News You Can Use Digest - February 18, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

February 18, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – February 18, 2022


Arizona GOP Rep. David Schweikert Fined $125,000 by Federal Election Commission for Repeated Campaign Finance Law Violations
MSN – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 2/11/2022

U.S. Rep. David Schweikert agreed to pay a $125,000 fine related to repeated campaign finance violations he committed between 2010 and 2017. The FEC found Schweikert “knowingly and willfully” misreported who and for what his official funds were used and misused campaign funds for personal affairs. In July 2020, Schweikart was fined $50, 000 by the House ethics committee for the same set of violations. He admitted to 11 different violations of House rules, leading to a formal reprimand.

Biden Orders Release of Trump White House Logs to Congress
Yahoo News – Colleen Long (Associated Press) | Published: 2/16/2022

President Biden is ordering the release of White House visitor logs under Donald Trump to the House committee investigating the riot of Jan. 6, 2021, once more rejecting Trump’s claims of executive privilege. The committee has sought a trove of data from the National Archives, including presidential records that Trump had fought to keep private. The records being released to Congress are visitor logs showing appointment information for individuals who were allowed to enter the White House on the day of the insurrection.

Democrats Push a Matchmaking Service for Tech Workers and Campaigns
NBC News – Alex Seitz-Ward | Published: 2/14/2022

Political campaigns have increasingly become exercises in data management as campaigns try to identify, connect with, and track thousands of voters and volunteers, all while keeping their systems secure from hackers. But the professional networks of tech and campaigns do not often intersect, making it hard for people in either to find one another. Tech skills are some of the most in-demand, and therefore expensive, in the job market. LinkedIn co-founder and liberal donor Allen Blue created DigiDems in 2018 to try to fix that and expand the Democratic Party’s talent pool by recruiting Silicon Valley veterans.

Election Experts Sound Alarms as Costs Escalate and Funding Dwindles
MSN – Mike DeBonis and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/16/2022

When a global pandemic threatened to throw the 2020 presidential election into chaos, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed to state and local election agencies to ensure they had the resources to conduct a fair and accessible election. Now that money is gone and while the pandemic has ebbed it has not disappeared, and new challenges have arisen, including rising security threats, supply-chain disruptions, and escalating costs for basic materials such as paper ballots. Election officials and voting experts are warning as the midterm elections get underway that new funding is needed to avoid significant problems in November.

Inside the Totally Legal, Fairly Macabre, Classically Political World of the True Zombie PACs
Politico – Hailey Fuchs | Published: 2/11/2022

An investigation found accounts associated with eight late politicians that still have money in the bank, some with hundreds of thousands of dollars, or debts that, according to FEC records, remain unpaid. These zombie PACs and campaign committees have been paying for such things as communications consulting, campaign contributions, car rentals, or fees for former associates. All of it is legal. The ability of the committees of dead politicians to continue paying out money highlights how donations from political supporters can find their way to entities, causes, and individuals far removed from the candidate’s election.

Jan. 6 Panel Targets Key Players in False Trump Elector Strategy
MSN – Nicholas Wu, Kyle Cheney, and Betsy Woodruff Swan (Politico) | Published: 2/15/2022

The House select committee investigating the U.S. Capitol riot targeted two state lawmakers who were instrumental in pushing Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, as it dives deeper on Republican efforts to send false presidential electors to Washington. The committee subpoenaed Pennsylvania Sen. Doug Mastriano and Arizona Rep. Mark Finchem. Both played key roles and earned Trump’s praise for pressing their colleagues to ratify alternate slates of electors in 2020, which would have thrown out millions of votes in their states.

