News You Can Use Digest - June 10, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

June 10, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 10, 2022


A Broken Redistricting Process Winds Down, with No Repairs in Sight
San Juan Daily Star – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 6/6/2022

The once-a-decade process of drawing new boundaries for the nation’s 435 congressional districts is limping toward a close with the nation’s two political parties roughly at parity. To many involved in efforts to replace gerrymanders with competitive districts, the vanishing number of truly contested House races indicated that whoever won, the voters lost. A redistricting cycle that began with efforts to demand fair maps instead saw the two parties in an arms race for a competitive advantage.

Digital Currencies Flow to Campaigns, but State Rules Vary
WHYY – Andrew Selsky and Steve LeBlanc (Associated Press) | Published: 6/5/2022

While the federal government allows political donations in cryptocurrency, regulation varies widely across the United States. Some states do not allow for cryptocurrency donations in state races under existing campaign finance laws. Others have followed federal rules for congressional candidates and allow donations with disclosure requirements and contribution caps, typically set at $100. Still other states have adopted no specific policies around digital currency donations. Critics say the potential downside of cryptocurrency is the lack of transparency.

FBI Seizes Retired General’s Data Related to Qatar Lobbying
NPR – Associated Press | Published: 6/7/2022

The FBI seized the electronic data of retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who authorities say made false statements and withheld “incriminating” documents about his role in an illegal foreign lobbying campaign on behalf of Qatar. Allen led U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan before being tapped in 2017 to lead the Brookings Institution. It is part of an expanding investigation that has ensnared Richard Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan who pleaded guilty to federal charges, and Imaad Zuberi, a political donor now serving a 12-year prison sentence on corruption charges.

Former Trump Trade Adviser Peter Navarro Charged with Contempt of Congress
MSN – Spencer Hsu and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 6/3/2022

Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro was indicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress after refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The charges against Navarro, the second former Trump adviser to face criminal charges in connection with rebuffing the committee, mirror those sought by the House and filed by federal prosecutors against former White House advisor Stephen Bannon after he too refused to appear or produce documents to the committee.

House Panel Investigating Jared Kushner Over Saudi Investment with Private Firm
Yahoo News – Brad Dress (The Hill) | Published: 6/2/2022

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced a probe into an investment by the government of Saudi Arabia into a firm managed by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Trump. Kushner incorporate Affinity in Delaware in January 2021, shortly after Trump exited the White House. He secured the $2 billion Saudi investment six months later, according to the committee. U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney accused Kushner in a letter of multiple other close dealings with the Saudi government.

Judge to Eastman: Give Jan. 6 committee more emails, including the one presenting evidence of a likely crime
MSN – Sara Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/7/2022

Conservative lawyer John Eastman must give 159 more emails to the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol, including one a judge says is evidence of a likely crime related to the effort to overturn the election. The committee has argued in court that attorney-client privilege between Eastman and former President Trump would not apply to evidence demonstrating crime or fraud. The email considers whether to ask the courts to rule on the proper interpretation of the Electoral Count Act and potentially risk a court finding that the act binds Vice President Mike Pence from rejecting electors.

New Debate Over Gun Laws Will Test the Gun Lobby’s Influence
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 6/2/2022

The debate over federal gun legislation, thrust anew to the forefront by the deadliest school shooting in a decade, has begun to permeate political messaging and fundraising appeals in competitive U.S. House and Senate races. Gun control organizations and the gun rights groups on the other side are gearing up for an immediate lobbying push on Capitol Hill. By more than three-to-one, gun rights groups have outspent gun control groups on elections and federal lobbying in the past dozen years. But gun control groups have begun to close the gap.

Proud Boys Leader Tarrio, 4 Lieutenants Charged with Seditious Conspiracy
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2022

Henry Tarrio, the former longtime chairperson of the extremist group Proud Boys, was indicted on a new federal charge of seditious conspiracy with four top lieutenants. The charges expand the Justice Department’s allegations of organized plotting to oppose through violence the certification of President Biden’s election victory, culminating in the attack on the Capitol. Tarrio was not in the District of Columbia that day but allegedly guided activities from Baltimore as Proud Boys members engaged in the earliest and most aggressive attacks to confront and overwhelm police at several critical points on restricted Capitol grounds.

