News You Can Use Digest - July 29, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

July 29, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 29, 2022


A Record Number of Trans and Nonbinary People Are Running for Office
MSN – Anne Branigan (Washington Post) | Published: 7/27/2022

In 2017, former journalist Danica Roem made history when she was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, making her the first out transgender state legislator in the U.S. Five years later, a record number of trans and nonbinary candidates are vying for public office. As of July, the Victory Fund reports there are 55 trans candidates running for office, alongside 20 gender nonconforming candidates, 18 nonbinary candidates, and four Two-Spirit candidates. Across the country’s statehouses, an unprecedented amount of anti-LGBTQ measures have been introduced, with most bills aimed at curbing the rights of trans children and their families.

After Commissioners’ Verbal Brawl, FEC Won’t Let Rep. Eric Swalwell’s Use Campaign Cash to Fund Overnight Childcare When Traveling Abroad
Yahoo News – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 7/26/2022

U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell cannot use campaign funds to pay for childcare services when traveling “at the request of foreign governments” or do so when campaigning on behalf of other candidates, the FEC ruled. The decision comes after Republican Commissioner Trey Trainor at a public meeting, calling his request “abhorrent.” The rebuke prompted Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub to lambaste Trainor in a series of tweets that referenced “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Bannon Verdict: Former Trump strategist guilty of contempt of Congress
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Spencer Hsu, and Katie Mettler (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2022

Stephen Bannon, the right-wing podcaster and longtime confidante of former President Trump, was convicted of contempt of Congress for his refusal to provide documents or testimony to a House committee probing the January 6, 2021, attack. The trial tested a rarely used criminal statute meant to ensure that people comply with congressional subpoenas. The contempt case involved legislative efforts to investigate the violence and what led up to it, rather than the actual events of the day.

DHS Inspector General Tells Secret Service to Stop Investigating Potentially Missing Texts Due to ‘Ongoing Criminal Investigation’
MSN – Whitney Wild (CNN) | Published: 7/21/2022

The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general informed the Secret Service it is investigating what happened to January 6-related text messages that may have been deleted, describing it as an “ongoing criminal investigation” and directing the agency to stop its internal investigations into the matter. The letter adds to the growing tension between the Secret Service and the inspector general over the potentially missing text messages, which are being sought by the House select committee as part of its investigation into former President Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021.

Emails Shed Light on Trump Plan to Employ Fake Electors
Las Vegas Sun – Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 7/26/2022

Previously undisclosed emails provide an inside look at the increasingly desperate and often slapdash efforts by advisers to former President Trump to reverse his election defeat in the weeks before the January 6 attack, including acknowledgments that a key element of their plan was of dubious legality and lived up to its billing as “fake.” The emails among people connected to the Trump campaign, outside advisers, and close associates of Trump show a particular focus on assembling lists of people who would claim, with no basis, to be Electoral College electors on his behalf in battleground states he had lost.

Hulu Reverses Policy, Will Use Cable Standards for Political Ads
MSN – John Wagner and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 7/27/2022

The streaming service Hulu said it will start accepting political ads with the same standards the company uses for its cable networks, opening the door for issue advertising on controversial topics after Democratic groups attacked the company for rejecting ads on abortion and guns. The Washington Post had reported Hulu has a policy against running content deemed controversial. Like other digital providers, it is not bound by the Communications Act of 1934, a law that requires broadcast television networks to provide politicians equal access to the airwaves.

Justice Dept. Investigating Trump’s Actions in Jan. 6 Criminal Probe
MSN – Carol Leonnig, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2022

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating former President Trump’s actions as part of its criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to sources. Prosecutors have asked hours of detailed questions about meetings Trump led in December 2020 and January 2021; his pressure campaign on former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election; and what instructions Trump gave his lawyers and advisers about fake electors and sending electors back to the states. Investigators have received phone records of key officials and aides in the Trump administration, including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows.

On the Campaign Trail, Many Republicans Talk of Violence
MSN – David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 7/23/2022

Many GOP candidates describe the United States as a country that was not merely in trouble but being destroyed by leaders who despise most Americans, effectively part of a civil war. In both swing states and safe seats, Republicans say liberals hate them personally and may turn rioters or a police state on people who disobey them. That argument has been dramatized in ads that show one armed candidate appearing to charge into the home of a political enemy, and another warning of “the mob” that threatens ordinary Americans. In some cases, candidates are brandishing firearms while threatening harm to liberals or other enemies.

