News You Can Use Digest - June 21, 2024 - State and Federal Communications

June 21, 2024  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 21, 2024


Democrats Announce a $10 Million Push for State Legislatures

DNyuz – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 6/17/2024

As the arm of the Democratic Party that works on state legislative races, it is the job of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee to care about the bottom of the ballot. With a $10 million campaign, it is trying to get more voters to care, too. The investment, part of a $60 million total the group previously announced as its target for the 2024 cycle, will fund an unusually early and expansive public push, one intended not only to support candidates, but also to convince voters of the importance of controlling state Legislatures.

Washington Post Publisher and Incoming Editor Are Said to Have Used Stolen Records in Britain

DNyuz – Justin Scheck and Jo Becker (New York Times) | Published: 6/16/2024

The publisher and the incoming editor of The Washington Post, when they worked as journalists in London two decades ago, used fraudulently obtained phone and company records in newspaper articles, according to a former colleague, a published account of a private investigator, and an analysis of newspaper archives. Will Lewis, The Post’s publisher, assigned one of the articles in 2004 as business editor of The Sunday Times. Another was written by Robert Winnett, whom Lewis recently announced as newspaper’s next executive editor.

The Gun Lobby’s Hidden Hand in the 2nd Amendment Battle

DNyuz – Mike McIntire and Jodi Kantor (New York Times) | Published: 6/18/2024

In the battle to dismantle gun restrictions, one name keeps turning up in the legal briefs and judges’ rulings: William English, Ph.D. A political economist at Georgetown University, English conducted a largest-of-its-kind national survey that found gun owners frequently used their weapons for self-defense. That finding has been deployed by gun rights activists to notch legal victories with far-reaching consequences. English has received tens of thousands of dollars as a paid expert for gun rights advocates, and his survey work, which he says was part of a book project, originated as research for a National Rifle Association-backed lawsuit.

Mystery Fundraising Firm Takes in Millions from the Trump Campaign

MSN – Matt Dixon (NBC News) | Published: 6/17/2024

Donald Trump’s political operation has routed more than $3 million so far this year through a Delaware limited liability company whose owners are not publicly disclosed. The money has been paid to Launchpad Strategies, a company that appears to have been incorporated in Delaware in November, and lists a Raleigh, North Carolina, post office box as its address in campaign finance filings. Little is known about Launchpad Strategies beyond its existence and the millions of dollars it has taken in from a presidential campaign.

Rep. Kelly’s Wife Again Bought Stock in Company That Gained from His Legislative Efforts

MSN – Matthew Rink (Erie Times-News) | Published: 6/20/2024

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly’s wife made a nearly identical stock purchase in March to one that resulted in a 2021 ethics investigation into insider trading. Victoria Kelly on March 28 purchased up to $100,000 in stock in steel manufacturer Cleveland-Cliffs. At the same time, Rep. Kelly and other elected officials, were pushing the U.S. Department of Energy to reconsider a proposed rule that would have changed the type of steel used in production of electrical distribution transformers.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Fails to Qualify for CNN’s Debate. It’ll Be a Showdown Between Biden and Trump

MSN – Meg Kinnard (Associated Press) | Published: 6/21/2024

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. failed to qualify for the upcoming debate in Atlanta, according to host network CNN, falling shy of benchmarks both for state ballot qualification and necessary polling. The missed markers mean the June 27 event will be solely between President Joe Biden and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. That denies Kennedy a singular opportunity to stand alongside the leading candidates in an attempt to lend legitimacy to his longshot bid and convince potential supporters he has a shot at winning.

Witness Tells House Ethics Committee That Matt Gaetz Paid Her for Sex: Sources

MSN – Will Steakin (NBC News) | Published: 6/19/2024

In recent weeks, House ethics committee investigators have conducted a string of interviews with numerous women who were witnesses in the yearslong Justice Department sex trafficking investigation into U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, multiple sources said. One woman told the committee that Venmo a payment from Gaetz was for sex, while others have said they were paid to attend parties that Gaetz also attended and that featured drugs and sex, sources said.

The Anti-China Pressure Hits DC Trade Groups

MSN – Caitlin Oprysko (Politico) | Published: 6/18/2024

More than half a dozen lobbying firms dumped Chinese clients earlier this year after it was reported that congressional offices were threatening to blacklist them for working for companies linked to the Chinese military. As distrust of the Chinese government increases, companies with roots in the country, or suspected links to China’s Communist Party, are finding themselves without allies to make their case to lawmakers. In an industry where relationships and access to those in power are currency, threats alone can be enough to make advocates wary.

