News You Can Use Digest - May 10, 2024 - State and Federal Communications

May 10, 2024  •  

News You Can Use Digest – May 10, 2024


Candidates for Federal Office Can Raise Unlimited Funds for Ballot Measures

DNyuz – Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 5/5/2024

The FEC issued an advisory opinion allowing candidates to raise unlimited money for issue-advocacy groups working on ballot measures in elections in which those candidates are on the ballot. The opinion could alter the landscape in the fall in terms of the capacity that candidates aligned with these groups have to help them raise money.

Noem Dog Shooting Sparks Congressional Dog Lovers Caucus

MSN – Mia McCarthy (Politico) | Published: 5/3/2024

A bipartisan group of lawmakers launched the Congressional Dog Lovers Caucus, less than a week after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s killing of her dog disgusted Democrats and Republicans alike. “Given recent dog-related news, it’s evident that both sides of the aisle reject animal cruelty and support protecting man’s best friend,” U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz said.

Congresswoman Battling Brain Disorder Delivers House Speech Using a Text-to-Voice App

MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2024

U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton stepped to the microphone on the House floor recently to speak about one of her latest pieces of legislation, as she has done many times before during her five years in Congress. But the voice that gave the speech was not hers – it was from a text-to-voice application, an assistive device she uses to help her navigate a degenerative brain condition with which she was diagnosed last year.

Congressman: Racist trope not ‘focal point’ of video he shared of Ole Miss counterprotesters

MSN – Maegan Vazquez and Patrick Svitek (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2024

U.S. Rep. Mike Collins denounced racism and discrimination several days after he shared a video of counter-protesters at the University of Mississippi that included a shot of one participant making apelike gestures and noises in front of a Black woman. The move came after Collins shared a video of counter-protesters shouting down pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the campus while praising the actions as “Ole Miss taking care of business.”

Judge Indefinitely Delays Trump’s Classified Documents Trial in Florida

MSN – Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 5/7/2024

Donald Trump’s trial for allegedly mishandling classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them has been pushed back indefinitely, U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon ruled, increasing the chance the former president’s ongoing New York criminal trial may be the only one to happen before the November election. Cannon had originally set the trial date for late May, but that has seemed unlikely for months, with the judge still needing to make decisions on a number of key legal issues before a jury can hear the case.

Greene Booed as Republicans Turn on Her Over Bid to Oust Speaker Johnson

MSN – Paul Kane, Maegan Vazquez, Marianna Sotomayor, Mariana Alfaro, and Theodoric Meyer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/8/2024

They heckled her and shouted boos as she rose to speak, and some hissed at her – and those were the voices from the same side of the aisle as U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. She tried to oust Speaker Mike Johnson from leadership, but Republicans overwhelmingly opposed her bid. That effort proved to be the final straw for many of her GOP colleagues who have expressed a growing distaste for her antics during her three years in Congress. It even led to a rare admonishment by Donald Trump.

Rep. Henry Cuellar Accused of Taking Bribes from Azerbaijan, Mexican Bank

MSN – Perry Stein and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 5/3/2024

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar and his wife were indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges in connection with a Department of Justice probe into ties between American business leaders and the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan. The indictment accuses Cuellar and wife Imelda Cuellar of accepting nearly $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijan-controlled energy company and a bank in Mexico from 2014 to 2021, in exchange for Rep. Cuellar advancing the interests of the country and the bank in the U.S.

Major Corporations Reluctant to Make a Splash at the 2024 Political Conventions

MSN – Amanda Terkel and Brian Schwartz (CNBC), and Natasha Korecki (NBC) | Published: 5/3/2024

Some corporations may not be sponsors at this summer’s political conventions. NBC News interviewed more than 15 major corporate fundraisers and consultants with corporate clients. Many expressed concerns over a charged political climate that they worry could backfire on their brand or where an investment would not pay off. Some said they feared being tied to Donald Trump, given the litany of criminal charges against the former president. Others said the environment is too fragile, given the unrest exploding at college campuses across the country.

From the States and Municipalities

Alabama – Legislation to Change Alabama Ethics Law Dies in Committee

Yahoo News – Ralph Chapoco (Alabama Reflector) | Published: 5/8/2024

A push to change Alabama’s ethics laws for elected officials died in a Senate committee, with supporters saying they would try to bring legislation back next year. The bill was the latest attempt to address a series of changes made to the state’s ethics laws in 2010. The changes, pushed through by what were then new Republican majorities in the House and Senate, were touted at the time as the strongest ethics laws in the nation.

