News You Can Use Digest - July 8, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

July 8, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – July 8, 2022


A Trump-Appointed Official Who Gets an Important Vote on Whether Trump Broke Election Laws Spoke at a Texas GOP Event Where He Was Billed as a Part of the ‘Trump Elections Team’
MSN – Madison Hall | Published: 6/30/2022

FEC member Trey Trainor, who was appointed by Donald Trump, spoke at a Republican-sponsored “election integrity” event in Texas in November 2021. The event’s host advertised Trainor as a “Trump Elections Team” member. In a series of Facebook ads promoting Trainor’s appearance, the Denton County Republican Party made no mention of his service on the FEC. Trainor, who regularly votes on Trump-related cases, said he was not aware of his billing. Several campaign finance experts, including former FEC members, expressed concern about a commissioner involving himself or herself in overtly partisan activities.

Amazon, Disney, AT&T Gave to Abortion Foes Like DeSantis While Vowing to Help Employees
MSN – Ike Swetlitz and Spencer Soper (Business Insider) | Published: 6/30/2022

Amazon, AT&T, and Walt Disney Co. have said they will help cover travel costs for employees who need care that is not available where they live. At the same time, records show the companies or company affiliates have financially supported leaders who are trying to reduce access to abortions. Governors Bill Lee of Tennessee, Greg Abbott of Texas, Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, and Ron DeSantis of Florida – Republicans seeking to limit abortion rights – each received contributions from at least one of the companies or associated PACs before the court’s decision. Aside from Youngkin each are facing re-election fights this year.

Comey and McCabe, Two Trump Foes, Both Faced Intensive IRS Audits
Mineapolis Star Tribune – Michael Schmidt (New York Timer) | Published: 7/6/2022

The odds of being selected for the most invasive type of random audit carried out by the IRS in any given year are tiny – roughly one out of 30,600. One of the few who were subjected to such an audit James Comey, who had been fired as FBI director in 2017 by then-President Trump. Among those who were chosen to have their 2019 returns scrutinized was the man who had been Comey’s deputy at the bureau: Andrew McCabe, who served several months as acting FBI director after Comey’s firing. It is illegal under federal law for anyone in the executive branch, with a few narrow exceptions, to request the IRS conduct an audit of someone’s taxes.

Despite Rebukes, Trump’s Legal Brigade Is Thriving
Yahoo News – Heidi Pryzbyla (Politico) | Published: 7/5/2022

Sixteen lawyers who represented plaintiffs in five lawsuits promoting Donald Trump’s baseless election fraud claims in the battlegrounds of Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Arizona remain in good standing or have no record of disciplinary action with their respective bar associations or licensing authorities. Fourteen of them have since engaged in additional work in support of the election fraud conspiracies or conspiracists behind Trump’s attempt to remain in power despite losing the election to President Biden. Critics say those who helped legitimize the former president’s lies should not be allowed to use it as a foundation to build their legal practices.

How Trump World Pressures Witnesses to Deny His Possible Wrongdoing
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 6/30/2022

Evidence across multiple state, federal, and congressional investigations points to a similar pattern: Donald Trump and his allies privately shower potential witnesses with flattery and attention, extending vague assurances that staying loyal to Trump would be better than crossing him. Meanwhile, Trump publicly blasts those who offer testimony against him in personal terms, offering a clear example to others of the consequences of stepping out of line. U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney said such messages had been received by witnesses who have testified for the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

Jan. 6 Panel Secures Deal for Cipollone to Be Interviewed
MSN – Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater (New York Times) | Published: 7/6/2022

Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel to former President Trump who repeatedly fought Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, reached a deal to be interviewed by July 8 before the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The agreement was a breakthrough for the panel, which has pressed for weeks for Cipollone to cooperate – and issued a subpoena to him recently – believing he could provide crucial testimony. Cipollone will sit for a videotaped, transcribed interview. He is not expected to testify publicly.

