News You Can Use Digest - May 24, 2024 - State and Federal Communications

May 24, 2024  •  

News You Can Use Digest – May 24, 2024


With Debate Deal, Trump and Biden Sideline a Storied Campaign Institution

DNyuz – Adam Nagourney (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2024

The agreement by President Biden and Donald Trump to move ahead with two presidential debates, and sideline the Commission on Presidential Debates, is a debilitating and potentially fatal blow to an institution that had once been a major arbiter in presidential politics. But the roots of the commission’s decline go back at least a decade and came to a head in 2020, when the commission struggled to stage a debate with Trump and Biden during the pandemic.

Senate Democrats Open Inquiry into Trump’s $1 Billion Request of Oil Industry

DNyuz – Lisa Friedman (New York Times) | Published: 5/23/2024

Senate Democrats opened an investigation into Donald Trump’s recent meeting with oil and gas executives to determine whether Trump offered a “policies-for-money transaction” when he asked for $1 billion for his 2024 campaign so he could retake the White House and delete President Biden’s climate regulations. Trump told about 20 oil and gas executives they would save far more than $1 billion in avoided taxes and legal fees after he repealed environmental regulations, according to several people who were present.

Peter Thiel-Funded Super PAC That Backed JD Vance Didn’t Break the Law, FEC Rules

MSN – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 5/23/2024

The FEC dismissed a complaint that accused U.S. Sen. JD Vance’s campaign and a super PAC funded primarily by billionaire Peter Thiel of violating federal election laws. The complaint focused on the existence of an obscure website set up by the super PAC. That site contained troves of materials seemingly intended for use by Vance’s campaign and other potential supporters, including polling data, B-roll camera footage, opposition research, and other strategy documents. The complaint argued those materials were essentially an illegal contribution to Vance, given that his campaign could presumably access the materials.

Fat Leonard Bribery Cases Fall Apart Because of Prosecution Blunders

MSN – Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) | Published: 5/20/2024

Numerous Navy officers were charged with taking payoffs from Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor known as Fat Leonard. But a pattern of prosecutorial misconduct in the probe has caused several cases to unravel so far and is threatening to undermine more. The cases collapsed after defense attorneys alleged prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in San Diego elide on flawed evidence and withheld information favorable to the defense during the 2022 bribery trial of five officers.

On the Week Trump’s Fla. Trial Was Scheduled to Start, Uncertainty and a Pretrial Hearing

MSN – David Ovalle and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/22/2024

Donald Trump’s classified-documents trial was supposed to begin with jury selection this week. It is the case that Trump’s attorneys have been the most worried about, with prosecutors offering evidence a former president who is running to hold the office again took sensitive government documents from the White House and obstructed officials’ attempts to retrieve them. But U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon indefinitely postponed the trial. Instead of Trump sitting at the defense table for the first week of trial, Cannon held two hearings on long-shot requests from a Trump co-defendant to dismiss the case.

Paul Pelosi’s Attacker Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison

MSN – Azi Paybarah (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2024

David DePape, the man whose embrace of right-wing conspiracy theories led him to break into Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and bludgeon her 82-year-old husband, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Federal prosecutors had asked for a 40-year term, arguing the attack constituted an act of terrorism. A jury convicted DePape on federal charges of trying to kidnap the then-House speaker and assaulting Paul Pelosi because of his wife’s work in Congress.

FEC Rejects Proposal to Weaken Disclosure Laws but Agrees to Further Rulemaking

Open Secrets – Jimmy Cloutier | Published: 5/16/2024

The FEC declined to advance a temporary measure that would have made it easier for political donors to hide identifying information from the American public, but commissioners agreed to move forward in creating new rules to standardize how disclosure exemption requests are evaluated and approved. The FEC has granted exemptions when an organization or individual donor can demonstrate a “reasonable probability” the public disclosure of personal information will subject them to threats and harassment.

Another Provocative Flag Was Flown at Another Alito Home

Seattle Times – Jodi Kantor, Aric Toler, and Julie Tate (New York Times) | Published: 5/22/2024

A second flag of a type carried by rioters during the attack on the U.S. Capitol was displayed outside a house owned by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. An “Appeal to Heaven” flag was flown outside Alito’s vacation home last summer. An inverted American flag, another symbol carried by rioters, was seen at Alito’s Virginia home less than two weeks after the violence at the Capitol. The revelations prompted concerns from legal scholars and ethicists, and calls from Democratic lawmakers that Alito recuse himself from cases related to January 6.

