News You Can Use Digest - May 3, 2024 - State and Federal Communications

May 3, 2024  •  

News You Can Use Digest – May 3, 2024


Gateway Pundit to File for Bankruptcy Amid Election Conspiracy Lawsuits

MSN – Will Sommer (Washington Post) | Published: 4/24/2024

Gateway Pundit, the popular far-right blog, is filing for bankruptcy as it faces lawsuits alleging it promoted bogus claims about the 2020 election. Since its launch in 2004, the site has become a clearinghouse for conspiracy theories about the election, school shootings, and other topics, helping to funnel such flimsy stories from the fringes of the internet to the broader pro-Trump right thanks to its substantial audience.

Push to Restrict LGBTQ+ Rights Hits a Snag in State Legislatures

MSN – Casey Parks (Washington Post) | Published: 4/29/2024

State lawmakers introduced a record number of bills targeting gay and transgender Americans this year, but hardly any have passed, raising questions about whether the push to restrict LGBTQ++ rights is losing momentum. Similar bills sailed through state Legislatures in recent years. This year, they failed even in states where Republicans have supermajorities and governors demanded wins. Strategists on both sides say Republicans appear increasingly unwilling to stake their reelections on cultural issues. Polls have found the issues are not especially important to voters.

A Ukraine-Born Congresswoman Voted No on Aid. Her Hometown Feels Betrayed

MSN – Siobhán O’Grady, Anastacia Galouchka, and Marianna Sotomayor (Washington Post) | Published: 4/25/2024

U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz grew up in a small town north of Kyiv, and later moved to America and became the first Ukrainian-born member of Congress. But after Spartz voted against a $61 billion aid package for Ukraine, the esteem that locals held for her turned to anger and a sense of betrayal. Spartz’s “no” vote was the latest twist in her transformation from a pro-Ukraine advocate who toured war wreckage in her hometown to a critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in line with the Republican Party’s most right-wing camp.

Democrats, Political Figures Dogpile onto Trump VP Hopeful After Story of Animal Killings

MSN – Maegan Vazquez (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2024

It does not matter if you are a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative – a growing number of elected officials and political groups all suddenly want you to know that they love their dogs. The outpouring of animal love from political social media is all in response to South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who is believed to be in the running to be Donald Trump’s running mate, admitting in her forthcoming book that she killed a family dog and goat in a gravel pit with a gun on the same day.

They Staffed the Jan. 6 Committee. Threats Still Follow Them

MSN – Chris Marquette and Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 4/30/2024

Some staff members of the now-disbanded January 6 panel in Congress say their work exposed them to threats, raised doubts about their safety, and required additional safety precautions. Their experiences, recounted in interviews, serve as an example of concerns among Capitol Hill staffers about whether their work could make them a target for political violence.

Federal Elections Regulator from Texas Has Ted Cruz Campaign Sign in Front Yard

MSN – Joseph Morton (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 5/1/2024

A recent post on X shows a campaign sign for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in the yard of FEC member Trey Trainor. Cruz is the subject of a complaint filed with the agency over more than $630,000 in advertising revenue that flowed from the senator’s podcast to a super PAC backing his reelection. The public show of support for Cruz does not violate the law, but it could raise the appearance of bias by a government regulator, campaign finance lawyer Brett Kappel said.

After Weeks of College Protests, Police Responses Ramp Up

MSN – Danielle Paquette, Hannah Natanson, Joanna Slater, and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2024

Colleges and universities reckoned with the aftermath of major shows of police force across the country that cleared some protest encampments and emptied a Columbia University classroom building in a turning point following two weeks of contagious pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Even after a fragile calm resettled over campuses that have seen the bulk of the chaos, footage of officers in riot gear extracting students from Columbia’s Hamilton Hall sparked debates nationwide as Americans struggled to make sense of it all.

House Passes Antisemitism Bill Over Complaints from First Amendment Advocates

MSN – Abigail Hauslohner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2024

The House passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which its advocates said would empower the federal government to crack down on anti-Israel protests on campuses by codifying a definition of antisemitism that encompasses not just threats against Jews, but also certain criticisms of Israel itself. The definition has drawn opposition from First Amendment advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union and liberal Democrats, who say it veers into the realm of restricting political views.

