News You Can Use Digest - October 14, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

October 14, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – October 14, 2022


A Congressional Campaign Committee Just Reimbursed a Dead Lawmaker for Travel Mileage
Yahoo Finance – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 10/12/2022

The campaign committee of a deceased member of Congress reimbursed him for travel mileage months after he died. The Friends of Hagedorn campaign committee refunded Rep. Jim Hagedorn more than $1,100 for “mileage” on September 20. Hagedorn, however, died in February. FEC guidance notes congressional campaign funds can be used to refund travel costs incurred by a lawmaker, as well as their spouse and children, as long as it is “directly connected to the officeholder’s official responsibilities.

A Majority of GOP Nominees – 299 in All – Deny the 2020 Election Results
MSN – Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022

A majority of Republican nominees on the ballot this November for the U.S. House and Senate, and key statewide offices have denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election, according to a Washington Post analysis. Candidates who have challenged or refused to accept Joe Biden’s victory are running in every region of the country and in nearly every state. Republican voters in four states nominated election deniers in all federal and statewide races. Most of the election deniers are likely to win. Of the nearly 300 on the ballot, 174 are running for safely GOP seats; another 51 will appear on the ballot in tightly contested races.

First Proud Boys Leader Pleads Guilty to Jan. 6 Seditious Conspiracy
MSN – Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022

A former Proud Boys leader became the group’s first member to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy in the Capitol riot, deepening the government’s case against an organization accused of mobilizing violence to prevent the inauguration of Joe Biden. Jeremy Bertino becomes a potential key witness against five Proud Boys leaders, some of whom had ties to influential supporters of Donald Trump. The Proud Boys defendants are set to face trial in December on charges including plotting to oppose by force the presidential transition.

Government Officials Invest in Companies Their Agencies Oversee
Fox Business – Rebecca Ballhaus, Brody Mullins, Chad Day, Joe Palazzolo, and James Grimaldi (Wall Street Journal) | Published: 10/11/2022

Thousands of officials across the government’s executive branch reported owning or trading stocks that stood to rise or fall with decisions their agencies made, a Wall Street Journal investigation found. More than 2,600 officials at agencies from the Commerce Department to the Treasury Department, during both Republican and Democratic administrations, disclosed stock investments in companies while those same firm were lobbying their agencies for favorable policies. That amounts to more than one in five senior federal employees across 50 federal agencies reviewed by The Journal.

How Trump’s Legal Expenses Consumed GOP Donor Money
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2022

Donald Trump’s political operation has spent more money since he left office on lawyers representing the former president and a pair of nonprofits staffed by former Cabinet members than it has on Republican congressional campaigns. Legal fees are expected to climb, Trump advisers say, as he employs a growing retinue of lawyers to fend off federal, state, and county-level investigations. State-level Republicans have also used party resources to defray legal costs related to Trump’s attempts to stay in power.

Judge Dismisses DOJ Bid to Force Wynn to Register as Foreign Agent
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/12/2022

A federal judge dismissed a Department of Justice (DOJ) effort to force casino magnate Steve Wynn to acknowledge a stint as an agent of the Chinese government. U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg expressed reservations about his own ruling but suggested that long-standing appeals court precedent bars the DOJ from requiring foreign agents to retroactively register once they are no longer performing that work. If the ruling stands, it could deal a blow to the effort to crack down on undisclosed foreign influence campaigns in the U.S.

Justice Dept. Asks Supreme Court to Deny Trump Request in Mar-a-Lago Case
MSN – Perry Stein and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2022

The Justice Department asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny a petition from Donald Trump’s attorneys in the Mar-a-Lago search case, arguing that allowing an outside arbiter to review the classified documents seized from Trump’s residence would “irreparably injure” the government and as a former president, Trump has no “plausible” claims of ownership over sensitive government materials. It is the latest turn in the department’s high-stakes investigation to determine whether the former president or his advisers mishandled national security secrets or hid or destroyed government records.

