News You Can Use Digest - July 22, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

July 22, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 22, 2022


Bipartisan Group Seeks to Limit Who Federal Agencies Can Contract With
Government Executive – Eric Katz | Published: 7/14/2022

A bipartisan group of senators is looking to set new limitations on the entities with which federal agencies can contract, introducing legislation to ban the government from doing business with companies that work with certain other nations. Senate Bill 4516 would require the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to create a governmentwide policy to eliminate newly defined “conflicts-of-interest” that relate to national security in federal contracting.

Little-Known Lawyer Pitched Trump on Extreme Plans to Subvert Election
Yahoo News – Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 7/17/2022

On Christmas Day in 2020, then-President Trump was on the phone with a little-known conservative lawyer who was encouraging his attempts to overturn the election. William Olson later conceded that part of his plan could be regarded as tantamount to declaring “martial law.” The episode highlights the role of Olson in advising Trump as the president was turning to extreme figures outside the White House to pursue options that many of his official advisers had told him were impossible or unlawful. It underscores how the system that would normally insulate a president from rogue actors operating outside of official channels had broken down.

Lobbying Firms Report Massive Profits Amid Reconciliation, China Bill Fights
Yahoo News – Karl Evers-Hillstrom (The Hill) | Published: 7/20/2022

K Street’s top lobbying firms raked in enormous revenues in the second quarter, indicating the prolonged lobbying boom is not letting up just yet. Most of the top Washington lobbying firms continue to build on last year’s record-smashing revenues, and nearly all of them are earning more than they did in 2020, when COVID-19 introduced a flood of first-time lobbying clients seeking federal funds.

New Evidence Disputes Trump Administration’s Citizenship Question Rationale
MSN – Tara Bahrampour (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2022

Previously unreleased internal communications indicate the Trump administration tried to add a citizenship question to the census with the goal of affecting congressional apportionment, according to a report by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The documents appear to contradict statements made under oath by Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who told the committee the push for a citizenship question was unrelated to apportionment and the reason for adding it was to help enforce the Voting Rights Act.

Pair Charged with Making Straw Donations to Trump Committees
MSN – Jennifer Pelz (Associated Press) | Published: 7/18/2022

Two Chinese American businesspeople were charged with funneling foreigners’ money into political donations that bought entry to an exclusive dinner with then-President Trump so the duo could impress and swindle Chinese investors. Prosecutors say Sherry Xue Li and Lianbo Wang raised $27 million for a grandiose development plan that never got close to approval, then siphoned off millions of dollars for personal expenses. To project the sway to keep their promises, which often included visas to live in the U.S., they used investor money and foreign nationals’ cash to make donations and be seen with Trump and other prominent politicians.

Prosecutors Won’t Pursue Case Against Colbert Team at Capitol Complex
Yahoo News – Michael Balsamo (Associated Press) | Published: 7/19/2022

Federal prosecutors said they are not pursuing charges against members of a television production crew for “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” who were arrested in a House office building closed to visitors. Capitol Police had charged the Colbert team members, who had entered the Longworth House Office Building on two separate occasions, with misdemeanor unlawful entry. Those arrested included the man who voices the Triumph the Insult Comic Dog puppet, who had come to interview members of Congress about the attack on the Capitol.

Secret Service Watchdog Knew in February That Texts Had Been Purged
MSN – Carol Leonnig and Maria Sacchetti (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2022

A watchdog agency learned in February that the Secret Service had purged nearly all cellphone texts from around the time of the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, but chose not to alert Congress, according to people briefed on the matter. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General also prepared in October 2021 to issue a public alert that the Secret Service and other department divisions were stonewalling it on requests for records and texts surrounding the attack on the Capitol, but did not do so, the sources said.

Staff in Several House Offices Begin the Process of Unionizing
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 7/20/2022

Staffers who work for eight U.S. House Democrats are wasting no time in their plans to unionize, filing petitions recently to kick off the process. It was the first day they could do so, as new rules went into effect allowing many legislative branch staffers to bargain collectively. Now they must wait on the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights to vet the petitions before holding secret ballot elections to decide whether they want a union to represent them.

Trump Wanted Pence to Reject Electors. A New Bill Would Prevent That.
MSN – Leigh Ann Caldwell (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2022

A bipartisan group of 16 senators released legislation that would clarify an 1887 law that then-President Trump and his allies tried to use as part of their attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. The legislation would attempt to more clearly define the role of states, presidential electors, and the vice president in a presidential election in an effort to prevent the events of January 6, 2021, in the future.

