News You Can Use Digest - July 5, 2024 - State and Federal Communications

July 5, 2024  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 5, 2024


Stephen Bannon Plans to Record His Podcast and Then Report to Prison

DNyuz – Ken Bensinger (New York Times) | Published: 7/1/2024

Immediately before reporting for a four-month sentence in federal prison, Stephen Bannon, the longtime adviser to former President Trump, will host the two final hours of his podcast from just outside the low-security facility in Danbury, Connecticut. Bannon lost his last-ditch bid to avoid incarceration after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request to postpone the sentence while he appealed a verdict that found him guilty of contempt for ignoring a congressional subpoena.

Departing FDA Staffers Told They Can Still Influence the Agency in Big Pharma Jobs: BMJ report

FiercePharma – Andrea Park | Published: 7/1/2024

Former FDA employees are prohibited from engaging in certain lobbying activities, but an investigation published in The BMJ claims the agency’s staffers are often advised of loopholes in those regulations on their way out the door. Internal emails reportedly show, for example, that FDA ethics staff telling two agency officials who had worked on COVID-19 vaccine approvals and who were moving on to roles at Moderna they could still work with the FDA indirectly, “behind the scenes,” from their new positions.

Supreme Court Orders Second Look at Texas and Florida Social Media Laws

MSN – Ann Marimow and Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2024

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered lower courts to take a second look at a pair of laws in Texas and Florida that would have prevented social media companies from removing certain political posts or accounts, saying the courts had not fully addressed the First Amendment issues at play. The justices voided the judgments of separate appeals courts that had reached opposite conclusions about whether the laws were constitutional, ordering both to perform a deeper analysis of whether the statutes violate the right to free speech.

Judge Cannon Orders Hearing for Trump to Challenge Mar-a-Lago Search

MSN – Devlin Barrett and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2024

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon will hold a hearing for Donald Trump’s lawyers to challenge some of the evidence gathered against him for alleged mishandling of classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them. Cannon said “further factual development is warranted” when it comes to Trump’s challenge to the search warrant for his Florida home and private club. Trump is seeking to suppress much of the evidence by arguing that the search warrant was faulty.

Justices Strike Obstruction Charge for Jan. 6 Rioter, Likely Impacting Others

MSN – Ann Marimow and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 6/28/2024

Federal prosecutors improperly charged a January 6 defendant with obstruction, the Supreme Court ruled, a decision that will likely upend many cases against rioters who disrupted the certification of the 2020 presidential election and which Donald Trump’s legal team may use to try to whittle down one of his criminal cases. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said prosecutors’ broad reading of the statute gives them too much discretion to seek a 20-year maximum sentence “for acts Congress saw fit to punish only with far shorter terms of imprisonment.”

Supreme Court’s ‘Chevron’ Ruling Means Changes for Writing Laws

MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 6/28/2024

A Supreme Court decision left an uncertain and more difficult path for Congress to shape how the federal government carries out laws on major issues such as environment, health, immigration, and more, lawmakers and legal experts said. The ring overturned a long-standing legal doctrine called Chevron deference, which required judges to defer to an agency’s interpretation when it comes to regulations about laws that are ambiguous. Instead, the opinion says judges should give that deference only when Congress explicitly says an agency can make its own decision.

Thomas Uses Trump Immunity Ruling to Question Jack Smith Appointment

MSN – Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2024

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas tackled a question in his presidential immunity opinion that Donald Trump’s attorneys did not bring before the nation’s highest court: Was special counsel Jack Smith legally appointed? Thomas argued both that the special counsel’s office needs to be established by Congress and Smith needed to be confirmed by the Senate. He said he tacked on his concurring opinion to the immunity ruling to “highlight another way in which this prosecution may violate our constitutional structure.”

Biden’s Lapses Are Said to Be Increasingly Common and Worrisome

Seattle Times – Peter Baker, David Sanger, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, and Kate Rogers (New York Times) | Published: 7/2/2024

Like many people his age, President Biden, 81, has long experienced instances in which he mangled a sentence, forgot a name, or mixed up a few facts, even though he could be sharp engaged most of the time. But people in the room with him more recently said the lapses seemed to be growing more frequent, more pronounced, and more worrisome. He is certainly not that way all the time. In the days since the debate debacle, aides and others who encountered Biden described him as being in good shape – alert, coherent, and capable, engaged in complicated and important discussions and managing volatile crises.

