February 11, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – February 11, 2022
‘Blue’ Suburban Moms Are Mobilizing to Counter Conservatives in Fights Over Masks, Book Bans and Diversity Education
Washington Post – Annie Gowan | Published: 2/9/2022
Dozens of suburban moms from around the country dialed into an Ohio-based Zoom training session with the same goal – to learn how to combat the increasingly vitriolic rhetoric from parents whose protests over mask mandates and diversity education have turned school board meeting rooms into battlegrounds. Moms for Liberty, a controversial Florida-based political action group started by two former school board members and a Republican activist, has made parental rights its rallying cry and is hoping to harness anger over mask mandates and diversity education in schools into power at the polls.
‘Dear White Staffers’: Anonymous testimonials about workplace culture grip Capitol Hill
MSN – Mariana Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2022
Concerns about low pay, hostile work environments, and racial and gender discrimination have gripped Capitol Hill as an Instagram account called “Dear White Students” has posted hundreds of testimonials from current and former aides that tell a dispiriting story about what it is like to work in the halls of Congress. The account was created in January 2020, and its first post was a meme during the Trump administration mocking how minorities are paid less than White staffers, but its profile on Capitol Hill has risen steadily since the new year.
How Manchin Used Politics to Protect His Family Coal Company
Yahoo News – Scott Waldman (Politico) | Published: 2/8/2022
As West Virginia’s governor, Joe Manchin supported a provision in a clean energy bill that was moving through the state Legislature in 2009. It classified waste coal as an alternative energy. But the mix of discarded coal and rocks is a carbon-intensive fuel. Manchin’s family business stood to benefit financially when it was reclassified as something akin to solar, wind, and hydropower. He has used his political positions to protect the fuel, and a single power plant in West Virginia that burns it, from regulations that also threatened his family business. It continues today. Only now Manchin has enormous influence over federal climate policy.
Judges Take Over Drawing Dozens of House Districts – and Throw Dems a Bone
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick (Politico) | Published: 2/4/2022
Most states have finished their maps, but state and federal courts will direct the drawing of some 75 congressional districts in at least seven states in the coming months, marking a new phase in the process before the first 2022 primaries begin. Taken together, the court interventions have eased Democratic fears about redistricting. So far, the decisions have validated the party’s state-by-state legal strategy and offered a reprieve from several Republican gerrymandering attempts before a single election could be held under the new lines.
Manafort Lender Gets One Year in Prison for Bid to Get Trump Job
Yahoo Finance – Bob Van Voris (Bloomberg) | Published: 2/7/2022
A Chicago banker convicted of trying to trade $16 million in bank loans to former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort for the chance at a top administration post was sentenced to a year in prison. Stephen Calk was found guilty of financial institution bribery and conspiracy over the loans. Calk had hoped then-President Trump would name him to a powerful government post, including treasury secretary, defense secretary, or ambassador to France or the United Kingdom.
National Archives Asks Justice Dept. to Investigate Trump’s Handling of White House Records
MSN – Matt Zapotosky, Jacqueline Alemany, Ashley Parker, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/9/2022
The National Archives and Records Administration asked the Justice Department to examine Donald Trump’s handling of White House records. Officials recovered 15 boxes of materials from the former president’s Mar-a-Lago residence that were not handed back to the government as they should have been, and Trump had turned over other White House records that had been torn up. Archives officials suspected Trump possibly violated laws concerning the handling of government documents, including those that might be considered classified.
One Menacing Call After Another: Threats against lawmakers surge
Yahoo News – Catie Edmondson and Mark Walker (New York Times) | Published: 2/9/2022
The New York Times reviewed more than 75 indictments of people charged with threatening lawmakers since 2016. The flurry of cases shed light on a chilling trend: in recent years, and particularly since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, a growing number of Americans have taken ideological grievance and political outrage to a new level, lodging concrete threats of violence against members of Congress. Many of threats were fueled by forces that have long dominated politics, including partisan divisions and a media landscape that stokes resentment. But they surged during Trump’s time in office and in its aftermath.
Republicans Censure Cheney, Kinzinger, Call Jan. 6 Probe Attack on ‘Legitimate Political Discourse’
Reuters – Doins Chiach | Published: 2/4/2022
The Republican Party censured U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for joining Congress’ investigation of the attack on the Capitol and Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, calling the probe an attack on “legitimate political discourse.” Cheney and Kinzinger are the only Republicans on the House select committee. The panel is investigating who, including people in Trump’s inner circle, had any role in planning or enabling the worst assault on the Capitol since the War of 1812.