Leonard Leo Pushed the Courts Right. Now He’s Aiming at American Society.
Seattle Times – Kenneth Vogel (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2022

Activist Leonard Leo is best known for his role in pushing the appointments of conservative judges to the center of the Republican Party’s agenda. Now, he has developed a coalition that aims to transform American society. Most of the initiatives were supported by a network shaped by Leo and funded by wealthy patrons, usually through “dark money.” An investigation reveals new details of how he has built that network into one of the most sophisticated operations in U.S. politics, giving him influence as he pushes a broad array of conservative causes and seeks to counter what he sees as an increasing leftward tilt in society.

Misinformation Swirls in Non-English Languages Ahead of Midterms
Yahoo News – Tiffany Hsu (New York Times) | Published: 10/12/2022

Unsubstantiated rumors and outright falsehoods spread widely in immigrant communities ahead of the presidential election in 2020. That is happening again in the run-up to this year’s midterm elections, researchers say, but with an insidious twist. The social media accounts pushing misinformation are now targeting audiences in more languages on more topics and across more digital platforms. Multilingual fact checkers say they cannot keep pace with the deluge of falsehoods online. They have called on the big social media platforms, like Facebook and YouTube, to do more for efforts in other languages as they would for misinformation in English.

She Went Out on a Limb for Trump. Now She’s Under Justice Dept. Scrutiny.
Seattle Times – Glenn Thrush, Maggie Haberman, and Michael Schmidt (New York Times) | Published: 10/11/2022

This spring, one of the lawyers representing former President Trump made a request to Christina Bobb, who had just jumped from a Trump-allied cable network to a job in his political organization. M. Evan Corcoran asked Bobb to sign a statement that the Trump legal team had conducted a “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago and found only a few files that had not been returned to the government. She later complained she did not have a full grasp of what was going on around her when she signed. Her sworn statement was shown to be false. Bobb’s trajectory is a familiar one in Trump’s orbit: a marginal player thrust into a position where her profile is elevated, but at the cost of serious legal and reputational risk.

Steele Dossier Source Heads to Trial, in Possible Last Stand for Durham
MSN – Salvadore Rizzo and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/10/2022

Former President Trump said special counsel John Durham’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s 2016 Russia probe should “reveal corruption at a level never seen before in our country.” But the nearly three-and-a-half-year examination seems destined for a less dramatic conclusion as Durham put Igor Danchenko on trial. He was indicted on charges of lying to FBI agents who interviewed him about the sources behind his claims to former British spy Christopher Steele. Defense attorneys argue Danchenko made a series of “equivocal” statements to the FBI and should not be penalized for giving wishy-washy answers to vaguely worded questions.

Top House Staffers Are Still Overwhelmingly White, Study Finds
Roll Call – Jim Saska | Published: 10/6/2022

The senior aides who hold the most sway with members of Congress have grown more diverse in recent years, but still not nearly as diverse as the nation. A new study by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies finds people of color now occupy 18 percent of the top staff positions in the House, a four-point increase since 2018, but still much lower than the 40 percent of Americans who are not white. People of color have more representation among the actual representatives than their closest aides, the report finds.

Trump Worker Told FBI About Moving Mar-a-Lago Boxes on Ex-President’s Orders
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/12/2022

A Trump employee told federal agents about moving boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago at the specific direction of the former president, according to people familiar with the investigation, who say the witness account, combined with security-camera footage, offers key evidence of Donald Trump’s behavior as investigators sought the return of classified material. The witness description and footage offer the most direct account to date of Trump’s actions and instructions leading up to the FBI’s search, in which agents were looking for evidence of potential crimes including obstruction, destruction of government records, or mishandling classified information.

Why Little-Noticed State Legislative Races Could Be Hugely Consequential
Yahoo News – Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 10/10/2022

With Congress often deadlocked and conservatives dominating the U.S. Supreme Court, state governments increasingly steer the direction of voting laws, abortion access, education, and other issues dominating the lives of Americans. The Supreme Court could soon add federal elections to that list. The justices are expected to decide whether to grant nearly unfettered authority over such elections to state Legislatures. If the court does so, many Democrats believe, lawmakers could have a pathway to overrule the popular vote in presidential elections by refusing to certify the results and instead sending their own slates of electors.

