News You Can Use Digest - January 13, 2023 - State and Federal Communications

January 13, 2023  •  

News You Can Use Digest – January 13, 2023


At Proud Boys Trial, U.S. Aims to Win Another Seditious Conspiracy Case
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2023

Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and four other members of his right-wing group Proud Boys are standing trial on charges of seditious conspiracy in a case that will test the limits of a rarely used law. Prosecutors will seek to convince a jury the riot at the U.S. Capitol was not the spontaneous outburst of a misguided mob but an assault on democracy galvanized by dedicated extremists. The strongest evidence against the Proud Boys comes from on and around January 6, as they discussed storming the Capitol and members of the group engaged in violence. The government’s challenge will be tying that to a broader political plot.

Attorneys Clash in E. Jean Carroll Defamation Case Against Trump
MSN – Keith Alexander (Washington Post) | Published: 1/10/2023

An appeals court heard arguments on whether Donald Trump was acting within his job as president when he denied a writer’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her in the mid-1990s. Lawyers for E. Jean Carroll argued Trump acted as a private citizen when he denied raping Carroll, and therefore can be sued like anyone else. Trump’s lawyers and an attorney for the Justice Department countered that his responses were made as part of his job as president, which would effectively end Carroll’s case against him.

Here Are the K Street Lobbyists Closest to McCarthy
Yahoo News – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 1/11/2023

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ascension to speaker of the House could be a boon for a small group of lobbyists within his inner circle. He has relied on a small handful of lobbyists for advice and fundraising help. Now those allies are a hot commodity among corporate clients eager to make inroads with McCarthy, who is in lockstep with corporate America on economic policy but has chastised major companies for wading into social and political issues.

House Narrowly Approves Rules Amid Concerns About McCarthy’s Concessions
Seattle Times – Catie Edmondson (New York Times) | Published: 1/9/2023

House Republicans pushed through an overhaul of operating rules for the new Congress, overcoming the concerns of some rank-and-file members about concessions that Speaker Kevin McCarthy made to the hard right in the desperate and drawn-out process of securing his job. Taken together, the rules increase transparency around how legislation is put together. But they could also make it difficult for the House to carry out even its most basic duties in the next two years, such as funding the government, including the military, or avoiding a catastrophic federal debt default.

How Kevin McCarthy Survived the GOP Revolt to Become House Speaker
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf, Mariana Sotomayor, Michael Scherer, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2023

Months of posturing and saber-rattling at last gave way to serious talks on changing how the new House would operate, which eventually led to Kevin McCarthy winning the speakership. What emerged was a deal that would secure McCarthy his prize only by diminishing it and putting the House on a collision course for more crises like the one just barely resolved, next time over funding the government or raising the debt limit.

Official U.S. Capitol Tour Guides Told to Only Mention Jan. 6 If Asked
Yahoo News – Joe Heim (Washington Post) | Published: 1/5/2023

Visitors on official guided tours of the U.S. Capitol are peppered with facts about its rich history. But they probably will not hear a word about the January 6, 2021, attack by supporters of Donald Trump who were seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win. Guides have been told to only refer to January 6 if questioned on a tour, according to former tour guides and people familiar with the Capitol Visitor Center’s operations. It is a policy that in many ways reflects a country at odds with itself, unable to agree on fact and truth and reluctant to engage on the history of a day that threatened democracy.

Scandal-Hit EU Assembly Set to Move on Anti-Corruption Plan
Yahoo News – Lorne Cook (Associated Press) | Published: 1/11/2023

Spurred into action by a major corruption scandal, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola wants to prevent former lawmakers from lobbying on behalf of businesses or governments soon after they leave office and to make public the names of current members who break assembly rules. Metsola also seeks tougher checks on lobbyists and the public listing of any meetings that lawmakers may have with them. The plans were divulged a month after Belgian authorities arrested four people on charges of corruption, money laundering, and participation in a criminal organization.