Members of Congress Call for an Investigation of Intuit’s Lobbying Practices Amid Mounting TurboTax Controversies
OpenSecrets – Anna Massoglia | Published: 6/30/2022

Members of Congress are calling for an investigation of Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax, after it failed to adequately respond to questions from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in an April letter citing OpenSecrets’ reporting on the tax preparation company’s lobbying. Following scrutiny of the company’s lobbying and escalating tensions around its marketing practices, members of Congress are calling for an investigation into what they describe as Intuit’s “revolving door scheme.” Warren accused the company of “extensive lobbying and adroit influence peddling” and requested a response to questions about their activities.

New FEC Complaint Alleges Gun Manufacturing Company Violated Federal Contractor Contribution Ban
OpenSecrets – Taylor Giorno | Published: 7/1/2022

The Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC alleging Ohio Ordinance Works, a gun manufacturer, donated $100,000 to a super PAC, Club for Growth Action, while performing federal contracts. Federal campaign finance law bars federal contractors from contributing to any political committees while negotiating or performing contracts., the open data source for federal contracts, lists two active contracts valued at $4.2 million and $39,600 at the time of the donation.

Questions Arise Over Warnock’s Use of Campaign Funds to Fight Lawsuit
Politico – Natalie Allison | Published: 7/6/2022

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock used campaign money to cover legal expenses for a lawsuit relating to his time as a church minister, transactions that raise questions about whether the spending runs afoul of federal rules governing personal use of campaign funds. Warnock’s unique situation presents a gray area because the allegations dating back 17 years do not involve him being a member of Congress or a candidate for office. The senator’s campaign maintains the use of campaign money was permissible because the second lawsuit was filed while Warnock was in office.

Republican States Are Trying to Use Federal Covid Aid to Cut Taxes
MSN – Tony Romm (Washington Post) | Published: 7/5/2022

More than a year after Congress approved a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Republicans in nearly two dozen states have increased efforts to tap some of those funds for an unrelated purpose: paying for tax cuts. The moves have threatened to siphon off aid that might otherwise help states fight the pandemic, shore up their local economies, or prepare for a potential recession. At the urging of the nation’s mayors and governors, Congress delivered what largely amounted to a blank check for every city and state to bolster their budgets. Congress ultimately laid down few conditions for how local leaders could use the pot of money.

SCOTUS Justices ‘Prayed With’ Her – Then Cited Her Bosses to End Roe
Yahoo News – Kara Voght and Tim Dickinson (Rolling Stone) | Published: 7/6/2022

At an evangelical victory party in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to celebrate the downfall of Roe v. Wade, a prominent Capitol Hill religious leader, Peggy Nienaber, was caught on a hot mic claiming she prays with sitting justices inside the high court. This disclosure was a serious matter on its own terms, but it also suggested a major conflict-of-interest. Nienaber’s ministry’s umbrella organization, Liberty Counsel, frequently brings lawsuits before the Supreme Court. The majority in Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health cited an amicus brief authored by Liberty Counsel in its ruling.

Supreme Court Marshal Presses Md., Va. Leaders to Stop Home Protests
MSN – Jasmine Hilton and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 7/2/2022

The U.S. Supreme Court’s chief security officer requested that Maryland and Virginia officials move to halt protests outside the homes of justices. In his letters, the marshal cited Maryland law, which states that a “person may not intentionally assemble with another in a manner that disrupts a person’s right to tranquility in the person’s home.” Some officials said federal law enforcement should respond to the court’s concerns, while others cast the directive as unconstitutional. Police officials said they worked to keep justices safe while respecting the First Amendment rights of demonstrators.


