August 13, 2021 •
News You Can Use Digest – August 13, 2021
DeJoy Maintains Financial Ties to Former Company as USPS Awards It New $120 Million Contract
MSN – Jacob Bogage (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021
The U.S. Postal Service will pay $120 million over the next five years to a major logistics contractor that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy previously helped lead and with which his family maintains financial ties. The new contract will deepen the Postal Service’s relationship with XPO Logistics, where DeJoy served as supply chain chief executive after the company purchased New Breed Logistics, the trucking firm he owned for more than 30 years. Since he became postmaster general, DeJoy has divested between $65.4 million and $155.3 million worth of XPO shares. But DeJoy’s family businesses continue to lease four North Carolina office buildings to XPO.
Dominion Lodges Suits Against OAN, Newsmax, Ex-Overstock CEO
MSN – Nick Niedzwiadek (Politico) | Published: 8/10/2021
Dominion Voting Systems opened another front in its battle against right-wing attacks on the integrity of its technology, filing lawsuits against two conservative media outlets and former Overstock.com Chief Executive Officer Patrick Byrne. Dominion accused Byrne, Newsmax, and One America News Network of making defamatory claims against the company and spreading baseless allegations that its machines were used to rig the election for Joe Biden. Dominion alleges the companies went outside of protected First Amendment activities by giving a platform to false claims about the company and showing little concern for the truth.
Dominion’s Lawsuits Against Trump Allies Can Move Forward After Judge Rejects Arguments
MSN – Lateshia Beachum and Maria Luisa Paul (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
A federal judge denied requests by former President Trump’s allies to throw out more than $3 billion in defamation lawsuits over false claims that a voting machine company’s technology was used to rig the 2020 election. The ruling allows lawsuits by Dominion Voting Systems against former Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudolph Giuliani, as well as MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, to move forward. U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols said Powell and Lindell made their claims “knowing that they were false or with reckless disregard for the truth.”
Frustration and Persistence for Activists on the 56th Anniversary of the Voting Rights
MSN – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 8/6/2021
The 1965 Voting Rights Act is considered the most significant achievement of the civil rights movement because it removed Jim Crow-era laws that blocked the vast majority of Black people from voting, especially in the South. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2013, and another this year, weakened the landmark law, while Republican-controlled Legislatures passed new voting restrictions advocates say target people of color, as well as young and working-class people. Activists are exasperated that members of Congress and President Biden have not been able to push through federal legislation that would supersede the voting laws moving through state Legislatures across the country.
GOP Congressman Suing Pelosi Over Mask Mandate Contracts Coronavirus
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 8/5/2021
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, one of three Republican members of Congress who filed a lawsuit against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the chamber’s mask mandate, tested positive for the coronavirus. Pelosi kept in place the mask mandate after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance to say fully vaccinated people most likely did not have to wear masks, sparking a backlash among House Republicans, who accused Pelosi of wanting simply to “control” the chamber.
House Democrats Granted Limited Access to Trump Financial Records
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
House Democrats investigating former President Trump can have access to his personal financial records from 2017 and 2018, a federal judge ruled, as well as information related to his lease of a building near the White House. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that courts must take separation of powers concerns into account when members of Congress want personal information from the president. Because of Congress’s role in overseeing the president’s foreign business interests, release of the records from 2017 and 2018 is justified, said U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta.
Judge Suggests Feds Are Too Lenient Toward Jan. 6 Defendants
Yahoo News – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 8/9/2021
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell suggested federal prosecutors were being too lenient in their handling of cases stemming from the storming of the Capitol as lawmakers were convening on January 6 to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race. Howell raised questions about why some defendants were being permitted to resolve their criminal cases by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor and why the amount of money prosecutors are seeking to recover through those plea deals was based on a relatively paltry estimate of about $1.5 million in damages caused by the rioters.
Rand Paul Discloses 16 Months Late That His Wife Bought Stock in Company Behind Covid Treatment
Seattle Times – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul revealed his wife bought stock in Gilead Sciences, which makes an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19, in February 2020, before it was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The disclosure came 16 months after the 45-day reporting deadline set forth in the Stock Act, which is designed to combat insider trading. The investment, especially the delayed reporting of it, alarmed experts in corporate and securities law, who said it raised questions about whether Paul’s family profited from nonpublic information about the looming health emergency and plans by the U.S. government to combat it.
