June 17, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 17, 2022
Bipartisan Bill Aims to Curb Foreign Influence in U.S. Democracy
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 6/16/2022
A House bill seeks to curb foreign influence in the U.S. by imposing a lifetime ban on members of Congress, senior military leaders, and senior executive branch officials from lobbying for a foreign government or political party, among other measures. The legislation would also compel tax-exempt groups, including think tanks, to disclose high-dollar donations and gifts from foreign powers and require campaigns to verify that donors have a valid U.S. address, using the three-digit code on the back of credit cards.
Deceptive Mailings, False Billboards: Voting disinformation is not just online
Yahoo News – Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) | Published: 6/14/2022
When it comes to elections, disinformation is not just a problem online. Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin argue in a new report that disinformation targeting communities of color in three battleground states circulated as often through traditional sources of information, complicating efforts to fight it. The misleading information was included in mailings and campaign advertisements in newspapers, radio, television, and even billboards. Those efforts are more likely to reach voters in those communities than targeted disinformation campaigns on the internet.
Ginni Thomas Corresponded with John Eastman, Sources in Jan. 6 House Investigation Say
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 6/15/2022
The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol obtained email correspondence between Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and lawyer John Eastman, who played a key role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory. The emails show Virginia Thomas’s efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known, sources said. The committee’s members and staffers are discussing whether to spend time during their public hearings exploring her role in the attempt to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election.
House Jan. 6 Panel Revelation on Pardons Raises Questions
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 6/10/2022
A House select committee revealed “multiple” Republican members of Congress requested pardons from former President Trump after the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol but named only one of them. Committee Vice Chairperson Liz Cheney opened up speculation about which of her fellow Republicans might have thought their actions backing Trump’s efforts to overturn that election had crossed a criminal line. Experts said Cheney’s accusation raises complicated questions about pardons and how laws and ethical rules will apply to House members in the wake of the panel’s investigation.
Jan. 6 Panel Makes Case Election Fraud Claims Were Trump vs. ‘Team Normal’
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu (Politico) | Published: 6/13/2022
The January 6 committee’s case that former President Trump stoked a violent insurrection rests on a fundamental premise: Trump was told, over and over, his claims of election fraud were false, and he amplified them anyway. The panel unloaded a stream of evidence, most of it videotaped interviews, that showed Trump’s own top advisers repeatedly told him his elections claims were wrong. No matter what detailed corroboration they provided, advisers testified Trump responded with derision, ultimately pushing those aides aside in favor of the fringe lawyers willing to echo the false allegations.
Loudermilk Tour Group Taking Basement Photos ‘Raises Concerns’ for Jan. 6 Panel
MSN – Nicholas Wu and Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 6/15/2022
People who joined U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk for a Capitol complex tour on January 5, 2021, photographed and recorded places “not typically of interest to tourists, including hallways, staircases, and security checkpoints,” according to the House committee investigating the insurrection. The video footage underscored lawmaker concerns that surfaced after the attack – that large tour groups appeared to surveil areas a day before a mob smashed its way inside the Capitol. The committee has evidence at least one member of Loudermilk’s group returned to the Capitol the following day and recorded an ominous message aimed at Democratic lawmakers.
Maker of Uvalde Massacre Gun Broke Campaign Finance Law, Complaint Says
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2022
Shortly after the 2020 election, a super PAC called the Gun Owners Action Fund was formed. On January 6, 2021, the gun manufacturer, Daniel Defense contributed $100,000 to the super PAC. Daniel Defense recently came under a spotlight when one of its rifles was used in the massacre of 21 people at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. A complaint from the Campaign Legal Center says Daniel Defense violated federal law when it gave the money to the Gun Owners Action Fund because federal contractors are barred from making contributions to federal candidates or committees.
More Than 100 GOP Primary Winners Back Trump’s False Fraud Claims
MSN – Amy Gardner and Isaac Arnsdorf (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2022
Primary voters have nominated scores of Republican candidates for state and federal office who say the 2020 election was rigged, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. The analysis offers a portrait of the extent to which embracing Trump’s false claims has become part of a winning formula in this year’s GOP contests, and what it means for the immediate future of American democracy. The majority of the election-denying candidates who have secured their nominations are running in districts or states that lean Republican, meaning they are likely to win the offices they are seeking.
