October 21, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – October 21, 2022
Activists Push for Disclosure of Clients and Income of Judges’ Spouses
MSN – Hailey Fuchs (Politico) | Published: 10/20/2022
A coalition of judicial advocacy and watchdog groups are calling on Congress to establish greater disclosure requirements for the spouses of federal judges. In a letter sent to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the groups cite a Politico report on potential conflicts posed by the professional work of Supreme Court justice’s spouses and the inadequacy of disclosures around that work. The coalition maintains the “concerns are no doubt more acute” among the hundreds of circuit and district court judges. They also point to the spouses of four justices on the Supreme Court whose work remains opaque yet may intersect with cases before the court.
As Campaign Norms Erode, Even Debates Are Under Debate
DNyuz – Lisa Lerer and Jazmine Ulloa (New York Times) | Published: 10/19/2022
In midterm campaigns across the country, direct political engagement has been falling away, victim to security concerns, pandemic-era restrictions, and Republican hostility to the mainstream media. Many candidates are sticking instead to safer spaces: partisan news outlets, fundraisers with supporters, friendly local crowds. The result is a profound shift in the long traditions of American campaigns that is both a symptom of and a contributor to the ills afflicting the country’s politics.
Big Tech Accused of Shady Lobbying in EU Parliament
Politico – Clothilde Goujard | Published: 10/14/2022
Google, Meta, and Amazon have deceived lawmakers by lobbying through smaller front organizations, leading lawmakers claimed. They asked for an investigation into the tech companies, as well as large lobbying groups including trade association the Computer & Communications Industry Association and advertisers’ group IAB Europe. Three other lobbies representing small and medium-sized companies are also targeted by the complaints. The lawmakers say the companies deceived European lawmakers during negotiations on two landmark laws by hiding behind fronts.
Congressional Ethics Watchdog Calls for Ethics Investigation into Kahele
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 10/14/2022
The Office of Congressional Ethics called for an official inquiry into U.S. Rep. Kai Kahele. He came under scrutiny earlier in the year after a media investigation into his proxy voting record that found he had asked colleagues to vote on his behalf more than almost any other member of Congress at the same time he was laying the groundwork for a gubernatorial campaign in Hawaii. The story led to more questions about Kahele’s part-time job as a pilot for Hawaiian Airlines and work he was doing on the House Transportation and Armed Services Committees.
DOJ Asks Appeals Court to End Outside Review of Trump Mar-a-Lago Documents
MSN – Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 10/14/2022
An outside review of documents the FBI seized from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate should be halted because it interferes with prosecutors’ authority and is legally unjustified, the Justice Department said in a filing with a federal appeals court. Prosecutors said Aileen Cannon, the judge who ordered the “special master” review at Trump’s request, erred in her ruling because there was no indication of malfeasance or infringement of Trump’s rights in connection with the search a magistrate judge ordered.
High Court Rejects Trump Plea to Step into Mar-a-Lago Case
MSN – Mark Sherman and Jessica Gresko (Associated Press) | Published: 10/13/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected former President Trump’s plea to step into the legal fight over the FBI search of his Florida estate. The justices did not otherwise comment in turning away Trump’s emergency appeal. Trump had pressed the court on an issue relating to classified documents seized in the search. The move appears to greatly reduce the potential impact of the special master process to the ongoing Justice Department criminal investigation into the classified documents.
House Jan. 6 Committee Votes to Subpoena Trump in Finale Surprise
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Jacqueline Alemany, and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 10/13/2022
The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena seeking testimony from former President Trump, a challenge with little historical precedent. Combining a mix of new evidence gathered by the committee since July and testimony played at previous sessions, members have said the violence was the direct and predictable result of Trump’s choices in the weeks after he lost his bid for reelection. Even after interviews with more than 1,000 witnesses and reviews of hundreds of thousands of documents, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney said their work is incomplete without hearing answers from “January 6th’s central player.”
Investors Resist Efforts to Paint ESG as a Political Issue
MSN – Ellen Meyers (Roll Call) | Published: 10/20/2022
Institutional investment firms and activist asset managers are amplifying their message to congressional and state lawmakers: stop equating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing with a political agenda. Investors of all sizes are doubling down on the importance of ESG considerations ahead of midterm elections. At stake is a growing body of legislation and regulations in states such as Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana aimed at curbing ESG investment and, in some cases, divesting from certain financial institutions over investment policies that incorporate ESG factors such as climate risk and human capital management.
