News You Can Use Digest - June 3, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

June 3, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – June 3, 2022


A Top White House Aide Has Ties to Amazon, Adding a New Ingredient to the Bezos-Biden Drama
MSN – Hailey Fuchs and Emily Birnbaum (Politico) | Published: 5/26/2022

As the White House weighed how hard to engage Amazon founder Jeff Bezos over his criticism of its economic policies, it brought back a senior aide whose firm does work for the company. Anita Dunn rejoined the administration as a top adviser from the powerful communications shop that she co-founded, SKDK. The Democratic firm, which has produced a number of current and former administration officials, has a host of major clients in business and politics. One of them is Amazon.

Former Trump Trade Adviser Peter Navarro Subpoenaed by DOJ in Jan. 6 Probe
MSN – Felicia Sonmez and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2022

Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro was subpoenaed by the Justice Department as part of the probe into the attack on the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. Navarro revealed the subpoena in a lawsuit he filed against Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House committee investigating the attack. The select committee subpoena seeks records and testimony from the former trade adviser, who has written and publicly discussed the effort to develop a strategy to delay or overturn certification of the 2020 election.

Guns Are All Over GOP Ads and Social Media, Prompting Some Criticism
MSN – Colby Itkowitz (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2022

Although candidates in both parties have long used guns as a campaign prop, the images have in recent years become more prevalent, and intentionally provocative, in Republican advertising, holidays greetings, and other forms of communication with the public. Such placements convey a cultural and political solidarity with conservatives more powerfully than most anything else, according to GOP strategists and aides. But as the nation reckons with a pair of deadly mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, some are warning these photos and videos are harmful and glorify the use and ownership of firearms designed to kill.

Maker of Rifle in Texas Massacre Is Deep-Pocketed GOP Donor
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 5/27/2022

The owners of Daniel Defense, the manufacturer of the rifle apparently used in the massacre of 21 people in Uvalde, Texas, are wealthy Republican donors, giving to candidates and committees at the federal and state level aligned against limits on access to assault rifles and other semiautomatic weapons. The spending by Marvin Daniel and his wife illustrates the financial clout of the gun industry, even as political spending by the National Rifle Association has declined. It also shows how surging gun sales during the coronavirus pandemic have empowered manufacturers to expand their marketing and political advocacy, experts said.

Sussmann, Who Worked for Clinton, Acquitted of Lying to FBI in 2016
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2022

A federal jury found Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for Democrats including the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, not guilty of lying to the FBI when he brought them allegations against Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential race. The verdict was a major setback for Special Counsel John Durham, who was appointed during the Trump administration and has spent three years probing whether the federal agents who investigated the 2016 Trump campaign committed wrongdoing. Sussmann was the first person charged by Durham to go to trial. Another person charged in the investigation is due to face a jury later this year.

The NRA Has Weakened. But Gun Rights Drive the GOP More Than Ever.
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 5/26/2022

The killing of 20 children and six adults in 2012 at a Connecticut elementary school threw the politics of gun violence into a state of suspension as conservative politicians waited to hear from the National Rifle Association (NRA) before taking a stand. After another rampage, at a Texas elementary school that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Republican lawmakers did not wait for the NRA as they lined up within hours to rebuff any proposed gun-control measures. That dynamic reflects both the recent decline of the NRA’s power and the logical conclusion of its own increasingly hardline messaging that guns and liberty are inextricable from patriotism and all gun control is a plot to seize weapons and leave owners defenseless.

From the States and Municipalities

California Compton City Council Election Overturned in Wake of Vote Rigging Scandal
Yahoo News – James Queally (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/30/2022

Results of a Compton City Council race decided by one vote have been overturned following an election rigging scandal that prompted criminal charges against the winner last year. Councilperson Isaac Galvan must be replaced by his challenger, Andre Spicer, after a judge determined four of the votes cast in the election were submitted by people who did not live in the council district the two men were vying to represent.  The municipal contest drew attention in August, when the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office charged Galvan with election rigging and bribery.

California San Jose Mayor’s Election Fundraising Raises Legal Questions
San Jose Spotlight – Tran Nguyan | Published: 5/27/2022

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo may have broken state and local campaign rules when he collected six figures for a PAC he formed to influence the 2022 election. A complaint claims Liccardo, as a sitting mayor, should not have opened the committee nor raised any money to support candidates running in this election. It further alleges the contributions the PAC received exceeded local donation limits, which was then spent to support three candidates in San Jose City Hall races.

