting, training, and conspiring to use force to prevent the transfer of presidential power to Joe Biden. Prosecutors allege the plot included stashing guns just outside Washington, D.C for a quick reaction force to rush into the city if necessary.
Inside the Civil Rights Campaign to Get Big Tech to Fight the ‘Big Lie’
MSN – Naomi Nix (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2022
A coalition of five dozen civil rights organizations is criticizing Silicon Valley’s biggest social media companies for not taking more aggressive measures to counter election misinformation on their platforms in the months leading up to November’s midterm elections. Comments by civil rights activists shed light on the political pressures tech companies face behind the scenes as they make high-stakes decisions about which potentially rule-breaking posts to leave up or take down in a campaign season in which hundreds of congressional seats are up for grabs.
Lawmakers, Challengers Plan Fundraising Blitz Ahead of Friday Deadline
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 9/28/2022
Lawmakers and challengers are planning a fundraising blitz ahead of the quarterly deadline, the last big one before the November midterms, which are on track to be the priciest nonpresidential cycle yet. The onslaught of appeals includes desperate-sounding emails, as well as more than 100 in-person events for members of both parties to raise campaign money from K Street lobbyists and PAC donors while Congress is in session. The uncertainty of which parties will control the Senate and House next year has helped to motivate donors.
Nancy Pelosi’s Congressional Stock Trading Ban Has a Massive Blind Trust Loophole and Is Too Broad, Ethics Experts Warn
MSN – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/28/2022
House Democratic leaders have released the text of a bill that would ban members of Congress, senior congressional staff, Supreme Court justices, and members of the executive branch from owning or trading individual stocks. Ethics experts are already warning that the bill, called the Combatting Financial Conflicts of Interest in Government Act, has a major flaw when it comes to blind trusts. The Project on Government Oversight noted a provision that allows for the creation of blind trusts that do not comply with existing regulations currently outlined in the Ethics in Government Act, which the bill would amend.
Project Veritas Loses Jury Verdict to Democratic Consulting Firm
MSN – Jonathan Stempel (Reuters) | Published: 9/23/2022
A federal jury found Project Veritas, a conservative group often accused of using deceptive tactics, liable for violating wiretapping laws and misrepresenting itself in an undercover effort to target Democratic political consultants. Democracy Partners claimed it had been infiltrated by a Project Veritas operative who lied about her name and background to obtain an internship during the 2016 presidential campaign, and secretly recorded conversations while working there.
Rep. Lauren Boebert’s Campaign May Be Violating Election Law in Trying to Sell Her
MSN – Zach Everson (Forbes) | Published: 9/27/2022
U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign has placed advertisements directing supporters to buy her new memoir from retailers, an arrangement that may violate campaign finance laws. Boebert’s ad on WinRed directs supporters to buy her books from retailers like Amazon, which could theoretically lead to royalties. A spokesperson for Boebert’s campaign said the ad follows previous guidance from the FEC but a campaign finance law expert, Brett Kappel, disagrees.
Republicans Block Probe of Contributions by Chinese Elites to Trump PAC Through Spa Operator
MSN – Sheridan Wall (McClatchy) | Published: 9/27/2022
Campaign finance complaints against an Asian day-spa operator from South Florida who allegedly funneled contributions from Chinese elites, likely including foreign nationals, to a campaign committee backing then-President Trump have been dismissed. The action by the FEC came despite a staff finding that laws likely were broken. A Miami Herald investigation found that over an 18-month period, Yang published online ads targeting overseas clients – mostly from China – promoting Trump fundraisers as opportunities to mingle with the then-president, his family, and other top Republicans.
Supreme Court to Hear 2 Cases with Major Implications for 2024
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 9/29/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider a case out of North Carolina that asks the justices to revoke the ability of state courts to review election laws under their states’ constitutions. A validation of the so-called Independent State Legislature theory underpinning the case could reshape American elections. Another case from Alabama involves a challenge to the state’s congressional map and whether Black voters’ power was illegally diluted. The result could kick back open congressional redistricting in several states two years after the entire nation went through a redraw.
Top State Judges Make a Rare Plea in a Momentous Supreme Court Election Case
DNyuz – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 9/26/2022
The Conference of Chief Justices, a group representing the top state judicial officers in the nation, filed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in a politically charged election-law case. The brief urged the court to reject a legal theory pressed by Republicans that would give state Legislatures extraordinary power. If the Supreme Court adopts the theory, it will radically reshape how federal elections are conducted by giving state lawmakers independent authority, not subject to review by state courts, to set election rules in conflict with state constitution.
Trump Lawyers Argue to Limit White House Aides’ Testimony to Jan. 6 Grand Jury
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Spencer Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2022
Lawyers for former President Trump have entered a high-stakes legal battle seeking to limit the scope of former top White House aides’ testimony to a federal grand jury that is investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 elections. The action sets up a potentially precedent-setting struggle that could affect the Justice Department’s investigation of the Capitol attack and address the scope of a former president’s assertion of executive or attorney-client privilege to preserve the confidentiality of advisers’ communications.
Trump Objects to Verifying List of Property Seized from Florida Estate – Court Filing
Reuters – Jacqueline Thomsen and Sarah Lynch | Published: 9/29/2022
Lawyers for former President Trump are resisting a federal judge’s instruction to submit a sworn declaration on whether they believe the government’s list of property taken from Trump’s Florida estate is accurate. The former president’s legal team told Judge Raymond Dearie, who is reviewing the materials taken in the federal raid of the Florida property, that they do not believe Dearie has the authority to require them to make such a filing. Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that the FBI planted evidence.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Arizona Supreme Court Says Lone Arizona Regulator Bob Burns Can Seek Utility Docs
MSN – Bob Christie (Associated Press) | Published: 9/28/2022
The Arizona commission that regulates utilities cannot prevent a single member from issuing subpoenas to investigate companies the panel oversees, the state Supreme Court ruled. The former commissioner who filed the case, Bob Burns, said the ruling will prevent others on the commission from uniting to shield utilities from scrutiny. Burns has fought for years to get the state’s largest electric utility to acknowledge it spent millions to elect two Arizona Corporation Commission members in the 2014 election.
Arizona – As More States Create Election Integrity Units, Arizona Is a Cautionary Tale
MSN – Beth Reinhard and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 9/26/2022
A Washington Post examination of an endeavor in Arizona to systematically ferret out voter fraud found it has turned up few cases and rather than bolster confidence in elections, the absence of massive fraud has fueled more bogus theories and distrust. Arizona’s experience shows the damaging consequences that can result when public officials use their power to reinforce false claims that voter fraud is a significant issue in American elections.
Arkansas – Arkansas Senate Suspends Clark, Strips Him of Seniority for Filing Frivolous Ethics Complaint
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 9/27/2022
The Arkansas Senate voted to suspend Sen. Alan Clark and strip him of seniority until the regular session begins on January 9. Clark filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Stephanie Flowers alleging she violated the chamber’s code of ethics by accepting legislative per diem payments for participating by Zoom in the Senate’s regular session meetings in 2021. The Senate found that complaint was frivolous.
California – Despite Scandals, Key California Politicians Glide Toward Reelection. Here’s Why
MSN – Mackenzie Mays and Hannah Wiley (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/28/2022
Three of California’s eight statewide constitutional officers up for reelection in November, all Democrats, have had missteps or faced allegations of misconduct during their first four years in office, but voters do not seem to mind. June’s primary election results show all three are likely to cruise to reelection, a phenomenon that political analysts chalk up to the power of incumbency, California’s polarized politics, and voter apathy toward lesser-known offices.
California – Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Law Inspired by $2 Million Bounty to Influence Insurance Commissioner
MSN – Sophia Bollag (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 9/22/2022
Lobbyists in California are prohibited from charging “success fees” for achieving a desired outcome for their clients. But an investigation by The Sacramento Bee earlier this year revealed that loopholes allowed some companies to pay those fees to influence some decisions by state officials without having to report them. Under a new law, paid efforts to influence decisions or approvals by the insurance commissioner and the director of the Department of Managed Health Care are considered lobbying and lobbyists would have to disclose such activity.
Colorado – Colorado Adopts New Contribution Limits for School Board Campaigns
Colorado Politics – Hannah Metzger | Published: 9/23/2022
The Colorado secretary of state’s office adopted new campaign finance regulations to implement contribution limits passed earlier this year. The changes stem from two bills approved during this year’s legislative session and signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis: House Bill 1060, which caps donation amounts made to school board candidates, and House Bill 156, which updates reporting requirements for public officials.
Connecticut – Some Bridgeport Politicians Scored Free Tickets to Sound on Sound
MSN – Brian Lockhart (Connecticut Post) | Published: 9/27/2022
When tens-of-thousands of music lovers convened at Bridgeport’s Seaside Park for the first Sound on Sound music festival, some of the city’s elected leaders and department heads were among them. But unlike those other ticket holders, these officials received free admission. Howard Saffan, the developer of the concert amphitheater and one of the partners behind Sound on Sound, said no official was given free tickets. He said certain individuals, such as the mayor police chief, were all granted “credentials” for access.
Florida – Florida Migrant-Moving Company Gave GOP Cash, Has Ties to DeSantis’ Immigration ‘Czar’ and Rep. Matt Gaetz
MSN – Marc Caputo (NBC News) | Published: 9/22/2022
The air charter company Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration hired for his controversial migrant-moving program has contributed money to some top allies of the governor and was once legally represented by Rep. Matt Gaetz and his former partner, who is now Florida’s “public safety czar” in charge of immigration policy. The administration has refused to release a copy of the $12 million contract with Vertol Systems Company for its role in administering the “unauthorized alien” program nor will the governor’s office comment on the $1.6 million the firm has received to send migrants to so-called “sanctuary” cities.
Georgia – Georgia to Replace Voting Machines in Coffee County After Alleged Security Breach
MSN – Amy Garder, Emma Brown, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 9/23/2022
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced he intends to replace some election equipment in a county where forensics experts working last year for pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell copied virtually every component of the voting system. Some election-security experts have voiced concerns the copying of the Coffee County software, used statewide in Georgia, risks exposing the entire state to hackers, who could use the copied software as a road map to find and exploit vulnerabilities. Raffensperger’s office has said security protocols would make it virtually impossible for votes to be manipulated without detection.
Hawaii – Hawaii Commission Fines Kai Kahele’s Campaign for Illegal Solicitations
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 9/22/2022
The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission fined U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele’s gubernatorial campaign $1,000 for improperly soliciting donations from lists of donors who had contributed to David Ige’s 2014 run for governor. Ige’s office got a complaint from a constituent about a letter from Kahele’s campaign asking for a donation. “I found this [letter] very annoying … how did Kahele get this info?” the message read. The governor’s office forwarded the complaint to campaign spending commission staff, which also obtained the letter from Kahele’s campaign asking for a small-dollar contribution.
Idaho – They’re Women. They’re LDS. And They’re Speaking Their Minds on Politics.
Idaho Capital Sun – Audrey Dutton | Published: 9/28/2022
Many members of the Idaho chapter of Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG) are women who, faithful to a religion that tends to be culturally conservative and Republican-aligned, describe being alarmed by the increasing vitriol and manufactured outrage in the state’s politics. Nationally, MWEG is focused on protecting democracy, bipartisan immigration reform, environmental issues, and anti-racism efforts. Chapters have leeway in what they choose to work on. One rule is some topics are off-limits – same-sex marriage and abortion, for example – because they have proven to be incendiary even in a group that strives for rational debate.
Illinois – ‘Deceptive’ Chicago City Wire Hitting Mailboxes Looks Like a Newspaper. But It’s Really a Conservative Campaign Mailer
Book Club Chicago – Noah Asimow | Published: 9/23/2022
The Chicago City Wire has appeared in thousands of mailboxes in the city and suburbs recently. It looks like any local newspaper, but its content and funders tell a different story. The publication and others like it are a product of Local Government Information Services, which is responsible for dozens of conservative news sites in Illinois. Residents said they did not subscribe to the newspapers but assumed the publications were legitimate. While media law experts said the publications were protected by the First Amendment, they said they were essentially political mailers, intentionally disguised as newspapers.
Kentucky – Officials Testify About Kentucky’s Troubled Campaign Finance Reporting System
Spectrum News – Joe Ragusa | Published: 9/28/2022
State lawmakers said they may cut ties with a company tasked with overhauling Kentucky’s campaign finance reporting system. Sen. Damon Thayer, who sponsored the 2019 legislation requiring online reporting, said he is considering a bill to switch back to paper filing for 2023 so they can bring on a new company to rework the filing system. “This has been a complete and utter failure,” Thayer said. Several lawmakers detailed their individual issues with the system during a legislative committee meeting.
Maine – Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty to Making Illegal Contributions to Sen. Collins 2020 Campaign
Lewiston Sun Journal – Colin Woodard (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 9/28/2022
The former chief executive of a defense firm pleaded guilty to illegally funneling more than $200,000 to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins’ campaign and a PAC that supported her 2020 reelection campaign. Martin Kao, head of the engineering firm Navatek, was charged with violating federal laws prohibiting defense contractors from making such contributions. Prosecutors alleged he and two other company executives had engaged in a conspiracy to funnel the money through family members and a shell company. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy, funneling contributions, and two counts of making false statements to authorities.
Michigan – Slotkin Renting Lansing Condo from Campaign Donor, Business Executive
MLive – Jordyn Hermani | Published: 9/23/2022
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is reportedly leasing a residency in Lansing from a medical manufacturing firm executive and donor to her congressional campaign. The firm, Niowave, is a business which manufactures medical radioisotopes. Jerry Hollister, a member of Niowave’s board and director of government relations for the firm, is the official owner of the condo which Slotkin is renting according to a copy of the lease. News of this has led for some conservative groups to question the nature of the relationship between Hollister and Slotkin, saying his company has benefitted from her time in office.
Missouri – Former Page Appointee to Plead Guilty to Corruption Charges
MSN – Christine Byers (KSDK) | Published: 9/28/2022
A former high-level political appointee of St. Louis County Executive Sam Page is expected to plead guilty to federal corruption charges involving a COVID-19 relief funds fraud scheme. Tony Weaver, who Page appointed as the change management coordinator at the county Justice Services Center, was indicted along with three St. Louis alderman after an FBI informant wore a wire capturing them involved in a series of alleged schemes. Weaver is accused of participating in a plan to get COVID-19 relief funds for local businesspeople in exchange for a share of the money.
New Mexico – New Mexico Supreme Court Rules Ethics Violation Isn’t Necessarily a Crime
KRQE – Anna Padilla | Published: 9/26/2022
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that an ethical violation by a public official is not a crime. Their ruling focused on four high-profile cases that were all charged under a new statute passed by the Legislature. The ruling reverses the appeals court, which stated the ethics legislation created a criminal charge. The Supreme Court were ruling on whether the law was written so loosely that it should not be used as a criminal statute.
New York – Hochul Campaign Hired Son of Donor Tied to $637M ‘Pay-to-Play’ COVID Deal
New Yorl Post – Zach Williams, Bernadette Hogan, and Bruce Golding | Published: 9/28/2022
The son of a major donor to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul was hired by her campaign right around the time his father hosted a fundraiser for the governor and just weeks before the family’s company obtained a deal to sell the state $637 million in overpriced COVID-19 tests. James Tebele began working for Hochul’s campaign as a finance intern in November and appears to have risen in the ranks, or at least pay scale, of her campaign as his father’s fundraising for the governor increased.
New York – Lawsuit Seeks to Strike Key Plank of NY Ethics Law
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/26/2022
A lawsuit is seeking to strike down a key provision of New York’s revamped ethics law that Gov. Kathy Hochul has touted as creating greater independence for the state’s new watchdog panel. The lawsuit challenging the new commission’s confirmation process was filed by Gary Lavine, who was nominated to serve by Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt. Lavine’s nomination was rejected by a panel established to scrutinize candidates. Lavine is seeking a judgment that giving a “committee of private citizens” power to confirm or veto nominees violates three articles of New York’s constitution, including one reserving that confirmation power for the state Senate.