Congress Aims to Overhaul Presidential Ethics Rules with a Plan Led by an Unlikely Pair of Lawmakers

Yahoo News – Farnoush Amiri (Associated Press) | Published: 5/22/2024

Bipartisan legislation in the House would require presidents and vice presidents to publicly disclose tax returns before, during, and after their time in the White House as Congress makes an election-year push to curb foreign influence in American politics. Democrats introduced rival legislation that would enforce the Constitution’s ban on emoluments, which prohibits a president from accepting foreign gifts and money without the permission of Congress.

Republican Chair Investigating Chamber of Commerce in Seismic K Street Shift

Yahoo News – Taylor Giorno (The Hill) | Published: 5/16/2024

A decade ago, a Republican committee chairperson investigating Washington’s biggest business advocacy organization would have been unthinkable. But times have changed. House Ways and Means Committee Chair Jason Smith demanded the U.S. Chamber of Commerce answer questions about the more than $12 million its foundation received from the Tides Foundation, a left-leaning nonprofit, between 2018 and 2022.

‘We’ll See You at Your House:’ How fear and menace are transforming politics

Yahoo News – Eileen Sullivan, Danny Hakim, and Ken Bensinger (New York Times) | Published: 5/19/2024

A steady undercurrent of violence and physical risk has become a new normal in American public life. From City Hall to Congress, public officials increasingly describe threats and harassment as a routine part of their jobs. Often masked by online anonymity and propelled by extreme political views, the barrage of menace has changed how officials do their work, terrified their families, and driven some from public life altogether. By almost all measures, the evidence of the trend is striking.

In the Aging Senate, 80-Somethings Seeking Re-Election Draw Little Criticism

Yahoo News – Kayla Guo (New York Times) | Published: 5/17/2024

While President Biden tries to assuage voter concerns about his age in a presidential race that includes the two oldest men ever to seek the White House, a couple of miles away in the U.S. Senate, the gerontocracy remains alive and well – and little commented upon. The recent news that two octogenarians – Sens. Bernie Sanders, 82, and Angus King, 80 – are each running for another six-year term generated little in the way of criticism or worry over age of the kind that Biden has faced.

From the States and Municipalities

Canada – Conservative Candidate Didn’t Register on Time as Travel Nurse Lobbyist

Yahoo News – Jacques Poitras | Published: 5/23/2024

A lobbyist and federal Conservative election candidate did not promptly report his lobbying for a company supplying travel nurses to New Brunswick’s struggling health care system. New Brunswick’s Lobbyists’ Registration Act requires a lobbyist to submit a return to the provincial integrity commissioner “within 15 days after commencing performance of an undertaking on behalf of a client.” But Brian Macdonald, who represented Canadian Health Labs in 2023, did not register as a lobbyist for the company until this year, after it made national headlines.

Arizona – Arizona Weighs When Lawyers’ Long-Shot Election Challenges Cross the Line

Arizona Mirror – Jen Fifield (Votebeat) | Published: 5/21/2024

At a state bar association event on election law, Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes said lawyers need to do a better job of upholding their professional standards. Election lawyers are filing too many frivolous cases “just because the plaintiffs are mad at their political opponents,” Fontes said, adding that they are endangering public faith in democracy. The rise in sanctions and disciplinary scrutiny is prompting debate about exactly when lawyers who bring election challenges are crossing the line, and whether professional standards of conduct have shifted.

Arizona – Rudy Giuliani and Other Trump Allies Plead Not Guilty in Arizona

MSN – Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2024

Eleven Republicans who allegedly tried to deliver Arizona’s presidential electoral votes to Donald Trump after his 2020 defeat pleaded not guilty to the same nine criminal counts, which include conspiracy, fraud, and forgery. Arizona is one of four states where Republicans have been charged in the formation of an alternate slate of presidential electors falsely claiming Trump won the 2020 presidential election.

California – LA City Council Expansion, Once Hailed as Much Needed Reform, Is Dead for Now

MSN – Frank Stoltze (LAist) | Published: 5/20/2024

For years, advocates for a more democratic Los Angeles have called for expanding the size of the city council beyond the current 15 members. The idea gained momentum in 2022 after the release of secretly recorded audio that came to be known as the City Hall tapes scandal. Many proponents of council expansion hoped it would be placed on the November ballot, while the fervor for reform remained strong. That is not going to happen.