‘Larry and I Will Always Be Together’: Joe Manchin’s closest political ally cashes in on senator’s rise
MSN – Theodoric Meyer and Jeff Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 2/14/2022

Larry Puccio spent nearly a decade as U.S. Sen. Manchin’s right-hand man, running his campaigns for secretary of state and governor in West Virginia and serving as chief of staff in both offices. Manchin is now the Senate’s swing vote and one of the most powerful people in Washington. A month after Democrats reclaimed the Senate, turning the ability to sway Manchin into a sought-after skill, Puccio registered for the first time as a federal lobbyist. He and a partner have lobbied the Senate almost exclusively, collecting more than $310,000 in addition to his earnings from his state-level lobbying business in West Virginia.

Opposition Research Goes Hyperlocal
New York Times – Reid Epstein | Published: 2/15/2022

Across the United States, there are tens of thousands of state, county, and local officials who will set and enforce the rules on voting, then go about counting and reporting the votes in the elections to come. To the alarm of independent experts, allies of Donald Trump have been targeting these once-anonymous offices, seeking to fill them with hard-core partisans all the way down to the level of precinct captain. Now, the Democratic organization American Bridge, known primarily for its opposition research into Republicans, launched what it says is a $10 million campaign to influence the races for election administration in a dozen key states.

Sarah Palin Loses Jury Trial in Closely Watched New York Times Libel Case
MSN – Elahe Izadi and Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2022

A jury concluded the New York Times did not libel Sarah Palin in a faulty 2017 editorial, echoing a decision by the judge, who a day earlier said he would dismiss her case regardless of the decision. The jury decision conformed with that of U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff, who said – while the jury was still deliberating and unaware of his comments – that the former Alaska governor had not demonstrated the newspaper acted with “actual malice,” the high legal standard that public figures must demonstrate to claim libel.

Selling Trump: A profitable post-presidency like no other
Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher and Eric Lipton (New York Times) | Published: 2/12/2022

In the year since Donald Trump left the White House, he has undertaken a wide-ranging set of moneymaking ventures, trading repeatedly on his political fame and fan base in pursuit of profit. Much as he did while in the White House, Trump has blurred the lines between his political ambitions and his business interests. Other past presidents have cashed in financially after leaving the White House. But no former president has been more determined to meld his business interests with a continuing political operation and capitalize on that for personal gain.

These Companies Stopped Campaign Donations to Election Objectors. Their Lobbyists Did Not.
MSN – Emily Birnbaum, Megan Wilson, and Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 2/15/2022

Throughout 2021, in-house government affairs staff for at least 13 companies gave personal donations to Republicans who objected to the presidential election results. The under-the-radar donations meant that even as the companies stuck to their pledges not to give to the147 Republicans who objected to certifying the election on January 6, 2021, their lobbyists ingratiated themselves with the GOP lawmakers, some of whom are expected to take leadership roles in the House if Republicans take back control in the midterm elections.

Three Hawaii Defense Contractors Charged with Illegal Donations to Sen. Susan Collins
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Emily Davies (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2022

Three former executives of a U.S. defense contractor in Hawaii were indicted on federal charges of making unlawful campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and a PAC that supported her. Martin Kao, Clifford Chen, and Lawrence Lum Kee were formerly the chief executive, chief financial officer, and accountant, respectively, for a defense contractor prohibited under federal law from making contributions in federal elections. The company was Martin Defense Group, formerly known as Navatek, the company confirmed.

Trump’s Longtime Accountant Says His Financial Statements Cannot Be Relied Upon
MSN – Jonathan O’Connell and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 2/14/2022

Former President Trump’s accounting firm informed his company that a decade’s worth of Trump’s financial statements “should no longer be relied upon” and suggested any recipient of the documents be alerted. Mazars helped Trump prepare and which have come under scrutiny recently by New York Attorney General Letitia James. She has alleged in civil filings that Trump used the statements to inflate the value of his properties misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders.