From the States and Municipalities

Alaska APOC Says Dunleavy Backers Won’t Respond to Investigation Without Subpoena
Alaska Public Media – Lisa Phu (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 10/11/2022

In an investigation into alleged violations of campaign finance laws, an independent expenditure group supporting Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reelection has refused to respond to requests for information. A complaint says the Republican Governors Association and Dunleavy are “engaged in a scheme” to subsidize and coordinate the campaign activities of the independent expenditure group A Stronger Alaska with those of Dunleavy’s official campaign committee. Coordination between a candidate or a candidate’s representatives and an independent expenditure group is prohibited.

California Grand Jury Accuses Santa Clara City Council Members of Putting 49ers Ahead of City
MSN – Marisa Kendall (San Jose Mercury News) | Published: 10/7/2022

A grand jury report accuses several Santa Clara City Council members of getting too cozy with the San Francisco 49ers, neglecting their duties to constituents, and potentially violating state law. The report raises a series of concerns about the conduct of five council members who frequently vote in favor of the NFL team’s interests. Frequent closed-door meetings between 49ers lobbyists and those council members raised a “serious question” about whether they are violating state open-meeting laws, according to the report. The report also takes issue with some of the council members’ personal use of the stadium, among other issues.

California Jose Huizar’s Brother to Testify in Federal Corruption Trial of Former L.A. Councilman After Pleading Guilty
Yahoo News – Nathan Solis (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/12/2022

The older brother of Jose Huizar admitted to lying to FBI agents about receiving envelopes of cash from Huizar and will cooperate with the federal government’s corruption investigation of the former Los Angeles City Council member. Jose Huizar gave his older brother, Salvador, envelopes of cash and asked him to write a check for the exact amount out of his own bank account, federal investigators said. Salvador Huizar admitting to repeatedly lying about the cash, including while under oath before a grand jury and as recently as two weeks ago when he was interviewed again by FBI agents.

California Nury Martinez Resigns from L.A. City Council in Wake of Audio Leak Scandal
Yahoo News – David Zahniser, Julia Wick, Dakota Smith, and Benjamin Oreskes (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/12/2022

Nury Martinez, the Los Angeles City Council member at the center of the scandal over a taped conversation in which she made racist comments about colleagues and constituents, has resigned. The Los Angeles Times published a recording in which Martinez is heard making the remarks while talking with fellow council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo and labor leader Ron Herrera about how the city’s council district boundaries should be redrawn. The October 2021 conversation focused on how the group could maintain Latino political power while ensuring they and their colleagues would have districts that help them win reelection.

California San Francisco Election Watchdog Boss Set to Resign
San Francisco Standard – Alex Mullany | Published: 10/12/2022

LeeAnn Pelham, executive director of the San Francisco Ethics Commission since January 2016, will resign on January 23, 2023. Over the years, the commission has been slow to handle complaints and been criticized for using the city attorney’s office as counsel rather than having its own independent attorneys. Yet, Pelham was able to hire more staff and modernize many of the commission’s systems. “I would say that LeeAnn Pelham substantially increased the reach of the commission in terms of accomplishing its mission,” commission member Larry Bush said.

Colorado Adams County Must Pay Legal Fees of the Treasurer It Sued, Colorado Supreme Court Orders
MSN – John Aguilar (Denver Post) | Published: 10/10/2022

The Colorado Supreme Court ordered Adams County to pay the legal expenses of its elected treasurer, who it sued over allegations she mismanaged her office. The state’s high court called Adams County’s failure to cover Lisa Culpepper’s costs of defending herself against the county’s lawsuit an “abuse of discretion.” Culpepper would normally be represented by the county attorney’s office in legal matters. But because that same office was representing the county commissioners suing her meant Culpepper had to obtain outside counsel.

