News You Can Use Digest - March 29, 2024 - State and Federal Communications

March 29, 2024  •  

News You Can Use Digest – March 29, 2024


Trump’s Legal Fees Are Sky High. An Elaborate PAC Scheme Is Helping Pay Them – for Now

MSN – Erin Mansfield and Zac Anderson (USA Today) | Published: 3/24/2024

A pro-Donald Trump super PAC has been transferring millions of dollars every month to the former president’s fund for paying his legal bills. The transfers have kept the fund, Save America, afloat as it bled tens of millions of dollars on legal bills since a New York grand jury indicted Trump, the first in a wave of criminal indictments and civil judgments against him. Save America is a type of fund called a leadership PAC that can only accept $5,000 per election cycle from each donor but has few restrictions on how it spends money. It is being funded by Make America Great Again Inc., a super PAC that can raise unlimited amounts of money.

Rep. Mike Gallagher to Resign in April, Narrowing House GOP Vote Margin to 1

MSN – Patrick Svitek and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 3/22/2024

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher announced he will resign effective April 19, leaving the slim House GOP majority with a one-vote margin that will make it even harder to pass legislation. Under Wisconsin law, Gallagher’s seat is likely to remain vacant until January, with the November general election to determine who wins his seat. The realities of the thin majority were on full display as the House passed a $1.2 trillion spending bill by a narrow margin.

Trump Media Merger Wins Investor Approval, Netting Trump a Potential Windfall

MSN – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 3/22/2024

Shareholders voted to take Donald Trump’s media company public, a long-delayed move that will open the owner of Truth Social to stock-market investors and grant Trump a stake worth billions of dollars that he could use to pay down his legal debts. Some critics have said Trump Media is a “meme stock” with a more than $5 billion valuation they say is out of sync with its financial outlook. Trump Media lost $49 million in the first nine months of last year and brought in $3.4 million in revenue.

Federal Officials Say 20 Have Been Charged for Threatening Election Workers

MSN – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2024

Justice Department officials said reports of widespread threats against officials running the 2020 and 2022 elections have resulted in charges against roughly 20 people, with more than a half dozen receiving sentences between one and three-and-one-half years. But the federal officials said at a news conference that it remains to be seen if the stiff sentences will serve as an effective deterrent to would-be-criminals in future election cycles.

NBC Reverses Decision to Hire Ronna McDaniel After On-Air Backlash

MSN – Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2024

Amid a chorus of on-air protest from some of the network’s biggest stars, NBC announced that former Republican National Committee Chairperson Ronna McDaniel will no longer be joining the network as a paid contributor. The network had announced four days earlier they were bringing McDaniel on board to provide “expert insight and analysis” on politics. But the company’s on-air personalities disagreed vehemently, saying McDaniel’s promotion of Donald Trump’s false election-fraud claims disqualified her from a role in their news divisions.

No Labels, No Candidate: Rejections pile up as time runs short

Seattle Times – Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Reid Epstein (New York Times) | Published: 3/22/2024

No Labels, the group that for months has pledged to run a centrist presidential ticket in the event of a rematch between President Biden and Donald Trump, is running out of time to recruit a standard-bearer after a string of rejections. With a number of prominent prospective candidates saying no thanks in recent months, some No Labels members and leaders have grown frustrated with the failure to advance a ticket. Still, the group’s leadership continues to hold out hope for November, even as the possibility of outright defeating both Biden and Trump seems increasingly remote.

Threats Against Politicians Are Prevalent. The FEC Wants to Let Campaigns Pay for Security.

Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 3/27/2024

The FEC wants to allow candidates to use campaign funds for a wide range of security measures, an expansion of what campaign accounts can be used for amid a heated political environment. The proposed changes would allow federal candidates to use their campaign funds to pay for things like as security personnel, cameras or motion detectors at their homes, and cybersecurity services – so long as these purchases “address ongoing dangers or threats” arising from their status as federal candidates or officials and they pay a fair market value.

How Justice Thomas’s ‘Nearly Adopted Daughter’ Became His Law Clerk

Yahoo News – Steve Eder and Abbie VanSickle (New York Times) | Published: 3/28/2024

One of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s law clerks for the court’s next term will be Crystal Clanton, a conservative organizer turned lawyer, who has such a close relationship with Thomas and his wife that the couple informally refer to her as their “nearly adopted daughter.” For Thomas’s critics, the selection of Clanton is blatant favoritism, if not nepotism, particularly for a justice already under an ethics cloud for revelations about his gifts and travel from wealthy benefactors.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona – Deepfake Kari Lake Video Shows Coming Chaos of AI in Elections

MSN – Reis Thebault (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2024

Journalist Hank Stephenson has made a living out of detecting lies and political spin. But even he was fooled at first when he watched the video of one of his home state’s most prominent congressional candidates. Kari Lake, the Republican U.S. Senate hopeful from Arizona, was on his phone screen, speaking words written by a software engineer. Stephenson was watching a deepfake, an artificial-intelligence-generated video produced by his news organization, Arizona Agenda, to underscore the dangers of AI misinformation in an election year.

