June 16, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 16, 2023
Buffalo News – Carl Hulse (New York Times) | Published: 6/13/2023
It has long been an axiom of the U.S. House majority: vote against a piece of legislation put forth by your party if you absolutely must, but never vote against the “rule” to bring that legislation to the floor. Until the last few weeks, that standard had held for more than two decades. But now, about a dozen rebellious House Republicans have decided to leverage their badly needed votes on the routine procedural measures to win policy concessions, breaking the longstanding code of party discipline and threatening the traditional operation of the House.
DNyuz – Nicholas Nehamas (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2023
As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis begins to aggressively attack Donald Trump, his campaign has spread three images of the former president embracing Dr. Anthony Fauci that forensic experts say are almost certainly realistic looking “deepfakes” generated by artificial intelligence. As the 2024 campaign heats up, the use of such deepfakes has been of concern to those who study manipulated images, which thanks to new technology are easier to generate than ever before.
Governing – Alan Greenblatt | Published: 6/12/2023
Whether it is Congress waiting until the last minute to raise the debt ceiling or legislators voting on the cusp of midnight the day before the state budget is due, lawmakers cannot seem to help putting off most of their work until they are almost out of time. The final details of Louisiana’s budget were only presented to most legislators just 20 minutes before the end of the session this year.
MSN – Laura Meckley, Hannah Natanson, and John Harden (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2023
In the culture wars, conservative parents jumped out first with an agenda built around the defense of “parents’ rights.” Now, groups are coalescing on the left to resist conservative efforts to remove books from schools, end student LGBTQ clubs, and restrict classroom discussions of race and gender. Experts and advocates say the progressives, some forming groups nationally and others in states and local communities, increasingly are in a strong position to push back.
MSN – Rick Maese (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2023
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, chairperson of a powerful Senate subcommittee, launched a probe into the partnership between the PGA Tour and its Saudi-funded rival, requesting documents and communications that led to the alliance. Blumenthal demanded communications that led to the alliance, records related to the dispute between the competing tours that fractured the sport recently, and records related to the PGA Tour’s tax-exempt status. Blumenthal has broad authority to scrutinize the deal and issue subpoenas on a range of matters, from corporate and financial crimes to terrorism.
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 6/13/2023
No matter the topic, Congress has a caucus. In fact, Congress is home to approximately 820 caucuses. Many are focused on just a single, sometimes obscure, issue, like the Congressional American 250 Caucus that is helping plan the nation’s upcoming semiquincentennial, while others may be an intraparty faction trying to drag its colleagues one way or another. The caucus is distinctly American affair. The term first appeared in writing at the end of the French and Indian War.
MSN – Marc Fisher (Washington Post) | Published: 6/10/2023
More than two years after Donald Trump’s departure from the White House, the Justice Department revealed the first-ever federal indictment of a president of the United States, a chronicle of allegations that portray Trump as the architect of a knowing scheme to hide classified documents from the government he had run and to persuade his own attorneys to mislead federal officials. The trouble Trump now faces is virgin terrain: a former president, now his party’s leading candidate to return to the White House, faces trial, at risk of a years-long prison sentence during the heart of his third campaign for the nation’s highest office.
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2023
A federal judge unsealed a potentially landmark ruling that compelled former Vice President Mike Pence to testify before a grand jury investigating the U.S. Capitol attack and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Pence called U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg’s ruling the first to lay out how a vice president also qualifies for constitutional protection enjoyed by lawmakers from being compelled to testify even in criminal investigations.
Yahoo Finance – Mini Racker (Time) | Published: 6/12/2023
“Issues” pages, which outline candidates’ stances on key policy topics, have long been expected features of campaign websites. But of the fourteen major candidates who have entered the presidential race, only a handful have detailed, stand-alone pages describing where they stand on the issues and what they plan to do in office. Several include no written policy commitments at all. Strategists agree the country has become so polarized that the candidates’ positions on issues matter much less than they once did. In general elections, many voters will simply support the candidate of their preferred party without bothering to look up their stances.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Weisman (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2023
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has a plan for winning the Republican nomination for president: eschewing the culture wars and getting the party back on a business-friendly economic message of low taxes, less regulation, and can-do entrepreneurship. But even North Dakotans who express admiration for their governor’s wealth, business acumen, and energy are baffled by his suddenly lofty political ambitions.
Yahoo News – Adam Goldman and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2023
Federal prosecutors are investigating possible campaign finance violations in connection with an undercover operation based in Wyoming that aimed to infiltrate progressive groups, political campaigns, and the offices of elected representatives before the 2020 election. As part of the operation, participants used large campaign donations and cover stories to gain access to their targets and gather dirt to sabotage the reputations of people and organizations considered threats to the agenda of former President Trump.
From the States and Municipalities
Yahoo News – Sean Maguire (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 6/11/2023
A newly filed ballot measure would reestablish campaign contribution limits in Alaska, with the intention of restricting the influence of big-money donors in state politics. A federal appeals court in 2021 struck down three of Alaska’s main contribution limits as a violation of donors’ First Amendment rights. The state’s previous $500-per-year cap on donations had been among the lowest in the nation.
