News You Can Use Digest - July 14, 2023 - State and Federal Communications

July 14, 2023  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 14, 2023


Trump Aide Walt Nauta Pleads Not Guilty in Classified Documents Case

MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 7/6/2023

Donald Trump’s personal aide, Walt Nauta, pleaded not guilty to charges he schemed with the former president to hide classified documents from authorities at Mar-a-Lago, moving boxes containing top-secret government materials for Trump. Nauta was indicted along with Trump on five criminal charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice. Nauta was also charged with lying to the FBI.

How Supreme Court Decisions Are Activating a Generation of Young Voters

MSN – Tamia Fowlkes (Washington Post) | Published: 7/9/2023

For many voters under 35 years of age, especially those on the left, the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings have become a political issue in the same way that climate change, gun violence, and immigration have over the course of the past two decades, some political scientists and organizers have said. Democrats and liberals have viewed the court as an institution that historically protects the rights of marginalized groups. But Republican politicians and activists on the right have remade the court: Former President Trump, backed by a GOP Senate, appointed three justices to create a conservative majority.

Buddy Cianci is in the Political Corruption Hall of Shame – Literally

MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/11/2023

He did not make the cut when the Museum of Political Corruption inducted the first five members of its Hall of Shame in 2021, a group that includes former President Richard Nixon and William “Boss: Tweed. But former Providence Mayor Vincent Cianci Jr. did make the second group of inductees in 2022, along with former Vice President Spiro Agnew and former New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker.

DOJ Will No Longer Intervene on Behalf of Trump in Carroll Defamation Suit

MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 7/11/2023

The Justice Department will no longer seek to make the U.S. government the defendants in a lawsuit filed against Donald Trump by a writer who says the former president raped her several decades ago. The decision comes after three years in which the department, under both Republican and Democratic leadership, argued Trump was acting within his presidential duties when he denied sexually assaulting columnist E. Jean Carroll. That determination made Trump, like other federal employees acting in their official capacity, totally immune from any liability.

The Californians Whose Scam PACs Tricked Trump and Clinton Supporters Out of Millions

MSN – Laura Nelson (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/9/2023

The FBI, along with consumer groups, have been warning for years of the rise of fraudulent PACs amid surging political spending by independent groups hoping to influence the electoral process. With the 2024 election approaching, including what is expected to be a highly charged presidential election, the climate is primed for another bumper crop of swindlers. Court decisions over the last decade that loosened restrictions on fundraising and led to a surge in independent expenditures in elections have also made it easier for scammers to blend in among the legitimate committees.

Fox News Sued for Defamation by Man Named in Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theories

MSN – Jeremy Barr and Will Sommer (Washington Post) | Published: 7/12/2023

Fox News, which recently settled two separate high-profile legal challenges for approximately $800 million, is now facing a lawsuit from a man who said the network presented him as a “scapegoat” for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Ray Epps attended the pro-Trump rallies in Washington in January 2021 but was not among the people found to have breached the Capitol building and has not been charged for his conduct. In subsequent weeks, then-Fox News host Tucker Carlson highlighted a video clip of Epps outside the Capitol to suggest Epps might have been a government informant, a notion Epps and the FBI have strongly denied.

Inside the GOP Presidential Candidate Gift Card Ploy Turning Campaign Finance Upside Down

MSN – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 7/13/2023

The Republican National Committee requires at least 40,000 individual donors as one of its criteria for allowing a candidate on the stage for the first presidential debate in August. North Dakota Dov. Doug Burgum, one of the announced candidates is far from the household name who could gather all those donors. His solution is to give 50,000 campaign donors $20 all-purpose gift cards in exchange for a one-dollar contribution. The strategy could create its own set of problems, according to campaign finance experts who say it may not be legal.

Group Pushing [FEC] on Deepfake Ads Submitting New Petition

MSN – Daniela Altimari (Roll Call) | Published: 7/13/2023

Less than three weeks after the FEC deadlocked on a request to develop regulations governing so-called deepfake political ads generated using artificial intelligence tools, a non-partisan advocacy group pushing for the new rules is trying again. Public Citizen filed a petition to the FEC seeking regulations regarding deliberately misleading campaign communications generated through artificial intelligence.

