News You Can Use Digest - November 5, 2021 - State and Federal Communications

November 5, 2021  •  

News You Can Use Digest – November 5, 2021


A Year Out, Political Groups Prepare for What Could Be the Most Expensive Midterms Ever
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 11/2/2021

Next year’s midterm elections, which will determine control of the House and Senate for the second half of President Biden’s first term, are on pace to shatter previous records, thanks largely to big money outside groups. Super PACs – more than a decade old, with an infrastructure and stream of donors to rival the political parties – and other outside organizations already have begun to invest heavily to influence the outcome of the 2022 elections. An infusion of millions of dollars into a race can upend the previous dynamics. Outside organizations will rely on polling and other cues for where to put their money.

At Least Seven Jan. 6 Rallygoers Won Public Office on Election Day
MSN – Amy Wang and Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021

At least seven people who attended the pro-Trump rally on January 6 in Washington, D.C. that preceded the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol were elected to public office on November 2. None were charged with crimes, and all denied being part of the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of President Biden’s electoral college win. The attack resulted in five deaths and left some 140 members of law enforcement injured.

Burr’s Brother-in-Law Called Stock Broker, One Minute After Getting Off Phone with Senator
ProPublica – Robert Faturechi | Published: 10/28/2021

After U.S. Sen. Richard Burr dumped more than $1.6 million in stocks in February 2020, a week before the coronavirus market crash, he called his brother-in-law, according to a new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. They talked for 50 seconds. Burr, according to the SEC, had material nonpublic information regarding the incoming economic impact of coronavirus. The very next minute, Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, called his broker. It was previously unknown that Burr and Fauth spoke that day, and their contact came just before Fauth began the process of dumping stock himself.

Cases Show Foreign Donors Secretly Funnel Money Through Straw Donors, Shell Companies, ‘Dark Money’
Center for Responsive Politics – Anna Massoglia | Published: 10/28/2021

Lev Parnas, a Soviet-born former business associate of Rudolph Giuliani, was recently convicted for campaign finance crimes. His case exposed the ways secret donors, including foreign nationals, can hide their identities from the American public while currying influence with politicians through straw donors, shell companies, and other forms of “dark money.” While Parnas’ case ended with a conviction, other prosecutions in similar cases are just beginning.

Foreign Nationals Can Finance Ballot Initiatives, FEC Affirms
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021

The FEC affirmed that foreign nationals can legally spend money on ballot measures in states that do not otherwise forbid the practice. Federal law prohibits foreign nationals from making contributions in connection with federal, state, or local elections but is silent on spending related to ballot initiatives. The decision is consistent with established interpretations of federal election law, campaign finance experts said. But it does not address whether certain types of ballot initiatives that explicitly involve a candidate or bear directly on elections, such as redistricting measures, might trigger the federal ban on foreign money, said FEC member Ellen Weintraub.

Gun Control Group Alleges Campaign Finance Violations in Lawsuit Against NRA
MSN – Mychael Schnell (The Hill) | Published: 11/2/2021

The gun control group Giffords filed a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association, alleging the advocacy group violated campaign finance laws by illegally contributing tens of millions of dollars to Republican U.S. Senate and presidential candidates, including Donald Trump in 2016, through shell corporations. “Over the past seven years, the National Rifle Association has engaged in an ongoing scheme to evade campaign finance regulations by using a series of shell corporations to illegally but surreptitiously coordinate advertising with at least seven candidates for federal office,” the complaint states.

‘Last Stop’ House Committee Takes Its Turn in the Limelight
MSN – Lindsey McPherson (Roll Call) | Published: 11/3/2021

After 13 committees spent countless hours in September preparing a $3.5 trillion-plus partisan budget reconciliation package, the House Rules Committee – “the most powerful committee that people haven’t heard of,” according to its chairperson, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern – is going to cut the measure almost in half. It is the panel’s job to tweak bills so they ultimately have the votes to pass. The committee has no original legislative jurisdiction, but the policy areas it can influence are endless.

Lobbying Firms Connected to Biden White House Are Flourishing Under New Administration
Yahoo News – Soo Rin Kim (ABC News) | Published: 11/3/2021

Lobbying firms with ties to President Biden and his administration are thriving, with some doubling and quadrupling their lobbying revenues from last year, disclosure filings show, but overall lobbying revenues have not increased much over the last year. Three firms led by former Biden aides and others with close ties to key members of the administration have brought in far more in lobbying revenues in just the first three quarters of 2021 than the amount they brought in during the entire previous year.

