News You Can Use Digest - May 31, 2024 - State and Federal Communications

May 31, 2024  •  

News You Can Use Digest – May 31, 2024


Former FTX Executive Ryan Salame Sentenced to 7.5 Years for Election Donor Scheme with Sam Bankman-Fried

Courthouse News Service – Josh Russell | Published: 5/28/2024

A federal judge sentenced former FTX executive Ryan Salame to 90 months in prison for his role in straw donor conspiracy with convicted cryptocurrency mogul Sam Bankman-Fried that flooded both Democrat and Republican campaigns with tens of millions of dollars in illegal contributions. As part of his plea deal, Salame agreed to pay a $6 million penalty and more than $5 million in restitution, in addition to forfeiting his Porsche 911 Turbo and two properties in Massachusetts.

The Washington Post Said It Had the Alito Flag Story 3 Years Ago and Chose Not to Publish

MSN – David Bauder (Associated Press) | Published: 5/28/2024

Nine days after the New York Times reported about the political symbolism of an upside-down American flag that flew at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s home, the Washington Post acknowledged it had the same story more than three years ago and decided not to publish it. The Post’s story was both an example of journalistic introspection and an illustration of how coverage of the Supreme Court has changed since the incident itself, shortly after the Capitol insurrection.

Voter Outreach Groups Targeted by New Laws in Several GOP-Led States Are Struggling to Do Their Work

MSN – Ayanna Alexander (Associated Press) | Published: 5/28/2024

Florida is one of several states where Republicans enacted voting restrictions that created or enhanced criminal penalties and fines for those who assist voters. The laws have forced some voter outreach groups to cease operations, while others have greatly altered or reduced their activities. Cecile Scoon, co-president of the League of Women Voters in Florida, said the law stripped the personal connection between its workers and communities. Digital tools are not easy to use when registering voters and can be expensive, she said.

RFK Jr. Files Complaint Over Potential Exclusion from Debate Stage

MSN – Amy Wang and Meryl Kornfield (Washington Post) | Published: 5/29/2024

The presidential campaign of independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed a complaint with the FEC about Kennedy’s potential exclusion from a planned June 27 debate on CNN between President Biden and Donald Trump. Kennedy’s campaign alleges Biden, Trump, and CNN “colluded” to leave Kennedy off the debate stage. The complaint also alleges CNN’s decision to hold the debate could be tantamount to the network making “prohibited corporate contributions” to Biden and Trump’s campaigns.

Supreme Court Revives NRA’s Lawsuit Alleging That New York Violated Its First Amendment Rights

MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 5/30/2024

The National Rifle Association (NRA) scored a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices unanimously ruled that appeals judges were too quick to dismiss the NRA’s claims that New York officials violated its First Amendment rights by targeting its insurance business. The decision reinstated a lawsuit the NRA filed against New York state’s top financial services regulator, Maria Vullo, after she announced a plan to pressure banks and insurance companies to stop doing business with the organization.

Trump Electors in Key States Want to Serve Again, Despite Criminal Charges

MSN – Amy Gardner and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2024

Republican activists in at least three states where Donald Trump tried to reverse his defeat in 2020 – nearly all of them under criminal indictment for casting electoral votes for him despite his loss – are poised to reprise their roles as presidential electors this year. Their eagerness to serve, and encouragement to do so from their parties, reflects a widespread belief among Republicans the electors did nothing wrong in 2020, raising the question of what they might do or say if Trump once again loses any of those states.

Judge Rejects Request to Restrict Trump’s Speech on FBI, Says Motion Was Faulty

MSN – Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2024

U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon denied a request from federal prosecutors that she order Donald Trump to stop making incendiary claims about law enforcement personnel, saying the government should have more thoroughly consulted with Trump’s attorneys before coming to her. The judge, who is overseeing Trump’s classified documents criminal case in Florida, strongly rebuked special counsel Jack Smith, who submitted his motion after the former president and his political campaign issued statements that said, “Biden’s DOJ was authorized to shoot me!”

DNC Prepares to Nominate Biden Via ‘Virtual Roll Call’ Before Convention

MSN – Patrick Svitek (Washington Post) | Published: 5/28/2024

President Biden will be chosen as the Democratic presidential nominee through a virtual roll call ahead of the party’s official convention in Chicago in August, a maneuver that will allow Biden to appear on the November ballot in Ohio. The in-person roll call of states, culminating with the official nomination of a presidential candidate, is typically a focal point of political conventions. The convention is still expected to feature the roll call, but the formal nomination of Biden will be during the virtual proceedings.

