News You Can Use Digest - November 23, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

November 23, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – November 23, 2022


Cigars, Booze, Money: How a lobbying blitz made sports betting ubiquitous
Yahoo News – Eric Lipton and Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 11/20/2022

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal prohibition on sports betting was unconstitutional. Gambling companies and their allies then deployed a full court lobbying campaign to press for sports betting in state capitals, showering lawmakers with money, gifts, and visits from sports luminaries and at times using deceptive arguments to extract tax breaks and other concessions, according to a New York Times investigation. In state after state, while lobbyists cultivated friendly relationships with lawmakers and regulators, the interests of taxpayers and people at risk of gambling problems were often on the back burner.

GOP Operative Found Guilty of Funneling Russian Money to Donald Trump
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 11/17/2022

A federal jury convicted a Republican political operative, Jesse Benton, for funneling illegal campaign contributions from a Russian national into Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. Benton worked with another GOP operative to arrange for Roman Vasilenko to attend a fundraiser and take a picture with Trump. Since the event required a contribution, Vasilenko sent $100,000 to Benton’s political consulting firm, $25,000 of which Benton donated in his own name to the Trump campaign and the other $75,000 of which he pocketed.

How Carolyn Maloney’s Ticket to the Met Gala Led to an Ethics Inquiry
Yahoo News – Nicholas Fandos (New York Times) | Published: 11/21/2022

When U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney learned in 2016 that she had been dropped from the guest list for that year’s Met Gala, she evidently could not abide it. Maloney called a powerful friend and appeared to have done her own version of trying to talk her way on the list. In an investigative referral, a congressional ethics watchdog contended her cajoling – including reminding the Met “how much she does for the Met” – may have violated House ethics rules or federal laws that bar lawmakers from soliciting gifts, including invitations.

In New Special Counsel, a Prosecutor Schooled in Corruption Cases
DNyuz – Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 11/19/2022

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee a pair of criminal investigations involving former President Trump, thrusting him into a political firestorm that will doubtlessly accompany the job. The special counsel’s purview will include the probe of Trump’s alleged retention of highly sensitive national security secrets at his Florida estate, and aspects of the effort by Trump and his allies’ effort to subvert the 2020 election and disrupt the transition of power to President Biden. Smith has been prosecuting criminal cases, including politically charged corruption investigations involving public officials, for nearly 30 years.

Pelosi to Step Down as House Democratic Leader
Yahoo News – Sarah Wire (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 11/17/2022

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will not seek to lead House Democrats for another term but remain in Congress. The decision, capping a 35-year career in which Pelosi became the most powerful female member of Congress in U.S. history, followed her party’s narrow loss of the chamber in the midterm election. Pelosi is also abiding by a 2018 agreement with fellow Democrats that she would step down from leadership by the end of 2022 to make way for a new generation. Pelosi also said the attack on her husband, Paul, would be a factor in her decision.

Senior Democratic Lawmakers Demand Answers on Alleged Supreme Court Leak
MSN – Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 11/20/2022

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Hank Johnson are demanding that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts detail what, if anything, the court has done to respond to recent allegations of a leak of the outcome of a major case the justices considered several years ago. Whitehouse and Johnson are also interested in examining claims about a concerted effort by religious conservatives to woo the justices through meals and social engagements. They made clear if the court will not investigate the alleged ethical breaches, lawmakers are likely to launch their own probe.

Trump Family’s Newest Partners: Middle Eastern governments
Yahoo News – Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman (New York Times) | Published: 11/21/2022

The Trump Organization signed a deal with a Saudi Arabian real estate company that creates new conflict-of-interest questions for Donald Trump’s just-launched presidential campaign. The deal is for a Trump-branded hotel, villas, and a golf course as part of a $4 billion real estate project in Oman. The agreement continues a practice that had been popular for the Trump family business until Trump was elected president – selling branding rights to an overseas project in exchange for a generous licensing fee.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska APOC OKs Subpoenas for Republican Governors Association Execs in Dunleavy Coordination Case
Midnight Sun – Matt Acuña Buxton | Published: 11/18/2022

The Alaska Public Offices Commission issued subpoenas to two officials with the Republican Governors Association (RGA), Executive Director Dave Rexrode and Chief Financial Officer Erim Canligil. A complaint argues the independent expenditure group illegally coordinated with Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s campaign, violating laws intended to keep candidates separated from unlimited corporate spending.