New Documents Show Unreported Trips by Justice Clarence Thomas

MSN – Justin Jouvenal and Tobi Raji (Washington Post) | Published: 6/13/2024

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took three previously unreported trips paid for by conservative billionaire Harlan Crow, according to new documents by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Details of the private jet flights between 2017 and 2021 were obtained as part of an investigation the committee has been conducting into reports of lavish undisclosed travel and perks provided to justices by Crow and other wealthy benefactors that have sparked calls for reform.

US Appeals Court Won’t Revive Foreign Agent Case Against Casino Mogul Wynn

MSN – Andrew Goudsward (Reuters) | Published: 6/14/2024

A federal appeals court rejected a U.S. Justice Department attempt to revive a lawsuit accusing casino mogul Steve Wynn of lobbying then-President Trump on behalf of China. Wynn no longer had an obligation to register because his alleged lobbying campaign ended in 2017, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found.

Stanford’s Top Disinformation Research Group Collapses Under Pressure

MSN – Joseph Menn (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2024

The Stanford Internet Observatory, which published some of the most influential analysis on the spread of false information on social media during elections, has shed most of its staff and may shut down amid political and legal attacks that have cast a pall on efforts to study online disinformation. Two ongoing lawsuits and two congressional probes into the Observatory have cost Stanford millions of dollars in legal fees. Students and scholars affiliated with the program say they have been worn down by online attacks and harassment, amid the heated political climate for misinformation research.

Senators in Summer Suits? Let’s See These ‘Suckers.

MSN – Rachel Tashjian (Washington Post) | Published: 6/14/2024

Seersucker Day dates back to the 1990s, when U.S. Sen. Trent Lott would designate a warm June day as an occasion to don the striped cotton summer suits popularized in the South. In a 2014 resolution, then-U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy revived the tradition a decade ago, then partnered with colleagues when he joined the Senate to promote National Seersucker Day. The day creates a visual record of bipartisanship that can be otherwise difficult to see.

Lack of Regulation for ‘Zombie’ Campaign Accounts

NJ Spotlight News – Benjamin Hulac | Published: 6/20/2024

When campaigns end, candidates retire, lose reelection, or die, the spending that fueled their runs for public office continues. This overlooked world of post-election political spending has prompted bipartisan interest in Congress to require campaigns to close out these so-called zombie campaigns, placing particular focus on lobbyists and foreign agents. But legislation to do so is highly unlikely to become law soon, leaving former candidates the chance to use their donors’ money to scare off would-be rivals, aid political allies, and give money to benefit their lobbying interests.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona – Trump Adviser Boris Epshteyn, Other Allies Plead Not Guilty in Arizona

MSN – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 6/18/2024

Boris Epshteyn, a key adviser to Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign, pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges for his alleged role after the 2020 election to try to deliver Arizona’s 11 electoral votes to Trump instead of the rightful winner, Joe Biden. Two other co-defendants in the case pleaded not guilty to the same counts that Epshteyn faces, including conspiracy, fraud, and forgery: Jim Lamon, a GOP elector from Arizona who signed paperwork purporting Trump had won the state, and Jenna Ellis, an attorney who presented baseless claims of widespread malfeasance in states lost by Trump.

California – Hundreds of Vacancies at San Diego City and County Boards Hobble Missions, Delay Work

MSN – Jeff McDonald and Emily Alvarenga (San Diego Union-Tribune) | Published: 6/16/2024

Nearly seven percent of political appointments across the San Diego County government are vacant, either because the terms expired, they were abandoned by seat holders, or they are languishing while elected officials ponder fresh nominations. Persistent vacancies on San Diego city boards and commissions are even more widespread, with nearly one in five positions available for public appointment vacant. The vacancies across every sector of the city and county governments have prompted delays in policymaking, enforcement, and land-use planning, among other routine duties.

California – San Joaquin Supervisor’s Car Wash Paid to Clean County Cars

MSN – Aaron Leathley (Stockton Record) | Published: 6/18/2024

Several times a month, staff at the San Joaquin County Medical Examiner’s Office take their work vehicles to Canepa’s, a Stockton car wash belonging to first-term county Supervisor Paul Canepa and his family. Last year’s washes came to about $1,700. In May, the Board of Supervisors voted to allow the medical examiner’s office to use Canepa’s car wash for up to $200,000 in services the coming fiscal year, without having to go through further board votes.

