News You Can Use Digest - February 17, 2023 - State and Federal Communications

February 17, 2023  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 17, 2023


After Helping Prince’s Rise, Trump and Kushner Benefit from Saudi Funds
MSN – Michael Kranish (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2023

The day after leaving the White House, Jared Kushner created a company he transformed months later into a private equity firm with $2 billion from a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Kushner’s firm structured those funds in such a way that it did not have to disclose the source. A year after his presidency, Donald Trump’s golf courses began hosting tournaments for the Saudi fund-backed LIV Golf. The Trump Organization secured an agreement with a Saudi real estate company that plans to build a Trump hotel as part of a $4 billion golf resort in Oman.

Biden Fires Architect of the Capitol Over Alleged Abuses
Yahoo News – Lisa Mascaro and Colleen Long (Associated Press) | Published: 2/13/2023

President Biden fired the embattled Architect of the Capitol, Brett Blanton, following a scathing inspector general report on his personal and professional management and calls for his removal. An inspector general report found “administrative, ethical and policy violations” by Blanton, a Trump-era appointee, including that he abused his government vehicle and misrepresented himself as a law enforcement official.

Combating Disinformation Wanes at Social Media Giants
DNyuz – Steven Lee Myers and Nico Grant (New York Times) | Published: 2/14/2023

YouTube, like other social media platforms, spent years expanding its efforts to tackle misinformation after the 2016 election. Not anymore. The company quietly reduced its small team of policy experts in charge of handling misinformation. The cuts, part of the reduction of 12,000 employees by Google’s parent company left only one person in charge of misinformation policy worldwide. The cuts reflect a trend across the industry that threatens to undo many of the safeguards that social media platforms put in place in recent years to ban or tamp down on disinformation.

Election Deniers Face a Nationwide Wave of Pushback
MSN – Amy Gardner, Patrick Marley, and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2023

There is a growing effort among state election officials, lawmakers, and private-sector advocates to push back against the wave of misinformation and mistrust of elections that sprang from Donald Trump’s false claim that his 2020 defeat was rigged. Since that vote more than two years ago, election administrators have regularly found themselves fending off false accusations, baseless lawsuits, and violent threats. Election administrators and their advocates say they are motivated to act because election denialism does not appear to be going away, even as the evidence has grown that most Americans have grown tired of it.

FBI Finds One Additional Document with Classified Markings at Pence Home
MSN – Perry Stein and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2023

The FBI found one additional document with classified markings during a five-hour search of former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home. The planned search follows revelations in January that Pence had turned over to the FBI “a small number” of documents bearing classified markings that his lawyers discovered at his home. Pence is the latest politician to face scrutiny for potentially mishandling classified materials after leaving elected office.

FEC Tells George Santos to Name Campaign Treasurer or Face Ban on Fundraising and Spending
CNBC – Kevin Breuninger | Published: 2/15/2023

The campaign of scandal-plagued U.S. Rep. George Santos will lose its ability to raise donations or make payments if it fails to appoint a treasurer, the FEC warned. The agency told Santos it “has received no information regarding a new treasurer” since the former person in that role, Nancy Marks, resigned in January. “… Failure to appoint a treasurer will result in the inability of the committee to accept contributions and make disbursements,” the FEC wrote to Santos.

Former FBI Agent’s Side Work Puts Bureau Under New Scrutiny
MSN – Shane Harris, Rosalind Helderman, and Catherine Belton (Washington Post) | Published: 2/13/2023

In January, Charles McGonigal, special agent in charge of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York field office, was indicted on federal charges of money laundering, violating U.S. sanctions, and making false statements. He is one of the most senior FBI officials ever charged with criminal offenses, and his case has deeply concerned national security professionals, given the extraordinary access he had to sensitive government secrets.

Free Speech vs. Disinformation Comes to a Head
Seattle Times – Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) | Published: 2/9/2023

The attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, both Republicans, have sued the White House and dozens of officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing them of forcing social media platforms to stifle the voices of its critics in violation of the constitutional guarantee of free speech. The outcome could help decide whether the First Amendment has become a barrier to virtually any government efforts to stifle a problem that, in the case of a pandemic, threatens public health and, in the case of the integrity of elections, even democracy itself. Government officials have long urged social media companies to fight illegal or harmful content online.