Trump’s Political Operation Continued to Steer Donor Money to Firm Involved in the Jan. 6 Rally
OpenSecrets – Anna Massoglia | Published: 7/14/2022

Former President Trump’s political operation continued to pay individuals and firms involved in organizing the rally that preceded the deadly Capitol attack, steering them more than $15.4 million since the start of the 2016 election cycle. While the Trump political operations’ spending and fundraising practices have come under increased scrutiny by the House select committee, the hearings have given the former president fodder to fundraise. His political operation continued to route payments from donors to January 6 organizers through at least May as the committee’s investigation heated up.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama Secretary of State: Federal groups supporting Alabama candidates must register with state
Yahoo – Brian Lyman (Montgomery Advertiser) | Published: 7/19/2022

The Alabama secretary of state’s office said federal organizations contributing to state campaigns will have to file campaign finance reports with the state. The move, which Secretary of State John Merrill said would include “dark money” groups, comes after years of controversy over the scope and application of Alabama’s ban on transfers of money between PACs. Before the Legislature banned the practice in 2010, PAC-to-PAC transfers were used to move campaign donations to hide the source of contributions to candidates.

Alaska Judge Refuses to Block Alaska Campaign Finance Disclosure Rules
MSN – Becky Bohrer (Associated Press) | Published: 7/14/2022

A federal judge denied a request to block campaign finance provisions of a ballot measure approved by Alaska voters in 2020, finding the plaintiffs had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on their outlined claims. The lawsuit was filed earlier this year on behalf of political donors and third-party organizations known as independent expenditure groups. They argued the disclosure rules are unconstitutional and burdensome. The plaintiffs had asked that the challenged portions of the initiative be blocked while the case was ongoing.

Arizona AZ Secretary of State Candidate’s Nonprofit Spending Raises Questions
Arizona Daily News – Mary Jo Pitzl (Arizona Republic) | Published: 7/16/2022

Reginald Bolding, a candidate for Arizona secretary of state, is the founder and director of the nonprofit Our Voice Our Vote, a group that does not have to name its donors. Its PAC, of which he is the designated agent for federal purposes, has paid for ads promoting his candidacy. Our Voice Our Vote also is part of Activate 48, another “dark money” organization that has endorsed him and paid for mailers touting his campaign. State law bars such committees from coordinating with candidates, and violations are subject to civil penalties.

Arizona Republican Files Complaint Against PAC Promoting Kari Lake Campaign, Says Finance Form Masks Its Donors
Yahoo News – Richard Ruelas (Arizona Republic) | Published: 7/20/2022

A Republican consultant filed a complaint against a PAC, Put Arizona First, that has spent $2.1 million to promote the gubernatorial campaign of Kari Lake, saying its financial reports served to mask the source of its donations, in violation of state law. Put Arizona First said it was funded entirely by an entity called SPH Medical LLC, whose address, according to the form, was a UPS store in Phoenix. It is the same UPS store address used by Put Arizona First itself. No such entity called SPH Medical exists in Arizona, according to corporate filings.

Arizona The FEC Has Questions About How a PAC Backing Blake Masters Is Disclosing Its Spending
Arizona Mirror – Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Published: 7/19/2022

A PAC funded almost entirely by billionaire Peter Thiel is facing questions from the FEC about whether it properly reported independent expenditures in support of U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters in Arizona. The FEC is asking for a “full public disclosure” of the Saving Arizona PAC’s spending of more than $1 million against U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, the Democratic incumbent that Masters hopes to defeat. Any independent expenditure over $10,000 requires a PAC to file what is called a 48-hour report disclosing the spending.

California Disney Revs Up Campaign Spending in Anaheim Amid Calls to Curb Their Influence After FBI Allegations
Voice of OC – Nick Gerda | Published: 7/19/2022

Records show Disney has spent 1.3 million in the upcoming election for Anaheim mayor and city council, an amount far more than anyone else has spent on the city’s elections in recent years. That money has gone to Disney’s main political money vehicle in Anaheim, Support Our Anaheim Resort (SOAR). It comes amid an ongoing federal investigation into the city’s politics. In an affidavit, the FBI alleged a consultant close to SOAR engaged in a “fraud scheme,” but it did not allege criminal activity by Disney or SOAR.

