News You Can Use Digest - December 16, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

December 15, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – December 16, 2022


Advocates Seek Federal Investigation of Multistate Effort to Copy Voting Software
MSN – Emma Brown, Aaron Davis, and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 12/12/2022

An effort by supporters of former President Trump to copy sensitive voting software in multiple states after the 2020 election deserves attention from the federal government, including a criminal investigation and assessment of the risk posed to election security, according to election-security advocates. They said by copying voting software and circulating it “in the wild,” partisan election deniers have created a digital road map that could help hackers alter results or disrupt voting.

‘Dark Money in Politics an Even Darker Place’ Now, Judges Warn
Washington Post – Rachel Weiner | Published: 12/14/2022

Watchdogs looking to toughen federal enforcement of campaign finance laws will not get any help from the judiciary after an appellate court ruling that advocates and some judges warn will lead to more untraceable election spending. A nonprofit asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to take another look at a decision that prevented courts from reviewing FEC decisions or stopped private parties from challenging the commission’s decisions for cases in which the agency invokes “prosecutorial discretion.” Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Neomi Rao said, “prosecutorial discretion is not judicially reviewable.”

DOJ: Barrack, Wynn losses won’t derail foreign influence crackdown
MSN – Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) | Published: 12/8/2022

The head of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence division vowed the department would not be deterred by a string of recent legal setbacks in its attempts to crackdown on foreign influence efforts in the United States. “We will continue to bring hard cases,” Jay Bratt said at a conference for Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) lawyers. Bratt was pushing back on the suggestion by some FARA practitioners that the recent acquittal of Tom Barrack on charges of illegal foreign lobbying could trigger a retrenchment by the department.

Ex-Venezuelan Treasurer, Husband Convicted of Corruption in First Trial of Its Kind in Florida
MSN – Jay Weaver and Antonio Maria Delgado (Miami Herald) | Published: 12/13/2022

A former Venezuelan national treasurer and her husband were found guilty of accepting tens of millions of dollars in bribes and moving their tainted money to Miami. Claudia Díaz Guillen and her husband, Adrian Velásquez Figueroa, were convicted after a few hours of deliberations by a federal jury of money laundering conspiracy and related charges. Díaz was the first former Venezuelan official to face trial among dozens of elite businessmen, lawyers, and officials who have been charged with foreign corruption extending from their homeland to South Florida, a hub for so-called kleptocrats seeking a haven for their ill-gotten fortunes, federal authorities say.

FTX Founder Bankman-Fried’s Campaign Finance Charges ‘Just the Tip of the Iceberg’
MSN – Julia Manchester (The Hill) | Published: 12/13/2022

FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried was charged with violating a slew of campaign finance laws, marking another major blow for the former cryptocurrency leader. The federal indictment alleged that in addition to committing securities and wire fraud, Bankman-Fried gave a minimum of $25,000 in campaign finance donations to campaigns and PACs “in the names of other persons.” He was one of the most prominent donors in this campaign cycle. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington had filed a complaint requesting the FEC investigate Bankman-Fried for campaign finance violations.

GOP Operative Who Allegedly Kicked a Dog Hired as Top Aide to New Congressman
Yahoo News – Daniel Lippman (Politico) | Published: 12/13/2022

Brandon Phillips, a veteran Republican operative who is slated to be chief of staff for incoming U.S. Rep. Mike Collins, was arrested in November on a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty for allegedly kicking a dog. In 2016, Phillips resigned as Donald Trump’s state director in Georgia after his prior criminal history was revealed. He participated in a meeting that was held exclusively for congressional chiefs of staff for Georgia Republicans. Phillips also was with Collins for new member orientation.

House Democrats Reject Committee Term Limit Proposal
MSN – Lindsay McPherson (Roll Call) | Published: 12/13/2022

U.S. House Democrats rejected an effort to limit how long their committee leaders can serve without a waiver from the entire caucus. An amendment would have set a six-year term limit for committee leaders, counting time served as chair and ranking member together. Rep. Bill Foster said the members who are held back by the current system are the younger, more diverse members and his amendment would have given those members earlier opportunities to serve in committee leadership positions.

House GOP Reckons with ‘Candidate Quality’ Problem After Midterms – and ahead of 2024
MSN – Ally Mutnick (Politico) | Published: 12/13/2022

Republicans gained control of Congress thanks to wins by some of their strongest recruits in years. But far-right, inexperienced, and Donald Trump-endorsed candidates lost winnable seats across the country. Some House members and operatives are already debating and trading ideas about how to multiply the number of top-tier candidates and avoid unelectable ones. Recruitment has taken on increasing importance after the midterms. The GOP’s narrow majority will make governing nearly impossible and make the next battle for the House in 2024 a toss-up.