Second Biden Search Yields Additional Classified Documents
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Matt Viser, Tyler Pager, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2023

President Biden’s personal lawyers discovered a small number of classified documents at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, an institute Biden started after serving as vice president. Legal representatives for the president then announced they found additional classified material at a second location. White House officials have said they are cooperating with the Justice Department and that Biden’s lawyers quickly handed over the documents to the National Archives and Records Administration.

The Mysterious, Unregistered Fund That Raised Big Money for Santos
DNyuz – Alexandra Berzon and Grace Ashford (New York Times) | Published: 1/12/2023

A month before George Santos was elected to Congress, one of his large campaign donors was asked to consider making another sizable contribution. The request came from a Republican loyalist on behalf of RedStone Strategies, which was described in an email to the donor as an “independent expenditure” group. The donor sent $25,000 to a bank account belonging to RedStone Strategies. But where the donor’s money went is unclear. The FEC said it had no evidence RedStone Strategies was registered as a political group, and there do not appear to be any records documenting its donors, contributions, or spending.

The New Soldiers in Propane’s Fight Against Climate Action: Television stars
DNyuz – Hiroko Tabuchi (New York Times) | Published: 1/11/2023

For DIY enthusiasts, Matt Blashaw is a familiar face, judging bathroom remodels or planning surprise home makeovers on popular cable television shows. He also has a strong opinion about how Americans should heat their homes: by burning propane. Less well known is Blashaw is paid by a fossil fuel industry group that has been running a furtive campaign against government efforts to move heating toward electricity made from cleaner sources. The Propane Education and Research Council has spent millions of dollars on “provocative anti-electrification messaging,” using influencers like Blashaw, according to the group’s internal documents.

Trump Campaign Officials Got Subpoena Asking New Questions About Jan. 6
MSN – Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Rosalind Helderman (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2023

A wide-ranging subpoena sent to Donald Trump’s campaign officials in December shows new areas of investigative interest as part of the Justice Department’s extensive January 6 criminal probe, and lawyers say a grand jury focused on the day’s events and related fundraising has increased its activities in recent months. The document seeks more than two dozen categories of information and includes some questions that were not part of a series of similar subpoenas that were sent to several dozen people in September.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska Wasilla Lawmaker Advised Not to Solicit Campaign Funds for Oath Keepers Trial Costs
Yahoo News – Sean Maguire (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 1/6/2023

Staff at the Alaska Public Offices Commission advised Rep. David Eastman not to keep soliciting campaign contributions to pay his legal bills, saying that would run afoul of state law. Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna ruled in December that Eastman was eligible to hold public office despite his membership in the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group that had some members and leadership participate in the riot at the U.S. Capitol. Without being able to solicit campaign contributions, he can still accept donations to a separate legal fund, but as a sitting legislator, the law prohibits him from accepting monetary “gifts” worth $250 or more.

California Lobbyist’s $1,100 Payment to El Monte Councilmember for Breast Augmentation Lawful, FPPC Rules
San Gabriel Valley Tribune – Jason Henry (Pasadena Star News) | Published: 1/8/2023

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) found El Monte Councilperson Victoria Martinez Muela did not violate the law by accepting $1,100 for breast augmentation surgery from a friend, even though the friend’s employer had business before the city council. The FPPC determined the payment for the procedure did not constitute a “gift” under state law, would not have been subject to state limits, and did not qualify as reportable income, said Alex Rose, counsel for the agency’s enforcement division.

California San Jose Lobbyists Skirt Transparency
San Jose Spotlight – Tran Nguyan | Published: 1/5/2023

A review of 2022 disclosure reports shows how some lobbyists failed to divulge details of their meetings with San Jose officials. San Jose adopted lobbying rules in 2007 to increase transparency at City Hall and allow the public a window into how lobbyists influence city business and policies. The ordinance requires lobbyists to submit weekly reports and disclose details, including who their client is, who they meet with, how they communicate, and the topic being discussed.