California Ex-Compton Councilman Isaac Galvan, Dogged by Election-Rigging Scandal, Faces $240,000 Fine
Yahoo News – Gregory Yee (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 7/14/2022

Dogged by an election-rigging scandal and an ongoing criminal case, former Compton City Councilperson Isaac Galvan could face a stiff fine from the state’s political watchdog agency for multiple campaign finance violations, including the personal use of campaign funds. The California Fair Political Practices Commission will meet to discuss a possible $240,000 fine against Galvan.

California League of Women Voters Sues Cupertino Over Lobbyist Ordinance
MSN – Grace Hase (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 7/20/2022

Over concerns that nonprofit employees and everyday citizens may be subject to Cupertino’s lobbyist ordinance, the League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit against the city arguing the law is unconstitutional, “hopelessly overbroad,” and anti-nonprofit. The Cupertino City Council approved its lobbyist ordinance in February 2021. The ordinance has a number of exemptions to the definition of lobbyist, including for board members or employees of nonprofits. But nonprofits can still be subject to ordinance if they are lobbying for a “specific project, issue or person” and have received monetary compensation for it.

California Oakland Wants to Give Voters Money to Make Campaign Contributions
Oakland North – Callie Rhoades | Published: 7/12/2022

Oakland voters will be asked on the November 8 ballot if they want the city to give each of them $100 in campaign vouchers that could be donated to the candidates of their choice. Broken into four $25 vouchers, the “democracy dollars” are designed to level the playing field by putting more campaign funds in the hands of Oakland voters. Historically, the city’s campaign funding has been disproportionately made up of large donors. In the last four elections, candidates who raised the most money won more than three-quarters of the contested races.

California San Jose Mayor Travels to France on Environmental Group’s Dime
San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadah | Published: 7/18/2022

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo took an all-expenses paid trip to France recently, and the timing is raising some eyebrows. Liccardo and state Assemblyperson Ash Kalra were among the officials and academics who traveled abroad to study and compare best policies for land preservation. Professional development trips are usually reserved for leaders with more than a couple months left in office. Liccardo is leaving City Hall in December. There is also the question of public perception when elected officials accept a paid trip from a group that has lobbied them for a vote or decision.

Florida Tallahassee Officials Approve 10-Year Ban on Corruption-Related Felons Lobbying
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 7/14/2022

The Tallahassee City Commissioners approved a 10-year ban on lobbying for anyone convicted of fraud-related crimes, the latest in measures intended to stamp out back-door dealings. Commissioners also approved an increase in lobbyist registration fees. Now, lobbyists will have to pay a $500 annual registration fee. Previously they paid $25 per client.

Florida UCF Removes Departments’ Anti-Racism Statements
MSN – Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 7/13/2022

The University of Central Florida removed anti-racism statements from several academic department websites, prompting renewed concern by some that a new law championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is leading to censorship at the university. The decision to take down the statements came less than a week after the English department briefly “suspended” its version, claiming it now violated state law. The university later said department did so without “direction” from school leaders, who did not think the statements conflicted with any laws.

Florida West Palm: Winning bidder for Sunset Lounge management contract violated anti-lobbying rules
Yahoo News – Wayne Washington (Palm Beach Post) | Published: 7/15/2022

West Palm Beach informed Vita Lounge, the local Black group that beat stiff competition to manage the city’s Sunset Lounge, it violated lobbying rules during the bidding process and has been disqualified. In notifying Vita of its disqualification, the city’s Procurement Division included instances of contact between Vita backers and city commissioners, who serve as board members of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). The CRA has used at least $16 million in city taxpayer money to purchase and refurbish the 1920s era supper club and lounge.

Georgia Giuliani Ordered to Testify in Georgia 2020 Election Probe
ABC News – Kate Brumback (Associated Press) | Published: 7/20/2022

A judge in New York ordered Rudy Giuliani to appear before a special grand jury in Atlanta that is investigating whether former President Trump and others illegally tried to interfere in the 2020 general election in Georgia. Giuliani had been summoned to appear in court in New York on July 13 to present any reasons why a subpoena should not be issued for him to testify in Atlanta, but he failed to show up for the hearing, New York Supreme Court Justice Thomas Farber wrote in his order.

Georgia GOP Fake Electors ‘Targets’ in Georgia Election Fraud Inquiry
MSN – Matthew Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2022

Georgia prosecutors investigating potential criminal interference in the 2020 presidential election by Donald Trump and his allies have notified several Republicans who were part of a fake electors scheme they are “targets” of the probe and could face charges. Part of the probe led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis now centers on the 16 Republicans who gathered at the Georgia Capitol on December 14, 2020, as part of an attempt to falsely certify the state’s electoral college votes for former President Trump even though Joe Biden won the state.