Stock Trading Ban for Lawmakers Gains Momentum on Capitol Hill
New York Times – Jonathan Weisman | Published: 2/9/2022
An effort to strictly control stock ownership by members of Congress is gathering momentum on Capitol Hill for the first time in a decade, fueled by politically vulnerable lawmakers who recognize the potency of signaling to voters that they will act on the perceived corruption in Washington. The issue of banning the ownership and trading of individual stocks by lawmakers is complex. It raises questions of just what other kinds of personal investments or economic liabilities could be perceived as conflicts of interest, and how far the prohibitions should extend.
Two House Democrats Question PR Firms on Work with Fossil Fuel Companies
Yahoo News – Zack Budrick (The Hill) | Published: 2/9/2022
U.S. Reps. Katie Porter and Raúl Grijalva sent a letter to six public relations firms, asking for details on their work with energy companies and whether they had aided them in campaigns to obscure the link between fossil fuels and climate change. The letter specifically cited a video recorded last summer by an undercover Greenpeace activist, in which Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy tells the videographer the company “[fought] against some of the science” and used “shadow groups” to obfuscate the link.
Canada – Faith Goldy, Far-Right 2018 Toronto Mayoral Candidate, Faces Possible Prosecution Over Election Finances
Toronto Star – David Ryder | Published: 2/9/2022
Faith Goldy, a far-right pundit who has promoted white supremacy, faces possible prosecution over her 2018 Toronto mayoral campaign fundraising. The cit’’s compliance committee voted to refer findings from an audit to a provincial prosecutor. The committee was told Goldy failed to disclose more than $150,000 in campaign donations, illegally accepted contributions from non-Ontarians, mixed her personal and campaign funds, and did not co-operate with the audit.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Supreme Court Stops Lower Court Order Requiring Alabama to Draw a New District Voting Map Favorable to Black Residents
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 2/7/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for Alabama to use its new Republican-drawn congressional map in the 2022 elections even though a lower court said it violated the Voting Rights Act by denying a new district favorable to a Black candidate. The majority did not provide a reason for stopping the lower court’s decision. But Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito wrote separately to say the changes ordered by the lower court came too close to qualifying and primaries for the fall election and could create “chaos.” The case is the first for current Supreme Court justices to consider how to apply the Voting Rights Act to racial gerrymandering.
California – On Heels of Ridley-Thomas Indictment, LA County Hires Firm to Launch Sweeping Audit
Los Angeles Daily News – Ryan Carter and City News Service | Published: 2/4/2022
Los Angeles County hired the law firm Covington & Burling to conduct the audit of its contracting policies and processes and review all its major service contracts. On the heels of former Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’s indictment and suspension from the city council, the Board of Supervisors voted to conduct the audit to ensure transparency in the county’s contracting procedures, which came into question following Ridley-Thomas’s indictment on federal bribery and conspiracy charges.
California – Why San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo Is Being Sued Over Private Emails
San Jose Mercury News – Maggie Angst | Published: 2/8/2022
Five years after California Supreme Court’s ruling that texts and emails sent by public officials on their personal devices or accounts containing public business should be considered public records, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and the city are being sued for violating the landmark ruling they sparked. The state Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the case City of San Jose v. Superior Court (Ted Smith) that when a public employee uses a personal account to communicate about public business, the content may be subject to disclosure.
Florida – Lawmakers Target Protests Outside Homes
WTVX – Dara Kam (News Service of Florida) | Published: 2/8/2022
A year after passing a sweeping law aimed at protests, Florida legislators are moving forward with a proposal that could criminalize demonstrations in front of or around people’s homes, including the governor’s mansion. The prohibition would apply not only to private property but extend to public parks, sidewalks. and rights-of-way. Critics say the legislation could allow law enforcement officials to arrest peaceful protesters and lead to Black and Hispanic demonstrators being targeted by police.
Georgia – Judge: Kemp can’t use leadership committee funds for primary
Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 2/7/2022
A “leadership committee” created by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp under a new state law must stop spending money to get the governor reelected during the Republican primary, a federal judge ruled. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Kemp in the primary, filed a lawsuit challenging the new law. Perdue and his campaign allege the law gives Kemp a significant and unfair fundraising and spending advantage in the primary and asked the judge to declare it unconstitutional.
Hawaii – Indictment Puts Spotlight on One of the Most Connected Men in Honolulu
Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 2/8/2022
At various times, Max Sword had a hand in vetting the job applications of state judges, deciding how much money Hawaii legislators should make, and drawing the maps of Honolulu’s voting districts. Currently, he is on the board of the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. It was Sword’s role as chair of the Honolulu Police Commission that led to his recent indictment. He is accused of conspiring with former city Attorney Donna Leong and former Managing Director Roy Amemiya to misuse city funds to give former police chief Louis Kealoha a $250,000 retirement package.