Colorado Contributions by Conservative Lobbyist Appear to Run Afoul of Campaign Finance Laws
Colorado Springs Gazette – Marianne Goodland (Colorado Politics) | Published: 5/27/2022

Political donations made by a prominent conservative lobbyist appear to have run afoul of Colorado’s campaign finance law. Michael Fields, a registered lobbyist for Advance Colorado Action, gave three contributions during the legislative session to three Republican statewide candidates. State law bars professional or volunteer lobbyists from donating to statewide candidates during the legislative session. The prohibition more prominently applies to incumbents of these offices. Fields said he was not aware the law also prohibits giving to candidates during the legislative session.

Connecticut A Connecticut State Senator and Former School Board Chair to Go on Trial for Allegedly Conspiring to Steal Public Campaign Money
Hartford Courant – Edmund Mahoney | Published: 5/31/2022

State Sen. Dennis Bradley Jr. and former Bridgeport school board chairperson Jessica Martinez, who once served as his campaign treasurer, are on trial in federal court on charges they conspired to cheat Connecticut’s public campaign financing program out of about $180,000. The government’s case will turn on a party Bradley threw, at which he announced he was running for the Senate. Prosecutors say evidence will show Bradley, Martinez, and others in the campaign altered contribution records and misled state election regulators so a pricey campaign kickoff would not block Bradley from obtaining public grants to pay for the rest of the race.

Florida DeSantis Signs Bills Penalizing Florida Judges and Lawmakers Who Lobby Within Six Years after Term
Creative Loafing Tampa Bay – Gary Rohrer | Published: 5/26/2022

Lawmakers and judges who leave office and lobby the Florida Legislature or executive branch within six years could face a fine of up to $10,000 and other penalties after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed two bills implementing a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018. The laws do not take effect until January 1, 2023, so they would not apply to any lawmaker or judge who leaves office before then, either due to term limits, resignation, or losing an election. A two-year ban on lobbying still exists in current law, although punishments for violating that prohibition are not spelled out.

Florida How the Proud Boys Gripped the Miami-Dade Republican Party
Yahoo News – Patricia Mazzei and Alan Feurer (New York Times) | Published: 6/2/2022

At least a half-dozen current and former Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group that was at the forefront of the riot at the U.S. Capitol last year, have secured seats on the Miami-Dade Republican Party Executive Committee, seeking to influence local politics from the inside. The concerted effort by the Proud Boys to join the leadership has destabilized and dramatically reshaped the Miami-Dade Republican Party, transforming it from an archetype of the strait-laced establishment to an organization roiled by internal conflict as it wrestles with forces pulling it to the right.

Florida Judge in Dark Money Case Reverses Order, Allows Mystery Group to Continue Shielding Donors
Florida Politics – Jesse Scheckner | Published: 5/26/2022

Soon after ordering a “dark money” group behind attack ads in a 2020 state Senate Primary to disclose the identities of its secretive donors, a Miami judge vacated that decision and allowed the group to continue shielding its benefactors. Judge Jose Rodriguez granted a motion for reconsideration for Floridians for Equality and Justice, effectively reversing his May 11 ruling that the group must turn over its bank records and reveal its contributors within 30 days.

Hawaii Lobbying and Ethics Reforms Top Agenda at New Hawaii Standards Commission Meeting
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 6/1/2022

A commission tasked with beefing up government transparency in Hawaii kicked off its first regular meeting with a discussion on proposals to increase reporting requirements for lobbyists and address conflicts-of-interest with state lawmakers. The Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct is expected to spend the rest of the year examining election laws, campaign finance, and other areas for potential reforms. Any of the commission’s proposals would have to be approved by lawmakers.

Idaho A GOP Congressional Candidate Used Covid Relief Funds Meant for His Employees to Pay for His Car and Political Campaign
MSN – Matthew Loh (Business Insider) | Published: 6/2/2022

A congressional candidate in Idaho pleaded guilty to taking COVID-19 relief funds meant for his employees and using them for personal expenses like his car payments and a 2020 political campaign. Nicholas Jones also pleaded guilty to falsifying records to conceal the time and work his employees put into his campaign in a report to the FEC. He faces a maximum total sentence of 40 years in prison.

Illinois As Aurora Mayor, Richard Irvin Quietly Launched Firm with a Top Aide Plus Two Others, Who Got a City Contract
Yahoo News – Joe Mahr and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 6/1/2022

Two years ago, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin co-founded a consulting firm with a top city aide, who is also a lifelong friend, and two men from Virginia. The arrangement has raised several potential conflict-of-interest issues for Irvin. There is a mayor going into business with a city employee who is so close to Irvin the mayor calls him a stepbrother. There is also the employee skirting through a process requiring city approval for side jobs. And there are the two Virginia men, who went on to get a $15,000 city contract without their ties to Irvin being disclosed. As Irvin seeks to become Illinois’ next governor, the episode joins other arrangements in raising questions about where Irvin draws the line between public duties and private ventures.