The Dirty Little Secret on How Congressional Staff Thrive in the Always-on World of Modern Politics Is Doing Moonlight Work Like 80-hour Weeks, Including Unpaid Saturdays and Sundays
Yahoo News – Kimberly Leonard, Warren Rojas, and Camila DeChalus (Business Insider) | Published: 6/4/2022

Interviews with more than a dozen current and former congressional staffers revealed the practice of working on both campaigns and on Capitol Hill was widespread. Some staff members do not get paid for their campaign work. Their performance in taxpayer-funded day jobs stands to suffer, critics of the practice fear. There is no list for tracking which staffers also work on political campaigns, which are generally funded by private donors and special-interest groups and prioritize winning over other considerations, such as serving constituents.

The Great Resignation Hits State Legislative Chambers
Yahoo News – Reid Wilson (The Hill) | Published: 6/3/2022

A large number of state legislators across the country are not seeking reelection. Some are retiring at the end of long careers, others have been forced out by the redistricting process, and some say they have accomplished what they got elected to do. But a growing number of lawmakers say the jobs they sought and won have changed, in an age of hyper-partisanship and social media influence. Many expressed frustration with a changing landscape in Legislatures where cross-aisle deals and negotiations once yielded results. Today, they say the partisan rancor that has afflicted Washington, D.C., has moved to the states.

US Sees Heightened Extremist Threat Heading into Midterms
MSN – Ben Fox (Associated Press) | Published: 6/7/2022

A looming U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion, an increase of migrants at the U.S-Mexico border, and the midterm elections are potential triggers for extremist violence over the next six months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said. The U.S. was in a “heightened threat environment” already, and these factors may worsen the situation, DHS said in the latest National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin. It is the latest attempt by Homeland Security to draw attention to the threat posed by domestic violent extremism, a shift from alerts about international terrorism.

From the States and Municipalities

California ‘Culture of Corruption’: Former DWP cybersecurity chief gets 4 years in prison
Yahoo News – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/7/2022

A federal judge sentenced the former official in charge of cybersecurity at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) to four years in prison for lying to federal authorities. David Alexander is the second city official to be sentenced in the corruption probe of the DWP and the city attorney’s office. Alexander was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine. DWP officials and attorneys working for the city took part in various crimes, including aiding and abetting extortion and bribery, according to prosecutors.

California Ex-Alameda Supervisor Nabs Lobbying Gig for Mega-Project He Spearheaded
MSN – Eliyahu Kamisher (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 6/3/2022

A former Alameda County supervisor who championed some of the East Bay’s biggest transportation projects over his 24 years in public service ended a brief retirement by landing an $197,000 lobbying contract for a multi-billion-dollar rail project he spearheaded during his time in office. The contract puts Scott Haggerty on the payroll of Valley Link, which he once led as board chairperson and played a key role in seeding with hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money.

Colorado Lauren Boebert’s Mileage Reimbursements Under Investigation, State Officials Say
Canon City Daily Record – Conrad Swanson (Denver Post) | Published: 6/8/2022

Colorado officials are investigating whether U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert broke any laws by cashing in on large amounts of mileage reimbursements from her own campaign. Boebert paid herself more than $22,000 from her campaign account in 2020, raising red flags for ethics experts. While candidates can legally reimburse themselves for the miles they drive, those payments would have meant she drove nearly 39,000 miles while campaigning. In one four-month span of her campaign, Boebert had only one publicly advertised event.

Connecticut A CT State Senator’s Trial on Charges of Campaign Finance Fraud Is Delayed Indefinitely by Evidence Dispute
Yahoo News – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 6/3/2022

State Sen. Dennis Bradley’s federal trial on charges he conspired to cheat Connecticut’s public campaign financing program out of about $180,000 was abruptly postponed by a dispute over the late disclosure by federal prosecutors of a key piece of evidence. The evidence is a 28-minute video recording that supports the central contention of the government case: that what Bradley claims was a private client party hosted by his law firm was actually a campaign kick-off and fundraiser for his 2018 state Senate race.

Connecticut Colchester’s Process for Spending Federal Funds Sparks Ethics Debate
CT Mirror – Andrew Brown | Published: 6/2/2022

Last year, Colchester, Connecticut, officials appointed a handful of residents to a special committee and charged them with advising the town’s elected leaders on how to spend more than $4.6 million in federal stimulus funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. But in recent months, several of those same committee members submitted applications to the town asking for a portion of that federal money, either for their businesses or for other organizations they run.

Connecticut In Run for Governor, Stefanowski Has Yet to Detail Finances
MSN – Susan Haigh (Associated Press) | Published: 6/8/2022

In the four years since Republican businessperson Bob Stefanowski first ran for governor, he says he has supported himself with work as a consultant. As he again asks voters to put him in charge of Connecticut, he has yet to disclose his clients or other details of his finances. Stefanowski said his personal financial information will be forthcoming, including his tax returns, but did not provide a time frame. As more wealthy candidates with little to no prior elective service run for office in Connecticut, often funding their own campaigns, it is more important for that information to be released to the voters, said Gary Rose of Sacred Heart University.

