January 14, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – January 14, 2022
Gaetz’s Ex-Girlfriend Appears Before Grand Jury in Sex Trafficking Probe
Seattle Times – Matt Zapotosky (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2022
The ex-girlfriend of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz appeared before a federal grand jury investigating him for possible sex trafficking of a minor, a signal the probe remains active more than a year after it began. Investigators are exploring whether Gaetz paid for sex in violation of federal sex-trafficking laws and have been interested in his dealings with a 17-year-old girl, people familiar with the matter have said. The appearance of his ex-girlfriend before a federal grand jury is a potentially ominous sign for Gaetz.
Jerome Powell Says the Fed Will Tighten Trading Rules After an Ethics Scandal
New York Times – Jeanna Smialek | Published: 1/11/2022
Jerome Powell, chairperson of the Federal Reserve, told lawmakers at his nomination hearing that the central bank was making changes to rules surrounding financial trades to prevent the kind of eyebrow-raising transactions surrounding three top Fed officials. The Fed has come under fire for allowing officials to trade securities for their own portfolios in 2020, a year in which the Fed was actively saving many asset classes and markets. That included notable trades by two of the 12 regional reserve bank presidents and the Fed’s vice chair.
Judge Mulls Whether Trump’s Silence on Jan. 6 Could Amount to ‘Agreement’ with Rioters
MSN – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 1/10/2022
Donald Trump’s hours of silence while a violent mob ransacked the Capitol – egged on by his own words and tweets – could be plausibly construed as agreement with rioters’ actions, a federal judge suggested. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta made the analysis as he pressed Trump’s lawyers about their efforts to dismiss a series of lawsuits against the former president seeking to hold him financially liable for inciting the January 6 insurrection.
Justice Dept. Forms New Domestic Terrorism Unit to Address Growing Threat
MSN – Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 1/11/2022
The Justice Department is forming a new domestic terrorism unit. Matthew Olsen, head of the department’s National Security Division, announced the unit before the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting the number of FBI investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists – those accused of planning or committing crimes in the name of domestic political goals – had more than doubled since the spring of 2020. His testimony comes days after the anniversary of the riot at the Capitol, an event some lawmakers say showed the FBI underestimated the threat posed by domestic extremists and violence-prone members of far-right groups.
Kevin McCarthy Rejects Request by House Jan. 6 Committee for Information About Communications with Trump, Mark Meadows
MSN – Jacueline Alemany and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2022
The House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol requested that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy voluntarily provide information about his communications with former President Trump and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows. Details of those conversations could provide the committee with further insight into Trump’s state of mind at the time, wrote U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairperson. McCarthy said he will not cooperate, arguing in a statement that its “only objective is to attempt to damage its political opponents.”
Pence and Jan. 6 Committee Engage in High-Stakes Dance Over Testimony
Yahoo News – Michael Schmidt and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 1/10/2022
Since the House select committee investigating the assault on the Capitol was formed last summer, former Vice President Mike Pence’s lawyer and the panel have been talking about whether he would be willing to speak to investigators. But as Pence began sorting through a complex calculation about his cooperation, he is said to have grown disillusioned with the idea of voluntary cooperation. For the committee, Pence’s testimony would be an opportunity to establish how Donald Trump’s pressuring him to block the certification of the 2020 election helped inspire the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Rep. Jim Jordan Refuses to Cooperate with Jan. 6 Committee Investigating Capitol Attack
MSN – Annabelle Timsit (Washington Post) | Published: 1/10/2022
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan is refusing a request to be interviewed by the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, calling it an “unprecedented and inappropriate demand.” Jordan declined to comply with the request to appear before the panel to discuss his communication with Trump on the day of the assault. Jordan previously said he could not recall how many times he spoke with Trump on January 6 but they spoke at least once.
Schumer Sets Up Final Senate Confrontation on Voting Rights and the Filibuster
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 1/12/2022
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer prepared Democrats for the final phase of a year-long push to pass voting rights legislation, sketching out legislative maneuvers that could launch debate on a pair of stalled bills and force a confrontation over the Senate’s rules in the coming days. The details of the next steps come as President Biden has launched his own aggressive push to convince his fellow Democrats to band together and overhaul the filibuster to overcome strict GOP opposition to voting rights bills.
The Battle to Prevent Another Jan. 6 Features a New Weapon: The algorithm
MSN – Steven Zeitchik (Washington Post) | Published: 1/6/2022
For many Americans who witnessed the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year, the idea of mobs of people storming a bedrock of democracy was unthinkable. For the data scientists who watched it unfold, the reaction was different: we have been thinking about this for a long time. The sentiment comes from a group working in a field known as unrest prediction. The group takes a promising if fraught approach that applies the complex methods of machine-learning to the mysterious roots of political violence. Centered on the developing world, its systems are slowly being retooled with a new goal: predicting the next January 6.