A.I. Promised to Upend the 2024 Campaign. It Hasn’t Yet.

Yahoo News – Shane Goldmacher, Tiffany Hsu, and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) | Published: 5/23/2024

The era of artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived on the campaign trail. But the much anticipated, and feared, technology remains confined to the margins of American campaigns. With less than six months until the 2024 election, the political uses of AI are more theoretical than transformational, both as a constructive communications tool or to spread dangerous disinformation.

Experts Question Alito’s Failure to Recuse Himself in Flag Controversy

Yahoo News – Adam Liptak (New York Times) | Published: 5/30/2024

In a letter to Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said he was not only permitted but also obligated to sit on two cases arising from the attack on the Capitol despite controversies over flags displayed outside his houses associated with the “Stop the Steal” movement. Experts in legal ethics said they welcomed Alito’s decision to explain himself. But they were not persuaded by the reasoning in the letters, which said the flags had been flown by his wife and so did not require him to step aside in the pending cases.

From the States and Municipalities

California – More Independence, Sharper Teeth: Elliott’s ethics plan would overhaul how campaign, lobbying rules are enforced

MSN – Jeff McDonald (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 5/27/2024

The San Diego Ethics Commission has been constrained by some of the very rules and practices that were written into its governing documents in 2001. If the plan by City Attorney Mara Elliott wins approval from the city council, voters will decide this year whether to give the commission sharper teeth in overseeing hundreds of public officials, campaigns, and the donors and lobbyists who seek to influence them.

California – More Orange County Cities Overhaul Campaign Finance Rules

Voice of OC – Hosam Ellatar | Published: 5/29/2024

A couple of Orange County cities are increasing limits on how much a person can donate to campaigns ahead of the November 2024 election. Officials in one of the smallest cities in the county, Stanton, moved in the opposite direction, directing staff to look at reducing the campaign contribution limit. The changes come after a corruption scandal broke out in Anaheim, where investigators last year accused Disneyland resort interests of having outsized influence over City Hall.

Colorado – Jenna Ellis, Trump Lawyer Who Pleaded Guilty in Georgia Case, Is Barred from Practicing Law in Colorado for Three Years

Colorado Sun – Jessed Paul | Published: 5/28/2024

Jenna Ellis, the former lawyer for Donald Trump who pleaded guilty last year in Georgia to a felony charge for trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in that state, is barred from practicing law for three years in Colorado. She will have to file a petition to reinstate her law license at the end of the suspension. Ellis was sentenced to five years’ probation and ordered to perform 100 hours of community service in the Georgia case.

District of Columbia – Lobbying Is the Lifeblood of DC’s Anemic Office Market

WTOP – Jeff Clabaugh | Published: 5/20/2024

The District of Columbia’s office market is struggling with record vacancy rates, but there is one tenant it can always count on: government affairs. The demand for office space from those tenants is growing. “We just looked at the big three – that’s the lobbyists for hire, the corporate government affairs groups, and associations,” said Tammy Shoham, research director at commercial real estate firm JLL. “And of those three groups, there are over 1,500 entities here in D.C.”

Florida – Disney Starts Giving to Florida Politicians Again, Sen. Thompson Says

MSN – Steven Lemongello (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 5/24/2024

Disney’s Princess Tiana appears on the invitations to state Sen. Geraldine Thompson’s June fundraiser, and with that image comes the return of a major player in Florida politics. The Walt Disney Co. provided theme park tickets, Thompson said, in what is known as an in-kind contribution It could be the first contribution to a Florida politician in more than two years from the company, once one of the biggest donors to Democrats and Republicans alike.

Hawaii – Mitsunaga Secretary Acquitted for Bribery Could Still Face State Campaign Violations

Honolulu Civil Beat – Christina Jedra | Published: 5/23/2024

For a decade, Terri Ann Otani made tens of thousands of dollars in donations to candidates in the names of her family members, according to her relatives. During her recent trial, prosecutors showed the jury how Otani purchased cashier’s checks with the memo line filled out with her relatives’ names and submitted them to campaigns. Otani was acquitted of charges that some of those donations amounted to bribery, but the information could expose her to new criminal and civil liability. The Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission is now investigating the matter.