In Senate Shake-Up, Sinema Changes Her Party Affiliation to Independent
MSN – Liz Goodwin, John Wagner, Eugene Scott, and Leigh Ann Caldwell (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2022

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced she was leaving the Democratic Party, dampening Senate Democrats’ post-midterms celebrations and potentially endangering party’s chances of holding onto the seat in 2024. Some Arizona Democrats accused Sinema of making the switch for political reasons, to avoid a near-certain Democratic primary challenge in 2024 if she decides to run as an independent in that race. But Sinema, and some of her colleagues in the Senate, said her decision was more about reflecting a discomfort with formally belonging to a party that increasingly felt alien to her in recent years.

Inside the Secret $32M Effort to Stop ‘Stop the Steal’
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 12/12/2022

A pair of progressive organizations operating in complete secrecy spearheaded a $32 million campaign during the midterms to push back against former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement. The effort was undertaken by two newly created groups: Pro-Democracy Center and Pro-Democracy Campaign. Those groups operated in states across the country as the election system faced unprecedented pressure from Trump and his allies, who falsely said the 2020 election was stolen.

Kavanaugh Holiday Party Appearance Raises More Ethics Questions
Bloomberg Law – Lydia Wheeler | Published: 12/12/2022

It was reported that Justice Brett Kavanaugh attended a private holiday party at the home of Matt Schlapp, who is chairperson of the Conservative Political Action Coalition, and attendees included Stephen Miller, whose group America First Legal Foundation has interests in cases now pending before the court. Kavanaugh’s party-going raises questions about when a justice’s personal relationships cross a line and become problematic. Democrats have recently renewed calls for sitting Supreme Court justices to follow a formal judicial code of ethics.

Police Raid More EU Parliament Offices in Corruption Probe
MSN – Samuel Petrequin (Associated Press) | Published: 12/12/2022

Prosecutors investigating alleged influence peddling at the European Parliament charged four people with corruption, participation in a criminal group, and money laundering. Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili of Greece was relieved of her duties. Authorities have not identified the country suspected of offering cash or gifts to officials in exchange for political favors, but several members of the assembly and some Belgian media have linked the investigation to Qatar. Critics said the scandal was symptomatic of a more widespread problem with corruption not just in the European Parliament, but across all the European Union institutions.

‘Stealth’ Efforts to Influence Supreme Court Discussed by Judiciary Committee
MSN – Ann Marimow and Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 12/8/2022

In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, evangelical minister Robert Schenck said he encouraged wealthy Christian couples to use tactics like donations to the Supreme Court Historical Society to meet justices and to parlay those encounters into closer relationships to achieve their objectives at the court. Schenck was subpoenaed to testify as part of an effort by Democrats on the committee to strengthen ethics rules for justices, who are not bound by any code of conduct and are responsible for policing themselves. Critics say that structure allows for loopholes that undermine public faith in the court’s independence.

Transgender Americans Feel Under Siege as Political Vitriol Rises
Yahoo – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 12/10/2022

Intimidation and violence against gay and transgender Americans spread in 2022, driven heavily, extremism experts say, by inflammatory political messaging. Over the past couple of years, it has become routine for conservatives to liken transgender people and their allies to pedophiles, and to equate discussion of gender identity with “grooming” children for sexual abuse, reminiscent of campaigns against gay rights dating back to the 1970s to turn increasing visibility of transgender Americans into a political wedge.

Trump Told Crowd to ‘Fight Like Hell’ Before Riot. Can He Be Sued?
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 12/7/2022

A federal appeals court debated whether Donald Trump can be forced to pay damages for his role in the riot at the U.S. Capitol to lawmakers and police officers injured by the mob. While they struggled with the line between protected speechmaking and actionable incitement, all three judges on indicated that a line exists, and the former president may have crossed it. One judge, a Trump appointee who served in his administration, said Trump potentially instigated violence when he told his supporters the election was stolen and urged them to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.”

U.S. Judge Won’t Hold Trump’s Office in Contempt, People Familiar Say
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Jacqueline Alemany, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 12/9/2022

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced she was leaving the Democratic Party, dampening Senate Democrats’ post-midterms celebrations and potentially endangering party’s chances of holding onto the seat in 2024. Some Arizona Democrats accused Sinema of making the switch for political reasons, to avoid a near-certain Democratic primary challenge in 2024 if she decides to run as an independent in that race. But Sinema, and some of her colleagues in the Senate, said her decision was more about reflecting a discomfort with formally belonging to a party that increasingly felt alien to her in recent years.