Canada Emergency Law Invoked as Canadians Mull Identity
Yahoo News – Catherine Porter (New York Times) | Published: 2/14/2022

If the outside world is baffled by the scenes unfolding in the streets of Canada as giant trucks stake out ground in the normally placid capital of Ottawa, so are many Canadians. The chaos of recent weeks has left many wondering if Canada is witnessing the birth of a political alt-right, or if it is a pandemic-induced tantrum that, once exhausted, will leave behind a country bewildered but essentially unchanged. It could also be, some argue, that the so-called freedom convoy is not an aberration at all but a mirror to an integral part of the country.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Republicans Look to Curb Lobbying Activities by Cities, Counties, School Districts
Arizona Mirror – Jeremy Duda | Published: 2/15/2022

Because cities and counties often oppose legislation they propose, Republican lawmakers are looking to ban them from hiring the contract lobbyists who fight those bills at the Arizona Capitol. On a party-line vote, the Senate Government Committee approved Senate Bill 1198, which prohibits cities, towns, counties, school districts, and other political subdivisions of the state from hiring outside lobbyists. Any organization whose membership is primarily composed of public bodies would be barred from using any of the money they get from membership dues for lobbying.

Connecticut Top Connecticut Prosecutor to Retire, Not Face Firing, Amid Ethics Probe
Yahoo News – Dave Collins (Associated Press) | Published: 2/10/2022

Embattled Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. agreed to resign amid mounting pressure over an alleged patronage hiring. Colangelo had been under fire for his decision to hire the daughter of a state budget officer from whom he was seeking raises for himself and other senior employees. U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy Jr., hired by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to investigate that decision, had released a report questioning Colangelo’s credibility.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Scrambles Florida’s Redistricting Debate, with an Eye to 2022 and Perhaps 2024 Elections
MSN – Colby Itkowitz, Lori Rozsa, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2022

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has cast himself as the nation’s boldest conservative Republican leader, his eye on a 2022 reelection campaign and a potential presidential run two years later. It nonetheless shocked even fellow Florida Republicans when DeSantis incited a redistricting battle with his own party, roping the state’s two legislative chambers into the fray and asking the state’s highest court to pick sides. Days before the state Senate was to vote on new congressional district lines in January, DeSantis presented a dramatically more partisan map that boosted Republican seats and eliminated a district where a plurality of voters are Black.

Florida Rep. Carlos Gimenez’s Son Arrested for Slapping Miami Commissioner in Steakhouse, Police Say
MSN – Charles Rabin, Douglas Hanks, and Linda Robertson (Miami Herald) | Published: 2/11/2022

The son of U.S. Rep. Carlos Gimenez was arrested after police say he slapped a Miami city commissioner earlier in the day at a Morton’s Steakhouse. What triggered the spat, the latest episode in the long-running soap opera of Miami politics, was not immediately clear. But the two men involved, Commissioner Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Carlos Gimenez, a lawyer and lobbyist, are members of powerful political families with ties going back more than a decade.

Florida To Be Continued: Proposed lobbying, ethics laws to come back to city commission
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 2/16/2022

Recommendations from the Tallahassee Independent Ethics Board to beef up lobbying restrictions and close loopholes allowing unregistered lobbyists to operate without consequence will come back to city commissioners for more discussion during their March meeting. The recommendations include expanding the ethics board’s jurisdiction to include lobbyists appearing before the city, revising the definition of a lobbyist to clear up ambiguity, and requiring lobbyists to maintain contact logs with government officials that would become public record in three days.

Georgia Stacey Abrams, David Perdue Call Foul on GOP Proposal to Ban Fundraising While Georgia Legislature Is in Session
MSN – Vanessa Williams (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2022

Both the Democrat and Republican seeking to oust Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp are calling foul on a proposal by Republican lawmakers that would prohibit fundraising while the state Legislature is in session. Lawmakers say the measure is fair given that current officeholders are prohibited from raising money during the legislative session, but Democrat Stacey Abrams and former U.S, Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Kemp in the GOP primary, say the proposal unfairly targets their campaigns and gives Kemp an unfair advantage.