Republicans Risk Becoming Face of Delta Surge as Key GOP Governors Oppose Anti-Covid Measures
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Three governors frequently mentioned as potential presidential candidates in 2024 – Greg Abbott in Texas, Florida’s Ron DeSantis, and South Dakota’s Kristi Noem – are at the vanguard of Republican resistance to public-health mandates aimed at stemming the tide of the delta variant, which has caused a new spike in coronavirus cases. They and other national and local GOP officials cast their opposition to such measures as an effort to protect personal choice. But some fear the party is on track to make itself the face of the delta variant, endangering fellow Americans while also risking political damage in the long term.
Secret IRS Files Reveal How Much the Ultrawealthy Gained by Shaping Trump’s ‘Big, Beautiful Tax Cut’
Talking Points Memo – Justin Elliot and Robert Faturechi (ProPublica) | Published: 8/11/2021
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was the biggest rewrite of the tax code in decades. Crafted largely in secret by a handful of Trump administration officials and members of Congress, the bill was rushed through the legislative process. As draft language of the bill made its way through Congress, lawmakers friendly to billionaires and their lobbyists were able to stretch the bill to accommodate a variety of special groups. In the first year after Trump signed the bill, just 82 ultrawealthy households collectively walked away with more than $1 billion in total tax savings.
Watchdog Sues FEC for Closing Investigation into Rick Scott, Allied Super PAC
MSN – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 8/9/2021
A watchdog group sued the FEC for dismissing a complaint alleging U.S. Sen. Rick Scott unlawfully used a super PAC to support his 2018 Senate run. The Campaign Legal Center challenged the decision by Republican commissioners to close an investigation into Scott against the recommendation of the agency’s nonpartisan lawyers. End Citizens United had alleged Scott and the New Republican PAC, a group he formerly chaired, violated election laws prohibiting coordination between candidates and outside groups.
‘We Are in Harm’s Way’: Election officials fear for their personal safety amid torrent of false claims about voting
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Rosalind Helderman, and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Nine months after the 2020 election, local officials across the country are coping with an ongoing barrage of criticism and personal attacks that many fear could lead to an exodus of veteran election administrators before the next presidential race. As former President Trump continues to promote the false notion that the 2020 White House race was tainted by fraud, there is mounting evidence his attacks are curdling the faith many Americans once had in their elections and taking a deep toll on the public servants who work to protect the vote.
What Rosen Told U.S. Senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election
MSN – Ann Marimow and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/12/2021
Former President Trump’s last attorney general told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the Justice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election. In closed-door testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer. The testimony is part of a trough of information that congressional investigators are assembling about Trump’s efforts to reverse his defeat and use the Justice Department to stay in office.
Canada – Lobbyist Jack Stirling Sent to Penalty Box for a Month in the Wake of Jan Harder Integrity Case
Ottawa Citizen – Jon Willing | Published: 8/5/2021
Jack Stirling and his company, The Stirling Group, was banned from lobbying in Ottawa for 30 days. Stirling acknowledged he provided free services to a council member between November 2019 and February 2020, while he was registered as a lobbyist at City Hall. At the time, he had three active lobbying files with the city. Under the lobbyist code of conduct, a lobbyist with active files cannot offer gifts or benefits to council members or their staff.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – State Fines Anchorage Mayor Bronson $33,500 for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Emily GoodyKoontz (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 8/9/2021
The Alaska Public Offices Commission fined the campaign of Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson a total of $33,500 for failing to report financial contributions to the campaign on time. State rules dictate that during the nine days before an election, candidates must disclose contributions that are more than $250 in a 24-hour report. The fine is in addition to a $26,500 penalty recommended by APOC staff against Bronson in July for multiple violations.
Arizona – Arizona State Sen. Tony Navarrete Resigns Seat After Arrest in Child Sex Abuse Case
MSN – Mary Joe Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 8/10/2021
After days of pleas for him to step down in the wake of an arrest on allegations of child sexual abuse, Tony Navarrete resigned his Arizona Senate seat but issued a separate statement vowing to prove his innocence. His employer, the faith-based Neighborhood Ministries, put Navarrete on leave and said he will be terminated. The arrest came after a 16-year-old boy went to Phoenix police with allegations of abuse dating from 2019. The probable cause statement also alleged Navarrete attempted sexual conduct with a 13-year-old boy.
