August 12, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – August 12, 2022
Appeals Court Rules IRS Must Provide Trump’s Tax Returns to House Committee
MSN – Harper Neidig (The Hill) | Published: 8/9/2022
The IRS must hand over former President Trump’s tax returns to a U.S. House committee, a federal appeals court ruled, dismissing a long-running legal challenge to block tax officials from complying with a request for the records from Democratic lawmakers. A three-judge panel for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously with the Biden administration and the Ways and Means Committee, ruling against Trump’s arguments against the committee’s authority, his privacy concerns, and his claim that complying with the request would be unconstitutional.
DaVita Helped Craft New Bill to Fix ‘Loophole’ Left by Supreme Court Ruling, Documents Show
Yahoo News – Megan Wilson (Politico) | Published: 8/9/2022
Roughly two months after dialysis company DaVita lost a Supreme Court case involving insurance coverage for its services, Congress introduced bipartisan legislation that would be a boon for dialysis providers. Its language appears to be largely modeled from a proposal circulated by the company. The new bill would obligate health plans to cover dialysis the same way they do treatments for other chronic illnesses and, if enacted, would likely increase reimbursement amounts for companies like DaVita.
Facebook Bans Hate Speech but Still Makes Money from White Supremacists
MSN – Naomi Nix (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2022
Facebook has long banned content referencing white nationalism. But a plethora of hate groups still populate the site, and the company boosts its revenue by running ads on searches for these pages. The findings by the Tech Transparency Project illustrate the ease with which bigoted groups can evade Facebook’s detection systems, despite the company’s years-long ban against posts that attack people on the basis of their race, religion, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. Activists have charged that by allowing hate speech to proliferate across its networks, Facebook opens the door for extremist groups to organize deadly attacks.
FBI Arrests Former Puerto Rico Governor on Bribery Charges
MSN – Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 8/4/2022
Federal law enforcement agents arrested former Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced, charging her in a bribery scheme that was allegedly aimed at financing her failed 2020 gubernatorial campaign. Officials said while Vázquez Garced was governor in 2019 and 2020, she allegedly took campaign donations from a banker, Julio Martin Herrera Velutini, and a former FBI agent, Mark Rossini, who was consulting for the bank. Herrera Velutini and Rossini allegedly paid more than $300,000 to consultants who supported Vázquez Garced’s campaign.
Former Health Minister Steve Brine Cleared of Lobbying Beach for Second Time in a Year Because No VAT Was Paid
Business Insider – Catherine Neilan | Published: 8/8/2022
A former United Kingdom health minister has been cleared of breaching lobbying rules for a second time in less than a year, because in both cases no value added tax was paid. Steve Brine, who served in Theresa May’s government until March 2019, messaged then-health secretary Matt Hancock about Remedium Partners. He was being paid £1,600 a month. Former ministers are banned from lobbying ministers for two years after their last day in office. The message was sent in March 2020, meaning his approach fell within the restricted period.
Get Ready for Many More Political Emails, as Federal Regulators OK Google’s Plan to Drop Spam Filters for Eligible Federal Candidates
MSN – Dave Levinthal (Business Insider) | Published: 8/11/2022
The FEC ruled Google could legally launch a pilot program for candidates that allows them to skirt email spam filters when raising money from, or otherwise communicating with, prospective voters and donors. Despite a torrent of public outrage preceding the vote, Google is now free to invite federal candidates to sign up for the email pilot program, which would amount to a free pass out of Gmail spam-box purgatory. The FEC had to decide whether Google giving some candidates a break from spam filters constituted an illegal in-kind political contribution.
Homeland Security Watchdog Previously Accused of Misleading Investigators, Report Says
MSN – Lisa Rein, Carol Leonnig, and Maria Sacchetti (Washington Post) | Published: 8/4/2022
The Homeland Security watchdog now under scrutiny for his handling of deleted Secret Service text messages from the attack on the Capitol previously was accused of misleading federal investigators and running “afoul” of ethics regulations while he was in charge of a Justice Department inspector general field office in Tucson. Separately, investigators found Joseph Cuffari broke ethics rules by referring law firms to the prisoner’s family, including firms where some of his close friends worked.
Maps in Four States Were Ruled Illegal Gerrymanders. They’re Being Used Anyway.
Eminetra.com – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 8/8/2022
Judges in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Ohio have found Republican legislators illegally drew those states’ congressional maps along racial or partisan lines, or that a trial very likely would conclude they did. Judges in the past who have reached similar findings ordered new maps, or had an expert draw them, to ensure elections were fair. But a shift in election law philosophy at the Supreme Court, combined with a new aggressiveness among Republicans who drew the maps, has upended that model. This time, all four states are using the rejected maps, and questions about their legality for future elections will be hashed out in court later.
