News You Can Use Digest - November 10, 2023 - State and Federal Communications

November 10, 2023  •  

News You Can Use Digest – November 10, 2023


To Help 2024 Voters, Meta Says It Will Begin Labeling Political Ads That Use AI-Generated Imagery

ABC News – David Klepper (Associated Press) | Published: 11/8/2023

Facebook and Instagram will require political ads running on their platforms to disclose if they were created using artificial intelligence (AI). Under the new policy by Meta, labels acknowledging the use of AI will appear on users’ screens when they click on ads. The rule takes effect January 1 and will be applied worldwide. The development of new AI programs has made it easier to quickly generate lifelike audio.

Congress Urges Judiciary to Take Final Steps to Clamp Down on Amicus Brief Lobbying

Courthouse News Service – Benjamin Weiss | Published: 11/3/2023

Lawmakers who for years have demanded the federal judiciary prevent organizations from swaying judges by gaming a common court practice urged the U.S. Judicial Conference to wrap up proposed rulemaking that would serve as a major check on such activity. Members of Congress, particularly Democrats, have long raised concerns that lobbying groups and other organizations use coordinated groups of amicus briefs to push courts toward favorable rulings.

Federal Trial of Pelosi Attack Suspect Renews Focus on Political Violence

DNyuz – Tim Arango and Holly Secon (New York Times) | Published: 11/9/2023

David DePape lived a solitary life, worked carpentry jobs and was seemingly obsessed with right-wing conspiracy theories on the internet. Then in October 2022, police said, DePape, broke into Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and bludgeoned her husband when she was still House speaker. The authorities said he told investigators he intended to take hostage Pelosi, long a subject of virulent attacks by right-wing leaders and pundits. DePape’s trial spotlights the online disinformation cycle that has been fed by conspiracy theorists, conservative activists, elected officials, and media outlets.

Democratic Plan to Subpoena Supreme Court Justices’ Allies Faces Pushback

MSN – Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 11/8/2023

Democrats in Congress have tried unsuccessfully to press the Supreme Court to strengthen its ethics rules following revelations that some justices accepted and did not report free luxury travel, real estate deals, and gifts from wealthy benefactors. The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to vote to subpoena two wealthy benefactors, along with a judicial activist who helped shape the court’s conservative supermajority. But the path to obtaining the information Democrats are seeking will be contentious.

Campaign Fundraisers Are Hitting High Notes at Taylor Swift and Beyoncé Concerts

MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 11/8/2023

In a twist on the meet-and-greet events that routinely dot the fundraiser party circuit, some members of Congress are shaking hands with donors and others at concert venues, in VIP boxes, or suites. Just as the Federal Reserve credits Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour for boosting the tourism industry and the overall economy, Swift and Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour have been a means for lawmakers to boost their own campaign coffers.

Trump and Media Want a Televised Trial in D.C. The U.S. Doesn’t.

MSN – Spencer Hsu and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/4/2023

A coalition of news organizations asked U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan to make an exception to the rule barring cameras from federal courtrooms for Donald Trump’s election subversion case and permit the televising, recording, or same-day release of video and audio recordings of his trial. Federal courts have long prohibited cameras in the courtroom, wary of feeding what the Supreme Court called a “carnival atmosphere” of publicity that could intimidate witnesses, sway jurors, or deprive criminal defendants of their due process rights.

A Law That Helped End Slavery Is Now a Weapon to End Affirmative Action

MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2023

The Civil Rights Act of 1866, which established citizenship for newly emancipated slaves, has become central to the legal battle over what is fair and equal when it comes to race in the workplace. In recent years, and especially since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned race-conscious college admissions in June, the Reconstruction-era law has emerged as a critical tool for conservatives intent on dismantling race-specific programs that promote “diversity, equity and inclusion,” or DEI.

Trump Appointee Sentenced to Nearly 6 Years for Attacking Police on Jan. 6

MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2023

A Trump appointee to the State Department who assaulted multiple police officers at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, was sentenced to nearly six years in prison by a fellow veteran of the administration. Judge Trevor McFadden said he was “disturbed” that Federico Klein considered it part of his “duties” to attend the rally that day and join the protesters at the Capitol agitating for lawmakers to throw the election to Donald Trump. Officers testified Klein was at the front of the violent mob for nearly two hours, first helping to break a police line and then joining a Battle against officers guarding a tunnel into the building.