Canada Democracy Watch and Other Groups Rally Support for Campaign Against ‘Unethical’ Lobbying Changes
Yahoo News – Cloe Logan (National Observer) | Published: 7/6/2022

A lobbyist who works on a politician’s election campaign in Canada cannot contact them for a full election cycle afterwards. Lobbying commissioner Nancy Bélanger’s reform proposals would make that period two years for lobbyists who work closely with a candidate and one year for lobbyists who are less involved in the campaign. Bélanger has suggested a slew of other shifts to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, including more stringent rules around gift-giving. Democracy Watch, Climate Action Network and other groups sent a joint letter to Bélanger voicing concern over the reforms.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona Justice Dept. Sues Arizona Over Requiring Proof of Citizenship to Vote
MSN – David Nakamura and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 7/5/2022

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit challenging an Arizona law that requires voters in presidential elections to show proof of citizenship, setting up a fight over a provision similar to one the U.S. Supreme Court called unconstitutional in 2013. State Republicans, who passed the new measure on a party-line vote, said the law is a safeguard against voter fraud, which supporters of then-President Trump falsely claimed was a factor in him losing the state to President Biden in 2020. Arizona’s attorney general said in April his office found no evidence of any irregularities that would have affected the presidential election.

Arizona The FBI Subpoenaed Karen Fann and Kelly Townsend for Information on the January 6 Insurrection
Arizona Mirror – Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Published: 6/30/2022

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and state Sen. Kelly Townsend were subpoenaed by the FBI for an on-going investigation into former President Trump’s alleged pressure campaign on state officials to overturn the 2020 presidential election results. The subpoenas follow a string of other subpoenas to other high profile Arizona politicians who have found themselves enmeshed in election fraud claims and other legal battles. The document at the heart of the matter involves 11 Arizona Republicans who met at the state party headquarters to falsely declare themselves the state’s official presidential electors.

California Ethics Commission Considers How to Tighten Lobbying Rules in Long Beach
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 6/30/2022

The Long Beach Ethics Commission discussed potentially tightening the city’s lobbying ordinance by requiring elected officials to report their contacts with lobbyists, changing who has to register as a lobbyist, and adjusting how often they have to file disclosures. Earlier this year, commissioners started reviewing the 12-year-old law, which, thus far, has never been used to charge anyone with violating lobbying rules.

Connecticut Consultant on New London Pier Project Fined $10,000 by State Ethics Office
MSN – Keith Phaneuf (CT Mirror) | Published: 7/5/2022

Seabury Maritime, a consulting and investment firm, will pay $10,000 in fines for providing Connecticut Port Authority board members and employees with gifts valued at more than $3,100, according to an order from the Office of State Ethics. Seabury Maritime provided some of those gifts while pursuing a business relationship with the authority, and others after securing a contract to help find an operator for State Pier in New London. Peter Lewandowski, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said the agency would “forcefully prosecute” violations of ethics rules regarding gifts.

Delaware Jury Returns Verdict in Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness Criminal Corruption Case
Yahoo News – Xerxes Wilson (Delaware News Journal) | Published: 7/1/2022

A jury found Delaware Auditor Kathy McGuiness guilty of three public corruption misdemeanors. Each carries the potential for one year of imprisonment. The jury returned not-guilty verdicts for the two felonies she faced, theft and witness intimidation. McGuiness becomes the first statewide-elected official to be both criminally charged and found guilty of a crime while in office Earlier this year, McGuiness filed to run for reelection. After the verdict, she said she will continue her campaign.

Florida Ethics Commission Attorneys Recommend That Doug Underhill Be Removed from Office
Yahoo News – Jim Little (Pensacola News Journal) | Published: 7/6/2022

Attorneys for the Florida Commission on Ethics recommended that Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill be removed from office. Attorneys for both sides in the case submitted proposed recommended orders for Administrative Law Judge Garnett Chisenhall to consider as the final order in the case. Underhill’s own attorney said Underhill violated two sections of Florida’s ethics law related to failing to disclose gifts from a lobbyist and failure to report a gift over $100. The state ethics attorney said Underhill was guilty of all seven alleged ethics violations and should be removed.