Judge Bucks Trump, Orders Pence Aide to Testify to Jan. 6 Grand Jury
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Josh Dawsey, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/14/2022
A top aide to former Vice President Mike Pence returned before a grand jury to testify in a criminal probe of efforts to overturn the 2020 election after federal courts overruled ex-President Trump’s objections to the testimony. In a decision that could clear the way for other top Trump White House officials to answer questions before a grand jury, Chief U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell ruled that former Pence chief of staff Marc Short probably possessed information important to the Justice Department’s criminal investigation of the insurrection that was not available from other sources.
Judge: Trump signed court document that knowingly included false voter fraud stats
MSN – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/19/2022
Former President Trump signed legal documents describing evidence of election fraud he knew were false, a federal judge indicated. U.S. District Court Judge David Carter wrote in an 18-page opinion that emails from attorney John Eastman, an architect of Trump’s last-ditch effort to subvert the 2020 election, needed to be turned over to the Jan. 6 select committee. Those emails, Carter wrote, “show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public.”
Newspapers with a Partisan Aim Filling the Void of Traditional Media
MSN – Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 10/15/2022
As local newspapers collapsed amid a rise in online advertising competition, niche news products with private funding sources have sprouted to fill the void. Some function as a sort of direct mail persuasion piece, while others republish content on hundreds of websites with local names like the Fond Du Lac Times in Wisconsin. Other experiments have sought to build actual newsrooms in key swing states to attract audiences to more ideological views. Many worry the newcomers deceive readers, undermine the reputations of existing journalistic brands, and fail, in some cases, to meet even the basic standards of the profession.
Retired U.S. Brass Cash in with Saudis, Other Repressive Governments
MSN – Craig Whitlock and Nate Jones (Washington Post) | Published: 10/18/2022
Foreign governments have long advanced their interests in Washington by paying Americans as lobbyists, lawyers, political consultants, and public relations advisers. But the hiring of retired U.S. military personnel for their expertise and political clout has accelerated over the past decade as Persian Gulf monarchies have splurged on defense spending and strengthened their security partnerships with the Pentagon. For years, the U.S. government withheld virtually all information about the practice. The Washington Post found many military retirees take foreign jobs or gifts without notifying the U.S. government.
Sidley Austin Reveals Work for Chinese Surveillance Firm Under Foreign Agents Law
Reuters – Mike Scarcella | Published: 10/18/2022
The law firm Sidley Austin disclosed its lobbying work for the U.S. subsidiary of Chinese video surveillance company Hikvision under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, revealing about $7.4 million in fees since 2018. The firm said its registration for Hikvision USA was done “solely in response to a request” from the U.S. Justice Department. The firm had earlier reported its lobbying through the Lobbying Disclosure Act in 2018 after it was retained then by Hikvision.
Some Republicans Want to Count Votes by Hand. Bad Idea, Experts Say.
DNyuz – Maggie Astor (New York Times) | Published: 10/18/2022
Over the past two years, Republicans have pursued an array of changes to how Americans vote. The past few weeks have drawn attention to a particularly drastic idea: counting all ballots by hand. Experts in election administration said while hand counting is an important tool for recounts and audits, tallying entire elections by hand in any but the smallest jurisdictions would cause chaos and make results less accurate, not more.
Staffers in Rep. Andy Levin’s Office Sign First Union Contract
MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 10/17/2022
Courtney Laudick and about a dozen other staff members on Capitol Hill organized the Congressional Workers Union earlier this year. Laudick’s boss, U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, sponsored a resolution to allow House staff to unionize, without knowing Laudick was involved in the effort. The resolution was slipped into a rule for supplemental Ukrainian aid funding and passed. Levin and his aides took another historic step recently, agreeing to a tentative contract that raises the average wage for his junior staff to $76,000 and provides all members of the bargaining unit with a $10,000 salary increase.
Steele Dossier Source Acquitted, in Loss for Special Counsel Durham
MSN – Salvador Rizzo, Rachel Weiner, and Perry Stein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/18/2022
A jury found Igor Danchenko, a private researcher who was a primary source for a 2016 dossier of allegations about former President Trump’s ties to Russia, not guilty of lying to the FBI about where he got his information. The verdict is another blow for special counsel John Durham, who has now lost both cases that have gone to trial as part of his investigation. Durham is sure to face renewed pressure to wrap up his work following the verdict.