Colorado – Colorado Secretary of State Finds Pro-Wolf Advocate Engaged in Illegal Lobbying During 2024 Legislative Session

Denver Gazette – Marianne Goodland (Colorado Politics) | Published: 6/18/2024

Stephen Capra must pay a $250 fine for violating Colorado’s lobbying law. Capra lobbied state lawmakers but failed to register with the state and file disclosure reports. The Elections Division noted “mitigating factors,” that the violation was not extensive and occurred for only a few hours over a two-day period, and it was only on one House bill that did not pass.

Delaware – Delaware Gubernatorial Candidate Bethany Hall-Long Has Taken $25,000 in Donations That Exceed Legal Limit

WHYY – Chris Barash | Published: 6/17/2024

Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long’s gubernatorial campaign has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from PACs and individuals that exceed the $1,200-per-donor limit.  The donations have come from at least two PACs that are not registered with the state Department of Elections, as required by law, as well as doctors, developers, lawyers, and other supporters who have contributed to her since 2021.

Hawaii – Honolulu Council Adopts Gift Ban Bill for City Officials

Honolulu Star-Advertiser – Ian Bauer (Honolulu Star-Advertiser) | Published: 6/8/2024

The Honolulu City Council voted to adopt Bill 23, meant to tighten existing rules that bar city employees from accepting gifts valued in excess of $50, also clarifying which gifts may be solicited or accepted. It replaces Bill 26, a similar 2022 measure that expired earlier this year after surpassing its two-year deadline without council passage.

Illinois – State Elections Board Dismisses Illegal Campaign Coordination Complaint, Declines to Clarify Law

WCBU – Hannah Meisel (Capitol News Illinois) | Published: 6/18/2024

Illinois elections officials indicated they were unlikely to step in to clarify what constitutes illegal campaign coordination after voting to dismiss a complaint alleging such coordination in the 2022 campaign for governor. The Illinois State Board of Elections dismissed a complaint alleging conservative radio host and political operative Dan Proft illegally coordinated with former state Sen. Darren Bailey during his 2022 campaign for governor. A hearing officer had agreed with Proft and Bailey’s contention that state law was not specific enough to find a violation had occurred.

Illinois – Ethics Committee Chair Pushes Call for Public Financing for City Council Elections into City Hall Spotlight

WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 6/18/2024

Calling Chicago’s campaign finance system broken, the chair of the city council’s Ethics Committee urged his colleagues to approve a plan to use taxpayer money to match small contributions from Chicagoans to candidates for the council. Ald. Matt Martin said the plan, which is estimated to cost approximately $9.5 million per election, was designed to reduce the influence of “big special interest donors.”

Louisiana – Gov. Jeff Landry, in Dispute with Ethics Board, Signs Law Giving Himself More Control Over It

Louisiana Illuminator – Julie O’Donoghue | Published: 6/17/2024

Gov. Jeff Landry signed a new law to give him control over the Louisiana Board of Ethics, even as a dispute between him and board members continues. The ethics board charged Landry last year with failing to disclose flights he took to and from Hawaii on a political donor’s private plane while Landry was attorney general. Landry and the board are still in negotiations about what an appropriate punishment for his violation should be.

Louisiana – Louisiana Requires Ten Commandments to Be Displayed in Public Classrooms

MSN – Anumita Kaur (Washington Post) | Published: 6/19/2024

Gov. Jeff Landry signed legislation requiring every public classroom in Louisiana to display the Ten Commandments, becoming the first state with such a law and inflaming tensions over the separation between church and state. Critics vowed to challenge the law in court, calling it unconstitutional and warning that it will lead to religious coercion of students.

Minnesota – Utility Regulators Hosted Annual Conference in Minneapolis with Money from Entities They Oversee

MSN – Walker Orenstein (Minneapolis Star Tribune) | Published: 6/18/2024

Minnesota’s utility regulators hosted more than 600 people in Minneapolis for an annual regional conference, but some of the sponsors helping to pay for the event are also at the whim of the regulators’ rulings. That financial relationship at the center of the Mid-America Regulatory Conference has some energy advocacy groups feeling uneasy about what they worry is a conflict-of-interest. But the lead organizer of this year’s event, Katie Sieben, chairperson of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, argued the gathering helps commissioners foster connection and make stronger decisions, not blur the lines between government and business.