Hawaii – Conflict of Interest? Some Hawaii Lawmakers Work for or Even Own Companies That Get State Contracts

Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 5/27/2024

An examination of current state legislators’ business interests found at least a dozen sitting Hawaii lawmakers are paid by or own entities that have won more than $56 million in government contracts since 2006. The findings have prompted the State Ethics Commission to begin exploring proposals that could rein in lawmakers pulling double duty. The idea of a “citizen Legislature” can cause tension between a lawmakers’ private business interests and their duties as a public servant.

Illinois – Lawmakers OK Bill to Require ‘Faithful’ Electors in 2024, Loosen Campaign Finance Rules

Capitol News Illinois – Andrew Adams | Published: 5/30/2024

As the 2024 presidential election approaches, Illinois appears likely to join most of the rest of the country in requiring that the state’s Electoral College votes go to the winner of the state’s popular election. It is part of a broad package of election-related legislation which includes a provision loosening restrictions on what political parties can do with campaign funds.

Illinois – Judge Temporarily Blocks Hastily Passed Election Law That Favored Democrats in November

Yahoo News – Rick Pearson (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/23/2024

A judge issued a temporary injunction blocking a law passed by Democrats that would have prevented Republicans from slating candidates for legislative races not filled in the March primary. Previously, local committees for the political parties could fill legislative ballot spots in which their party did not field a primary candidate after the primary election. The slated candidate was still required to obtain candidacy petition signatures to appear on the general election ballot.

Iowa – Auditor: Ethics board made ‘no attempt’ to collect fines and can’t force payment

Iowa Capital Dispatch – Clark Kaufman | Published: 5/24/2024

The state auditor’s office faulted the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board for having made no attempt to collect penalties imposed on politicians and their campaigns. The notice sent to violators did not include information on how to pay the penalty and it did not include language requesting payment within a certain time frame. Once the initial notice was sent, the auditor found, there were “no attempts made to follow-up on the unpaid penalties.”

Iowa – Iowa Ethics Board Fines Candidate Melissa Vine, Former Campaign Manager for Illegal Contributions

Yahoo News – Robin Opsahl (Iowa Capital Dispatch) | Published: 5/23/2024

Democratic congressional candidate Melissa Vine and her former campaign manager Lou McDonald were each fined $500 by the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board after an investigation found the two made contributions to a state PAC in other people’s names. Federal law may have been violated by using congressional campaign money to make donations on behalf of individuals to a PAC.

Louisiana – Lawmakers Give Landry Control Over Ethics Board Amid Dispute Over Discipline

Louisiana Illuminator – Julie O’Donoghue | Published: 5/28/2024

Louisiana lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to give Gov. Jeff Landry control over the state Board of Ethics, just a few months after its members charged him with violating the ethics law. Landry could gain the ability to appoint ethics board members directly on August 1 under legislation that looks likely to pass in the next few days. The bill must return to the Senate for at least one more vote before going to Landry’s desk.

Maryland – Marilyn Mosby Sentenced to 1 Year Home Detention for Perjury, Mortgage Fraud

MSN – Jasmine Hilton and Katie Mettler (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2024

A federal judge sentenced Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore’s former top prosecutor convicted of perjury and mortgage fraud, to 12 months of home detention followed by two years of supervised release after a highly publicized criminal prosecution that spurred tensions over race, politics, and justice. Mosby was convicted of lying to withdraw money from her retirement account under a program built to help those struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. Prosecutors said she used that money to purchase two vacation properties in Florida.

Massachusetts – Massachusetts DPW Director Pays $17,000 Fine for Accepting Free Ski Trips, Other Gifts

Boston Herald – Rick Sobey | Published: 5/28/2024

Yet another Bay State municipal worker has paid a big fine for accepting free ski trips and other gifts from a water meter manufacturer and its distributor. Danvers Department of Public Works Director David Lane paid a $17,000 civil penalty for violating the state’s conflict-of-interest law. Lane admitted to accepting free ski trips, a golf outing, and a steakhouse dinner from a water meter manufacturer and its distributor.