Ted Cruz Reimbursed Himself $555,000 After Successfully Challenging a Political Spending Law at the Supreme Court
MSN – Bryan Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 10/17/2022
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s campaign has paid him $555,000 to cover personal loans to his Senate committee. The 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act set a $250,000 limit on the amount of money that candidates could raise after the election for the purpose of paying off personal loans to their campaign committee. The Supreme Court ruled the limit was unconstitutional. That is despite concerns not just from good-government groups that argued lifting the cap could fuel corruption by allowing campaign donors to essentially pay candidates directly by contributing to the repayment of their personal loans.
Canada – How a Controversy Over GMOs Exposed Holes in Canada’s Lobbying Laws
National Observer – Marc Fawcett-Atkinsion | Published: 10/17/2022
A controversy over an industry lobbyist’s input into draft guidelines for genetically modified organisms exposed loopholes in Canada’s lobbying laws, experts say. Jennifer Hubert, the executive director of plant bioengineering at CropLife Canada appears to have written an early draft of proposed guidelines for the Canada Food Inspection Agency that would exempt seed companies from disclosing genetically modified products to consumers. These kinds of collaborations happen regularly but typically go unseen thanks to Canada’s lax lobbying rules, said Duff Conacher, the co-founder of Democracy Watch.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – Groups Say Pro-Dunleavy Organization Is ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ After Commission Delays Decision on Campaign-Finance Complaint
Yahoo News – Iris Samuels (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 10/18/2022
Two watchdog groups filed another complaint against the Republican Governors Association and an independent expenditure group supporting Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s re-election. The complaint was filed on the same day that the Alaska Public Offices Commission decided its staff would continue to investigate a previous complaint from the groups alleging Dunleavy’s campaign illegally relied on public funds to subsidize the campaign and coordinated with the independent expenditure group, A Stronger Alaska, ahead of the general election.
California – Councilmember Koretz Seemingly Engages in Illegal Lobbying Scheme with Former Employee
Knock LA – Jon Pelz | Published: 10/12/2022
In 2017, Shawn Bayliss, a former senior employee of Los Angeles City Councilperson Paul Koretz, lobbied Koretz for favors while seemingly prohibited from doing so by city ethics laws. Koretz potentially violated the City Charter when he aided and abetted Bayliss in these apparently illegal lobbying activities. Bayliss left Koretz’s office on May 12, 2017. On the same day, the Bel Air Association (BAA) announced Bayliss as its new executive director. He reached out to Koretz’s private email in June 2017 from his BAA email.
California – Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León Stripped of City Council Committee Posts Over Racist Leak
MSN – David Zahniser and Rachel Uranga (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/17/2022
Los Angeles City Council members Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo were removed from an array of committee assignments, the latest in a series of attempts to pressure them to resign following reports they participated in a secretly recorded conversation where racist and disparaging remarks were made. Cedillo and De León have not been persuaded by calls from numerous political leaders, including President Biden, to step down. The move comes at an extraordinarily turbulent time for the council, with one seat vacant and two others effectively dormant.
California – LA Council Members Call for Ethics Commission to Have Greater Independence
KFI – City News Service | Published: 10/19/2022
Half of the Los Angeles City Council signed onto a motion calling to make the city’s Ethics Commission more independent and streamline and expand its enforcement processes. The council members recommended a number of changes, which would have to be approved by voters because they would require changes to the city charter.
California – New Details Show Sprawling Web of Corruption in Southern California Cannabis Licensing
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Ruben Vives, Robert Lopez, and Paige St. John (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/15/2022
As a California lawmaker called for a statewide task force to crack down on corruption in the legal cannabis market, new details are emerging in a bribery scandal that has ensnared local government officials in the Los Angeles area. Federal prosecutors unveiled two plea agreements that detail “pay-to-play” schemes involving cannabis business licensing and corroborate allegations in a recent Los Angeles Times investigation that examined how legalization of marijuana unleashed a wave of corruption across the state.
California – San Jose Mayor Cleared of Fundraising Complaint
San Jose Spotlight – Tran Nguyen | Published: 10/14/2022
A citizen-led city board dismissed a complaint accusing San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo of breaking campaign finance rules through a PAC he formed. The complaint also claimed Liccardo failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions as required and that donations exceeded local limits. The law firm Hanson Bridgett investigated the case and recommended the board dismiss the allegations.
California – Watchdog Investigating 2019 China Trip Made by Top Milpitas Mayor Candidate
MSN – Gabriel Greschler (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 10/16/2022
The California Fair Political Practices Commission opened an investigation against the top contender in the Milpitas mayoral race over a trip she took to China in 2019. The probe centers around a $3,600 gift that Vice Mayor Carmen Montano accepted during the trip and later reported to state authorities. The complaint alleges Montano violated travel policies and rules surrounding lobbying.