Where Clarence Thomas Entered an Elite Circle and Opened a Door to the Court

Seattle Times – Abbie VanSickle and Steve Eder (New York Times) | Published: 7/9/2023

After Clarence Thomas joined the U.S. Supreme Court, he was soon accepted by another exclusive club: the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. At Horatio Alger, Thomas moved into the inner circle, a cluster of wealthy, largely conservative members who lionized him and all he had achieved. During his Horatio Alger tenure, interviews and documents show Thomas has received benefits from a broad cohort of powerful friends. They include major donors to conservative causes with broad policy and political interests and much at stake in Supreme Court decisions, even if they were not directly involved in the cases.

Vivek Ramaswamy Is Paying Supporters to Find Him Donors

Yahoo News – Natalie Adams (Politico) | Published: 7/10/2023

It now pays to be a supporter of Vivek Ramaswamy’s presidential bid, at least for those who can convince their friends to click a link and donate. The Republican is launching the “Vivek Kitchen Cabinet,” a scheme that promises to pay participants 10 percent of any money they raise for his campaign. The campaign continues to employ three traditional fundraising professionals to generate donations, and the new program will mostly generate new small-dollar gifts.

GOP States Quit the Program That Fights Voter Fraud. Now They’re Scrambling.

Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 7/9/2023

Over the past year, eight Republican-led states quit a nonpartisan program designed to keep voter rolls accurate and up to date. Top GOP election officials in those states publicly argued the program was mismanaged. But experts say the Electronic Registration Information Center was among the best nationwide tool states had to catch people trying to vote twice in the same election. Now, those Republican-led states who left, and other states who lost access to their data, are scrambling to police so-called double voters ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Social Media Injunction Unravels Plans to Protect 2024 Elections

Yahoo News – Cat Zakrzewski, Naomi Nix, and Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 7/8/2023

An injunction that places extraordinary limits on the government’s communications with technology companies undermines initiatives to harden social media firms against election interference, civil rights groups, academics, and tech industry insiders say. After companies and the federal government spent years expanding efforts to combat online falsehoods in the wake of the 2016 election, the ruling is the latest sign of the pendulum swinging in the other direction.  Tech companies are facing new election threats as leaps in artificial intelligence give bad actors new tools to create fake videos, photos, and ads.

US Says Missing GOP Whistleblower Is Arms Trafficker, Chinese Agent

Yahoo News – Josh Meyer (USA Today) | Published: 7/10/2023

The Justice Department filed charges against the co-director of a think tank, alleging he acted as an illegal arms broker and unregistered agent for the Beijing government while also seeking to help China obtain Iranian oil in violation of U.S. sanctions. Gal Luft is accused of recruiting and paying a former high-ranking U.S. government official and advisor to then President-elect Trump on behalf of principals based in China without registering as a foreign agent. Luft has accused President Biden’s family members of bribery and received payments from individuals with ties to Chinese military intelligence or energy firms.

Another Trump Legacy: Governor troll wars

Yahoo News – Lisa Kashinsky and Shia Kapos (Politico) | Published: 7/12/2023

Donald Trump changed the playbook when he ushered in both a new era of hyper-partisan politics and vicious personal put-downs. Governors deprived of foils in states with one-party rule are increasingly turning to trolling their ideological opposites in faraway places. As culture wars rage, it can help state executives shore up their home bases and amplify their agendas to a new, national audience. The brief spotlight each high-profile gambit brings is key for eager governors positioning for higher office.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska – Alaska Ballot Measure Filed to Set Term Limits for State Legislators

Yahoo News – Sean Maguire (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 7/2/2023

A newly filed ballot measure would set term limits for Alaka lawmakers. Legislators would be restricted to serving a maximum of 12 years consecutively in the state House or Senate, and they then would be required to take a six-year break before serving again. They would also be limited to serving for a lifetime maximum of 20 years as members of the Legislature.

Arizona – Arizona’s ‘Radically Different’ and Hyper-Partisan Legislature

Arizona Mirror – Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Published: 7/11/2023

The Arizona Legislature has been in session for 184 days with no end in sight. Many Capitol regulars say this session has been more tense, more partisan, and contentious than previous sessions. From a practical standpoint, the shift has transformed how work gets done at the Capitol – or does not get done. Some legislative veterans say they have seen this change coming for years.

California – What Happened to the Big Changes to California Elections?

CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 7/12/2023

The number of election-related bills introduced in California this legislative session, close to 50, is average, election officials said. But that number has been whittled down since January, and a deadline may narrow the active proposals more. The most sweeping bills got shelved in the Legislature. Instead, lawmakers are focusing on ballot measure language, local redistricting, voting integrity, and campaign finance tweaks before the 2024 election.

California – Ex-San Francisco Utilities Chief Painted as Cunning Manipulator in Corruption Trial

Courthouse News Service – Michael Gennaro | Published: 7/12/2023

In closing arguments, federal prosecutors painted former San Francisco Public Utilities Commission chief Harlan Kelly as a conniving businessperson who misused his authority and connections to rig the bidding process for city contracts. His defense argued Kelly was simply naïve. Kelly stands accused of two separate schemes – collaborating with businessperson Walter Wong to get Wong a city contract to install streetlights, and defrauding Quicken Loans of $1.3 million by lying on a loan application to remodel his home.

California – California Bill That Would Make Google, Meta, Twitter and Apple Pay for News Won’t Move Forward This Year

KCRA – Ashley Zavala | Published: 7/7/2023

A bill in California that would require large tech companies including Google and Facebook to pay news outlets a fee for posting their content has been shelved for the year. The California Journalism Preservation Act is primarily meant to help generate funds for newsrooms across the state. The bill’s author, Assemblyperson Buffy Wicks, said the decision to hold off on moving the measure forward this year was meant to give lawmakers more time to work on what would be a first in the nation law.

California – Ousted Skid Row Receiver Hosted Fundraiser for L.A. City Attorney’s Campaign

MSN – Liam Dillon and Doug Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/11/2023

At a March press conference, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto announced they found the best person to prevent 1,500 formerly homeless Skid Row tenants from losing their homes once again. The tenants’ nonprofit landlord, Skid Row Housing Trust, had financially collapsed. The pair petitioned a judge to put the trust’s 29 buildings under a receivership led by Mark Adams. Feldstein Soto did not mention that Adams had hosted a fundraiser for her in October, with Adams and his associates contributing at least $8,500 to her election bid.

Colorado – Here’s How Much Lobbyists Spent to Sway Lawmakers During the 2023 Session

MSN – Nick Coltrain (Denver Post) | Published: 7/10/2023

At least $20 million was spent on lobbying during this past legislative session in Colorado, not counting money spent in the lead-up to the General Assembly’s January start date or spending unreported in a state database. It represents a snapshot of how industry and interest groups try to sway lawmakers into supporting, altering, or defeating some of the hundreds of measures considered by lawmakers every year. The secretary of state’s office, which manages the record-keeping for lobbing disclosures, said it found some reporting issues it is seeking to correct.

District of Columbia – Disciplinary Panel Calls for Rudy Giuliani’s Disbarment

Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 7/7/2023

A District of Columbia-based bar discipline committee concluded Rudy Giuliani should be disbarred for “frivolous” and “destructive” efforts to derail the 2020 presidential election in support of former President Trump. Giuliani plans to challenge the panel’s findings and recommended sanction in front of a larger bar-discipline board. His ultimate disbarment or other penalty would be decided by the Court of Appeals.

Florida – A Supporter’s Plane Flew from Florida to N.H. DeSantis Won’t Say If He Was on It

MSN – Sally Goldenberg and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 7/7/2023

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew to New Hampshire for a campaign swing that coincided nearly exactly with the path of a private plane connected to a wealthy supporter. Daniel Doyle Jr. owns a plane whose flight path lines up with DeSantis’ July 4 trip to the Granite State. Neither DeSantis’ presidential campaign nor representatives for Doyle would say if the governor was aboard. It is a recurring pattern where DeSantis and the organizations assisting him remain quiet about who is bankrolling his travels and his frequent use of private charter jets.

Florida – Long-Running Ethics Case Against Former Florida Legislator Latvala Nears Dismissal

Yahoo News – Dara Kam (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/11/2023

A state lawyer filed a motion asking the Florida Commission on Ethics to dismiss a complaint against former state Sen. Jack Latvala, more than five years after he resigned from office amid sexual-harassment allegations. The request came after two women critical to the case refused to participate. Latvala left office in 2017 after the release of a special master’s report about allegations he had sexually harassed Rachel Perrin Rogers, a former high-ranking Senate aide. He denied wrongdoing with the aide but admitted he had an extramarital affair with former lobbyist Laura McLeod.