Retired General Resigns as Head of Brookings Amid Federal Probe
MSN – Reis Thebault, Caroline Kitchener, and Alex Horton (Washington Post) | Published: 6/12/2022
Retired Marine Gen. John Allen resigned as president of the Brookings Institution, one of the most renowned think tanks in the world, after he was placed on administrative leave amid a federal investigation into his suspected lobbying on behalf of the government of Qatar years ago. The inquiry is focused on whether Allen secretly urged the Trump administration to tone down its criticism of Qatar in 2017, when neighbors in the Persian Gulf imposed economic sanctions on the country, accusing it of supporting Islamist extremism. U.S. law requires anyone who lobbies on behalf of other governments to be registered with the Justice Department.
State Supreme Courts: Bottom of the ballot but top concern if Roe falls
Yahoo News – Megan Messerly (Politico) | Published: 6/13/2022
State courts are likely to be flooded with litigation that could require them to rule on access to abortion, or even contraception and fertility treatments, should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks. The possible end to federal abortion protections is spotlighting down-ballot races in the upcoming midterm elections, particularly for state Supreme Court judges who could soon be asked to decide whether their state constitution protects a person’s right to end a pregnancy. Organizations on both sides of the abortion debate are planning to spend big to tip the scales in their favor.
Trump Raised Millions to Fight Election Fraud Before Jan. 6. Here’s How That Money Was Spent.
MSN – Erin Mansfield (USA Today) | Published: 6/16/2022
A fundraising committee affiliated with former President Trump sent out an urgent message to supporters on election night 2020 saying Trump had activated an “Official Election Defense Fund” to protect the integrity of the election. Throughout November and December, the committee sent out dozens more similar emails soliciting money. But the fund did not exist. Most of the money went to a leadership fund that in turn gave money to organizations where Trump allies work, contributed to dozens of candidates who supported Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, and paid former White House officials after Trump left office.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Ginni Thomas Pressed 29 Ariz. Lawmakers to Help Overturn Trump’s Defeat, Emails Show
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 6/10/2022
Virginia Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona – 27 more than previously known – to set aside Joe Biden’s popular vote victory and “choose” presidential electors. The Washington Post reported in May that Virginia Thomas sent emails to two Arizona House members urging them to help overturn Biden’s win by selecting presidential electors. She sent the messages using FreeRoots, an online platform intended to make it easy to send pre-written emails to multiple elected officials.
California – A 20-Story Tower. A Liquor Box with $100 Bills. The First Trial in the Huizar Case Begins
Yahoo News – David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/14/2022
George Esparza told prosecutors he once took a Don Julio tequila box packed with $100 bills to the home of his boss, then-Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar. Esparza said Huizar initially told him to hide the cash and later hounded him for the money. Now, the businessperson accused of providing that cash is facing his day in court, in the first of three trials that make up the sprawling bribery and racketeering case against Huizar. Lawyers delivered opening statements in the case against Dae Yong Lee, who is accused of paying $500,000 to ensure Huizar would clear the way for a 20-story residential tower.
California – He Was Part of a ‘Cabal’ That Steered Anaheim City Hall. Now He Has Agreed to Plead Guilty
Yahoo News – Nathan Fenno, Adam Elmahrek, and Gabriel San Román (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 6/9/2022
Todd Ament, the former head of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, agreed to a plea bargain in connection with a wide-ranging Orange County political corruption scandal. According to a court filing, Ament will plead guilty to submitting a false tax return, lying to a mortgage lender, and two counts of wire fraud. The agreement requires Ament to fully cooperate with the government, including testifying before grand juries and at trials, and pay almost $250,000 in back taxes. The affidavit in support of the complaint contained a host of other allegations, including Ament’s participation in a “cabal” that steered Anaheim’s government.
California – LA Ethics Commission Issue s $8,750 0n Ethics, Lobbying Fines
MSN – Staff | Published: 6/15/2022
The Los Angeles Ethics Commission approved a total of $8,750 in fines for ethics and lobbying violations. One case concerned a law prohibiting city employees from misusing their official positions and city resources. The commission also found a violation of the lobbying law, which requires persons who qualify as lobbying entities to register and report their activities.
California – Topsy-Turvy Top-Two: Is California primary system keeping its promises?
CalMatters – Ben Christopher | Published: 6/13/2022
Under California’s unusual top-two primary system, all candidates are listed on the same ballot and only the first- and second-place winners move on to the November general election. Approved by voters in 2010 and rolled out for the first time statewide two years later, the system has changed state politics in many of the ways its proponents promised at the time, and a few ways they did not.