Florida – Top DeSantis Advisers Played Hands-On Role in Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard
MSN – Jeffrey Schweers (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 10/15/2022
Florida’s public safety czar Larry Keefe was in San Antonio nearly two weeks before Gov. Ron DeSantis transported migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, and he may have traveled back to Florida with the migrants, records suggest. Those records also show Keefe coordinating the flights with gubernatorial chief of staff James Uthmeier and politically connected contractor Vertol Systems in the weeks leading up to the operation, which is under criminal investigation. The records also confirm a second flight that apparently was headed to near President Joe Biden’s beach house was scrapped after Texas authorities opened a criminal investigation.
Hawaii – Ban On In-Session Campaign Donations Gets Thumbs Up from Hawaii Standards Commission
Honolulu Civil Beat – Blaze Lovell | Published: 10/19/2022
The Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct is recommending that Hawaii lawmakers stop accepting campaign money during the legislative session. A bill to do that along with nine other measures focused on reforming campaign finance laws will head to lawmakers for consideration during the 2023 session. The commission is scheduled to take up another slate of proposals that seeks to tighten ethics rules for lawmakers and lobbyists.
Illinois – A Powerful Pritzker Administration Insider Cashed in as a Consultant
Better Government Association – Chuck Neubauer and David Jackson | Published: 10/19/2022
Shortly after she left her state job as a senior adviser to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, political operative Nikki Budzinski collected more than $500,000 in consulting and other fees in 10 months, including more than $80,000 from a Springfield lobbyist that Budzinski helped while working for the governor. State workers are generally barred from accepting compensation as a lobbyist for one year after leaving government work. Since Budzinski was not a registered lobbyist, but rather worked as a consultant to the lobbyist paying her, the rule did not apply to her.
Illinois – Ahead of Key Illinois Supreme Court Elections, Federal Judge Blocks State Campaign Contribution Limits in Judicial Races
MSN – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/18/2022
A federal judge issued a temporary injunction barring Illinois from enforcing two recent changes to the state’s campaign finance law. One bars non-Illinois residents from donating to state judicial candidates. The second prevents individual donors from giving more than $500,000 to independent expenditure committees like super PACs involved in state judicial elections. While there is some legal precedent for tighter restrictions on campaign fundraising in judicial races, the lawsuit argues the two Illinois laws go beyond what courts have allowed in the name of preventing corruption.
Illinois – AT&T Illinois Fined for Effort to Illegally Influence Ex-Speaker Michael Madigan as New Charges Against Him Revealed
MSN – Jason Meisner and Ray Long (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/14/2022
AT&T Illinois agreed to pay a $23 million fine and its former president has been indicted on federal charges over a scheme to influence former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who was arrested on racketeering and bribery charges earlier this year. AT&T admitted it arranged to make payments to an associate of Madigan in exchange for help in pushing through legislation favorable to AT&T. Paul La Schiazza, the former president of AT&T Illinois, was accused of orchestrating and approving the payments. In exchange for cooperating with the probe, criminal charges will be dropped against the company after two years.
Louisiana – See Lafayette Mayor Josh Guillory’s 2021 Financial Disclosure for Louisiana Ethics Board
Yahoo News – Andrew Capps (Lafayette Daily Advertiser) | Published: 10/17/2022
Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s most recent annual financial disclosure was supposed to shed light on his efforts to bolster his income while in office. But the report raises more questions about his side interests than it answers. Guillory’s equipment rental business made headlines shortly before his return from rehab in August, after which he denied any impropriety or conflicts-of-interest. Guillory has continued to work as an attorney since taking office. Dozens of Guillory’s former clients had their criminal charges removed from court records during his tenure.
Michigan – Michigan House Paying for Lawyers for Employees Interviewed in Chatfield Probe
Detroit News – Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc | Published: 10/19/2022
The Michigan House is providing legal representation for employees who are being interviewed as part of an expanding investigation into former House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Court records showed state officials were conducting a wide-reaching inquiry into sexual assault, and financial and drug use allegations related to Chatfield. Search warrant affidavits indicated investigators were looking into claims that Chatfield and others were involved in a “criminal enterprise,” which potentially included campaign finance violations, bribery, controlled substances, and embezzlement.
Michigan – Probe into Shirkey-Tied Nonprofits Continues; $2.33M Conciliation Agreement Declined
MLive – Jordyn Hermani | Published: 10/18/2022
Two nonprofits associated with a 2020 petition effort rejected a multi-million-dollar settlement with state elections officials, paving the way for a criminal investigation to progress. Michigan! My Michigan! and Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility were accused of improperly raising millions of dollars for Unlock Michigan for a ballot petition to limit the executive branch’s powers during health emergencies. Should the groups have settled through a conciliation agreement, paying the Michigan Bureau of Elections a cumulative $2.33 million, then any further civil or criminal action would have been barred.