What the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s Final Report Will Look Like
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 12/12/2022

The final report of the House select committee that has been investigating the January 6 insurrection will begin with a voluminous executive summary describing former President Trump’s culpability for his extensive and baseless effort to subvert the 2020 election, according to people briefed on its contents. Drafts of the report include thousands of footnotes drawn from the panel’s interviews and research over the past 16 months into Trump’s activities in the final weeks that preceded January 6, 2021, when a mob of his supporters battered police and stormed the Capitol.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Kari Lake Sues Arizona’s Largest County, Seeking to Overturn Her Defeat
DNyuz – Alexandra Berzon, Ken Bensinger, and Charles Homans (New York Times) | Published: 12/9/2022

Kari Lake, the losing Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, filed a lawsuit contesting the results of the election. Lake’s lawsuit came after she had spent weeks making a series of public statements and social media posts aimed at sowing doubt in the outcome of a contest she lost by more than 17,000 votes to her Democratic opponent, Katie Hobbs. That loss was certified in documents signed by Hobbs, who currently serves as secretary of state.

California Former SF Building Inspector Pleads Guilty to Taking Illegal Payments
MSN – Staff (KBCW) | Published: 12/9/2022

Bernard Curran, a former San Francisco building inspector, pleaded guilty to two counts of accepting gratuity payments as rewards for approving building permits. In one instance, Curran accepted $260,000 from a developer to assist Curran in paying down his existing residential mortgage so he could obtain favorable refinancing rates. Though he intended to repay the money, he knew that accepting it was improper and created a forbidden conflict-of-interest. Curran admitted the developer never required him to repay $30,000 of the outstanding balance.

California Leaked Tape Turns LA City Council Member into a Fugitive in His Hometown
MSN – Alexander Nieves and Jeremy White (Politico) | Published: 12/13/2022

Two months after becoming entangled in a racism scandal that shook public trust in Los Angeles government, disgraced city council member Kevin de León has refused calls to resign and is attempting to rehabilitate his reputation. His situation deteriorated when he scuffled with an activist who heckled him at a holiday toy giveaway that was posted on Twitter. The confrontation left children at the event in tears. When De Leon appeared at his first council meeting since mid-October, it set off a chaotic protest between competing factions in the audience.

Colorado Denver Schools Investigated Former Principal Over $175K in Purchases, Then Promoted Her
Yahoo News – David Migoya (Colorado Springs Gazette) | Published: 12/11/2022

A Denver Public Schools principal with a history of financial woes was investigated last year over allegations that more than $175,000 was misspent on district credit cards, nearly half of it unaccounted for and without receipts, but managed to keep her job and was eventually promoted. Although the school district confiscated the credit card it issued to Kimberly Grayson over concerns of misspending, as well as the cards issued to three others she supervised at the school, the district later gave the card back to Grayson and, according to documents, her spending quickly resumed.

Florida Sunset Lounge Dispute with City of West Palm Beach Headed to Trial in May
MSN – Terri Parker (WBPF) | Published: 12/13/2022

The lawsuit by Vita Lounge LLC against the West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency over the Sunset Lounge bid award is headed to trial in May. Vita Lounge claims it was improperly disqualified from running the historic venue after it won the bid to negotiate a contract. The city’s procurement director said Vita violated the city code surrounding such bids by lobbying people to contact the mayor and commission via Facebook posts.

Georgia Georgia Secretary of State Calls for End to Runoff Elections
MSN – Matthew Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 12/14/2022

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger called on the Legislature to eliminate runoff voting during its session next year after another bitter overtime election gripped the state. Raffensperger cited the added stress that conducting a runoff election puts on counties and voters as part of his reasoning. Georgia’s peculiar runoff system is the product of its post-segregationist election laws, which lawmakers later admitted were intended to suppress emerging Black political power.

Georgia Special Counsel Sends Trump Subpoena to Ga. Secretary of State Raffensperger
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 12/12/2022

Special counsel Jack Smith sent grand jury subpoenas to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and to authorities in Clark County, Nevada, bringing to six the number of 2020 battleground states where state or local election officials are known to have received such requests for all communications with Donald Trump, his campaign, and a long list of aides and allies. Raffensperger shot to prominence following a January 2, 2021, phone call with Trump in which the then-president urged him to “find” enough votes to reverse his defeat in Georgia.

