June 2, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – June 2, 2023
ABC News – Soo Rin Kim | Published: 5/31/2023
Despite calling for a ban on foreign lobbying, in which Americans lobby lawmakers and the public for foreign interests, Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley has raised tens of thousands of dollars in donations from foreign lobbyists, disclosure reports show. Haley has recently been campaigning on her opposition to foreign lobbying, saying that embassies, and not private consultants or lobbyist agents, should represent foreign interests in the U.S.
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer Hsu, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/25/2023
Two of Donald Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers the day before a visit by FBI agents and a prosecutor to the former president’s Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena, timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction. Trump and his aides also allegedly carried out a “dress rehearsal” for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena. Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating Trump kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others.
MSN – Jim Mustian and Joshua Goodman (Associated Press) | Published: 5/30/2023
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has allowed one of the nation’s largest wholesale drug distributors, Morris & Dickson Co., to keep shipping addictive painkillers for nearly four years after a judge recommended it be stripped of its license for its “cavalier disregard” of thousands of suspicious orders fueling the opioid crisis. A consultant the company hired to stave off punishment is now DEA Administrator Anne Milgram’s top deputy. The delay raised concerns about how the “revolving door” between government and industry may be impacting the DEA’s mission to police drug companies.
MSN – Justin Papp (Roll Call) | Published: 5/31/2023
There has been a string of highly publicized attacks on Capitol Hill aides that have left staff on edge and are raising questions about security, especially away from Washington. Protecting members and staff away from Washington is no small task with 535 members of Congress, many with multiple district offices that are often positioned strategically to encourage foot traffic.
MSN – Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2023
Special counsel Jack Smith has obtained a 2021 recording in which Donald Trump appears to brag about having a classified document related to Iran, suggesting the former president understood both the legal and security concerns around his possession of such restricted information. The audio features Trump describing a document he claims is about possibly attacking Iran, expressing a desire to share that information with others but also making some kind of acknowledgment he should not do so.
NBC News – Matt Dixon and Jonathan Allen | Published: 5/25/2023
Officials who work for Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration – not his campaign – have been sending text messages to Florida lobbyists soliciting political contributions for DeSantis’s presidential bid, a breach of traditional norms that has raised ethical and legal questions and left many here in the state capital shocked. Text messages from four officials, including those directly in the governor’s office and with leadership positions in state agencies. They requested the recipient of the message contribute to the governor’s campaign through a specific link that appeared to track who is giving as part of a “bundle” program.
Yahoo News – Jonathan Weisman and Trip Gabriel (New York Times) | Published: 6/1/2023
In bolstering their own biographies with stories of overcoming discrimination, Republican candidates of color running for the president have put forth views about race that at times appear at odds with their view of the country – often denying the existence of a system of racism in America while describing situations that sound just like it. The clashing views of the role race plays in America are a major theme of the 2024 election, underpinning cultural battles over “wokeness.” Behind the debate over structural racism is a secondary debate over the meaning of the stories that politicians tell about themselves.
Yahoo News – Jim Rutenberg, Michael Schmidt, and Jeremy Peters (New York Times) | Published: 5/28/2023
A series of missteps and miscalculations plagued Fox Corporation’s response to Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, according to a review of court and business records and interviews. The case resulted in the largest known settlement in a defamation suit, $787.5 million; two shareholder lawsuits; and the benching of Fox’s top prime-time star, Tucker Carlson. For all of that, Fox still faces a lawsuit seeking even more in damages filed by Smartmatic, another subject of the stolen-election theory, which can now build on the evidence produced in the Dominion case to press its own considerable claims.
Yahoo News – Annie Karni (New York Times) | Published: 5/29/2023
As Dianne Feinstein’s reclaims her seat in the U.S. Senate, she is surrounded by a retinue of staff members who serve not only the roles of typical congressional aides – advising on policy, keeping tabs on the schedule, drafting statements and speeches – but also as de facto companions to a senator whose age, frail health, and memory issues make it difficult for her to function alone. Their roles have come under more scrutiny as a number of Democrats and many of Feinstein’s constituents are increasingly concerned about her refusal to relinquish a post that she is not capable of fulfilling without heavy and constant reliance on her aides.
Yahoo News – Jake Offenhartz (Associated Press) | Published: 6/1/2023
A man who briefly worked as an aide to U.S. Rep. George Santos says he got his job after sending a series of payments to one of the Republican’s top deputies. Derek Myers told staff of the House’s ethics subcommittee during an interview that while he was trying to get a job in Santoss congressional office in late January, he sent at least seven $150 payments to Santos’ director of operations, Vish Burra. Myers said he began sending the money unsolicited because he believed Burra was not getting paid by the House at the time and could not afford food. But he said he also hoped the payments might help him secure a job.