Pence to Fight Special Counsel Subpoena on Trump’s 2020 Election Denial
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 2/14/2023

Former Vice President Mike Pence plans to fight a subpoena by the special counsel overseeing investigations into efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Pence is set to argue that his former role as president of the Senate – therefore a member of the legislative branch – shields him from certain Justice Department demands. Pence allies say he is covered by the constitutional provision that protects congressional officials from legal proceedings related to their work, language known as the “speech or debate” clause.

Prosecutors Seek Trump Lawyer’s Testimony, Suggesting Evidence of Crime
Seattle Times – Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Ben Protess (New York Times) | Published: 2/15/2023

Federal prosecutors overseeing the investigation into former President Trump’s handling of classified documents are seeking to pierce assertions of attorney-client privilege and compel one of his lawyers to answer more questions before a grand jury, adding a new dimension to the inquiry and underscoring the legal peril facing Trump. The prosecutors sought approval from a federal judge to invoke what is known as the crime-fraud exception, which allows them to work around attorney-client privilege when they have reason to believe that legal advice has been used in furthering a crime.

Rep. Gaetz Won’t Be Charged in Sex-Trafficking Probe, His Lawyers Say
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2023

Federal prosecutors have closed a long-running sex-trafficking investigation into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and have decided not to press charges against him, attorneys for Gaetz said. It was reported that career prosecutors had recommended not charging Gaetz, telling Justice Department superiors that a conviction was unlikely in part because of credibility questions with the two central witnesses. Investigators set out to determine if Gaetz paid for sex in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws, people familiar with the matter have said.

Santos Was Charged with Theft in 2017 Case Tied to Amish Dog Breeders
Yahoo News – Jacqueline Sweet (Politico) | Published: 2/9/2023

U.S. Rep. George Santos was charged with theft in Pennsylvania in 2017 after a series of bad checks were written in his name to dog breeders. Just days after $15,125 in checks were made out for “puppies,” according to the memo lines, Santos held an adoption event at a pet store with his animal rescue charity Friends of Pets United. The charge was dismissed, and his record expunged after Santos claimed someone had stolen his checkbook. Santos has said he merely fabricated parts of his résumé and has denied breaking any laws.

They’re Trying to Topple Trump. But They Barely Utter His Name.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Weisman and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 2/15/2023

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s entry to the presidential race underscored how difficult it will be for many Republican candidates to persuade the party’s base they should bear the standard for the GOP, not former President Trump, who maintains the loyalties of so many voters. Haley’s announcement seemed like a calculated appeal to Republican voters who are ready to turn the page from the Trump era without burning the book of Trump’s presidency. But she never mentioned Trump by name, much less leveled any direct criticism at the only other major candidate in the presidential race.

Trump Campaign Paid Researchers to Prove 2020 Fraud but Kept Findings Secret
MSN – Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2023

Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign commissioned an outside research firm in a bid to prove electoral-fraud claims but never released the findings because the firm disputed many of his theories and could not offer any proof he was the rightful winner of the election. Trump continues to falsely assert the 2020 election was stolen despite abundant evidence to the contrary, much of which had been provided to him or was publicly available before the Capitol assault.


Canada – Federal Ethics Commissioner Retiring After 5 Years, Citing Health Issues
CTV News – Rachel Aiello | Published: 2/14/2023

Federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion announced he is retiring, effective February 21, citing “persistent health issues.” Dion took on the role in 2018 and was set to serve a seven-year term after his predecessor Mary Dawson held the role for more than a decade. In 2019, Dion took a leave of absence from his role for medical reasons, but the work of his office continued.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas – GOP Lawmaker Booed for Asking Trans Doctor About Her Genitalia at Public Hearing
MSN – LGBTQNation Staff | Published: 2/14/2023

In 2021, Arkansas became the first state to ban gender-affirming care for people under the age of 18. That law, however, is on hold pending a legal challenge. Pharmacist Gwendolyn Paige Herzig, who is trans, testified against the bill. One lawmaker shocked LGBTQ+ rights advocates and members of the public by asking Herzig whether she has a penis in front of the entire gallery.