California – L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price Accused of 21 Violations of City Ethics Laws

MSN – James Queally, David Zahniser, and Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 3/27/2024

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission has privately accused city Councilperson Curren Price of voting on matters in which his wife had a financial interest. The commission accuses Price of 21 violations of the city’s ethics laws, many of them similar to those filed by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón against Price last year. In the criminal case, Price is accused of voting to support projects for developers that had done business with a consulting company founded by his wife. The allegations from the commission mostly involve violations of conflict-of-interest laws or the council member’s failure to fully disclose economic interests.

California – Judge Recommends Conservative Lawyer John Eastman Be Disbarred in California

MSN – Maegan Vazquez (Washington Post) | Published: 3/27/2024

A California judge recommended that John Eastman be disbarred in the state over his role in developing a legal strategy to help Donald Trump stay in power after his 2020 election loss. State Bar Court of California Judge Yvette Roland ordering that Eastman’s law license be put on “involuntary inactive” status. The California Supreme Court will issue a final ruling on the matter, which Eastman can appeal.

Colorado – Colorado Appeals Court Upholds Campaign Finance Fine for Ex-State Senate Candidate

Colorado Politics – Michael Karlik | Published: 3/26/2024

Colorado’s second-highest court agreed that a former state Senate candidate misinterpreted campaign finance law and failed to file the proper paperwork upon declaring her candidacy. Although Suzanne Taheri believed she had satisfied Colorado’s campaign finance requirements by submitting a copy of her federal tax return shortly after she became a candidate, an administrative law judge concluded that was not the correct form of disclosure.

District of Columbia – Former DOJ Official Jeffrey Clark Could Face Disbarment for Aiding Trump

MSN – Keith Alexander (Washington Post) | Published: 3/26/2024

Jeffrey Clark, a former senior Justice Department official who sought to use the agency’s influence to help reverse Donald Trump’s 2020 election defeat, violated legal ethics and should be sanctioned professionally, even prohibited from practicing law in the nation’s capital, an attorney for the District of Columbia Bar told a disciplinary panel. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel alleged Clark engaged in dishonest conduct when he drafted a letter he wanted the Justice Department to send to Georgia officials, demanding the state Legislature call a special session to examine votes in the presidential election.

Florida – DeSantis Tourism Board, Disney Reach Settlement to End Legal Feud

MSN – Lori Rozsa and Aaron Gregg (Washington Post) | Published: 3/27/2024

The board appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to oversee Disney’s former special taxing district agreed to a settlement with the company, capping a legal feud over who should control development at the theme park complex. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, made up of DeSantis appointees, agreed to drop its lawsuit against the company in exchange for Disney relinquishing some control over its property.

Florida – Florida Donors with State Business Fueled End of DeSantis Presidential Run

MSN – Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey, and Hannah Knowles (Washington Post) | Published: 3/27/2024

The biggest donors in Republican politics largely shunned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis after his presidential campaign began to falter last summer. So, his allies turned to donors the governor still held sway over because of his day job. Lobbyist friends and fundraisers of DeSantis called Florida clients asking them to contribute to the super PACs paying for television ads and field operations and many of those people gave. The pitch, according to one person who received a call, was DeSantis was likely to remain a powerful governor in the state.

Florida – In Public, Suarez Says He’s Not Ken Griffin’s Attorney. Under Oath, He Said Differently

MSN – Sarah Blaskey and Alexandra Glorioso (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/21/2024

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has said he has no conflict-of-interest when it comes to his public support for billionaire Ken Griffin, a major client of the law firm where Suarez is employed. But in an interview conducted under oath in December, Suarez contradicted previous public statements and said he is one of Griffin’s attorneys, a potential violation of ethics laws prohibiting elected officials from working for anyone who has business before their government.