When Lobbyists and Legislators Socialize, Lobbyists Are More Likely to Get What They Want
MSN – Sara Sadhwani, Pamela Lopez, Christian Grose, and Antoine Yoshinaka | Published: 1/12/2022
Lobbying often takes place off Capitol Hill. Whether it is dinner at the Charlie Palmer steakhouse in Washington, or the hosting of public officials at receptions and bars, lobbying in social situations is a key tool of professional advocates. To explore the impact of social lobbying, researchers conducted an experiment in the California Legislature. They say they found interest groups are more likely to get what they ask for when they meet legislators or their staff socially. Much like everyone else, public officials are more easily persuaded in such settings.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Cyber Ninjas, the Firm Behind the Audit in Arizona’s Maricopa County, Says It’s Closing and Letting All Its Employees Go
Business Insider – Cheryl Teh | Published: 1/7/2022
Cyber Ninjas, the company behind the 2020 election audit in Maricopa County, Arizona, said it was closing and letting all its staff go as it faces staggering daily fines for refusing to turn over public record related to the audit. A judge in Arizona said Cyber Ninjas would be fined $50,000 a day if it did not immediately turn over the records. It is unclear how many employees Cyber Ninjas has on its payroll, though LinkedIn lists its company size as two to 10 employees.
California – Former High-Level Lawyer with L.A. City Attorney Agrees to Plead Guilty in DWP Scandal
MSN – Dakota Smith and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 1/10/2022
A former high-level lawyer in Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s office agreed to plead guilty in the federal corruption probe of the Department of Water and Power (DWP) billing debacle, becoming the first staffer under Feuer to do so. Thomas Pierce agreed to plead guilty to one count of aiding and abetting extortion. In his plea agreement, Pierce admitted he threatened to fire one of the city’s outside lawyers unless that lawyer paid off a person who was threatening to reveal damaging information about city lawyers’ handling of the DWP case.
California – What’s Behind the ‘Great Resignation’ of California Lawmakers?
MSN – Ben Christopher (CalMatters) | Published: 1/10/2022
Propelled by approaching term limits, new district lines, and a raft of political opportunities outside the state Capitol, 14 California lawmakers have sought employment elsewhere. That does not include the seven members, all senators, who are barred from seeking reelection in 2022 by term limits. Some incumbents and lobbyists say this year’s changing of the guard has the potential to shake up the Capitol’s policy-making dynamic.
Colorado – Mesa County Clerk Who Embraced Conspiracy Theories Given 3 Days to Accept Election Security Oversight
Denver Post – Saja Hindi | Published: 1/12/2022
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold wants Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters to sign documents saying she will comply with election security protocols that place limits on what she can do before Peters can resume her duties as the county’s designated election official. In October, a judge barred Peters and Deputy Clerk Belinda Knisley from overseeing the 2021 election. Peters has been held up as a prominent figure among election conspiracy theorists who claim the 2020 election was stolen.
Connecticut – Top Prosecutor’s Fate Will Await Completion of Investigation, Judge Says
Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 1/12/2022
The commission with the power to hire and fire top prosecutors in Connecticut is awaiting completion of an investigation of how Chief State’s Attorney Richard Colangelo Jr. came to hire the daughter of a top state budget official while he lobbied the budget office for raises. Colangelo hired Anastasia Diamantis while he was lobbying her father, Kostantinos Diamantis, who was deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management before his firing. The state contracted with an outside attorney “to conduct a factual investigation on behalf of the Office of the Governor regarding possible improprieties by state employees and possibly others.”
Delaware – Jury Finds State Sen. Darius Brown Not Guilty of Misdemeanor Charges
Yahoo News – Xerxes Wilson (Delaware News Journal) | Published: 1/6/2022
A jury found Delaware Sen. Darius Brown not guilty of misdemeanor offensive touching and disorderly conduct. The trial saw a woman accuse Brown of hitting her in the head and throwing a glass that shattered in her proximity while they were at a restaurant. Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola said regardless of whether Brown’s conduct was not criminal, “it remains clear” Brown has been involved in “multiple confrontations in public spaces” over the past year. Sokola said the Senate’s Rules and Ethics Committee will review allegations against Brown in the coming weeks.