Hawaii Bill Would Ban Hawaii Film Officials from Appearing in Films
Honolulu Civil Beat – Stewart Yerton | Published: 2/16/2022

A Hawaii lawmaker is trying to crack down on what he says was improper behavior by the Maui County film commissioner, Tracy Quinlan, who accepted a substantial part in a television movie being shot on the island, despite the commissioner’s involvement facilitating the industry. Rep. Sean Quinlan’s bill would prohibit movie and television producers, at least those getting cash incentives from the government, from hiring state and county employees “whose official capacity is related to motion picture, digital media, or film production.”

Hawaii Ex-Hawaii Lawmakers Plead Guilty to Taking Bribes in Office
MSN – Jennifer Sinco Kellehe (Associated Press) | Published: 2/15/2022

Two former Hawaii lawmakers face 20-year prison sentences after pleading guilty to taking bribes in exchange for shaping legislation that would benefit a company involved with publicly financed cesspool conversion projects. As part of agreements to plead guilty to honest services wire fraud, former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English agreed to forfeit about $15,000 and Former Rep. Ty Cullen agreed to forfeit $23,000, representing the amounts of cash they received. English, who retired from his position last May, told the judge he believed the legislation he was shaping would be beneficial to state residents and the business owner.

Illinois Senate Approves New Ethics Watchdog Over Objections of Ethics Commission Chair
Yahoo News – Andrew Adams (State Journal-Register) | Published: 2/17/2022

The Illinois Senate approved former federal judge Michael McCuskey to fill the role of legislative inspector general. Controversy has swirled the inspector general selection since the last person in the position, Carol Pope, announced her resignation citing a lack of authority to do the job. The legislative inspector general investigates allegations of corruption, sexual misconduct, and other ethical breaches among members of the General Assembly and state employees in the legislative branch. The resolution now goes to the House.

Kentucky City Would Register Metro Council Lobbyists Under New Ordinance
WDRB – Marcus Green | Published: 2/14/2022

A proposed city ordinance would require people and organizations that lobby metro council members and other top Louisville officials to register and publicly list the issues they seek to influence. It defines a lobbyist as anyone who is “engaged” to influence decisions of city agencies or to shape nearly all aspects of legislation, from passage to defeat, through communications with elected leaders or their staffs. Councilperson Bill Hollander said the bill is not in direct response to the role developers allegedly played in influencing council member Brent Ackerson in a zoning case that is being challenged in court.

Massachusetts Michelle Wu Has Raised Over $1 Million for Her Inaugural Festivities, Most of It from Boston’s Power Brokers
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globe) | Published: 2/14/2022

Mayor Michelle Wu has raised more than $1 million for her inaugural festivities, the bulk of it from Boston’s traditional power brokers, including big business, lobbyists, and real estate developers with projects before the city. With ambitions to transform the city, Wu has made it clear she intends to be a different kind of mayor. But her inaugural fund, while more modest than her predecessor’s, places her squarely within an age-old political tradition: tapping the wealthy and powerful to fund festivities where top donors gain access to the city’s new leader.

Michigan Michigan State Police Raid Home of Ex-Speaker Chatfield’s Top Staffers
Detroit News – Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc | Published: 2/15/2022

Michigan State Police troopers searched the home of former House Speaker Lee Chatfield’s top political and legislative staffers, a move one legal expert said would indicate authorities demonstrated there was probable cause a crime was committed. In January, Chatfield’s  sister-in-law, Rebekah Chatfield, accused the former speaker of sexually abusing her beginning when she was 15 years old. Political accounts tied to Chatfield directed at least $900,000 in campaign and nonprofit funds to family members, legislative staff, and organizations they led for wages and consulting fees, according to a Detroit News investigation.

New Jersey Court Halts Union County Government Project, Ruling No-Bid $123.8M Contract Violated N.J. Law
MSN – Ted Sherman (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 2/15/2022

Union County’s $123.8 million government complex that opponents claimed had illegally skirted New Jersey’s public bidding laws was halted by a state appeals court, which said the next phase of the project had to be publicly bid. Dobco, a construction and development company vying for the Union County project, filed lawsuits after the firm was passed over for consideration before the contracts were awarded. Lawyers for Dobco charged the county illegally circumvented state statutes by using their respective improvement authorities to get around New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law.