Illinois Cook County Ethics Board Sues Elected Official for Refusing to Fire Her Cousin, in Defiance of Nepotism Ban
Chicago Tribune – Alice Yin | Published: 6/2/2022

The feud between Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Tammy Wendt and the Board of Ethics has escalated to the courts after Wendt continued to defy a rule against nepotism by refusing to fire her cousin. The ethics board filed the lawsuit naming Wendt and her first cousin, and top staffer, Todd Thielmann as defendants. The complaint calls for a judge to uphold the county’s ethics code, which forbids Wendt from employing Thielmann, and for Wendt to fire him and to pay the $2,000 the board imposed when it originally found she violated the nepotism ban.

Michigan 5 Michigan GOP Candidates for Governor Disqualified from Ballot After Board Deadlocks
MSN – Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/26/2022

A state elections panel in Michigan deadlocked on whether five Republican candidates for governor should be barred from the August primary ballot because they each submitted too many fraudulent signatures, and an official said the effect of the vote is to disqualify the candidates. The action of the Board of State Canvassers is not the final word as the candidates can appeal to the courts. The board’s debate came down to how much responsibility the candidates should bear for filing petitions that Bureau of Elections staff determined contained many thousands of signatures that were obviously forged, despite that candidates are told to vet the signatures before filing.

Michigan Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Defends Actions Involving Confidential FBI Source
Detroit News – Sarah Rahal | Published: 5/31/2022

Records and interviews provided a look at Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s conduct behind the scenes of a federal corruption investigation targeting at least two of the mayor’s closest allies on the city council in recent years, André Spivey and Janeé Ayers. After getting advance notice of an investigation involving Spivey from the now-former councilperson in June of last year, Duggan shared the informant’s identity with multiple people, according to sources familiar with the investigation. The informant is a towing contractor in Metro Detroit who was wearing hidden recording equipment for the FBI while secretly filming Spivey and others accepting bribes.

New Hampshire 4 Homes Tied to Journalist Hit with Bricks, Graffitied with Spray Paint
MSN – Jonathan Edwards (Washington Post) | Published: 6/1/2202

Since late April, there had been five other attacks on homes tied to journalist Lauren Chooljian, all hit with a brick and red spray paint. Targets included her former address, her boss’s place, and her parents’ home, which was hit twice. Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said investigators are considering the possibility the attacks are linked to Chooljian’s work as a reporter and producer for New Hampshire Public Radio. The possible motive: revenge for stories she has published in the past, intimidation to silence her in the future, or both.

New York Cuomo Ethics Inquiry Could Die with Outgoing Commission
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon and Chris Bragg | Published: 5/29/2022

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was supposed to face an ethics hearing in April concerning whether he violated the law by using state employees to assist in the production of a book that netted him millions of dollars. But a presiding officer overseeing the hearing postponed the date until September 15, and by that time, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics will no longer be in existence, throwing the yearlong investigation’s future into question.

New York Transition to New Ethics Panel Sparks Early Legal Threat
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 5/31/2022

As the much-criticized Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) prepares to shutter on July 8, questions remain about the transition to a replacement body created in this year’s state budget. One is whether current JCOPE members will be allowed to serve on the new 11-member panel, called the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. The somewhat obscure issue is already causing a current commissioner to threaten litigation overturning the entirety of New York’s new ethics law.

New York Trump Loses Appeal, Must Testify in New York Civil Probe
MSN – Mike Sisak (Associated Press) | Published: 5/26/2022

Former President Trump must answer questions under oath in the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into his business practices, a state appeals court ruled, rejecting his argument that he be excused from testifying because his answers could be used in a parallel criminal probe. Lawyers for the Trumps agreed in March they would sit for depositions within 14 days of an appellate panel decision upholding the ruling. They could also appeal the decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, delaying the matter and the Trumps’ potential testimony indefinitely.

Ohio Federal Court Intervenes in Ohio Redistricting, Orders State to Implement Unconstitutional District
WOUB – Andy Chow (Statehouse News Bureau) | Published: 5/31/2022

A federal appeals court ordered Ohio to implement maps that were found unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court and hold a primary for those candidates on August 2. The court said unless Ohio comes up with another solution by May 28, Map 3, which was previously submitted and rejected, will be imposed. The judges said the decision was based on choosing “the best of our bad options.”

Oregon Measure to Limit Walkouts in Oregon’s Capitol Could Be on November Ballot
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 5/27/2022

When Oregon Republicans blocked climate change legislation by fleeing the state in 2019 and 2020, the state’s public sector labor unions were among the loudest critics. Now, those unions are spending big on a ballot measure that would severely limit the ability for the minority party to use that so-called nuclear option in the future. Under the proposal, a lawmaker who is marked unexcused by a chamber’s presiding officer 10 or more times in a single legislative session would be barred under the state constitution from seeking re-election.