Trump Belief That 2020 Election Was Stolen Is Not a Defense, DOJ Says

MSN – Rachel Weiner, Spencer Hsu,and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2023

Prosecutors said they plan to show at trial that Donald Trump lied repeatedly about the results of the 2020 election as part of a conspiracy to subvert the legitimate results. But they also said they do not need to prove whether Trump believed he lost the race. Legal experts have debated the importance of Trump’s state of mind in his federal election subversion case, with some arguing that to win a conviction the government must pin down the true beliefs of a politician who amassed a long record of making false or misleading claims while president.

AI Policy Yields a Goldmine for Lobbyists

Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs and Brendan Bordelon (Politico) | Published: 11/4/2023

Lobbyists are rushing to sign up artificial intelligence (AI) companies as clients and K Street firms also are being enlisted by industries and interest groups that want help influencing AI policy. Groups as disparate as the NFL Players Association, Nike, Amazon, and the Mayo Clinic have enlisted help from firms to lobby on the matter. Some lobbyists compared the boom in business opportunities to the cryptocurrency policy debate. But AI has the potential to be even bigger.

Appeals Courts Temporarily Lifts Trump’s Gag Order as He Fights the Restrictions on His Speech

Yahoo News – Alanna Durkin Richer and Eric Tucker (Associated Press) | Published: 11/3/2023

A federal appeals court temporarily lifted a gag order on Donald Trump in his 2020 election interference case in Washington, the latest twist in the legal fight over the restrictions on the former president’s speech. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision puts a hold on the limited gag order to give the judges time to consider Trump’s request for a longer pause on the restrictions while his appeals play out.

From the States and Municipalities

Oceania – Lobbying and Communications Firm Senate’s ‘Wildly Inappropriate’ Contracts at Commerce Commission Revealed

Radio New Zealand – Guyon Espiner | Published: 11/6/2023

A public relations and lobbying firm was embedded at New Zealand’s Commerce Commission, working on highly sensitive areas of competition policy at the heart of an inflation crisis. Staff from the Wellington consultancy SenateSHJ worked in the physical offices of the competition watchdog and were given Commerce Commission email addresses and devices. While Senate lobbied for private sector clients, the commission did not pay it for lobbying, only for communications and media training. Documents showed Senate worked on commission projects in the energy sector, despite representing private sector energy clients.

Arizona – Two Groups Making New Bid to Hide Names of Donors in Political Races

Arizona Capitol Times – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 11/7/2023

Attorney Scott Freeman acknowledges that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Scott McCoy rejected his bid to void Proposition 211. The judge ruled in June there is nothing unconstitutional about the voter-approved measure designed to prohibit “dark money” in campaigns. McCoy said Freeman’s clients could seek an exemption. The judge noted that would require either group to show “reasonable probability that disclosure of its contributors’ names will subject them to threats, harassment, or reprisals from either government officials or private parties.”

Arizona – Arizona Rep. Leezah Sun Decries ‘False Statements’ as Court Grants Restraining Order Against Her

Yahoo News – Ray Stern (Arizona Republic) | Published: 11/3/2023

Democratic leaders in the Arizona House filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Leezah Sun, who allegedly harassed and made a death threat to employees with the city of Tolleson. Sun recently denied an allegation claiming that she said she would throw a Tolleson lobbyist off a balcony to “kill her.” The complaint alleges Sun made threats against officials with the city, interfered with a lawful court order, violated state custodial interference laws, and engaged in disorderly conduct.

California – Judge Finds Eastman Culpable for Ethics Breaches in 2020 Bid to Keep Trump in Power

MSN – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 11/3/2023

A California judge made a “preliminary finding” that attorney John Eastman breached professional ethics when he aided Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 election, a milestone in the proceedings over whether Eastman should lose his license to practice law. Now, state bar officials are preparing to present “aggravation” evidence aimed at justifying their call to strip Eastman, a veteran conservative attorney who once clerked for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, of his law license.

California – Oakland’s Conflict of Interest Tracking System Isn’t Working

Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 11/7/2023

There are state and local laws in California that prohibit government workers from having conflicts-of-interest. Local governments like Oakland require city employees and elected officials to disclose their personal finances so the public can be sure there is no hidden agenda behind a decision. The Oakland Public Ethics Commission is supposed to act as a bulwark against public corruption, and it can investigate and fine officials who violate the law. But the commission is struggling to make use of the city’s most basic conflict-of-interest tool, a document called Form 700.