Ohio – Ex-PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo Scores Legal Win as Appeals Court Overturns Order to Seize $8 Million in Assets
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/28/2022
A state appeals court panel overturned a lower court order allowing the state attorney general’s office to seize up to $8 million in assets from Sam Randazzo, handing a legal win to the former chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Randazzo, whom FirstEnergy admitted to paying $4.3 million in bribes, was accused by Attorney General Dave Yost of selling four properties worth a total of $4.8 million and transferring another $500,000 house to his son in order to prevent them from being potentially seized. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Brown agreed to allow Yost’s office to freeze up to $8 million.
Oregon – Portland City Council Hopeful Rene Gonzalez Fires Back at Elections Officials, Demands They Waive $77,000 Fine
Portland Oregonian – Shane Dixon Kavanaugh | Published: 9/27/2022
Portland City Council candidate Rene Gonzalez formally asked elections officials to waive a $77,000 fine, arguing a deeply discounted downtown office space he received from a wealthy supporter does not run afoul of the city’s campaign finance rules. Since May, Gonzalez’s campaign has paid a $250 a month to rent the space Susan Mottet, director of Portland’s Small Donor Elections Program, said that is just a fraction of the $6,900 a month “fair market value” for the office. The unreported, 96 percent discount was also an illegal in-kind contribution under the city’s public matching funds program, alleged Mottet.
Pennsylvania – Final Lobby Order Issued
Pennsylvania Newsroom – Staff | Published: 9/19/2022
The State Ethics Commission fined Cigna $42,700 for violations of Pennsylvania’s lobbying law. The commission found Cigna failed to file on time with the Department of State either a quarterly expense report or statement of failure to meet the reporting threshold for the fourth quarter of 2021.
Pennsylvania – Mayoral Candidate Cherelle Parker Became a Harrisburg Lobbyist Days After Resigning from City Council
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/28/2022
Philadelphia’s Home Rule Charter requires city officials to resign from their positions to run for an office other than the one they currently hold. The uncommon “resign to run” rule often puts city council members eyeing the mayor’s office in a difficult position because it means giving up their more than $130,000 salary. Mayoral candidate Cherelle Parker registered as a lobbyist in Harrisburg 12 days after she resigned her council seat. Ethics experts have long criticized the “revolving door” of former elected officials lobbying their former colleagues on behalf of corporate clients shortly after leaving government.
Pennsylvania – Retrial for Philadelphia Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson Set to Begin This Week
WHYY – Aaron Moselle | Published: 9/27/2022
Philadelphia City Councilperson Kenyatta Johnson is on trial again on bribery charges. During the lawmaker’s first trial earlier this year, a judge declared a mistrial, setting up a second proceeding that again threatens to end Johnson’s political career and send him to prison. The case centers on an alleged quid-pro-quo scheme involving Johnson, his wife Dawn Chavous, and two former nonprofit executives. Prosecutors say Johnson accepted nearly $67,000 in bribes from Universal Companies in exchange for political favors that benefited the organization, a developer, and charter school operator.
South Dakota – Noem’s State Plane Use Scrutinized
MSN – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 9/24/2022
Several trips in 2019 where South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem blurred the lines between official travel and attending either family or political events sparked a complaint to the state ethics board, which has referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Investigation. A county prosecutor overseeing the investigation will decide whether the governor broke an untested law enacted by voters in 2006 to rein in questionable use of the state airplane.
Texas – Court Denies Paxton’s Request to Reverse Ruling Preventing AG Voter Fraud Investigations
MSN – Philip Jankowski and Allie Morris (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 9/28/2022
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a request from state Attorney General Ken Paxton to reconsider a ruling that has hamstrung his office’s ability to investigate and prosecute election fraud. Judge Scott Walker said granting the attorney general the power to unilaterally prosecute voter fraud violates the separation of powers outlined in the Texas Constitution and “usurps” the power of district and county attorneys.
Washington – Spokane City Council Raises Campaign Contribution Cap to $1,000
Yahoo News – Colin Tiernan (Spokane Spokesman-Review) | Published: 9/27/2022
The Spokane City Council voted to change city law and raise the individual donor limit from $500 to $1,000. The law had allowed $1,000 donations for races in which a politician spent more than $11,500 of their own money, or a third party spent more than that amount supporting or opposing a candidate. Politicians have had to seek out more donors to fund their campaigns with the $500 cap, city councilperson Zack Zappone said. But he said that increase in donors has been overshadowed by an increase in independent expenditures.
September 23, 2022 •
National/Federal A Landmark Supreme Court Fight Over Social Media Now Looks Likely MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/19/2022 Conflicting lower court rulings about removing controversial material from social media platforms point toward a landmark U.S. […]
A Landmark Supreme Court Fight Over Social Media Now Looks Likely
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/19/2022
Conflicting lower court rulings about removing controversial material from social media platforms point toward a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether the First Amendment protects tech companies’ editorial discretion or forbids its censorship of unpopular views. The stakes are high not just for government and the companies, but because of the increasingly dominant role platforms such as Twitter and Facebook play in American democracy and elections. Social media posts have the potential to amplify disinformation or hateful speech, but removal of controversial viewpoints can stifle public discourse about important political issues.
Appeals Court: Justice Dept. can use Mar-a-Lago documents in criminal probe
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022
An appeals court sided with the Justice Department in a legal fight over classified documents seized in a court-authorized search of former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, ruling the FBI may use the documents in its ongoing criminal investigation. The decision by a three-judge panel of the appeals court marks a victory for the Justice Department in its legal battle with Trump over access to the evidence to determine if the former president or his advisers mishandled national security secrets or hid or destroyed government records.
Apple Flexes Muscle as Quiet Power Behind App Group
Yahoo News – Emily Birnbaum (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/19/2022
The APP Association brands itself as the leading voice for thousands of app developers around the world. The majority of its funding comes from Apple, however. The tech giant is not a member of the association, but it plays a dominant behind-the-scenes role shaping the group’s policy positions, according to four former App Association employees. In fact, critics note, the association’s lobbying agenda tracks closely with Apple’s even when it is at odds with app developers, the companies that make the individual games and programs that run on Apple’s iPhone and other devices.
DeSantis Draft Effort Pushes Ahead After Campaign Finance Watchdog Deadlocks
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 9/15/2022
An effort to draft Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis into the 2024 presidential race promised to proceed with an unusual attempt to boost his would-be campaign, after the FEC deadlocked on a request for guidance about whether the strategy was legal. Ready for Ron is a federal PAC that wants to build a list of up to 1 million people urging DeSantis to run. But with those names, the group wants to deliver would-be supporters’ email addresses and phone numbers to DeSantis. The FEC has said candidates can rent or buy supporter lists compiled by other groups, but they cannot accept something of such value as a gift without breaking contribution limits.
Fugitive in Massive Navy Bribery Case Caught in Venezuela
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 9/22/2022
Leonard Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history, was arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing. The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S. Navy officers. The U.S. government faces an uphill challenge returning the fugitive back to American soil.
Gaetz Sought Pardon Related to Justice Department Sex Trafficking Probe
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/17/2022
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz told a former White House aide that he was seeking a preemptive pardon from then-President Trump regarding an investigation in which he is a target, according to testimony given to the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Asked by investigators if Gaetz’s request for a pardon was in the context of the Justice Department investigation into whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws, Johnny McEntee replied, “I think that was the context, yes,” according to people familiar with the testimony.
Greg Norman Finds Friendly Faces, Harsh Criticism on Capitol Hill Trip
MSN – Rick Maese (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022
As a federal antitrust case winds its way through the court system, LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman visited Capitol Hill, receiving mixed reviews from lawmakers as he tried to sell them on his breakaway tour that has upended the golf word. While some lawmakers seemed receptive to Norman, others questioned LIV Golf’s Saudi financing and said Congress should not spend time intervening in a business dispute between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. LIV Golf and seven of its golfers have sued the PGA Tour, saying it violated antitrust laws, allegations the Justice Department is also reportedly probing.
House Passes Bill to Prevent Efforts to Subvert Presidential Election Results
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022
The House passed an electoral reform bill that seeks to prevent presidents from trying to overturn election results through Congress, the first vote on such an effort since the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win. The Presidential Election Reform Act would clearly reaffirm the vice president has no role in validating a presidential election beyond acting as a figurehead who oversees the counting process, barring that person from changing the results.
Jan. 6 Committee Reaches Deal with Ginni Thomas for an Interview
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Azi Paybarah (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022
The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection reached an agreement with Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to be interviewed by the panel in coming weeks. Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, pushed lawmakers and top Republican officials to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, citing baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
Old Money: How retirees are funding and fueling political candidates unlike ever before
Yahoo News – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 9/20/2022
Retirees are becoming one of the most powerful financial forces in politics as they spend their savings to fuel federal-level campaigns. By the 2020 election cycle, retirees accounted for more than 20 percent of contributions, amounting to more than $378 million. Retirees’ expanded influence coincides with the rapid increase in politicians fundraising by email and text message – and targeting older Americans with never-ending solicitations. Older Americans, many of whom are retired, tend to be more engaged politically and represent a larger share of each party’s base, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director at OpenSecrets.
Senate Republicans Block Bill to Require Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2022
Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have required super PACs and other groups to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more during an election cycle, a blow to Democrats’ efforts to reform campaign finance laws. Spending in election cycles by corporations and the ultrawealthy through so-called dark money groups has skyrocketed since the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed incorporated entities and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or attack candidates.
The ‘Cost’ of Voting in America: A look at where it’s easiest and hardest
Seattle Times – Nick Corasaniti and Allison McCann (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2022
A new study ranks all 50 states based on the overall investment a resident must make, in time and resources, to vote. The 2022 edition of the Cost of Voting Index, a nonpartisan academic study that seeks to cut through the politics of voting access, focused on 10 categories related to voting, including registration, inconvenience, early voting, polling hours, and absentee voting. The study’s emphasis on early-voting options meant states like Washington and Oregon, where voting is conducted entirely by mail, ended up at the top of the rankings.
TikTok to Ban Campaign Fundraising, Require Verification for Political Accounts
MSN – Gina Martinez (CBS News) | Published: 9/21/2022
TikTok announced it is banning campaign fundraising on its platform. It also announced new policies for political accounts, including “mandatory verification.” The ban will include videos asking for donations, and videos from political parties directing people to a contribution page on their website. Verification will ensure that anyone watching content belonging to a government, politician, or political party account will know that the account is “genuine” and the source is “authentic.”
Trump Adviser’s Trial May Shed Light on Foreign Influence Campaigns
MSN – Rebecca Davis O’Brien (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2022
The trial of Thomas Barrack, an informal adviser to former President Trump accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates, could shed light on how foreign governments jockeyed for access to the Trump administration, efforts that may have created lucrative opportunities for businesspeople close to the White House. Prosecutors have accused Barrack of using his sway with Trump to advance the interests of the Emiratis and of serving as a secret back channel for communications without disclosing his efforts to the attorney general, as the government contends that he should have.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – 14 AZ Lawmakers Took 9-Day Europe Trip Sponsored in Part by Lobbyists and More Are Coming
MSN – Ray Stern (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/18/2022
Fourteen Arizona lawmakers took a free trip to Germany recently, where they met government and business officials. Lobbyist firms and taxpayers funded the lawmakers’ expenses as part of a state House international relations program. The trip may have had trade benefits, but lawmakers should still take care to avoid the perception they are receiving gifts that could influence their policy making, said John Pelissero of the Markula Center for Applied Ethics. The number of lawmakers and that they could take their spouses seemed excessive to Pelissero, who called the trip a “junket.”
California – Former USC Dean Admits to Arranging Bribery Payment for Mark Ridley-Thomas
Yahoo News – Michael Finnegan and Matt Hamilton (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/15/2022
A former University of Southern California dean agreed to plead guilty to bribery, admitting she arranged an illicit $100,000 payment for Mark Ridley-Thomas when he was on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in return for a university contract with the county. Marilyn Flynn’s admission of guilt strikes a major blow to Ridley-Thomas, now a Los Angeles city council member who has been suspended while he defends against federal charges of bribery, fraud, and conspiracy. Flynn’s plea also reduces the likelihood that evidence related to U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, the front-runner in the race for Los Angeles mayor, would get a public airing at trial.
California – Gov. Gavin Newsom Strips Fresno County Supervisors’ Power to Draw Election Lines
Sacramento Bee – Juan Esparza Loera | Published: 9/19/2022
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to give redistricting duties in Fresno County to a 14-member commission. Assemblyperson Joaquín Arámbula said it was the only way to ensure the Latino community gets a fair chance at political representation after the next census. Arámbula and community organizations said county supervisors cannot be trusted to draw fair and equitable districts because supervisorial districts have changed little despite a spike in Latino population.
California – Legal Pot Spawned a Wave of Corruption, Threats and Secret Financial Deals for Politicians
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Robert Lopez, and Ruben Vives (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/15/2022
California’s decision to legalize recreational cannabis ushered in a multibillion-dollar commercial market that officials in many small, struggling communities hoped would bring new jobs and an infusion of tax revenue. But the advent of commercial marijuana unleashed a wave of corruption that has rocked local governments across the state and left them with few effective tools to combat the problem. The industry has donated campaign money to local government officials as cannabis became a powerful special interest. Lobbyists and others say bribery and shakedowns have become so commonplace in licensing that it feels like a normal part of doing business.
California – Santa Clara Mayor Asks Newsom to Give Campaign Donor a Break
San Jose Spotlight – Joseph Geha | Published: 9/21/2022
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor lobbied California Gov. Gavin Newsom to help a major real estate firm save money on the largest mixed-use development planned in the state, months before the developer made a six-figure donation to her campaign. Gillmor advocated that Related Companies should not be required to pay prevailing wages to workers. Related formed a local PAC to support Gillmor as she runs for reelection and funded it with $100,000. Executives from the company also donated to Gillmor’s mayoral election campaign in 2018, two years after the project was approved by the city council.
California – Trial of Corruption Case Against California Sheriff to Begin
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 9/21/2022
A longtime San Francisco Bay Area sheriff is on trial on public corruption allegations involving her office’s granting of concealed-carry weapons permits and costly jail mismanagement. The unusual case against Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is a civil process to seek removal of an elected official but is similar to a criminal case. The trial follows an investigation into allegations that Smith’s office traded concealed weapons permits for donations to her reelection campaign and mismanaged the jails, where mentally ill inmates died or were injured.
Florida – Jury Awards $3 Million to Garbage Contractor in Opa-locka Corruption Lawsuit
MSN – Tess Riski (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2022
A jury awarded a $3 million judgment to a garbage contractor that sued Opa-locka in 2017 alleging corruption and extortion in a city that has for years been plagued with financial and political turmoil. Jurors found the city failed to act in good faith with Universal Waste Services of Florida (UWS). Representatives of UWS made accusations of extortion against former city Commissioner Terence Pinder, who died in an apparent suicide in 2016, two days before he was scheduled to turn himself in on state bribery charges.
Florida – Migrants Flown to Martha’s Vineyard File Class-Action Lawsuit Against DeSantis
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/20/2022
A group of Venezuelan migrants who were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard – allegedly after being falsely promised work and other services – filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials who arranged the flights, saying the officials used fraud and misrepresentation to persuade them to travel across state lines. The migrants are seeking unspecified damages, as well as the cost of their legal fees, for emotional and economic harm.
Georgia – Georgia 2020 Election Inquiry May Lead to Prison Sentences, Prosecutor Says
MSN – Matthew Brown and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2022
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the prosecutor investigating efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia, said her team has heard credible allegations that serious crimes have been committed and she believes some individuals may see jail time. At least 17 people have been notified they are targets of the criminal investigation, meaning they could eventually face charges. More targets will be added to the list soon, Willis said.