Pennsylvania Gift Ban, Other Good-Government Changes Stall in Pa. Despite Promises from Leadership
Spotlight PA – Christina Baker | Published: 5/31/2022

The advocacy group MarchOnHarrisburg has been pushing Pennsylvania lawmakers to enact a gift ban for six years. When a bill that to do that made it out of committee in this legislative session, House Republican leaders seemed like they were finally ready to pass it. But then, nothing. A gift ban is just one of many reforms that advocates have called for the Legislature to pass. Pennsylvania has comparatively lax laws on lobbying, campaign finance, and more. But proposals have historically failed to reach either the state House or Senate floor for a vote.

Pennsylvania Pa. GOP Gubernatorial Nominee Shares Documents with Jan. 6 Panel, Agrees to Interview
Yahoo News – Betsy Woodruff Swan (Politico) | Published: 6/2/2022

The January 6 select committee received materials from Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. The submission includes documents about his work to arrange buses that carried pro-Trump protesters to Washington on January 6, 2021. But when the select committee subpoenaed Mastriano, it said he did not need to send any materials related to official actions in his current position as a state senator. Given that sizable carve-out, the majority of the materials Mastriano sent to the committee are public social media posts.

Pennsylvania Pa. GOP Senate Race Upended by Court Cases
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro and Holly Otterbein (Politico) | Published: 5/31/2022

The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the counting of some mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania, an order that could affect the tight Republican U.S. Senate primary between former hedge fund executive David McCormick and celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz. An order from Justice Samuel Alito paused a lower-court ruling in a lawsuit over a disputed 2021 local court election that would have allowed the counting of mail-in ballots that lacked a handwritten date.

Tennessee Tennessee Governor Signs Campaign Finance and Ethics Bill
MSN – Kimberly Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 5/28/2022

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that requires political nonprofits to disclose their spending ahead of an election. Senate Bill 1005 mandates that when nonprofits use a candidate’s name or image, they must disclose expenditures of more than $5,000 that take place within 60 days of an election. Even legislative leaders called for ethics reform amid an ongoing corruption investigation, so-called dark money groups have remained opposed to the changes. Many argued the law will result in them disclosing donors.

Texas Supreme Court Puts Texas Social Media Law on Hold While Legal Battle Continues
MSN – Robert Barnes and Cat Zakrzewski (Washington Post) | Published: 5/31/2022

The U.S. Supreme Court stopped a Texas law that would regulate how social media companies police content on their sites, while a legal battle continues over whether such measures violate the First Amendment. Texas and Florida are two states with such laws, which they said were necessary to combat the tech industry’s squelching of conservative viewpoints. If two of the country’s regional appeals courts split on the legality of similar laws, there is a good chance the Supreme Court will need to confront the question of whether states may bar social media companies from removing posts based on a user’s political ideology or comments.

Texas Uvalde CISD Police Chief Sworn in as City Council Member
KTXA – Staff | Published: 6/1/2022

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin announced that city council members were sworn in during a private ceremony, including Pete Arredondo, the school district police chief who has been blamed for law enforcement’s failure to engage the shooter at Robb Elementary. Arredondo was identified as the person who decided not to breach the school classroom where the shooter had holed up and instead stand back and wait for reinforcements.

Washington Group Doorbells WA Homes, Searching for Illegal Voters and Drawing Complaints
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner and Joseph O’Sullivan | Published: 5/30/2022

Across Washington state, hundreds of volunteers have been knocking on doors, questioning residents, and searching for evidence of voter fraud – or at least outdated voter rolls. It is an effort led by Glen Morgan, a conservative activist known for filing frequent campaign finance complaints against Democratic politicians, unions, and other allied groups. It is loosely connected to a national campaign by Donald Trump supporters hunting door-to-door for proof the 2020 election was fraudulent. The campaign has generated complaints from people put off by the inquiries.

Washington Washington AG Wins Sanctions Against Attorney Behind Voter Fraud Lawsuit
Reuters – Jacqueline Thomsen | Published: 6/1/2022

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his office won court sanctions against an attorney behind a post-2020 presidential election lawsuit alleging state officials were illegally registering non-citizens to vote and said he will also ask bar officials to discipline the lawyer. The state Supreme Court ordered Virginia Shogren to pay nearly $19,000 in attorneys’ fees for violating a rule against frivolous appeals. The court also directed Shogren’s client in the lawsuit, the Washington Election Integrity Coalition United, to pay about $9,500 in costs.

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