Delaware – Ethics Agency Says Delaware Officials Improperly Paid Employees to Care for Seized Farm Animals

MSN – Randall Chase (Associated Press) | Published: 11/6/2023

Delaware’s ethics agency determined the state agriculture secretary and one of his top deputies violated the law by entering into no-bid agreements with Department of Agriculture employees to care for farm animals seized by animal welfare officials. The Public Integrity Commission ruled Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse improperly agreed to pay one of his employees more than $90,000 as part of a no-bid agreement to take care of a flock of poultry after almost 500 birds were seized in May.

Florida – Miami Commissioner’s Campaign Pays City Staffer’s Company $100k. It’s Legal

WLRN – Joshua Ceballos | Published: 11/6/2023

Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes is facing a longshot opponent in this year’s race who spent only a few hundred of his own dollars on his campaign. Yet the Reyes campaign has spent more than $200,000, and steered more than half the money to a public relations company that is owned by the wife of his chief of staff. County ethics rules do not prohibit government employees from working on campaigns if they do not use government resources or time, but the payments to Reyes’ top employee constitute the highest spending in what appears to be a less than competitive race.

Illinois – Edward M. Burke, ‘Figurehead of the Old Regime,’ Faces Historic Corruption Trial

Chicago Sun-Times – Jon Seidel | Published: 11/6/2023

Edmund Burke, Chicago’s longest serving city council member, is on trial, charged with racketeering, bribery, and extortion. The case is the result of an aggressive probe into the same old-school Chicago-style politics through which Burke built his power, and which he personified for decades. If found guilty, Burke would be the fourth current or former member of the council to be convicted in federal court in five years.

Illinois – City Summons Reporter to Court After He Asked Too Many Questions

DNyuz – Rebecca Carballo (New York Times) | Published: 11/6/2023

Officials in a Chicago suburb issued citations to a local news reporter after he persistently contacted elected officials about a flooding issue. The Daily Southtown published an article by Hank Sanders about consultants informing officials in Calumet City that storm water facilities were in “poor condition” before a recent flood swept through the community. Sanders continued to inquire about flooding issues after the article was published. His calls and emails drew complaints from Calumet City officials, including Mayor Thaddeus Jones, who is also a state representative.

Indiana – Indiana AG’s Remarks About Abortion Doctor Amount to Misconduct, Court Finds

MSN – Maria Luisa Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2023

Shortly after Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita accused a doctor who had helped a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio terminate her pregnancy of being an “abortion activist” with “a history of failing to report” similar procedures to state officials. Those comments, which Rokita made about Caitlin Bernard during an appearance on Fox News, amounted to “attorney misconduct,” the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

Kansas – Kansas Officials Downplayed Involvement in Marion Raid. Here’s What They Knew.

Kansas Reflector – Sherman Smith | Published: 11/6/2023

Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody enlisted the support of local and state law enforcement officials in the days before he led raids on the local newspaper office, the publisher’s home, and the home of a city council member. The Bureau of Investigation, Department of Revenue, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and the Office of the State Fire Marshal, along with the county attorney and a magistrate judge, were complicit in the raid or knew it was imminent. But in the days that followed, they largely downplayed their involvement.

Kentucky – Democrat Andy Beshear Wins Reelection for Governor in Kentucky

MSN – Hannah Knowles and Dylan Wells (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2023

Democrat Andy Beshear defeated his Republican opponent Daniel Cameron to win reelection as Kentucky’s governor, securing a stark victory in a state Donald Trump won by 26 points. The results are a stark blow to Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, both of whom endorsed Cameron, the state attorney general who tried to nationalize the race and remind voters of their party lines. He and his allies promoted an endorsement from Trump and attacked Beshear as a Joe Biden ally who clashed with Republicans on culture war issues.

Louisiana – New Orleans Employees May Have Violated State Laws with ‘Smart City’ Contract, Report Says – Joseph Cranney | Published: 11/8/2023

Two city employees should not have participated in last year’s controversial selection of a public wi-fi contract and may have violated state ethics laws by not disclosing their ties to the winning bidder the New Orleans Office of Inspector General (OIG) said in a report. The OIG largely backed the conclusions of an earlier investigation by two outside firms hired by the city council, though neither probe found evidence of self-dealing. The state ethics board also cleared the employees, IT staffer Christopher Wolff and former Utilities Director Jonathan Rhodes, of any violations.