Colorado – John Kellner, Candidate for Colorado Attorney General, Returns $500 Contribution Flagged as Potential Campaign Finance Violation
Denver Post – Ryan Biller | Published: 6/10/2022
A report of a potential campaign finance violation led Colorado attorney general candidate John Kellner to return a $500 contribution from a lobbyist, although the lobbyist has since been free to give the money back to the campaign. A complaint alleged Kellner accepted a $500 contribution from lobbyist Michael Fields on January 27. Because the contribution came while the General Assembly was in session, the act was a violation of state campaign finance laws, the complaint alleged.
Florida – Former Keys Commissioner Arrested, Accused of Using Campaign Funds to Pay for Netflix
MSN – David Ovalle (Miami Herald) | Published: 6/15/2022
Former Florida Keys County Commissioner Eddie Martinez surrendered to face allegations he failed to report campaign expenditures and used campaign money to pay for personal expenses with CVS, U-Haul, and Netflix. According to an arrest warrant, Martinez failed to report numerous transactions on state-required campaign finance reports, including withdrawing campaign cash from ATMs and spending campaign money through a debit card.
Idaho – 31 Tied to Hate Group Charged with Planning Riot Near LGBTQ Event in Idaho
MSN – Nick Parker and Bryan Pietsch (Washington Post) | Published: 6/11/2022
Police in Idaho arrested 31 people who had face coverings, white-supremacist insignia, shields, and an “operations plan” to riot near an LGBTQ Pride event. Police said they were affiliated with Patriot Front, a white supremacist group whose founder was among those arrested. The Patriot Front rebranded after one of its members plowed his car into a crowd of people protesting a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.
Illinois – Cook County Official Sued by Ethics Board for ‘Flagrantly’ Defying Nepotism Ban Fires Her Cousin as Chief of Staff, He Says
Yahoo News – Alice Yin (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/10/2022
Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt’s cousin is no longer employed as her chief of staff, following a monthslong feud between Wendt and the county ethics board that recently spilled into the courts. Firing Todd Thielmann was one of the demands the Cook County Board of Ethics laid on Wendt when it sued her. The board also seeks payment of the $2,000 fine it imposed when it originally found she “flagrantly” violated the nepotism ban.
Illinois – Pass Effort to Tighten Chicago’s Ethics Rules Immediately, Ethics Board Chair Says
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 6/13/2022
The chair of the Chicago Board of Ethics called for Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the city council to immediately pass a proposal to overhaul ethics rules designed to finally put an end to the deluge of corruption at City Hall. William Conlon said the package of reforms, which has been stalled since April without Lightfoot’s backing, should be “swiftly” passed and signed into law. The measure’s prospects for approval appear uncertain after Lightfoot instructed her allies on the council to use a parliamentary maneuver to prevent a hearing on the proposal in June.
Illinois – Proposal Calls for ComEd to Pay $38 Million Back to Ratepayers for Scandal Tied to Michael Madigan Indictment
MSN – Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/14/2022
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) electricity customers would get more than $38 million in refunds tied to the federal bribery scandal that led to former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s indictment under a proposal being considered by state regulators. ComEd has acknowledged it sought to curry favor with Madigan by placing his political cronies into jobs requiring little or no work. Though ComEd’s Springfield lobbying efforts have been a major focus of the scandal, the company said actual lobbying costs were not included in the refunds because those costs are not calculated into customer rates.
Illinois – ‘We’ve Gotta Kill It. Period.’ New Details on ComEd Bribery Probe Emerge in Latest Unsealed Search Warrants
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/10/2022
Former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan approved efforts to kill his own daughter’s legislation as he pressed Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) to give jobs to two political allies. At the time, the legislation, aimed at helping low-income electricity customers, was making its way to the floor of a House chamber controlled by Madigan. One of its primary opponents was ComEd, the state’s largest electric utility. Madigan was indicted on racketeering charges alleging his elected office and political operation were a criminal enterprise that provided personal financial rewards for him and his associates.
Maryland – Baltimore Council President Nick Mosby Files Legal Challenge to Ethics Ruling Alleging He Broke City Law
MSN – Emily Opilo and Christine Condon (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 6/13/2022
Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby is challenging a Board of Ethics order that called on him to cease fundraising for a legal-defense fund and turn over a list of donors one month after he said publicly that he would comply with the order. The board said Mosby violated the law by indirectly soliciting for the fund that took donations from at least two city contractors. Baltimore’s ethics ordinance allows the subjects of investigations to seek a judicial review if they are “aggrieved” by a decision of the board.