California – Fresno Politicians Clash Over Campaign Money Rule That Critics Say Unfairly Protects Incumbents
MSN – Melissa Montalvo (Fresno Bee) | Published: 2/15/2023

County election rules say Fresno City Council candidates cannot transfer their council campaign funds to their supervisor campaign fund accounts. But city council members Garry Bredefeld and Luis Chavez, who are running for county supervisor, said they plan to transfer most or all of the money in their council accounts to their supervisor accounts. Fresno County officials weighed in on this debate, responding to what they called “incorrect and incomplete information about the county’s campaign contribution ordinance.”

California – Midway Rising Fined $5K for Disclosing Lobbying Activities After Selection
San Diego Union Tribune – Jennifer Van Grove | Published: 2/13/2023

The development team selected to lease and redo the city of San Diego’s sports arena site failed to properly report all its lobbying activities, as is required by law. The city Ethics Commission approved a stipulation order fining the Midway Rising development team $5,000 for failing to file on time what is known as expenditure lobbyist disclosure reports, which are required when an entity spends $5,000 or more in a calendar quarter to indirectly influence municipal decisions.

Colorado – 10th Circuit Tosses GOP Challenge to Colorado’s Campaign Spending Limits
Colorado Politics – Michael Karlick | Published: 2/14/2023

A federal appeals court rejected an attempt by a trio of Republicans to temporarily block enforcement of the voluntary campaign spending limits that voters enacted two decades ago as an anti-corruption measure. Article 28 limits donors’ contributions to candidates per election cycle, adjusted for inflation, to $400 per legislative candidate and $1,250 per statewide executive candidate. Candidates may collect twice those amounts per donor in exchange for voluntarily limiting their overall spending. The appeal focused only on the alleged unconstitutionality of the candidates’ spending limits.

Florida – The Rocky Path to the College Board’s A.P. Black Studies Course
DNyuz – Anemona Hartocollis, Dan Goldstein, and Stephanie Saul (New York Times) | Published: 2/13/2023

The College Board finalized its new Advanced Placement course in African American studies, altering an earlier draft that had become a lightning rod for conservative critics. The Florida Education Department asserted the course “lacks educational value” and violates state law amid a national debate over how topics like racism and history are taught. The state of Florida released a chronology of its communications with the College Board, seeming to take credit for the changes. The College Board, which relies on state participation to administer its tests, fired back, saying changes were made after hearing from teachers about what worked.

Hawaii – ‘Pay To Play’: Hawaii moves to expand the ban on contractor campaign donations
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 2/8/2023

The Hawaii Legislature is setting its sights on campaign donations from state and county contractors, which have been the subject of public corruption cases in recent decades. Now, a law banning donations from government contractors only applies to the contracted business, not the owners, officers, or employees of those companies. Senate Bill 201 would close a loophole and ban owners, officers, employees, and immediate family from donating to campaigns for the duration of a state or county contract.

Illinois – Donors to Political Committee Supporting Paul Vallas Are Secret, but Leadership Has Ties to Current Campaign
MSN – A.D. Quig (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 2/9/2023

A recently launched political committee has spent more than $165,000 on television and digital ads for Paul Vallas’ mayoral bid, and while its supporters so far remain a mystery, its spending and leadership have ties to a top Vallas strategist. Like all independent expenditure committees, the new Chicago Leadership Committee is not allowed under Illinois law to coordinate with any candidate or campaign it supports. One of the group’s ads shows it using the same messaging and word-for-word language that Vallas’ campaign has on the media page of its website, along with still images and video from the site.

Illinois – Right After Landing a Big Deal with the CTA, Businessman Helps Lightfoot’s Reelection Effort
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 2/10/2023

Less than a month ago, the Chicago Transit Authority – whose leaders are appointed by the mayor – announced a lucrative new contract with a company founded by real-estate magnate Elzie Higginbottom. Another company tied to Higginbottom then gave a $50,000 contribution to a new political fund created by a close ally of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. That independent expenditure committee recently spent more than $70,000 to attack Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, who is one of Lightfoot’s main challengers for mayor. A chain of events like this was supposed to have become a thing of the past.

Iowa – ‘Zoom Bombings’ Disrupt Iowa Senate Meetings with Profanity, Pornography and Racial Slurs
Yahoo News – Katie Akin (Des Moines Register) | Published: 2/13/2023

In the first few minutes of a meeting about restructuring state government in the Iowa Senate, a Zoom user took over the television monitor and showed a sexually explicit video. Garbled racial slurs blared from the monitor’s speaker. “… Just hit the ‘leave meeting,'” said Sen. Jason Schultz, the subcommittee’s chairperson. Schultz said the Senate has taken “all the precautions that we could think of” to prevent future interruptions. But he suggested Zoom access may be sacrificed if issues continue.