Nevada – Who’s Funding Negative Campaign Mail? Legal Loophole Helps Some Groups Avoid Disclosure

Nevada Independent – Riley Snyder and Tabitha Mueller | Published: 5/29/2024

Thanks to a 2017 change in how often candidates and PACs are required to report their contributions and expenditures in Nevada, political operators now have a two-month window during which to set up PACs and spend money on the state’s June primary election without having to report how much they are raising or who is funding them until July 15. An analysis found at least 20 new PACs and political nonprofits were registered between April 1 and May 15.

New Mexico – State Ethics Commission Sues Apodacas Dark Money Operation

Yahoo News – Marjorie Childress (New Mexico In Depth) | Published: 5/26/2024

The New Mexico Ethics Commission filed a lawsuit against a dark money political group and its founder, former gubernatorial candidate Jeff Apodaca, to force the disclosure of the organization’s expenditures and donors. The New Mexico Project registered as a domestic nonprofit corporation and has spent thousands of dollars on political advertising. But the group has not identified its donors.

New York – Lobbying Loophole Bill Pushed Again, This Time Without LaSalle Lookback

Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 5/28/2024

More than 15 months after an historic fight over the selection of the chief judge for New York’s highest court revealed a loophole in the state’s lobbying laws, a second attempt by lawmakers to address that issue is being waged in the final days of the legislative session. The late push comes after a key change to the language intended to address a concern Gov. Kathy Hochul noted in her veto message. It would no longer require lobbying disclosure for nominations since 2023 and only apply to those moving forward.

New York – New York State’s Matching Funds Program Debuts. What Does It Mean for This Year’s Election

City Limits – Mary Cunningham | Published: 5/28/2024

New York’s Public Campaign Finance program allows candidates running for state office to qualify for matching funds for contributions between five dollars to $250 made by in-district donors. This year’s elections is the first time candidates for the Assembly and Senate will be able to take part. During the next election cycle in 2026, those running for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and state comptroller will also be able take advantage of matching funds if they qualify and choose to opt in.

Oregon – Will Oregon Department of Justice Ever Open a Criminal Investigation of Democrats’ 2022 Misreported Donation?

Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 5/30/2024

The Oregon Department of Justice crossed the one-year mark on its review of whether to open a criminal probe into the state Democratic Party for misreporting the donor who gave the party $500,000 in the final weeks of the 2022 election. The party admitted the money was from Nishad Singh, an executive at the disgraced cryptocurrency exchange FTX. Under Oregon law, it is a felony to make or accept a campaign contribution under a “false name.”

South Carolina – 76 Ethics Allegations Say Ex-Clerk of Court Becky Hill Abused Post for Own Gain

Yahoo News – John Monk (The State) | Published: 5/29/2024

The South Carolina Ethics Commission found probable cause in 76 different incidents to believe that former Colleton County Clerk of Court Becky Hill repeatedly misused her position to enrich herself and promote a book she wrote on the Alex Murdaugh murder trial. A complaint says Hill also directed hundreds if not thousands of dollars to go for things like “candy, tea and lemonade” for office parties such as “Lori’s 50th Birthday.” Other public money went for dog food and picnic tables.

Virginia – Some Legislative Aides in Virginia Do Double Duty as Campaign Staff

Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 5/29/2024

In Congress, elected representatives are supposed to keep their taxpayer-funded offices mostly separate from their campaigns. In the Virginia General Assembly, rules walling off legislative offices from campaign activity are less clear. In one of Virginia’s congressional primary races, the campaign website for state Sen. Suhas Subramanyam previously listed the names of five people working as campaign staff. Four of those five were also identified as publicly funded legislative staffers for Subramanyam this year. But no campaign-side pay for those four Senate staffers has been disclosed on Subramanyan’s federal campaign finance reports.

Washington – Washington State GOP Contributions to Congressional Hopefuls Suggest Party May Have Helped Candidates Circumvent Election Law

Spokane Spokesman-Review – Emry Dinman | Published: 5/26/2024

Campaign finance reports and a text appear to show a GOP candidate for Congress circumvented federal election law with the aid of the Washington State Republican Party. Days before the March 31 cutoff for first-quarter campaign finance reports, as candidates tried to rake in any last-minute cash to demonstrate their momentum, the Washington GOP donated the legal maximum for the primary election, $5,000, to state Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber. Later, Maycumber donated $5,500 to the state party, not from her campaign account for Congress, but a surplus account from her prior runs for state office.

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