New Mexico Lobbyist Money Hidden in New Mexico Politics
Capital & Main – Jerry Redfern | Published: 2/14/2022

Legislation proposed by state Sen. Jeff Steinborn would require greater disclosures from lobbyists about their expenditures, and by extension their influence on the bills that become law and those that languish. When trying to figure out whose money is backing what bill, Steinborn says the current lax lobbying laws force legislators to become detectives if they want to find out more about who is behind the bills they’re voting on. A recent ad campaign by the state’s largest oil and gas lobbying group is an inadvertent example of what is not known about money and speech in the state.

Ohio FirstEnergy Pushed for ‘Cooperative’ Utility Regulator; DeWine Heeded Its Pick
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 2/16/2022

FirstEnergy executives and two politicians who the company admitted to bribing unified behind renominating a “very cooperative” incumbent to serve on a regulatory panel. A court filing does not identify the commissioner but refers to an “incumbent” and then-current “PUCO official.” Commissioner Lawrence Friedeman was the only of five incumbents at the time who applied for a seat. He was reappointed by Gov. Mike DeWine to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. The apparent connection between the corruption probe and Friedeman suggests FirstEnergy played some additional role in controlling who would sit on the board that regulates it.

Ohio For the First time, Cincinnati Council and Mayor Have a Code of Conduct They Must Abide By
WVXU – Becca Costello | Published: 2/16/2022

The Cincinnati City Council approved the first ever code of conduct for council members and their staff. The new rules are part of a series of reforms that stemmed from three council member arrests on federal corruption charges in 2020. All council members and their staff must sign a copy of the code. Future council members and staff will have to sign the document within 45 days of taking office or starting the job. Council could censure a member for violating the code of conduct with a majority vote.

Ohio Mayor Resigns After Saying Ice-Fishing Shanties Could Lead to Prostitution
MSN – Andrea Salcedo and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 2/15/2022

A debate about a local ban on ice fishing took a viral turn when an Ohio mayor wondered about long-term consequences. Opening Hudson Springs Lake to ice fishing sounds good “on the surface,” Hudson Mayor Craig Shubert said at a recent council meeting, but what if people wanted to fish out of shanties? “Then that leads to another problem: prostitution,” he said. Online derision followed. So did criticism from colleagues. Hudson City Councilperson Nicole Kowalski said people were upset that Shubert “continually embarrasses our town with wild claims.” Shubert resigned on February 14.

Ohio Shareholders, on Behalf of FirstEnergy Corp., Settle for $180 Million Over House Bill 6 Allegations
MSN – John Caniglia (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 2/10/2022

Shareholders, acting on behalf of FirstEnergy, have agreed to a $180 million settlement with a group of top officials who ran the company during the House Bill 6 scandal. The investors accused the utility’s leaders, including current and former board members and executives, in derivative lawsuits in federal court. The claims sought to make the corporation whole from what authorities called the largest bribery scheme in Ohio history. The settlement calls for FirstEnergy to adopt reforms involving its political spending and lobbying. In a key development, the company will provide greater disclosures of its political activities to shareholders.

Oklahoma How A State Lawmaker’s Day Job Tiptoed into Lobbying
Oklahoma Watch – Jennifer Palmer | Published: 2/15/2022

Oklahoma Rep. Toni Hasenbeck voted for and often co-authored legislation expanding school choice in 2021, earning her a grade of “A+” in the grassroots lobbying group ChoiceMatters’ ranking of lawmakers. That group’s parent organization hired Hasenbeck for a paid position where she spent some of her time teaching parents how to advocate for school choice, including at the Legislature. ChoiceMatters regularly emails its members with messages to support legislation by contacting their representatives. Her work exemplifies the potential conflict-of-interest that legislators’ day jobs can have on the job voters entrust them with, experts said.