Mar-a-Lago Search Appears Focused on Whether Trump, Aides Withheld Items
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Rosalind Helderman, Jacqueline Alemany, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2022
In the months before the FBI’s dramatic move to execute a search warrant at former president Trump’s Florida home and open his safe to look for items, federal authorities grew increasingly concerned Trump or his lawyers and aides had not returned all the documents and other material that were government property, according to people familiar with the matter. Over months of discussions about whether documents were still missing, some officials also came to suspect Trump’s representatives were not truthful at times, sources said.
Simmering Threat of Violence Comes to Fore with Search of Trump Property
MSN – Hannah Allam (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2022
Within hours of the FBI search at Donald Trump’s Florida compound, Republican lawmakers, conservative talk-show hosts, anti-government provocateurs, and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists began issuing explicit or thinly veiled calls for violence. Extremist organizers have tried to hold on to the momentum they built in recent years by finding causes disparate factions could rally around. With each iteration, analysts say, the networks have grown more sophisticated and more violent. The search at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents is now presented as a tipping point, an existential threat to the country that true patriots must thwart.
The Newest Fad in Fundraising: Gold-level clubs for lobbyists
MSN – Haily Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 8/11/2022
An increasingly popular fad in campaign fundraising is access to small gatherings of politicians that lobbyists can purchase. Instead of brief face time with a lawmaker at a single event, lobbyists are offered the opportunity to develop almost a familial relationship with candidates over a series of them. Attendance at events often tops out at between 15 to 20 people, usually registered lobbyists. They were created to entice donations from individuals rather than corporate PACs. Lobbyists can, in turn, use their membership as a sell for potential new clients.
Voters Aren’t the Only Ones Feeling the Effects of Inflation
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 8/5/2022
High inflation is not just a political messaging point to some candidates running for office. The cost of gasoline, travel, staff pay, printed materials, and food for events all affect the bottom lines of campaigns. Some say they are feeling the pinch of niner percent inflation and can relate to voters for whom rising prices is a top-of-mind matter in this year’s midterm elections. This period of high inflation will ripple into the next election cycle, too.
Who Is Scott Perry, Trump Ally and Lawmaker Whose Phone Was Seized by FBI?
MSN – Kim Bellware (Washington Post) | Published: 8/9/2022
U.S. Rep. Scott Perry’s cellphone was seized as part of the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into the use of fake electors to try to overturn President Biden’s victory. Perry is the first member of Congress known to have his phone seized as part of the probe into the attempt at the U.S. Capitol to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Perry did not say why investigators confiscated his phone and wrote in a statement that the contents of his phone are not the “government’s business.”
From the States and Municipalities
California – Anaheim City Council Votes to Investigate Itself Following FBI Corruption Probe
LAist – Jill Replogle | Published: 8/10/2022
The city of Anaheim will fund an independent audit of campaign contributions to former Mayor Harry Sidhu and current city council members following an FBI corruption probe that came to light in May. The council voted to hire the firm JL Group to carry out the investigation. Sidhu resigned after it became public the FBI is investigating him for alleged corruption in connection with the sale of Angel Stadium. The audit is intended to provide a measure of transparency after warrants revealed what the FBI called a “covert group” that wielded influence over city government.
California – DA Jenkins Pocketed Six Figures as Consultant for Nonprofit Linked to Boudin Recall Backers
San Francisco Standard – Michael Barba | Published: 8/8/2022
Brooke Jenkins did not just quit her job as a local prosecutor to volunteer for the recall against her former boss, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Newly filed records show she also collected more than $100,000 as a consultant for Neighbors for a Better San Francisco, a nonprofit that shares an address and virtually the same name as the organization behind Boudin’s recall but is legally a separate entity. Jenkins earned the salary in the six months before Mayor London Breed appointed her district attorney on July 8. During that period, Jenkins was volunteering as a spokesperson on the recall campaign.
California – Ethics Commission Blames City Union for Derailing Anti-Corruption Ballot Measure
San Francisco Standard – Mike Edge | Published: 8/10/2022
A ballot initiative that would have tightened up rules around gifts to public officials failed to make the ballot, and San Francisco ethics watchdogs are blaming a union representing city department heads. The Ethics Commission pointed the finger at the Municipal Executives Association in a recent letter, writing the union used the bargaining process to stall the proposed ballot measure past a key deadline. The measure sought to expand the definition of what would constitute a bribe, mandate disclosure of any relationships with city contractors, and add more comprehensive ethics training for city employees.