Hawaii Hawaii Lawmakers Took $500k In Campaign Cash This Session Despite Pleas to Ban Campaign Cash During Session
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 7/20/2022

Good-government groups and a commission convened to strengthen ethics laws have asked that the practice of lawmakers accepting campaign contributions during a legislative session come to an end. The goal is to limit even the appearance of a “pay-to-play” culture that favors those who have money. But legislators accepted $500,000 in campaign donations during the 2022 session. That is just a portion of the $7.8 million state politicians raked in during sessions in the last decade from lobbyists, developers, labor unions, and other special interest groups while making budget and policy decisions that could affect their interests.

Illinois Chicago City Council Unanimously Passes Ethics Overhaul, Boosts Fines to $20K
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 7/20/2022

The Chicago City Council approved a sweeping ethics reform measure aimed at stamping out corruption that has led to the conviction of 37 members of city council since 1969. It strengthens rules against nepotism, lobbying of city council members, and limits campaign contributions for certain contractors. The ordinance also increases fines for violating those rules from a maximum of $5,000 to $20,000. The measure was significantly revised to win the support of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who blocked it from advancing for several months.

Indiana Ind. Attorney General’s Comments Endangered Abortion Provider, Complaint Says
MSN – María Luisa Paúl and Kim Bellware (Washington Post) | Published: 7/19/2022

A complaint against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is expected to trigger a probe by the state Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission after he claimed on Fox News that physician Caitlin Bernard had a “history of failing to report” abortions in child-abuse cases and launched an investigation into her licensure. Records show Bernard, who administered an abortion medication to a 10-year-old girl from Ohio who was forced to travel for the service, reported the incident to relevant state agencies. The complaint alleges Rokita made “inflammatory statements on national television, without due diligence concerning their truthfulness.”

Kentucky Proposed Ordinance Would Force People, Groups Who Lobby Louisville Metro to Register, Disclose Funding
WFPL – Roberto Roldan | Published: 7/19/2022

Louisville Metro Council is considering an ordinance that sponsors hope will generate more transparency from lobbyists and other businesses and interest groups that try to influence local legislation. The ordinance would also bar council members from profiting from lobbying their colleagues immediately after leaving office. Under the proposal, anyone who is paid to influence the decisions of the Metro Council would have to register as a lobbyist.

Missouri FEC Member Pans Decision Not to Investigate Groups That Helped Elect Greitens in 2016
Missouri Independent – Jason Hancock | Published: 7/14/2022

A member of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is criticizing her agency’s failure to fully investigate groups that funneled $6 million of anonymous money into Missouri to boost Eric Greitens’ 2016 campaign for governor. Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said the scheme “was clearly designed to avoid the transparency federal law requires.” But her colleagues declined to authorize a full investigation, she wrote, because they felt it would not be a wise use of the FEC’s resources.

New York A Family Donated $300K to Hochul. New York Has Paid the Family Business $637M.
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/19/2022

One New York City family, led by entrepreneur Charlie Tebele, has donated nearly $300,000 to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign. Records also show that since December, Tebele’s company, Digital Gadgets LLC, was paid $637 million in taxpayer funds to provide the state Department of Health, an agency controlled by Hochul, with at-home COVID-19 test kits. The huge expenditure was made without the agency conducting competitive bidding. Though Digital Gadgets has not always delivered as promised, it has continued to reap major government payments, while the family has kept donating heavily to select politicians.

New York Bellone Vetoes Repeal of Suffolk County’s Public Campaign Finance Program
WSHU – J.D. Allen | Published: 7/19/2022

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone vetoed a bill that would repeal its public campaign finance program. Suffolk is the largest county in the state outside of New York City to have such a program. It would allow candidates for county executive, comptroller, and legislator to access public dollars to run for office. Bellone said it would be a step backwards for building diversity and equity in county government.