Arizona – Business Consultants Offer to Buy Ghostwritten Op-Eds Pressuring Arizona Senators
Radiofree.org – Lee Fang (The Intercept) | Published: 8/10/2021
Public relations experts working for a mysterious client have been preparing ghostwritten opinion columns set to run in Arizona newspapers. The columns warn U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to oppose civil litigation reform legislation designed to prevent Americans from being forced into binding arbitration. If enacted, the legislation would ensure consumers’ and employees’ rights to pursue civil litigation against corporations. But the consultants could not find local residents to author the columns. Instead, they are offering as much as $2,000 to help identify “normal, everyday” people willing to sign their names to pre-written arguments.
California – Hockey Arena’s Developers Donated $60,000 to Perez After Project Won County Approval
MSN – Tom Coulter (Palm Springs Desert Sun) | Published: 8/9/2021
A month after Riverside County supervisors approved a $250 million project to build a hockey arena, the cohort spearheading the plans gave the maximum campaign contribution to Supervisor V. Manuel Perez, whose district encompasses the project. Perez was the only supervisor on the five-member board to receive donations from the developers in recent months. Other groups with ties to the arena project also have donated to Perez.
California – Water Authority’s Confidential Consultant Contracts Surprised Board
Voice of San Diego – MacKenzie Elmer | Published: 8/4/2021
The San Diego County Water Authority is building a team of consultants but will not explain the work they are doing. The authority spent $167,000 on two consultant contracts since July 2019 without disclosing them to the board, which is composed of representatives from the region’s 24 water agencies. It also will not say what a third contract that was approved by the board, worth more than $330,000, was for. A rule allows the general manager to execute contracts below $150,000 without board approval. One board member argued a consultant was lobbying against her water district’s interests.
Florida – Dark Money Behind Florida ‘Ghost’ Candidates Has Ties to Alabama Political Players, Records Suggest
MSN – Jason Garcia and Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 8/5/2021
The source of more than $500,000 spent last year promoting “ghost] candidates in key state Senate races remained a mystery even as the scandal rocked Florida politics, but newly public records suggest the money is tied to political players in Alabama. The money paid for nearly identical mailers apparently tailored to persuade Democratic-leaning voters to support the independent candidates in each of the three races, all of which were ultimately won by Republicans. Authorities in Miami-Dade County have charged two people in connection with one of those races.
Florida – DeSantis Donor Got $50 Million in Emergency Pandemic Work
Politico – Matt Dixon | Published: 8/5/2021
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration awarded nearly $50 million in no-bid Covid-related work to a controversial company that lobbied his administration for the contracts, then gave the governor a $100,000 political contribution. Nomi Health, Inc. has received $46 million under two separate contracts it signed with the state for Covid-19 testing and vaccine work between February and June. The spending was approved under a DeSantis-signed pandemic executive order, which gave the administration broad legal authority to spend state funds without legislative approval or going through a normal procurement process.
Florida – Florida Won’t Defend Ballot Measure Contribution Cap
The Center Square – John Haughey | Published: 8/10/2021
Florida will not appeal a federal judge’s ruling striking down a law that caps early campaign donations to citizens’ initiatives committees sponsoring constitutional amendments at $3,000. The judge’s order prohibits the Florida Elections Commission from enforcing the contribution limit. U.S. District Court Judge Allen Winsor determined Florida has “no significant interest” in limiting political speech in the form of donations to political committees engaged in petition drives to get proposed constitutional amendments before voters.
Florida – Will Canady the Candidate Pose Ethical Dilemma for Canady the Florida Chief Justice?
Yahoo News – Dara Kam (News Service of Florida) | Published: 8/11/2021
Jennifer Canady’s election to the House could be a history making victory as she would be the first spouse of a sitting Florida Supreme Court justice to serve in the state Legislature in modern history. But the Canady union could also prove thorny for Chief Justice Charles Canady if his wife wins, according to legal experts. The family relationship between a sitting Florida judge or Supreme Court justice and a state legislator “may very well raise serious issues of judicial conduct and disqualification under the Florida code of judicial conduct,” University of Miami law professor Anthony Alfieri said.
Louisiana – New Orleans Ethics Review Board Recommends Barring City Council Campaign Donations from Entergy, Cox and Other Utilities
The Lens – Michael Isaac Stein | Published: 8/11/2021
The New Orleans Ethics Review Board voted to recommend a revision to the ethics code that would bar city council members and candidates from accepting political contributions from city-regulated utility firms like Entergy New Orleans or Cox Communications, along with any vendor working on a contract awarded by the council or the Sewerage and Water Board. The city council would need to approve the change. There are still some big legal questions about whether the council members have the authority to wade into campaign finance restrictions or apply government ethics rules to candidates who are not yet government officials.