Ruling Accusing Former Miami Lawmaker of Campaign Finance Violations Tossed Out

WLRN – Jim Saunders (News Service of Florida) | Published: 7/1/2024

A federal appeals court tossed out a ruling that would have led to former U.S. Rep. David Rivera getting hit with a $456,000 fine in a case involving campaign finance violations. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said a District Court judge improperly granted summary judgment to the FEC in the case, which involves allegations that Rivera secretly funneled money to try to undermine a Democratic rival in 2012.

Ruling Further Slows Trump Election Case but Opens Door to Airing of Evidence

Yahoo News – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 7/2/2024

The Supreme Court’s decision about executive immunity makes it all but certain that Donald Trump will not stand trial on charges of seeking to overturn the last election before voters decide whether to send him back to the White House in the next one. But the ruling also opened the door for prosecutors to detail much of their evidence against Trump in front of a federal judge – and the public – at an expansive fact-finding hearing, perhaps before Election Day. It remains unclear when the hearing, which was ordered as part of the court’s decision, might take place or how long it would last.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona – Appeals Court Upholds Core of AZ ‘Dark Money’ Disclosure Law Voters Approved in 2022

Arizona Mirror – Caitlin Sievers | Published: 6/29/2024

A three-judge panel of the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld most of the Voters’ Right to Know Act, which passed in 2022. But it concluded a provision in the law that bars the Legislature from limiting the Citizens Clean Elections Commission from enforcing the “dark money” disclosure provisions is unconstitutional. The law aims to eliminate secret election spending by requiring political committees that spend at least $50,000 in statewide or legislative campaigns reveal the identities of individual donors who give more than $5,000, among other provisions.

Arizona – In CD1 Race, Mysterious Group’s Ads May Have Violated Campaign Finance Law

MSN – Laura Gersony (Arizona Republic) | Published: 6/28/2024

A group spending money in the race for Arizona’s First Congressional District has not registered with federal elections officials in what one expert said could be a violation of campaign finance law. The Turn AZ Blue PAC has bought television ads against congressional candidate Marlene Galán-Woods, one of the six Democratic candidates looking to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. David Schweikert. Records show the group has spent more than the sum that is often required for groups to register with the FEC, but it still has not done so.

California – Judge Denies LA Councilman John Lee’s Bid to Short-Circuit Ethics Commission Action

Courthouse News Service – Hillel Aron | Published: 7/2/2024

Los Angeles City Councilperson John Lee’s attempt to short circuit an Ethics Commission probe ended after a state court judge dismissed his lawsuit against the commission, though he can still make many of his legal objections to the probe in an administrative setting. Lee is accused of accepting gifts without disclosing them while he was working as the chief of staff for his predecessor, Mitchell Englander. Lee was identified in Englander’s indictment as “City Staffer B” and was accused by the commission of receiving a free hotel stay and $1,000 in casino chips, which Lee lost playing baccarat. He also received roughly $4,300 in free food and alcohol.

California – S.F. City Hall Corruption Scandal: Former city worker sentenced to prison for taking bribes

MSN – Carolyn Stein (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 6/28/2024

Cyril Yu, a former San Francisco Department of Building Inspection plan checker, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for taking $15,000 worth of bribes from a local developer in return for expediting building plans.  He must also pay a $20,000 fine. It marks the latest action in a public corruption probe city government that started with the arrest of former Public Works Chief Mohammed Nuru but included former employees and others working with the Department of Building Inspection.

California – ‘Recall Sheng Thao’ Campaign Refuses to Cooperate with Ethics Investigators, Faces Lawsuit

MSN – Darwin BondGraham and Eli Wolfe (Oaklandside) | Published: 7/1/2024

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit against organizers of the recall campaign targeting Mayor Sheng Thao. The lawsuit alleges the recall’s backers have refused to hand over fundraising records sought by the commission, which is looking into allegations the recall supporters violated campaign finance laws.

California – California Gubernatorial Candidate Spent Big on Vienna Trip – with Her Spouse’s Firm

MSN – Christopher Cadelago (Politico) | Published: 6/27/2024

California gubernatorial candidate Toni Atkins paid $22,500 to the Global Policy Leadership Academy, where her longtime spouse is the firm’s chief executive officer and its sole shareholder. Atkins described the money as going toward a trip to Vienna, Austria in 2022. California law bars officeholders from using campaign funds for personal reasons such as giving to a spouse or domestic partner, experts said. Ann Ravel, former chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission, said the amount of money Atkins sent to the Global Policy Leadership Academy, a for-profit company, is not legal.