Hawaii – Two Hawaii Lawmakers Charged in Bribery Scheme Over Cesspool Legislation
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 2/8/2022
Former Hawaii Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and state Rep. Ty Cullen were charged by federal prosecutors with accepting bribes to support and defeat legislation on behalf of an industrial services company hoping to benefit from state cesspool regulations. Prosecutors allege English illegally accepted more than $15,000 and Cullen collected more than $23,000 in bribes. English retired at the end of the 2021 legislative session in May. Cullen was vice chairperson of the House Finance Committee, where he played a part in directing government spending on construction projects.
Iowa – Bill Would Remove ‘Swarm’ of Lobbyists from Iowa Capitol Rotunda
Globe Gazette – James Lynch | Published: 2/7/2022
A proposal to make room for “regular people” at the Iowa Capitol is getting a cool response from some of the lobbyists who would be displaced. House File 2276 would restrict lobbyists from engaging in lobbying activity in the second-floor rotunda between the House and Senate chambers. They would be permitted to be in the lobbyists’ lounges adjacent to each chamber as well as the House and Senate lounge when meeting with legislators.
Louisiana – Jeff Landry Didn’t Report $4,000+ in Travel Receipts from National Group, Despite Ethics Rules
The Advocate – Andrea Gallo | Published: 2/4/2022
Attorney General Jeff Landry failed to report he received more than $4,000 in travel reimbursements last year within the period that state public servants are required to submit such expenses to the Louisiana Board of Ethics. Tax forms show the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) reimbursed Landry for three trips in 2021. RAGA’s past tax forms show they have reimbursed Landry at least $8,000 in travel expenses since 2018. Landry has never reported the reimbursements. State law requires public officials to disclose when they receive reimbursements or comped travel; they must do so within 60 days of receipt.
Michigan – Giuliani Asked Michigan Prosecutor to Give Voting Machines to Trump Team
Anchorage Daily News – Jon Swaine, Emma Brown, and Jaqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 2/9/2022
In the weeks after the 2020 election, Rudolph Giuliani and other legal advisers to then-President Trump asked a Republican prosecutor in northern Michigan to get his county’s voting machines and pass them to Trump’s team. Antrim County prosecutor James Rossiter said Giuliani and several colleagues made the request during a telephone call after the county initially misreported its election results. Legal scholars said it was unusual and inappropriate for a president’s representatives to make such a request of a local prosecutor.
Michigan – Reforms Sought on Recall Fundraising After Whitmer Raises Millions Extra
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 2/8/2022
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ability to accept excess campaign contributions because of a recall is generating legislation in the Michigan House to reform a practice that critics have called a loophole. Under the proposal, candidates would be required to create a separate fund to hold contributions related to the recall instead of mixing the extra cash with normal political donations, among other provisions. The bill stems from Whitmer’s use last year of a recall policy to collect about $4 million in contributions above the state’s normal giving limits, which are capped for individual donors at $7,150 for a statewide candidate committee.
Montana – Judge Strikes Parts of Heavily Amended Campaign Finance Bill
MSN – Amy Beth Hanson (Associated Press) | Published: 2/4/2022
A judge ruled the Montana Legislature violated the state constitution when it changed a campaign finance bill late in the 2021 session to make it harder to register and to encourage college students to vote and to, in effect, limit donations to judicial campaigns. The judge granted a permanent injunction preventing the state from enforcing the two provisions that were added to Senate Bill 319 during a conference committee, with no public input, a day before the Legislature adjourned. Montana’s Constitution requires that bills contain a single subject. It also prevents legislators from amending laws so much that their original purpose is changed.
New York – Cannabis Company Granted Subpoenas of Hochul, Regulators
Albany Times Union – Rebekah Ward | Published: 2/10/2022
A state Supreme Court justice approved four subpoenas that MedMen, a multi-state marijuana operator, will serve on New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration as it seeks documents showing any communications between the governor’s office and a rival company. The subpoenas also seek records of communications between the rival, Ascend Wellness Holdings, and state cannabis regulators, as well as additional documents pertaining to a soured deal between MedMen and Ascend. The subpoenas filed by MedMen referenced an article published in December regarding Hochul’s campaign fundraising.