Colorado ‘Laughable’: Is it too easy to get on the Denver mayoral ballot?
Denver Post – Joe Rubino | Published: 1/5/2023

It took Leslie Herod’s campaign less than 17 hours to collect the 300 verified voter signatures needed to get the mayoral hopeful on the ballot for Denver’s April 4 municipal election. The speed with which Herod hit the petition mark – turning in her signatures at 4:30 p.m. on the first day signature gathering was allowed – highlights a concern that has been rumbling beneath the surface of Denver elections: is it too easy for candidates and citizens’ initiative to get on the ballot?

Florida DeSantis Inauguration Planned to Give Donors Special Treatment. They Got Long Lines, Few Seats
MSN – Mary Ellen Klas and Lawrence Mower (Miami Herald) | Published: 1/5/2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proclaimed to a crowd of about 250 people at a candlelight dinner for donors that his swearing-in ceremony was “the most requested ticket” of any inauguration in state history. In fact, organizers sold more tickets than there were seats for the swearing-in, leaving numerous people, including the chief executive officer of Publix and the future speaker of the Florida House, without a place to sit. The treatment of the VIPs left some egos bruised. Many paid between $25,000 and $1 million for sponsorship packages that included seats to the VIP section for the swearing-in ceremony and tickets to the inaugural ball.

Georgia Fani Willis, the Georgia Prosecutor Investigating Trump, Has Taken on Seemingly Untouchable Targets
MSN – Tom Hamburger, Matthew Brown, and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 1/9/2023

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is considering using Georgia’s racketeering statute in a politically treacherous investigation. The question is whether former President Trump conspired with his allies to break the law and attempt to overturn the 2020 election in the state. Willis finds herself at the center of an inquiry with the potential to make history and influence the course of the next presidential vote. A special grand jury convened as part of the investigation submitted a report that could include recommendations for charges.

Hawaii Commission Fines Cayetano Campaign, Super PAC Over Josh Green Attack Ads
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 1/11/2023

The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission fined gubernatorial candidate Vicky Cayetano’s campaign and her super PAC, Victory Calls. Commission staff found probable cause the campaign improperly coordinated with the PAC to run a print ad in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser attacking Gov. Josh Green, who at the time was a gubernatorial candidate and Cayetano’s opponent in the Democratic primary. The commission voted to fine the campaign and Victory Calls $1,000 jointly for the print ad, meaning either the PAC or the campaign can pay the fine.

Hawaii Proposal Would Increase Public Funding for Hawaii Campaigns
Yahoo News – Dan Nakaso (Honolulu Star-Advertiser) | Published: 1/10/2023

State Sen. Karl Rhoads plans to introduce legislation this year to help county, state, and Office of Hawaiian Affairs candidates raise more campaign money through public funds to ease their reliance on lobbyists and private donors with the goal of promoting “clean elections.” The proposal follows the guilty pleas of Sen. J. Kalani English and Rep. T.J. Cullen on bribery and corruption charges that led to calls for ethics and fundraising reform that largely did not materialize last year but did lead to a ban on fundraising while the Legislature is in session and to the creation of a House commission on legislative conduct.

Illinois Ex-U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez Allegedly Lobbied Speaker Michael Madigan for ComEd Board Appointment for Juan Ochoa, According to New Filing
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 1/11/2023

Federal prosecutors revealed new evidence they intend to use against four people accused in an alleged bribery scheme between Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and then-House Speaker Michael Madigan. Former McPier chief executive Juan Ochoa is expected to testify he enlisted the help of a member of Congress in 2017 to help repair his tattered relationship with Madigan and ultimately secure a lucrative position on ComEd’s board of directors. Sources said the member is ex-U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. The trial promises to be the biggest corruption trial in Illinois since ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted in 2011.