Oregon Rejected Campaign Finance Ideas Could Have New Life in Oregon Senate Bill
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 2/10/2022

Proposed ballot measures to cap political donations in Oregon face a tough road to the ballot, after Secretary of State Shemia Fagan rejected them on procedural grounds. Now, one prominent state lawmaker says he will push his fellow legislators to put a similar proposal before voters themselves. Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner unveiled an amendment that cobbles together elements of several now-defunct proposals from good government groups, labor unions, and advocacy organizations.

Tennessee Special Interests Spend Estimated $60 Million Every Year to Influence Tennessee State Officials
WTVF – Phil Williams | Published: 2/14/2022

Special interests spend an estimated $60 million a year to influence state officials in Tennessee, according to a media investigation. Because entities that hire lobbyists are not required to report the exact amount they spend on lobbying activities, those dollar amounts reflect a best possible estimate. Employers of lobbyists are required to report ranges of spending. The estimates were derived by picking the mid-point of each reporting range. Former lawmaker Martin Daniel said “money buys access to legislators because those lobbyists are frequently in the Cordell Hull building” where legislative offices are located.

Texas Texas Counties Reject Unprecedented Numbers of Mail Ballots Ahead of March 1 Primary Under Restrictive New Law
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 2/11/2022

A restrictive new voting law in Texas has sown confusion and erected hurdles for those casting ballots in the state’s March 1 primary, with election administrators rejecting early batches of mail ballots at historic rates and voters uncertain about whether they will be able to participate. In recent days, thousands of ballots have been rejected because voters did not meet a new requirement to provide an identification number inside the return envelope. The rejection rates provide an early opportunity to assess the impact of Senate Bill 1, one of dozens of restrictive voting laws enacted by Republicans across the country last year.

Vermont As Ethics Bill Goes Back to the Drawing Board, Advocates Grow Weary – Lola Dufort | Published: 2/15/2022

Lawmakers created Vermont’s first-ever state ethics commission in 2017 after years of public pressure from government transparency groups and the press. But for good government advocates, the resolution was inadequate. The commission had no investigative or enforcement powers and basically nothing to enforce since no single statutory code of ethics covers all three branches of government. Attempts at reform in the past five years have gone nowhere and a new attempt to make progress on the subject this legislative session is on shaky ground.

Virginia Deputy Va. Attorney General Resigns After Revelation of Facebook Posts Praising Jan. 6 Rioters, Claiming Trump Won Election
MSN – Justin Jouvenal (Washington Post) | Published: 2/10/2022

A top deputy overseeing election issues for Virginia’s new Republican attorney general resigned after The Washington Post questioned the office about Facebook posts she had made praising January 6, 2021, rioters and falsely claiming Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Former Deputy Attorney General Monique Miles also espoused unfounded conspiracy theories about voter fraud and election interference in more than a dozen Facebook comments that spanned months.

Washington Seattle Mayor’s Phone Was Manually Set to Delete Texts
Governing – Daniel Beekman and Lewis Kamb (Seattle Times) | Published: 2/14/2022

Former Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s text messages from one of the most tumultuous periods in city history vanished because a phone setting likely was manually changed to delete texts automatically, and ex-Police Chief Carmen Best deleted her texts, a forensic analysis has found. The analysis, which tried but failed to recover the texts and investigated what happened to the public records, including messages exchanged during Seattle’s racial justice protests in the summer of 2020, indicated Durkan’s texts were set in July 2020 to delete after 30 days, and that Best’s texts were “periodically deleted.”

Wisconsin Wisconsin Supreme Court Allows Lower Court’s Ban on the Use of Ballot Drop Boxes for April Election
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 2/11/2022

A closely divided Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled it would allow a lower court decision to go into effect that will ban the use of ballot drop boxes for the April election. Drop boxes can still be used for primaries and it is possible the high court will change course and allow them for other elections. While a final decision is yet to come, the ruling suggests the use of ballot drop boxes could soon come to an end in Wisconsin. Drop boxes became popular during elections in 2020 as the coronavirus spread across the state.

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