Florida – Florida Officials Tried to Steer Education Contract to Former Lawmaker’s Company
Yahoo News – Lawrence Mower and Ana Ceballos (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 1/11/2022
The Florida Department of Education is under fire for trying to steer a multimillion-dollar contract to a company whose chief executive has ties to the state’s education commissioner. Records and interviews show that before the Education Department asked for bids, it was already in advanced talks with the company to do the work, subverting a process designed to eliminate favoritism. The company is MGT Consulting, led by former lawmaker Trey Traviesa, a longtime colleague of the state’s education commissioner, Richard Corcoran.
Florida – Florida Senate Accuses Lawyer Who Submitted Redistricting Map of Violating Rules
Miami Herald – Mary Ellen Klas | Published: 1/6/2022
The Florida Senate accused a staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida of misinformation after he appeared as a private citizen before a redistricting committee to present a map he had drawn but failed to identify his employer, which had no role in the submission. The Senate changed its rules this year regarding map submissions and now requires anyone who attempts to address legislators in a public meeting to submit a disclosure form that indicates if they are a lobbyist or getting expenses paid. The rules also prohibit lawmakers from considering maps submitted by the public unless a legislator explicitly requested the map in writing.
Florida – FPL Makes Unusual Public Attack on Miami Herald After Solar Power Coverage
MSN – David Ovalle (Miami Herald) | Published: 1/6/2022
Florida Power & Light (FPL) launched an unusual public attack on The Miami Herald and its senior Tallahassee reporter over coverage of the utility company’s lobbying on solar power policy, criticism the newspaper’s top editor called “unfair.” FPL published a piece on its own website criticizing the news organization for not publishing the entirety of an editorial written in response to a Miami Herald story co-authored by Mary Ellen Klas about the company’s role in preparing legislation affecting rooftop solar power generation in Florida. FPL’s post was titled: “Truth Matters: Why is the Miami Herald afraid to let its readers hear opposing voices?”
Georgia – Perdue Sues Over New Georgia Fundraising Law
Yahoo News – Joseph Coi (The Hill) | Published: 1/6/2022
David Perdue’s gubernatorial campaign filed a lawsuit challenging a state law that critics say gives Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp an advantage in the race. Last year, Kemp signed Senate Bill 221 into law, allowing those vying for governor, lieutenant governor, and party leadership roles to create “leadership committees” with no caps on individual campaign contributions. The law also does away with limits on when committees can raise money. Critics have argued it gives incumbent candidates an unfair advantage, as nonincumbent candidates must win a party primary before they can establish a leadership committee.
Idaho – Idaho Statehouse Security: Is the ‘people’s house’ a safe place for the people?
KPVI – Clark Corbin (Idaho Capital Sun) | Published: 1/9/2022
Political organizer Alicia Abbott worries that members of the public will not feel comfortable or safe at the Idaho Capitol, whether it is due to the anger or crowds or lack of COVID-19 protocols like masking and distancing. She is concerned that would rob people of their ability to participate in the legislative process and could limit the perspective of public testimony presented to lawmakers during bill hearings. Abbott is not the only one who is worried about the potential for violence and politics to clash.
Iowa – Republican Leadership Bars Journalists from Iowa Senate Floor, Worrying Press Advocates
MSN – Kim Bellware (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2022
Republican leaders in the state Senate told journalists they will no longer be allowed to work on the chamber floor, a change that breaks with a more than 140-year tradition in the Iowa Capitol. The move raised concerns among free press and freedom of information advocates who said it is a blow to transparency and open government that makes it harder for the public to understand, let alone scrutinize, elected officials. The new rule denies reporters access to the press benches near senators’ desks, a proximity that statehouse reporters said is crucial for the most accurate coverage.
Kentucky – Senate Bill Would Block State Contracts If Bidders’ Lobbyists Are Convicted of Crimes
Yahoo News – John Cheves (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 1/10/2022
A Kentucky Senate bill would block state contracts from going to companies for five years after their lobbyists are convicted of crimes related to helping those companies win those contracts. If the language in Senate Bill 46 sounds specific, that is because the sponsor has in mind a particular contract and a particular lobbyist and particular crimes. Sen. Stephen Meredith said he objects to a $51.7 million contract renewal awarded by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2020 to Cannon Cochran Management Services.
Maryland – Howard County Council Member Outraged by Denial of Matching Campaign Funds, Calling It Political Manipulation
MSN – Katie Long (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 1/12/2022
A technicality in the law resulted in Howard County candidates being denied matching campaign funds this election season. To be eligible for up to $85,000 in matching funds, county council candidates must collect at least $10,000 from at least 125 donations. These funds are only available for candidates in contested races, meaning at least two candidates’ names must appear on the ballot. The rules also state the determination date for when a race is “contested” is six months prior to the state filing deadline. This language is what resulted in the withholding of funds from council member Deb Jung.