Colorado Political Group Agrees to Pay Fine Over Primary Voter Guide That Failed to Disclose Information
Colorado Springs Gazette – Marianne Goodland (Colorado Politics) | Published: 10/11/2022

ProgressNow Colorado agreed to pay a fine of $16,277 for a primary “voter guide” that failed to fully disclose required information. It was the third complaint over ProgressNow’s voter guides in the past 18 months and the second that the organization has settled with the Elections Division. The first complaint, in 2021, resulted in a $3,000 fine.

Florida DeSantis Broke Florida Precedent and Maybe the Law, Too, in Making Congressional Map
Yahoo News – Joshua Kaplan (ProPublica) | Published: 10/11/2022

An examination of how Florida’s congressional districts were drawn, and who helped decide the new boundaries, show Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration appears to have misled the public and the Legislature and may also have violated state law. Gubernatorial aides worked behind the scenes with an attorney who serves as the national Republican Party’s top redistricting lawyer and other consultants tied to the national party apparatus. The Florida Constitution was amended in 2010 to prohibit partisan-driven redistricting, a landmark effort in the growing movement to end gerrymandering.

Florida Ethics Panel Finds ‘Probable Cause’ That Miami Commissioner Abused Power with City Car
MSN – Joey Fletchas (Miami Herald) | Published: 10/12/2022

The Miami-Dade County Commission on Ethics and Public Trust agreed to charge Miami City Commissioner Alex Díaz de la Portilla with violating county ethics law and exploiting his official position after a friend who did not work for the city used a city car to pick up alcohol for the commissioner, drop off his dry cleaning, and drive him to a property his family owns. The friend, Jenny Nillo, worked for the Omni Community Redevelopment Agency, and should not have had access to the car, according to city policy.

Georgia Common Cause Georgia Sues FEC Over Dismissed Complaint That Conservative Nonprofit Broke Finance Rules
Georgia Recorder – Stanley Dunlap | Published: 10/11/2022

Common Cause Georgia is suing the FEC for dismissing a complaint alleging conservative election-monitoring organization True the Vote illegally contributed to the Georgia Republican Party during the January 2021 runoffs for two U.S. Senate seats. The lawsuit accuses three Republican commissioners of failing to enforce federal campaign finance law when they went against the agency’s general counsel’s recommendation to open an investigation into the relationship between the Texas-based nonprofit and the Georgia GOP.

Georgia GOP Crisis in Herschel Walker Race Was Nearly Two Years in the Making
MSN – Isaac Arnsdorf, Ashley Parker, Michael Scherer, and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022

In early 2021, as football star Herschel Walker considered running for the U.S. Senate, he approached some of Georgia’s top Republican operatives about advising his campaign. The operatives were warned about political vulnerabilities in Walker’s past that were openly discussed in the state’s political circles. Walker’s overwhelming name recognition and backing from former President Trump made him so formidable that state and national Republican leaders did not mount a serious challenge in the primary. Now, they are stuck with him as those liabilities threaten to dominate the news and derail his campaign.

Illinois City Council Debate Over Private Booting Shines Light on Ways Clout and Campaign Cash Work in Chicago
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 10/10/2022

Faced with a surge of criticism at City Hall, Innovative Parking Solutions owner Michael Denigris did what Chicago business owners have done for decades – he hired an influential lobbyist and poured tens of thousands of dollars into lawmakers’ campaign accounts. But it is not clear whether that expensive and time-consuming effort, which illuminates how wealthy interests get their issues in front of the city council, will pay off for Denigris and his firm.

Iowa Iowa Board Requires ‘Paid for By’ Statements on Some Political Texts
Bleeding Heartland – Laura Bellin | Published: 9/28/2022

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board said some political text messages are subject to the state law requiring disclosure of who is responsible for express campaign advocacy. Board Executive Director Zach Goodrich drafted the advisory to clarify when text messages can be considered “electronic general public political advertising.” He decided to address the issue after a mass texting campaign from an undisclosed source reached Kansas voters shortly before a constitutional referendum in August.