Florida – Centners Downplay Ties to Arrested Miami Commissioner, Say They ‘Sprinkle Money Around’

MSN – Tess Riski, Joey Flechas, and Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 3/24/2024

A wealthy couple at the center of the state’s money laundering and bribery case against a former Miami city commissioner told prosecutors they did not know the mechanics of how $245,000 from their business’s account ended up in the commissioner’s political committee coffers, according to audio recordings of interviews. David and Leila Centner, the operators of the private school Centner Academy, told prosecutors that as a “very high net-worth family,” they “sprinkle money around” and often approve large transactions without knowing the details.

Georgia – Georgia Election Official Seeking New Term Voted on Cases Involving His Lobbyist Clients

Just the News – Natalia Mittelstadt | Published: 3/22/2024

State Election Board member Edward Lindsey is up for reconfirmation before the Georgia House amid new revelations he has voted on cases involving counties for which he is a lobbyist. Lindsey is a lobbyist for both Cobb County and DeKalb County. He is also a registered lobbyist for Dentons, a global law and lobbying firm that has contracted with both Cobb County and DeKalb County. The elections board has had multiple complaints regarding both county’s elections during Lindsey’s tenure, which he has been involved in and voted on.

Kansas – In the Kansas House, When Lobbyists Ask for New Laws, Their Names Go on the Bills

Yahoo News – John Hanna (Associated Press) | Published: 3/26/2024

The Kansas House is making it a little easier for the state’s residents to find out who is lobbying its members. Besides a number and official sponsor, each bill now lists who asked for it, be it a lawmaker at someone else’s request or an individual lobbyist for a specific client. The change started in January. While at least a handful of states require lobbyists to list specific bills of interest to them in reports open for public inspection, the Council of State Governments knows of no other state legislative chamber that is listing lobbyists and groups on its bills.

Louisiana – How to Elect a Louisiana Sheriff: Runoff, recount, reversal, repeat

MSN – Molly Hennessy-Fiske (Washington Post) | Published: 3/24/2024

When Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator announced last summer that he would step down after more than four decades in law enforcement, residents braced for a divisive campaign. Yet few could have predicted they would have to go to the polls three times in six months to pick a successor, elections fraught with racial tensions and legal wrangling over voting rights that mirror national struggles.

Montana – Montana Supreme Court Strikes Down Voting Restrictions

MSN – Patrick Svitek (Washington Post) | Published: 3/27/2024

The Montana Supreme Court struck down four laws the state’s Republican-led Legislature passed in 2021 to restrict voting. The laws ended same-day voter registration in most cases, eliminated student ID cards as a permitted form of voter identification, and sought to curtail paid ballot-collection efforts. They also outlawed absentee ballots for people who would be 18 years old by Election Day.

New Jersey – Tammy Murphy Drops Out of U.S. Senate Race in Stunning Announcement

MSN – Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 3/24/2024

New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy abruptly announced she has dropped her bid for U.S. Senate, a stunning development in what had increasingly become a bitter and dramatic Democratic primary for the state’s seat currently held by indicted Sen. Robert Menendez. Murphy was aiming to become the first woman ever to represent New Jersey in the upper chamber of Congress. Now, she leaves the race four months after entering it and two months before the June 4 primary.

New Jersey – In New Jersey, Some See Old-School Politics Giving Way to ‘Spring’ Amid Corruption Scandal

Yahoo News – Mike Catalini (Associated Press) | Published: 3/25/2024

New Jersey has the reputation as a home to backroom political dealing. But advocates hoping to break the boss-dominated culture in this Democratic stronghold say the ongoing corruption case against U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez might have opened the door to a new era in Garden State politics. Many progressives were cheered when Tammy Murphy withdrew from the Senate primary, since they viewed her as someone who was benefiting from a system they argue gives party leaders undue influence. The well-connected wife of Gov. Phil Murphy dropped her bid to succeed Menendez.

New York – Trump Wins Partial Stay of Fraud Judgment, Allowed to Post $175 Million

MSN – Mark Berman, Jonathan O’Connell, and Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 3/25/2024

An appeals court panel in New York said Donald Trump would be allowed to post a $175 million bond to stave off enforcement of a nearly $500 million civil judgment against him and his business. While the five judges on the panel eased the financial strain on Trump, they did not erase it entirely. They gave Trump 10 days to come up with the reduced bond of $175 million, saying they would only delay enforcement of the full amount if he put up that lower figure within this window and it is not immediately clear how he will come up with the money.

