Holding State Officials Accountable.
CfA not only holds federal officials accountable, but also state and local officials to whom no one else is paying attention. As local news organizations face ever-deepening cuts in their editorial budgets, CfA tracks local and state officials whose self-serving actions may otherwise go undetected. Below are some of the highlights of our state oversight work.
In 2015, CfA called on Attorneys General in Utah, Arizona, and Montana to investigate Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory for fraud. CfA’s complaints alleged Rep. Ivory, as the then-president of the American Lands Council, had defrauded local governments by soliciting funds to advocate for a patently unconstitutional proposition: the transfer of national lands to state control. The Utah Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation, and Ivory stepped down as CEO of the American Lands Council amid public scrutiny.
In July 2016, CfA demanded an audit of the Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands after CfA reviewed invoices released by the commission and discovered numerous examples of luxury travel, billing inconsistencies, and apparently prohibited lobbying expenditures charged to Utah taxpayers. On September 13, 2016, we requested that the Commission release the results of its internal review.
In September 2017, CfA called on the Utah Commission for the Stewardship of Public Lands to release all communications, documents, and invoices submitted by its law firm, Davillier Law Group, LLC. Press reports and public documents indicate the Commission has continued to work with Davillier, but the Commission has refused to release any documents or invoices prepared by the law firm.
In April 2017, CfA asked the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri to open an investigation into whether Missouri State Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard violated federal law by accepting a $100,000 campaign contribution in return for legislative assistance. Richard accepted the contribution from TAMKO Building Products CEO and President David Humphrey, just six days after introducing legislation that could derail a class action lawsuit that could cost the company millions of dollars.
In September 2017, Campaign for Accountability called on Cole County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Richardson to investigate whether Paul Mouton, a political consultant for GOP megadonor David Humphreys, should be charged with a criminal offense for violating Missouri lobbying laws. Earlier that week, Mouton was fined a mere $200 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for illegally lobbying in the state Capitol.
In February 2017, CfA sued Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder for failing to respond to an open records request relating to her work with the Utah-based nonprofit, the American Lands Council (ALC). (Continue reading about our State Oversight work below).
As local news organizations face ever-deepening cuts in their editorial budgets, Campaign for Accountability tracks local and state officials whose self-serving actions may otherwise go undetected.
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In September 2017, CfA filed a complaint with Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore requesting an investigation into whether the Heidi Group, an anti-abortion nonprofit based in Texas, violated criminal law by misappropriating taxpayer funds. In addition, CfA filed a complaint against the group with the IRS.
Between 2016 and 2017, Texas Health and Human Services signed two contracts with the Heidi Group’s Executive Director, Carol Everett, designating nearly $7 million in state funds for the nonprofit. The Heidi Group promised to provide family planning and reproductive health care to low income Texans by helping subcontractors expand their services. The state of Texas initiated these programs after eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood, which led to a significant decrease in women’s access to state health programs.
CfA’s six-month investigation of the Heidi Group, relying on thousands of pages of state records, revealed an appalling record of mismanagement and neglect by Everett. CfA found the Heidi Group provided almost no work for its $1.6 million contract through the Healthy Texas Women program or for its $5.1 million contract through the Family Planning Program.
Additionally, in July 2016, CfA released a report entitled Documenting Discrimination, which uncovered how national right wing religious groups – working through smaller local groups – are spearheading the movement to legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals through Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) legislation. In Texas, emails from a top staffer in the governor’s office revealed how First Liberty, which bills itself as “the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to defending religious liberty for all Americans,” worked hand-in-glove with a Texas group, Texas Values, to advance the state’s RFRA bill.
In November 2017, CfA filed a lawsuit against Oklahoma officials for failing to release copies of audits and documents related to corruption allegations associated with the management of the Tar Creek Reclamation site. While he was serving as the Attorney General of Oklahoma, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt declined to bring criminal charges in response to an audit that found evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the Tar Creek Reclamation site. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has fought to prevent the release of this audit.
In May 2016, CfA called on Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to investigate former Johnson County Election Commissioner Brian Newby for flagrantly violating Kansas criminal law by submitting false expenses, misusing public funds, and conspiring to cover up his conduct. Our complaint detailed how Newby misspent government funds on toys, books, and travel, among other questionable expenses.
In November 2015, CfA released Academic Deception, which revealed how a payday lending industry trade association paid for and edited a controversial academic paper published by Arkansas Tech University that claimed payday loans do not leave consumers trapped in cycles of debt. Furthermore, the Consumer Credit Research Foundation, the industry trade group, filed a lawsuit to block Kennesaw State University in Georgia from releasing any records. CfA is in litigation over the matter, and the case is being argued before the Georgia Supreme Court.
CfA continues to conduct investigations into the wrongdoings of state and local officials. Click below to learn about our most recent state oversight initiatives.