Georgia – Video Shows Trump Allies Handling Georgia Voting Equipment
Yahoo News – Danny Hakim, Richard Fausset, and Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 9/20/2022
Newly released videos show allies of former President Trump and contractors who were working on his behalf handling sensitive voting equipment in a rural Georgia county weeks after the 2020 election. The footage, which was made public as part of litigation over Georgia’s voting system, raises new questions about efforts by Trump affiliates in a number of swing states to gain access to and copy sensitive election software, with the help of friendly local election administrators.
Illinois – State Sen. Emil Jones III Took Bribes from Red-Light Camera Company, Lied to Feds: Charges
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/20/2022
Federal prosecutors charged Illinois Sen. Emil Jones III with three felonies, alleging he took a bribe from a firm that installed red-light cameras throughout the state and lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. After being approached by a former executive for Safe Speed, the red-light company, who was cooperating with law enforcement, Jones agreed to limit the scope of his bill to study red-light cameras only in Chicago, where the firm did not operate, prosecutors say. In return, the executive agreed to pay Jones $5,000 and to provide a job to an unidentified associate of Jones.
Maryland – Opinion Says Nash’s Lobbying Violated City Ethics Ordinance
Yahoo News – Ryan Marshall (Frederick News-Post) | Published: 9/16/2022
Frederick Alderwoman Katie Nash violated the city’s ethics rules by lobbying on behalf of a firefighter union’s concerns about county emergency services coverage in the city, an Ethics Commission ruled. Nash, a lobbyist registered with the state, improperly emailed people, including coordinators for various Neighborhood Advisory Councils, encouraging them to raise concerns with the county about plans to shift coverage of paramedic services in parts of the city, according to the opinion. Nash was a paid lobbyist for the International Association of Firefighters Local 3666 when she sent out emails and press releases.
Michigan – Former Macomb Public Works Boss Marrocco Pleads Guilty in Corruption Probe
Yahoo News – Christina Hall (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/20/2022
Former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco pleaded guilty to attempted extortion in federal court in a yearslong corruption probe that netted more than 20 other people. Prosecutors alleged he used an aide and others to shake down builders and contractors for donations to his fundraisers. If they did not contribute, the indictment said, Marrocco retaliated by holding up building permits, denying payment to vendors, and refusing to award contracts to firms. The charge to which he pleaded guilty carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.
Michigan – Here’s the Punishment for Warren Councilman Who Handcuffed Woman over BLM Stickers
Yahoo News – Christina Hall (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/19/2022
Warren City Councilperson Edward Kabacinski pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace and was sentenced to one-year probation for his actions toward a woman at a rally for then-President Trump. Kabacinski was charged in October 2020 with assault and battery and impersonating a police officer when he chased a woman and handcuffed her after she put a Black Lives Matter sticker on a Trump sign during a protest. Kabacinski claimed he is a former military police officer and federal law allows him to detain those who breach the peace or break the law. The woman was not facing criminal charges.
New Hampshire – New Hampshire GOP Senate Nominee Abruptly Backs Off False 2020 Election Claims
MSN – Gregory Krieg and Dan Merica (CNN) | Published: 9/15/2022
U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc won the Republican nomination in New Hampshire after months campaigning on false claims the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. A little more than a day after the primary, he attempted an about-face. “I’ve come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this: the election was not stolen,” Bolduc said. He is not the only GOP candidate who has tried to temper, or erase, hardline positions as the general-election environment starts to look less favorable for the party.
New Jersey – When George Gilmore’s Public Work Dried Up, an Ally Gave His Wife a Job with Engineering Firm
Yahoo News – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 9/19/2022
When Ocean County Republican Party Chairperson George Gilmore was convicted on three federal tax charges in 2019, it did not just cost him his political leadership post. His work with public entities also dried up. Gilmore’s now-defunct law firm, Gilmore & Monahan, had made between $2 million and $3 million in public contracts annually between 2012 and 2018. He resigned from another job at the lobbying firm 1868 Public Affairs. But after Gilmore’s conviction, a political ally founded Morgan Municipal Services, a new division to expand the firm’s work in the public sector. It counted Gilmore’s wife as one of its three founding partners.
New Mexico – NM Senator Defends His Reputation While Policy Silences the People Accusing Him of Misconduct
Source NM – Shaun Griswold | Published: 9/19/2022
New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto said the sexual harassment complaint filed against him is closed. But outrage continues to grow, as everyone involved calls for reform of statehouse procedures shrouded in secrecy. The lobbyist who came forward with the initial complaint says her First Amendment rights have been violated because of the confidentiality rules about who is allowed to speak about the matter publicly. After the findings in the misconduct investigation were leaked, Ivey-Soto contacted the FBI about what he says is extortion.
New York – Donald Trump, 3 of His Children Accused of Business Fraud by New York AG
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022
New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump, three of his grown children, and executives at his company of manipulating asset valuations to deceive lenders, insurance brokers, and tax authorities into giving them better loan and insurance policy rates and reduce their tax liability. The complaint asks the state Supreme Court to bar the former president, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump from serving as executives at any company in New York, and to bar the Trump Organization from acquiring commercial real estate or receiving loans from a New York-registered financial institution for five years.
New York – Executive Threw Hochul Fundraiser Weeks Before Landing $637M Deal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/20/2022
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul maintains that when her administration paid a vendor $637 million last winter for COVID-19 tests, she was unaware the recipient was a campaign donor. Yet a month before the administration struck the deals, the company’s founder threw an in-person campaign fundraiser for Hochul. The deal was enabled by the governor’s revived suspension of competitive bidding rules for the administration’s purchase of COVID-19 supplies. Through an emergency executive order, Hochul suspended those rules four days after the fundraiser.
Oregon – Oregon’s Nonaffiliated Candidates Face Long Odds Making It onto the Ballot
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 9/20/2022
Democratic and Republican candidates in Oregon pay a fee ranging from $25 to $150 and fill out a two-page form to compete in a primary. Minor party candidates are nominated separately by their parties, through conventions or party-run primaries. But non-affiliated candidates must collect petition signatures from hundreds or thousands of voters, depending on the office. Efforts to change Oregon’s election system are again afoot, with a coalition launching its petition drive for a constitutional amendment to open primaries. Nearly 41 percent of Oregon voters are ineligible to vote in primaries because they are nonaffiliated or registered with a minor party.
Oregon – Portland Elections Program Hits Council Candidate Rene Gonzalez with $77,000 Fine for Discounted Office Space
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 9/21/2022
Portland City Council hopeful Rene Gonzalez was fined for accepting and failing to report a steep discount on rent on his campaign office. The $77,000 fine, the biggest ever issued by the city’s Small Donor Elections program, stems from an unreported in-kind contribution Gonzalez is accused of accepting from the company, which is owned by Jordan Schnitzer, who personally gave $250 to Gonzalez in May. Program Director Susan Mottet said a normal tenant would have been asked to pay $6,900 per month for the over 3,000 square feet of space. Since May, Gonzalez’s campaign only had to pay $250 per month.
Pennsylvania – Philly’s Board of Ethics Voted to Close a Loophole that Super PACs Use to Get Instructions from Campaigns
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/21/2022
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics voted to ban the strategy known as “redboxing,” in which candidates send indirect signals to independent expenditure campaigns like super PACs that can raise unlimited amounts of money but are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns. Candidates do that by publicly stating the strategic needs of their campaigns, and some in recent federal elections have put those instructions in red boxes on their campaign websites to guide super PACs buying advertisements on their behalf. The statements use lightly coded language to inform the PACs on what the campaign wants.
Pennsylvania – Skill Games Company Woos Pa. Lawmakers with Trips to Wild Wyoming Rodeo
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 9/19/2022
This past summer, a select group of Pennsylvania legislators, including House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, got to experience the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the premier summer festival in Wyoming that bills itself as the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration, courtesy of Pace-O-Matic. The company makes skill games that currently generate millions of dollars in revenue and, in Pennsylvania, operate in a legal and regulatory gray area, one the Legislature will play a key role in defining. For some of the lawmakers, it was an all-expenses-paid experience.
South Dakota – Ethics Board Keeps ‘Action’ Secret on Complaint Against Noem
MSN – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 9/20/2022
The Government Accountability Board will not publicly disclose the “appropriate action” it took after finding evidence South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem intervened with a state agency to influence her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. The board found there was evidence Noem engaged in a conflict-of-interest and malfeasance. A lawyer hired by the board, Mark Haigh, responded to an open records request by saying the board’s response would remain “confidential.” The board has never handled such a high-profile case since its inception in 2017.
Virginia – Virginia Rule on Legislators Leaving Districts Could Add More Intrigue to 2023 Elections
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 9/22/2022
After past redistricting cycles, the number of Virginia General Assembly members having to switch districts was kept to a minimum because legislators were allowed to draw careful lines around each other’s homes to avoid doing damage to incumbents. That was not the case last year, when experts appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court effectively reset the state’s legislative maps with little regard for keeping incumbents comfortably installed in conflict-free seats. That means an unusually high number of legislators are facing the prospect of moving to position themselves for the next election cycle.
Virginia – Youngkin’s Restriction on Trans Students’ Rights Is Probably Illegal, Experts Say
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022
A directive from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for public schools to restrict the rights of transgender students is either unenforceable or will be struck down in court because it appears to violate both state and federal law, experts and advocates said. The model policies require schools to categorize transgender children by their “biological sex” when it comes to using the bathroom, locker room, and other facilities and participating in activities. They also bar students from adopting a new name or pronouns without parental permission.
September 16, 2022 •
National/Federal A Record Number of Black Candidates for Higher Offices Aim to Reshape U.S. Politics MSN – Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2022 A record number of Black men and women are running for U.S. Senate and governor this fall, […]
A Record Number of Black Candidates for Higher Offices Aim to Reshape U.S. Politics
MSN – Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2022
A record number of Black men and women are running for U.S. Senate and governor this fall, with the potential to increase diversity in the nation’s top elected offices, which are still overwhelmingly held by White men. Since Reconstruction, voters have elected just seven Black senators and two Black governors. While many of them face tough odds, some have posted strong poll numbers and fundraising totals, waging credible campaigns that challenge long-held attitudes about whether Black candidates can be competitive in statewide races.
Durham Inquiry Appears to Wind Down as Grand Jury Expires
Yahoo News – Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 9/14/2022
When John Durham was assigned by the Justice Department to examine the origins of the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, then-President Trump and his supporters expressed a belief the inquiry would prove a “deep state” conspiracy including top Obama-era officials had worked to sabotage him. Now Durham appears to be winding down his three-year inquiry without anything close to the results Trump was seeking. The grand jury that Durham has recently used to hear evidence has expired, and while he could convene another, there are currently no plans to do so.
FEC Unanimously Rejects Complaints About Zuckerberg’s 2020 Election Grants
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2022
A unanimous bipartisan vote by the FEC undercut claims about Mark Zuckerberg’s role in the 2020 election that have taken hold among GOP leaders, candidates, and activists. The claims originate in the more than $400 million donated by Zuckerberg, the chief executive and founder of Meta, and his wife to a pair of nonprofits that provided grants aiding state and local governments with election administration in light of the challenges posed by the coronavirus. The funding from Zuckerberg soon became kindling for the firestorm unleashed by former President Trump and his allies as they questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
In Final Primaries, Heated GOP Fights in N.H. Include a Blow to McCarthy
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2022
The 2022 primaries concluded on a familiar note – with voters in Republican races choosing between far-right, election-denying candidates and more moderate rivals, and party leaders divided in contests factoring into the battle for control of Congress. New Hampshire was one of three states where voters went to the polls, marking the end of this year’s nominating process, along with Rhode Island and Delaware. The primaries allowed voters a final chance to choose party standard-bearers after months of fierce intraparty battles that highlighted divisions on both sides over policy, personality, and ideology, among other things.
Judge Dismisses Trump Lawsuit Against Hillary Clinton Over 2016 Election
MSN – Azi Paybarah (Washington Post) | Published: 9/9/2022
A federal judge dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying there was no basis for the former president to claim Clinton and her allies harmed him with an orchestrated plan to spread false information that his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential race. U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks noted “glaring structural deficiencies in the plaintiff’s argument” and said, “such pleadings waste judicial resources and are an unacceptable form of establishing a claim for relief.”
Justice Dept. Issues 40 Subpoenas in a Week, Expanding Jan. 6 Inquiry
Seattle Times – Adam Goldman, Glenn Thrush, Alan Feuer, and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 9/13/2022
Justice Department officials seized the phones of two top advisers to former President Trump and blanketed his aides with about 40 subpoenas in a substantial escalation of the investigation into his efforts to subvert the 2020 election. The seizure of the phones, coupled with a widening effort to obtain information from those around Trump after the 2020 election, represent some of the most aggressive steps the department has taken thus far in its criminal investigation into the actions that led to the assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.
Justice Dept. Says It Would Accept Trump’s Candidate for Special Master
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 9/12/2022
The Justice Department filed court papers signaling it would accept a former federal judge as a special master charged with reviewing papers seized by the FBI from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and club. U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon must approve Raymond Dearie’s appointment. Dearie was proposed by Trump’s lawyers amid a legal battle over whether a special master should review the documents to determine whether any should be kept from federal prosecutors investigating the potential mishandling of classified material and the possible hiding, tampering, or destruction of government records.
Migrants Flown to Martha’s Vineyard as GOP Escalates Immigration Protest
MSN – Ellen Francis (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2022
Dozens of migrants arrived by plane in Martha’s Vineyard, as some Republican governors escalate a campaign against President Biden’s border policies by shuttling refugees out of their states and to Democratic-led states or liberal enclaves. Their arrival in the affluent summer resort island in Massachusetts appeared to prompt confusion about where they had come from and how. The communications director for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said two flights were part of a state program to relocate undocumented immigrants.
Prosecutors Seek Details from Trump’s PAC in Expanding Jan. 6 Probe
MSN – Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2022
The Justice Department is seeking details about the formation and operation of Donald Trump’s post-presidential political operation in a significant expansion of the criminal investigation of the attack on the Capitol and efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. A federal grand jury sent subpoenas to a wide range of former campaign and White House staffers asking for information about the Save America PAC. Sources described the subpoenas as broad, seeking all documents and communications about opening the PAC and every dollar raised and spent.
Stock Trades Reported by Nearly a Fifth of Congress Show Possible Conflicts
News Inside Era – Kate Kelley, Adam Playford, and Alicia Parlapiano (New York Times) | Published: 9/13/2022
Ninety-seven U.S. senators or representatives who reported trades by themselves or immediate family members in stocks or other financial assets that intersected with the work of committees on which they serve, according to an analysis of trades from 2019 to 2021. The potential for conflicts in stock trading by members of Congress, and their choice so far not to impose stricter limits on themselves, has long drawn criticism, especially when particularly blatant cases emerge. Over the three-year period, more than 3,700 trades reported by lawmakers from both parties posed potential conflicts between their public responsibilities and private finances.
Trump Backers Flood Election Offices with Requests as 2022 Vote Nears
MSN – Amy Gardner and Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 9/11/2022
Supporters of former President Trump have swamped local election offices across the nation in recent weeks with a coordinated campaign of requests for 2020 voting records, in some cases paralyzing preparations for the fall election season. In nearly two dozen states and scores of counties, election officials are fielding what many describe as an unprecedented wave of public records requests in the final weeks of summer, one they say may be intended to hinder their work and weaken an already strained system.
What Makes State Legislatures Uniquely Prone to Alleged Harassment
MinnPost – Jennifer Gerson (The 19th) | Published: 9/7/2022
Statehouses, a place where the powerful and the less empowered rub shoulders as part of the policy-making process, are a place where abuse and harassment can flourish in the shadows, and consequences are slow to come if they come at all. Dealing with alleged harassment in remains a maze of bureaucratic red tape that, despite efforts to improve processes, has left people in uncomfortable power dynamics or complete inaction after alleged sexual harassment or bullying.