Alaska – Report: Internal emails at Alaska Permanent Fund show financial manager raising ethical concerns about fund’s vice chair

Yahoo Finance – Alex DeMarban (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 5/6/2024

A top financial manager with the $80 billion Alaska Permanent Fund in emails raised concerns about efforts by the fund’s vice chairperson to set up meetings between Permanent Fund staff and business associates or companies with ties to a company she owns. Marcus Frampton, the fund’s chief executive officer, asserts in the emails that Ellie Rubenstein, vice chair of the fund’s board of trustees, has conflicts that involve business associates with ties to Manna Tree Partners, her private equity firm.

Arizona – Arizona Legislature Challenges Campaign Spending Law in Appeals Court

Courthouse News Service – Joe Duhownik | Published: 5/7/2024

Legislative leaders appeared before the state Court of Appeals to challenge a voter-backed campaign finance disclosure law they say violates the Arizona Constitution. Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma, both Republicans, say Proposition 211 takes rulemaking authority away from the Legislature delegates too much authority to the Arizona Clean Elections Commission, an agency of the executive branch.

Arizona – In Arizona, Election Workers Trained with Deepfakes to Prepare for 2024

MSN – Sarah Ellison and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/8/2024

Over two days, the election workers in Arizona maneuvered through a training exercise involving the kinds of attacks generated by artificial intelligence they might face in this politically competitive state during the coming election cycle. They tackled situations that plunged them into AI-generated scenarios ranging from law enforcement operations to attempts to infiltrate technology systems.

Arizona – Dem Lawmakers Say Ethics Complaints Over Abortion Ban Repeal Outburst Should Be Thrown Out

Yahoo News – Gloria Rebecca Gomez (Arizona Mirror) | Published: 5/6/2024

The ethics complaints lodged against two Democratic lawmakers for protesting Arizona Republicans’ refusal to repeal a near-total abortion ban should be thrown out, according to the duo’s attorney. Democrats in the state House pushed for a vote to repeal the1864 law. After the GOP-majority chose instead to block that move, Democrats in the chamber erupted into shouts of “Shame!”, “Save women’s lives!” and “Blood on your hands!”, while pointing and waving at Republican lawmakers across the aisle, most of whom quickly filed out through a side door.

District of Columbia – D.C. Court Temporarily Suspends Trump Lawyer John Eastman’s Law License

MSN – Maegan Vazquez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/4/2024

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals suspended John Eastman’s law license after a similar decision in California, which did so over his role in a legal strategy to help Donald Trump stay in power after his 2020 election loss. Eastman also faces potential disbarment in the District of Columbia.; that challenge to his license is on hold during the California litigation.

Florida – Miami Mayor Subpoenaed to Testify in SEC’s Case Against Developer Who Paid Him

Yahoo Finance – Jay Weaver, Tess Riski, Sarah Blaskey, and Joey Flechas (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/6/2024

When the Securities and Exchange Commission sued developer Rishi Kapoor, accusing him of defrauding investors in his real estate projects, the lawsuit made no mention of his company’s consulting agreement with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. But Suarez was compelled under subpoena to give a sworn statement related to the Kapoor case. The Miami Herald has reported the mayor received a $10,000 monthly retainer and was also promised commissions if he helped woo investors, find real estate, and secure financing for Kapoor’s projects in Miami and elsewhere.

Georgia – Georgia Court to Hear Trump Appeal Seeking to Disqualify Fani Willis

MSN – Holly Bailey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/8/2024

A Georgia appellate court agreed to hear Donald Trump’s appeal of a state court ruling allowing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to continue prosecuting the election interference case against the former president and several allies, making it increasingly unlikely the case will go to trial before the November election. The timing of when the case might be taken up by the appellate court was unclear though it likely would not be until late summer at the earliest, with a ruling expected late this year or early next.

Georgia – Georgia Court Candidate Sues to Block Ethics Rules So He Can Keep Campaigning on Abortion

MSN – Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 5/6/2024

Former U.S. Rep. John Barrow, who is running for the Georgia Supreme Court, filed a federal lawsuit claiming a state agency is unconstitutionally trying to block him from talking about abortion. Among the rules the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission complaint alleges Barrow is violating is one that bars candidates from making commitments about how they will rule on issues that are likely to come before the court.