Maryland Allegations Against Vice Chair Deepen Montgomery Planning Board Controversy
MSN – Daniel Wu (Washington Post) | Published: 10/11/2022

An investigation into Montgomery County Planning Board Chairperson Casey Anderson’s conduct has expanded to include the actions of Vice Chair Partap Verma and the abrupt firing of Planning Department Director Gwen Wright. A complaint sent to the county council levied new accusations against Verma, who already had been publicly reprimanded alongside Casey and fellow board member Carol Rubin, deepening concerns about the planning agency’s governance and rattling employees as a council vote looms on a long-term growth plan.

Missouri St. Louis County Ethics Committee Stonewalled on Marijuana Questions
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Joe Holleman | Published: 10/10/2022

The majority of the main players involved in a conflict-of-interest probe of St. Louis County Councilperson Lisa Clancy continue to give the silent treatment to the council’s ethics committee. Of five people involved in 2019 with Clancy and the county’s zoning laws for medical marijuana industry, all of whom refused to attend a committee meeting on September 6, only one has responded to written questions the committee sent out recently. The committee asked for a response by October 5.

Montana GOP House Candidate Paid Vendors with Bad Checks and Misreported Debts
Montana Free Press – Arren Kimbel-Sannit | Published: 10/7/2022

Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan found a state House candidate tried to pay vendors with bad checks and misreported accrued debts as expenditures, referring the matter to the Lewis and Clark County attorney for possible prosecution. Alden Tonkay misreported a minimum of $2,264 in debts, Mangan found. Those debts stemmed from non-payment to sign-making and catering companies. Tonkay repeatedly said he would send a response to the complaint as well as a full accounting of his campaign finances, but never delivered, according to Mangan’s decision.

Montana How Montana’s New Election Laws Failed Legal Muster
Montana Free Press – Alex Sakariassen | Published: 10/6/2022

Three new laws that changed how Montanans can vote and access the polls were declared unconstitutional. People will once again be able to register to vote on Election Day, use student IDs and voter registration cards as primary identification at the polls, and accept payment for collecting ballots on behalf of voters unable to return them themselves. A spokesperson was noncommittal on whether Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen would appeal the decision to the Montana Supreme Court.

Nevada How a Las Vegas Newsroom Set Out to Solve a Colleague’s Killing
MSN – Sarah Ellison (Washington Post) | Published: 10/6/2022

Executive Editor Glenn Cook sent an email to staff members at The Las Vegas Journal-Review on September 3, informing them that their colleague, Jeff German, had been found dead outside his home. Over four days of relentless reporting, Review-Journal staff would essentially solve the case, delving into German’s old stories and doing their own on-the-ground detective work to identify a surprising suspect, who is now behind bars, facing murder charges.

New Hampshire In Time of Distrust, How One State Is Trying to Boost Voter Confidence
MSN – Joanna Slater (Washington Post) | Published: 10/10/2022

Since May, the New Hampshire Special Committee on Voter Confidence has traveled the length of the state holding public hearings that are part civics roadshow, part airing of grievances. They have come together for an unusual experiment aimed at bolstering faith in American democracy. The committee’s stated goal is to identify the causes of the decline in voter confidence and recommend ways to reverse it. Left unstated is the unprecedented nature of the current moment, where former President Trump and Republican candidates continue to deny the outcome of the 2020 election.

New Mexico Vote to Amend Legislature’s Internal Investigative Procedure Fails
Santa Fe New Mexican – Robert Knott | Published: 10/11/2022

A body of lawmakers charged with administering legislative policies and procedures in the New Mexico Legislature deadlocked on a proposal to add a fifth and tiebreaking member to a pair of interim ethics committees, in effect killing the proposal and leaving the Legislature’s embattled internal investigation process unchanged. Calls for reform to the harassment policies and investigation of complaints have grown louder in the wake of accusations by lobbyist Marianna Anaya and others against Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto.