Colorado – Wolf Advocates Charged with Illegal Lobbying at State Capitol

Denver Gazette – Marianne Goodland (Colorado Politics) | Published: 5/16/2024

Complaints filed in Colorado claim Stephen Capra and his organization, Bold Visions Conservation, lobbied state legislators on behalf of a paying client without registering or disclosing the client’s identity as required by law.  The Elections Division of the Secretary of State’s office determined Capra lobbied on behalf of Bold Visions Conservation, which pays him for his services, and should have registered as a professional lobbyist.

Connecticut – CT Supreme Court Finds Public Financing Law Restricts Free Speech

Connecticut Mirror – Mark Pazniokas | Published: 5/20/2024

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled state elections officials violated the free speech rights of two Republicans running for the state Legislature when it fined them for criticizing the Democratic governor in ads paid for by their publicly funded campaigns in 2014. At issue was whether criticism of former Gov. Dannel Malloy’s fiscal policies by former Sen. Joe Markley and then-Rep. Rob Sampson in campaign materials was intended to further their own candidacies or improperly use their public grants to undermine the governor or help his challenger, Tom Foley.

Hawaii – Not Guilty: Ex-Honolulu prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, businessman Dennis Mitsunaga and others walk in bribery case

Honolulu Civil Beat – Chrstina Jendra | Published: 5/17/2024

A jury found longtime Honolulu prosecuting attorney Keith Kaneshiro did not conspire with Dennis Mitsunaga, the former chief executive of a prominent engineering firm, and several company employees to arrange for the prosecution of Laurel Mau, a former Mitsunaga employee. Prosecutors said Mitsunaga’s company sought to use the criminal justice system to exact revenge on Mau for suing her former employer, and Kaneshiro benefitted from some $50,000 in campaign donations.

Hawaii – Hawaii Ethics Commission Grapples with Pay-to-Play Issues

Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 5/15/2024

The Hawaii Ethics Commission is trying to figure out how to wrangle two groups of people who are proving particularly challenging: high-level state employees who are politically active and legislators who have outside jobs with companies that have government business. Those were some of the issues raised in a recent media investigation that examined loopholes in Hawaii’s campaign spending laws.

Louisiana – Mayor Cantrell Takes French Quarter Resident Who Photographed Her to Court Over Stalking Claim – John Simerman and Missy Wilkinson | Published: 5/21/2024

Anne Breaud photographed Mayor LaToya Cantrell sharing a meal with her bodyguard, New Orleans Police Department Officer Jeffrey Vappie, on the balcony of restaurant. That moment has since placed Breaud in the mayo”s crosshairs, the subject of a temporary restraining order filed by Cantrell that alleged Breaud had been stalking her. Breaud sent her photos of Cantrell and Vappie to the Metropolitan Crime Commission, which filed a complaint raising new questions about Vappie’s conduct with the mayor:

Montana – Montana Commissioner Opens Complaints Against AG Candidates

Yahoo News – Darrell Ehrlick (Daily Montanan) | Published: 5/16/2024

The Montana Commissioner of Political Practices accepted two complaints that center on the Republican primary race for attorney general, including one involving current state Attorney General Austin Knudsen. The Daily Montanan that an audio recording appeared to capture Knudsen calling Montana’s campaign finance laws “ridiculous” and saying he asked a friend to run against him in the partisan primary as a way to raise more money.

New Hampshire – Democratic Operative Indicted Over Biden AI Robocalls in New Hampshire

MSN – Maegan Vazquez, Meryl Kornfield, and Hayden Godfrey (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2024

Steve Kramer, a Democratic operative who admitted to commissioning an artificial intelligence-generated robocall of President Biden that instructed New Hampshire voters to not vote early this year, is now facing criminal charges and federal fines. New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella announced Kramer had been indicted on charges of felony voter impression and misdemeanor impersonation of a candidate. The Federal Communications Commission said it would propose fining Kramer $6 million for violating the Truth in Caller ID Act.

New Jersey – Campaign Finance Watchdog Taps Top Lawyer to Helm Agency

New Jersey Monitor – Nikita Biryukov | Published: 5/21/2024

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) appointed Amanda Haines, its acting legal director, to head the campaign finance watchdog months after the retirement of its longtime executive director. Haines, who joined ELEC in 2005 as assistant legal counsel, will be the first woman to head the commission in its 51-year history.