Maine – Bangor Board of Ethics Alters Guidelines on Political Speech from Councilors
Bangor Daily News – David Marino Jr. | Published: 8/11/2021
The Bangor Board of Ethics approved a proposed law on political speech by city officials. The new code is less ambiguous than the last, with the framers aiming to balance the First Amendment rights of Bangor officials with language that will maintain the city’s neutrality and not align it with viewpoints or organizations it does not officially support. Bangor is one of the few population centers in Maine with an explicit ban on certain political speech from officials.
Maine – Ethics Panel Continues Pursuit of Financial Records from Unnamed Consultants
Portland Press Herald – Scott Thistle | Published: 8/8/2021
The Maine ethics commission is continuing its efforts to shield the identity of two political consulting firms involved in the $1 billion Central Maine Power transmission corridor project even as it prepares to take legal action against the firms. The commission’s lawyer, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Bolton, is expected to file a lawsuit soon to enforce a subpoena for records from the firms, which appear to be based in California and Virginia. But the commission will give the firms advance notice so they can file simultaneous motions asking the court to seal the case from public view while a judge decides whether to enforce the subpoenas.
Mississippi – City Sanctioned for Slow Response to Public Records Request
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 8/9/2021
The Mississippi Ethics Commission ordered the city of Jackson to pay more than $170,000 in legal fees for violating state law by taking more than a year to provide public records a television station requested. It is the largest amount the commission has ever ordered a public entity to pay and one of a few times the agency has required payment of legal fees. The decision comes more than two years after WLBT made seven public-records requests to the Jackson Police Department for emails, memos, and crime statistics.
New Mexico – Complaint Against Keller Tossed
MSN – Olivier Uyttebrouck and Jessica Dyer (Albuquerque Journal) | Published: 8/9/2021
Albuquerque City Clerk Ethan Watson tossed an election ethics complaint against himself and Mayor Tim Keller, saying it fails to meet standards requiring a detailed description of the allegations and how they violated specific rules. The complaint alleges Keller violated rules when pursuing over $600,000 in public campaign financing. It also identifies the city clerk, saying he failed to follow his own published rules when he approved Keller’s qualifying contributions, among other charges.
New Mexico – Former County Official Convicted of Procurement Violation
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 8/5/2021
A former Rio Arriba County commissioner faces up to 18 months in prison when he is sentenced on a conviction for violating New Mexico’s procurement code. A judge ruled ex-Commissioner Barney Trujillo violated the law when he failed to disclose contributions that he made to an Española school board member’s campaign.
New York – Cuomo Has $18 Million in Campaign Cash. What Can He Do with It?
New York Times – J. David Goodman | Published: 8/12/2021
Even after his resignation takes effect in less than two weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will still control $18 million campaign account amassed in apparent preparation for a run at a fourth term next year. But his huge stock of campaign money, the most money retained by a departing New York politician in recent memory, affords him a range of possibilities, including the chance to attempt an eventual comeback or to play a role in the state’s political life by donating to other candidates.
New York – New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Announces Resignation in Effort to Head Off Likely Impeachment in Wake of Devastating Report on His Conduct
MSN – Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 8/10/2021
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation after state Attorney General Letitia James released the results of an investigation that found he sexually harassed at least 11 women. The governor still faces the possibility of criminal charges, with prosecutors around the state continuing to investigate him. Cuomo repeatedly denied improperly touching women, even as accusations mounted, and dismissed the harassment claims as a misinterpretation of his affectionate political style. Impeachment proceedings were ongoing and Cuomo advisers said privately they expected he would be removed from office.
New York – Other Politicians’ Scandals Propelled Career of NY’s Next Governor, Ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 8/10/2021
New York’s next governor, Kathy Hochul, has had a political career defined by scandal by both her political adversaries and allies. She will be the state’s first female governor and the first from Buffalo since Grover Cleveland in 1882. Hochu will take office after Andrew Cuomo’s resignation. A state attorney general’s report fond allegations of sexual harassment made against Cuomo credible.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Bribery Scandal Raises Questions About Vetting at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 8/8/2021
FirstEnergy admitted money paid to Sam Randazzo before he became chairperson of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) was a bribe given in exchange for favorable treatment. In ethics forms Randazzo filed shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine hired him, he disclosed making money consulting through two companies he owned but did not list the amounts. State officials must disclose the amount only if it came from an entity looking to do business with the agency where they work. Randazzo did not mention FirstEnergy was a client. DeWine said he did not know FirstEnergy had paid Randazzo more than $20 million over the past decade.