When a Man with a Pistol Shows Up Outside a Congresswoman’s House
MSN – Ruby Kramer (Washington Post) | Published: 9/8/2022
Threats against members of Congress have risen year after year, according to data from the Capitol Police: 9,625 in 2021, up from 3,939 in 2017. Officers logged nearly 2,000 cases in the first three months of this year alone. Among the statistics, there are thousands of stories like that of U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal. An armed man who reportedly threatened to kill Jayapal was arrested outside her Seattle home recently. The incident demonstrated to Jayapal how many gaps exist in congressional security.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Ethics Filing Against Flowers Frivolous, Senate Panel Says; Suspension Recommended for Clark
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 9/10/2022
The Arkansas Senate Ethics Committee recommended the chamber suspend state Sen. Alan Clark for the rest of this year and strip him of seniority for the rest of this year and the next two years. The committee concluded that Clark’s charges of ethics violations against Sen. Stephanie Flowers were spurious, frivolous, and retaliatory. Clark filed a complaint against Flowers alleging she violated the Senate’s code of ethics by accepting legislative per diem payments for participating by Zoom in the Senate’s regular session meetings in 2021.
California – Anaheim Council Tightens Lobbyist Rules
MSN – Alicia Robinson (Orange County Register) | Published: 9/14/2022
Anaheim City Council members voted unanimously to support an ordinance tightening lobbyist regulations. Acting as a lobbyist but failing to register with the city, not filing disclosure reports as required, or filing inaccurate reports could result in a misdemeanor charge under the proposed rules. A second vote is required for the new rules to become law. Registered lobbyists will also have to attest under penalty of perjury their reports are true and accurate; perjury is a felony charge under state law.
California – Karen Bass Got a USC Degree for Free. It’s Now Pulling Her into a Federal Corruption Case
MSN – Matthew Brown (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/7/2022
A full tuition scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC) led to the indictment of former Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of USC’s social work program, Marilyn Flynn, on bribery and fraud charges. Another scholarship recipient, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, is the leading contender to be the next mayor of Los Angeles. Federal prosecutors have not indicated Bass is under a criminal investigation. But prosecutors have now declared that Bass’ scholarship and her dealings with USC are “critical” to their bribery case and to their broader portrayal of corruption in the university’s social work program.
California – L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s Home Searched by Sheriff’s Investigators
Yahoo News – Alene Tchekmedyian (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/14/2022
Los Angeles County sheriff’s investigators searched the house of county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl as part of a criminal investigation into a county contract awarded to a nonprofit organization. A copy of the warrant showed the search was tied to an ongoing probe into Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit run by Patti Giggans, a member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission and a close friend to Kuehl. Both Kuehl and Giggans have clashed with Sheriff Alex Villanueva and called for his resignation.
California – Voters Push to Take Local Redistricting from Politicians
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 9/14/2022
California’s independent redistricting commission has received generally good reviews for its new maps that voters are using to elect legislators and members of Congress in November. But voters who say they are disenfranchised want similar panels to draw their local districts. Three bills on California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would overrule local officials and require independent redistricting commissions in Fresno, Kern, and Riverside counties. If signed into law, those panels would work on districts for the boards of supervisors in those counties, starting after the next Census in 2030.
Colorado – FBI Seizes Mike Lindell’s Phone in Probe of Colo. Voting Machine Breach
MSN – Jon Swaine and Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 9/14/2022
FBI agents seized a cellphone belonging to Mike Lindell, the MyPillow founder and prominent election denier, as part of a federal investigation into an alleged breach of voting machines in Colorado, according to Lindell. Lindell said the agents questioned him about Tina Peters, the Mesa County clerk who was indicted on charges she helped an outsider copy sensitive data from the county’s elections systems. The action against Lindell, who has financed films, conferences, and other media promoting disinformation about elections, points to a widening of the federal investigation into the alleged breach in Mesa County.
Florida – ‘Make His Life a Living Hell.’ The FPL-financed plot to torpedo a Miami lawmaker
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas and Nicholas Nehamas (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/9/2022
Florida Power & Light’s (FPL) chief political operative, Jeff Pitts, used a maze of nonprofits to secretly finance an operation aimed at defeating state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and replace him with a Republican less hostile to FPL’s interests. Rodríguez lost his bid for reelection in 2020 by 34 votes. It was part of an alleged “ghost candidate” plot in which “spoiler” candidates ran in a total of three state Senate races to help defeat Democratic candidates, who indeed lost. Two people have been criminally charged in connection with the effort to defeat Rodríguez, including a former state senator considered a staunch ally of FPL during his years in office.
Georgia – Former Atlanta Official Gets 14 Years in Corruption Case
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 9/8/2022
A former high-ranking Atlanta official was sentenced to 14 years in prison after a jury found her guilty of charges stemming from a long-running federal investigation into corruption at City Hall. In addition to the prison time, the judge ordered Mitzi Vickers to pay nearly $3 million in restitution to the city. Bickers was the first person to go to trial in the investigation into corruption during the administration of former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. She helped Reed win election and then worked as his director of human services for several years.
Georgia – Georgia’s Biggest County Can’t Find a Top Elections Official
MSN – Matthew Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2022
For 10 months, local leaders have been unable to hire a permanent director to run the Department of Registration and Elections in Fulton County, home to Atlanta. The previous director resigned in November and left the position in April, after pressure from local lawmakers and the turmoil of the 2020 election, when county staff endured death threats, baseless conspiracy theories, high-stakes audits, and harassment from former Donald Trump and his allies. The staff has worked through the uncertainty under an interim director, but the county has been slow to implement changes mandated by a sweeping new election law.
Hawaii – Attorney For Mitsunaga’s Engineering Firm Has Been Arrested in Bribery Case
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 9/13/2022
Sheri Tanaka, an attorney for a prominent engineering firm whose chief executive officer is fighting federal charges, was arrested in California in connection with her client’s case and is currently in custody. Tanaka has been charged alongside Dennis Mitsunaga and associates of his firm who were accused of bribing former Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. Federal prosecutors say Mitsunaga and his accomplices directed over $45,000 to the prosecutor so he would pursue a bogus prosecution of a former employee of the firm, Laurel Mau.
Illinois – Board of Review’s Probe into Bribes for Tax Breaks Is Stymied by Employee’s ‘Inability to Recall Passcode’ to County-Issued Cellphone
Chicago Sun-Times – Mitch Dudek | Published: 9/9/2022
An employee of the Cook County Board of Review under investigation for accepting bribes to lower property taxes stymied a law firm hired to look into the matter by refusing to be interviewed and claiming he forgot the passcode to his county-issued cellphone. A cooperating witness in the case broached the idea of having property assessments lowered for an associate. A picture of the employee thumbing a stack of cash was included in an affidavit. The employee told a cooperating witness he was “just the middle guy” and the cash was intended to be split with others in his office, according to the affidavit.
Maryland – Montgomery School Leaders Defend Contract Given to Board Member’s Spouse
MSN – Nicole Asbury (Washington Post) | Published: 9/13/2022
Montgomery County’s schools superintendent defended the system’s decision to award a STEM learning contract to a company owned by a school board member’s spouse and blamed concerns over the award process on an inaccurate document on the board’s website. The Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County raised concerns before a school board vote that the contract for MoCo KidsCo Inc. was being awarded as a no-bid contract, with no discussion by the school board, a lack of competition, and a conflict-of-interest.
Massachusetts – AG Maura Healey Ruling Derails Bid to Limit Super PAC Contributions in Massachusetts
MassLive – Matt Murphy (State House News Service) | Published: 9/9/2022
Super PACs are allowed to raise and spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections as long as they do not coordinate directly with any campaigns. The spending has come under fire from some candidates who oppose the influence money has on the process. But a bid to curtail the ability of super PACs to raise and spend huge sums in Massachusetts was nixed by state Attorney General Maura Healey’s office as “inconsistent” with constitutional rights to free speech.
Massachusetts – SJC Considers Lobbying by Federal Felons, Like Former House Speaker Sal DiMasi
MSN – Shelley Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 9/8/2022
Former Massachusetts House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi began working as a lobbyist on Beacon Hill nine years after a federal jury found him guilty of fraud and extortion for taking bribes while in office. The state’s highest court heard arguments over whether DiMasi should have been forced to wait a little longer to embark on his new career, based on a state law that bars people convicted of certain state crimes from registering as lobbyists until 10 years after their convictions.
Massachusetts – State’s Public Campaign Financing Program Means Candidates Can Spend Big in November Election
MassLive – Chris Lisinski (State House News Service) | Published: 9/12/2022
Maura Healey and Kim Driscoll can drain their entire accumulated campaign money in their bid for governor and lieutenant governor, Massachusetts campaign finance officials said. At least one candidate in each of the five statewide contests this fall sought to participate in the state’s public campaign financing program, which triggered a requirement for all other contestants in those races to declare self-imposed spending caps. The largest limit in each race becomes the cap for all candidates in that field. Healey and Driscoll told the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance their self-imposed spending would be limited to a maximum of $6.9 million.
Michigan – Michigan Supreme Court Puts Abortion on the November Ballot
Yahoo News – Alice Miranda Ollstein (Politico) | Published: 9/8/2022
The Michigan Supreme Court certified a sweeping abortion rights initiative for the November ballot, giving voters a chance to decide whether the procedure remains legal or whether a nearly 100-year-old ban goes back into effect. The emergency ruling overrides a party-line tie vote by the Board of State Canvassers, which blocked the certification of the proposed constitutional amendment. The two Republicans on that panel sided with conservative groups that argued spacing and formatting errors on the text canvassers presented to voters rendered the entire effort invalid.
Mississippi – Former Gov. Phil Bryant Helped Brett Favre Secure Welfare Funding for USM Volleyball Stadium, Texts Reveal
Mississippi Today – Anna Wolfe | Published: 9/13/2022
Newly released text messages show Brett Favre, former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, and others worked together to channel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds to build a new volleyball stadium at University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter played the sport. The texts show the then-governor even guided Favre on how to write a funding proposal so it could be accepted by the state Department of Human Services. In total, nonprofit leaders misspent at least $77 million in funds that were supposed to help the needy, forensic auditors found.
Montana – Super PAC Faces New Allegations in Montana
Montana Free Press – Alex Sakariassen | Published: 9/9/2022
An out-of-state political organization found to have violated Montana campaign finance law continues to face questions about its activity in three legislative races during the 2022 primary election, even as it pursues legal action against the commissioner of political practices. The Center for Media and Democracy filed a complaint against the Convention of States Political Fund, a Michigan-based super PAC that spent more than $126,000 on political flyers and radio ads in Montana earlier this year.
New York – Rensselaer County’s Republican Elections Commissioner Arrested by FBI
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 9/13/2022
Jason Schofield, the Rensselaer County Board of Elections commissioner, was arrested by the FBI and charged with fraudulently obtaining and filing absentee ballots last year using the personal information of at least eight voters without their permission. The ballots were filled out and submitted in last year’s primary election, the general election, and sometimes both. In some instances, documentation was completed falsely claiming the ballots were mailed to the voters at their residences.
Ohio – Ex-Ohio Governor Candidate Joe Blystone Threatened with Prosecution Over Alleged Campaign-Finance Violations
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/8/2022
Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office says it will seek to refer Joe Blystone, who ran for Ohio governor earlier this year, to prosecutors for campaign finance violations if he does not accept a deal that includes turning over all his remaining campaign money to state officials. Blystone has been under scrutiny for a number of issues, including not properly recording thousands of dollars in small donations. Last March, LaRose’s office flagged more than $100,000 in contributions to Blystone’s campaign that appear to violate the state’s limit on cash contributions or ban on corporate donations.
Ohio – Former Butler County Elected Official Indicted on Corruption Charges
Yahoo – Cincinnati Enquirer staff | Published: 9/14/2022
A grand jury indicted Madison Township Trustee Alan Daniel on seven public corruption-related charges. The case had been referred to the Ohio Ethics Commission, which made a referral to the Butler County prosecutor’s office for criminal charges. State Auditor Keith Faber noted several votes Daniel cast as a trustee that Faber said directly impacted a family member. Daniel voted on 20 road department ordinances in 2018 and 15 in 2019 “from which he should have abstained because he is the father of Road Supervisor Todd Daniel,” Faber recently wrote to Madison Township officials.
Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court: ‘Targeted picketing’ ban unconstitutional
Ohio Capital Journal – Susan Tebben | Published: 9/14/2022
The Ohio Supreme Court took issue with a ban on “targeted picketing” of public officials in a new ruling. The justices ruled an education board violated picketers’ rights by putting a stop to public protests, calling Ohio Revised Code language on organizing a protest at public officials’ homes or workplaces “a form of expressive-activity suppression that is irreconcilable with the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment.”
Pennsylvania – Clandestine Plan to Force a Vote on Pa. Legislative Gift Ban Fails, Lawmakers Shrug
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 9/14/2022
Pennsylvania lawmakers can accept gifts from anyone if they disclose items more than $250 on annual interest forms. Proposals to tighten the law have died over the years with no debate until last fall, when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed interest in a more comprehensive gift ban. Activists recently said one unidentified House member would force a vote on whether to consider the bill, defying Republican leadership. But as one of the last scheduled session days of the year ended, no one stood up, leaving advocates with nothing to do but concede.
South Carolina – SC Supreme Court Says Attorney General’s $75M Payment to Law Firms Can Be Questioned
MSN – John Monk (The State) | Published: 9/14/2022
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that John Crangle, who writes extensively on governmental ethics issues, has the right to challenge state Attorney General Alan Wilson’s award of a $75 million legal fee to two law firms. Wilson had signed a contingency fee agreement with the firms that awarded them a percentage of a settlement concerning the disposal of dangerous plutonium in the state. Crangle and the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation contended the $75 million fee was unreasonable and unconstitutional.
South Dakota – Documents Show Gov. Kristi Noem Tried to Avoid Ethics Hearing, Seal Records
Yahoo News – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 9/9/2022
Documents show South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem asked the state Government Accountability Board to dismiss a complaint against her without a public hearing and to seal off certain records. News reports said shortly after a state agency moved to deny her daughter, Kassidy Peters, a real estate appraiser license, Noem held a meeting with Peters and key decision-makers in her licensure. After the meeting, Peters signed an agreement that gave her another opportunity to meet the licensing requirements. The South Dakota Legislature’s audit committee approved a report that found Noem’s daughter got preferential treatment.
Wyoming – Elections Official Files Complaint Against Conservative PAC
WyoFile – Maggie Mullen | Published: 9/13/2022
Campbell County’s chief elections officer filed a complaint against Coal Country Conservatives Political Action Committee, calling on the FEC and the Wyoming secretary of state to undertake a “swift and robust investigation.” The complaint by Campbell County Clerk Susan Saunders, names both the federal PAC and a Wyoming entity of the same name. Chief among Saunders’ concerns is a potentially improper campaign finance relationship between the two organizations and a lack of disclosure on the part of both.
Wyoming – Some Wyoming Republicans Want to Limit the Secretary of State after Trump’s Pick Wins
Wyoming Public Radio – Bob Beck | Published: 9/8/2022
Wyoming’s likely next secretary of state, a Trump-endorsed Republican who has falsely called the 2020 election fraudulent, is drawing concerns from many of his fellow GOP lawmakers. Now those legislators are aiming to draft a bill to remove the secretary of state’s ability to oversee elections. State Rep. Chuck Gray is the Republican nominee. He does not have a general election opponent. Though state officials maintain Wyoming elections are secure, Gray campaigned on concerns he has about election integrity.