From the States and Municipalities
MSN – Jeff McDonald (San Diego Union-Tribune) | Published: 5/30/2023
The nonprofit For All of Us collects tens of thousands of dollars from donors to support causes embraced by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria. Only limited fundraising and spending records for the group are routinely disclosed. Instead, the money, board leadership, mission statement, and other information about For All of Us are mostly held confidentially. The San Diego Union-Tribune discovered the entity during a routine review of disclosures of behested payments at the recommendation of an elected official. Such contributions are only required to be disclosed by the mayor and other elected officials when donor contributions exceed $5,000 per year.
MSN – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/26/2023
A top executive at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) was placed on administrative leave while the utility looks into his involvement in the bitcoin mining industry and whether he complied with ethics rules that require employees to obtain permission for outside work. John Chen was placed on leave after The Los Angeles Times asked the DWP about Chen’s ventures, according to a source at the utility.
SiliconValley.com – Jason Henry (San Gabriel Valley Tribune) | Published: 5/26/2023
A Sacramento County Superior Court judge rejected a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law prohibiting elected officials from voting on matters involving the people and companies who contribute to their campaigns. Judge Richard Sueyoshi determined the law, which went into effect in January, does not violate either the state or federal constitutions. Senate Bill 1439 requires public office holders to recuse themselves from votes and discussions involving anyone who has contributed more than $250 to their campaigns.
Associated Press News – Dave Collins | Published: 5/31/2023
Former Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa was sentenced to 27 months in prison for stealing more than $1.2 million from the city of West Haven, most of it in federal coronavirus-related aid, and using a portion of it to fuel his gambling addiction. At the time of the thefts, he was both a state representative and an aide to the West Haven City Council, with authority to approve reimbursements for coronavirus-related expenses. DiMassa admitted he and others billed West Haven for legal, lobbying, and consulting services that were never provided.
Energy and Policy Institute – David Pomerantz | Published: 5/29/2023
The Connecticut Senate passed legislation that would prohibit investor-owned utilities from charging customers for lobbying, trade association dues, public relations expenses, and efforts to argue for rate increases. If the House passes the bill, Connecticut would join Colorado as the second state this year to pass legislation addressing utilities’ ability to fund their political machines from customers’ rates.
MSN – Joey Flechas and Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/25/2023
The Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics and Public Trust has opened an investigation into Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s work for developer Rishi Kapoor, following a Miami Herald report that Kapoor’s corporate documents show he sought the mayor’s help to resolve issues involving critical permits for a $70 million project. The ethics commission review is being done in coordination with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office. Internal meeting notes document that Kapoor met with Suarez and the city manager to “discuss the permitting problems” last summer. Internal financial statements show Kapoor paid Suarez at least $170,000 since 2021.
MSN – Raisa Habersham (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/31/2023
North Miami Beach Mayor Anthony DeFillipo was arrested and charged with three counts of voter fraud. The charges allege DeFillipo voted three times in 2022 using an address that was no longer where lived. A complaint alleged DeFillipo lived in the town of Davie in Broward County, in violation of the North Miami Beach city charter, which requires elected officials to reside in the city. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said her office used cell phone data to track DeFillipo’s driving from Davie to North Miami Beach, where he cast ballots to vote in three elections in August, October, and November.
NBC News – Matt Dixon | Published: 5/30/2023
Florida officials changed state campaign finance guidelines in a way that could allow allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis to move tens of millions of dollars to a super PAC supporting his 2024 presidential campaign, records show. For years, elections officials said such a transfer to federal super PACs would not be allowed. But in March, just months before DeSantis formally launched his bid for president, officials at the Florida Department of State, which regulates state elections, changed its handbook to assert that such moves are allowed.
Yahoo News – Andrew Adams (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 5/27/2023
Illinois lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that would place new restrictions on the red-light and speed camera industry’s involvement in state and local elections and government. House Bill 3903 would ban automatic traffic enforcement companies or their officers from donating to candidates at the state and local level. It would also prevent state and local government officials from accepting jobs or contracts with those companies while in office or for two years after leaving office.
MSN – Matt Stout (Boston Globe) | Published: 5/29/2023
Five months into the year, Massachusetts lawmakers have touted passing “historic funding” and holding a budget debate that has never been “smoother.” They can also lay claim to something else, a Boston Globe review found: perhaps the least productive start to a legislative session in at least 40 years. The slow start is likely historic, and, current and former Beacon Hill officials say, reflective of a Democratic-controlled body where power is overly concentrated at the top and where leaders increasingly rely on omnibus legislation to move important policy.
Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 5/31/2023
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is urging the state Legislature to take action soon on ethics reforms, including the tightening of reporting requirements for nonprofits, as she continues investigations into lawmakers’ use of “dark money” accounts in politics. Nessel expects to have some resolution on four major public integrity cases, including two involving nonprofit organizations tied to former House Speaker Lee Chatfield and ex-Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, by the end of the year.
Las Vegas Journal-Review – Briana Erickson | Published: 5/23/2023
North Las Vegas city officials met with law enforcement to discuss concerns that state Sen. Dina Neal may have used campaign funds to pay off a $20,000 lien on her home. The meeting with law enforcement took place after the Las Vegas Review-Journal requested public records from the city. The records revealed years of emails from Neal, some of which ask staff to forgive first-time Homebuyer Assistance Program loans. In at least two of those emails, Neal did not reveal she had that type of loan.
