News You Can Use Digest - August 11, 2023 - State and Federal Communications

August 11, 2023  •  

News You Can Use Digest – August 11, 2023


FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried Still Slapped with Campaign Finance Charge, Prosecutors Say

ABC News – Aaron Katersky and Max Zahn | Published: 8/8/2023

Federal prosecutors signaled their intention to hold cryptocurrency executive Sam Bankman-Fried accountable for alleged campaign finance violations despite dropping the charge on a technicality. Prosecutors accused Bankman-Fried of seeking influence in Washington and in state capitals by improperly using customer and investor money to make political donations.

Special Counsel Got a Search Warrant for Twitter to Turn Over Info on Trump’s Account, Documents Say

Associated Press News – Alanna Durkin Richer | Published: 8/9/2023

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team obtained a search warrant in January for records related to Donald Trump’s Twitter account, and a judge levied a $350,000 fine on the company for missing the deadline to comply. Smith’s team repeatedly mentioned Trump’s tweets in an indictment that charges the former president with conspiring to subvert the will of voters and cling to power after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden.

From Right-Hand Man to Critical Witness: Pence at heart of Trump prosecution

DNyuz – Shane Goldmacher, Maggie Astor, and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 8/7/2023

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s transformation from Donald Trump’s most loyal lieutenant to an indispensable, if reluctant, witness for his prosecution became clear when he emerged as perhaps the central character in an indictment accusing the former president of a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. The indictment revealed Pence kept contemporaneous notes on the tumultuous period leading up to January 6, 2021. “You’re too honest,” Trump berated Pence as he refused to go along with the election plot, according to the indictment.

Judge Asks Prosecutors to Justify Use of 2 Grand Juries in Trump Documents Case

MSN – Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon asked prosecutors to explain the use of grand juries in Florida and Washington in the classified documents case against Donald Trump even though charges were filed in South Florida. For many months, prosecutors questioned witnesses in the Florida case before a federal grand jury in Washington. The proceedings yielded much of the evidence at the crux of the case. But in May, the grand jury activity appeared to continue in Miami. Ultimately, prosecutors filed charges in a West Palm Beach courthouse in the same district as Miami and the area where Trump’s home is located.

New PAC Aims to Elect Young Progressives Running for State Offices, Congress

MSN – Sabrina Rodriguez (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023

A co-founder of March for Our Lives and the campaign manager who helped elect the first Gen Z member of Congress are teaming up to launch a new organization focused on getting more young progressives elected to office, primarily focusing on state lawmakers. Leaders We Deserve aims to help young people running for state Legislatures and Congress by providing candidates they endorse with the campaign knowledge – from fundraising to networking – and money to win.

DeSantis Replaces 2024 Campaign Manager in Continued Shakeup

MSN – Steve Contorno and Kit Maher (CNN) | Published: 8/8/2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis replaced campaign manager Generra Peck, ending speculation about her future leading his struggling White House bid and continuing a shakeup of his presidential campaign. In her place, DeSantis chose James Uthmeier, the chief of staff for his gubernatorial office, a trusted adviser known in Florida as an enforcer of DeSantis’s agenda. The latest move reflects a campaign still grasping for solutions to build support and recapture momentum of when DeSantis was surging after a dominant performance in his gubernatorial reelection.

FEC Commissioner Trey Trainor Cleared of Ethics Violation After Insider Reporting Spurred Investigation

MSN – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 8/8/2023

The FEC’s inspector general found Commissioner Trey Trainor did not commit any ethics violations after he participated in an “election integrity” event where he was labeled as a member of the “Trump Elections Team.” The inspector general said while it may appear he acted improperly, his billing was written without his knowledge, undermining “any appearance of impropriety.” The report notes Trainor and his counsel refused to cooperate with the government’s investigation.

DeSantis Super PAC Shares Cost for Private Air Travel in Unusual Deal

MSN – Michael Scherer and Isaac Arnsdorf (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2023

A super PAC funding much of Ron DeSantis’s presidential effort has become a joint investor with his campaign in a private transportation management company that provides lower-cost airplane leases for the Florida governor. The unusual agreement, which allows both the DeSantis campaign and the Never Back Down to lease planes in a larger volume at lower market rates, is another way DeSantis and his allies have found to use unlimited donations to help cover the cost of activities historically borne directly by official campaigns.