Illinois Lightfoot Campaign Asks CPS Teachers to Encourage Students to Help Her Win Reelection in Return for Credit
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 1/11/2023

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reelection campaign sent an email to Chicago Public Schools teachers asking them to encourage their students to volunteer to help Lightfoot win a second term as mayor and earn class credit. The message was sent to teachers’ official work email accounts. As mayor, Lightfoot appoints not only the superintendent of the Chicago Public Schools but also the members of the city Board of Education. Chicago’s ethics ordinance prohibits the use of public resources, including email accounts, for non-official purposes.

Kansas Prominent Kansas Senate Republican to Pull Double Duty as Kris Kobach Adviser, Legislator
MSN – Andrew Bahl (Topeka Capital Journal) | Published: 1/11/2023

State Sen. J.R. Claeys will serve as a senior adviser to Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a move that is not unprecedented but has brought concerns about a potential conflict-of-interest. There is nothing in the rules preventing Claeys, who also served as Kobach’s campaign manager during the 2022 election cycle, from simultaneously serving in a state agency. Legislators, both current and past, have worked for executive branch agencies and Kansas Board of Regents institutions, among other day jobs.

Kentucky Pfizer Gives $1 Million to Republican Party of Kentucky to Expand Its Headquarters
Kentucky Lantern – Tom Loftus | Published: 1/9/2023

In what may be the largest political contribution ever given to a political party in Kentucky, the drug maker Pfizer Inc. gave $1 million last month to the building fund of the state Republican Party. A report filed by Republican Party of Kentucky Building Fund listed the $1 million from Pfizer along with five other big corporate contributions in the final quarter in 2022 totaling $1.65 million. That is an extraordinarily large haul for the fund which had raised only $6,000 during the first three quarters of last year.

Louisiana Former Louisiana Democrats Chair, State Senator Gets Prison Time for Wire Fraud
Louisiana Illuminator – Greg La Rose | Published: 1/11/2023

Former state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson was sentenced to 22 months in prison after admitting she used money from her campaign and the Louisiana Democratic Party to support a gambling addiction. Peterson was accused of pilfering $147,000 from her campaign and party coffers through a series of payments to close political allies.

Massachusetts SJC Rules DiMasi’s Federal Corruption Convictions Do Not Disqualify Him, or Others, from Lobbying on Beacon Hill
MSN – John Element (Boston Globe) | Published: 1/5/2023

Secretary of State William Galvin misinterpreted Massachusetts law when he denied former House Speaker Sal DiMasi’s registration as a lobbyist in 2019, the state’s highest court ruled. The Supreme Judicial Court said amendments to ethics laws enacted by state legislators in 2009 specified that only state corruption convictions could be used to prevent someone from registering as a lobbyist for 10 years after being convicted. DiMasi was convicted in federal court of fraud and extortion for taking bribes while in office.

Massachusetts The Latest Challenge for the Beleaguered Massachusetts State GOP: Tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid bills
MSN – Emma Platoff (Boston Globde) | Published: 1/10/2023

Fresh off an electoral defeat in the November midterms. the Massachusetts Republican Party now appears to have mounting financial and legal problems, too – a pile of overdue bills, much of that money owed to an opposition research firm that party leaders hired last year to dig up dirt on Maura Healey during her run for governor. As of late December, the state GOP owed at least $86,000 to at least two outside vendors hired for election-related services, bills that were late by more than two months. Republican sources, including one familiar with the party’s direct mail process, estimated the debt far exceeds that amount.

New Mexico Democratic Officials’ Homes, Offices Shot Up in New Mexico
Associated Press News – Susan Montoya Bryan and Morgan Lee | Published: 1/6/2023

The homes or offices of five elected Democratic officials in New Mexico, including the new attorney general, have been hit by gunfire over the past month, and authorities are working to determine if the attacks are connected. Nobody was injured in the shootings. Federal officials have warned about the potential for violence and attacks on government officials and buildings, and the Department of Homeland Security has said domestic extremism remains a top terrorism threat in the U.S. Local officials have also faced an increasing number of threats in recent years.