MSN – Steven Porter (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2023
New Hampshire House Speaker Sherman Packard asked the state’s top law enforcement officials to look into whether an ethics flap over an alleged offer of airfare entailed any illegal activity. Packard suggested in a letter to the Department of Justice that Robin Vogt, the lawmaker at the center of the controversy, might have committed a felony even if he rebuffed an outside offer to cover his travel expenses ahead of a high-stakes vote. That is because the law requires public officials to tell law enforcement if someone offers them a bribe, he wrote.
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 5/31/2023
An attempt to close a loophole in the state’s lobbying laws, which allowed for undocumented outside influence over the chief judge nomination of Justice Hector LaSalle to occur, has stalled in the final week of the legislative session. The bill would require similar rules for lobbying for a judicial candidate or other state appointee as those governing the efforts to influence the enactment of laws and regulations. Many judicial nominations, including for the Court of Appeals, require approval from the state Senate but not the Assembly.
DNyuz – Jay Root (New York Times) | Published: 5/28/2023
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s recusal policy that forbids her from using her office to help Delaware North has not stopped the governor from taking actions that could benefit the company or hurt its competitors, especially near Buffalo, Hochul’s hometown. Delaware North – which owns or manages 11 gambling venues and numerous hotels, and handles concessions at scores of stadiums, airports, and parks – employs the governor’s husband, William Hochul, as its senior vice president. In three recent cases involving matters relating to gambling or concessions, the state took actions that aligned with the interests of her husband’s company.
Charlotte Observer – Avi Bajpai (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 5/30/2023
Donors across the video gambling industry gave North Carolina lawmakers nearly $900,000 between 2019 and 2022, according to a new complaint that alleges some of the contributions may have violated campaign finance laws. The complaint notes many of those donors are members of the North Carolina Coin Operators Association. By not registering as a PAC, the donors avoided having to disclose their fundraising activity, and skirted limits on when and how much money a PAC can give, alleges the complaint.
Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 5/26/2023
Judges denied two delays in recent days that would have been key to a bribery and money laundering scandal that took place in Ohio between 2017 to 2020. Denial of a delay in one court case means a player will still be sentenced in June. In denying the other, the judge in that case agreed with two former FirstEnergy executives who said federal law enforcement has them in its crosshairs. But she ordered that they be questioned under oath anyway.
WCPO – Taylor Weiter and Paula Christian | Published: 5/30/2023
Former Cincinnati City Councilperson Jeff Pastor agreed to plead guilty to honor services wire fraud in his public corruption case. In addition to wire fraud, a federal grand jury charged Pastor with bribery, attempted extortion, money laundering, and conspiracy. He was accused of taking $55,000 in bribes and a luxury weekend trip to Miami on a private plane in exchange for votes on two development deals.
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 5/27/2023
The 2023 Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia was just the second open mayor’s race since the advent of super PACs, independent committees that can raise money in amounts that exceed the city’s contribution limits so long as they do not coordinate with candidates. The board ended up spending much of its time dealing with one super PAC, For a Better Philadelphia, which raised about $3 million to boost Jeff Brown in the mayor’s race. The board’s investigation into the group exposed to scrutiny the choices of the agency that plays a role in every election but is often invisible to voters.
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis and Min Xian | Published: 5/30/2023
In May, DuBois’ solicitor showed up at City Hall with $93,920 in cash tucked inside a cardboard box and packaged in a gift bag. Toni Cherry pulled Interim City Manager Chris Nasuti and Police Chief Blaine Clark out of a meeting. According to Nasuti, she handed the gift bag to the two men and told them the cash belonged to the city. She advised them to deposit the money and did not explain why or how it came into her possession. Nasuti and Clark put the cash into a new bank account and alerted the state attorney general’s office. The bag full of cash is now at the center of another storm in a community already reeling from a corruption scandal.
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2023
Texas Republicans wound down their regular legislative session by changing election policies for a single populous Democratic stronghold but not in other parts of the state. The measure gives the secretary of state under certain conditions the power to run elections in Harris County, home to Houston and 4.8 million residents. It follows a bill approved days earlier that shifts the oversight of elections from its appointed elections administrator to the county clerk and county assessor. Harris County officials said they would bring a lawsuit challenging the measures as soon as Gov. Greg Abbott signs them into law.
Texas Tribune – Zach Despart and James Barragán | Published: 5/27/2023
The Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach state Attorney General Ken Paxton, suspending him from office over allegations of misconduct that included bribery and abuse of office. The vote revealed substantial divisions within the Texas GOP. Although the party has won every statewide election for a quarter-century and has controlled both houses of the Legislature since 2003, it has deep underlying fissures. The Senate will conduct a trial with senators acting as jurors and designated House members presenting their case as impeachment managers.
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