Perfect Attendance: Susan Collins racks up 8,000th vote in the Senate
MSN – Chris Cioffi (Roll Call) | Published: 11/1/2021

Even a global pandemic could not stop Susan Collins from keeping up her perfect U.S. Senate attendance, a consecutive voting streak that has stretched nearly a quarter-century. She reached the 8,000-vote mark recently, voting to confirm Elizabeth Prelogar to be U.S. solicitor general. Since her arrival in the chamber in 1997, Collins has not missed a single vote. Collins is still a couple of thousand votes away from breaking the record for longest streak ever, held by William Proxmire.

Senate Republicans Block Debate on a Third Major Voting Rights Bill
MSN – Mike DeBonis (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021

Republican senators voted to block debate on the third major voting rights bill that congressional Democrats have sought to pass this year in response to the state-level GOP push to restrict ballot access following former President Trump’s false claims of a stolen 2020 election. Only one Republican, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, voted to advance it. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act seeks to empower the Justice Department and federal courts to review state election laws, restoring provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that have been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stunning Survey Gives Grim View of Flourishing Anti-Democratic Opinions
The Hill – Reid Wilson | Published: 11/1/2021

A recent poll from the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute paints a troubling portrait of a growing segment of the public that is increasingly unmoored from reality as it embraces conspiracy theories about child abduction and stolen elections. It found a deep divide between those who trust right-wing media outlets and the rest of the nation, and even a divide between those who trust Fox News and those who trust outlets like One America Network and Newsmax. Eighteen percent say they agree with the statement that America has gotten so far off track that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

Trump Campaign Payments for ‘Command Centers’ at D.C. Hotels Could Undermine Executive Privilege Claim in Jan. 6 Investigation
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 11/2/2021

More than $225,000 in Trump campaign payments went to firms owned by Bernard Kerik and Rudolph Giuliani, including more than $50,000 for rooms and suites at the Willard hotel in Washington, D.C. that served as a “command center” for efforts to deny Joe Biden the presidency in the days leading up to the attack on the Capitol on January 6. The fact that campaign funds were used to finance efforts to subvert Biden’s victory could complicate the Donald Trump’s ongoing attempt to use claims of executive privilege to shield documents and testimony from the congressional committee investigating the insurrection.

Trump Seeking to Block Hundreds of Pages of Documents from Jan. 6 Committee, Court Filing Shows
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 10/30/2021

Former President Trump is trying to withhold nearly 800 pages of documents from the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. The filing was in response to and shed more light on a lawsuit Trump filed seeking to block the disclosure of records related to his whereabouts, communications, and activities that day. Exerting additional pressure on Trump, 66 former members of Congress, including 44 Democrats and 22 Republicans filed a brief opposing Trump’s attempt to shield documents from the select committee.

Two Democratic Senators Take Aim at ‘Zombie’ Campaigns
Yahoo News – Roger Sollenberger (Daily Beast) | Published: 11/4/2021

U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Elizabeth Warren introduced legislation to prohibit former politicians from holding on to their campaign money forever. The bill would outlaw so-called zombie campaign accounts for any politician who does not file for the next election six months after they leave office and would require any former politician who wishes to register as a lobbyist to shut down their campaign account immediately.

UK Needs a Lobbying Regulator, Review Author Recommends
Financial Times – Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe | Published: 11/2/2021

The United Kingdom should create a regulator able to “impose severe sanctions” on individuals who break lobbying rules, the author of an independent review into the issue suggested. Nigel Boardman, who published a review into lobbying following a scandal involving former Prime Minister David Cameron, told the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee the lobbying industry needed to move away from “self-regulation.”

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska After Federal Court Ruling, Alaska Campaign Regulators Propose Higher Donation Limits
Anchorage Daily News – James Brooks | Published: 11/3/2021

The staff of the Alaska Public Offices Commission set the state’s campaign contribution limit at $1,500 from an individual to a candidate, now that the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out the previous $500 cap. A group would be limited to $3,000 in donations per candidate or group per year. Campaigns and candidates are required to follow the new caps until the commission votes on the proposal and could be subject to an official complaint and investigation if they violate its limits.

California City Report: SF officials got free tickets to pricey outside Lands Fest through ethically questionable loophole
KQED – Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez | Published: 10/29/2021

According to a recent San Francisco Ethics Commission report, city officials have been given at least $430,950 in free tickets to the Outside Lands festival through a loophole, that although technically legal, is ethically dubious. The Recreation and Parks Department, which is the agency accepting the tickets from Another Planet Entertainment, which puts on the festival, is also in charge of the contract for the event space. That makes them a “restricted source” for officials involved in the contract, which means accepting any gifts from entities they are doing business with poses a potential conflict-of-interest.