New Jersey – New Jersey Sues 5 Oil Companies and Trade Group Over Climate Disinformation
State Impact Pennsylvania – Susan Phillips | Published: 10/18/2022
New Jersey filed a lawsuit against five oil companies and a trade organization, saying they knowingly deceived the public about their contributions to global warming. The lawsuit alleges the trade group, American Petroleum Institute, designed public relations campaigns aimed at convincing the public that climate change does not exist and creating confusion and doubt about the role of oil and gas.
New York – New York State Judge Sets Hearing to Decide New York Attorney General’s Motion in Trump Organization Case
MSN – Kara Scannell (CNN) | Published: 10/14/2022
A judge set a hearing date to decide whether to grant New York Attorney General Letitia James’ request to block the Trump Organization from engaging in certain business activities. The hearing will be the first since the state filed a $250 million lawsuit against former President Trump, his three eldest children, and the Trump Organization alleging they engaged in a decade-long fraud. The state says the same day it announced its lawsuit, the company incorporated a new entity in Delaware, Trump Organization II LLC. The state says it has not provided any assurances it will not move assets out of New York to avoid potential liability.
New York – Trump Gives Answers in Rape Accuser’s Defamation Suit Deposition
Bloomberg Law – Erik Larson | Published: 10/19/2022
Former President Trump answered questions under oath during a deposition sought by E. Jean Carroll, who alleges he raped her in a department store dressing room two decades ago and defamed her when he denied it. He had to go ahead with the deposition after a judge rejected Trump’s latest effort to put the questioning on hold. Trump recently issuing a statement about Carroll on social media, repeating the allegedly defamatory statements he made. The move could undermine his key defense in the case, that he cannot be sued for defamation because he was a sitting president at the time he denied Carroll’s claim in crude terms.
Ohio – Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Asks Ohio Supreme Court to Keep Former Utility Regulator’s Assets Frozen
MSN – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 10/19/2022
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked the state Supreme Court to press pause on a lower court’s decision unfreezing millions of dollars in assets of a former utility regulator accused of taking a $4.3 million bribe. Attorneys for Yost argued the lower court decision would allow Sam Randazzo to “liquidate” his assets and shield them from judgements the state may win in a civil lawsuit against him down the line. Denying the motion would be a “death knell” ruling in Ohio, Yost argued, setting a precedent that bad actors can move and hide their money while motions are pending.
Oregon – Official Looking ‘Oregon Voter Guide’ May Mislead Voters
Mail Tribune – Hillary Borrud (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 10/18/2022
Oregon voters seeking information about the November election are likely to see a website called “The 2022 Oregon Voter Guide” at the top of their online search results, ahead of the state’s official voters’ guide. Many voters might not realize the online information is not an official state voters’ guide. “The Oregon Voter Guide” is not nonpartisan or neutral. It is funded and designed by a group of Democratic allies, progressive groups, and Democratic PACs. Two years ago, public employee unions, Democrats, and other political allies partnered on a nearly identical official-looking website, as well as mailers.
Texas – In Texas, Where Money Has Long Dominated Politics, Greg Abbott Is in a League of His Own
Texas Tribune – Patrick Svitek, Carla Astudillo, Zach Despart, and Kate McGee | Published: 10/18/2022
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is easily the most prolific campaign fundraiser in the state’s history. His campaign fund has allowed him to scare off potential opponents, intimidate those who challenge him, fund a sprawling grassroots organization, and generally reshape Texas politics in his image. Texas is one of 11 states without contribution limits, enabling Abbott to raise enormous sums from some of the nation’s richest families and individuals. At its worst, critics say, Abbott’s fundraising prowess can give the appearance of a patronage system.
Washington – Ferguson Seeks $24.6 Million from Facebook for Campaign Finance Violations
Yahoo News – Laurel Demkovich (Spokane Spokesman-Review) | Published: 10/15/2022
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson is seeking the maximum penalty of $24.6 million against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, for violations of the state’s campaign finance law. A judge ruled Meta had 822 intentional violations of the law, which requires campaign advertisers, including sites such as Meta that host ads, to make information about the state’s political ads available for public inspection in a timely manner. The penalty is $10,000 per violation, but because a judge found Meta intentionally violated the law, the penalty can be tripled.
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