September 9, 2022 •
National/Federal ‘Fat Leonard’ Goes on the Lam Weeks Before Sentencing in Navy Bribery Scandal Portland Press Herald – María Luisa Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022 The Malaysian defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officials with sex parties, fancy […]
‘Fat Leonard’ Goes on the Lam Weeks Before Sentencing in Navy Bribery Scandal
Portland Press Herald – María Luisa Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022
The Malaysian defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officials with sex parties, fancy dinners, and alcohol in a corruption scandal has escaped just weeks before his sentencing date. Leonard Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard,” fled while under house arrest in San Diego. A search by the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force and Naval Criminal Investigative Service is underway, officials said. “He cut off his GPS monitoring bracelet on Sunday morning,” the U.S. Marshals Service announced. “Task Force Officers went to his residence and upon arrival noticed the house was now vacant.”
FEC Approves Rule to Remove Candidate Loan Repayment Restrictions
OpenSecrets – Taylor Giorno | Published: 9/1/2022
The FEC approved an interim final rule that removes regulations that previously restricted the repayment of personal loans candidates made to their campaigns. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that existing candidate loan repayment restrictions were unconstitutional. Under the old rules, campaigns could raise money after election day to repay candidate loans up to $250,000 up to 20 days after the election.
From Border Town to ‘Border Town,’ Bused Migrants Seek New Lives in D.C. Area
MSN – Antonio Olivo (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2022
More than 230 buses carrying nearly 9,400 migrants, including young children, have arrived in the District of Columbia since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began offering free passage to the city with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey following suit. Buses from Texas have also started heading to New York and Chicago. The governors are using the busloads of migrants as a political statement about what they have called lax border policies. But for many of those who have accepted the rides, any political gamesmanship has been irrelevant. The buses have turned into a welcomed opportunity for migrants to get to their preferred destinations.
House Committee Reaches Deal to get Trump Financial Records
Yahoo News – Kevin Freking (Associated Press) | Published: 9/1/2022
A U.S. House committee seeking financial records from former President Trump reached an agreement that ends litigation on the matter and requires an accounting firm to turn over some of the material. The case began in April 2019, when the House Committee on Oversight and Reform first subpoenaed records from Trump’s then-accounting firm, Mazars USA. The committee cited testimony from Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, that it said raised questions about the president’s representation of his financial affairs when it came to seeking loans and paying taxes.
In Voter Fraud, Penalties Often Depend on Who’s Voting
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 9/6/2022
A review by The New York Times of some 400 voting fraud charges filed nationwide since 2017 underscores what critics of fraud crackdowns have long said: actual prosecutions are rare events and often netted people who did not realize they were breaking the law. Punishment can be wildly inconsistent. Most violations draw wrist slaps, while a few high-profile prosecutions produce draconian sentences. Penalties often fall heaviest on those least able to mount a defense. Those who are poor and Black are more likely to be sent to jail.
In Washington, Agricultural Policymakers Circulate Among Farm Bureau, USDA and Industry
Investigate Midwest – Madison McVan | Published: 8/24/2022
Reporting and more than 100 pages of emails obtained by Investigate Midwest shed light on the movement of agriculture policy leaders between government, industry, and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Terri Moore, vice president of communications for AFBF, said Dale Moore, executive vice president of the group, and Sam Kieffer, the organization’s top lobbyist, likely had communication with Joby Young during his time at as chief of staff for the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Young took over as AFBF executive vice president following a stint at a consulting firm.
Jan. 6 Committee Asks Former Speaker Newt Gingrich to Sit for Interview
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/1/2022
The House select committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol issued a request to interview former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The request cited evidence showing Gingrich was in communication with senior advisers to ex-President Trump, including Jared Kushner and Jason Miller, regarding television advertisements that amplified false claims about fraud in the 2020 election. The panel also said it obtained evidence suggesting Gingrich was involved in the fake elector plot designed to encourage Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress to affect the outcome of the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021.
Judge’s Special-Master Order a Test of Trump’s Post-White House Powers
MSN – Ann Marimow and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022
Justice Department lawyers are weighing whether to challenge a federal judge’s uncommon order to appoint an independent reviewer, called a special master, to assess more than 11,000 documents seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Florida residence. At issue are untested legal questions about the extent to which assertions of executive privilege can be applied to a former president. Legal experts called U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision problematic because it upends the usual course of a criminal investigation and suggests there are different rules for a former president.
Material on Foreign Nation’s Nuclear Capabilities Seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022
A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed at the Florida property. Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them.
Tory Peer Broke Lobbying Rules, Whitehall Watchdog Finds
The Guardian – Henry Dyer | Published: 9/6/2022
A Conservative hereditary peer breached lobbying rules in the United Kingdom by failing to register as a consultant lobbyist before contacting ministers on behalf of his client. The Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists announced the outcome of its investigation into the Earl of Shrewsbury, whose full name is Charles Henry John Benedict Crofton Chetwynd Chetwind-Talbot, and his company Talbot Consulting. The earl remains under investigation by the House of Lords for allegedly misusing his parliamentary position to lobby for SpectrumX.
From the States and Municipalities
Arkansas – Ex-Deputy Chief of Staff for Hutchinson Asks to Rescind Registration as a Lobbyist
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 9/7/2022
Bill Gossage, the former deputy chief of staff for external operations for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said he asked the secretary of state’s office to rescind his August registration as a registered lobbyist. Gossage is vice president of governmental affairs for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. State law bars an individual employed in the office of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, or commissioner of state lands from being eligible to be registered as a lobbyist until one year after the expiration of the individual’s employment in that office.
Florida – Jury Finds Seminole GOP Chair Guilty in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Case
Yahoo News – Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 9/1/2022
Seminole County Republican Party Chairperson Ben Paris was found guilty of a scheme to siphon votes from a Democrat in a Florida Senate race. Prosecutors say Jestine Iannotti ran as an independent candidate but did not campaign and had no previous political experience. Iannotti illegally accepted a $1,200 cash donation from political consultant James Foglesong. Iannoitti and Foglesong falsely used the names of others as contributors in campaign finance reports to skirt Florida laws on donations.
Georgia – Election Deniers Repeatedly Visited Ga. County Office at Center of Criminal Probe, Video Shows
Portland Press Herald – Emma Brown and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022
Technology consultants who sought evidence that Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat was fraudulent made multiple visits to a county elections office in rural Georgia in the weeks after an alleged post-election breach of voting equipment that is the subject of a criminal investigation. Surveillance video shows the consultants, Doug Logan and Jeffrey Lenberg, made two visits in January 2021 to the elections office in Coffee County. Lenberg made an additional five visits on his own. The two men are under investigation for separate alleged breaches of voting machines in Michigan.
Georgia – Judge Again Rejects Graham Bid to Throw Out Subpoena in Atlanta-Area Trump Probe
MSN – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 9/1/2022
A federal judge for the second time rejected U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s effort to block a grand jury subpoena issued by the Atlanta-area district attorney investigating former President Trump and his allies’ effort to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May ruled Graham’s claim to be immune from such questioning, thanks to the protections of the so-called speech or debate clause of the Constitution is not as sweeping as he claimed it to be. The ruling sends the matter back to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Illinois – Political Operative Tied to Ald. Daniel Solis Probe Pleads Guilty to Fraud
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/2/2022
Roberto Caldero, a political operative at the center of the investigation into former Ald. Daniel Solis, pleaded guilty to variety of fraud schemes, including an attempt to influence a massive Chicago Public Schools janitorial contact, and using the alderman’s clout to solicit campaign cash and get a park and street renamed for a donor’s relatives. There was new mention in the plea agreement of an elected official, identified only as Public Official A, whom Caldero enlisted to pressure then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to support the awarding of the janitorial contract to a company Caldero represented.
Indiana – Contractor Avoids Prison, Ordered to Pay Sanitary District $104K
Yahoo News – Douglas Walker (Muncie Star Press) | Published: 9/6/2022
A contractor avoided a prison sentence after pleading guilty to a fraud-related count stemming from a federal investigation of corruption in Muncie city government. But Rodney Barber was ordered to pay $104,750 in restitution to the Muncie Sanitary District (MSD). He admitted paying Phil Nichols, a former Democratic Party chairperson, $5,500 in cash in exchange for winning a contract to do work for the district. Barber also acknowledged giving MSD official Tracy Barton $5,000 in cash to “illegally contribute” to then-Mayor Dennis Tyler’s re-election campaign.
Louisiana – New Orleans’ ‘Night Mayor’ Fails to Respond to State Ethics [Board] After Trying to Rule on Conflict
LocalToday – Ben Myers (New Orleans Times-Picayune) | Published: 9/6/2022
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell named Howlin’ Wolf nightclub owner Howard Kaplan as the first director of the city’s new Office of Nighttime Economy. When Cantrell was asked about potential ethical issues in hiring a nightclub owner to manage the city’s nighttime economy, she cited a pending opinion from the Louisiana Board of Ethics to argue “there is no conflict-of-interest here.” But an ethics board attorney, Mallory Guillot, now says Kaplan has not responded to “numerous” attempts to contact him with additional questions about his dual role as city official and business owner.
Massachusetts – Maura Healey to Face Trump-Backed Republican in Deep-Blue Massachusetts
MSN – Annie Linskey and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022
Maura Healey, who made history as the country’s first openly gay state attorney general, will face former state legislator Geoff Diehl, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, in the Massachusetts governor’s race this November, a contest seen by analysts as one of the best chances for Democrats to flip control of a Republican-held seat. If she prevails in the fall, Healey would be the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts. Democratic primary voters in also picked a nominee for attorney general in a race that divided the two U.S. senators and other party leaders in the state.
Michigan – Michigan Sheriff Sought to Seize Multiple Voting Machines, Records Show
Reuters – Peter Eisler and Nathan Layne | Published: 8/30/2022
A sheriff in Barry County, Michigan, already under state investigation for alleged involvement in an illegal breach of a vote-counting machine, sought warrants in July to seize other machines to prove former President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, documents showed. A member of the so-called constitutional sheriffs movement, which holds sheriffs have supreme law enforcement authority within their counties, exceeding that of state and federal agencies, Leaf has appeared at events around the country organized by proponents of Trump’s rigged election claims.
Nevada – Police Arrest County Official in Reporter’s Stabbing Death
Las Vegas Review-Journal – David Ferrara, Briana Erickson, and Glenn Puit | Published: 9/7/2022
A Las Vegas-area elected official was arrested as the suspect in the fatal stabbing of a veteran newspaper reporter who had written articles exposing complaints of wrongdoing at his office. Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was taken into custody hours after investigators served a search warrant in the criminal probe of the killing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German. Soon after German’s investigation was published, Telles failed in his re-election bid, losing the Democratic primary in June.
New Mexico – New Mexico Bars Commissioner from Office for Insurrection
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 9/6/2022
A New Mexico judge ordered convicted Capitol rioter Couy Griffin to be removed from his county commissioner seat, ruling the Cowboys for Trump founder’s involvement in the January 6, 2021, insurrection disqualified him from holding public office. Judge Francis Matthew formally labeled the Capitol attack as an insurrection and found Griffin’s involvement fell under the so-called Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone from holding office if they took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort” to insurrectionists.
New York – Former Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged with Defrauding Border Wall Donors
Yahoo News – Aaron Katersky (ABC News) | Published: 9/8/2022
Steve Bannon, a onetime political adviser to former President Trump, was charged by authorities in New York with defrauding donors to the We Build the Wall fundraising campaign for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The indictment charges Bannon and We Build the Wall itself with two counts of money laundering. There are additional felony counts of conspiracy and scheme to defraud. The state charges resemble federal charges for which Bannon received a pardon from Trump and allege Bannon and We Build the Wall defrauded 430 Manhattan-based donors out of $33,600.
New York – How a Hochul Donor Received $637M in State Payments
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/8/2022
Last December, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration received an offer to buy 26 million at-home coronavirus tests from a distributor that happened to be a major campaign donor to the governor. The price offered by Digital Gadgets founder Charlie Tebele was $13 per test, far steeper than what other companies were proposing for similar rapid antigen tests. Hochul’s administration had just approved a deal with another firm to buy 5 million tests for just five dollars each. Still, the Hochul administration quickly agreed to pay $338 million to Digital Gadgets at the higher per-test price.
New York – Panel Rejects 3 of the 10 Nominees to New York’s New Ethics Body
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/2/2022
A panel tasked with reviewing nominations to New York’s new ethics and lobbying oversight panel rejected three out of ten nominations, while confirming seven others. One of those rejected was Gary Lavine, an outspoken former commissioner on the state’s prior ethics body. the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Lavine’s rejection appears the most likely to set up a legal battle over a key aspect of the new law that established the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government.
Ohio – Akron Organizers Turn to the Ballot Box for Civilian Oversight of Police
Ohio Capital Journal – Nick Evans | Published: 9/7/2022
A proposed ballot measure in Akron establishing civilian oversight for the police department comes on the heels of the police killing of Jayland Walker, a Black man shot nearly 50 times by Akron officers after fleeing a traffic stop. The amendment to the city charter would establish a new citizen review board with oversight of the city’s existing police auditor. The proposal also expands the auditor’s office and directs city council to spell out in statute what information the auditor can demand from the department. Organizers have turned in 7,000 petition signatures. That is more than two and a half times what they need.to get it on the November ballot.
Ohio – Redistricting: One year later, Ohio a unique, flawed case
Ohio Capital Journal – Susan Tebben | Published: 9/2/2022
One year after the saga of redistricting began, Ohio is seen as a unique case study in the legal strategies and flaws that can emerge in the process. A series of meetings of the Ohio Redistricting Commission were held, where the elected officials who constituted the commission interpreted and re-interpreted a constitutional amendment more than 70 percent of voters had approved to reform the redistricting. One year, five legislative map proposals and two congressional redraws later, the state will hold a general election in November with maps that have been ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Oklahoma – Why Most Oklahoma State Legislative Races Are Uncontested
Oklahoma Watch – Keaton Ross | Published: 9/6/2022
Nearly 70 person of Oklahoma’s state legislative elections will be decided without a single vote cast in November. In 2018, nearly 75 percent of House and Senate races included candidates from at least two parties. Oklahoma now ranks among the nation’s least competitive states for legislative races. Without competitive local races, voters are more likely to become disengaged or feel alienated, studies have found. The same can happen to lawmakers who are not making their case to voters. A Georgetown University study found state legislators who run unopposed are less effective and engaged with constituents.
Oregon – Tina Kotek Wins Over Potential Rival with Embrace of Campaign Finance Changes
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 9/7/2022
Oregon gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek removed one potential obstacle in the race. In private discussions, Kotek committed to using her position to advocate for some specific campaign finance regulations if elected governor. With that commitment, and a newly added policy platform on her website, a notable competitor for left-leaning votes has now stepped down. Nathalie Paravicini, running for governor under the banners of the Oregon Progressive Party and Pacific Green Party, filed a form withdrawing her candidacy. Oregon is one of a handful of states that place no limit on how much campaigns can raise and spend.
Tennessee – Registry of Election Finance to Audit Humble for Potential Illegal Coordination with PAC-Like Group
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 9/7/2022
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance is set to audit former state Senate candidate Gary Humble to determine whether his campaign illegally coordinated with his nonprofit organization Tennessee Stands. Registry board member Tom Lawless raised questions about Tennessee Stands, which has a 501(c)(4) federal tax status, and whether it is operating as a PAC without registering with the state. Humble is executive director of the organization, which is intertwined with his political activity.
Texas – Appeals Court Sides with Texas Ethics Commission Over Lobbying Fine Against GOP Activist Michael Quinn Sullivan
MSN – Taylor Goldenstein (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 9/1/2022
An appeals court upheld a Texas Ethics Commission fine levied against conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan. He registered as a lobbyist from 2001 to 2009 but did not in 2010 and 2011. The court found Sullivan, acting on behalf of Empower Texans in 2010 and 2011, had lobbied state lawmakers. The judges dismissed Sullivan’s arguments that the commission was unconstitutionally exercising both legislative and executive branch powers. They reversed the trial court’s judgment on the amount of the fine – $10,000 – saying Sullivan is owed a jury trial on that question.