Maryland – Sheila Dixon Helps a Trash hauler – and Olszewski Contributor – Win a $300,000 Fee Reduction
Baltimore Brew – Mark Reutter | Published: 6/14/2022
Among the crowd at a fundraiser for Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski last June, one person stood out. Sheila Dixon appeared at the cookout not as a mayor who was forced to resign after a theft conviction, but as a political luminary feted by, among others, Willie Goode, head of several waste management companies. A few weeks earlier, the Olszewski administration renegotiated the “tipping fee” his companies paid for trash transfers that would save Goode $300,000 over the life of the contract. D’Andrea Walker, acting director of Pubic Works and Transportation, reduced the fee following conversations with Dixon and Stacy Rodgers, the county administrator.
Michigan – Mich. Gubernatorial Candidate Arrested on Jan. 6 Capitol Riot Charge
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Aaron Davis, and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 6/9/2022
Ryan Kelley, a contender in Michigan’s crowded August 2 Republican gubernatorial primary, was arrested on charges of participating in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. He faces four counts punishable by up to a year in prison, including committing an act of violence against a person or property on restricted grounds. Kelley is the latest of more than a half-dozen Republican officeholders, candidates, or local party leaders to be charged in the Capitol breach, with several pleading guilty or being convicted at trial.
Michigan – Sixth Circuit Hears Campaign Finance Case Against Michigan Governor
Courthouse News Service – Kevin Koeninger | Published: 6/9/2022
An account with more than $3.7 million for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, over 95 percent of which was later given to the Michigan Democratic Party, was amassed in violation of state campaign finance laws, the Michigan GOP argued. The fundraising sum was the result of large contributions by various wealthy donors made in response to recall efforts against Whitmer throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Only one of the efforts required the creation of a recall committee, but Whitmer used the opportunity to raise a significant amount of campaign capital.
Missouri – Grant Program for North St. Louis and ‘Aldermanic Courtesy’ Raise New Questions After Indictments
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jacob Barker | Published: 6/13/2022
St. Louis launched a new grant program designed to pump $37 million into businesses and nonprofits along many of north St. Louis’s main thoroughfares. The program handed administrative duties to the St. Louis Development Corp., the city’s economic development arm. But it contained one provision that, at the time, gave some officials pause: all grants need approval from the area’s alderman. The provision codified the “aldermanic courtesy” that has long been tradition in St. Louis. But that tradition is under new scrutiny following the indictments against three members of the Board of Aldermen.
Nebraska – Nebraska Cops Probe Shady Tactics by Voter ID Campaign’s Foot Soldiers
Yahoo News – Francisco Alvarado (Daily Beast) | Published: 6/14/2022
Some Nebraskans have reported strange encounters with petition circulators to the elections watchdog group Civic Nebraska and Secretary of State Robert Evnen over the past month, reports which have now sparked a police investigation. The complaints describe and cell phone video clips show unknown operatives of Citizens For Voter ID engaging in what appear to be misleading tactics and saying just about anything except what the proposed ballot measure actually does in an effort to secure the necessary signatures from registered voters.
New Mexico – Ethics Commission Wants NM Disclosure Law Enforced
Albuquerque Journal – Dan McKay | Published: 6/10/2022
More than 20 percent of the individuals required to file annual disclosures about their income sources and property, a group that includes public officials and candidates in New Mexico, have not done so, according to the State Ethics Commission. The ethics agency authorized its staff to issue demand letters to about 155 people who have not filed the mandatory disclosures and to go to court if necessary to enforce the law.
New Mexico – New Mexico’s Supreme Court Orders County Commission to Certify Vote
MSN – Annie Gowan (Washington Post) | Published: 6/15/2022
New Mexico’s Supreme Court ordered commissioners in Otero County to certify election results from the June 7 primary after they refused, citing unsubstantiated concerns about fraud. A spokesperson for Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said the office was pursuing a criminal referral, which could result in the county commissioners being charged with contempt of court or removed from office if they do not follow the court’s instructions. The commissioners’ refusal thrust the small county into the national spotlight at a time of rising concern over the long-term damage from former President Trump’s claim the 2020 election was stolen from him.
New York – In Lobbying Probe, Ethics Commission Critic Faces $4M Threat
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 6/12/2022
Lobbying groups in New York typically must disclose donors providing more than $2,500 under a state law meant to reveal those who are seeking to influence government. In a filing submitted last July, Don’t Bankrupt New York, which spent more than $850,000 on television ads that opposed tax increases, disclosed little about its spending and indicated it took in no contribution over $2,500. The person responsible for that paperwork was David Grandeau, the state’s former top lobbying regulator. Grandeau has touted his ability to obscure the sources behind clients’ lobbying spending, tweaking the state’s regulators for allegedly failing to keep pace with him.