‘Fake’ Elector Plot Raised Concerns Over Legal Peril, Indictment Shows

MSN – Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley, Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023

Donald Trump’s defenders have long insisted his false elector scheme was legal because the slates met as mere placeholders, to be activated only if the campaign won in court. Prosecutors now charge that Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and others intended all along to use the electors to falsely claim the outcome of the election was in doubt, facilitating an effort to obstruct the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in Congress on January 6, 2021. Especially important may be the experience in Pennsylvania, where new interviews reveal the extent of discomfort with the plan by Trump electors.

Fight Over Trump Jan. 6 Secrecy Order Marks Start of Race to Trial

MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2023

A federal judge ordered a hearing over prosecutors’ demand that former President Trump keep government evidence turned over in his criminal election interference case secret until trial, as the two sides clashed anew over whether permitting Trump to discuss the case would taint potential jurors or intimidate witnesses. Prosecutors said they wanted to turn over evidence to speed the defense’s trial preparations but were concerned about Trump’s history of posting on social media about “witnesses, judges, attorneys and others” associated with cases against him.

Supreme Court Struggling to Agree on Ethics Policy, Justice Kagan Says

MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2023

Justice Elena Kagan said the Supreme Court, which has faced criticism over lavish, undisclosed free travel by some of her colleagues, is struggling to devise an ethics policy despite continued discussion. The criticism stems from expensive trips taken years ago by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr. underwritten by wealthy business executives and not disclosed in required annual financial reports. Kagan provided fresh insight into the struggle to craft a policy distinct from the ethics code that applies to other federal judges.

Clarence Thomas’ 38 Vacations: The other billionaires who have treated the Supreme Court justice to luxury travel

ProPublica – Brett Murphy and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 8/10/2023

During Clarence Thomas’s three decades on the Supreme Court, a cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events, and sent their private jets to fetch him – including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It is a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood.

Once Rare, Impeachments and Censures Have Become the Norm in Congress

Seattle Times – Carl Hulse (New York Times) | Published: 8/8/2023

Proposals to censure lawmakers and impeach members of the Biden administration are piling up quickly in the U.S. House in an illustration of how once-solemn acts are becoming almost routine as the two parties seize on these procedures as part of their political combat. The proliferation of censures and cries for impeachment is troubling to some who see it as a threat to the standing of the institution as well as diminishing the weight such punishments are supposed to carry. Censure is the congressional penalty just below expulsion.

Trading Places: More lawmakers are swapping political parties

Yahoo News – Liz Champion (Politico) | Published: 8/9/2023

Ten state lawmakers nationwide switched parties in 2023. That includes six who jumped from one of the major parties to the other. In 2022, by contrast, just two state lawmakers changed affiliation between the Democrats and Republicans. The uptick in party transitions this year speaks to the growing polarization and party feuding inside state Capitols. In some states that saw allegiance flips, it had huge bearing on what legislation passed.

DeSantis, with a Subtle Maneuver, Hides His Small-Dollar Donations

Yahoo News – Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 8/9/2023

When WinRed, the company that processes nearly all online Republican campaign contributions, recently released its trove of donor data for the first half of the year, contributions were conspicuously absent for one presidential candidate: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. It was no technical glitch. The DeSantis campaign worked with WinRed in a way that prevented the disclosure of donor information, ensuring the campaign’s small donors would remain anonymous.

Clarence Thomas’ $267,230 RV and the Friend Who Financed It

Yahoo News – Jo Becker and Julie Tate (New York Times) | Published: 8/5/2023

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Prevost Marathon cost $267,230, according to title history records. Thomas, who has told friends how he scrimped and saved to afford the motor coach, did not buy it on his own. In fact, the purchase was underwritten, at least in part, by Anthony Welters, a close friend who made his fortune in the health care industry. He provided Thomas with financing that experts said a bank would have been unlikely to extend, not only because Thomas was already carrying a lot of debt, but because the Marathon brand’s high level of customization makes its used motor coaches difficult to value.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska – Top Alaska Officials Facing Ethics Complaints Could Get State Representation Under Proposed Rules

Anchorage Daily News – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 8/3/2023

The Alaska Department of Law is proposing rules that would allow the state to represent a governor, lieutenant governor, or attorney general in complaints against them alleging ethics violations. Currently, they must hire outside attorneys to represent them in such matters. Under the proposed rules, those officeholders could decline representation by the department and hire their own attorneys if they wished.