Washington – Data Shows How Well Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program Is Working
Seattle Times – Gene Balk | Published: 9/2/2022
Seattle’s novel “democracy voucher” program for funding local elections is attracting attention. “… It could revolutionize local elections,” said Brian McCabe of Georgetown University, the co-author of a new study on the program. The study found the democracy voucher program does appear to be living up to its name by helping to democratize political giving in Seattle by diversifying the donor pool to better reflect the city’s population. It also found the rate of participation in the program rose most significantly among Black, Hispanic, and young voters, groups that have historically been underrepresented in the campaign finance system.
Washington – Washington State Judge Rules Facebook Violated Campaign Finance Rules
MSN – Naomi Nix (Washington Post) | Published: 9/2/2022
A judge ruled Facebook owner Meta repeatedly and intentionally violated Washington’s campaign finance law and must pay penalties. King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North said Facebook, which last year renamed itself Meta, repeatedly broke the state’s law requiring technology platforms make information about political ads available for public inspection in a “timely manner.” North also denied Meta’s attempt to invalidate the state’s decades-old law. The ruling arrives as Meta faces scrutiny over how much information it discloses about the way candidates use marketing campaigns on its networks.
Wisconsin – Ginni Thomas Pressed Wisconsin Lawmakers to Overturn Biden’s 2020 Victory
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 9/1/2022
Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory not only in Arizona, as previously reported, but also in a second battleground state, Wisconsin, according to emails. Ginni Thomas emailed 29 Arizona lawmakers in in November and December 2020. She urged them to set aside Biden’s popular-vote victory and “choose” their own presidential electors. The new emails show she also messaged two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin: state Sen. Kathy Bernier, then chair of the Senate elections committee, and state Rep. Gary Tauchen.
September 2, 2022 •
National/Federal Document Reveals Identity of Donors Who Secretly Funded Nikki Haley’s Political Nonprofit Yahoo News – Alex Isenstadt (Politico) | Published: 8/26/2022 Many of the Republican Party’s biggest donors are among those who funneled anonymous contributions to former United Nations Ambassador […]
Document Reveals Identity of Donors Who Secretly Funded Nikki Haley’s Political Nonprofit
Yahoo News – Alex Isenstadt (Politico) | Published: 8/26/2022
Many of the Republican Party’s biggest donors are among those who funneled anonymous contributions to former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley’s nonprofit as she lays the groundwork for a prospective 2024 presidential bid, according to previously unreported tax documents. Like other nonprofits, Stand For America files an annual tax return with the IRS. While the agency and the group must make those filings available to the public, including the amounts of contributions, such nonprofits do not have to disclose the identities of their donors. The group Documented obtained an unredacted copy of Stand For America’s 2019 filings.
Experts Say a Trump-Backed Charity Is Pushing the Boundaries of Tax Law
National Public Radio – Tom Dreisbach | Published: 8/31/2022
Many figures connected to the failed plot to overturn the 2020 election have coalesced around an increasingly influential nonprofit – the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI). A review of records and leaked audio suggests CPI may be risking legal trouble over its tax-exempt status. Experts said the group appears to be pushing the boundaries of the law by entwining itself with explicitly Republican and pro-Donald Trump political organizations. As an IRS-recognized charity, CPI is exempt from certain taxes. That also gives donors the benefit of deducting their contributions at tax time. But those benefits come with some strings attached.
Fox News Stars Questioned by Election Tech Company in Defamation Case
MSN – Rachel Weiner and Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2022
Some Fox News hosts are being compelled to answer questions about their coverage of the 2020 presidential election as a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems claims its reputation was ruined by the network’s airing of baseless allegations picks up steam. Lawyers for Dominion questioned Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson, while Sean Hannity and former host Lou Dobbs are scheduled for depositions. They are among the on-air personalities that Dominion says defamed it either by falsely claiming the company conspired to rig the election against Donald Trump or by repeatedly hosting guests who made such claims.
Garland Bans Campaign Activity by Justice Dept. Political Appointees
MSN – Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/30/2022
Justice Department political appointees cannot participate in campaign-related activities in any capacity, Attorney General Merrick Garland said, describing the change as necessary “to maintain public trust and ensure that politics … does not compromise or affect the integrity of our work.” The new policy underscores the political scrutiny Garland is facing before the midterm elections, as his agency investigates former president Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving office and the potential involvement of Trump and other GOP politicians in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Justice Dept. Says Trump Team May Have Hidden, Moved Classified Papers
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 8/31/2022
Former President Trump and his advisers repeatedly failed to turn over highly classified government documents even after receiving a subpoena and pledging a “diligent search” had been conducted, leading to an FBI raid on his Florida home that found more than 100 additional classified items, according to a court filing. The filing traces government officials’ repeated efforts to recover national security papers from Trump’s residence, centered on a storage room where prosecutors came to suspect that “government records were likely concealed and removed … and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
They Were Some of the Last Journalists at Their Papers. Then Came the Layoffs.
MSN – Elahe Izadi (Washington Post) | Published: 8/28/2022
Newspaper companies have been struggling to find their financial footing with the decline of print advertising. A recent study predicted one-third of American newspapers that existed roughly two decades ago will go extinct by 2025. Another study found some 40,000 newspaper newsroom jobs vanished between 2008 and 2020. Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country with more than 200 daily newspapers and its flagship publication USA Today, has already been shedding jobs.
Trump’s Lawyers May Become Witnesses or Targets in Documents Investigation
Yahoo News – Charlie Savage (New York Times) | Published: 8/31/2022
Two lawyers for former President Trump are likely to become witnesses or targets in the investigation into how he hoarded documents marked as classified at his Florida estate and secretly held onto some even after the lawyers claimed all sensitive materials had been returned, legal specialists said. Christina Bobb and M. Evan Corcoran handled Trump’s interactions with the government over a subpoena seeking additional material marked as classified. In a court filing, the Justice Department suggested people in Trump’s circle concealed documents in defiance of that subpoena, putting a spotlight on the lawyers’ actions.
Watchdog Probing Massachusetts US Attorney’s Fundraiser Trip
Yahoo News – Alanna Durkin Richer and Farnoush Amiri (Associated Press) | Published: 8/31/2022
A watchdog agency is investigating whether Massachusetts’ top federal prosecutor violated a law that limits political activity by government workers for attending a political fundraiser that featured First Lady Jill Biden. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel said it has opened an investigation into a potential violation Hatch Act after U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton raised concerns over U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins’ attendance at a July Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Andover, Massachusetts.
When an Election Denier Becomes a Chief Election Official
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/29/2022
Many of the election deniers running for secretary of state this year have spent their time talking about something they cannot do: “decertifying” the 2020 results. The bigger question, amid concerns about whether they would fairly administer the 2024 presidential election, is exactly what powers they would have if they win this year. They could refuse to certify accurate election results, a nearly unprecedented step that would set off litigation in state and federal court. But secretaries of states’ roles in elections stretch far beyond approving vote tallies and certifying results. Many of the candidates want to dramatically change the rules for future elections, too.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Alabama Ethics Commission Won’t Reconsider Decision on Exculpatory Information
MSN – Brian Lyman (Montgomery Advertiser) | Published: 8/25/2022
The Alabama Ethics Commission will not reconsider a decision that it does not have to disclose potentially exculpatory information to targets of investigations. The state attorney general’s office asked the commission to reconsider the decision in July. Under state law, the ethics panel investigates complaints against public officials. It functions as a kind of grand jury. It does not prosecute individuals for ethics violations. If the commission finds probable cause that ethics violations took place, it refers the case to the attorney general’s office or a district attorney for possible prosecution.
Alaska – Democrat Mary Peltola Wins Special Election in Alaska, Defeating Palin
MSN – Nathaniel Herz | Published: 8/31/2022
Democrat Mary Peltola has won a special election for the U.S. House in Alaska, defeating Sarah Palin and becoming the first Alaska Native to win a seat in Congress as well as the first woman to clinch the state’s at-large district. Peltola’s win flips a seat that had long been in Republican hands. She will serve the remainder of a term left open by the sudden death of U.S. Rep. Don Young. For the moment, it helps Democrats expand their current narrow House majority and gives the party a better chance of winning the seat in the fall, according to at least one nonpartisan elections analyst.
Arizona – Arizona Supreme Court Says Voters Can Decide Ballot Measures in November
KAWC – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 8/24/2022
Arizonans will be able to vote in November on two controversial ballot measures even though petition circulators did not comply with the law. In separate orders, the state Supreme Court said those who gather signatures for money are required to register for each petition campaign for which they work. Chief Justice Robert Brutinel said that did not happen in either the initiative to require disclosure of “dark money” in politics or another to cap medical debt payments. But Brutinel noted the office provided no procedure for those already registered to circulate other petitions to submit new registrations. The court agreed the signatures gathered by those who did not register anew should count.
California – A Sacramento School Trustee Walked Out of a Hotel with a Vase. Now She’s Reprimanded by Board
MSN – Jason Pohl and Sawsan Morrar (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 8/30/2022
A Sacramento school board member was reprimanded by her colleagues and ordered to undergo ethics training after a hotel employee accused her of trying to steal a red vase from the hotel lobby. Trustee Ericka Harden was filmed on security cameras at Embassy Suites, where she was attending a district-funded education leadership conference. On the video that hotel management sent the school district, Harden is seen walking out of the hotel with the vase. “This is to inform you of the altercation that has been encountered with your employee,” a hotel worker emailed the district. “The vase was returned as I did have to pull it out of her hands.”
California – California Lawmakers Reject Bill to Allow Their Staff to Unionize at the State Capitol
Yahoo News – Taryn Luna (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/31/2022
For the fourth time in five years, the California Legislature rejected a bill to allow its staff to unionize, parting with other West Coast states that have approved similar legislation to try to improve workplace conditions and offset power imbalances between politicians and their legislative staff. For decades, legislative employees have not received the same right to unionize as other private and public sector workers despite the Democratic Legislature’s close ties with unions at the Capitol.
California – ‘Close to the Line:’ California’s top campaign finance watchdog wants a deeper look at donor network
CalMatters – Alexei Koseff and Ben Christopher | Published: 8/26/2022
The Fair Political Practices Commission will consider new regulations more clearly defining coordination among affiliated campaign committees after the agency rejected a complaint against Govern For California. The complaint characterized the group’s network of independent committees as a “corporate structure that facilitates money laundering and vastly exceeds the contribution limits to candidates.” An investigation showed committees affiliated with Govern For California have come to play a prominent role in campaigns by making direct donations. Most of the funding to the chapters comes from the same group of 20 donors.
California – Inside a ‘Tale of Greed’ in San Francisco: Bribery scandal leads to 7-year prison sentence
Yahoo News – Gregory Yee (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/26/2022
Federal prosecutors called it “a tale of greed as old as time” – a powerful San Francisco official at the heart of a web of kickbacks, bribery, and fraud that stretched across more than a decade. Mohammed Nuru, a former public works director, was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for his role in a public corruption scheme that has ensnared at least a dozen San Francisco officials and business figures, eroded trust in City Hall, and led to an ongoing FBI investigation.
California – L.A. Council Fails to Pick a Replacement for Ridley-Thomas, Exposing a Divide at City Hall
Yahoo News – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/30/2022
Ten months after Los Angeles City Councilperson Mark Ridley-Thomas was indicted on federal corruption charges, the council remains at odds over what should happen to his district – who should represent it and how that person should be selected. Heather Hutt has been the district’s caretaker since July, when a judge sidelined the council’s previous interim pick, former Councilperson Herb Wesson. Councilperson Monica Rodriguez, who opposed a vote on Hutt, said the council moved too swiftly last time it tried to fill the seat, selecting Wesson only to have two judges conclude he is ineligible because of term limits.
Delaware – Judge Upholds Two of Delaware Auditor’s Three Convictions
MSN – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 8/30/2022
A judge upheld two convictions against Delaware’s auditor for official misconduct and conflict-of-interest but tossed a jury’s third misdemeanor conviction for improperly structuring contract payments to a consulting firm. In issuing his decision, Superior Court Judge William Carpenter Jr. rejected Kathy McGuiness’ request for a new trial. McGuiness, who as auditor is responsible for rooting out government fraud, waste, and abuse, is the first statewide elected official in Delaware to be convicted on criminal charges while in office. She has maintained her innocence and is seeking re-election.
Florida – DeSantis Election Investigation Chief Told Local Officials They Face ‘No Fault’ for Felons Voting
MSN – Matt Dixon (Politico) | Published: 8/29/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office tried to blame local election supervisors for mistakes that could have allowed 20 people convicted of felonies to illegally vote. But the state’s election investigations chief previously absolved those local officials of any wrongdoing, according to documents. Pete Antonacci, who runs DeSantis’ elections investigation office, sent a letter on August 18 to the state’s elections supervisors saying they did nothing wrong when individuals convicted of murder and sex offenses voted in the 2020 election cycle.
Florida – Miami-Dade Commissioner Martinez Surrenders at Jail as Warrant Details Corruption Probe
MSN – David Ovalle and Douglas Hanks (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/30/2022
Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez surrendered to face criminal charges, as an arrest warrant reveals he is being accused of accepting $15,000 in exchange for sponsoring a bill five years ago to help a shopping plaza that had been repeatedly hit with fines for code violations. The legislation ultimately never passed and did not wind up being considered by the county commission. But under Florida’s unlawful compensation law, prosecutors do not need to show the public official’s “exercise of influence” for illegal pay was actually “accomplished,” only that it was attempted.
Florida – ‘Our Plan Might Have Paid Off’: How FPL dollars secretly funded a spoiler vs. Levine Cava
MSN – Nicholas Nehamas, Douglas Hanks, Sarah Blaskey, and Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/25/2022
Jeff Pitts’ political consulting firm was a conduit for millions of dollars secretly spent by Florida Power & Light (FPL) on political races since 2018, records show. In one case, the plan was to use Jonathan Burke as a spoiler candidate to drain votes from Miami-Dade County Commissioner Levine Cava, who had clashed with FPL over a nuclear power plant and force her into a runoff against her main opponent, Republican Gus Barreiro, a leaked text message suggests. Money from FPL covered Burke’s $60,000 salary and paid the rent on a $2,300-per-month home in Miami-Dade’s District 8, according to records.
Florida – Seminole GOP Chair’s Trial in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Case Starts Today
MSN – Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/29/2022
Seminole County Republican Party Chairperson Ben Paris is on trial, accused of contributing in his cousin’s name to independent “ghost” candidate Jestine Iannotti’s campaign in 2020. Paris is facing a misdemeanor charge in the scheme, which apparently was an attempt to aid Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur, who was Paris’s boss at the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce at the time of the race. Brodeur has denied any knowledge of his former employee’s actions.
Georgia – Judge Delays Gov. Kemp’s Testimony in Ga. Probe Until After November Election
MSN – Amy Wang and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/29/2022
The judge presiding over the Georgia grand jury investigation into possible election interference by Donald Trump and his allies denied a motion from Gov. Brian Kemp to quash a subpoena requiring him to testify. But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney delayed Kemp’s appearance before the grand jury until “some date soon after” Election Day in November. Kemp, who is running for reelection against Stacey Abrams, has alleged the investigation is politically motivated.
Hawaii – Damning Report Unlikely to Affect Honolulu Ethics Director’s Job
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 8/26/2022
When Jan Yamane was hired by the Honolulu Ethics Commission in 2016, she was leaving the state auditor’s office where employees accused her of operating a hostile work environment that was plagued by favoritism, low morale, and harassment. The state attorney general’s office fought for years to keep the details secret. It only became public recently after a years-long legal fight. Yamane has now spent six years heading the city’s watchdog agency which, among other things, handles complaints about misconduct that may be similar in nature to what Yamane was accused of doing.