California – Force Multipliers: How one donor network is pushing the envelope on California campaign money
CalMatters – Ben Christopher, Alexei Koseff, and Jeremia Kimelman | Published: 8/4/2022
In the 2022 election cycle so far, the Govern For California network has donated more than $3 million to more than 110 candidates across California, the vast majority of the money going to those running for the state Senate and Assembly. Govern For California characterizes its 18 chapters as “force multipliers” that amplify the influence of its donors on state politics and government. The organization opposes what it regards as excessive sway of labor unions over state policy. Some experts questioned whether it is a way for its small cadre of wealthy donors to evade contribution caps designed to limit anyone from having outsized influence.
Colorado – In Crowded City Races, Denver’s New Fair Election Fund Will Face First Test
MSN – Joe Rubino (Denver Post) | Published: 8/9/2022
Overhauling Denver’s campaign finance rules was popular with voters in 2018. More than 70 percent of Denverites who cast ballots that year voted for Referred Measure 2E. The sweeping change ratcheted down contribution limits for candidates seeking every seat from mayor to the city auditor, banned direct corporate and union campaign donations, and established a fund to provide public financing for candidates who agreed to abide by even lower limits and other rules. Denver’s 2023 municipal election is inching closer and, finally, the city’s fair elections fund will come to bear on local races.
Connecticut – Larry McHugh to Replace Embattled CT Port Authority Official
MSN – Keith Phaneuf (Connecticut Mirror) | Published: 8/6/2022
House Speaker Matt Ritter selected a longtime business and education leader to replace one of the Connecticut Port Authority officials cited in a state ethics ruling. Lawrence McHugh will replace Donald Frost on the board of directors. Ritter said he was dismayed to learn that Frost was one of the officials at the quasi-public entity who had accepted illegal gifts from Seabury Maritime, a consultant hired to help find a developer for the state pier in New London.
Florida – DeSantis Suspends Elected Prosecutor Over New Abortion Law
Yahoo News – Anthony Izaguirre (Associated Press) | Published: 8/4/2022
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren pledging not to enforce the state’s new 15-week abortion ban and for supporting gender transition treatments for minors. Asked whether he is overriding the will of the voters by suspending their choice for prosecutor, DeSantis said Warren’s conduct has fallen “below the standard of the Florida Constitution” and that he has neglected his duty to state law.
Florida – Second Firm in Sunset Lounge Bid Disqualified for Improper Lobbying of West Palm Beach Mayor
MSN – Terri Parker (WPBF) | Published: 8/10/2022
There is a new twist in the continuing saga of who will operate the historic and newly renovated Sunset Lounge in West Palm Beach. The firm that was awarded the bid three weeks ago is now disqualified. The city’s procurement director said Mad Room Hospitality violated the terms of the Request for Proposal by contacting the mayor and a commissioner via email before the contract was executed. Vita Lounge LLC had also been disqualified for allegedly lobbying people on Facebook to support their selection and doing an interview on WPBF.
Hawaii – Campaign Spending Commission Investigates COVID Testing Company That Got Big City Contract
MSN – Rick Daysog (Hawaii News Now) | Published: 8/8/2022
The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission is investigating one of the companies that was awarded a multi-million-dollar COVID testing contract by former Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s administration. The commission subpoenaed the bank records of two employees of Capture Diagnostics, which is part of a consortium awarded a $19.5 million emergency contract for the city’s testing program at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The commission is looking at whether the company reimbursed the employees who gave a total of $10,000 to the Caldwell campaign.
Illinois – State Sen. Elgie Sims Approached in Federal Criminal Investigation into Alleged Influence Peddling by Body-Cam Company
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 8/8/2022
Illinois Sen. Elgie Sims was approached in the spring by federal authorities investigating potential influence peddling involving a police body-camera manufacturer that hired the law firm where Sims works as a lobbyist. The ongoing probe involves Axon Enterprise, a law-enforcement technology company that hired law firm Foley & Lardner to lobby lawmakers in Springfield and Chicago. Sims is an “of-counsel” attorney at Foley, specializing in government affairs and public policy. Investigators are looking into whether Axon improperly tried to influence Sims in his official duties working on criminal justice legislation, which requires every police officer in the state to wear a body camera by 2025.