Maryland – Gov. Wes Moore Recuses Himself from Under Armour Contract Vote as Team Creates Blind Trust to Manage Financial Assets
MSN – Sam Janesch (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 2/14/2023

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore recused himself from a scheduled vote by the state Board of Public Works to decide whether to extend a warehousing contract with Under Armour. Moore served on the athletic apparel maker’s board, resigning after he won the election in November, and owned thousands of shares of the company’s stock. A millionaire several times over after previous careers that included investment banking and running a national nonprofit, Moore faces numerous potential conflicts-of-interest between his holdings and the business of running the state.

Maryland – Judge Upholds Two Ethics Violations Against Nick Mosby, but Rules Council President Didn’t Take Money
Baltimore Banner – Emily Sullivan | Published: 2/13/2023

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge upheld two out of three findings in an administrative ruling that city council President Nick Mosby violated Baltimore’s ethics code for elected officials. Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill agreed with the Baltimore City Ethics board that Mosby solicited donations from controlled donors to a legal defense fund established for him and his wife, former City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. While neither Mosby served as an officer of the fund, the council president erred by not explicitly disavowing himself from the trust.

Michigan – Nessel Requests Greater Transparency from Utilities on Lobbying [Spending]
Detroit News – Breana Noble | Published: 2/15/2023

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office is requesting the state regulator of utilities demand more transparency around the money spent to influence public policy when electric and gas companies file their rate cases. The current requirements are not sufficient, according to the office. It suggests requiring details around the utilities’ and affiliates’ expenses for influencing regulation or legislation directly or indirectly and for influencing public opinion.

Montana – Senate Confirms Gallus as State’s Top Political Cop
Flathead Beacon – Blair Miller (Daily Montanan) | Published: 2/15/2023

Montana’s new commissioner of political practices, Chris Gallus, was confirmed by the state Senate. Despite a lengthy political history that includes working closely with the Montana Republican Party and conservative causes, Gallus only received three “no” votes. Commissioners are limited to a single, six-year term under state law.

New Mexico – Ethics Board Fines Ex-Commissioner for Taking Lobbyist’s Contribution
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 2/8/2023

The Code of Conduct Review Board publicly censured former Bernalillo County Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty and fined her $500. At issue is the $5,000 in-kind contribution Pyskoty’s 2022 reelection campaign reported receiving from lobbyist Vanessa Alarid’s firm.  A complaint maintained Alarid is a “restricted donor,” and county code prohibits officials and candidates from accepting campaign contributions over $1,000 from such contributors.

New Mexico – Lawmakers Seek to Close Big Transparency Gap
New Mexico In Depth – Sarah Childress | Published: 2/9/2023

A 2019 New Mexico law sought to force independent groups who are not required to register as political committees to disclose the money they spend in elections. The changes were quickly put to the test during the 2020 election cycle, when a new independent expenditure group found a loophole to evade reporting who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars it spent on political advertising. A new bill gives more details about when donations or spending would have to be disclosed. It also changes reporting by independent groups.

New Mexico – Ousted Election Clerk Hit with Ethics Lawsuit in New Mexico
Yahoo News – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 2/10/2023

A local elections regulator in rural New Mexico who was recently declared missing from work and replaced is now facing possible sanctions from the State Ethics Commission. The lawsuit alleges Yvonne Otero used her office for personal gain and to exchange favors, seeking sanctions that include fines of up to $5,000.

New York – Developer Seeks Aid from Adams’ Housing Commissioner After Scandal That Ensnared Both of Them
The City – Greg Smith | Published: 2/9/2023

A decade ago, real estate developer Peter Fine was banned from New York City housing subsidy programs after one of his firms pleaded guilty to criminal charges following a scandal that involved former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. Now, Carrión is Mayor Eric Adams’ housing commissioner. Public records reveal Fine has for the last year been paying lobbyists to seek support for his proposed housing project in The Bronx from Carrión. For his part in the scandal, Carrión had to pay a $10,000 penalty for violating city ethics rules.