Idaho – Former Idaho Lawmaker Sentenced to 20 Years’ Prison for Rape
Yahoo News – Rebecca Boone (Associated Press) | Published: 8/31/2022
A former Idaho lawmaker convicted of raping a 19-year-old legislative intern was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime. Aaron von Ehlinger must serve at least eight years before he will be eligible for parole. Von Ehlinger was convicted of felony rape in April, roughly a year after he resigned from his House seat after an ethics committee recommended that he be banned from the statehouse. Von Ehlinger’s supporters publicized the intern’s name, photo, and personal details about her life after she reported the rape, and repeatedly harassed her.
Illinois – DeVore Loan Ends Contribution Caps in Illinois AG Race
Patabook.com – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/1/2022
Illinois attorney general nominee Thomas DeVore loaned his campaign $250,001, a move that opens the door to unlimited contributions in the race with incumbent Kwame Raoul. Under state law, contribution limits are lifted when a candidate for statewide office donates more than $250,000 to his campaign. Until then, the limits range from $6,000 for individuals to $239,900 for political party contributions to candidates statewide.
Illinois – Pritzker’s Personal Fortune Intersects with State Contracts
Better Government Association – David Jackson, Grace Golembiewski, and Chuck Neubauer | Published: 8/30/2022
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s vast investment portfolio includes interests in a dozen for-profit companies that earned more than $20 billion in state business since he took office in 2019, a Better Government Association investigation found. In some cases, state dollars flowed to companies registered to lobby Pritzker, who as the state’s chief executive held enormous sway over their contracts. The intersection between Pritzker’s personal bottom line and his role as governor comes despite his promise to divest his personal fortune of investments in state contractors and to transfer his multibillion-dollar portfolio into what he called a “blind trust.”
Indiana – Study: Indiana ranks last in campaign finance laws
Journal Gazette – Brett Stover | Published: 8/28/2022
Indiana has the least restrictive campaign finance laws in the country, a new study shows. The Coalition for Integrity, which that focuses on corruption and transparency, released its first-ever State Campaign Finance Index this summer. The index examines laws from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including regulations on campaign coordination and limits on expenditures. The report highlighted the state’s lack of a cap on individual contributions. Conservative lawyer Jim Bopp Jr. sees that lack of individual contribution regulation as one of the best parts of Indiana’s campaign finance laws.
Kentucky – Citing Conflict, Scott County Residents Sue to Remove Judge Candidate from Ballot
MSN – Taylor Six (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 8/29/2022
Two Scott County residents filed a civil lawsuit to remove Rob Johnson from the ballot as 14th Circuit judicial candidate. Johnson is married to 14th Judicial Circuit Commonwealth Attorney Sharon Mus. Plaintiffs say this creates a situation where Johnson could not perform the majority of the constitutional duties of the position for which he seeks election unless he violates the Judicial Canons of Ethics.
Maryland – Md. Watchdog: Reports from Pr. George’s school board ethics panel are unreliable
MSN – Nicole Asbury (Washington Post) | Published: 8/27/2022
An ethics report that targeted Prince George’s County school board members was unreliable, included “factually inaccurate” information, and omitted key exonerating statements from witnesses, Maryland’s education watchdog said. The error-riddled reports completed last year by a county school board ethics advisory panel and leaked to some community members, accused seven school board members of a variety of offenses, including steering contracts, doing political favors, and engaging in a quid pro quo with a labor union.
Michigan – Michigan Elections Panel Deadlocks, Leaving Abortion Rights Proposal Off Ballot
Yahoo News – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/1/2022
Michigan’s elections panel deadlocked along partisan lines on certifying an abortion rights measure for this fall’s ballot that proposed adding an explicit right to seek the procedure in the state. The impasse leaves the measure off the ballot. But the Reproductive Freedom for All plans to file an appeal asking the Michigan Supreme Court to put the proposed constitutional amendment before voters as election officials prepare to send out ballots next month. The Board of Canvassers’ two Republican members said organizers circulated a petition to collect voter signatures that was riddled with errors the board could not approve.
Michigan – Romulus Ex-Mayor Burcroff Pleads Guilty in Federal Corruption Case
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 8/25/2022
Former Romulus Mayor LeRoy Burcroff pleaded guilty to wire fraud after being accused of spending more than $15,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses. Federal prosecutors alleged he defrauded campaign donors who thought the money would be spent on re-election expenses. Instead, prosecutors say he spent the money on his daughter’s wedding, a Florida vacation, flowers, a $4,500 alcohol bill, and dues and expenses at the Belleville Yacht Club.
Michigan – Who Controls Where and When You See Political Ads? It’s Complicated.
MLive.com – Jordyn Hermani | Published: 9/1/2022
Online outrage was sparked after a journalist noticed a 30-second advertisement, which alleges Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon believes there should be a total ban on abortion even in the instances of rape or incest, interrupted a children’s cartoon being streamed on Hulu. The streaming service only began running political ads this year after backlash when it initially refused to run ads from Democratic groups. Political scientist Ken Miller said the ad may not have been intended to land in a children’s show but could have a similar effect as if it had been placed during the evening news.
New Jersey – Legislative Resolutions Raise the Question: What’s the point?
New Jersey Monitor – Dana DiFilippo | Published: 8/30/2022
Resolutions are a popular way for state lawmakers to butter up constituents, grab headlines, or publicize their positions on federal issues or other matters over which they wield little control. So far this legislative session, resolutions represent about 10 person of all legislation in the New Jersey General Assembly. But only 22 resolutions, less than three percent of those introduced, have passed this year. John Froonjian of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University, said some resolutions pushed by lawmakers “are not exactly heavyweight public policy,” and he thinks the public can rightly question, “What’s the point?”
New York – Skirting Ethics Order, Hochul Seeks Donations from Cuomo Appointees
archive.today – Jay Root (New York Times) | Published: 8/30/2022
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has been taking money from appointees of the governor, despite an executive order designed to prevent it. In her first year in office, Hochul has accepted more than $400,000 from appointees on boards across the state as well as the appointees’ spouses, a New York Times analysis found. Hochul’s campaign said it was appropriate to accept the contributions because they came from people appointed by her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo. The argument underscored a loophole in the ethics order that would seem to allow one governor to accept money from another governor’s board and commission appointees.
Pennsylvania – Pa.’s Unreliable Lobbyist Disclosure Website Is Getting a User-Friendly Upgrade
Spotlight PA – Kate Huangpu | Published: 8/29/2022
An initiative to improve the online system in Pennsylvania that lobbyists use to disclose which organizations have hired them and how they spend money got a boost in this year’s state budget. A line item listed only as “Lobbying Disclosure” under the Department of State’s general appropriations is funded at $714,000 for the fiscal year that started in July, a 150 percent increase over the previous year. A Department of State spokesperson said the money will fund an IT upgrade to a system that has been criticized as lagging, unintuitive, and often down.
South Dakota – ‘Nobody Thought This Would Be a Governor’: Noem complaint leads to key chapter in short life of ethics board
Fargo Forum – Jason Hayward | Published: 8/30/2022
A recent meeting of the Government Accountability Board, where it moved on two complaints against South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, was the latest in a series of unprecedented events for the board, which was created in response to a series of scandals and an initiated measure. This is the first set of complaints the board has not simply dismissed, meaning the details of the process for a possible contested case must be figured out on the fly. The confidentiality inherent to the board’s process was undermined by Jason Ravnsborg, the former attorney general who brought the complaints public during a feud with Noem over her calling for his impeachment.
Virginia – Judge Throws Out Obscenity Case Attempting to Restrict Sales of Books in Virginia Beach
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 8/30/2022
A judge in Virginia dismissed a lawsuit that sought to declare two books as obscene for children and to restrict their distribution to minors, including by booksellers and libraries. The books in question were “Gender Queer: A Memoir” and “A Court of Mist and Fury.” State Del. Tim Anderson filed the suit on behalf of former GOP congressional candidate Tommy Altman. They characterized it as part of a broader effort to strengthen parental control over what children read, while critics denounced it as old-fashioned censorship. The hearing focused less on the merits of the books or First Amendment issues and more on flaws with Virginia’s obscenity law.
Washington DC – D.C. Office Of Campaign Finance Will Investigate Ward 3 Poll Conducted by Councilmember Elissa Silverman
DCist – Callan Tansill-Suddath | Published: 8/26/2022
The Office of Campaign Finance confirmed it will investigate a complaint against District of Columbia Councilperson Elissa Silverman. The complaint says Silverman conducted a telephone poll of residents in Ward 3 ahead of the June 21 primary election and discussed the results with her preferred candidate in the race. That amounted to improper coordination between campaigns and an in-kind campaign contribution that should have been reported, according to the complaint.
Wisconsin – Former Milwaukee Ald. Chantia Lewis Has Seen Sentenced to 30 Days in Custody, 3 Years’ Probation
Yahoo News – Alison Dirr (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 8/25/2022
Former Milwaukee Ald. Chantia Lewis was sentenced to 30 days in custody as a condition of three years’ probation following her conviction on two felonies related to her conduct in office. Lewis was removed from office after pleading guilty to a count of misconduct in public office and no contest to a count of intentionally accepting an illegal campaign finance disbursement. Prosecutors said she took at least $21,666 in campaign funds and false travel reimbursements from the city between 2016 and 2020.
August 26, 2022 •
National/Federal An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives Seattle Times – Kenneth Vogel and Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2022 A new conservative group received $1.6 billion from one donor, which among the largest – if not the largest […]
An Unusual $1.6 Billion Donation Bolsters Conservatives
Seattle Times – Kenneth Vogel and Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2022
A new conservative group received $1.6 billion from one donor, which among the largest – if not the largest – single contributions ever made to a politically focused nonprofit. The source of the money was Barre Seid, an electronics manufacturing mogul. The beneficiary is a nonprofit controlled by Leonard Leo, an activist who has used his connections to Republican donors and politicians to help engineer the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court and to finance battles over abortion rights, voting rules, and climate change policy.
Ex-Interior Secretary Zinke Lied to Investigators in Casino Case, Watchdog Finds
MSN – Lisa Rein and Anna Phillips (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2022
Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the leading contender to win a new U.S. House seat representing Montana this fall, lied to investigators several times about conversations he had with federal officials, lawmakers, and lobbyists about a petition by two Indian tribes to operate a casino in New England, the department’s watchdog said. Investigators concluded that when questioned about his talks with Interior attorneys and others outside the department, Zinke and his then-chief of staff failed to comply with their “duty of candor” as public officials to tell the truth, the report said.
Federal Campaign Spending on Childcare Expenses Grows in 2022 Midterms
OpenSecrets – Taylor Giorno | Published: 8/17/2022
Federal candidates are on track to spend more money on childcare ahead of 2022 midterms than in either of the previous two election cycles. For the first time since the FEC approved the expense in 2018, men are driving the increase in childcare expenditures. U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell’s campaign spent more money on childcare than any other male federal candidate this election cycle as of June 30. A record number of mothers were sworn into Congress in 2019. But an analysis shows fewer women are using federal funds to cover childcare expenses this election cycle.
Files Copied from Voting Systems Were Shared with Trump Supporters, Election Deniers
MSN – Jon Swaine, Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 8/22/2022
Sensitive election system files obtained by attorneys working to overturn former President Trump’s 2020 defeat were shared with election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and right-wing commentators. A computer forensics firm hired by the attorneys placed the files on a server, where company records show they were downloaded dozens of times. The records include contracts between the firm and the Trump-allied attorneys, notably Sidney Powell. The data files are described as copies of components from election systems in Coffee County, Georgia, and Antrim County, Michigan.
‘It’s a Rip-Off’: GOP spending under fire as Senate hopefuls seek rescue
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf (Washington Post) | Published: 8/19/2022
Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls are getting crushed on airwaves across the country while their national campaign fund is pulling ads and running low on cash, leading some campaign advisers to demand an audit of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) finances. The NRSC canceled bookings worth about $10 million. A spokesperson said the NRSC is not abandoning those races but prioritizing ad spots that are shared with campaigns and benefit from discounted rates. Still, the cancellations forfeit cheaper prices that came from booking early, and better budgeting could have covered both.
Justice Dept. Memo to Not Charge Trump in Russia Probe Released
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2022
The Justice Department released the entire text of a secret 2019 memo that laid out the legal rationale for not charging then-President Trump with committing obstruction of justice in the investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election. The memo says no potential instances of obstruction of justice by Trump that were cited by special counsel Robert Mueller III’s “would warrant a prosecution for obstruction of justice,” regardless of whether the person being investigated was a sitting president.
New Claims Against Ex-Miami Congressman Hired by Venezuela
Yahoo News – Joshua Goodman (Associated Press) | Published: 8/20/2022
Former U.S. Rep. David Rivera, who signed a $50 million consulting contract with Venezuela’s socialist government, not only did no apparent work, but also channeled a large chunk of the money to a yacht company on behalf of a fugitive billionaire, according to new allegations in a civil suit. Rivera’s Interamerican Consulting was sued by PDV USA, a Delaware-based affiliate of Venezuelan-owned Citgo. It alleges Rivera performed no work for the $50 million contract he signed in 2017 for three months of “strategic consulting” meant to build bridges with key U.S. stakeholders.
Rep. Cawthorn Tells Feds He Forgot About $236K; Sends Amended Campaign Finance Report
Yahoo News – Joe Burgess (Asheville Citizen-Times) | Published: 8/22/2022
Days after filing a mandatory federal campaign finance document whose month-late arrival could garner him more than $17,000 in fines, U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn has filed another document saying he got the first report wrong. That is because he forgot about the $235,566 that he personally gave the campaign, the latest report says. While amendments such as the one Cawthorn filed are not uncommon, ones that show large changes can trigger FEC action, said FEC spokesperson Mills Martin. “What is part of the amendment that might be looked at by the FEC are what the changes are and what the additional amounts are,” Martin said.
Republicans Turn Against League of Women Voters
ProPublica – Megan O’Matz | Published: 8/18/2022
The League of Women Voters, known for focusing on voter registration, hosting debates, and conducting candidate surveys, has been more visible recently in advocating for issues like racial equity and abortion rights. As a result, the league is drawing criticism in ways that are extraordinary for the once-staid group. Republicans are pushing back, casting it as a collection of angry leftists. With more right-leaning candidates snubbing the league, voters are less likely to hear directly from those candidates in unscripted forums. That pushback sidelines the league at a time when misinformation has become a significant force in elections at every level.
Some Companies’ Political Spending Fuel Voter Suppression. Shareholders are Pushing Back
Fast Company – Kathryn Kranhold (Capital & Main) | Published: 8/25/2022
Shareholders are pressuring some of the largest American corporations to account for political spending that may be aiding voter suppression or election interference. In the past, shareholder activism has focused mostly on corporate-responsibility causes, such as environmental issues and pay equity between men and women as well as governance like executive pay. The newest movement, addressing threats to democracy, is gaining traction.
Trump Had More Than 300 Classified Documents at Mar-a-Lago
Yahoo News – Maggie Haberman, Jodi Kantor, Adam Goldman, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 8/22/2022
The initial batch of documents retrieved by the National Archives from former President Trump in January included more than 150 marked as classified, a number that ignited concern at the Justice Department and helped trigger the investigation that led FBI agents to search Mar-a-Lago seeking to recover more, people briefed on the matter said. In total, the government has recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings from Trump since he left office. The volume of the sensitive material found in Trump’s possession helps explain why the Justice Department moved so urgently to hunt down any further classified materials he might have.
Trump Kept More Than 700 Pages of Classified Documents, Letter from National Archives Says
Minneapolis Star Tribune – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 8/23/2022
Donald Trump took more than 700 pages of classified documents, including some related to the nation’s most covert intelligence operations, to his private club and residence in Florida when he left the White House, according to a letter the National Archives sent to his lawyers. The letter described the alarm in the Justice Department as officials realized how serious the documents were. It also suggested top prosecutors and members of the intelligence community were delayed in conducting a damage assessment about the documents’ removal as Trump’s lawyers tried to argue some of them might have been protected by executive privilege.