Arkansas Ethics Commission Reaches Settlements in Cases Involving Advocacy Group and Arkansas Legislators
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 11/18/2022

The Common Ground Arkansas group founded by state Sen. Jim Hendren, along with Sen.-elect Bryan King and state Rep. Mary Bentley, have each been sanctioned with fines and public letters of caution by the Arkansas Ethics Commission. The fines range from $50 to $150. In a complaint, Sen. Trent Garner alleged Hendren, as founder and board member of Common Ground, violated state election law by engaging in expressed advocacy for the purpose of influencing the nomination for election or election of candidates.

California Anaheim Residents Pressure City Council to Publicly Release Corruption Probe
Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 11/16/2022

Anaheim residents will get to see if their elected leaders are corrupt after they pressured the city council to commit to releasing the findings of an internal probe. The results could implicate city staff and officials themselves. It comes after revelations of an FBI probe into City Hall and former Mayor Harry Sidhu. Federal agents allege Sidhu tried ramming through the Angel Stadium land sale for $1 million in campaign support from team officials.

California California Raises Campaign Contribution and Gift Limits for 2023-2024
Lexology – Kimberly Railey (Covington & Burling LLP) | Published: 11/18/2022

The California Fair Political Practices Commission voted to increase limits on campaign contribution and gifts to public officials. The new caps take effect on January 1, 2023.

Connecticut After Record Spending in CT Governor Race, Questions Arise Over Future Spending by Wealthy Candidates
CT Insider – Ken Dixon | Published: 11/21/2022

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and challenger Bob Stefanowski avoided the state’s public campaign financing program in this year’s gubernatorial election, dipping into their own wealth to spend more than $30 million and raising the question of whether top of the ticket candidates will continue doing this in the future and just how wealthy someone must be to run for the state’s highest office. If the current maximum $9 million grant is not increased for governor candidates, it could subvert the purpose of the law aimed at removing lobbyist and special-interest money from statewide and General Assembly races while opening the pool of potential candidates.

Connecticut Manager at CT State Pier Recommended Itself for $87M in Contracts
Connecticut Mirror – Andrew Brown | Published: 11/21/2022

The company hired to oversee the redevelopment of the State Pier in New London, Kiewit Corporation, recommended itself for tens of millions of dollars in subcontracts under the project, even in some cases where another construction firm submitted a lower-priced bid to the state. That arrangement is now drawing criticism from a few Connecticut lawmakers who are concerned about the potential for a conflict-of-interest. Sen. Paul Formica, who represents the district where the new pier is being built, argued it was a poor business practice to allow Kiewit to both manage the public bidding process and submit offers for work at the site.

Florida Judge Blocks DeSantis Law on Barring ‘Woke’ Education
Yahoo News – Anthony Izaguire (Associated Press) | Published: 11/17/2022

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker blocked a law pushed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that restricts certain race-based conversations and analysis in colleges. Walker issued a temporary injunction against the so-called Stop Woke act in a ruling that called the legislation “positively dystopian.” The law prohibits teaching that contend members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilt for past actions committed by others. It also bars the notion that a person’s status as privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by their race or gender, or that discrimination is acceptable to achieve diversity.

Georgia Judge Says Georgia Law Allows Saturday Voting for Runoff
MSN – Kate Brumback and Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 11/18/2022

A judge said Georgia law allows counties to offer early voting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is the only possibility for Saturday voting before the runoff election between U.S. Sen Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Warnock’s campaign filed a lawsuit arguing that early voting should be allowed that day. They were challenging guidance by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that said it would be illegal to hold early voting on Saturday, November 26, the day after a state holiday.

Idaho September Special Session Leads to $24,000 in Fines Against 91 Idaho Lobbyists for Late Filings
Idaho Capital Sun – Kelcie Moseley-Morris | Published: 11/21/2022

Ninety-one lobbyists were fined for filing late reports following Idaho’s one-day special session on September 1. There are 393 registered lobbyists in Idaho, meaning about 23 percent of the registered lobbyists were fined. According to emails sent to the affected lobbyists, the report was due October 15, and a fine of $50 is assessed each day the report is late. Those fines are also applicable for campaign finance reports that candidates must file monthly according to election cycles. While 13 of the fines were $150 or less, the rest were $300 after the secretary of state’s office decided to reduce what were initially $700 to $900 fines.

Illinois Madigan: Indicted but still pitching for (and getting) money
Chicago Sun-Times – Tim Novak and Dave McKinney | Published: 11/18/2022

Since being indicted last March as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation, former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan has been personally soliciting campaign contributions for his Democratic ward organization and has gotten more than $400,000 for the political fund. These contributions have helped replenish $302,000 in legal fees Madigan’s groups has spent since being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury as part of the ongoing criminal case. It is unusual to see such a large haul associated with someone in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors, someone who no longer can dole out political favors and jobs, as Madigan did for decades.