California How Local Independent Commissions Are Changing California Redistricting
CalMatters – Sameea Kamal | Published: 10/26/2021

California has a dozen new local independent commissions in this round of redistricting, a process that will create districts for elections from 2022 to 2030. These new panels are coming up with districts that in some places have never been redrawn, or have not been altered significantly, despite changing populations. Taking redistricting power away from officeholders could mean changes in representation and city priorities.

California Is It Too Easy to Hold a Recall in California? Lawmakers Raise Changes After Newsom Victory
MSN – Lara Korte (Sacramento Bee) | Published: 10/29/2021

Both Democrats and Republicans said they are open to tweaking California’s 108-year-old recall laws, but they are far from consensus on what those changes should look like. Lawmakers gathered for the first formal discussion of the state’s recall process following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s victory against a recall. Democrats are concerned it is too easy to qualify a recall in California. Republicans said they are open to changing the recall in a way that makes it more efficient or conducts it in a better manner, but they are cautious about diluting an avenue of direct democracy.

Connecticut A $375,000 Kentucky Derby Trip, Personalized Golf Balls and Luxury Swag Bags. Federal Jury Set to Determine When High-Priced Corporate Retreats Are Illegal Junketeering
MSN – Edmund Mahoney (Hartford Courant) | Published: 10/31/2021

Five former Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative (CMEEC) officials are on trial over their involvement in multiple trips that cost more than $800,000 in total. The men planned or participated in trips that sent scores of friends, family, colleagues, and customers on utility-paid trips to the Kentucky Derby and golf outings at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. The defendants say the travel was legal under state law. “The evidence … will prove that the five defendants used hundreds of thousands of dollars of money belonging to CMEEC … for their personal benefit …,” prosecutors wrote in a pre-trial memorandum.

Delaware Can Delaware Lawmakers Legally Oust an Indicted State Auditor? State Law Isn’t Clear
WHYY – Mark Eichman | Published: 11/2/2021

The Delaware General Assembly has never voted to have the governor oust another elected official. As a result, there is some confusion about how the process works. After a grand jury indicted state Auditor Kathy McGuiness on fraud charges, resolving that confusion has taken on increased urgency. The felony charges accuse McGuiness of hiring her daughter to a no-show job, giving her 2018 campaign consulting firm an illegal state contract, and intimidating employees who complained.

Florida Candidates Fail to Turn in Mandatory Financial Reports
MSN – Corbin Bolies (Fresh Take Florida) | Published: 10/30/2021

Scores of challengers running for Congress across Florida have failed to successfully file financial reports in Washington that would publicly reveal key details about their personal wealth, debts, and jobs, as required by the U.S. House. The missing paperwork means voters have few clues so far about where these candidates have earned their money, where they invested, or to whom they owe personal debts. Candidates’ explanations included reports being lost in the mail, forgetting they were due, technical glitches, and confusion over what Congress required.

Florida Florida Blocks Professors from Testifying Against Voting Law Pushed by DeSantis
Politico – Gary Fineout and Marc Caputo | Published: 10/30/2021

The University of Florida blocked three professors from testifying on behalf of plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s new restrictive voting law. University officials asserted it was a conflict-of-interest for professors to testify in the lawsuit because they are state employees. It is a turnaround in university policy, which for years allowed professors to testify in lawsuits against the state, including one that unsuccessfully challenged the state law that restricted voting rights for convicted felons. Critics contend the action imperils academic freedom and raises concerns about the First Amendment.

Illinois Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo Pleads Guilty in Bribery Case Tied to Sweepstakes Machines
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 11/3/2021

Former Illinois Rep. Luis Arroyo pleaded guilty in a bribery scheme involving a shadowy lobbying effort to expand the use of sweepstakes gaming machines. He acknowledged offering a member of the state Senate monthly payments of $2,500 to back a bill supported by a sweepstakes firm that hired Arroyo as a lobbyist. Prosecutors said Arroyo accepted $7,500 in bribes from James Weiss, the owner of sweepstakes firm Collage LLC, with the understanding he would vote for the legislation supported by Weiss and lobby members of the executive branch and the Illinois Senate.

Massachusetts Michelle Wu Makes History as First Person of Color and Woman to Be Elected Boston Mayor
MSN – Joanna Slater and Adela Suliman (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021

Democrat Michelle Wu is the first woman and person of color to be elected Boston mayor. The campaign largely focused on housing costs, education, and the city’s opioid crisis. But the race also highlighted Boston’s growing diversity, with all the leading candidates being women of color. It is the first time in nearly 200 years that the city’s next mayor will not be a White man.