Louisiana – Decimated by Division, Louisiana Democrats Lost Before Balloting

Yahoo News – Emily Cochrane (New York Times) | Published: 11/4/2023

Before a ballot was cast, Louisiana Democrats knew they could not win control of the state Legislature this year. It was mathematically impossible because a lack of candidates meant they were not even contesting the majority of districts. Their best hope for political success was that Shawn Wilson would force a runoff against Jeff Landry, the state attorney general, in an open primary for governor. But when Landry won a majority of the primary vote, eliminating the need for a runoff, the results instead laid bare the bleak conditions of a state Democratic Party decimated by internal divisions, paltry fundraising, totals, and a disenchanted voter base.

Maine – Voters Pass Ban on Foreign Spending on Referendum Campaigns

Portland Press Herald – Randy Billings | Published: 11/7/2023

Maine voters approved a referendum to ban foreign governments and affiliated organizations from spending money on state and local referendum campaigns. Federal and state election laws already prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to candidates seeking office in Maine, but they do not ban foreign governments or entities from spending money to influence state and local referendums or elections.

Michigan – Divided House Passes Highly Debated Transparency Bills in Wee Hours of Morning

Detroit News – Beth LeBlanc | Published: 11/9/2023

The Michigan House approved financial disclosure requirements that opponents argued violated the spirit of the voter-mandated transparency reforms. The legislation would require annual financial disclosures of several statewide elected officials and lawmakers starting in April, meeting the requirements of the ballot measure approved a year ago. But the bills neglected to require similar disclosures from an official’s spouse and failed to close long-acknowledged loopholes in Michigan’s transparency laws.

Michigan – Detroit Enacts Ethics Reforms Following Free Press Investigation

MSN – Dave Boucher (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 11/8/2023

Detroit board members who set salaries for the mayor and other elected leaders are among many public officials who must now file new ethics disclosures in light of a Detroit Free Press investigation. Each member of the Elected Officials Compensation Commission – along with mayoral appointees on boards that oversee police, the water department, and other entities – will need to file new disclosures early next year.

Minnesota – Trump Can Appear on 2024 Primary Ballot in Minnesota, State Supreme Court Rules

MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 11/8/2023

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Donald Trump can appear on the primary ballot next year but left open the possibility he could be struck from the general election ballot because of the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The Minnesota case is one of several interlocking challenges that argue Trump cannot serve again under Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which bars insurrectionists from holding office.

Missouri – Phelps County Judge Rules Missouri City Tried to ‘Intimidate’ Woman with Ban on City Hall Visits

Missouri Independemt – Rudi Keller | Published: 11/8/2023

A small Missouri town’s attempt to “intimidate and silence” a critic violated both her First Amendment rights and the state’s Sunshine Law, a judge ruled. Edgar Springs, a town of 200 in Phelps County, must pay a nominal fine of $150 to Rebecca Varney for banning her from City Hall for four years, and for holding several closed meetings with business that should have been conducted in public, Judge John Beger decided.

New York – Grievances, Insults, Tangents: Trump brings his 2024 campaign into the courtroom

MSN – Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 11/6/2023

Donald Trump portrayed himself as the victim of “election interference” and a “political witch hunt.” He decried the “weaponization” of a judicial system he alleges, without evidence, is unfairly targeting him. But the former president was not speaking at a campaign rally. Instead, he was inside a courtroom. New York Attorney General Letitia James was alleging he and his company falsely inflated property values to gain lending advantages, and Trump was on the witness stand.

New York – FBI Raids Home of NYC Mayor Eric Adams’ Top Campaign Fundraiser as Part of Federal Corruption Probe

MSN – Chris Sommerfeldt, Thomas Tracy, and Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 11/3/2023

FBI agents raided the home of Brianna Suggs, the manager of New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ campaign fundraising operation who has claimed credit for collecting more than $19 million for his political efforts over the years. The raid is part of a federal public corruption investigation into whether Adams’ 2021 campaign conspired with the Turkish government and a Brooklyn construction firm to funnel foreign money into the campaign’s coffers via straw donors.

North Carolina – In Earls Investigation, Federal Judge Wrangles with Key Question: How political can NC Supreme Court justices get?