Florida – Billionaire Treated Mayor Suarez to $30K Grand Prix Weekend. Miami Says He’s Paying It Back

Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey, Tess Riski, and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/13/2023

Mayor Francis Suarez watched the Miami Grand Prix from a viewing party as the personal guest of Florida’s wealthiest person, Citadel Chief Executive Officer Ken Griffin. Citadel has lobbyists registered in the city as the company pursues various development projects. Florida ethics laws prohibit elected officials from taking expensive gifts from anyone with business in front of their city. Citadel spokesperson Zia Ahmed said Suarez covered the cost of the events. He refused to say when Suarez paid or how much. Neither Citadel nor the city would provide documentation confirming the payment.

Georgia – New Ethics Ruling Allows Campaign Funds to Pay for Candidates’ Child Care

Georgia Public Broadcasting – Donna Lowry | Published: 7/6/2023

Georgia candidates can now use campaign money they raise for childcare. The funds can also cover care for people who have elderly parents or disabled dependents. In a bipartisan effort, Reps. Stacey Evans and Beth Camp asked the state ethics commission to align Georgia’s campaign regulations with federal rules. In 2018, the FEC ruling expanded to allow elder and dependent care payments.

Georgia – Election Officials Sue Conservative Voting Group Over Refusal to Produce Ballot-Harvesting Evidence

Yahoo News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 7/12/2023

The Georgia State Election Board asked a judge to order a conservative voting organization to produce information to help investigate its claims of ballot trafficking in the state. True the Vote filed complaints with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in November 2021, including one saying it had received “a detailed account of coordinated efforts to collect and deposit ballots in drop boxes across metro Atlanta” during the 2020 general election and in a runoff election in January 2021. True the Vote’s assertions were relied upon heavily for the film “2000 Mules,” a widely debunked film by conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza.

Illinois – Court Ends Oversight of Hiring in Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough’s Office, Closing Historic Anti-Patronage Case

MSN – Ray Long and A.D. Quig (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/6/2023

In a historic decision, a federal judge ended the half-century-old anti-patronage case launched to fight the stubborn and unfair use of politics to decide most hiring, firing, and promotion in state and local government in Illinois. The judge granted the request of Democratic Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough to eliminate federal oversight of her office even though she had been criticized for politicizing hiring. The clerk’s office is the last of multiple public offices to be relieved of the supervision in the long-running case.

Illinois – ‘Let Me Put You on with the Boss, OK?’: Feds detail wiretaps involving former Michael Madigan chief of staff

MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/10/2023

For the first time, federal prosecutors detailed wiretaps capturing Tim Mapes, the indicted former chief of staff to ex-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, discussing issues central to the scandal that rocked state government – from how to handle a burgeoning sexual harassment scandal to Mapes’ ouster from the speaker’s team and his encounter with the FBI. The filing comes as prosecutors are seeking to play many of the recordings at Mapes’ trial on charges he lied to a grand jury investigating Madigan and his relationship with confidant Michael McClain.

Iowa – Iowa Republicans Will Hold 2024 Caucuses on January 15

CNN – Ethan Cohen | Published: 7/8/2023

Iowa Republicans voted to hold their first-in-the-nation caucuses on January 15 next year, setting up the earliest start of the presidential nominating process since 2012. While there are still several moving parts, the schedule for next year’s early 2024 Republican nominating contests before Super Tuesday on March 5 is coming into focus.

Louisiana – How One Baton Rouge Lobbyist Is Harnessing AI

Baton Rouge Business Report – Holly Duchmann | Published: 7/7/2023

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing how business owners and workers do their job as different industries experiment to see how the technology can be applied to their fields. Louisiana lobbyist Mary-Patricia Wray says AI tools like ChatGPT allow her to get more work done than in years past. Wray, founder of Top Drawer Strategies, has been testing ways to use AI at her firm. “Old school lobbying is dying,” Wray said. “… A donation is not going to convince a savvy, young legislator to go home and tell their constituents why they voted a certain way.”

Massachusetts – Massachusetts Ethics Commission: Former Methuen police chief violated conflict of interest

MSN – Lance Reynolds (Boston Herald) | Published: 7/6/2023

State ethics officials are continuing to press the former Methuen police chief who resigned in 2021 after a scathing investigative report questioned his handling of contracts that would have sent ranking officers’ pay soaring. The Massachusetts Ethics Commission issued an order to show cause alleging Joseph Solomon violated the conflict-of-interest law by changing a draft collective bargaining agreement to increase his salary and providing unwarranted benefits to five intermittent officers.