Georgia – With 2024 Presidential Contest Looming, Georgia Governor Signs New Election Changes into Law

Yahoo News – Jeff Amy and Sudhin Thanawala (Associated Press) | Published: 5/7/2024

Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation that makes additional changes to Georgia’s election laws ahead of the 2024 presidential contest in the battleground state, including defining probable causes for removing voters from the rolls when their eligibility is challenged. The bill lists death, evidence of voting or registering in another jurisdiction, a tax exemption indicating a primary residence elsewhere, or a nonresidential address as probable causes for removing voters from the rolls. Opponents said the changes would enable more baseless attacks on voters that would overwhelm election administrators and disenfranchise legitimate voters.

Hawaii – Lessons For Hawaii: Other states have strong pay-to-play laws

Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 5/5/2024

Hawaii banned contractors from donating to campaigns in 2005, but media analysis found that a loophole applying that ban only to corporate entities and not officers or family members has allowed more than $24 million from people tied to contractors to flow to local campaign coffers. Recent attempts by the Legislature to close that loophole have failed, although some lawmakers and watchdog groups say they plan to examine new “pay-to-play” proposals in light of the findings.

Hawaii – Campaign Spending Commission Fines Kaniela Ing Another $18,000

Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 5/8/2024

The Campaign Spending Commission fined former Hawaii Rep. Kaniela Ing $18,000 for failing to make records available to the commission and falsifying nearly two dozen campaign finance reports during his time as a state representative from 2012 to 2018. Ing was previously fined and has since paid $20,000 for campaign spending violations in 2018 over misfiled reports. These new charges stem from additional violations that commission staff say they found in Ing’s revised reports.

Louisiana – Judges Say They’ll Draw New Louisiana Election Map If Lawmakers Don’t by June 3

Yahoo News – Kevin McGill (Associated Press) | Published: 5/7/2024

A panel of federal judges who recently threw out a congressional election map giving Louisiana a second mostly Black district said the Legislature must pass a new map by June 3 or face having the panel impose one on the state. But voting rights advocates and Attorney General Liz Murrill said they would take an appeal in defense of the new map to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Maryland – Former Baltimore Mayoral Candidate Thiru Vignarajah Must Return Unspent Public Funds

MSN – Emily Opilo and Hannah Gaskill (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 5/8/2024

Baltimore mayoral candidate Thiru Vignarajah will need to return his campaign funds that were unspent at the time of his withdrawal from the race. Vignarajah, who qualified for the funds by raising small-dollar contributions from hundreds of donors, received $668,881 in public money. Questions remain however about whether the four-time candidate for public office should return all of the public money he received, not just the unspent funds.

Massachusetts – MassGOP Blasts Wu’s Holiday Party Spending: ‘Blatant disregard for public finance rules’

MSN – Gayla Cawley (Boston Herald) | Published: 5/8/2024

The Massachusetts Republican Party is calling for an investigation into Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s “clear-cut violation” of public finance rules in mixing campaign funds and City Hall resources for a private holiday party. The GOP also said campaign finance regulations prohibit elected officials from leveraging public resources for campaign endeavors, which, it asserts, the holiday party became when the mayor opted to dip into her $1.4 million campaign account.

Massachusetts – AI, Deepfakes and Political Campaigns: Mass. lawmakers look to set some rules

MSN – Kinga Borondy (Worcester Telegram & Gazette) | Published: 5/7/2024

Concern over the possible use of computer-generated images and sound recordings that could confuse and alienate voters prompted Massachusetts lawmakers to consider a bill that would require any artificial intelligence (AI)-generated campaign material to carry a warning label. The bill would ban the use of synthetic media in the 90 days preceding an election without disclosing that the material had been manipulated or generated by AI.

Massachusetts – Potential Conflicts of Interest Widespread at Mass. Special Ed Schools

WBUR – Patrick Madden | Published: 5/6/2024

Among the schools that Massachusetts approves to teach students with special needs, there are widespread potential conflicts-of-interest, from family hires to deals with board members. Of the 76 organizations, a media investigation found nearly three-quarters awarded contracts and jobs to relatives of school leaders or board members from 2019 to 2023. In some cases, the leaders or board members landed their own deals.