Missouri Many Redistricting Commissioners Have Close Ties to Lawmakers
Columbia Missourian – Rudi Keller (Missouri Independent) | Published: 11/4/2021

The 40 people chosen to draw new legislative districts for Missouri include political consultants, former candidates, and political party officers. They have until January to design 163 Missouri House and 34 state Senate districts that would be used next year. The commissions are billed as independent, and members are prohibited from running for a legislative seat for four years. Many commissioners, however, have close ties to the state legislators whose districts they will be redrawing.

Montana Legislative Counsel Requests AG’s Documents in St. Peter’s Dispute
Missoula Current – Arren Kimbeil-Sannit (Daily Montanan) | Published: 11/1/2021

A special counsel tasked with probing allegations that state officials in the Montana attorney general’s office harassed doctors at St. Peter’s Health in Helena have formally requested documents related to the incident. Democratic legislative leadership requested their counterparts in the majority investigate the allegations on the heels of media reports in which St. Peter’s said unnamed state officials threatened doctors at the hospital for not prescribing a COVID-19 patient ivermectin, an unapproved treatment for the virus. The patient, an activist in the Lewis and Clark County Republican Party politics, has since passed away.

New Jersey Former Owner of Morristown Law Firm Admits Directing Bold Straw Donor Scheme
MSN – Lori Comstock (Morristown Daily Record) | Published: 10/27/2021

Attorney Matthew O’Donnell pleaded guilty to “pay-to-play” charges in connection with a bribery scheme in New Jersey. O’Donnell admitted his firm submitted proposals for legal services to municipalities but failed to disclose the firm made campaign contributions to officials in those locations. Using straw donors allowed the firm to donate to campaigns and evade laws that would otherwise disqualify them from winning contracts. He faces a maximum three-year prison sentence and will be required to pay restitution to the victims of the scheme. The plea also calls for him to be banned from doing any business in the state for 10 years.

New Jersey Murphy Reelected New Jersey Governor by Razor-Thin Margin
Yahoo News – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 11/3/2021

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has won reelection, defeating Republican Jack Ciattarelli in a closer-than-expected race. The contest eluded national coverage for most of the year, as both parties focused intensely on the close race for governor in Virginia. But Murphy’s small margin ultimately points to the same challenging political environment for Democrats, a year after winning the presidential election and with midterms looming.

New Jersey N.J. Governor’s Race Fallout Could Claim Senate President Sweeney as Democrats Trail Key Legislative Races
MSN – Amanda Hoover and Brent Johnson (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 11/3/2021

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney seems set to lose his seat his seat to Edward Durr, a truck driver who spent only $153 over the course of his campaign. Durr has never held elective office. He ran on a platform of limiting government, reducing taxes, and fixing the state’s roads, but he did not garner much attention during the campaign. A Sweeney loss would significantly change the landscape of state politics, giving rise to a new Senate president and likely shifting the dynamic between the Legislature and the governor’s office.

New Jersey Voters with Disabilities Gain Political Clout in NJ as Ballots Become More Accessible
MSN – Gene Myers (Bergen Record) | Published: 11/2/2021

New Jerseyans with disabilities are enjoying a new era of political relevance thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, both the voting reforms it spurred and the inequities it laid bare. People with disabilities showed “large gains” in 2020’s voter turnout, said Steve Flamisch of Rutgers University’s Program for Disability Research. It is a community that historically has splintered into smaller populations, each lobbying for specific needs in areas such as hearing or vision loss or developmental disabilities without coalescing into a larger political bloc. That has left such voters out of initial discussions about public policy, necessitating after-the-fact fixes such as those found in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

New York Hochul Outsources Fundraising to Albany’s Top Lobbyists
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 11/1/2021

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign is outsourcing a significant portion of its fundraising to Albany’s top lobbying firms, including a few featuring partners that were key witnesses caught up in past corruption cases. Hochul’s fundraising practice is legal. Yet at her swearing-in ceremony in August, she had said one of her priorities was “changing the culture of Albany.” But as she seeks to win a full term as governor next year, her campaign fundraising tactics have accelerated a longstanding practice in Albany’s political culture.