Arizona – ‘It’s Underway’: Probe begins into $24K mailer deal at Maricopa County Democratic Party

MSN – Mary Jo Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/7/2023

The interim director of the Maricopa County Democratic Party said he launched an investigation into the party’s handling of a $24,000 business deal that has led to accusations of cronyism, altered postal records, and cover-ups. The deal appeared to be intended to benefit the former executive director’s fiancé. The party spent $24,480 for a mass mailing before the November 2022 election. But the mailer never reached the mailboxes of the 118,000 Democrats for whom it was intended, and the money was only refunded months later, after the party’s attorneys demanded repayment.

California – Mayor Aitken Announces Reforms Anaheim City Council Will Start Considering

MSN – Michael Slaton (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/8/2023

Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken announced her plans for the city council to start discussing several new reforms in the wake of the release of an independent investigation into corruption at City Hall, including several changes focused on transparency. “The release of last week’s independent report confirmed the wrongdoing that many suspected was going on for years,” Aitken said in a news release. “… Restoring transparency and public confidence will take time, and reforms will likely come in stages.”

California – Investigators Allege Pattern of Lobbyists Potentially Violating Anaheim Disclosure Rules

MSN – Michael Slaton and Tony Saavedra (Orange County Register) | Published: 8/2/2023

Independent investigators hired by Anaheim said they found numerous potential violations of the city’s lobbying laws in the last decade, in what they described as a “pattern of behavior” by lobbyists. A report on corruption highlighted former Mayor Curt Pringle and Jeff Flint, the former chief executive of Core Strategic Group, saying they failed to report their lobbying activity to the city clerk, which investigators said was potentially a crime of perjury. To combat the issues described in their report, investigators recommended Anaheim create a city ombudsman/ethics officer, whose duties would include monitoring the lobbying reports submitted.

California – San Jose Grants Few Former Employees Lobbying Exemptions

San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadah | Published: 8/4/2023

In San Jose, when you leave a job working for the city you are barred from lobbying anyone at City Hall for at least two years. But a handful of ex-employees are exceptions to the rule. The latest example is Allie Hughes, a former staffer for San Jose Councilperson David Cohen. She recently left the city to work as a lobbyist for Canyon Snow Consulting. City Attorney Nora Frimann recommended the exemption, citing Hughes’ limited time with the city.

Florida – Florida Says AP Psychology Doesn’t Violate the Law, After All

MSN – Laura Meckler (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023

After days of confusion, the Florida education commissioner said high schools may teach Advanced Placement Psychology without running afoul of Florida law, including material on sexual orientation and gender identity. Commissioner Manny Díaz Jr. had told districts previously that the class could be offered, but only if material on those topics was excluded. Large school districts across Florida responded by dropping the course and began a stressful process of quickly preparing instructors to teach new curriculum.

Florida – Former Kissimmee Commissioner, County Commission Candidate Sentenced for Campaign Finance Violations

Yahoo News – Charles Frazier (WFTV) | Published: 8/9/2023

A former Kissimmee city commissioner who was accused of entering a 2022 race for the Osceola County Commission as a “ghost candidate” was sentenced to jail for campaign finance violations. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, their investigation into Carlos Irizarry’s campaign began when they were notified of allegations that he was offered money to enter the race only to affect the outcome by taking votes from opposing candidate Jackie Espinosa.

Florida – Federal Judge Rules That Ban on Lobbying by Elected Officials Violates Free Speech

Yahoo News – Mary Ellen Klas (Miami Herald) | Published: 8/9/2023

A federal judge struck down a Florida law that restricted state and local officials lobbying other government bodies while in office. U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom sided with officials who argued the language in a 2018 ballot measure was too broad and poorly defined to comply with First Amendment protections on free speech. Bloom left intact another portion of the law that bans elected and appointed government officials from lobbying the agencies they represented for six years after leaving them.