Florida State University Faculty, Students to Be Surveyed on Beliefs
Tampa Bay Times – Ana Ceballos (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/22/2022

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation that will require public universities and colleges to survey students, faculty, and staff about their beliefs and viewpoints to support “intellectual diversity.” The measure, which went into effect July 1, does not specify what will be done with the results. But DeSantis and state Sen. Ray Rodrigues, the sponsor of the bill, suggested on budget cuts could be looming if universities and colleges are found to be “indoctrinating” students. Democratic lawmakers also have argued the law might allow politicians to meddle in, monitor, and regulate speech on campus in the future.

Florida Upgrade: Miami-Dade mayor’s free Qatar trip was pricier than first disclosed
MSN – Douglas Hanks (Miami Herald) | Published: 7/1/2022

The free airline tickets Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava accepted for a complimentary tour of Qatar were more expensive than the amount her office disclosed five weeks ago. Her office had said the round-trip airline tickets provided by the monarchy’s U.S. embassy were valued at about $1,400. But a recent gift disclosure form shows the ticket actually was worth $8,750.

Georgia 7 Trump Allies Subpoenaed in Georgia Criminal Investigation
Seattle Times – Danny Hakim (New York Times) | Published: 7/5/2022

Seven advisers and allies of Donald Trump, including Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, were subpoenaed in the ongoing criminal investigation in Georgia of election interference by Trump and his associates. The move was the latest sign the investigation has entangled prominent members of Trump’s orbit and may cloud the future for the former president himself. The subpoenas underscore the breadth of the investigation being conducted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Hawaii Former State Lawmaker English Sentenced to More Than Three Years in Federal Prison
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 7/5/2022

A former Hawaii senator was sentenced to 40 months in prison and fined $100,000 for taking bribes in exchange for influencing legislation while in office. Former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud in February, admitting he accepted bribes from a local business owner in exchange for shaping legislation that would benefit a company involved in publicly financed wastewater conversion projects. Former state Rep. Ty Cullen pleaded guilty to the same charge in a related case and will be sentenced in October.

Idaho People’s Pen Publication Under Investigation by Idaho AG for Alleged Sunshine Law Violation
Idaho Capital Sun – Kelcie Moseley-Morris | Published: 6/30/2022

The Idaho Attorney General’s office is investigating a publication called The People’s Pen after a complaint alleged it is not a newspaper, but an electioneering piece produced and paid for by the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee. Under Idaho law, newspapers are exempt from what is considered electioneering communications or independent expenditures during elections, meaning a news outlet can publish editorials and endorsements or other commentary about candidates and the communications do not need to be reported to the secretary of state’s office. A newspaper is not exempt if it is owned or controlled by a political party or candidate.

Illinois Cook County Assessor’s Employee Charged with Taking Sports Tickets, Home Improvements in Exchange for Assessment Reductions
MSN – Staff (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 7/6/2022

An employee of the Cook County assessor’s office was charged with conspiring to accept gifts in exchange for reductions in assessments for commercial properties, the U.S. attorney’s office announced. Lavdim Memisovski was accused of accepting “home improvement materials, home improvement services, jewelry, meals, sporting event tickets” and other items in exchange for the reductions, according to court documents.

Kentucky Mystery Attack Mailers in Kentucky Republican Primaries Tied to Ohio Dark Money Network – Joe Sonka (Louisville Courier Journal) | Published: 7/5/2022

A mystery group that reported spending more than $80,000 on ads in Kentucky House Republican primaries this year revealed one of its representatives, an Ohio man tied to a “dark money” network that has spent millions of dollars in GOP primaries. Tyler Conner identified himself as a representative of Commonwealth Conservatives LLC in a letter to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, responding to complaints accusing the group of violating state campaign finance laws. Conner is director of Prosperity Alliance Inc., a 501(c)(4) that is allowed to spend less than half of its funds on political activities without revealing any of its donors.

Missouri New Missouri Law Shields Nonprofit Donor Identities, Allows LLCs to Give to Candidates
Missouri Independent – Tessa Weinberg | Published: 7/5/2022

A bill signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson will shield nonprofits from being forced to disclose their donors to government agencies and allow for certain limited liability companies to contribute to candidates. The Missouri Ethics Commission will be able to subpoena the information about donors during an investigation.