Minnesota – Ethics Panel Says Sen. Gruenhagen Should Be Instructed on How to Send Emails to Colleagues

MSN – Rochelle Olson (Minneapolis Star Tribune) | Published: 5/8/2024

State Sen. Glenn Gruenhagen should receive instruction by Republican leaders on how to appropriately email his colleagues, an ethics subcommittee said. Sen. Erin Maye Quade filed a complaint over a Gruenhagen email linking to a video of male to female gender-affirming surgery, saying it made her uncomfortable and violated Senate norms. In a lengthy hearing, Gruenhagen said he was trying to educate his colleagues about an upcoming bill.

Minnesota – Senate Ethics Panel Deadlocks on Mitchell Complaint; Next Meeting Will Follow June Court Date

MSN – Alex Derosier (St. Paul Pioneer Press) | Published: 5/7/2024

Minnesota Sen. Nicole Mitchell did not answer any questions about her felony burglary charge from a Senate ethics panel with her attorney decrying the investigation as a “witch hunt.” Mitchell allegedly broke into her stepmother’s home in April. Her attorney said the criminal case should be resolved before lawmakers investigate ethics violations. Senate Republicans have been calling for Mitchell’s resignation following her arrest and filed an ethics complaint citing the felony charges.

Missouri – In This Missouri County, Republicans Go to ‘War’ Over Who Can Run as a Republican

Yahoo News – Eric Adler (Kansas City Star) | Published: 5/6/2024

No one blinks when Republicans and Democrats go to battle with each other. But eyebrows and tempers rise when the fight turns inward. That is what is happening now in rural Vernon County, Missouri, where the county’s Republican Committee is headed to court against the county clerk, a Republican, over who determines who runs for office and call themselves a Republican.

Missouri – County Official Who Put Stadium Tax on Ballot Sought Suite Tickets as Talks Were in Play

Yahoo News – Mike Hendricks (Kansas City Star) | Published: 5/6/2024

As the Kansas City Royals and Jackson County began formal negotiations for taxpayer support of a $1 billion ballpark last June, the chairperson of the county Legislature asked a top team executive for a personal favor. “Hi Adam,” legislator DaRon McGee’s email began to Adam Sachs, the team’s the chief legal counsel and point man on the stadium issue. “Is it possible (to) get 4 suite tickets for Saturday’s game?”

New Hampshire – In New Hampshire Governor’s Race, Some Finance Reports Are Clearer Than Others

New Hampshire Bulletin – Ethan DeWitt | Published: 5/8/2024

New Hampshire’s online campaign finance system was designed to provide the public a clear window into who is donating to campaigns and how candidates are spending that money. The process is meant to save candidates time and effort as well, sparing them the possibility that their paper submissions are out of compliance because of small technicalities. But the system is voluntary, and most have opted to use the paper filing option. To some observers, the lack of rules around legibility incentivizes campaigns to make their filings as difficult to read as possible.

New Mexico – With City Ethics Review Underway, Critics Try to Unmask ‘Jay Baker’

Yahoo News – Carina Julig (Santa Fe New Mexican) | Published: 4/27/2024

Jay Baker is Santa Fe’s pseudonymous critic who posts on Facebook under a Guy Fawkes mask avatar. He is disliked by many, who argue Baker is a bully who slings baseless accusations against city officials and anyone else he dislikes. City Councilor Pilar Faulkner accused Baker of buying digital ads during the 2023 municipal election that lied about her and could have damaged her professional reputation as a lobbyist. Those ads are at the center of a complaint she filed with the Ethics and Campaign Review Board, which most recently met to discuss a potential investigation into Baker’s identity.

New York – Assembly’s Free Day Care for Lawmakers Reopens Quietly on Concourse

Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 5/8/2024

A taxpayer-funded day care center operated by the New York Assembly majority office that provides free childcare services to a select group of Democratic lawmakers has reopened. The Albany Times Union had reported the Assembly majority’s office was operating an unlicensed day care center in the Legislative Office Building. The new facility is now licensed by the state as a “small day care center.” Attorney David Grandeau said providing taxpayer-funded childcare to a select group of lawmakers could run afoul of Public Officers Law, especially because it is being provided in a state-owned building that is staffed by Assembly employees.