Montana – Political Practices Commissioner Rules That AG Candidate Was Ineligible

Daily Montanan – Darrell Ehrlick | Published: 6/13/2024

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices ruled Daniels County Attorney Logan Olson Logan Olson was not qualified to run for state attorney general in the 2024 primary election, but stopped short of saying he knowingly violated the law. Commissioner Chris Gallus said even if he had found Olson knowingly violated the law, he lacked enforcement power. Because Gallus could not prove that Olson broke the law, he dismissed the complaint against him.

New Jersey – Explosive Indictment Accuses Powerful N.J. Political Boss in Huge Corruption Scheme

MSN – Ted Sherman and S.P. Sullivan (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 6/17/2024

George Norcross III, a powerful Democratic power broker in New Jersey, was charged with racketeering. The indictment was announced by state Attorney General Matthew Platkin at a press conference attended by Norcross himself, who sat prominently in the front row. Platkin alleged Norcross and others obtained property and property rights on the Camden waterfront while collecting millions of dollars in government-issued tax credits and while controlling or influencing government officials.

New York – Mayor Adams’ 2021 Campaign Stopped Replying to NYC Watchdog. It Still Got Public Funds.

Gothamist – Brigid Bergin | Published: 6/13/2024

Newly released documents show the team behind Eric Adams’ mayoral bid in New York City was regularly seeking guidance from campaign finance officials long before Adams declared his candidacy. But when the Campaign Finance Board asked more questions about contributions from small donors to ensure Adams was in compliance, the campaign stopped replying. Adams raised nearly $20 million for his 2021 campaign, including more than $10 million from the public campaign finance program.

New York – How One Woman’s Quest to Fix Her Harlem Housing Complex Got Her Busted on Campaign Finance Charges

MSN – Graham Rayman and Téa Kvetenadze (New York Daily News) | Published: 6/16/2024

When the Manhattan district attorney’s office charged six people in a conspiracy to bundle illegal campaign contributions to the Eric Adams mayoral campaign, prosecutors alleged five of them did it to benefit themselves or companies with business before the city. But the sixth defendant swept up in the “straw donor” case, a 78-year-old retired accountant with no prior record named Millicent Redick, did not fit that narrative.

North Carolina – North Carolina Supreme Court Secretly Squashed Discipline of Two GOP Judges Who Admitted to Violating Judicial Code

MSN – Doug Bock Clark (ProPublica) | Published: 6/18/2024

When it comes to disciplining judges, North Carolina is one of the most secretive states in the U.S. North Carolina is one of only three states, in addition to the District of Columbia, to release information only at the last possible stage of the process, after the state Supreme Court orders discipline. Asher Hildebrand, a professor of public policy at Duke University, explained that North Carolina once had policies designed to keep the judiciary above the political fray. But the gradual dismantling of these policies by the Republican-controlled Legislature has driven the court’s polarization, according to Hildebrand.

Ohio – Federal Appeals Court to Reconsider Case Affecting Attorney General Dave Yost’s Authority to Block Proposed Ballot Issues

MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/17/2024

The full Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will consider a recent decision that could affect Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s ability to block future proposed ballot-issue campaigns via a state law that gives his office authority to sign off on proposed language those campaigns must circulate with petitions to qualify for the ballot. A three-judge panel of the court ordered Yost to approve petition language for a proposed state constitutional amendment that would make it easier for Ohioans to sue police for misconduct.

Ohio – ‘Call Mike DeWine on the $500k:’ Governor’s text sparked dark money payment, texts show

MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 6/16/2024

In October 2018, polls showed a tight governor’s race between Mike DeWine and Rich Cordray. DeWine sent a text message to then-FirstEnergy Chief Executive Officer Chuck Jones: “Chuck. Can u call me?” In another text message, DeWine told Jones the teachers’ union had just dumped $1 million into Cordray’s campaign. Jones forwarded DeWine’s outreach to Mike Dowling, a senior vice president – who also was indicted this year on bribery charges alongside Jones. The FirstEnergy men agreed to a “dark money” contribution, which are unlimited in size and not publicly disclosed.

Oklahoma – How Oklahoma Tracks Campaign Finances Is About to Change. Find Out How

MSN – Emma Murphy (Oklahoma Voice) | Published: 6/14/2024

A $1.2 million appropriation to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission in the recently signed budget will fund the replacement of the Guardian System, a database used to track campaign finance reports and the registration of lobbyists. The system is set to expire in February 2025 and amid an election cycle, replacing the system has become more urgent.