How Online Donations Are Fueling the Election

Politico – Jessica Piper, Paula Friedrich, Anna Wiederkehr, and Madison Fernandez | Published: 4/30/2024

The ease of giving online has dramatically expanded the pool of donors in just a few election cycles and helped campaigns bring in greater hauls than ever before. As online donations ballooned in recent years, they became a majority of funds raised by congressional candidates. A new analysis shows how it has helped establish new dynamics in campaigning and fundraising.

States Move to Label Deepfake Political Ads

Roll Call – Gopal Ratnam | Published: 4/24/2024

At least 39 states are considering measures that would add transparency to artificial intelligence (AI)-generated deepfake ads or calls as campaigns intensify ahead of the November election. The efforts are largely focused on identifying content produced using AI as opposed to controlling that content or prohibiting its distribution, according to Megan Bellamy, vice president of law and policy at the Voting Rights Lab.

When Judges Get Free Trips to Luxury Resorts, Disclosure Is Spotty

Texas Public Radio – Tom Dreisbach and Carrie Johnson (NPR) | Published: 5/1/2024

Dozens of federal judges failed to fully disclose free luxury travel to judicial conferences around the world, as required by internal judiciary rules and federal ethics law, an NPR investigation found. As a result, the public remained in the dark about potential conflicts-of-interest for some of the country’s top legal officials. Many judges defend these events as helpful forums to discuss important issues, and they reject criticism that a stay at a fancy hotel could influence their decisions. Critics call them “junkets” and glorified vacations that reward ideological allies.

Government Watchdog Alleges Trump Campaign Broke the Law Trying to Hide Legal Payments

Yahoo News – Zach Anderson (USA Today) | Published: 4/25/2024

A complaint filed with the FEC alleges Donald Trump’s 2024 White House campaign and its related political committees engaged in a scheme to conceal who is being paid for much of the former president’s legal work in a possible violation of federal law. The complaint centers on a company called Red Curve Solutions, which allegedly received $7.2 million from Trump’s campaign and four other related political committees.

Rep. Golden Doubles Down on Campaign Finance Reform with New Legislation

Yahoo News – Emma Davis (Maine Morning Star) | Published: 5/2/2024

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden introduced six bills aimed to increase transparency and limit spending in elections. These latest proposals build on Golden’s Government Integrity and Anti-Corruption Plan, an existing package of nine bills with similar objectives that he introduced or co-sponsored during the 118th Congress, though they have yet to receive votes.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona – GOP Ethics Complaints Target 2 Arizona House Democrats for ‘Attempted Insurrection’

Arizona Republic – Mary Jo Pitzl | Published: 4/26/2024

Two House Democrats were hit with ethics complaints for behavior that Republicans characterized as “an attempted insurrection” in the aftermath of a debate about Arizona’s 1864 abortion law. The complaint names Reps. Oscar de los Santos and Analise Ortiz. They led fellow Democrats in chants of “shame, shame” after the House abruptly went into a recess rather than consider a motion to repeal the law. They also called out Rep. Matt Gress when he was answering questions about his attempt to get a repeal vote.

Arkansas – Gosses Sentenced in Bribery Scheme That Included Former Arkansas Lawmakers

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Ron Wood | Published: 4/29/2024

A Missouri couple was sentenced to federal prison in a Medicaid fraud scheme that saw five former Arkansas lawmakers convicted on bribery-related charges. Tommy Ray Goss, former chief financial officer of Preferred Family Healthcare, received six years in prison. Bontiea Goss, his wife and former chief operating officer of the same company, was sentenced to three years behind bars. They were ordered to jointly pay $4.35 million in forfeiture and restitution.

California – California Passed a Law to Stop ‘Pay to Play’ in Local Politics. After Two Years, Legislators Want to Gut It

CalMatters – Yue Stella Yu | Published: 5/1/2024

Described by its author as the “most significant political reform” in decades, a 2022 law designed to limit attempts by businesses and contractors to sway local elected officials with campaign contributions cleared the California Legislature without a single “no” vote. Two years later, some of the same lawmakers who backed the measure want to water it down, and they have the backing of developers and labor unions.

California – Legislative Non-Disclosure Agreement Bill Fails First Vote in California Committee

Courthouse News Service – Alan Riquelmy | Published: 4/25/2024

A bill in the California Legislature that would have banned non-disclosure agreements when crafting legislation, a response to the “Paneragate” scandal, failed to pass out of the Assembly Elections Committee. Assembly Bill 2654 would have prohibited certain people – including lobbyists, public officials, lawmakers, and employees of the governor’s office – from entering a non-disclosure agreement when drafting, negotiating, or discussing bills.