Illinois – Former Madigan Chief of Staff Tim Mapes Heading to Trial on Charges He Lied to Federal Grand Jury Investigating His Boss

MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/6/2023

As the federal investigation into then-House Speaker Michael Madigan was heating up two years ago, prosecutors assured Tim Mapes, Madigan’s onetime chief of staff, would not be charged as long as he told the truth to a grand jury. But prosecutors allege Mapes lied repeatedly in his testimony in an ill-fated attempt to protect his longtime boss. Now, Mapes, a key member of Madigan’s inner circle, is on trial on perjury charges. His indictment marked an intriguing power play by the U.S. attorney’s office in what has become one of the biggest political corruption scandals in state history.

Kansas – Kansas Commerce Deputy’s Lucrative Contract May Trigger Stronger Conflict of Interest Laws

Yahoo News – Jason Alatidd (Topeka Capital-Journal) | Published: 8/3/2023

A Kansas lawmaker wants to rewrite conflict-of-interest laws in response to a state employee bidding on and winning a consulting contract. Paul Hughes, the former Commerce Department deputy secretary, formed Catapult Kansas while still employed by the state. He then bid on a consulting contract – he was the only bidder – and was awarded the contract for $180,000 a year.

Maine – Ballot Question Seeks to Ban Foreign Spending

The Center Square – Christian Wade | Published: 8/3/2023

Maine voters will have a say in whether foreign corporations should be allowed to spend money to sway the outcome. Supporters say the ballot question is aimed at eliminating a loophole in state law that allows foreign governments to spend money on referendum campaigns. Foreign entities cannot contribute to political candidates under both federal and state election laws.

Michigan – Pro-Trump Attorney Is Third Indicted in Michigan Vote Machine Probe

Bridge Michigan – Jonathan Oosting | Published: 8/3/2023

Stefanie Lambert Junttila, a pro-Trump attorney who challenged 2020 election results across the country, was charged with four felonies stemming from an alleged plot to illegally access Michigan voting machines. Lambert Junttila is the third suspect indicted by a grand jury in special prosecutor D.J. Hilson’s probe of the alleged tampering scheme. Matthew DePerno, the 2020 Republican nominee for state attorney general, was charged along with former state Rep. Daire Rendon.

Mississippi – Treasurer for Chris McDaniel Lt. Gov. Campaign Under Investigation by MS Attorney General

Yahoo News – Wicker Perlis (Jackson Clarion-Ledger) | Published: 8/4/2023

The treasurer for the lieutenant governor campaign of state Sen. Chris McDaniel is under investigation by the office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch. A press release did not mention the McDaniel campaign directly, naming Thomas Datwyler, a Wisconsin-based political consultant who serves as the campaign treasurer, and Invest in Mississippi, a PAC Datwyler created in July. It is against the law for campaigns and PACs to coordinate or communicate with each other.

Nevada – Lombardo to Appeal Ethics Board Decision

MSN – Taylor Avery (Las Vegas Review-Journal) | Published: 8/9/2023

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo plans to appeal a recent state ethics board decision that found he violated the law by using his sheriff’s badge and uniform during his campaign for governor. Ethics Commission members voted to fine Lombardo $20,000 and censure him for four violations of state law barring the use of government time, property, or equipment for personal use.

New Jersey – It Was $10K in a Paper Bag. But Was It a Bribe Under the Law? It Sure Was, Says N.J.’s Top Court.

MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 8/7/2023

The New Jersey Supreme Court said candidates who do not hold elected office can be charged under the state’s public official bribery laws. The court sided with state officials by ruling candidates do not need to win elections to be subject to the “plain words” of the bribery statute. The law was challenged by Jason O’Donnell, a former state lawmaker and candidate for mayor of Bayonne, who allegedly accepted $10,000 in cash from an individual in exchange for the promise to appoint them as tax counsel for the city.

New York – Hochul’s Husband Is Leaving Delaware North

Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 8/4/2023

William Hochul Jr., New York’s first gentleman, is departing his position as senior vice president and general counsel at Delaware North, a job that had led to a number of thorny issues for the governor. Hiswork at the high-powered gaming company has led to Gov. Kathy Hochul to recuse herself from matters that veer too close to that sector, including recent negotiations with the Seneca Nation over a contentious gaming compact.

New York – The Secret Hand Behind the Women Who Stood by Cuomo? His Sister.