Oklahoma – Oklahoma Ethics Commission Settles with Make Oklahoma Great Again PAC

Oklahoma Voice – Emma Murphy | Published: 6/17/2024

The Make Oklahoma Great Again Political Action Committee was fined $25,000 to settle a state Ethics Commission complaint. According to the settlement, the organization failed to register as a PAC and file contribution and expenditure reports.

Oklahoma – Stitt Bans No-Bid PR Contracts. But It Won’t Impact Oklahoma Education Agreement, Spokesman Says.

Yahoo News – Barbara Hoberock (Oklahoma Voice) | Published: 6/14/2024

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies from spending money on outside public relations firms by using sole source contracts. But the executive order does not impact existing contracts the State Department of Education has entered. Sole source contracts are issued without competitive bidding. State Superintendent Ryan Walters has used state dollars for an outside firm to promote himself, his ideas, and his administration, drawing criticism.

Oregon – Oregon’s Top Health Official Meddled in Press Release at Behest of Alcohol Industry Lobbyists

Willamette Week – Lucas Manfield | Published: 6/16/2024

Emails show the state’s top health official suggested changing a routine press release after alcohol industry lobbyists said it was too negative. The release was sent out, suggestion included, on April 4. The occasion was Alcohol Awareness Month. On April 3, a top deputy to the state Health Authority’s director gave four representatives of the Oregon Beer & Wine Distributors Association, the Oregon Wine Council, and other industry groups a draft copy of the release. Lobbyists wanted additions to the press release to make it “more balanced.”

Texas – Texas Conservatives Want to End Countywide Voting. The Costs Could Be High.

MSN – Natalia Contreras (Votebeat) | Published: 6/12/2024

A conservative push to get rid of countywide polling places is winning growing interest from state lawmakers, as well as a spot on the Texas Republican Party’s list of legislative priorities for next year. But election officials are warning if legislators scrap the state’s countywide voting program, they will struggle to pull off the changes that would be required, beginning with increasing their numbers of polling places. That means paying for hard-to-find additional locations, recruiting and paying workers to staff them, and obtaining more voting equipment.

Texas – Texas Ethics Commission Requires Social Media Influencers to Disclose Paid Political Posts

MSN – Bayliss Wagner (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 6/18/2024

The Texas Ethics Commission approved a new rule that requires social media influencers to disclose their paid political work after an investigation revealed an organization hired dozens of influencers to attend a rally in support of impeached state Attorney General Ken Paxton. The rule will require transparency about such transactions, requiring that a person who is paid to boost a post or make their own video or post by a political actor discloses that to their audience.

Texas – Ex-Legislator Faces Investigation for Possible Violation of Lobbying Law He Co-Sponsored

Texas Observer – Justin Miller | Published: 6/12/2024

A former legislator who chaired a powerful state House committee is under investigation by the Texas Ethics Commission for his alleged violations of a “revolving door” law that restricts lawmakers from leaving office to become lobbyists. Rep. Chris Paddie resigned his seat to become a lobbyist and consultant for private sector interests. His attempted career transition was thwarted by a lobbying law that Paddie co-sponsored, which bans departing legislators who gave campaign funds to fellow lawmakers from lobbying for two years after their last donation.

Vermont – Vermont Lawmaker Apologizes for Repeatedly Drenching Colleague’s Bag

MSN – Praveena Somasundaram (Washington Post) | Published: 6/19/2024

Rep. Mary Morrissey, a Republican serving her 13th term in the Vermont Legislature, apologized for inconspicuously pouring water into a Democratic colleague’s bag over the course of five months, behavior she described as “most unbecoming” of her position. For months, Rep. Jim Carroll said he could not figure out how the bag he brought to the statehouse ended up soaked until Morrissey was caught on camera a few weeks ago pouring water out of a clear cup into his tote.

Washington – Caught in a Crossfire. Franklin Investigation Reveals Employee Toll of Political Fights

Yahoo News – Cory McCoy (Tri-City Herald) | Published: 6/14/2024

In recent years, Franklin County in Washington has seen an exodus of employees, many of them citing toxicity and bullying by elected officials as their reason for quitting. New recordings of investigative interviews with employees offer a previously unseen look into how the constant infighting has impacted the ability to do their jobs. The interviews are part of a criminal investigation into allegations against several Franklin County elected leaders suspected of official misconduct, witness tampering, criminal conspiracy and making false statements to law enforcement officials.

Continue Reading

State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting

Sort by Month