Florida – Florida’s ‘Pro-Corruption’ Ethics Bill Sits in Gubernatorial Limbo

Jacksonville Today – Casmira Harrison | Published: 5/1/2024

Florida lawmakers passed Senate Bill 7014, which would eliminate the ability of citizens to file anonymous ethics complaints against government officials. Local ethics regulators have said it would “reduce anti-corruption efforts and undermine the investigation process. Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to act on the bill. The governor still has time to veto the bill or put the full weight of his office behind it by signing the legislation. He could just let it quietly become law. That is what Catherine Klancke, executive director of the Florida Ethics Institute, expects.

Hawaii – Ethics Chief Robert Harris: Give legislators their due, but keep pushing for more reform

Honolulu Civil Beat – Richard Wiens | Published: 4/28/2024

Robert Harris has had a front-row seat for efforts to reform government in Hawaii as executive director of the State Ethics Commission and a member of the special House commission created in response to a series of public scandals. As another legislative session winds down, Harris gave an interview on the ongoing effort to make state and local governments more transparent.

Illinois – At Secret Meeting, Right-Wing Radio Host Dan Proft Dangled $20 Million to Darren Bailey’s Governor Run

Yahoo News – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 4/29/2024

A year and a half after Republican Darren Bailey lost his campaign to challenge Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, state election officials are weighing whether he illegally colluded with conservative radio show host and political operative Dan Proft in the 2022 campaign. If the board finds the two organizations did illegally coordinate, Proft’s organization and Bailey’s campaign could be on the hook for millions of dollars in fines. Proft has also faced criticisms and an FEC complaint over his publishing and use of a network of free “newspapers” and corresponding websites to support conservative candidates.

Indiana – ‘Wealthy Person’s Game’: Self-funders drive up the cost to win Indiana elections

MSN – Kayla Dwyer and Brittany Carloni (Indianapolis Star) | Published: 5/2/2024

This year, campaign spending has eclipsed gubernatorial primary expenditure records in Indiana by multitudes, and multiple wealthy candidates are self-funding their campaigns, both for governor and for Congress, to the tune of millions of dollars. Money has become a defining feature of this election cycle. Self-funders have risen to prominence in Indiana, a national trend that has surged dramatically in the last two decades.

Kentucky – This Oldham County Teen May Be Kentucky’s Youngest Lobbyist

Yahoo News – Krista Johnson (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 5/1/2024

High school freshman Kiera Dunk has traveled to the state Capitol in Frankfort dozens of times, and her passion for advocacy led her to write her own bill – one that increased penalties for child abuse – and get it passed at age 13. She has met with some of the state’s most powerful politicians to garner their support. Dunk has successfully advocated for the passage of two bills, and she is working on a third. “She is certainly wise beyond her years – there’s a lot of lobbyists that could learn from her,” House Speaker David Osborne said.

Kentucky – Judge Reverses Ethics Charge Against Alison Lundergan Grimes

Yahoo News – Austin Horn (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 4/29/2024

Former Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes was cleared of ethics charges against her related to her access and sharing of voter data. Judge Phillp Shepherd ruled against charges brought against Grimes by the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. The commission previously fined Grimes $10,000 and reprimanded her for ordering the downloading and distribution of voter registration data from her public office while she was secretary of state.

Louisiana – Federal Judges Strike Down La. Congressional Map with Second Black-Majority District

MSN – Maegan Vazquez and Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2024

A federal three-judge panel threw out Louisiana’s recently redrawn congressional map that included an additional majority-Black district, leaving the state without a settled map just months before the November elections. The ruling is the latest in a broader set of legal challenges to electoral maps across the South. The outcome of these suits is likely to play a crucial role in deciding which party controls the House next year.

Maryland – How Publicly Financed Campaigns Are Working in Baltimore

Baltimore Banner – Adam Willis and Emily Sullivan | Published: 4/23/2024

A new public financing system for Baltimore elections is now in effect. Under the system, publicly financed candidates commit to accepting no more than $150 from any donor, well below the $6,000 limit for traditionally financed campaigns, and no contributions from PACs, corporations, and unions. The city multiplies small-dollar contributions from Baltimore residents, with smaller donations being more heavily rewarded.