Indiana – Anti-Common Core Activist Failed to Register as Lobbyist for Rokita’s Office
Indiana Capital Chronicle – Leslie Bonilla Muñiz | Published: 8/9/2022
Erin Tuttle, a policy consultant and state contractor, mistakenly registered as a lobbyist for the city of Indianapolis rather than the state of Indiana. Tuttle and Chief Administrative Officer Larry Hopkins signed a two-year, $200,000 contract for research, analysis, and communications help for state Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office. Among Tuttle’s listed duties: “Contractor shall interact and communicate with legislators.” That set Tuttle up for a potential violation of Indiana law when she did not register with the Lobby Registration Commission.
Indiana – Two Ind. Officers Suspended After Arresting Man Thought to Be Anti-Police
MSN – Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2022
Two Indiana officers were suspended after a courtroom revelation that police thought a potential town council candidate was anti-police and arrested him, stopping him from running for office. Franklin County Prosecutor Chris Huerkamp dropped charges that included drug possession against Trevin Thalheimer after an officer and witness recounted how Brookville police talked about Thalheimer. Huerkamp, who also did not pursue a rape charge police had investigated, said he was “disturbed beyond words” by the alleged police conduct and reported the incident to the Indiana State Police, which launched a criminal investigation.
Michigan – GOP Nominee for Michigan AG Named in Election Security Breach Probe
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Emma Brown, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 8/7/2022
State police have been investigating efforts by supporters of former President Trump to convince Michigan clerks to give them access to voting software and tabulating machines, so they could examine them to prove fraud took place in 2020. Now, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is seeking the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the Republican nominee for her job, Matthew DePerno, after the investigation found evidence that he helped orchestrate an effort last year to gain unauthorized access to voting equipment.
Michigan – Super PAC Backing Tudor Dixon Hides Its Origins Despite Disclosing Donors
MSN – Simon Schuster (MLive.com) | Published: 8/10/2022
Michigan Families United hosted an appearance by Tudor Dixon, the Republican nominee for governor of Michigan, that became the basis for campaign ads in which it spent $2.5 million to air before the GOP primary. Michigan Families United spent more than Dixon’s campaign raised in total and more than 20 times what her campaign spent on advertising, but who is behind super PAC remains shrouded in secrecy.
Missouri – Missouri Prepping for New Rules on Campaign Donations by Businesses
St. Louis Post Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 8/4/2022
Missouri ethics regulators are preparing for a change in state law designed to allow some businesses to give directly to candidates. The law is aimed at stopping shell companies from pumping “dark money” into campaigns by requiring limited liability companies with a specific tax status to register with the state Ethics Commission. The commission released guidance on the new requirements and said it is developing a portal on its website for companies to register and for candidates to search whether a company has submitted the proper paperwork.
New Jersey – Disclosure Statements Provide Little Insight into Lawmakers’ Finances
New Jersey Monitor – Nikita Biryukov | Published: 8/8/2022
Members of more than 50 state boards, commissions, and committees in New Jersey, as well as high-ranking administration officials, must annually report their finances with greater levels of transparency than state lawmakers. Recent efforts to require lawmakers to disclose more about their finances have not gone anywhere. Experts in government and ethics say broader requirements would not only help the public know more about the sources of their state representatives’ income but would also boost public confidence in government.
New York – City Ethics Board Out of Business
Investigative Post – Geoff Kelly | Published: 8/8/2022
Last September, 140 people signed a formal complaint filed with the Buffalo Board of Ethics. The complaint alleged city workers, including police officers, were campaigning for Mayor Byron Brown on city time, using city resources. Almost a year later, there has been no response, not even an acknowledgement the complaint was received. The ethics board has not met in two-and-a-half years.
New York – Erie County Comptroller Seeks Answers on OTB Lobbying Expenses
Lockport Journal – Mark Scheer | Published: 8/9/2022
Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick is asking more questions about the inner workings of Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. (OTB) and this time he wants to know why it is spending so much public money on Albany lobbyists. Hardwick said that following a review of the agency’s board meeting minutes dating back to 2014, his office found OTB has used 10 firms for lobbying and advocacy activities. The comptroller said the agency either paid or agreed to pay a total of $157,000 for such services in the first six months of 2022 alone. The letter about lobbying is the third one that Hardwick’s office has sent to OTB in less than two weeks.
New York – State Agency Made Key Reversal in Bid Process Won by Hochul Donor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 8/5/2022
Medical Answering Services contended it could run New York’s medical transportation program for far less money than its rivals, a major factor when the company eventually won the competitive bidding. A competitor for the contract, Modivcare Solutions, says it learned a key, promised part of the process was not followed. Two months before the award was issued, Medical Answering Services’ founder, Russ Maxwell, hosted a campaign fundraiser for Gov. Kathy Hochul, one of many such events hosted by people with business before her administration.