Republican Governors Gave Lucrative, No-Bid COVID-19 Deals to Utah Firms, Who Then Gave $1M to GOP Campaigns
Yahoo News – Craig Harris, Bailey Schulz, and Katie Wedell (USA Today) | Published: 7/27/2022

A small number of companies leveraged their connections to sign deals to provide COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment that would pay them at least $219 million in five GOP-led states. Two of the companies would donate more than $1 million to Republican campaigns after getting those deals. The contracts and political donations have raised questions from critics and observers about favoritism and “pay-to-play” campaign contributions.

Stephen Buyer, Former GOP Congressman, Accused of Insider Trading
MSN – Hamza Shaban (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2022

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged former U.S. Rep. Stephen Buyer with insider trading, accusing him of abusing his role as a corporate consultant to exploit nonpublic information and collect more than $300,000 in illegal profits. The allegations stem from trading activity that occurred after Buyer left Congress and established his own consulting and lobbying firm. In 2018, Buyer learned of T-Mobile’s plans to acquire Sprint after a golf outing with a client, a T-Mobile executive, according to the SEC. Buyer purchased more than $500,000 of Sprint shares, which were then sold shortly after news of the deal went public, regulators said.

Trump ‘Chose Not to Act’ as Mob Terrorized the Capitol, Panel Shows
MSN – Amy Gardner and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 7/21/2022

Eleven minutes after he returned to the White House from his speech on the Ellipse urging supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol, President Trump learned the January 6, 2021, protest had turned violent. But instead of harnessing the power of the Oval Office by ordering military or police intervention or exhorting the rioters to go home, Trump continued to fan the flames of discord, and remained focused on trying to overturn the 2020 election, even as his aides implored him to stop the violence.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Arkansas Hires Connecticut Company to Build Campaign Finance Filing, Reporting System
Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 7/23/2022

The Arkansas secretary of state’s office selected Reframe Solutions as the vendor to build a new campaign finance filing and reporting system. Since the current system’s rollout in 2017, Arkansas’ computerized system for tracking campaign contributions and expenditures has generated gripes from candidates, elected officials, and the public. The complaints have included that it is antiquated, clunky, inaccurate, tedious, and not user-friendly.

California California to Allow Cryptocurrency Campaign Donations
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 7/21/2022

The California Fair Political Practices Commission approved new rules allowing campaign donations of digital currencies such as bitcoin. The guidelines say candidates can accept cryptocurrency donations if they immediately convert the digital currency into U.S. dollars. The rules will take effect within 60 days.

California Former Recology Employee Indicted for Alleged San Francisco Bribery, Following Prior Charges
Waste Dive – Cole Rosengern | Published: 7/25/2022

John Porter, who was charged with bribery last year in connection with a broader corruption scandal in San Francisco, was indicted on related federal charges recently. The indictment includes updated details on Porter’s alleged role bribing then-Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru for favorable treatment in areas such as contracts and rate increases for waste management company Recology. The alleged bribes, which occurred in multiple forms, were valued at more than $1 million.

Colorado Denver Clerk and Recorder Launches Phase Two of SearchLight Denver
City and County of Denver – Staff | Published: 7/22/2022

Clerk and Recorder Paul López has launched the second phase of SearchLight Denver, a searchable campaign finance and disclosure database. The database will now provide Denver residents with access to lobbying organizations, individual lobbyists, and their efforts around city matters. SearchLight Denver is the product of a partnership with MapLight, a technology nonprofit specializing in campaign finance tools and lobbying for state and municipal governments.

Florida Powerbrokers: How FPL secretly took over a Florida news site and used it to bash critics
MSN – Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/25/2022

While portraying itself as an independent outlet, the news website Capitolist, which aims its content directly at Tallahassee’s decision makers, was bankrolled and controlled by executives of Florida Power & Light through a small group of intermediaries. Internal communications, contracts, and financial records show how a team of communications experts used the Capitolist as part of a clandestine political strategy to advocate for rate hikes, lobby for legislative favors, slam political opponents, and eliminate anything the utility worried might undermine its near monopoly on selling power in Florida.

Florida Proposed Ethics Settlement for Ex-Sen. Jack Latvala Tossed; Case Continues
Tampa Bay Times – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 7/22/2022

The Florida Commission on Ethics scrapped a proposed settlement and decided to move forward with a case against former state Sen. Jack Latvala related to allegations of sexual misconduct. Latvala had agreed to a settlement that would have admitted “poor judgment” in having a two-decade sexual relationship with a lobbyist. The proposed, which could have spurred a public censure and reprimand, would have led to dropping other allegations related to a former Senate staff member.