New York Hochul Raises Massive Sum in Final State Election Before New Campaign Finance System Kick In
Gothamist – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 10/12/2022

Since Kathy Hochul became governor of New York in August 2021, 47 people have given the maximum amount, $69,700, directly to her campaign. In total, Hochul’s campaign has brought in $46 million in her first 14 months in office. That massive sum will not be as easy to accumulate in future elections thanks to a new state campaign finance system that will lower individual contribution limits and establish a small-dollar public matching program for state-level offices. The new system goes into effect immediately after Election Day this year for the next election cycles and will apply to statewide offices.

New York New State Ethics Watchdog Agrees to Chew on Old Cases
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/6/2022

New York’s ethics and lobbying commission is rolling over all pending investigations inherited from its predecessor, a move that increases the odds those inquiries will reach conclusions. As of September 23, the new ethics body had 32 “open investigations” in motion, including that of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had been scheduled to face a hearing over whether he violated the law by using state employees to assist in the production of his lucrative memoir of the Covid-19 pandemic.

New York New York Lobbyists Hold Sway in Spite of Shake-Ups, Scandals
Poli-Ticks – Rebekah Ward (Albany Times Union) | Published: 10/7/2022

Lobbyists in New York often are key in passing or defeating legislation. Many are veteran lawmakers themselves or had prior jobs, including as agency leaders or legal counsel for top elected officials, that provide them connections and insight into the government’s inner workings, which enable them to shape political outcomes for their clients. They are a constant presence in Albany, customizing pitches to assuage the differing concerns of key officials, strategically framing stories to steer media attention, and using the hectic legislative calendar to their advantage.

Ohio Ohio Is About to Hold Elections for Unconstitutional Congressional and Legislative Districts. Here’s How It Happened
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/9/2022

Ohio’s congressional and state legislative districts have twice been ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court, but one of those maps will be in place for the November elections. It is the result of a previously untested state redistricting process, a months-long fight between Republican leaders and the Ohio Supreme Court, and a federal court finally intervening and picking one of the redistricting plans to use just for the 2022 election. So, despite voters approving two state constitutional amendments to end gerrymandering, the congressional and legislative lines have again been drawn in a way that gives Republicans a clear advantage.

Ohio Steve Dackin, One-Time Ohio Schools Superintendent, Signs Settlement Agreement for Ethics Violations, Avoids Criminal Prosecution
MSN – Laura Hancock (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/7/2022

Steve Dackin, who spent 11 days as the state superintendent of public instruction before resigning amid an ethics investigation, signed a settlement with the Ohio Ethics Commission. The commission will not refer its investigation to any public prosecutor. Dackin will be required to attend three hours of ethics training and agreed to not apply for the state superintendent job again until February 26, 2023. Dackin had access to the applications for the job as the committee conducted its search. Days before the application period ended, Dackin resigned from the Ohio State Board of Education and submitted his own application for the job.

Tennessee Kelsey Co-Defendant Smith to Plead Guilty in Federal Campaign Finance Case
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 10/11/2022

The co-defendant in a federal campaign finance case against Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey is set to plead guilty to one charge of funneling “soft money” to the senator’s congressional campaign six years ago. Federal prosecutors claim Kelsey and Josh Smith, the owner of The Standard Club in Nashville, conspired with others to illegally shift a total of more than $80,000 from his state account to buy ads that supported his federal race. Prosecutors say Kelsey gave Smith a check for more than $106,000 in July 2016 during a gathering at The Standard to be transferred from his campaign account to the restaurant’s PAC.

Washington Judge: Facebook intentionally violated WA campaign finance law 822 times
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 10/6/2022

A judge ruled Facebook’s parent company Meta intentionally violated Washington’s campaign finance law 822 times, which may subject the company to millions of dollars in fines. The law requires advertisers to make information about political ads run in Washington that appear on their platforms available for public inspection. The judge said the violations were intentional because of the company’s history of failure to comply with the law, its extensive experience with campaign finance law, and its “lack of good faith and failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for its violations.”

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