Michigan – Judge Tosses GOP Challenge to Exception for Recall Donations
MSN – David Eggers (Associated Press) | Published: 1/6/2022
A federal judge dismissed Republicans’ lawsuit challenging the ability of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s reelection campaign to collect excess donations under an exception for recall attempts, saying they lack the standing to sue. U.S. District Court Judge Janet Neff ruled state GOP Chairperson Ron Weiser and the party failed to show they had suffered a “concrete and particularized injury.” She also said they could have given unlimited amounts to recall committees opposing the Democratic governor but did not. Republicans said they would appeal.
Montana – Montana Conservation Voters Action Fund Facing Fine for Campaign Finance Violations
Helena Independent Record – Nolan Lister | Published: 1/12/2022
Montana Conservation Voters Action Fund is facing a fine for failing to file reports on its spending in municipal elections in Helena, Missoula, and Billings last year. As a registered political committee, the group is permitted to engage in these actions. But it failed to report its expenses as required. “Unfortunately, our vendor failed to submit the required reports related to our work …,” said Jake Brown, the organization’s political director.
New Mexico – New Mexico Ethics Commission to Consider Charges Against Dow
Yahoo News – Robert Nott (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 1/10/2022
The general counsel for the State Ethics Commission recommended a public hearing to determine whether New Mexico Rep. Rebecca Dow, a GOP candidate for governor in the June primary, violated government conduct and financial disclosure rules in connection with her work for a nonprofit she founded, AppleTree Educational Center, a faith-based early childhood education provider. A complaint raised questions about whether Dow accurately disclosed details about her position and salary with AppleTree. It also said there is evidence she may have used her legislative position to advocate for the nonprofit.
New Mexico – Public Financing the Common Factor for Winners of ABQ Campaigns in 2021
Albuquerque Journal – Jessica Dyer | Published: 1/9/2022
Whether Republican or Democrat, incumbent or political newcomer, every candidate who won a position in Albuquerque’s municipal government during the 2021 election cycle had at least one thing in common: all ran for office on the city’s public financing system. But the program that has fueled so many recent election wins also continues to fuel controversy and doubt.
New York – Cuomo Lawyer Fires Warning at Ethics Agency
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 1/12/2022
An attorney representing former Gov. Andrew Cuomo notified New York’s ethics oversight panel that it is to preserve “all evidence and documentation” concerning its efforts to force Cuomo to repay $5.1 million in proceeds from a 2020 book deal. The letter appears to be a warning shot to the Joint Commission on Public Ethics that if the panel continues attempts to force Cuomo to repay the funds that he earned from writing the book, Cuomo will sue. Cuomo will also seek to dig into the panel’s own machinations.
New York – Eric Adams Cuts His Brother’s Duties After Giving Him Top Police Job
New York Times – Dana Rubenstein and William Rashbaum | Published: 1/12/2022
When Mayor Eric Adams named a Virginia parking administrator and retired police sergeant to a top position in the New York Police Department, he said the man had one qualification that no one else there possessed: he was the mayor’s brother. Bernard Adams, 56, a former police sergeant who retired from the force in 2006 after 20 years, has been given one of the most elite jobs in city government: overseeing the unit that will protect the mayor’s physical safety. The mayor’s fundraising tactics have, tested the boundaries of campaign finance and law, and the hiring has amplified concerns that Mayor Adams pays too little heed to ethics.
New York – GOP Sues Over Law Letting Noncitizens Vote in NYC Elections
MSN – Marina Vileneuve (Associated Press) | Published: 1/10/2022
Republicans sued to prevent noncitizens from voting in New York City elections under a new local law that allows more than 800,000 noncitizens and “Dreamers” in New York City to vote in municipal elections as early as next year. They still cannot vote for president or members of Congress or in statewide elections. Republicans said the law violates the state constitution, which says, “every citizen shall be entitled to vote at every election” provided a citizen is at least 18 years old and a “resident of this state” and the locality for 30 days before an election.
New York – Hochul Moves to Scrap Much-Criticized Ethics Agency
Buffalo News – Tom Precious | Published: 1/7/2022
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed reforms for the Joint Commission on Public Integrity (JCOPE). She would get rid of the system by which JCOPE board members are selected. Board members are now chosen by the governor and legislative leaders. Hochul wants a rotating five-member panel of law school deans – or, more likely, their designees – from the 15 state-accredited law schools in New York. Hochul also would scrap the special voting system JCOPE can now employ in which a minority of members can end an investigation. The reconstituted agency would still be the reporting and enforcement entity of the lobbying industry in Albany.