WRAL – Will Doran | Published: 11/2/2023

North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls is suing the state’s Judicial Standards Commission to stop an ethics investigation targeting her for critiques she made about racial, gender, and political biases at the state’s highest court. She says it is a violation of her First Amendment rights, and little more than an attempt to intimidate her into silence. The commission says judges are banned from making comments that might make people lose faith in the integrity of the judicial system. U.S. District Court Judge William O’Steen will decide whether to shut down the investigation.

Ohio – Ohio Voters Guarantee Abortion Rights 16 Months after U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Roe

MSN – Laura Hancock and Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 11/7/2023

Ohio voters passed a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights and became the seventh state to side with reproductive rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Republican leaders in the General Assembly scheduled an August special election intended to thwart the abortion rights amendment by requiring all future constitutional amendments pass with a supermajority at the ballot box. That was defeated and Ohio’s abortion rights amendment only needed to pass with a simple majority.

Ohio – LaRose Uses State Newsletter to Promote Senate Campaign

Ohio Capital Journal – Marty Schladen | Published: 10/30/2023

Frustrated former employees told the press that in their office “everything revolved around” Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s run for U.S. Senate. Now, LaRose appears to be using the taxpayer-funded office’s newsletter in that campaign. As a state official, LaRose is not supposed to use state resources in his political campaigns. As secretary of state, it is important that he wall off politics from his official duties because LaRose administers elections, including those in which he is running.

Pennsylvania – Democrat Cherelle Parker Will Become Philadelphia’s First Female Mayor

MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/7/2023

Democrat Cherelle Parker defeated Republican David Oh to become the 100th mayor of Philadelphia. She will be the first woman to hold the office when her four-year term begins in January. A former state representative and city council majority leader, Parker coasted to victory in the general election with a compelling personal story, a tough-on-crime platform, and strong backing from the Democratic establishment and organized labor.

South Dakota – South Dakota Governor Asks State Supreme Court About Conflict of Interest After Lawmaker Resigns

ABC News – Associated Press | Published: 11/3/2023

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem requested guidance from the state Supreme Court about conflict-of-interest rules for lawmakers, several weeks after a lawmaker resigned and agreed to repay $500,000 in federal COVID-19 relief she received for her day care business. Jessica Castleberry was a senator when she received the stimulus funding. Doing so violated a state Supreme Court advisory warning lawmakers it is unconstitutional for them to accept federal pandemic funding.

Utah – A Utah Lake Dredging Critic Got Dragged into a Lawsuit with a Private Company. Did He Also Lose a Public Grant?

MSN – Leia Larsen (Salt Lake City Tribune) | Published: 11/8/2023

The private company behind a plan to dredge Utah Lake and turn it into an island city sued a leading critic, ecology professor Ben Abbott, for defamation. Abbott countersued, alleging the company was trying to stifle public debate about the proposal. Then, months later, Abbott found out his grant for a $500,000 watershed study funded by the Legislature had been canceled. “We were totally taken by surprise,” said Abbott, who teaches at Brigham Young University. “… I thought, ‘Does this have something to do with the islands situation?'”

Virginia – Virginia Democrats Projected to Sweep General Assembly, Dealing Blow to GOP

MSN – Gregory Schneider and Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2023

Virginia voters rejected Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s costly efforts to take control of the Virginia General Assembly in the November 7 elections, flipping the House of Delegates to Democratic control and preserving a blue majority in the state Senate that can block his conservative agenda. Youngkin raised record sums of money and spent personal political capital pushing for full GOP control of both chambers. Whether Virginians rewarded or resisted Youngkin’s campaign was considered an indicator of voter attitudes ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Washington – The Financing of 6 Proposed WA Ballot Initiatives Is Being Investigated by the State PDC

Yahoo News – Shauna Sowersby (The Olympian) | Published: 11/7/2023

Six controversial ballot initiatives that are still in the signature-gathering process are under formal investigation by the Washington Public Disclosure Commission (PDC). The six initiatives are the efforts of Let’s Go Washington and sponsored by Brian Heywood, a Republican donor. Two allegations are listed on the PDC website, one for failing to accurately file reports that reflect “in-kind contribution details for the expenditures made, and which initiatives were supported” and the other for “failing to properly disclose the identity of a vendor for some of the in-kind contributions received from Brian Heywood.”

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