Illinois With New Campaign Fund, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Allies Are Raising Cash Outside City Ethics Rules Limits
MSN – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/21/2022

The establishment of a new independent expenditure committee in October underscores the political battle that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s supporters are anticipating in the coming months and the loopholes that exist in campaign finance laws and city ethics rules designed to limit the influence political backers have on elected officials’ government actions. The 77 Committee, which is being run by a longtime top adviser to Lightfoot, is allowed to accept unlimited funds for her reelection, including from city contractors who are restricted under ethics rules from contributing to the mayor’s campaign or a Lightfoot-aligned PAC.

Indiana Doctor Says She Shouldn’t Have to Turn Over Patients’ Abortion Records
MSN – Kim Bellware (Washington Post) | Published: 11/19/2022

A physician who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim has asked a judge to stop the Indiana attorney general from accessing patient medical records as part of an investigation into consumer complaints her lawyers have called a “sham.” Caitlin Bernard’s lawyers said Attorney General Todd Rokita’s efforts to obtain the patient’s medical charts are a troubling violation of patient privacy that, if allowed, would shake trust in doctor-patient confidentiality. The state countered that Rokita’s office is allowed to access the records as it investigates complaints accusing Bernard of professional lapses.

Louisiana Federal Grand Jury Probing Purchases by LaToya Cantrell’s Image Consultant – David Hammer (WWL), John Simerman, and Gabriella Killett | Published: 11/17/2022

At least two New Orleans area stores have received subpoenas from a federal grand jury and been questioned by FBI agents about clothing purchases made by Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s image consultant, Tanya Haynes. Gray Sexton, the former lawyer for the Louisiana Board of Ethics Board, said such expenditures are proper under state law only if they are truly spent on consulting, not clothing. He noted a few limited exceptions to that rule, such as people who hold elected positions that might require them to wear a uniform, such as an elected police chief, might be able to tap their campaign funds.

New Jersey Former Top Aide to NJ Senate Leader Pleads Guilty to Tax Evasion and Wire Fraud Conspiracy
Yahoo News – Steve Janoski and Ashley Balcerzak (Bergen Record) | Published: 11/21/2022

The former chief of staff to the New Jersey Senate president pleaded guilty to tax evasion and wire fraud charges. Tony Teixeira admitted he conspired with Sean Caddle, a former Hudson County political operative, to overcharge various campaigns, PACs, and nonprofits for work done by Caddle’s consulting firm. Caddle paid a portion in cash and the rest through checks made out to Teixeira’s relatives to conceal the kickbacks. Teixeira never reported the earnings to the IRS. Caddle remains on home confinement after pleading guilty to a plot in which he hired two hitmen to kill a former friend and associate.

New York ‘Investment in Democracy’: NY begins matching campaign donations for state candidates
Auburn Citizen – Robert Harding | Published: 11/19/2022

A new program will allow candidates for state-level offices in New York to receive public funds to match small-dollar donations. The Public Campaign Finance Board launched the matching program recently for the 2024 election cycle. Candidates for state Legislature will be the first group eligible to apply and receive matching funds. The program will be in place for statewide candidates running in the 2026 election.

New York Manhattan Prosecutors Again Consider a Path Toward Charging Trump
MSN – Jonah Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William Rashbaum (New York Times) | Published: 11/21/2022

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has moved to jump-start its criminal investigation into Donald Trump, seeking to breathe new life into an inquiry that once seemed to have reached a dead end. Under the new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, the prosecutors have returned to the long-running investigation’s original focus: a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, who said she had an affair with Trump. The renewed scrutiny of the hush money comes amid an intensifying swirl of legal and political drama around Trump.

Texas Austin Candidates Say Bad Advice from City Made Them Miss Out on Election Funds
MSN – Sarah Asch (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 11/21/2022

Despite following guidance from the city clerk’s office, two Austin City Council candidates will miss out on thousands of dollars they had sought from a fund set up to help candidates pay for election activities. José Velásquez and Ryan Alter filed a lawsuit asking for a restraining order to prevent the city from distributing the funds, which they say they are entitled to receive. The money is held in the Fair Campaign Finance Fund, which was set up in 2008 for candidates who sign a pledge to limit the amount of campaign contributions they accept from special interest groups or from outside the city. A judge denied the restraining order.

Washington Public Disclosure Commissions Fines Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich for Electioneering, Lobbying; Sheriff Vows Appeal
Spokane Spokesman-Review – Kip Hill | Published: 11/18/2022

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich violated a pair of state laws prohibiting the use of public office for electioneering and use of public funds for indirect lobbying when he produced a YouTube video attacking Democratic lawmakers for their stance on crime, the Washington Public Disclosure Commission ruled. Knezovich was fined $300.

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