New York Lawmaker’s Victory May Cost Him Coveted Manhattan Apartment
DNyuz – Luis Ferré-Sadurní (New York Times) | Published: 1/6/2023

Democrats in the New York Assembly had been considering whether to expel a Republican member because of evidence suggesting he lived in Manhattan, not in the South Brooklyn district he was recently elected to represent. But the efforts to remove Assemblyperson Lester Chang were seen as politically contentious. So Democratic leaders decided they would not try to remove Chang. But even though Mr. Chang will keep his seat, he may be at risk of losing something equally precious: his rent-stabilized apartment in Manhattan.

New York Rensselaer County’s Former GOP Elections Commissioner Admits Voter Fraud
Albany Times Union – Robert Galvin | Published: 1/11/2023

Jason Schofield, Rensselaer County’s former elections commissioner, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of voter fraud charges, admitting he fraudulently filed absentee ballots in 2021 using the personal information of at least eight voters without their permission. The plea is part of a broader, ongoing investigation by the U.S. Justice Department that led to the guilty plea of ex-Troy City Council Member Kimberly Ashe-McPherson. The probe is examining the election activities of several top county officials.

New York Trump Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg Sentenced to Five Months in Jail
MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 1/10/2023

Longtime Trump Organization finance chief Allen Weisselberg, who pleaded guilty to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy, and grand larceny, was sentenced to serve five months in jail. Authorities had promised Weisselberg a steeply reduced sentence in exchange for testifying against the Trump Organization. He had faced up to 15 years in prison. The company was convicted of tax crimes. Donald Trump was not charged with wrongdoing.

North Dakota As Lawmakers Return to Bismarck, Lobbyists Fill the Capitol
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley (Forum News Service) | Published: 1/6/2023

Lobbyists are sure to be present wherever laws are made, and the North Dakota Capitol is no exception. For each of the state’s 141 lawmakers, there are more than two registered lobbyists, and their numbers are expected to grow as the Legislature’s four-month session unfolds. Lobbyists, whether paid or not, are a vital piece of the Capitol ecosystem, according to policymakers and political scientists.

North Dakota Bill Would Add 9,000 State Employees to North Dakota Ethics Panel’s Jurisdiction
Jamestown Sun – Jack Dura (Bismarck Tribune) | Published: 1/6/2023

North Dakota’s Ethics Commission is asking the state Legislature to expand the panel’s oversight authority to include thousands of state employees. Senate Bill 2048 includes several changes requested by the commission, such as extending the time frame to notify an accused person of an ethics complaint and adding criteria for who can make complaints. The bill also would add about 8,960 executive branch employees to the ethics panel’s jurisdiction over “public officials.”

Ohio Ex-Ohio Governor Candidate Joe Blystone Fined $105K, Can’t Run for Office for 5 Years
Yahoo News – Jessie Balmert (Cincinnati Enquirer) | Published: 1/5/2023

Joe Blystone, who unsuccessfully challenged Gov. Mike DeWine in the Republican primary election last May, will pay a $105,000 fine and not run for office for five years as part of a settlement with the Ohio Elections Commission. The $105,000 fine is what is left in Blystone’s campaign account minus $75,000 placed in reserve for a pending lawsuit. The case stemmed from a slew of campaign finance violations committed by Blystone.

Oklahoma After Dark Money Flooded Elections, Oklahoma GOP Chair Wants Changes to Help Political Parties
Tulsa World – Carmen Forman | Published: 1/11/2023

After millions of dollars in “dark money” flowed into Oklahoma elections last year, the state Republican Party chairperson is seeking reforms. A.J. Ferate asked the Oklahoma Ethics Commission to consider updating campaign finance rules so political parties can raise more money and provide additional assistance to state candidates. Corporations and other entities can contribute unlimited sums of money to influence elections through groups that do not have to report their donors. Political parties have to report their campaign fundraising and spending.