New York – Hochul’s Taxpayer-Funded Air Travel May Violate Ethics Rules
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 1/6/2022
On October 4, Gov. Kathy Hochul flew from Albany to New York City on a state-owned airplane. She went to Brooklyn to sign a bill, then held three campaign-related events before flying back to Albany in the evening. Although a major part of the day was dedicated to Hochul winning a full term in November’s election, her campaign did not reimburse taxpayers for any portion of the day’s travel. During Hochul’s first 45 days in office, on at least three separate days, the governor’s use of state aircraft has raised questions about whether there has been any misuse of taxpayer resources, according to a review of public records.
North Carolina – North Carolina Court Declines to Toss Out GOP-Drawn House Map
Yahoo News – Ally Mutnick (Politico) | Published: 1/11/2022
A North Carolina trial court dealt a setback to Democrats when it declined to strike down Republican-drawn congressional and legislative maps that had been challenged as illegal partisan gerrymanders. The ruling is the latest in a flurry of litigation and court orders muddying North Carolina’s 2022 elections and leaving its political future for the next decade in limbo. The Democratic-aligned plaintiffs who brought the suit immediately said they will appeal to the state Supreme Court, where their party has a narrow majority.
Ohio – Campaign Finance Watchdog Sues FEC Over Ohio Dark Money Group
Ohio Capital Journal – Nick Evans | Published: 1/11/2022
Two years ago, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed an FEC complaint against an Ohio-based “dark money” group called Freedom Vote. Attorneys with the FEC investigated and demonstrated violations occurred but the commission deadlocked. CREW has filed a new complaint, this time against the FEC itself. That is because despite an overwhelming set of evidence, commissioners failed to act against Freedom Vote. The commission deadlocked last November on whether to move forward with any kind of punishment.
Ohio – Ohio’s House Bill 6 Scandal Widened in 2021, but More Is Yet to Come in 2022
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 12/30/2021
Ohio’s House Bill 6 scandal took on a new dimension in 2021, with FirstEnergy Corp. paying a $230 million fine for bribing top state officials, lawmakers passing a partial repeal of the infamous energy law, and ex- House Speaker Larry Householder being kicked out of the Legislature. There is more to come in 2022, as Householder’s upcoming trial on a federal corruption charge, as well as multiple civil lawsuits, are likely to reveal even more scandalous details about the passage of the legislation.
Oregon – Secretary of State Rules Kristof Ineligible to Run for Oregon Governor
Yahoo News – Connor Radnovich (Salem Statesman-Journal) | Published: 1/6/2022
Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof cannot run for Oregon governor because he does not meet the residency requirements to hold office, the secretary of state’s office announced. The state constitution requires a candidate for governor to have been a “resident within this state” for three years prior to the general election. Evidence reviewed by elections officials showed Kristof was instead a resident of New York until late 2020 or early 2021.
Tennessee – Nashville Council Member Jonathan Hall Faces 14 Potential Campaign Finance Violations
MSN – Cassandra Stephenson (The Tennessean) | Published: 1/7/2022
Metropolitan Councilperson Jonathan Hall faces more than a dozen potential campaign finance violations that could lead to an audit or civil penalties. Hall failed to file multiple mandatory financial reports on time, or at all, during election cycles in 2018 and 2019, according to a letter sent from Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Bill Young. Of the financial reports that Hall’s campaign did file, some lack required donor and vendor information and itemization of expenses. Some contain unexplained discrepancies deemed “troubling” by Assistant District Attorney General Brian Ewald.
Washington – A Rural Washington School Board Race Shows How Far-Right Extremists Are Shifting to Local Power
Seattle Times – Hannah Allam (Washington Post) | Published: 1/8/2022
In recent years, far-right groups have been moving away from national organizing to focus on building grassroots support, harnessing conservative outrage to influence school boards and other local offices. That effort was stepped up after the attack on the U.S. Capitol left much of the militant right under federal scrutiny and in operational disarray. Eatonville, Washington, is among several rural, conservative parts of the West where members of self-styled militias are making inroads through what researchers call a mix of opportunism and intimidation.
Wisconsin – Supreme Court Clears Way for Liberal Group to Depose Assembly Speaker Robin Vos
Yahoo News – Patrick Marley (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 1/11/2022
The Wisconsin Supreme Court ended Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ attempt to avoid a deposition, setting the stage for him to take questions under oath over whether he has followed the state’s open records law. He sought to avoid answering questions from the liberal group American Oversight, which has been seeking records of a partisan review of the 2020 election ordered by Vos.
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