MSN – María Luisa Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2023
Arizona House Republicans failed to expel Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, who admitted to a Bible-hiding prank caught on hidden camera. Instead, the House could only muster a vote to censure Stahl Hamilton. She apologized over what she called a “peaceful, playful protest” meant as commentary on the separation of church and state. But an ethics committee determined her behavior amounted to “disorderly conduct,” a violation of House rules. Many Republicans were outraged by what they called the “desecration” of scripture.
MSN – Hannah Wiley and Katie Licari (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/8/2023
Outgoing California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is one-half of a political power couple with Annie Lam, a successful consultant and nonprofit executive. The two flourished together during Rendon’s unusually long time as speaker. As Rendon’s influence grew, Lam’s consultancy business similarly boomed, allowing her income to swell and public profile to soar. Though Lam is not a lobbyist, she is paid by an organization that lobbies the Legislature. The League of California Cities has reported paying Lam’s business nearly $600,000 over the last 18 months.
San Francisco Standard – Josh Koehn | Published: 6/13/2023
The San Francisco Ethics Commission fined one of the most influential political groups in the 2018 elections, saying a committee that supported Mayor London Breed and her allies failed to properly report nearly $1.1 million in spending. An investigation found Progress San Francisco repeatedly alternated between classifying itself as a city and state committee, making it harder for local voters to understand how hundreds of thousands of dollars were being spent to influence races. Progress San Francisco agreed to pay a fine of $29,300.
Voice of OC – Noah Biesiada and Hosam Elattar | Published: 6/12/2023
Officials in Anaheim, home to Angel Stadium and Honda Center, regularly give out thousands of free tickets every year to events at city-owned venues, arguing they mainly go to community nonprofits. Yet a Voice of OC review of the past six months of ticket passes given out by Anaheim’s new council majority and city staff shows loose tracking of who really gets access to what amounts to a six-figure sum of free sports and concert tickets.
MSN – Alex Harrison and John Byrne (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/13/2023
The Chicago Board of Ethics will look to amend the city’s ethics ordinance in response to a Chicago Tribune story that detailed how several aldermen used tax dollars to pay a former top Park District official tens of thousands of dollars as a consultant after he had had been asked to resign and placed on the district’s “do not rehire” list for his role in that agency’s sexual abuse lifeguard scandal. The proposal comes after a Tribune review of aldermanic expense accounts, which are little-known funds totaling $122,000 a year for each of the city’s 50 council members to spend on almost anything they want with little oversight.
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 6/12/2023
For the first time in more than three years, all city boards and commissions in Chicago are once again meeting in person, putting an end to the virtual meetings that became a hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are no rules ensuring those meetings will continue to be streamed online or allow members of the public to weigh in virtually, either by Zoom or by phone. When Gov. J.B. Pritzker ended the public health emergency, boards and commissions across the state could no longer meet virtually, as rules that allowed them to meet via Zoom or other teleconferencing platforms expired.
Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/10/2023
Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s campaign was told to stop electioneering to city employees nearly a year before her staff tried to recruit Chicago Public Schools students to do political work for extra credit. When it came to light in January, Lightfoot’s camp first defended but then quickly denounced the practice of sending emails to public workers soliciting campaign help. Now it is emerged that her campaign had been warned by the city Board of Ethics in March 2022 to cease sending political communications to public employee emails.
Louisville Public Media – Jacob Ryan | Published: 6/13/2023
Metro Council member Anthony Piagentini claimed Louisville’s ethics commission violated state and local laws by disclosing his response to a complaint accusing him of ethics violations. But a judge ruled the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission did not violate any laws and is free to disclose certain records related to the investigation. Piagentini has been investigated for possible violations related to his assistance securing a $40 million COVID-19 relief grant for the Louisville Healthcare CEO Council. The day after the council approved the spending measure, Piagentini took a consulting job with the group.
MSN – Emily Opilo and Hannah Gaskill (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 6/8/2023
The Maryland State Board of Elections hired a new elections administrator, selecting a longtime employee for the top job. Jared DeMarinis was chosen by a unanimous vote., DeMarinis, who has worked as the director of the board’s campaign finance division, will face a confirmation hearing before the state Senate next session before he can take on the role in a permanent capacity.
MSN – Greg Klas (KLAS) | Published: 6/13/2023
After Joe Lombardo won the 2022 gubernatorial election, a letter from the Nevada Ethics Commission offered to settle complaints against him before he was sworn into office. The offer: a $50,000 fine, censure from the Ethics Commission, ethics training for “all staff within 30 days of your client’s inauguration as governor,” and a designated ethics officer in the governor’s office during Lombardo’s first term. But in turning down the settlement, the governor is facing a hearing and a possible fine of $1.6 million.