New Jersey – Jersey City Ed Board Approves Ethics Charges Against Member Over Pro-Palestinian Slogan. Will State End Controversy?

Newark Star Ledger – Joshua Rosario (Jersey Journal) | Published: 5/15/2024

The Jersey City school board approved ethics charges against one of its members over a controversial pro-Palestinian slogan, and now it is asking the state to decide whether it is antisemitic hate speech or a peaceful rallying cry. While dozens of speakers during the public portion of the meeting were split on the meaning and intent of “From the rivers to the sea, Palestine will be free,” most of the board agreed Trustee Younass Barkouch should not have shouted the inflammatory phrase at a school board meeting in April.

New Mexico – Disclosure Rules Unclear for Commissioners Set to Decide on O&G Wastewater Rules

Source New Mexico – Danielle Prokop | Published: 5/23/2024

Changes for rules concerning New Mexico’s oil and gas wastewater are under consideration, but questions about how the people responsible for adopting those rules, specifically their personal business dealings, have taken the debate into murky waters. Environmental groups said failures to add financial disclosures and declare alleged conflicts-of-interest threaten a potential decision about a contentious proposal to expand uses for oil and gas wastewater.

New York – BOE Mails Paper Checks to State Legislative Candidates, Delaying Matching Funds

City & State New York – Rebecca Lewis | Published: 5/21/2024

The New York State Public Campaign Finance Board approved the first round of matching funds during a meeting on May 7, with an issuance date of May 13. But many candidates were left waiting for days, in some cases nearly a week, to receive their public money. Several of those candidates were surprised to learn the reason for that delay. They were expecting direct deposit but wound up receiving a paper check in the mail for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

New York – City Hall Aide Is Cooperating with Corruption Investigation into Adams

DNyuz – William Rashbaum, Dana Rubenstein, and Michael Rothfeld (New York Times) | Published: 5/20/2024

An aide to New York Mayor Eric Adams who served as his longtime liaison to the Turkish community has turned against him and is cooperating with the corruption investigation into Adams and his 2021 campaign. The cooperation of Rana Abbasova could represent a significant development in the broad corruption inquiry, which has focused in part on whether Adams’ campaign conspired with the Turkish government to funnel illegal foreign donations into campaign coffers, and whether Adams pressured Fire Department officials to sign off on a new high-rise Turkish consulate despite safety concerns.

New York – NYC Mayor Adams’ Involvement in Brother’s Charity Group Event Sparks Concerns Over Backdoor Donors

MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt (New York Daily News) | Published: 5/22/2024

New York City Mayor Eric Adams appeared at a fundraiser for a new charity that aims to provide cultural programs for disadvantaged children. Angels Helpers NYC is the brainchild of the mayor’s brother, Bernard Adams, who is being paid $10,000 annually for his work, covered by private donations to the group. Bernard Adams’ involvement in the charity, along with the mayor’s participation in the gala, raised concern among watchdogs that wealthy players in the city will see giving to Angels Helpers as a legal backdoor for currying favor with the mayor.

New York – More Adams Administration Officials in Talks to Join Ex-Chief of Staff Frank Carone’s Lobbying Firm

New York Daily News – Chris Sommerfeldt | Published: 5/17/2024

Two more senior officials in New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration are in talks to join former chief of staff Frank Carone’s lobbying firm. If the officials come on board, Carone’s firm, which is actively lobbying both city and state government officials, will be employing five Adams administration alums.

North Carolina – GOP Candidate for NC Governor Blasts Public Spending as His Family Nonprofit Rakes in Taxpayer Funds

MSN – Brian Slodysko and Bill Barrow (Associated Press) | Published: 5/22/2024

In his bid to become North Carolina’s first Black governor, Republican Mark Robinson assails government safety net spending as a “plantation of welfare and victimhood” that has mired generations of Black people in “dependency” and poverty. But the lieutenant governor’s [political rise would not have been possible without it. Over the past decade, Robinson’s household has relied on income from Balanced Nutrition, a nonprofit founded by his wife that administered a free lunch program for children. The organization, funded entirely by taxpayers, has paid out at least $830,000 in salaries to Robinson and other members of his family.

Ohio – Ohio Lawmakers Won’t Pass Biden Ballot Fix, House Speaker Says

MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 5/21/2024

If President Biden is going to make it on the ballot in Ohio, it will not be because of the Republican-controlled state Legislature, according to House Speaker Jason Stephens. He said the push to fix the state law that is posing a barrier for the Democratic president has stalled out. “It’s a hyper political environment at this at this time of year and there are some Republicans who just didn’t want to vote on it. … I think there are other alternatives to it, so why create a stir that’s not necessary,” said Stephens.