White Coats in the State Capital: OB-GYNs become political force in abortion wars
Yahoo News – Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly (Politico) | Published: 8/22/2022
Physicians, many of whom have never mobilized politically, are banding together in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, lobbying state lawmakers, testifying before committees, forming PACs, and launching online campaigns against proposed abortion restrictions. Lawmakers who are physicians are using their medical backgrounds to persuade colleagues to scale back some of the more restrictive and punitive portions of anti-abortion laws being considered. The new groups’ early successes in some of the nation’s most conservative states signal the power they hope to wield in the coming months as well as in years to come.
Canada – Ethics Investigation Flags Problem with Transparency in Alberta’s Lobbyist Act
MSN – Hamdi Issawi (Edmonton Journal) | Published: 8/22/2022
One of Alberta’s rules for registering lobbyists needs to change “to promote public transparency” according to a recent investigation by the province’s office of the ethics commissioner. The office began an investigation in May to determine whether Mark Kuspira, the owner of a business known as Crush Imports, had breached the Lobbyists Act – specifically whether he failed to appropriately file a return with the lobbyist registry, and whether he had been lobbying without a filed return.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Ranked Choice Voting, in First Test in Alaska, Is Already Under Attack
Yahoo News – Nathaniel Herz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 8/17/2022
Alaskans went to the polls on August 16 for the first time using a new ranked choice system that is already under attack by a number of the politicians competing within it, and voters, in interviews, offered wide-ranging reviews. Many said they like the new system and called it intuitive. But there was also anger from voters across the political spectrum, even though much of the criticism of ranked choice has so far come from conservatives who assert it was set up to protect incumbent U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski from right-wing challengers.
Arizona – Court Battles Rage Over 3 Arizona Voter Initiatives
MSN – Bob Christie (Associated Press) | Published: 8/15/2022
Proponents of three voter initiatives who each turned in hundreds of thousands of signatures to qualify them for the November ballot are trying to beat back legal challenges that could prevent them from going before voters. Two of the measures – one requiring disclosure of who is funding political campaigns and another rolling back or blocking efforts by Republicans to tighten voting rules – are being challenged by pro-business groups. They alleged paid petition circulators made errors or omitted required information on their registrations with the secretary of state or petitions.
Arkansas – Court Tosses Arkansas Law Limiting Election Helpers
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Doug Thompson | Published: 8/23/2022
A 2009 Arkansas law forbidding one person from acting as translator for more than six voters in casting their ballots violates the federal Voting Rights Act, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Brooks ruled. A provision of the 1965 law allows voters who require assistance because of an inability to read or write to get assistance from a person of the voter’s choice, Brooks said. His order told state and county election officials to cease trying to enforce the six-person limit and strike all mention of it from election materials.
Arkansas – Settlement Requires Arkansas Senator to Unblock Critics
MSN – Andrew DeMillo (Associated Press) | Published: 8/17/2022
Arkansas Sen. Jason Rapert will be required to unblock critics from his social media accounts under a settlement a national atheists’ group. Rapert is required to remove any restrictions on his social media accounts and will have to pay more than $16,000 to American Atheists for costs related to a lawsuit. Rapert said he is the founder and president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, which works to “restore the Judeo-Christian foundations of our government.”
California – California Targets Local Recall Election ‘Hyperpartisanship’
MSN – Don Thompson (Associated Press) | Published: 8/23/2022
Democratic lawmakers moved to limit the “hyperpartisanship” they said has increasingly corrupted California’s local recall elections, over the objection of Republicans who said it could boost costs and thwart voters’ will. Currently, voters generally decide whether to recall a sitting official and choose that official’s replacement at the same time and on the same ballot. But that could result in a replacement taking office with a minority of votes in a multi-candidate field, and with potentially fewer votes than the official who is ousted.
California – Judge Issues Order That Keeps Herb Wesson Off the L.A. City Council
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/23/2022
A judge barred former Los Angeles City Councilperson Herb Wesson from returning to City Hall as a temporary fill-in for council member Mark Ridley-Thomas for at least two months, leaving his district without a voting representative. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Southern California has argued Wesson is barred under the city’s term limit law from returning to the council while Ridley-Thomas fights corruption charges. Wesson served more than three terms, the maximum allowed, before being appointed to the temporary post earlier this year.
California – This Former L.A. Politician Took Cash in Envelopes. Now He’s Been Fined $79,830
MSN – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 8/17/2022
Five years ago, Los Angeles City Councilperson Mitchell Englander took a fateful trip to Las Vegas with a clutch of businesspeople and city staffers, accepting a free hotel room, expensive liquor, and an envelope containing $10,000, among other things. That trip eventually led to a 14-month prison sentence for Englander. The city Ethics Commission voted recently to levy a $79,830 penalty against him for violating gift laws. Commission investigators concluded Englander far exceeded the city’s limits on gifts to public officials, failed to fully report those gifts, and misused his position as a council member.
Florida – DeSantis’s New Election Crimes Unit Makes Its First Arrests
MSN – Lori Rozsa and Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 8/18/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first arrests made by the state’s new elections police force – twenty people previously incarcerated for murder or sexual assault who he said had illegally voted in the 2020 election. The Florida Legislature passed a bill creating the Office of Election Crimes and Security earlier this year at DeSantis’s behest. While the 2020 election went smoothly in Florida – DeSantis called it the “gold standard” for elections – the governor has said there are still issues and conservative lawmakers have sought to further tighten voting regulations.
Florida – Judge Blocks Florida’s ‘Stop Woke Act’ Restrictions for Private Companies
MSN – Tim Craig (Washington Post) | Published: 8/18/2022
A federal judge ruled that a Florida law restricting workplace bias or diversity training violates the First Amendment and cannot be enforced. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker said Florida has turned “the First Amendment upside down” by trying to regulate how employers train employees on topics such as racial inclusion and gender equity. The “Stop Woke Act” prohibits trainings in public schools, colleges and universities, and workplaces that may cause someone to feel guilty or ashamed about the past collective actions of their race or sex. A violation of the act is an offense under state anti-discrimination laws.
Georgia – Georgia PSC Elections Again Delayed After High Court Ruling
MSN – Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 8/19/2022
Two Georgia Public Service Commission elections will not occur this November, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, reversing an earlier appeals court ruling that allowed them to proceed. Instead, the justices reverted to the original decision by a federal judge in Atlanta that postponed the vote after finding that electing the five commissioners statewide illegally diluted Black votes. The Supreme Court ruled U.S. District Court Judge Steven Grimberg’s decision did not come too close to the election.
Georgia – Sen. Graham Gets Temporary Reprieve in Testifying Before Ga. Grand Jury
MSN – Amy Wang and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 8/21/2022
A federal appeals court has temporarily paused an order that would have required U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham to testify before a Georgia grand jury investigating Republican efforts to reverse the 2020 presidential election results in the state. The legal maneuvering is the latest sign of tension between prosecutors and high-profile witnesses in the Fulton County district attorney’s expansive criminal probe of alleged election interference by former President Trump and his allies. After seeking repeated delays, Rudy Giuliani testified for six hours recently.
Michigan – Jury Convicts Adam Fox, Barry Croft Jr. in Whitmer Kidnapping Plot
MSN – Tresa Baldas (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 8/23/2022
In a do-over for the government, a federal jury convicted two men charged with plotting to kidnap and kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer out of anger over her handling of the pandemic, ending a trial that highlighted the growth of violent extremism in America. Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted on all counts and face up to life in prison. The men were judged by a second, more diverse jury than in the first trial, which ended with no convictions for the government. Two men were acquitted in that trial and the jury deadlocked on charges against Fox and Croft Jr., triggering a mistrial that prompted the government to try again.
Missouri – Ex-St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad Admits Federal Corruption Charges
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joel Currier | Published: 8/23/2022
Former St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad pleaded guilty in a federal bribery case against him and two other ex-city officials. He admitted to theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, racketeering, and wire fraud. Collins-Muhammad is the first of three ex-council members to plead guilty after being indicted on charges of accepting cash bribes from a local businessperson in exchange for tax breaks. He admitted accepting $7,000 in cash, $3,000 in campaign donations, a new iPhone 11, and a 2016 Volkswagen CC sedan in exchange for his help.
New Jersey – Car Insurance Bills Shine Spotlight on Lawmaker Ethics
New Jersey Monitor – Sophie Nieto-Munoz | Published: 8/23/2022
In New Jersey’s part-time Legislature, lawmakers are often involved in legislation related directly to their full-time careers. Often these votes generate little controversy, especially if the bills pass with wide support. While watchdogs might voice concerns about conflicts-of-interest, lawmakers say their day jobs offer an insider’s knowledge that helps them better shape potential policy. But sometimes public policy can lead to financial windfalls. That is why questions are swirling about whether two top lawmakers will financially benefit from a package of bills Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law recently.
New York – Lobbyists Navigate a More Civil Yet Nuanced Landscape in Albany
City & State – Tim Murphy | Published: 8/22/2022
For a decade, and until only about a year ago, lobbyists, advocates, consultants, and others seeking to influence Albany all feared one thing: the wrath of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his close advisors. Dealing with Cuomo’s inner circle was never pleasant, according to lobbyists, but cross them and they would lash out. In the past year with Gov. Kathy Hochul, they said that has changed.
North Carolina – N.C. Attorney General Can’t Be Charged with Crime Over Campaign Ad – Yet
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/24/2022
An appeals court temporarily blocked an investigation into North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein over a negative campaign ad, saying the state law he is accused of violating is probably unconstitutional. The debate turns on a 1931 law that criminalized the publication of a “derogatory” campaign ad, “knowing such report to be false or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity.” A grand jury is investigating whether Stein lied during his successful 2020 reelection campaign in an ad blaming his Republican rival for a backlog of untested rape kits. Even if the ad was false, Stein argued, it would be protected under current First Amendment doctrine.
Ohio – Cleveland Businessman Tony George Was Go-Between for FirstEnergy, Ex-House Speaker Larry Householder Over Nuclear Bailout
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/22/2022
New documents reveal a close relationship between Cleveland restaurateur Tony George and FirstEnergy in the House Bill 6 bribery scheme, with George acting as an intermediary between top company officials and now-indicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. Tracy Aston, FirstEnergy’s assistant controller, identified George as “Individual B” in the utility’s deferred prosecution agreement with federal authorities. The agreement says “Individual B” was in communication with now-fired FirstEnergy Chief Executive Officer Chuck Jones about an early effort to bail out two nuclear power plants, as well as an aborted effort by Householder to skirt state term limits.
Ohio – The Hidden Role of a Religious Lobbying Group in Ohio’s Education ‘Backpack Bill’
Ohio Capital Journal – Zurie Pope | Published: 8/24/2022
An Ohio bill that would send public education money to private schools if a student chooses to attend one was written with help from religious lobbying group the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV) and a think tank that promotes charter schools. Documents reveal CCV’s involvement in House Bill has been more extensive than previously known and included the advice and promotion of outside groups like Heritage Action and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Pennsylvania – Philly’s Board of Ethics Will Consider Banning Super PAC ‘Redboxing’ Ahead of the 2023 Mayoral Race
Philadelphia Inquirer – Sean Collins Walsh | Published: 8/17/2022
The Philadelphia Board of Ethics heard testimony on whether it should tighten rules aimed at preventing campaigns from indirectly communicating with political groups that can raise and spend money in unlimited amounts but are prohibited from coordinating with candidates. A proposed amendment that aims to crack down on a new strategy known as “redboxing” that some candidates for federal office have used to give instructions to supportive outside spending groups without communicating with them directly. But election lawyers say the wording of the amendment is too broad and could unintentionally capture normal campaign messaging.
South Dakota – SD Gov. Kristi Noem May Have ‘Engaged in Misconduct,’ Ethics Board Says
NBC News – Associated Press | Published: 8/23/2022
The South Dakota Government Accountability Board said it found sufficient information that Gov. Kristi Noem may have “engaged in misconduct” when she intervened in her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser’s license, and it referred a separate complaint over her airplane use to the state attorney general for investigation. She is under scrutiny from the board after Jason Ravnsborg, the former attorney general, filed complaints that stemmed from media reports on Noem’s actions in office. The governor has denied any wrongdoing.
Tennessee – Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada, Cade Cothren Plead Not Guilty to Federal Corruption Charges
MSN – Melissa Brown and Adam Friedman (Tennessean) | Published: 8/23/2022
Former Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada and his onetime chief of staff, Cade Cothren, were arrested on federal corruption charges including bribery, kickbacks, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Prosecutors allege the pair ran a shadowy political consulting firm fronted by Cothren to solicit General Assembly business and siphon off kickbacks. Casada is the first current or former House speaker to be indicted in state history. He resigned as speaker amid a texting scandal over sexually explicit and racist conversations with Cothren.
Texas – Election Staff Abruptly Quits, Upending Rural Texas County
MSN – Paul Weber (Associated Press) | Published: 8/22/2022
Part of why Terry Hamilton says he abruptly left his job running elections in Gillespie County, Texas, is by now a familiar story in America – he became fed up with the harassment that followed the 2020 election. But this was no ordinary exit. On the brink of November’s midterm elections, it was not just Hamilton who quit but also the only other full-time election worker. The sudden emptying of an entire local elections department came less than 70 days before voters start casting ballots.
Texas – One Former and One Current State Rep Are Set to Get Part of Lucrative Houston Airport Contracts
AviationPros – Dylan McGuinness (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 8/18/2022
The Houston City Council passed a lucrative contract granting food and beverage shops inside Bush Intercontinental Airport to a partnership that includes a former legislative colleague and longtime friend of Mayor Sylvester Turner. The city said it will publicly announce the vendors after the second contract passes City Council. An affiliate of SSP Group is leading the food and beverage contract. Multiplex Inc., the concessions company founded by former state Rep. Helen Giddings of Dallas, is a junior partner in that deal. The SSP deal also involves Karen Garcia, the wife of Roland Garcia, who chaired the city’s Hispanic Advisory Council for Turner.
Texas – Texas Bans Local, State Government Entities from Doing Business with Firms That ‘Boycott’ Fossil Fuels
Texas Tribune – Mitchell Ferman | Published: 8/24/2022
Texas banned 10 financial firms from doing business with the state after Comptroller Glenn Hegar said they did not support the oil and gas industry. Hegar sent inquiries to hundreds of financial companies earlier this year requesting information about whether they were avoiding investments in the oil and gas industry in favor of renewable energy companies. The survey was a result of a new law that went into effect in September and prohibits most state agencies, as well as local governments, from contracting with firms that have cut ties with carbon-emitting energy companies.
Washington – ‘Gold Standard’ or Unconstitutional? Facebook and Wash. State AG Spar Over Political Ad Disclosure Law
MSN – Todd Bishop (GeekWire) | Published: 8/16/2022
Facebook parent company Meta and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson agree on this: the state’s campaign advertising disclosure law is exceptional. But is that good or bad – and more importantly, is the law constitutional? That is a matter of significant disagreement as both sides prepare for a key hearing in King County Superior Court in Seattle. It promises to be a pivotal moment in a long-running dispute over the state’s public disclosure requirements for tech platforms that run campaign ads.
Wyoming – Secretary of State Halts Unusual Effort to Put Candidate on Ballot Against Gray
Casper Star-Tribune – Victoria Eavis | Published: 8/23/2022
The Wyoming secretary of state’s office quashed an effort to put an independent challenger on the ballot to run against state Rep. Chuck Gray, the Republican secretary of state nominee. After Sen. Cale Case challenged the secretary of state’s interpretation of a statute that requires all independent candidates to sign off on their own candidacy, the chief elections office ruled against him. Case was attempting to get former legislator Nathan Winters on the ballot as an independent, despite the fact that Winters does not want to run.
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