New York – NY Judge Issues Gag Order on Trump in Hush Money Trial, Blasting His ‘Threatening, Inflammatory, Denigrating’ Statements

MSN – Kara Scannell, Lauren del Valle and Jeremy Herb (CNN) | Published: 3/27/2024

A New York judge imposed a gag order on Donald Trump, limiting the former president from making statements about potential witnesses in the criminal trial relating to hush money payments scheduled to begin in April. Judge Juan Merchan said Trump cannot make statements about attorneys, court staff, or the family members of prosecutors or lawyers intended to interfere with the case. Trump is also barred from making statements about any potential or actual juror.

New York – N.Y. Judge Sets Firm April 15 Trial Date in Trump’s Historic Hush Money Case

MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 3/25/2024

Donald Trump will begin his first criminal trial on April 15, a judge ruled, at the end of a contentious hearing in which he repeatedly slammed the former president’s legal team for claims of prosecutorial misconduct the judge said were unfounded. New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan rejected Trump’s assertion that the Manhattan district attorney’s office acted improperly with regard to newly available evidence. He also insisted the trial over reimbursement of an alleged hush money payment was back on track after a delay.

New York – Adams Adviser Frank Carone Pulls Lobbying Registration as His Firm Reveals City, State Targets

New York Daily News – Chris Sommerfeldt | Published: 3/21/2024

Frank Carone, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ ex-chief of staff, rescinded his lobbying registration earlier recently – a move that coincided with his consulting firm revealing its other employees have lobbied officials in the administrations of both Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul. In amended filings, Oaktree Solutions removed Carone’s name from the list of employees lobbying on behalf of the firm’s 18 clients. Asked why his name was scrubbed, Carone said he only registered to undergo lobbying training.

Ohio – Imprisoned Ex-Ohio Speaker Householder Hit with New Charges Alleging Misuse of Campaign Funds

MSN – Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/25/2024

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder is once again facing charges in the ever expanding state and federal bribery cases surrounding the passage of legislation in 2019. The newest charges go beyond Householder’s acceptance of a bribe from FirstEnergy that landed him in federal prison for 20 years. They allege he unlawfully used campaign funds to pay his criminal defense fees in the federal case and lied on state ethics forms that require candidates and office holders to disclose their earnings, assets, and liabilities.

Ohio – Ex-FirstEnergy Lobbyist Charged in Bribery Scheme Gets to Spend Easter at His Beach House, After All

MSN – Corey Shaffer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/25/2024

A former FirstEnergy lobbyist charged in connection with the largest bribery scandal in Ohio’s history will get to spend the Easter holiday at his vacation home in an upscale South Carolina beach community. Summit County Common Pleas Court Judge Susan Baker Ross placed several conditions on Dowling, including giving the court a detailed itinerary of his weeklong trip, contact information for everyone who will be staying with him, and outfitting his phone with a GPS tracker in addition to the ankle monitor he is already wearing.

Ohio – Cuyahoga County Grand Jury Foreperson Lobbied Publicly for House Bill 6. Why Was He Allowed to Hear Case Against Larry Householder?

MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 3/27/2024

A politically connected labor leader served as the foreperson for a grand jury that returned a new criminal indictment against former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a development experts said raises questions about the impartiality of the process and that could pose future legal issues for Attorney General Dave Yost’s case. Legal experts said Dave Wondolowski’s role on the grand jury could raise problems because of his familiarity with Householder. Wondolowski was involved with issues surrounding House Bill 6, which is at the center of federal corruption charges against Householder and that spawned the new state case.

Oregon – Oregon Secretary of State Says It Needs More Money, Employees to Overhaul Outdated Campaign Finance Filing System

MSN – Carlos Fuentes (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 3/21/2024

Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade says her office needs more money and employees if it is to overhaul its outdated campaign finance filing system to adhere to new campaign finance rules lawmakers approved recently. Lawmakers did not allocate any money to implement the new limits and change the current filing system, which is nearly 20 years old, so Griffin-Valade plans to request at least $4.1 million from the Legislature’s Emergency Board.

Oregon – Portland Elections Office Finds Zenith Energy Violated City Lobbying Rules

Portland Mercury – Taylor Griggs | Published: 3/26/2024

Zenith Energy attempted to influence officials by communicating directly with city directors and commissioners to gain approval of a controversial land use document that allows the company to continue doing business in Portland, according to an investigation by City Auditor Simone Rede’s office. Rede said Zenith violated the law requiring organizations that spend more than eight hours or $1,000 lobbying city officials in any quarter to register and report the activity.