Oregon – Top OLCC Officials Kept Popular Booze – Including Pappy Van Winkle – for Themselves, Diverting It from Public
MSN – Noelle Crombie (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 2/8/2023

Top executives and managers at the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) diverted specialty bourbons away from public consumption for their own personal use for years. The internal investigation revealed a practice within the agency of reserving bottles of the popular bourbon Pappy Van Winkle for multiple employees, including the former executive director, Steve Marks. The OLCC has a monopoly on liquor sales in the state. Some brands are often difficult for the public to buy in Oregon because demand outpaces supply.

Pennsylvania – Shapiro Sat Courtside at a Sixers Game with a Donor. His Campaign Called It a ‘Political Meeting.’
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 2/14/2023

Then Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro sat next to a longtime campaign donor and co-chair of his inaugural committee at the January 4, 2023, NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers at the Wells Fargo Arena. Manuel Bender, a spokesperson for Shapiro’s transition who now works for the administration, said the outing was a “political meeting.” He did not say who paid for the tickets, which conservatively cost $3,000. Bonder did say related expenses will be reported as an in-kind campaign contribution. Political veterans and campaign finance experts called the classification unusual.

South Dakota – South Dakota Lawmakers Want to Ban Spouses from Being Registered Lobbyists
Yahoo News – Annie Todd (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 2/13/2023

South Dakota lawmakers want to prevent their spouses from being employed as registered lobbyists in a bill that was passed out of a Senate committee. Senate Bill 197 addresses two problems by providing better clarity about the role of legislative spouses and preventing them from having an advantage that other lobbyists and everyday people do not.

Tennessee – After Wearing Traditional Garment on the House Floor, TN Lawmaker Told to Look for a New Career
WKRN – Adam Mintzer | Published: 2/10/2023

Tennessee Rep. Justin Pearson wore a dashiki – a traditional West African loose-fitted shirt – in the House chamber. On the floor that day, a lawmaker made a statement on the importance of dress code without naming Pearson. Then the House GOP addressed the issue on Twitter, saying, “If you don’t like rules, perhaps you should explore a different career opportunity that’s main purpose is not creating them.”

Texas – Attorney General Ken Paxton Agrees to Apologize and Pay $3.3 Million to Whistleblowers in Settlement
Texas Tribune – James Barragán | Published: 2/10/2023

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and four of his former top deputies who said he improperly fired them after they accused him of crimes have reached a tentative agreement to end a whistleblower lawsuit that would pay those employees $3.3 million. The agreement would bring an end to the lawsuit over the firing of the staffers but would not end Paxton’s legal troubles. The allegations by the former aides of bribery and abuse of office prompted an FBI investigation, though no charges have been filed and Paxton has denied wrongdoing.

West Virginia – WV Senate Passes Bills That Would Decrease Political Contribution Transparency
Logan Banner – Mike Tony | Published: 2/13/2023

The West Virginia Senate passed two bills that would lower transparency in state elections. The House will now consider the bills, which would increase contribution limits that trigger reporting requirements for those spending money to influence legislation coming before state lawmakers or advocate electing or defeating a candidate without a candidate’s support.

Wisconsin – Democrats Meddle Again in a G.O.P. Primary, This Time Down-Ballot
DNyuz – Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 2/13/2023

Last year, Democrats spent millions of dollars elevating far-right candidates in Republican primary contests for governor and Congress – betting, it turned out correctly, that more extreme opponents would lose general elections. Now Wisconsin Democrats are trying to do it again, this time with mail and television ads before a GOP primary in a special election for a state Senate seat that carries ramifications far beyond the district in suburban Milwaukee.

Wyoming – Wyoming State Rep. Says No Truth to Ethics Complaint
Cowboy State Daily – Leo Wolfson | Published: 2/8/2023

An ethics complaint was filed against state Rep. Jon Conrad, alleging his status as a registered lobbyist in Wyoming, along with his occupation and source of campaign donations, creates a conflict-of-interest for the lawmaker. Conrad is an active registered lobbyist for TATA Chemicals. He is also an Environmental, Health, Safety, and Governmental Affairs Manager for TATA. Conrad is a member of the House Business, Minerals, and Economic Development and Agriculture, State, and Public Lands & Water Resources Committees. There are not explicit rules against serving as a lobbyist while being a legislator.

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