Hawaii Most Hawaii Campaign Spending Violators Never See Jail Time
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 12/15/2022

Criminal referrals are rare for violations of campaign finance law in Hawaii. Certain campaign finance crimes are classified as Class C felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines. But jail time has not been levied against campaign spending violators since the early 2000s. In the past, the Hawaii Ethics Commission had to choose between referring a case to prosecutors and assessing fines. A new law allows the commission to assess fines and refer a case to prosecutors concurrently.

Michigan Dana Nessel: Keep Lee Chatfield records secret to avoid embarrassment
Bridge Michigan – Kelly House and Jonathan Oosting | Published: 12/14/2022

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vowed to enact laws that would make records from her office and the Legislature publicly available and said the state needs to examine loopholes in lobbying rules that potentially contributed to the actions of former House Speaker Lee Chatfield, who is under criminal investigation over allegations of bribery, campaign finance violations, and other crimes. Assistant Attorney General Michael Frezza told a judge the probe involves other high level government officials and lobbyists.

Mississippi Ethics Commission’s Final Order: Law does not require Legislature to meet in public
Mississippi Today – Bobby Harrison | Published: 12/14/2022

Members of the Mississippi Ethics Commission approved a final order saying the state Legislature is not bound by the open meetings law. The order adopted on December 14 saying the Legislature is not a public body as defined by the law was a final order. The issue arose from a complaint saying House Speaker Philip Gunn was violating the open meetings law when the Republican Caucus, which includes 75 members of the 122-member House, meets routinely behind closed doors. The constitution mandates that a majority of either the House or Senate is a quorum.

New Jersey Bill to Revamp Campaign Finance Laws Clears Assembly Hurdle
New Jersey Monitor – Nikita Biryukov | Published: 12/13/2022

A New Jersey Assembly panel approved a new version of a bill that would revamp campaign finance laws that supporters say are outdated, but critics warned the changes could shield corruption and increase the influence of wealthy donors. Assembly Bill 4372 would double campaign contribution limits, bolster the state’s gubernatorial public financing program, and revise the state’s “pay-to-play” laws.

New Jersey N.J. Politicians Could Soon Have Their Home Addresses Blocked Out on Public Records
MSN – Brent Johnson (Newark Star Ledger) | Published: 12/13/2022

Two years after passing a law that shields the home addresses of judges and law enforcement officials in New Jersey out of security concerns, state lawmakers are now advancing legislation that keep their own addresses, and those of other politicians, from being released to the public. Sponsors say the bill is needed to protect politicians in the wake attacks on public officials in recent years. Critics note lawmakers would be exempting themselves when there have been attacks on Jewish people, LGBTQ people, reporters, and others who would not get the same protections.

New Mexico NM Lawmakers Update Anti-Harassment Policy for the Roundhouse
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 12/12/2022

Legislative leaders in New Mexico agreed to reshape how sexual harassment investigations are conducted at the state Legislature, a move intended to make it more difficult for inquiries to die on a tie vote. The new policy adds an outside attorney to a key panel that investigates harassment complaints lodged against legislators, putting the attorney in position to cast a tie-breaking vote on whether a case moves forward. The change comes after a high-profile harassment case against Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.

New York NYC Mayor’s Chief of Staff Will Keep a Public Board Seat with Possible Conflict
MSN – Gregory Korte (Bloomberg) | Published: 12/12/2022

Camille Varlack, the incoming chief of staff to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, serves on the board of a publicly owned energy company that does business with the city, a $140,000-a-year role she plans to keep despite a conflict-of-interest policy that generally prohibits the practice. The city charter prohibits city officials from having “an interest in a firm which such public servant knows is engaged in business dealings with the agency served by such public servant.” Sometimes employees can secure a waiver from the Conflicts of Interest Board, but the board said no such request has been granted or initiated by the mayor’s office.

Ohio Judge Will Allow ‘Pay-to-Play’ Recording at Former GOP House Speaker Larry Householder’s Trial
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 12/13/2022

A federal judge handed an early win to prosecutors by ruling in their favor on a handful of motions over what evidence could be presented in the looming criminal trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black granted several requests from prosecutors. He also denied others from Householder, who is accused of operating a “pay-to-play” scheme. The charge centers on FirstEnergy and its $60 million in payments to a nonprofit allegedly controlled by Householder, and legislation creating a $1.3 billion subsidy for nuclear plants owned at the time by the company’s subsidiary.

Ohio Lawmakers Send Elections Bill with Tougher Photo ID Requirement to Gov. Mike DeWine’s Desk
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 12/15/2022

The Ohio General Assembly approved a sweeping elections bill, sending it to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk. House Bill 458 would require a voter to show a photo ID when voting in person, either early or on Election Day. The bill includes a slew of other measures, including largely ending special elections in August, specifying that county boards of election can offer only a single drop box for completed absentee ballots, and eliminating the day of early, in-person voting the day before Election Day.