New York – Trump Takes the Fifth
Yahoo News – Kelly Hooper (Politico) | Published: 8/10/2022
Former President Trump declined to answer questions during a deposition with the office of New York Attorney General Tish James, asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Trump’s deposition came amid the office’s three-year-long investigation into whether the Trump Organization had misstated the value of assets on financial statements. The former president is also the subject of a parallel criminal investigation being conducted by the Manhattan district attorney’s office into whether he fraudulently inflated property values.
Ohio – Judge Scolds Ohio House Bill 6 Defendant for Posting Witness’s Social Security Card and Driver’s License Online
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/5/2022
A federal judge admonished a former lobbyist accused in the Ohio House Bill 6 corruption matter for using his website to publish the personal information of a key witness in the case, including unredacted copies of his driver’s license and Social Security card. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black said he found it “entirely incredible” that Matt Borges did not mean to post witness Tyler Fehrman’s information to his legal-defense website.
Ohio – Utility Regulator Accused of Taking a Bribe Helped Write Bill Targeting Watchdog
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 8/5/2022
Ohio’s former top utility regulator, who was accused of taking a $4.3 million bribe, spent months helping write a sweeping energy bill that targeted a state watchdog agency that advocates for residential electric customers, records show. Emails from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio show its former chairperson, Sam Randazzo, conferred with the bill sponsor and helped draft legislative language. The bill would have limited the reach of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and given often-hostile state legislators control of its board.
Pennsylvania – Posh Southwestern Pa. Party Spotlights How Lawmakers and Lobbyists Mingle Out of the Public Eye
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Mike Werechagin | Published: 8/7/2022
Pennsylvania is among a minority of states that places no limits on the value of gifts special interests can give legislators. Even members of Pennsylvania’s executive branch cannot accept gifts or meals under an executive order signed by Gov. Tom Wolf the day he took office. But the Legislature has blocked nearly every effort to limit the ability of special interests to shower lawmakers with dinners, drinks, and travel, or to give the public a clear picture of what their representatives and senators allow lobbyists to buy them.
Rhode Island – Inside the Political, Personal, and Legal Connections of the Tidewater Landing Soccer Stadium Deal
MSN – Brian Amaral (Boston Globe) | Published: 8/4/2022
When the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s board convened to consider appropriating $60 million for the Tidewater Landing soccer stadium project in Pawtucket, relationships between board members and outside interests sparked criticism. Law partners for the Commerce Corporation’s attorney are registered as lobbyists for the developer. A board member’s sister is trying to unseat the incumbent governor, who chairs the board. A Pawtucket city official who helped shepherd the deal through by working with the Commerce official who is now running for treasurer against the Pawtucket official’s fiancé.
Texas – Not a ‘Love Story’: Former Richardson mayor gets 6 years for accepting bribes, sex
MSN – Kevin Krause (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 8/4/2022
Laura Maczka, a first-time Richardson, Texas, mayor, accepted a string of favors, some sexual, from the wealthy developer, Mark Jordan, who became her lover and then her husband. She did what she could while on the city council to make sure he got the zoning he wanted for his planned apartments despite vehement resident opposition. Now the pair are headed to federal prison for their misdeeds in a public corruption case that spanned almost a decade and resulted in a city investigation and two salacious public trials.
Virginia – Virginia Official Lobbied for Gas Project His Agency Will Consider
Roanoke Times – Patrick Wilson (Richmond Times Dispatch) | Published: 8/5/2022
As one of eight gubernatorial appointees on the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, James Minor gets a vote on an anticipated permit request for a natural gas pipeline expansion near Petersburg. Public records show he has been lobbying elected officials to support the project; he and the company that wants to build it will not say if he was paid for the work. Public records show Minor emailed and called elected officials in Petersburg between February and May on behalf of a pipeline expansion project from TC Energy and its subsidiary, Columbia Gas Transmission.
Washington – Tim Eyman Forced to Sell House to Pay Campaign Finance Fines, Debts
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 8/5/2022
Anti-tax initiative promoter Tim Eyman, who was found liable last year in Washington for “numerous and particularly egregious” violations of campaign finance law, has been forced to sell his house to help pay millions of dollars of fines and debt. The $900,000 in proceeds will go toward paying off the more than $5.6 million in sanctions and legal fees he owes the state and other creditors. A judge found Eyman enriched himself by laundering political donations, accepted kickbacks from a signature-gathering company, and secretly shuttled money between initiative campaigns and concealed the source of other political contributions.
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