New York – This Obscure N.Y. Election Law Is at the Heart of Trump’s Hush Money Trial

MSN – David Nakamura (Washington Post) | Published: 5/6/2024

An obscure New York state election law that has rarely been prosecuted over five decades has been elevated to a prominent role in Donald Trump’s criminal trial over allegedly falsifying documents related to a hush money payment during the 2016 election campaign. The law makes it a misdemeanor for two or more people to “conspire to promote or prevent the election of any person to a public office by unlawful means.” Trump is not being charged under that statute, which apparently has been used only a few times in cases related to state or local elections, though it is a key factor in his case.

North Carolina – NC Election Directors Grapple with Pay, Politics and More Pressure Than Ever

Yahoo News – Kyle Ingram (Raleigh News and Observer) | Published: 5/8/2024

Across North Carolina, 100 people are responsible for making sure every registered voter in their county has a chance to cast their ballot in every election. The position of county election director is one that has drastically increased in complexity over the years as voting, list maintenance, and campaign finance processes become highly technical endeavors subject to frequent legislative change. Since 2019, there have been 60 changes in county election directors, mostly due to retirements or resignations. For about 30 directors, 2024 will be the first time they have ever served in the position during a presidential election.

North Dakota – Jury Finds Rep. Dockter Guilty of Misdemeanor Conflict-of-Interest Charge

North Dakota Monitor – Mary Steurer | Published: 5/3/2024

A jury found a state lawmaker guilty of violating an obscure conflict-of-interest law. At issue in the case was Rep. Jason Dockter’s involvement in the lease of a Bismarck building to the attorney general’s office and the North Dakota Department of Health and his subsequent votes on agency budgets. The building deal originally came together during Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s tenure. The representative was friends with Stenehjem, and previously served as his campaign treasurer.

Oregon – Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek Apologizes, Walks Back Plan to Expand her Wife’s Role in Administration

OPB – Dirk VanderHart and Lauren Drake | Published: 5/1/2024

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek is backing off of plans to expand her wife’s role in the administration and apologizing for her handling of the subject, as mounting public scrutiny on First Lady Aimee Kotek Wilson becomes an increasing threat to the governor’s policy agenda. The governor appeared to close the door on an effort public records show she has quietly pursued for months: creating a formal office for her spouse.

Pennsylvania – Pa. Game Commission Director Resigns Amid Ethics Concerns About His ‘Wellness’ Side Business

MSN – Gillian McGoldrick (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 5/4/2024

The executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission resigned following ethics concerns about a “wellness” side business the agency admitted he had been working on with other commission employees. Even before the questions about Bryan Burhans’ side business emerged, the commission had already been under scrutiny in recent years.

Pennsylvania – Group That Doesn’t Disclose Its Donors Paid $12K for Shapiro to Attend Phillies Games, Other Sporting Events

Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso and Angela Couloumbis | Published: 5/3/2024

Gov. Josh Shapiro reported receiving $12,194.62 from Team PA on his new statement of financial interest. The nonprofit bills itself as a public-private partnership to bolster Pennsylvania’s economic development. A gubernatorial spokesperson said Team PA paid for Shapiro to attend six sporting events. The money for those tickets came from a fund that Team PA manages called Pennsylvania Growth Partnership. It is not publicly known which individuals, groups, or businesses have donated to the growth partnership fund.

Pennsylvania – Gov. Josh Shapiro Uses Pennsylvania’s State Plane Much More Than His Predecessor

Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso | Published: 5/6/2024

Public records show the heavy use that Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration has made of the state-owned plane as he has barnstormed Pennsylvania. The aircraft has sometimes touched down in as many as seven airfields around the commonwealth in a single day. As many as two-thirds of the costs of those flights were accrued directly by the governor’s office, a dramatic increase in plane travel compared to Shapiro’s predecessor. But the administration has argued the plane connects people with their government officials.

Rhode Island – Campaign Finance Offender Lost Seven Bids for Office but Wins Mercy from Elections Panel

Yahoo News – Nancy Lavin (Rhode Island Current) | Published: 5/7/2024

A perennial candidate for state and local office will be the first offender of state campaign finance requirements to have his fines reduced. The Rhode Island Board of Elections voted to slash financial penalties owed by former candidate Daniel Grzych by nearly 90 percent. He previously owed more than $71,000 in fines for submitting late reports required during his time as a candidate. Now, Grzych owes just $6,600. The board’s decision marks the first time using a new regulation giving the elections panel more leeway to reduce fines for offenders.

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