Florida DeSantis Spokeswoman Belatedly Registers as Agent of Foreign Politician
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 6/8/2022

A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis registered as a foreign agent of a former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, belatedly detailing work she performed for the politician between 2018 and 2020. Christina Pushaw made the disclosure following contact from the Justice Department. She was ultimately paid $25,000 over the course of two years. The episode reflects standard enforcement practices under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, said Joshua Ian Rosenstein, an expert on the law. A letter of inquiry may prompt a voluntary registration, he said, to “short-circuit a more formal determination of a failure to comply.”

Florida Florida Supreme Court Locks in DeSantis-Backed Redistricting Map
Yahoo News – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 6/2/2022

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push to redraw the state’s congressional map and give a substantial advantage to Republicans will likely remain in place for this year’s elections. The state Supreme Court declined to wade into an ongoing legal dispute over the map. It also freezes in place for now a new congressional map for the nation’s third-largest state. Voting and civil rights groups argue the redistricting maps violate Florida’s Fair Districts provisions, or anti-gerrymandering amendments in the state constitution.

Florida ‘Reeks of Cronyism’: Backlash begins after mayor’s chief of staff hired as department director
MSN – Karl Etters (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 6/8/2022

Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter called into question the hiring of the mayor’s former chief of staff into a plum city position, saying “it reeks of cronyism.” Thomas Whitley is now the director of the office of Strategic Innovation, which oversees the city’s state and federal lobbying efforts, implements the city’s strategic plan, and works on agenda processes and policy development. “To hire someone who has no formal experience, no formal training, no formal qualifications except as four years as an aide to the mayor is frankly extraordinary,” Porter said.

Florida Tallahassee Commissioners Want Those Who Lobby Them to Register. But Should That Carry a Fee?
WFSU – Regan McCarthy | Published: 6/9/2022

Tallahassee city commissioners want to make sure anyone who gets paid to lobby them also registers. Commissioners approved a series of changes to streamline the process but found one sticking point – registration fees. Commissioner Dianne Williams Cox thinks the $25 fee the city currently charges for lobbyist registration is not enough. Commissioner Jeremy Matlow said he is hesitant to increase the cost. He says the goal is for the public to know who is lobbying the commission.

Georgia Fake Trump Electors in Ga. Told to Shroud Plans in ‘Secrecy,’ Email Shows
MSN – Amy Gardner, Beth Reinhard, Rosalind Helderman, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 6/6/2022

A staffer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign instructed Republicans planning to cast electoral college votes for Trump in Georgia despite Joe Biden’s victory to operate in “complete secrecy,” an email shows. The admonishments suggest those who carried out the fake elector plan were concerned that, had the gathering become public before Republicans could follow through on casting their votes, the effort could have been disrupted. Georgia law requires that electors fulfill their duties at the State Capitol.

Illinois ‘Millionaire’s Exemption’ Could Make Illinois’ Governor’s Race the Nation’s Most Expensive
Yahoo News – Ella Lee (USA Today) | Published: 6/2/2022

The hundreds of millions of dollars funneling into Illinois’ gubernatorial election are, in part, thanks to the state’s unique campaign finance laws that trigger a funding free-for-all once one candidate decides to self-fund. As soon as any candidate spends more than a certain amount – $250,000 in gubernatorial campaigns – in personal funds on his or her own campaign, all candidates are freed from contribution limits. The outcome could be an expensive lesson in how far money goes in political races.

Indiana All Five Indiana Supreme Court Judges Side with Holcomb in Special Session Dispute
Yahoo News – Johnny Magdelano (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 6/3/2022

The Indiana Supreme Court sided with Gov. Eric Holcomb in a lawsuit that claimed a piece of legislation giving the General Assembly the ability to call itself into special sessions was unconstitutional. House Bill 1123 gives the Legislature the power to start a session after the governor has declared an emergency. Holcomb vetoed it last year, claiming it went against the Indiana Constitution, but the General Assembly overrode his veto.