New York – New York High Court Nixes Trump Appeal, Clearing Way for Testimony
CNBC – Associated Press | Published: 6/14/2022
New York’s highest court rejected former President Trump’s last-ditch effort to avoid testifying in the state attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices, clearing the way for his deposition in July. The state’s Court of Appeals said there was no “substantial constitutional question” that would warrant its intervention in the matter following an intermediate appellate court’s ruling enforcing a subpoena for Trump’s testimony.
Ohio – Campaign Watchdogs Sue Vance Campaign, Super PAC Over Alleged Covert Website Scheme
Ohio Capital Journal – Nick Evans | Published: 6/10/2022
A super PAC illegally provided resources to J.D. Vance’s U.S. Senate campaign in Ohio to propel him to victory in the GOP primary, a new complaint filed with the FEC alleges. The Campaign Legal Center and End Citizens United claim that Protect Ohio Values used a covert website to circumvent rules that prevent coordination between super PACs and campaigns. The super PAC posted numerous campaign research, polling, and strategy documents to the site. The watchdog groups argue the Vance campaign making use of that information amounts to accepting an illegal in-kind contribution.
Ohio – Ohio State Board of Education Selected Steve Dackin as State Education Chief Eight Days After Learning an Ethics Inquiry Was Likely Coming, Letter Shows
MSN – Laurie Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/13/2022
The Ohio State Board of Education learned in a May 2 letter from the state Ethics Commission that an inquiry into one of its finalists for superintendent of public instruction was likely. Yet on May 10, the board selected that candidate, Steve Dackin, as the state’s education chief, a position that leads the Ohio Department of Education, designs model curriculum, and administers the testing of 1.7 million children. Dackin lasted 11 days before resigning over ethics questions. Dackin was the former Board of Education vice president who led the search for a new state superintendent as the board decided to forgo hiring an outside search firm.
Vermont – Becca Balint Has Denounced Super PACs. Is Her Campaign Winking at Them Anyway?
VTDigger.org – Lola Duffort | Published: 6/13/2022
Asked by Lt. Gov. Molly Gray, likely her closest competitor in the Democratic primary for Vermont’s sole U.S. House seat, if she would reject super PAC spending on her behalf, state Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint said she would. Federal campaign law imposes a cap on how much individual donors or corporations can give to political candidates. But those rules don’t apply to super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for or against candidates. Campaigns have found a deceptively simple work-around to the prohibition against coordination: redboxing.
Washington – Aide Who Blew Whistle on Mistreatment of Staff Fired from Washington Office of Insurance Commissioner
OPB – Austin Jenkins (Northwest Newws Network) | Published: 6/15/2022
The office of Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler fired a top aide who in February formally complained that Kreidler had bullied him, used crass language, and was increasingly “antagonizing staff.” The firing of Jon Noski, Kreidler’s legislative liaison, followed a wave of criticism in recent months from current, former, and potential Office of Insurance Commissioner employees who said Kreider verbally mistreated staff and also, at times, used racially offensive language.
Washington DC – Giuliani Hit with Ethics Charges by Washington D.C. Authorities Over False Election Claims
Reuters – Sara Lynch | Published: 6/11/2022
The District of Columbia office that polices attorneys for ethical misconduct filed charges on against President Trump’s former attorney, Rudy Giuliani, over baseless claims Giuliani made in federal court alleging the 2020 presidential election was stolen. The charges came a day after the House Select Committee investigating the attack on the Capitol had its first hearing in which it outlined evidence that Trump and his allies sought to overturn the 2020 election and incite throngs of his supporters to block Congress from certifying President Biden’s victory.
Wisconsin – Former Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman Should Face Discipline After ‘Misogynistic’ Comments, Judge Orders
Yahoo News – Molly Beck (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 6/14/2022
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman could face discipline from officials who oversee the conduct of attorneys after he berated a judge and a female attorney while refusing to answer their questions about his handling of public records requests. Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington fined Gableman $2,000 per day until he proves to the court and attorneys representing American Oversight that he has produced all records the group has requested related to his taxpayer-funded review of the 2020 election. Gableman was hired by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to investigate Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the state.
Wyoming – There Could Be a Path for Crypto Campaign Contributions in Wyoming
Wyoming Tribune Eagle – Jonathan Make | Published: 6/14/2022
There could be a pathway for Wyoming politicians to be formally cleared to accept campaign contributions in the form of virtual currency, at least possibly if state officials go along with this suggestion. During a Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation hearing, state Sens. Chris Rothfuss and Tara Nethercott noted that one approach could be for the value of a cryptocurrency political contribution to be pegged to the worth of the crypto at the time of the donation.
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