New York – Ethics Groups Want Investigation of Free Help Cuomo Received
MSN – Marina Villeneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 2/7/2022
Watchdog groups say New York’s ethics commission should investigate whether former Gov. Andrew Cuomo broke the law by accepting free help from a group of former aides who worked to defend him against sexual harassment allegations. State ethics law bans public officials from accepting gifts or services worth more than $15 from lobbyists and companies that do business with the state. When Cuomo’s first accusers came forward, he turned to a team of outside advisers who provided him with strategic advice and public relations help. Several of those ex-aides worked for companies that lobby the state or have had state contracts.
New York – Ex-N.Y.C. Shelter Boss to Pay $1.2 Million After Bribery Plea
New York Times – Amy Julia Harris | Published: 2/7/2022
The former head of one of the largest operators of homeless shelters in New York City pleaded guilty to pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors in a scheme that went on for years, as homelessness in the city grew to record numbers. Victor Rivera, founder of the Bronx Parent Housing Network, admitted to accepting kickbacks from contractors working with the organization and laundering the money through entities he controlled. As part of the plea agreement, Rivera is expected to face a prison sentence and agreed to forfeit $1.2 million.
New York – Hochul Leads Pack of Candidates Who Fail to Disclose Sources of Corporate Cash
The City – Sam Mellins (New York Focus) | Published: 2/9/2022
A media investigation revealed elected officials in New York continued to collect money from anonymous donors in violation of a 2019 law that required the disclosure of limited liability company (LLC) owners who made campaign contributions. The law is meant to prevent individuals from using LLCs as an end run around per person donation limits. Gov. Kathy Hochul was among the biggest benefactors of such money in 2021 and did not meet the disclosure requirements for a majority of the donations.
New York – ‘Space’: The bureaucratic frontier threatening the state’s new Public Campaign Finance Board
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin | Published: 2/7/2022
Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky, co-executive director of the New York State Board of Elections, testified recently about what was impeding the progress of the state’s new Public Campaign Finance Board. A top concern, according to Zebrowski Stavisky is the lack of office space. This was making it harder to bring in the personnel needed to launch the program since there is nowhere to put them. She also said their plans to acquire new offices were snared in months of bureaucratic, inter-agency delays. Despite the problems, officials insist the program will be up and running later this year.
North Carolina – North Carolina Supreme Court Rejects Redistricting Map as Unconstitutional
MSN – Meryl Kornfield, Colby Itkowitz, and Maria Luisa Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 2/4/2022
The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled political district maps drawn by Republican lawmakers are unconstitutional and must be redrawn, a significant victory for Democrats in a state almost evenly divided politically. In a decision divided by party lines, the court found Republican lawmakers drew maps that deprived voters of their “substantially equal voting power on the basis of partisan affiliation.” The ruling is the latest in consequential redistricting wins for Democrats that could determine whether they hold on to their majority in the U.S. House amid all-out war in courtrooms over partisan gerrymandering and voting rights.
North Carolina – Voters, NC Elections Board: Madison Cawthorn candidate challenge should remain
MSN – Gary Robertson (Associated Press) | Published: 2/8/2022
A formal effort to evaluate whether U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn should be disqualified as a candidate because of his involvement in the rally that preceded the U.S. Capitol riot should be allowed to continue, voters and election officials in North Carolina told a federal judge. The candidate challenge says Cawthorn fails to comply with the portion of a post-Civil War amendment to the Constitution pertaining to insurrections. Cawthorn’s speech at the rally supporting then-President Trump, his other comments and information in published reports provide a “reasonable suspicion or belief” that he helped facilitate the insurrection.
Ohio – Audit: FirstEnergy improperly used ratepayer money to fund HB6 dark money efforts
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/4/2022
Federal regulators told FirstEnergy to refund customers after an audit found the utility did not properly track some of the $71 million it spent on lobbying for a nuclear plant bailout at the center of a corruption scheme. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found the lobbying expenses led FirstEnergy to improperly raise prices on customers and attempt to “conceal the nature and purpose” of the payments from the public. Like other public utilities, FirstEnergy cannot use money collected from ratepayers to fund lobbying.
Ohio – Ohio Mayor Lambasted for Saying Ice Fishing Would Lead to Prostitution: He ’embarrasses our town with wild claims’
Washington Post – Andrea Salcedo | Published: 2/10/2022
The city council in Hudson, Ohio, planned to cover several items during its recent meeting. But before it moved through their agenda, Council President Chris Foster wanted to gauge whether the council should consider a change to the rules on ice fishing on Hudson Springs Lake. He asked for members’ opinions, and most of what followed centered around safety concerns. Then, Mayor Craig Shubert stepped in, and the conversation took an unexpected turn. His issue with allowing people to ice fish on the lake was that it could lead to prostitution.