Oregon Oregon’s Top Election Official Seeks More Money to Combat Election Misinformation
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 12/8/2022

Citing an increase in misinformation, complaints, and time-consuming public records requests from election deniers, Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan is seeking roughly $2 million over the next two years to hire more staff dedicated to election security and oversight. Fagan is also seeking funds to begin replacing the state’s outdated campaign finance database, ORESTAR. The system has been in place for 20 years, runs slowly, and cannot be opened in more than one tab or window, among other frustrations for users.

Pennsylvania Cost of Pennsylvania Governor’s Race Sets New Record Amid ‘Campaign Finance Arms Race’
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 12/10/2022

The total cost of the governor’s race in Pennsylvania topped $100 million in this last election cycle, a new spending record in the race to win the state’s highest office. The spending puts on display Pennsylvania’s distinction as having some of the most lax campaign finance laws in the country, ones that place no limits on how much money candidates can accept from donors. It also gives reform advocates pause because it has the potential to raise the bar for competing in future races, entrenching incumbents, and shutting out otherwise good candidates who lack a deep bench of donors.

Pennsylvania With Majority at Stake, Pa. House Republicans Sue to Block Democratic-Scheduled Special Elections
Spotlght PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 12/10/2022

Pennsylvania House Republicans filed a lawsuit to block three legislative special elections from taking place in February, potentially delaying a clear-cut majority for Democrats, and allowing the GOP to maintain some measure of power into spring. The suit argues House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton did not have the authority to schedule the elections. Democrats must win all three seats to keep their majority.

Rhode Island AG: McKee can keep political dossiers secret despite violation of public records law
MSN – Eli Sherman (WPRI) | Published: 12/14/2022

Gov. Dan McKee’s office violated public records law in its effort to withhold background reports on some of the state’s top politicians who were being considered for lieutenant governor, but still had the right to keep the information secret under a different rationale, the Rhode Island attorney general’s office ruled. McKee’s office initially denied a request for the dossiers, arguing because the information was a “political assessment of the candidates and thereby a private political document ….”

Rhode Island Prov. Ethics Commission ‘Is Not Working,’ Chairman Says, as Complaints Get Dismissed
WPRI – Steph Machado | Published: 12/8/2022

The Providence Ethics Commission met recently for the first time in more than a year, voting to dismiss two complaints against high-profile city leaders which they had previously voted to investigate but then never actually considered. Commission Chairperson Andrew Kanter said the complaints were dismissed not because the panel determined they did not have merit, but because it has been unable to consider them or hold hearings on them. “It’s clear the commission is not working,” Kanter said.

Tennessee Longtime Tennessee Domestic Violence Leader Is Out Following Critical Federal Investigation
Tennessee Lookout – Anita Wadhwani and Natasha Senjanovic | Published: 12/14/2022

Kathy Walsh, the longtime leader of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, has left the organization. The change comes less than a week after the media reported on findings of whistleblower retaliation at the nonprofit. Walsh helped build its reputation as the leading voice for domestic and sexual violence victims in the state. As a registered lobbyist, she also helped shape many pieces of legislation. But a federal probe found Walsh was involved in forcing out an employee who blew the whistle on the potential misuse of federal grant funds.

Virginia Investigation Clears Va. Agency for Contract with Youngkin’s Ad-Maker
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 12/10/2022

The Virginia inspector general found state officials committed no wrongdoing by awarding a $268,000 contract to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s political ad-maker in what was initially a no-bid deal. Democrats questioned how the firm, Poolhouse, won the chance to make a state tourism video and whether the Virginia Tourism Corp., a taxpayer-funded public authority, had paid too much for the 60-second spot featuring Youngkin. Poolhouse made $1.5 million in campaign ads for Youngkin during last year’ss gubernatorial race and has continued working with the governor as he explores a 2024 presidential bid.

Washington DC D.C. Elections Board: Silverman’s poll did not break campaign finance law
MSN – Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 12/12/2022

The District of Columbia Board of Elections sided with Councilperson Elissa Silverman in her appeal of a decision from the Office of Campaign Finance (OCF), ruling she did not misuse campaign funds while polling for the Democratic primary election. She sought to clear her name over a complaint brought by fellow at-large candidate Karim Marshall, who asked the OCF to determine whether Silverman violated rules or improperly coordinated with other candidates while polling for the Ward 3 contest. The OCF had ordered Silverman to reimburse the city $6,277.52 for the polling expenditures.

Continue Reading

State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting

Sort by Month