New York Inspector General to Begin Releasing Its Secret ‘Letter’ Reports
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons and Chris Bragg | Published: 11/2/2021

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s directive creating more “transparency” in state agencies will include having the state inspector general’s office begin posting the results of all its investigations online, including the letters the office has more frequently sent to many agencies in recent years to privately summarize its findings in controversial matters. It was reported that during the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the inspector general’s office had been increasingly sending letters to agencies, rather than posting full reports on its website, to quietly handle matters ranging from sexual harassment to the alleged leak of confidential information to the governor.

New York Sheriff Defends Filing of Criminal Complaint Against Cuomo
Yahoo News – Bobby Caina and Michael Hill (Associated Press) | Published: 10/29/2021

A sheriff defended his decision to file a criminal complaint against former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo without consulting prosecutors or the accuser, a woman who says the Cuomo groped her late last year. Sheriff Craig Apple said he was confident in the strength of the case, which he said was based on witness interviews and voluminous records. A court summons requires Cuomo to appear for an arraignment on November 17, though that date could change. The one-page complaint filed in Albany City Court accuses Cuomo of forcible touching by putting his hand under a woman’s shirt on December 7.

Ohio Columbus Officials Looking to Prevent Another Issue 7-Type Measure from Getting on Ballot
MSN – Mark Ferenchik and Bill Bush (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 11/3/2021

The defeat of Issue 7 in Columbus, a murky initiative to divert $87 million in taxpayer money to fund vague “green energy” programs with no oversight, may be unprecedented in the history of city elections. Although voters were not buying the shadowy petition and those behind it, city officials are already looking at ways to restrict future ballot initiatives from being able to redirect millions of tax dollars to a private, unregulated group to spend how it sees fit.

Pennsylvania How Do Staffs at PSERS and SERS Pension Plans Play the Market? The Public Can’t Find Out
MSN – Craig McCoy and John DiStefano (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 11/1/2021

In California, public investment officers with power over billions of dollars in pension funds must disclose the stocks they own, their approximate cash value, when they bought them, when they sold, and any profits they made. Ohio requires public investment staff to disclose all their personal stocks. So does Florida. But in Pennsylvania, lenient laws mean scores of highly paid investment staffers and top public pension plan executives are required to reveal little or nothing about their personal stock trading.

Pennsylvania Pa. House Mulling Gift Ban Bill, but Gov. Tom Wolf Says It Needs Strengthening. Here’s Why
Lebanon Daily News – J.D. Prose (Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau) | Published: 11/1/2021

Gov. Tom Wolf is urging the Pennsylvania Legislature to close a “loophole” in a gift ban bill that is moving forward in the House. House Bill 1009 prohibits elected officials and state employees from accepting lodging or sleeping accommodations, food and drinks, transportation, recreation, and entertainment collectively valued at more than $250 from registered lobbyists during a year. Wolf said it does not go far enough and should be strengthened to include gifts from businesses or people not registered as lobbyists in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Want to See Who’s Funding Local Candidates in Pa.? It’s Harder Than You’d Think
WHYY – Ethan Edward Coston (Spotlight PA) | Published: 11/2/2021

Hundreds of local races across Pennsylvania were decided on November 2 but determining who is bankrolled the candidates and how they spent that money can be onerous and time-consuming, a review found. Local candidates were required to file final pre-election campaign finance reports with their county by October 22. To test how easily and quickly the public could access this information less than two weeks before the election, Spotlight PA requested reports for school board candidates in nine counties.

Virginia Republican Winsome Sears Projected to Win Lieutenant Governor’s Race
MSN – Antonio Olivo (Washington Post) | Published: 11/3/2021

Republican Winsome Sears was projected to win Virginia’s race for lieutenant governor, a victory that would make her the first woman in the state’s second-highest office and could tilt the closely split state Senate in her party’s favor on divisive issues such as abortion restrictions. The victory also would make Sears the first woman of color to hold a statewide office in Virginia, a milestone that was also possible for her opponent, Del. Hala Ayala, and that both candidates used to rally supporters in their bid to win the position that traditionally has been a launchpad for a run for governor.

Virginia Youngkin Wins Virginia Governor’s Race, Jolting Democrats
MSN – Will Weissert and Sarah Rankin (Associated Press) | Published: 11/3/2021

Glenn Youngkin won the Virginia governor’s race, tapping into culture war fights over schools and race to unite former President Trump’s most fervent supporters with enough suburban voters to become the first Republican to win statewide office in 12 years. Youngkin’s defeat of Terry McAuliffe marked a sharp turnabout in a state that has shifted to the left over the past decade and was captured by Joe Biden last year by a 10-point margin. It is certain to add to the Democrats’ anxiety about their grip on political power heading into next year’s midterms.

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