New Mexico – County Ethics Board Member Resigns Over Opposition to Year-Old Code Change

Yahoo Finance – Nicholas Gilmore (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/10/2023

Santa Fe County officials contacted ethics board members recently and asked them to serve another term. Board member Michael Rosanbalm responded by resigning and released a scathing letter about an updated ethics ordinance. The changes were a milestone for the board, whose role initially seemed uncertain after it was created in response to what would become a years-long corruption case.

New York – 6 Charged in Alleged Straw Donor Scheme to Help Get Eric Adams Elected New York City Mayor

MSN – Jake Offenhartz and Michael Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 7/7/2023

Six people were charged in an alleged scheme to divert tens of thousands of dollars in public money to New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign months before his election. The indictment does not implicate Adams or other current city employees in the plot. Rather, it describes a straw donor conspiracy orchestrated by people with business before the city who hoped to maximize their donations in exchange for political favors.

Ohio – Under Appeals Court Order, Federal Judge Sentences John Raphael to 6 Months in Prison

MSN – Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 7/11/2023

John Raphael will serve six months for his conviction on corruption charges after U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson resentenced him. Watson originally sentenced Raphael to 18 months house arrest with no prison time for his role in a bribery scheme for a food services contract at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Federal prosecutors appealed Watson’s sentence to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court, which vacated the sentence and ordered the judge to resentence Raphael.

Ohio – Ohio Speaker Stephens Asks Rep. Bob Young of Green to Resign Amid Domestic Violence Charges

Yahoo News – Doug Livingston (Akron Beacon Journal) | Published: 7/9/2023

Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens is asking state Rep. Bob Young to resign amid multiple criminal charges, including domestic violence, that allegedly occurred at Young’s residence following a GOP fundraiser. In a criminal affidavit, investigators with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office allege Young struck a female relative with an open hand at his house and, at another residence, rammed a male family member who “did sustain cuts from broken glass.”

Texas – Texas Republicans Divide Over Impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton

MSN – Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Washington Post) | Published: 7/7/2023

Divisions rippling through the Texas Republican Party ahead of state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial on September 5 that political strategists say is likely to further divide its members and spur primary challenges next year. The state GOP’s infighting mimics the party’s national dispute, which has pitted traditional conservatives against Donald Trump allies. Paxton is perhaps the most powerful Trump surrogate in Texas.

Utah – Utah Supreme Court Scrutinizes Process That Sliced State’s Most Democrat-Heavy District into 4

Stamford Advocate – Sam Metz (Associated Press) | Published: 7/11/2023

The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments on whether courts should allow the state’s Republican-majority Legislature to carve up Democratic-leaning Salt Lake County into four congressional districts. The debate asks whether state courts can review whether district maps drawn by elected officials violate the state constitution and is the latest battle over how states draw political maps and follows a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling denying Legislatures absolute power to do so.

Washington – Lynnwood Councilman Tells PDC He Doesn’t Know How to Write Checks to Pay Fines

Lynnwood Times – Mario Lotmore | Published: 7/9/2023

The Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) fined Lynnwood Councilperson Josh Binda $300 for failing to file his Personal Financial Affairs Statement on time. It will be waived if he pays $1,250 in fines from two previous violations. Binda said he did not see any of the nine reminder notices sent to both his personal and city council email accounts. He also said he recently discovered the PDC only accepts payments for fines in check form. “I have never written a check … before …,” Binda told the PDC. “… The whole checking process is fairly new to me …. I usually do electronic [payments].”

Washington – Complaint Pushes for WA AG Ferguson to Reveal Donors of $1.2M in Campaign Transfers

Seattle Times – Jerry Cornfield (Washington State Standard) | Published: 7/10/2023

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is facing further scrutiny over his shifting of $1.2 million in contributions from past campaigns into the account for his 2024 bid for governor. A complaint contends the individual donors of those contributions must be identified and their past donations, originally for Ferguson’s re-election and now considered “surplus” funds, should count toward contribution limits in his campaign for governor. A second complaint continues to be investigated. Both raise the question of whether Ferguson must abide by recent Public Disclosure Commission actions to require greater disclosure of the source of surplus funds.

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