California – Reform Expert Robert Stern Joins LA Ethics Commission

MyNewsLA – Staff | Published: 7/2/2024

The Los Angeles City Council confirmed reform expert Robert Stern as the newest member of the Ethics Commission, marking the first time in several months that the five-member body has had all its seats filled. A nationally recognized expert in the fields of campaign finance and government reform, Stern was the first general counsel of the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Colorado – Denver Clerk Applauds Passage of Campaign Finance Bill

LaVozColorado – Staff | Published: 7/3/2024

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston signed a campaign finance reform bill into law. It streamlines the Office of the Clerk and Recorder’s citizen complaint process and increases the office’s authority to levy penalties against candidates and committees who fail to report required information. Independent expenditure filers are also subject to new disclosure rules.

Florida – Judge Dismisses ‘Shakedown’ Lawsuit Allegations Against Alex Díaz de la Portilla

MSN – Tess Riski (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/3/2024

A judge dismissed allegations in a lawsuit against former Miami City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla accusing him of attempting to “shake down” the operator of the Rickenbacker Marina by pressuring him to take on one of the commissioner’s associates as a business partner. Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Mavel Ruiz ruled that, as an elected official, Díaz de la Portilla was protected by “legislative immunity” from claims leveled against him by former state representative and lobbyist Manuel Prieguez.

Hawaii – Mayor Signs Bill Further Limiting Value of Gifts City Employees Can Accept

MSN – KHNL Staff | Published: 7/2/2024

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi signed a bill aimed at bolstering public trust by further limiting the monetary value of gifts city employees can accept. The mayor said the measure was about bolstering transparency and accountability. “I cringe every time I hear people talk about corrupt politicians,” Blangiardi said.

Illinois – Pritzker Signs Bill to Increase Party Power in Primary Elections

WTTW – Andrew Adams (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 7/2/2024

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzger signed a bill affecting primary election fundraising, the electoral college, and the state’s voter registration database. Under the new law, political parties will be allowed to transfer an unlimited amount of funds to candidates during primary elections. Another provision in the bill would change how the state handles the electors it sends to the electoral college during presidential elections.

Illinois – CTU Lobbyist Helped Craft Mayor’s Letter to Senate President at Heart of Springfield Selective Enrollment Fight

Yahoo News – Alice Yin and Jeremy Gorner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/27/2024

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s letter to Illinois Senate President Don Harmon vowing not to shut down selective enrollment schools was directly edited by a Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) lobbyist and was preceded by an earlier version that made no such promise. Harmon pointed to Johnson’s promise in the letter as evidence of the trust between the two officials. But public records reveal a CTU official helped craft the eleventh-hour letter that likely saved the union and Johnson from an embarrassing defeat in the statehouse, as well as an earlier, watered-down version.

Massachusetts – Ballot Question Fundraising and Spending Largely Hidden from Public View

CommonWealth Beacon – Gintautas Dumcius | Published: 6/30/2024

Voters in Massachusetts will weigh in on a slew of ballot questions this November, with the competing sides raising and spending millions of dollars trying to convince them which way to vote. But who is behind the barrage of spending aimed at persuading voters will be largely a mystery until weeks before the election. In contrast to state election laws governing candidates for office, which require regular reporting throughout the year on campaign donations and expenditures, ballot question committees operate under relatively lax reporting requirements.

Nebraska – Some Nebraskans Say Misleading Words Led Them to Sign Petitions on Abortion They Don’t Support

MSN – Margery Beck (Associated Press) | Published: 7/1/2024

The Nebraska Secretary of State’s office said it has received 91 affidavits from voters seeking to have their names removed from an abortion petition, claiming they were misled into signing. The vast majority, 67, came from those seeking to have their name removed from Protect Women and Children or other petitions seeking to ban abortions. Only seven had sought to remove their names from a petition to protect abortion rights.

New York – Giuliani Disbarred in N.Y. Over False Statements About 2020 Election

MSN – Patrick Svitek (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2024

Rudy Giuliani, the former personal attorney to Donald Trump, was disbarred in New York over his false statements about the 2020 election. The ruling found Giuliani “repeatedly and intentionally made false statements” about the 2020 election – “some of which were perjurious” – to courts, the public and state lawmakers. “In so doing, respondent … actively contributed to the national strife that has followed the 2020 Presidential election, for which he is entirely unrepentant,” the ruling said.