Pennsylvania – Philly Ethics Board Looks to Tighten Rules After Jeff Brown Super PAC Scuffle

Billy Penn – Meir Rinde | Published: 3/22/2024

After losing a court battle over alleged campaign finance improprieties during last year’s mayoral election, the Philadelphia Board of Ethics is moving to tighten its restrictions on spending by super PACs. The board is also asking a judge to throw out a lawsuit filed against the city by Jeff Brown, the supermarket magnate and former mayoral candidate, and a dark money super PAC that spent heavily to support his run. The revisions would make it clear that someone who plans to run for office cannot get around the limits by delaying the announcement of their candidacy, as Brown did.

Pennsylvania – Upgrades to PA Governor’s Mansion Bankrolled by Private Group That Won’t Disclose Donors, Full Cost

Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 3/25/2024

The remodeling of the official residence of Pennsylvania’s governor will focus on bringing in new pieces of furniture, art, and other items to the public areas of the historic mansion. Beyond that, little is known about the scale, scope, or even the price tag for the redesign. Despite the involvement of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s aides in the project, no one will say who is managing it, raising money for it, or exactly who is paying for the bill.

Rhode Island – Former Top RI Official Ordered to Pay $5,000 Fine Over Infamous Philly Trip. What to Know.

MSN – Katherine Gregg and Patrick Anderson (Providence Journal) | Published: 3/26/2024

Former state official David Patten agreed to pay a $5,000 fine for his actions on a now-infamous trip to Philadelphia to visit a company seeking to redevelop Providence’s Cranston Street Armory. The Rhode Island Ethics Commission also voted to find probable cause that Gov. Daniel McKee’s former administration director, James Thorsen, violated the law by accepting a free lunch during that trip. This is the first time the commission has brought a case under the state procurement law since being granted authority to do so by the General Assembly.

South Dakota – South Dakota Ethanol Lobbying Entered a ‘Borderline,’ ‘Gray’ Area, Critics Say

Yahoo News – Dominik Dausch (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 3/27/2024

When a bill that would open the door to Summit Carbon Solutions’ pipeline in South Dakota was about to head to the state House for debate, major ethanol companies came out in force to support the legislation. Busloads of people with ties to ethanol companies showed up at the Capitol’s doorstep. A media investigation found these companies reimbursed and, in one case, paid, employees and board members to lobby legislators in the days leading up to the vote on the bill. The state’s broadly written lobbyist laws lack clarity about compensating lobbyists.

Texas – Texas AG Ken Paxton Reaches Deal to End Securities Fraud Charges After 9 Years

MSN – Juan Lozano (Associated Press) | Published: 3/26/2024

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton agreed to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution under a deal to end criminal securities fraud charges that have shadowed him for nearly a decade. The announcement came just weeks before Paxton was set to stand trial on felony charges that could have led to a prison sentence. It was the closest Paxton has ever come to trial over accusations he duped investors in a technology startup near Dallas.

Wisconsin – Prosecutors in 3 Wisconsin Counties Decline to Pursue Charges Against Trump Committee, Lawmaker

MSN – Scott Bauer (Associated Press) | Published: 3/22/2024

Prosecutors in three Wisconsin counties declined to pursue felony charges of campaign finance violations against Donald Trump’s fundraising committee and a state lawmaker related to an effort to unseat Assembly Speaker Robin Vos. The prosecutors cited conflicts-of-interest, in some cases because they too are actively involved in their local Republican parties. The state Ethics Commission referred the charges to counties adjacent to the three that declined to prosecute. Ultimately, Attorney General Josh Kaul, could be asked to prosecute the cases.

Wisconsin – Robin Vos Slams Shadow Lobbying Effort on Electric Grid Construction Bill

MSN – Jessie Opien (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) | Published: 3/21/2024

The intense lobbying efforts behind a bill that would have changed regulations for transmission line construction exposed problems with Wisconsin’s ethics laws, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said. ” … For an entity to be able to donate to an outside group and have them do their lobbying for them, all unreportable, seems to me to be a … huge loophole in [the] law that we need to fix,” Vos said. The speaker named the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity as a “prime” example of the issue, despite generally being politically aligned with the organization.

Wisconsin – Former Milwaukee Election Official Convicted of Absentee Ballot Fraud

MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 3/20/2024

A jury convicted a former Milwaukee election official of absentee ballot fraud and misconduct in office in an unusual case that pitted a self-proclaimed whistleblower against election conspiracy theorists. Kimberly Zapata served as deputy elections director in 2022, when baseless claims about elections circulated among Republicans, including in the state Legislature. Zapata has said the focus by some lawmakers on meritless issues frustrated her and she wanted to alert them to what she viewed as a true vulnerability in Wisconsin’s voting system.

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