Georgia Judge Won’t Quash Subpoenas for Georgia False Electors
Georgia Public Broadcasting – Associated Press | Published: 7/21/2022

Georgia Republicans who signed a certificate falsely stating Donald Trump had won the state in 2020 and they were the state’s “duly elected and qualified” electors will have to appear before a special grand jury investigating whether the former president and others illegally tried to interfere in the state’s election, a judge said. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney suggested lawyers for the district attorney’s office and attorneys for those who signed the false certificate should meet before each witness testifies to talk about the topics to be covered and then he could settle any disputes.

Georgia On the Docket: Atlanta v. Trumpworld
Yahoo News – Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 7/25/2022

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been leading the investigation into efforts by former President Trump and his allies to overturn his election loss in Georgia. It is only recently, with a flurry of subpoenas and target letters, as well as court documents that illuminate some of the closed proceedings of a special grand jury, that the inquiry’s sprawling contours have emerged. For legal experts, that sprawl is a sign Willis is doing what she has indicated all along: building the framework for a broad case that could target multiple defendants with charges of conspiracy to commit election fraud, or racketeering-related charges for engaging in a coordinated scheme to undermine the election.

Illinois Businessman Gets Probation for Paying Bribes to Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval and McCook Mayor
Yahoo News – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/26/2022

A federal judge sentenced Vahooman Mirkhaef to probation for paying bribes to then-Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval and former McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski, saying although she loathes public corruption it was the politicians that should shoulder most of the blame. U.S. District Court Judge Mary Rowland had harsh words for Sandoval, who showed up personally at Mirkhaef’s office in 2018 demanding payment for his help securing the purchase of state-owned property in McCook. “The gall of the state senator in this case really surprises me,” Rowland said. “It saddens me. It kind of makes me sick, actually.”

Maine Group Using Fake Name to Survey Mainers on Culture War Issues
Yahoo News – Randy Billings (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 7/19/2022

A national conservative group used an assumed name to conduct a political survey that asked Mainers charged questions about welfare for illegal immigrants, critical race theory, and gender issues. The name chosen for the survey – “Maine Today & Public Insight” – led some to believe it was being conducted by MaineToday Media, which owns three newspapers in the state. The Principles Project is behind the survey. Jonathan Wayne, executive director of Maine’s ethics commission, said it can be difficult to discern whether a legitimate poll is testing a message that may be used in an upcoming campaign or an illegal push poll.

Maryland Maryland Del. Rick Impallaria Charged with Theft, Misconduct in Office
MSN – Alison Knezevich and Dan Belson (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 7/27/2022

Maryland Del. Rick Impallaria – whose criminal background has led to past calls to step down – was charged with theft, embezzlement, and misconduct in office after prosecutors allege that he misused state funds to pay for a “district office” outside his district, and to cover campaign fundraising expenses. Impallaria ran for reelection in the recent primary election and lost to Del. Lauren Arikan in a redrawn district.

Michigan Black Districts Gutted as Suburban Flight Reshapes Congress Maps
MSN – Greg Korte (Bloomberg) | Published: 7/20/2022

There are 22 majority-Black districts in the current Congress. Next year, there will be as few as nine. The lost seats are a casualty of highly politicized redistricting wars, with state-by-state showdowns bringing dramatic change to electoral maps that were already being reshaped by demographic forces that include a decades-long Black migration to suburbs. That has left some Black voters worried the new maps will marginalize their voices. The concern is especially apparent in Michigan.

Michigan GOP’s Meijer Voted to Impeach Trump. Now Democrats Are Targeting Him.
MSN – David Weigel, Colby Itkowitz, and Arjun Singh (Washington Post) | Published: 7/26/2022

Eighteen months ago, U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer joined just nine other House Republicans and voted to impeach Donald Trump. He recently learned the Democrats he stood with then were spending nearly $500,000 to help his Trump-backed challenger defeat him. Desperate to retain control of Congress in November, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has become the latest party entity this election year to aid a Trump-endorsed Republican in a primary against a candidate who has resisted the former president.