Ohio – Ohio Republicans Regroup, Postpone Congressional Map Plan After Latest Ohio Supreme Court Redistricting Rebuke
Cleveland Plain Dealer – Andrew Tobias | Published: 2/8/2022
Following their latest redistricting setback, Republican state lawmakers in Ohio are scrapping plans to introduce a new congressional map plan, deciding they are unable to get the minimal Democratic support it would require become effective in time for the May election. That means responsibility for coming up with a new plan now will go back to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The state Supreme Court recently rejected GOP-drawn maps for Ohio’s state House and Senate districts. The court also rejected Republicans’ congressional map in January.
Oklahoma – Former Senate Leader Mike Morgan Gets Law License Back 10 Years After Bribery Conviction
Yahoo News – Nolan Clay (Oklahoman) | Published: 2/5/2022
Former Oklahoma Sen. Mike Morgan is being reinstated as a lawyer 10 years after he was convicted of accepting bribes disguised as legal fees. Morgan was convicted of accepting $12,000 to influence legislation. The state Supreme Court found Morgan had established he possesses the good moral character and fitness necessary for reinstatement. Justice Yvonne Kauger wrote the conviction “was based on some very suspect evidence.” Morgan still maintains his innocence.
Oregon – Proposed Oregon Campaign Finance Limits Could Be Upended by a Drafting Technicality
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 2/9/2022
Last year, it looked like Oregonians might have options for how to limit campaign contributions. Reformers filed six proposals to curb political giving, raising the possibility that dueling measures could compete for voter approval in the 2022 election. Now all but one of those proposals might be dead, at least in their current forms. Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said three measures do not meet a technical requirement of the state constitution. Two alternative campaign finance proposals contain the same problem, supporters concede, meaning they would likely be rejected if they choose to move forward.
Rhode Island – Mattiello Is Latest Former R.I. Lawmaker to Line Up Lucrative Lobbying Clients
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 2/7/2022
Former Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello is the latest former state lawmaker to line up a lucrative statehouse lobbying gig, trying to exert influence over his former colleagues. It is clear why big companies and major organizations would want to hire former legislators to lobby on their behalf, said John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island. But there is a downside for others who lack that access, he said: “Moneyed interests get the upper hand over the public interest because they can afford to pay former legislators.”
South Carolina – Jury Awards $50M to Bluffton Mayor in Defamation Suit Against Longtime Local Critic
MSN – Sam Ogozalek (The Island Packet) | Published: 2/3/2022
A awarded a total of $50 million in damages to the mayor of Bluffton, South Carolina, in a defamation case against a longtime government critic. Skip Hoagland must pay $40 million in actual damages to Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka, who had filed a libel lawsuit against him in 2017, along with $10 million in punitive damages. Sulka filed the lawsuit against Hoagland over emails he sent to several people including the state attorney general. The mayor claimed there were defamatory statements in the messages, such as accusations she committed a crime and was unfit for office.
South Dakota – South Dakota Ethics Board Wants Response from Noem by April
MSN – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 2/3/2022
The Government Accountability Board set an April deadline for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem to respond to a pair of ethics complaints from the state’s attorney general, signaling it believes the complaints might have merit. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg asked the board to consider two issues. One is whether Noem’s use of state airplanes broke the law, and the other is whether she improperly interfered with a state agency that was evaluating her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. Noem has insisted she has done nothing wrong.
Virginia – Youngkin Campaign Attacks High School Student on Twitter
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 2/6/2022
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin distanced himself from a tweet mocking a teenager that went out on his campaign account, calling it “unauthorized.” It lashed out at a high school student as well as former Gov. Ralph Northam, tweeting out the teen’s name and photograph after the boy shared a news story about part of the Executive Mansion. Ethan Lynne retweeted a report from public radio station VPM suggesting Youngkin might be scrapping efforts to highlight the history of enslaved people at the mansion. The report contained an error, which Lynne noted on Twitter hours later, when VPM issued a correction.
Wisconsin – Ex-Justice’s Wisconsin Election Probe Drags as Critics Scoff
ABC News – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 2/7/2022
Joe Biden’s narrow 2020 victory in Wisconsin has withstood recounts, lawsuits, and multiple reviews. There is no evidence of widespread fraud. But former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman is continuing his probe of the election. In his seven-month inquiry, Gableman has been sued over his response to open records requests and subpoenas and countersued. He has been criticized for scant expense records, ridiculed for sending confusing emails, making rudimentary errors in his filings, and called out for meeting with conspiracy theorists.
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