Ohio – Ohio Elections Commission to Review Campaign Finance Complaint Against Rep. Wiggam, Others
MSN – Bryce Buyakie (Times Record) | Published: 8/6/2021
A complaint filed with the Ohio Elections Commission alleges three state lawmakers received free campaign management software linked to the Republican National Committee worth a total of $9,000. The compliant says the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization that writes legislation, gave Reps. Scott Wiggam and Bill Seitz, along with Sen. Robert McColley, free access to the software for 2020 election campaign. ALEC may have provided it to some of the group’s other 2,000 state legislative members across the country, totaling around $6 million in campaign contributions, the complaint alleges.
Oregon – Report Finds Small-Dollar Donors in Portland Achieved New Influence in Local Elections
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 8/10/2021
Rules dictate that after every election, an oversight group for the Open and Accountable Elections program must produce a report evaluating how Portland’s system of public campaign financing panned out. Their report found that during its debut election cycle, the program fundamentally changed the dynamics of fundraising in Portland: small-dollar donors were now the main focus of most campaigns.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania’s Lawmaker Reimbursement Rules Are ‘Ripe for Abuse’
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA), Sam Janesch, Mike Wereschagin, and Brad Bumsted (The Caucus) | Published: 8/6/2021
Despite warnings from good-government advocates and even some inside the Capitol that Pennsylvania’s two state-run systems for reimbursing lawmakers are ripe for abuse, Republican leadership has failed to move reforms. Unlike most private and public sector employers, state lawmakers often are not required to provide any proof when seeking reimbursements from taxpayer-funded accounts. On the campaign side, the public cannot see thousands of dollars of election expenses lumped together under vague categories and charged to credit cards.
Tennessee – Commission Overrides Harris Veto of County Ethics Advisory Panel
Daily Memphian – Bill Dries | Published: 8/9/2021
Shelby County commissioners overrode County Mayor Lee Harris’s veto of a new ethics advisory panel to be appointed by the commission. Commissioner Amber Mills proposed the advisory group, saying it would advise the commission on anyone the mayor appoints to the county’s ethics panel as well as any proposed amendments to the ethics ordinance.
Texas – Texas GOP Hits New Roadblocks in Push for Voting Restrictions
MSN – Eva Ruth Moravec and Elise Viebeck (Washington Post) | Published: 8/11/2021
Texas Republicans hit fresh roadblocks in their effort to enact new voting restrictions, facing a Democratic filibuster in the state Senate and signs that legal maneuvering could protect House quorum breakers from arrest. In the House, which remained without a quorum, deputies for the sergeant-at-arms apparently failed to find any absent Democrats as they delivered civil arrest warrants to their offices. The unexpected developments threw fresh uncertainty into a months-long standoff that has crystallized the national debate over voting rights.
Washington – Group That Wants to Provide Legal Help to Eyman Starts Fight with Disclosure Commission
Tacoma News Tribune – Alexis Krell | Published: 8/9/2021
A group that wants to represent anti-tax activist Tim Eyman has sued over how Washington’s campaign finance law might apply to its pro bono legal work. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued Eyman for violating campaign finance laws and a judge fined Eyman $2.6 million. The judge found him to be a “continuing political committee,” and he had not properly filed campaign finance reports and put donors’ contributions to personal use. The Institute for Free Speech wants to represent Eyman on appeal, but his designation as a “continuing political committee” raised questions about whether the institute would be subject to campaign finance laws if they represented him for free.
Wisconsin – Wisconsin GOP Lawmaker Takes First Step Toward Launching Arizona-Style Election Review
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 8/6/2021
State Rep. Janel Brandtjen, chairperson of the Wisconsin Assembly’s elections committee, said she was subpoenaing 2020 election materials including physical ballots and voting machines from two large counties, in an attempt to bring an Arizona-style review of the 2020 election to another state. The subpoenas seek a wide scope of materials, stretching from the physical ballots themselves, to tabulation equipment and “forensic images” of election equipment. It is not yet clear if the subpoenas are valid, however.
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