Pennsylvania DA Larry Krasner’s Impeachment Trial Gets Indefinitely Postponed by the Pa. Senate
MSN – Ellie Rushing (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 1/11/2023

The Pennsylvania Senate voted to indefinitely postpone the impeachment trial of Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. A Commonwealth Court ruling to dismiss the articles of impeachment as legally insufficient, the future of the trial – and the timeline for when, or even if, it resumes – remains uncertain. Judge Ellen Ceisler said the articles did not sufficiently demonstrate Krasner failed to perform his duties or acted with an improper or corrupt motive, a standard required under the state constitution to impeach a public official.

Rhode Island As Judge Caprio Moves On, Questions About ‘Caught in Providence,’ and the Profits, Are Raised
Yahoo News – Katherine Gregg (Providence Journal) | Published: 1/9/2023

In 2015, The Rhode Island Ethics Commission gave the chief judge of Providence Municipal Court, Frank Caprio, its blessing to expand his “Caught in Providence” television show into wider markets. Caprio told the commission that “he has never and will never accept financial compensation of any kind from the broadcast of these Municipal Court proceedings.” But the judge’s brother, David Caprio, chair of the state’s higher education board, recently acknowledged he has made a little more than $100,000 a year from the broadcast, which he did not list on his ethics-disclosure filing.

South Carolina South Carolina US House District Ruled Racial Gerrymander
Yahoo News – James Pollard and Jeffrey Collins (Associated Press) | Published: 1/5/2023

Federal judges ordered South Carolina lawmakers to draw new congressional maps, ruling the U.S. House district lines of a seat flipped by Democrats four years ago were intentionally redrawn to split Black neighborhoods to dilute their voting power. The state used the maps in this past November’s midterm elections after the Republican-dominated state Legislature redrew the lines following the 2020 U.S. Census. With Republicans holding a thin margin in the House, any change to competitive districts has a chance to alter the balance of power after the 2024 elections.

Utah The Utah Executive Ethics Committee Has Been Understaffed for 2 Years
Local Today – Emily Anderson Stern (Salt Lake Tribune) | Published: 1/11/2023

After major scandals that led to the FBI investigating a Utah attorney general and lieutenant governor, the Legislature passed a bill establishing an ethics committee to review complaints against the state’s executive branch. But for nearly two years, the Executive Ethics Committee operated with fewer than half its legally required members and has limited public avenues to file a grievance against Utah’s top officials.

Washington Seattle Ethics Committee Restricts Collection of Democracy Vouchers
Real Change – Guy Oron | Published: 1/11/2023

The Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission amended the city’s democracy voucher program, limiting the ability of paid campaign staffers to collect vouchers, a move campaigns say could reduce the impact of the system. The program allocates four $25 vouchers to eligible Seattle residents who can donate them to candidates. Previously, staff could collect replacement forms from potential donors. That made it easy for supporters to give their vouchers immediately to a campaign. Now, supporters must turn in a replacement form to a volunteer or to the city directly, either by mail or online.

Washington Sutherland to Pay $2.5K to Settle Ethics Violation Complaint
Everett Herald – Jerry Cornfield | Published: 1/6/2023

State Rep. Robert Sutherland will pay $2,500 to settle a complaint alleging he violated Washington’s ethics law when he berated and swore at a House security official and then bragged about it at a political rally hours later on the Capitol campus. Sutherland and Sean Hartsock, the chamber’s director of security, became embroiled in a heated exchange when the lawmaker sought access to a building he had been barred from entering because he had not taken a required COVID test.

West Virginia W.Va. Journalist Let Go After Reporting on Abuse Allegations
Yahoo News – Leah Willingham (Associated Press) | Published: 1/7/2023

West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB) reporter Amelia Ferrell Knisely said she was told to stop reporting on the Department of Health and Human Resources after leaders of the agency “threatened to discredit” the network. She then learned her position was being eliminated. Knisely had reported about alleged abuse of people with disabilities within the state agency. She said her news director told her the order came from WVPB Executive Director Butch Antolini, former communications director for Gov. Jim Justice. The governor has tried to eliminate funding for WVPB and was accused of appointing partisan operatives to its board.

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