Oregon – Republican Fundraisers Ran Afoul of Oregon Liquor Rules, Investigation Finds

MSN – Noelle Crombie (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/21/2024

The Columbia County Republican Central Committee violated state liquor regulations when it auctioned bottles of high-end bourbon, including Pappy Van Winkle, during fundraisers in 2022 and 2023, a state investigation found. The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission inquiry followed a media report that determined the rural political group’s Bourbon in the Barn events appeared to skirt state rules.

Oregon – Why the First Lady’s Involvement with a Big Pharmaceutical Company Is Noteworthy

Willamette Week – Nigel Jaquiss | Published: 5/22/2024

Oregon first lady Aimee Kotek Wilson arranged a meeting for representatives of Johnson & Johnson with Ebony Clarke, the state’s director of behavioral health. The Oregon Health Plan paid nearly $1.4 billion for prescription drugs last year. Gov. Tina Kotek’s staff has a rigorous process for vetting access to the governor and her top advisers. Emails show that when a request for a meeting or even a phone call comes in, there is a detailed evaluation process and often a formal memo. For the first lady, however, there was no such process.

Pennsylvania – Can Republicans Embrace Voting by Mail? Pennsylvania Offers a Test

DNyuz – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 5/21/2024

Republican Party leaders in Pennsylvania have pledged to spend millions of dollars this year to promote voting by mail despite claiming for years, without evidence, that mailed votes are riddled with fraud. The national party is also pressing a pro-mail publicity campaign called “Bank Your Vote,” apparently after concluding that staking its candidates’ fates on a hefty Election Day turnout was not an optimal strategy.

Pennsylvania – Pa.’s Judges Must Reveal the Perks They Accept, but the Public Won’t Find Those Disclosures Online

Yahoo News – Angela Couloumbis (Spotlight PA) | Published: 5/20/2204

Every year, thousands of officials in state government must fill out reports by May 1 that disclose their sources of income, creditors, and business interests, as well as any gifts, hospitality, or other perks they accepted. Those reports are then made publicly searchable and available online. Pennsylvania’s judges, however, play by somewhat different rules.

South Carolina – Supreme Court Allows Disputed South Carolina Voting Map

MSN – Patrick Marley and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2024

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the use of a South Carolina congressional map that a lower court said “exiled” thousands of Black voters to carve out a district safer for a White Republican incumbent. At issue for the court was whether South Carolina’s new map, which was created by the GOP-led Legislature and moved Black voters from one district to another, was permitted to bolster the Republican majority or was an unconstitutional effort to divvy up voters by race. The conservative majority sent the case back to the lower court, giving Republicans a victory by finding it erred when it determined race predominated the map-drawing process.

Tennessee – Concerns Over Free Speech Grow as Abortion Travel Ban Heads to Tennessee Governor’s Desk

MSN – Angele Latham (Nashville Tennessean) | Published: 5/16/2024

Some free speech advocates are raising the alarm over wording in a new Tennessee bill that could potentially restrict a person’s right to speak about abortion health care. The law, passed by state lawmakers this year, makes it a felony to recruit or transport a minor for an illegal abortion without parental consent. It closely mirrors a recent law passed in Idaho, which a federal judge halted on First Amendment grounds.

Washington – Prominent Seattle Lobbying Firm Exits Bankruptcy, Cuts CEO’s Pay

Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 5/20/2024

A major Seattle lobbying and public affairs firm wrapped up its bankruptcy with a reorganization that will pay off debtors, including $6 million owed to its estranged former co-founder. Strategies 360 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November, a move prompted by a rancorous financial dispute between Chief Executive Officer Ron Dotzauer and his ex-business partner Eric Sorenson.

Washington – Tanya Woo Should Recuse from Minimum Wage Vote, Ethics Head Says

Seattle Times – David Kroman | Published: 5/20/2024

When the Seattle City Council votes on a new, lower pay standard for app-based delivery drivers, Councilperson Tanya Woo should recuse herself, said Wayne Barnett, director of the Ethics and Elections Commission The reason is that Woo’s father-in-law owns Kau Kau BBQ and uses delivery apps, giving Woo’s family a possible financial stake in the vote. “For me, that’s just too close,” Barnett said.

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