DNyuz – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 6/8/2023
A year ago, Democrats were taken to task by New York’s highest court for attempting to gerrymander the state’s congressional districts, and saw their tilted map replaced by more neutral lines that helped Republicans flip four House seats. Now, with a 2024 rematch approaching, Democratic leaders in Washington and Albany are reviving a legal battle to reopen the mapmaking process and potentially pull the lines back in their direction.
MSN – Andrea Salcedo and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 6/13/2023
E. Jean Carroll, who won a $5 million lawsuit against Donald Trump in a sexual assault and defamation case, can amend a separate pending lawsuit to seek more damages against the former president for disparaging comments he made during a recent CNN town hall, a judge ruled. Attorneys for Carroll filed an amended complaint following Trump’s comments during the CNN special event, seeking at least $10 million in damages for the town hall comments and for the initial defamation that Carroll alleged.
WXXI – Karen DeWitt | Published: 6/13/2023
Before New York legislators adjourned their session, they approved a measure to alter the state’s fledgling public campaign finance system – a change that critics and some lawmakers say undermines the program’s original purpose. For state legislative offices, there is a tiered system with higher match ratios for contributions up to $250. Now, donations of up to $18,000 would be eligible for public matching funds. The bill goes to Gov. Kathy Hochul.
MSN – Kyle Ingram (Charlotte Observer) | Published: 6/12/2023
Republicans in North Carolina introduced legislation to drastically restructure the State Board of Elections, taking away the power of the governor to appoint its members and creating an even partisan split among the powerful board. Under the proposed law, the board would have an even number of Republicans and Democrats, all of whom would be appointed by legislative leaders rather than the governor. A similar bill passed in 2016 was later ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court.
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/12/2023
The Ohio Supreme Court ordered state officials to rewrite some of the language for an August ballot measure that, if passed, would make it more difficult to amend the state constitution. The court, however, declined to take a more expansive role in ordering the language to be rewritten, rejecting some of the core arguments from plaintiffs. State Issue 1 would amend the Ohio Constitution to require future amendments to get a 60 percent supermajority in a statewide vote to pass. That is compared to the current simple majority standard that has been in place for more than a century.
MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/12/2023
A federal judge rejected a request from ex-Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger to be formally acknowledged as a victim of former Speaker Larry Householder’s bribery and racketeering scheme. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black ruled Rosenberger failed to prove the FBI’s investigation into his own conduct as speaker and subsequent resignation were directly caused by Householder’s political maneuvering.
Centralia Chronicle – Ted Sickinger (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/8/2023
The Democratic Party of Oregon said it will return the illegal $500,000 campaign contribution it received last October from an executive at FTX, the bankrupted cryptocurrency exchange, by tapping into donations from some of the state’s most powerful Democrats. The party received the donation last fall from FTX executive Nishad Singh, but at his request, party officials misattributed it to Prime Trust, a crypto payment processor. The Oregon Secretary of State’s election division subsequently investigated the party’s handling of the contribution and fined it $15,000.
MSN – Aimee Green (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 6/9/2023
A media investigation found former Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan sought, and in many cases received, thousands of taxpayer dollars in questionable reimbursements from the state for travel expenses both large and small. The investigation also found Fagan spent tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds on airplane tickets for her children and stays at four-star hotels thousands of miles from Oregon, among many other unexplained expenses. Acting Secretary of State Cheryl Myers now says Fagan ignored warnings that she may be breaking state travel rules.
MSN – Zoe Greenberg (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 6/12/2023
Two Rhode Island officials traveled to Philadelphia to tour Bok, the former vocational school that is now home to dozens of artists and entrepreneurs. Scout Ltd., the team behind Bok, had contracted with Rhode Island, under a former administration, to develop a vacant state building in Providence. Hoping to convince a new administration to fund the project, Scout executives offered to show the officials around. But the way the Rhode Island representatives allegedly behaved was so “bizarre, offensive, and unprofessional” that the company executives documented what happened in an email that was sent to the governor of Rhode Island.
MSN – Patrick Anderson (Providence Journal) | Published: 6/13/2023
The Rhode Island House passed a package of campaign finance law changes that would double how much an individual could give to a candidate each year. Progressive Democrats blasted both hiking the $1,000 maximum annual individual contribution to $2,000 and raising the maximum size of donations that can be reported anonymously. Rep. Brian Newberry said while the bill might allow top lawmakers to collect more campaign cash than they already do, he believes it would have a greater benefit to challengers who often struggle to raise the bare minimum to compete.
Associated Press News – James Pollard | Published: 6/13/2023
Special interest caucuses in South Carolina can formally campaign, a federal judge ruled in a victory for a hardline conservative group of state representatives that want to push the Republican-controlled Legislature further to the right. The order allows the South Carolina Freedom Caucus to fundraise and distribute election materials just like the House Republican, Democratic, Black, and Women’s Caucuses already do. The conservative faction argued a state law limiting those abilities only to caucuses organized by political party, race, ethnicity, or gender violated its freedom of speech.
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