Louisiana Fashion at the Capitol Reflects State’s Joie de Vivre
Baton Rouge Advocate – Lauren Cheramie | Published: 6/9/2022

As Louisiana’s legislative session wrapped up on June 6, the undercover owner of one Instagram account, “la_sessionistas,” has made capturing and showcasing the best fashion trends at the Capitol a mission. It has also become a stage to showcase the most vibrant of power suits, dresses, coats, and shoes. “It’s a great repository for all the well-dressed players in the Capitol, including members and lobbyists, and we all secretly hope we will make it into a post,” said lobbyist Kim Carver.

Louisiana Louisiana Lawmakers Must Redraw Maps, Come Up with Second Majority-Minority District, Judge Rules
Baton Rouge Advocate – Mark Ballard and Sam Karlin | Published: 6/6/2022

A federal judge ordered Louisiana’s Republican-dominated Legislature to redraw the state’s congressional map to add a second majority-Black district. U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick told legislators to draw a map compliant with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by June 20. She wrote that the court would step in if the Legislature failed to draw a new map that complies with federal law.

Maryland Md. Comptroller’s Spoof Raises Questions About Use of Public Funds
MSN – Erin Cox (Washington Post) | Published: 6/2/2022

A newspaper insert featuring state Comptroller Peter Franchot on the cover landed at more 150,000 Maryland homes, advertising unclaimed property and raising questions among some observers about whether his attention-getting marketing was designed to promote his bid for governor as the primary draws near. Although the practice has ruffled some of Franchot’s competitors in a crowded field, the mailing is “completely legal,” according to Jared DeMarinis, campaign finance director for the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Michigan Michigan Wants AG Nessel to Review 2 Political Nonprofits for Possible Crimes
Yahoo News – Dave Boucher (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 6/6/2022

The Michigan Department of State believes a pair of nonprofits with ties to state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey illegally solicited donations to send “dark money” to an effort to undermine Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s power to issue sweeping pandemic orders. The department referred a complaint against Michigan! My Michigan! and Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility to state Attorney General Dana Nessel for possible criminal investigation. The allegations stem from the efforts of Unlock Michigan, a petition initiative that successfully garnered enough support to change a law used by Whitmer to issue large-scale health and safety orders in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan Michigan Widens Probe into Voting System Breaches by Trump Allies
Yahoo News – Nathan Layne and Peter Eisler (Reuters) | Published: 6/6/2022

State police in Michigan have obtained warrants to seize voting equipment and election-related records in at least three towns and one county in the past six weeks, widening the largest known investigation into unauthorized attempts by allies of former President Trump to access voting systems. Documents reveal a flurry of efforts by state authorities to secure voting machines, poll books, data-storage devices, and phone records. The state’s investigation follows breaches of local election systems in Michigan by Republican officials and pro-Trump activists trying to prove his baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election.

Michigan Republicans Take Fight to Get on Primary Ballot to Michigan Supreme Court
Detroit News – Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc | Published: 6/3/2022

Three Republican candidates for governor who were knocked off the ballot because of alleged petition forgeries have asked the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately hear their cases and intervene to put their names on the August primary ballot. The candidates argued the state Bureau of Elections needed to analyze each individual signature that staff members invalidated. But Jonathan Brater, the state’s elections director, has said he is confident in the bureau’s findings, which analyzed petition sheets from a group of allegedly fraudulent petition circulators and spot-checked about 7,000 of 68,000 alleged forgeries.

Missouri Pair of Lawsuits Expose a Potentially Massive Hole in Missouri’s Sunshine Law
Missouri Independent – Jason Hancock | Published: 6/6/2022

In 2017, in two different state government agencies, Missouri’s Sunshine Law was put to the test. Just weeks after Josh Hawley was sworn in as attorney general that year, his staff began using private email accounts to discuss public business with out-of-state political consultants. Later that year, nearly everyone in then-Gov. Eric Greitens’ office downloaded an app called Confide which allows people to send text messages that self-destruct. A pair of lawsuits allege those actions were attempts to deny the public access to records. Now the state has settled on a defense that could blow a massive hole in the Sunshine Law.

Missouri St. Louis Aldermanic President, Two Allies Indicted on Federal Bribery Charges
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker and Mark Schlinkmann | Published: 6/3/2022

St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed, Alderman Jeffrey Boyd, and former Alderman John Collins-Muhammad were indicted on charges of accepting bribes in return for their support on property tax breaks. The indictment sets out an alleged scheme involving the three aldermen and an unidentified businessperson who sought a tax break to develop a gas station and to buy a separate tract of property for well below its value. Collins-Muhammad resigned from the board in May with little explanation. He wrote on Twitter that he had “made mistakes” and takes full responsibility for them.