Massachusetts – Massachusetts Water Employees Pay Fines for Accepting Free Ski Trips, Red Sox Tickets, Rooftop Drinks at The Envoy Hotel

Boston Herald – Rick Sobey | Published: 4/29/2024

Four water services employees in Massachusetts paid fines for accepting free ski trips, Boston Red Sox tickets, rooftop drinks at The Envoy Hotel, and other gifts, according to the State Ethics Commission. The municipal workers in Danvers, Salem, Southampton, and Sudbury admitted to violating the state’s conflict-of-interest law multiple times by accepting valuable gifts from a water meter manufacturer and its distributor. The law bans public employees from receiving anything worth $50 or more that’s given to them because of their official positions.

Massachusetts – Cape Lawmaker Repeatedly Lied to State Regulators Investigating His 2022 Election

CommonWealth Beacon – Gintautas Dumicus | Published: 4/30/2024

Massachusetts regulators found state Rep. Christopher Flanagan violated campaign finance law and lied about it to officials. The infractions stemmed from a mailer sent out to local homes, ostensibly from a group called “Conservatives for Dennis,” in support of Flanagan, a Democrat who previously chaired the Dennis Select Board. In a letter to Flanagan, Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) Director William Campbell wrote that “OCPF’s review eventually revealed that you created an alias, ‘Jeanne Louise’, to conceal your financial role in the creation of the mailer in support of your election.”

Massachusetts – Massachusetts DA Pays Ethics Fine After Car Crash Response, Promoting Campaign Donor’s Rental Apartments to Staff

MSN – Rick Sobey (Boston Herald) | Published: 5/1/2024

Cape and Islands District Attorney Robert Galibois, who reportedly sped away from an accident scene and boosted a campaign donor’s rental apartments paid a $5,000 civil penalty for violating the state’s conflict-of-interest law. Following the crash, Galibois directed his staff to issue a statement that would promote a public narrative favorable to himself. He ended up referring two of his assistant district attorney’s to the donor for the apartments last year.

Massachusetts – DA Kevin Hayden Pays $5,000 Ethics Fine Over Controversial Primary

MSN – Molly Farrar ( | Published: 4/24/2024

Suffolk County District Attorney Kevin Hayden will pay a civil penalty of $5,000 for violating a conflict-of-interest law when his office discredited an opponent in a press statement, resulting in a political advantage, the state Ethics Commission announced. Hayden’s conflict was regarding his response to sexual assault allegations against his then-opponent for district attorney, Ricardo Arroyo.

Minnesota – DFL Sen. Nicole Mitchell Returns to Capitol After Burglary Charge, Casts Votes Amid Criticism

MSN – Ryan Faircloth (Minneapolis Star Tribune) | Published: 4/29/2024

Minnesota Sen. Nicole Mitchell returned to the statehouse and began voting for the first time since she was arrested and charged with felony first-degree burglary. Mitchell voted on motions directly related to whether she should be allowed to vote going forward. Republicans offered a motion to prohibit any member who has been charged with a crime of violence from voting on bills until the chamber’s ethics committee has weighed in on their case. They argued other Minnesotans would be put on leave from their jobs if they faced such a serious criminal charge.

Missouri – Missouri House Ethics Panel Drops Probe of Dean Plocher After Blocking Push to Release Evidence

Missouri Independent – Rudi Keller | Published: 4/29/2024

The Missouri House Ethics Committee dismissed allegations against Speaker Dean Plocher for misuse of taxpayer dollars, using his influence to push a pricey contract with a company with ties to his employer, and retaliating against staffers who raised complaints. The vote officially ended the committee’s months-long investigation into numerous scandals connected to Plocher, including revelations he received nearly $4,000 in government reimbursements for travel expenses already paid by his campaign.

New Jersey – This N.J. Agency Calls Out Political Corruption. Politicians Want More Control Over It.

MSN – Jelani Gibson and Susan Livio (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/26/2024

The Office of the State Comptroller, an independent government agency tasked with tracking government corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse in New Jersey, is facing organized pushback from county officials who are demanding state lawmakers rein in its authority and “bullying” tactics. The New Jersey Association of Counties sent a letter asking Senate President Nick Scutari to put the comptroller under more control and establish procedures that could challenge the agency’s findings.