New York Office of NYC Comptroller Brad Lander Approves More Than $500M in Contracts to Non-Profits with Ties to Wife’s Group
MSN – Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 7/5/2022

The New York City comptroller’s office under Brad Lander approved at least $544 million in city business with more than 35 nonprofits that are members of an umbrella organization Lander’s wife, Meg Barnette, oversees as chief executive officer of Nonprofit New York. Lander’s spokesperson, Naomi Dann, described Nonprofit New York as a trade association that had a relationship with the comptroller’s office before Lander took the job. The group “advocates for the nonprofit industry as a whole,” she said. Dann said while that means every nonprofit makes up its constituency in a sense, none are represented directly in Nonprofit New York’s dealings with the city.

New York U.S. Supreme Court to Take Up Case of Ex-Cuomo Aide Joseph Percoco
Gothamist – Jon Campbell | Published: 6/30/3022

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments from Joseph Percoco, a former top aide to former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who was convicted on corruption charges, and consider whether private citizens can be convicted of depriving the public of their honest services. The justices will also consider the constitutionality of the conviction of SUNY Polytechnic Institute founder Alain Kaloyeros in the “Buffalo Billion” bid-rigging case. The court agreed to consider the “right to control” theory under which Kaloyeros was found guilty.

North Carolina Democracy Advocates Raise Alarm After Supreme Court Takes Election Case
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 7/1/2022

Voting rights advocates expressed alarm a day after the U.S. Supreme Court said it will consider a conservative legal theory giving state legislatures virtually unchecked power over federal elections, warning it could erode basic tenets of American democracy. The idea, known as the “independent legislature theory,” represents to some theorists a literal reading of the Constitution. But in its most far-reaching interpretation, it could cut governors and state courts out of the decision-making process on election laws while giving state lawmakers free rein to change rules to favor their own party.

Ohio Citing Inflation, Akron Proposes Increasing Campaign Contribution Limits
Yahoo Finance – Abbey Marshall (Report for America) | Published: 7/3/2022

The Akron City Council is considering legislation that would increase campaign contribution limits for mayoral and council races. The measure comes in response to rising costs, said the bill’s sponsor, and council Vice President Jeff Fusco. Since campaign contributions were last addressed in 2014, inflation has risen nearly 25 percent.

Oregon A Measure to Curb Legislative Walkouts Has Qualified for Oregon’s November Ballot
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 7/5/2022

Oregon voters will have an opportunity to change the state constitution this November to discourage walkouts by lawmakers that have become an increasingly prominent feature of state politics. Elections officials said an effort to prevent the tactic, often used by the state’s Republican minority in recent years, has qualified for the general election ballot. Under the initiative, lawmakers would be barred from seeking re-election if they have 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session.

Texas These Dallas Judges Owe Thousands in Fines for Not Reporting Campaign Donors
MSN – Krista Torralva (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 7/3/2022

A Dallas County candidate who will take over a judicial bench in January owes more than $42,000 to the state for continually failing to report her campaign donors throughout multiple bids for office. Marilynn Mayse owes the second-highest amount on the Texas Ethics Commission’s list of delinquent filers. Judicial candidates must regularly report their campaign fundraising to the commission. But a weak enforcement system means candidates face few penalties for failing to report who is giving them money and how much.

Texas Voter Fraud Claims Are Heating Up a Battle for Political Control in an Oil-Rich Texas County
NBC News – Susan Carroll | Published: 7/1/2022

Loving County, Texas, is the least populated county in the continental U.S. Voter registration has been suspiciously high for generations, driven by feuds among a handful of families fighting for control of the local government. The voter registration roll lists 97 people, according to the Texas secretary of state, but the Census Bureau estimates only 57 people live there. Elections often come down to tiny margins, but the stakes are high. The county sits atop some of the richest oil and gas reserves in the country, generating a tax base that has hovered around $7 billion to $9 billion. Salaries for top elected officials are in the six figures.

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