New York Appellate Court: NY lobbying rules legal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/2/2022

An appellate court upheld key aspects of a lower court opinion that ruled New York’s regulations governing state lobbyists were legal. In 2019, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) adopted the lobbying regulations, which sought to expand the types of activities that must be publicly disclosed. JCOPE, whose enforcement of ethics laws was often criticized over a decade of existence, also significantly expanded the amount of lobbying data available. Beyond requiring the disclosure of traditional lobbying, the regulations sought to cover other types of efforts that have become widespread.

New York Donors to Pro-Adams’ Political Action Committee Have Sizable Investments in Evolv Technologies, a Gun Detection Company Favored by City Hall
MSN – Micheal Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 6/3/2022

Two donors who spent a combined $1 million to support Eric Adams’ mayoral run in New York City work at companies that hold sizable investments in Evolv Technologies, the manufacturer of a gun detection system Adams began touting earlier this year. When asked by how the city came to temporarily install one of Evolv’s gun detectors at City Hall, Adams said he found it on the internet. Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union, said there should be laws detailing “what can and cannot be done” when it comes to donors to PACs and how they may attempt to exert influence once a candidate is in office.

North Dakota How North Dakota’s Campaign Finance Laws Allow Groups to Conceal Donors, Spending
Grand Forks Herald – Jeremy Turley | Published: 6/9/2022

As money in politics comes under closer scrutiny, wealthy North Dakota donors have maneuvered the complicated web of laws in a way that allows them to choose what to disclose and what to conceal from the public. Two of the most active groups financing candidates in this year’s election cycle have drawn criticism from transparency advocates and state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for declining to divulge details of their political activity. Campaign finance has become more consequential and more complex over the last two decades, but North Dakota’s laws have changed little during that time.

Ohio Judge Shaves 5 Years Off Disgraced Former Commissioner Jimmy Dimora’s Corruption Sentence
MSN – Adam Ferrise (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/8/2022

A federal judge reduced former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora’s sentence for engineering a “pay-to-play” style of government that thrived for years. U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi sentenced Dimora to 28 years in prison in 2012. Lioi resentenced Dimora after federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, clarified parts of the definition of bribery in federal law.

Oklahoma Stitt’s ‘Oklahoma Turnaround’ Ads May Violate Ethics Rules
Oklahoma Watch – Paul Monies | Published: 6/6/2022

The latest campaign commercial for Gov. Kevin Stitt prominently featuring his appointed attorney general, John O’Connor, is raising eyebrows in political circles and may run afoul of Oklahoma Ethics Commission rules for electioneering. Disclosure reports show the Stitt campaign is spending more than $300,000 in the next few weeks on the commercial. State campaign finance law does not allow candidate committees to pay for electioneering communications for another campaign within 30 days of a primary or runoff election. They also have limits, $2,900 per election.

Oregon Oregon’s Largest Election Debacle Occurred Under Sherry Hall. Years of Mishaps by Her Office Preceded It
MSN – Shane Dixon Kavanaugh (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/4/2022

The news reached Clackamas County Clerk Sherry Hall more than a week before the May election: an error had marred ballots and would likely delay some results. Hall, however, decided not to move quickly to remedy the problem and it was not the first issue with her handling of elections. Long before former President Trump’s false claims about a stolen 2020 election thrust suspicion about local vote counts into the national spotlight, Hall presided over a mounting tally of election errors spanning her two decades as Clackamas’s elected clerk.

Pennsylvania A Former Pa. Congressman Caught in 1970s Abscam Sting Pleads Guilty to Election Fraud Charges
MSN – Jeremy Roebuck (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 6/6/2022

Former U.S. Rep. Michael “Ozzie” Myers, who had been working as a campaign consultant since his release from federal prison in the 1980s after being convicted in the Abscam investigation, admitted he paid one South Philadelphia elections official to fraudulently add votes for candidates who had hired him for their races from 2014 to 2016. He convinced another, he said, to do it for free. The 79-year-old now faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charges and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Pennsylvania Candidates of Color Say They Need More Party Support, Financial Backing to Be Successful in Pa.
Spotlight PA – Kate Huangpu | Published: 6/8/2022

Pennsylvania’s Latino population grew 43 percent between 2010 and 2020, and the panel charged with drawing new state legislative lines sought to reflect that increase by creating opportunity districts – areas with minority populations large enough to sway an election. At least one candidate of color ran in either the Democratic or Republican primary in five opportunity districts. Only two of the six candidates won their primary, one of whom ran unopposed.  The candidates said the demographic composition of the district generally did not overcome a more deep-rooted disadvantage: running for office without resources or party support.

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