Missouri Former St. Louis Alderman Says He’s Reached a Plea Deal on Corruption Charges
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 7/22/2022

Former St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad intends to plead guilty after a federal grand jury indicted him in a bribery case. Collins-Muhammad and two other former members of the board of aldermen were all accused of accepting cash bribes from a local businessperson in exchange for helping to shepherd through legislation granting his businesses tax abatements. Boyd also intervened to help him purchase real estate from the St. Louis Land Reutilization Authority.

Missouri St. Louis County Council Member Worked for Marijuana Industry as County Worked on Pot Laws
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joe Holleman | Published: 7/25/2022

While St. Louis County began creating laws in 2019 for regulating medical marijuana operations, county Councilperson Lisa Clancy worked behind the scenes for a law firm representing clients seeking marijuana licenses. Without disclosing to the council or the public that she was paid about $5,000 for that work, Clancy eventually cast votes on the bill the county adopted as its zoning ordinance for marijuana operations.

Montana Commissioner Finds Bozeman Law Firm Failed to Register as Political Committee
Helena Independent Record – Tom Kuglin | Published: 7/18/2022

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan ruled a Bozeman law firm and political committee that backed a failed ballot measure violated multiple campaign finance laws. Mangan said Cottonwood Environmental Law Center did not file declaratory paperwork or campaign finance reports with his office in the required timeframe. Mangan referred the parties to the Lewis and Clark County attorney’s office for potential prosecution, but noted the likely outcome is a negotiated civil fine.

Montana Montana Conservation Voters Action Fund Fined $6,400 for Campaign Finance Violations
Longview News-Journal – Thom Bridge (Helena Independent Record) | Published: 7/26/2022

A registered political committee in Montana was fined $6,400 for failing to timely report expenditures supporting municipal election candidates in Helena, Missoula, and Billings last year. The Montana Conservation Voters Action Fund (MCVAF) acknowledged the political practices commissioner’s findings and admitted to violating certain campaign finance laws. MCVAF Political Director Jake Brown said the group’s vendor failed to submit the required reports related to its work in Helena.

New Mexico Groups Call on Senate Democrats to Remove Ivey-Soto from Interim Committees
Santa Fe New Mexican – Robert Knott | Published: 7/27/2022

Months after a lobbyist publicly accused New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto of groping her in an encounter years earlier, prompting a series of similar allegations, groups pushing for the senator’s ouster have not eased their pressure. Leaders of about 25 advocacy organizations in the state who previously sought a Senate investigation into Ivey-Soto are now calling for his removal from all interim committee assignments. In an open letter, they said Ivey-Soto is in position to influence the outcome of bills brought by lobbyists who have accused him of inappropriate behavior.

New Mexico Is the State Ethics Commission More Bark Than Bite?
Yahoo News – Daniel Chacón and Robert Nott (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 7/23/2022

The New Mexico Ethics Commission has investigated 106 administrative cases alleging violations of various statutes since January 2020. It also has issued 26 advisory opinions, forced a “dark money” group that spent more than $260,000 to influence a ballot question to reveal its donors, provided staff support to the Citizen Redistricting Committee, and conducted trainings statewide, among other accomplishments. But after a high-profile complaint filed against state Rep. Rebecca Dow resulted in a $500 civil penalty for two violations of the Governmental Conduct Act, some wonder if the agency more bark than bite.

New York District Attorney Behind Charges in Zeldin Incident Scrutinized for Campaign Ties
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 7/25/2022

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin said that just minutes after he was accosted by a veteran with a sharp object at a recent campaign event, the gubernatorial candidate conferred offstage with Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley. The district attorney now finds herself facing criticism on two fronts: an ethics debate about her connections to Zeldin’s campaign as well as a legal debate over her office’s handling of David Jakubonis, who was carrying a sharp key-ring-style defense tool when he approached Zeldin at the event near Rochester.

New York Former Erie County Democratic Party Chair Gets 4 Months in Prison Term for Political Corruption
WGRZ – Ron Plants | Published: 7/27/2022

A former political consultant, once viewed by many as among the most powerful in state politics was sentenced to four months in prison for making an illegal campaign contribution. Steve Pigeon admitted that in 2014 he tried to give a $25,000 illegal campaign contribution from a Canadian citizen to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York NYC City Hall Adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin Has Yet to Be Repaid for Loan Given to Staffer in Potential Ethical Dilemma
MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 7/26/2022

A City Hall staffer borrowed money from Ingrid Lewis-Martin, Mayor Eric Adams’ chief adviser, prior to her appointment and has yet to pay it back, according to a financial disclosure form that could raise ethical concerns for the top mayoral aide. The annual disclosure filed with the Conflicts of Interest Board, shows City Hall special assistant Dawn Baskerville owes Lewis-Martin between $1,000 and $5,000 for a “personal loan” issued in 2014. But Lewis-Martin did not mention in the disclosure that her relation to Baskerville extends beyond friendship.