New Jersey – Assembly Speaker’s Law Firm Has Made Millions Since He Took Power. Critics Cry Foul.

MSN – Riley Yates and Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 4/25/2024

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s law firm has seen explosive growth in the seven years since it opened its doors. Representing local governments, the firm has earned more than $38 million from public contracts since its inception, with annual revenues that now place it among New Jersey’s top law firms with public business. With the firm’s rise in revenue coinciding with Coughlin’s role as speaker, good government groups say the financial ties raise questions about whether he is profiting from his public role from municipalities seeking a friend in the speaker.

New Jersey – Elections Watchdog Asks for Daniel’s Law Tweaks, More Time to Investigate

New Jersey Monitor – Nikita Biryukov | Published: 5/1/2024

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission recommended lawmakers provide them more time to probe violations, expand reporting requirements for independent expenditure groups, and reconcile a state law that shields some addresses from disclosure with a statute requiring they be reported. The recommendations follow the enactment of the Elections Transparency Act last year.

New York – Judge’s Contempt Punishment Takes Aim at Trump’s Tendency to Lie

DNyuz – Alan Feuer, Ben Protess, Jonah Bromwich, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 4/30/2024

The judge overseeing Donald Trump’s criminal case in New York held him in contempt, fining the former president $9,000 for repeatedly violating a gag order and warning he could go to jail if he continued to attack witnesses and jurors. Judge Juan Merchan determined Trump flouted the gag order by making public statements on social media and on his campaign website in which he attacked witnesses and the jury. He ordered Trump to remove the posts. The judge’s ruling and admonition came one week after a hearing in which prosecutors had argued Trump’s statements threatened the trial.

New York – State Campaigns Are About to Rake in $100 Million of Public Funding – While Also Spending All the Private Money They Want

New York Focus – Alyssa Katz | Published: 5/1/2024

A controversial aspect of New York’s new campaign finance system is that there is no limit to how much participating campaigns can spend outside the program – so candidates can benefit from small-dollar matching and big-donor spending at once. In contrast, New York City’s public finance system imposes a strict spending cap. “You have candidates who try to exploit the campaign finance system while spending their own and independent expenditure money …, which defeats the purpose of having a democratic matching system in the first place,” said state Assemblyperson Ron Kim.

New York – Emails Reveal Top Trump Accountant Had Secret Campaign Role

Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 5/2/2024

The prosecution is calling witnesses in Donald Trump’s New York criminal trial that can attest to Trump’s personal involvement in the underlying crime the case is built on, but one witness will not be at their disposal. Trump Organization financial controller Allen Weisselberg will not testify due to a plea agreement. But Weisselberg left behind a paper trail that could potentially incriminate Trump.

Ohio – FirstEnergy Document Trove Reveals Dark Money’s Extensive Influence Over Ohio Politics. Here’s How It Works.

MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 4/28/2024

Internal FirstEnergy documents offer a candid look at how and why operatives use anonymous political giving to influence Ohio’s elected officials. “Our preferred manner of giving is through section 501(c) groups as these are considered ‘dark money’ because they are not required to disclose where the donations come from,” then-company lobbyist Michael Dowling wrote. FirstEnergy admitted to using “dark money” groups to bribe ex-House Speaker Larry Householder and others to ensure a bill’s passage.

Oregon – Tina Kotek Staffers Raised Concerns About Using Powers, Perks of Governor’s Office for Wife, Records Show

MSN – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 4/27/2024

Top staffers for Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek expressed concerns internally in recent months over the degree to which the governor and her wife, Aimee Kotek Wilson, sought to use the perks and powers of the governor’s office to benefit the first lady. In emails, the high-level aides worried about the impact that Kotek Wilson’s growing role might have on the governors’ office budget, as well as public trust, accountability, and the success of the administration.

Oregon – Portland Shelter Operator Urban Alchemy Accused of Violating City Lobbying Rules

OPB – Alex Zielinski | Published: 5/1/2024

Urban Alchemy, the nonprofit running many of Portland’s homeless shelters, violated the city’s lobbying rules two years ago, according to an audit. Urban Alchemy spent a significant amount of money and time with officials in 2022 to convince the city that the nonprofit should run Portland’s alternative shelter sites. But auditors found it failed to register and report the lobbying activity with the city.

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