New York N.Y. Assemblyman Charles Fall’s Girlfriend Lobbied Him on Various Issues, Prompting Ethics Concerns
MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 7/18/2022

Bianca Rajpersaud, a registered lobbyist at Davidoff, Hutcher & Citron, is listed as having lobbied state Assemblyperson Charles Fall as part of 11 different contracts the firm inked in 2021 and 2022 with companies and nonprofits seeking to curry favor with lawmakers. The duo began dating in 2020. There is no requirement for lawmakers to consult the Legislative Ethics Commission about professional interactions with love interests who are not spouses. Watchdog Rachael Fauss said the lobbying raises concerns that could have been avoided if Fall was open about whether he cleared the matter with the commission.

Ohio Experts Say P.G. Sittenfeld Could Use $975k in Campaign and PAC Funds for Appeal of Conviction
WCPO – Paula Christian | Published: 7/14/2022

Former Cincinnati City Councilperson P.G. Sittenfeld may not be running for mayor anymore, but he still has nearly $975,000 in leftover political donations that experts say he could use to pay legal fees for an appeal after a jury convicted him of bribery and attempted extortion. Sittenfeld was a rising political star who mounted an impressive campaign fund to run for mayor in 2021. But three of his donors turned out to be undercover FBI agents who were posing as out-of-town developers. They donated $40,000 to his PAC and asked for help on a project, which prosecutors described as quid pro quo.

Ohio Ohio Supreme Court Again Rejects Republican Congressional Map, Ordering Redraw for 2024 Election
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 7/19/2022

For the second time this year, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected state Republicans’ congressional map plan as illegally gerrymandered, citing the new language added by voters to the state constitution in 2018. But the ruling almost certainly will not affect this year’s elections since the primary election for Ohio’s ongoing congressional races was held in May, with the general election set for November. While the ruling is silent on the 2022 elections, it does not explicitly describe vacating the results of the May election and other interventions that would indicate the court is trying to block the map from being used in the current election cycle.

Rhode Island McKee’s Former Chief of Staff Displayed ‘Very Poor Judgment’ but Committed No Crimes, Attorney General Says
MSN – Edward Fitzpatrick (Boston Globe) | Published: 7/18/2022

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office cleared Gov. Daniel McKee’s former chief of staff, Anthony Silva, of criminal activity but castigated him for exercising “very poor judgment in involving himself in a personal matter before a state regulatory agency.” Silva resigned amid scrutiny of whether he attempted to influence the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) over a permit to develop a piece of land in Cumberland. The DEM at first rejected an application to develop the parcel, but reversed course. The investigation found Silva frequently contacted the DEM and Cumberland officials to try to advance the approval process.

Texas AG Ken Paxton Declines to Sue Candidates, Officials Who Owe $700K in Unpaid Campaign Violation Fines
MSN – Taylor Goldsmith (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 7/14/2022

The Texas Ethics Commission, the regulatory agency in charge of enforcing campaign finance laws, does not have many tools at its disposal to go after scofflaws who have not paid fines aside from letter notifications. Its last line of defense against delinquent filers is to refer their cases to the state attorney general’s office. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has declined to sue hundreds of candidates and elected officials who altogether owe more than $700,000 unpaid fines for campaign reporting violations.

Washington Armed Man Arrested Outside Home of Rep. Jayapal for Alleged Death Threat
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 7/14/2022

An armed man who reportedly threatened to kill U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal was arrested outside her Seattle home on suspicion of committing a hate crime, police said. The man, whose name was redacted from publicly available police reports, was released from jail because police could not confirm his threats or that he told Jayapal to “go back to India,” and an investigation is ongoing. Jayapal called 911 to report someone was outside her home using obscene language and may have fired a pellet gun.

Wisconsin Milwaukee Ald. Chantia Lewis Convicted of Two Campaign Finance Felonies, Removed from Office
MSN – Allison Dir (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 7/18/2022

Milwaukee Ald. Chantia Lewis was removed from office after her conviction on two felonies related to her conduct in office. The criminal complaint stated she used campaign funds for family trips and basic personal expenses such as car and credit card bills, engaged in “double-dipping” by filing for reimbursement for city-related travel expenses that she had actually paid out of her campaign account, and structured a campaign contribution to avoid the limits in the law.

Wisconsin Trump Called ‘Within the Last Week’ to Overturn Wis. Election Results, Speaker Says
MSN – Timothy Bella and Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 7/20/2022

Wisconsin’s Republican house speaker said former President Trump called him “within the last week” seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election that Joe Biden won. Speaker Robin Vos said he received a call from Trump after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on July 8 that most absentee drop boxes in the state are illegal. The ruling addresses future elections, not the one Trump lost in 2020 by more than 20,000 in Wisconsin.

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