MSN – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 8/7/2023

We Decide New York, a small but devoted group of mostly older women, banded together online to defend then-Gov Andrew Cuomo from a cascade of sexual misconduct claims that led to his resignation in August 2021. But it turns out the group’s online activity had secretly been ordered by someone even closer to the former governor’s cause: Madeline Cuomo, his sister. Documents give unusual insight into how far members of one of America’s most storied political families were willing to go to rehabilitate a fallen scion and humiliate those they believed had wronged him.

New York – Former De Blasio NYPD Security Chief Howard Redmond Pleads Guilty of Obstructing DOI Probe

MSN – Molly Crane-Newman, Graham Rayman, and Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 8/9/2023

Howard Redmond, who as an New York City Police Department inspector who oversaw for Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family’s around-the-clock security, pleaded guilty to felony charges stemming from his work for City Hall. Assistant District Attorney Samantha Dworken said Redmond admitted to ignoring investigators and then hiding and deleting evidence. The two-year probe found de Blasio’s bodyguards operated like glorified chauffeurs, flying in the face of city ethics laws barring public servants from using city resources for personal benefit.

Ohio – Democrats May Embrace Abortion Rights Even More Tightly After Ohio Win

MSN – Toluse Olorunnipa, Rachel Roubein, and Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2023

Ohio voters rejected a ballot measure that would have made it more difficult to amend the state constitution ahead of a November vote to ensure access to abortion. The issue of abortion has become a rare consistent source of electoral victories for Democrats over the past year. The result in Ohio, coming after voters in other Republican-leaning states like Kentucky and Kansas also rejected GOP efforts to restrict abortion, underscores how the issue has already reshaped the political landscape for 2024, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said.

Ohio – Money Paid, Favors Done. Messages Detail Relationship Between Ohio Regulator and Energy Executives

Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 8/8/2023

In early 2019, news of financial ties between FirstEnergy and the man incoming-Gov. Mike DeWine named to lead the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio began to spread. As it did, FirstEnergy’s top executives feared they would not have a regulator they could control, according to court documents. As it happened, the nominee, Sam Randazzo, ended up being appointed to the commission after being paid $4.3 million by FirstEnergy. He proceeded to help draft a law providing the utility with a $1.3 billion bailout.

Oregon – Impeachment, Elected Official Pay, Ranked-Choice Voting: Lawmakers left big questions to voters

Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 8/7/2023

Oregon lawmakers will ask voters to weigh in on big questions in 2024, including how voting will work, whether lawmakers should be able to impeach top officials, and whether elected officials should receive raises. Before the legislative session ended in June, lawmakers voted to send three proposed laws to voters on their November 2024 ballots. More referrals could be coming. A majority of Democratic legislators support an effort to change quorum requirements for the House and Senate to prevent future walkouts like the one that just stalled the Legislature for six weeks.

Tennessee – Tennessee Lawmakers Expelled by GOP Win Back State House Seats

MSN – Andrew Jeong (Washington Post) | Published: 8/3/2023

Two Tennessee Democrats who were expelled from the state Legislature in April over their participation in a gun-control protest won back their seats. Reps. Justin Pearson and Justin Jones easily defeated their Republican opponents in districts that lean Democratic. Pearson won more than 90 percent of the votes. Jones received more than 75 percent.

Tennessee – Lawsuit Accuses Tennessee of ‘Racially Discriminatory’ Redistricting

MSN – Meagan Vazquez (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2023

A coalition of civil rights organizations and Tennessee residents filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s recently enacted congressional and state Senate redistricting plans, asserting the state violated the U.S. Constitution by diluting the voting power of African Americans and other voters of color in the state. The plaintiffs argue the plan unfairly fractured the power of Black voters and other minority voters in the Nashville and Memphis areas.

Texas – Austin City Council Member’s Husband Named to Ethics Commission That Oversees the Council

MSN – Ella McCarthy (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 8/5/2023

A recent appointee to the Austin Ethics Review Commission is married to a current city council member. The commission conducts hearings and makes rulings on complaints alleging violations of the provisions within the commission’s jurisdiction, including complaint against city council members. Mayor Kirk Watson does not believe there are any legal or ethical concerns with the appointment, and Councilperson Paige Ellis and Espinoza feel their marriage will not affect Espinoza’s actions on the commission.

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