New York – Trump’s Sentencing in N.Y. Hush Money Case Postponed Until September

MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2024

Donald Trump’s sentencing in the New York election interference case was pushed back to September, as his lawyers seek to convince the trial judge his conviction should be tossed out after a Supreme Court ruling that presidents have immunity for official acts. The conduct at issue in the New York case was principally about paying hush money to an adult-film actress and then reimbursing Trump’s former lawyer for arranging the payment. But Trump’s legal team may also try to use the new ruling to attack the trial evidence, since the Supreme Court ruled evidence related to official acts of a president may not be presented to a jury.

North Carolina – Republicans: Veto override levels campaign finance playing field

Center Square – Alan Watson | Published: 6/27/2024

Republicans in North Carolina say they evened the playing field of national political parties on campaign finance following an override of Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto. Democrats had access to more money because the Democratic Governors Association had a regular PAC while the Republican Governors Association did not. Both parties’ super PACs could not give to state parties directly, while their regular PACs could. The new law clarifies language on definitions of the political committees.

North Dakota – Ethics Commission Sees Uptick in Campaign Complaints, but Lacks Rules to Enforce

Yahoo News – Mary Steuer (North Dakota Monitor) | Published: 7/1/2024

The North Dakota Ethics Commission has seen a rise in campaign-related complaints but lacks tools to address the allegations, Executive Director Rebecca Binstock said. Commissioners are considering adopting a new set of rules, so the board has more authority to investigate the complaints. There have been recent allegations of campaign fraud in North Dakota submitted to federal authorities.

Ohio – Lawsuit Challenges Ohio Law Banning Foreign Nationals from Donating to Ballot Campaigns

WCPO – Julie Carr Smyth (Associated Press) | Published: 6/28/2024

A new law banning foreign nationals and green card holders from contributing to state ballot campaigns in Ohio curtails the constitutionally protected rights of free speech and association, according to a lawsuit. Political committees involved in two ballot measures took money from entities that had received donations over the past decade from Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss, though any direct path from him to the Ohio campaigns is untraceable under campaign finance laws left unaddressed in the law. Wyss lives in Wyoming.

Oklahoma – Oklahoma Schools Are Required to Teach the Bible, State Superintendent Says

MSN – Anumita Kaur (Washington Post) | Published: 6/27/2024

Oklahoma’s state superintendent mandated that all public schools teach the Bible in a move he said was meant to impart “historical understanding,” but critics say blurs the constitutional boundary between church and state. The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently rejected a proposed state-financed Catholic charter school, saying the first-of-its-kind religious public school violated the state and U.S. constitutions.

Oregon – Oregon Ethics Commission Drops Investigation into Role of Gov. Tina Kotek’s Wife in Her Administration

MSN – Carlos Fuentes (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/28/2024

On a tie vote, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission decided to not pursue an investigation into whether Gov. Tina Kotek violated any ethics laws by elevating her wife’s role in her office. Commission members generally agreed a preliminary investigation produced no substantial evidence Kotek or her wife, Aimee Kotek Wilson, violated any ethics laws. It is unknown what role Kotek Wilson will have in the administration going forward.

Texas – Texas AG Ken Paxton Owes the State Thousands in Ethics Fines. Now His Own Agency Has to Collect It

MSN – Taylor Goldenstein (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 7/3/2024

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton owes more than $11,000 in fines for filing late campaign finance reports. His own office is charged with collecting the money. The campaign finance enforcement system in Texas is unusual. Ethics agencies in other large states, including California and New York, can file their own collections lawsuits without the attorney general’s involvement. In other states, such as Illinois, candidates who do not pay their ethics fines cannot get on the ballot.

Virginia – Judges Order Hate Groups to Pay Millions for 2017 Charlottesville Rally

MSN – Ellie Silverman (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2024

A federal appeals court restored more than $2 million of damages a jury said some of the nation’s most prominent white supremacists and hate groups owed for their role in 2017’s deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The ruling allows plaintiffs to collect, nearly three years after a jury said they were entitled to relief for the physical harm and emotional distress they incurred when white supremacists descended on Charlottesville in a weekend of hate.

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