New York Secrecy at Issue for New Ethics Panel
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 7/26/2022

The 11 nominees to New York’s new state ethics panel are being asked about their relations with the press as part of a lengthy confirmation process. For the new panel, the vetting questionnaire focuses attention on the issue of “confidentiality,” and how commissioners will go about ensuring it. The most detailed of its seven questions asks commissioners what protocols the body should pass to ensure their deliberations remain secret, and whether they would commit to voting other members off the body who ran afoul of rules they formulate.

New York Suffolk County Repeals Campaign Finance with Veto Override
WSHU – Charles Lane | Published: 7/26/2022

The Suffolk County Legislature once again repealed its public campaign finance program. Two-thirds of lawmakers overturned a veto by County Executive Steve Bellone that would have restored the program. The Republican-led Legislature would rather use the program’s $2.6 million on public safety, like hiring more emergency dispatch operators and Shotspotter gun-fire detection technology.

North Carolina Judge Blocks Enforcement of N.C. Law That Demands Truth in Campaign Ads
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 7/25/2022

A federal judge agreed to block for now any enforcement of a state law in a political ad investigation of North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein’s campaign, saying it is likely to win on legal claims that the law is unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles ruled for Stein’s campaign and other plaintiffs who filed an unusual lawsuit against State Board of Elections members and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman. The law prohibits anyone from knowingly publishing or circulating false information about a candidate with the intent of hurting that candidate’s chances in the election.

Oregon Mystery Group Sending Anti-Democrat Mailers, Prepping Web Ads
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 7/25/2022

Some Oregon voters are receiving glossy mailers blaming Gov. Kate Brown and the “Democrat-controlled state Legislature” for “soaring gas prices” and the “out-of-control cost of living.” A website with two short videos claiming policies passed by legislative Democrats led to increases in crime and inflation went live around the same time. The mailers, website, and ads were all paid for by the Coalition for Safe, Healthy and Prosperous Communities but that coalition does not exist in state campaign finance or business records.

South Carolina South Carolina Bill Outlaws Websites That Tell How to Get an Abortion
MSN – Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 7/22/2022

After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, legislation introduced in South Carolina bill would outlaw providing information over the internet or phone about how to obtain an abortion. It would also make it illegal to host a website or “[provide] an internet service” with information that is “reasonably likely to be used for an abortion” and directed at pregnant people in the state. Legal scholars say the proposal is likely a harbinger of other state measures, which may restrict communication and speech as they seek to curtail abortion.

Texas Texas Housing Agency Resists Reforms as Conflict of Interest Questions Pile Up
MSN – Sue Ambrose (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 7/25/2022

Three months after a Dallas Morning News investigation found a Texas housing board member voted for deals that benefited his law firm, the agency has not taken new steps to guard against conflicts-of-interest. Paul Braden stepped down from the board in April, two days after The News first asked him about his votes on 13 low-income housing projects. His employer, Norton Rose Fulbright, earned $2 million in legal fees on the deals. New records show Braden voted for eight other projects that brought the firm an additional $1.8 million.

Texas Texas Lawmakers Ordered to Turn Over Redistricting Records
Courthouse News Service – Stephen Paulsen | Published: 7/26/2022

A federal judge issued a wide-ranging discovery order requiring Texas lawmakers to turn over documents related to the state’s congressional redistricting plans. The underlying lawsuit is part of a broad effort to correct what critics say is voter intimidation and discrimination in Texas heading into the 2022 midterm elections. In a separate case, a variety of civil rights groups are also suing the state over a new election security law, which they say is designed to “intimidate and harass voters.” A different federal judge in May allowed that case to proceed.

Wisconsin After Wis. Supreme Court Absentee Ballot Decision, Disabled People Sue
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 7/25/2022

Four disabled people are asking a federal judge to ensure they can vote this fall after the Wisconsin Supreme Court limited how absentee ballots can be cast. The state’s high court ruled voters could not give their completed absentee ballots to someone else to turn in for them. That policy will make it impossible or extremely difficult for some voters to cast ballots, according to the lawsuit. Plaintiffs are asking the court to allow disabled voters to give their ballots to others to return for them, arguing the new regimen in Wisconsin violates the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

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