October 29, 2021 •
News You Can Use Digest – October 29, 2021
Democrats Turn Down Top Lobbying Roles at Facebook as Scandals Pile Up
Yahoo News – Nihal Krishan (Washington Examiner) | Published: 10/27/2021
Facebook is reportedly struggling to hire Democrats for its lobbying shop in Washington, D.C. despite paying top dollar, a potential sign the social media behemoth is now deemed radioactive by many on the Left. The Biden administration and Democrats in Congress have threatened to go after Facebook with aggressive regulations, lawsuits, and investigations, and that appears to be making it an unattractive employer for top talent. Making matters worse, some senior Democratic lobbyists have left the company recently, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Ethics Panel Releases Reports on Malinowski, Kelly, Mooney and Hagedorn
MSN – Chris Marquette (Roll Call) | Published: 10/21/2021
The House Committee on Ethics released four reports into separate violations of ethics rules by four members of Congress, portraying what investigators suggested was a sweeping array of improper financial conduct. The allegations against three Republicans and one Democrat center on stock trades and the improper use of campaign funds, according to the Office of Congressional Ethics, which investigated the cases. All four cases will continue to be reviewed by the ethics committee.
Facebook Staff Complained for Years About Their Lobbyists’ Power
Yahoo News – Emily Birnbaum (Politico) | Published: 10/25/2021
Facebook’s lobbying and government relations shop, overseen by former Republican operative Joel Kaplan, regularly weighs in on speech-related issues, such as how to deal with prominent right-wing figures, misinformation, ads from former President Trump, and the aftermath of the George Floyd protests, according to internal documents. The dynamic is so prevalent, employees argued Facebook regularly ignored its own written policies to keep political figures happy, even overriding concerns about public safety. The disclosures come after years of internal and external grumbling at Facebook about the role played by Kaplan.
Fed to Ban Policymakers from Owning Individual Stocks, Restrict Trading Following Controversy
CNBC – Jeff Cox | Published: 10/21/2021
Responding to a growing controversy over investing practices, the Federal Reserve announced a wide-ranging ban on officials owning individual stocks and bonds and limits on other activities as well. The ban includes top policymakers such as those who sit on the Federal Open Market Committee, along with senior staff. Future investments will have to be confined to diversified assets such as mutual funds. The new rules replace existing regulations that, while somewhat restrictive, still allowed officials such as regional presidents to buy and sell stocks.
Five Points for Anger, One for a ‘Like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation
MSN – Jeremy Merrill and Will Oremus (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2021
Five years ago, Facebook gave its users five new ways to react to a post in their news feed beyond the iconic “like” thumbs-up: “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” and “angry.” Facebook programmed the algorithm that decides what people see in their news feeds to use the reaction emoji as signals to push more emotional and provocative content, including content likely to make them angry. Facebook’s ranking algorithm treated emoji reactions as five times more valuable than “likes,” internal documents reveal. The theory was simple: posts that prompted lots of reaction emoji tended to keep users more engaged, and keeping users engaged was the key to Facebook’s business.
Florida Judge Rules Trump Can’t Skirt Twitter’s Terms Just Because He Was President, in Latest Legal Setback
MSN – Timothy Bella (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2021
A federal judge in Florida ruled Donald Trump’s status as a former president does not exclude him from following Twitter’s terms of service, the latest setback in his quest to get back on the social media platform after being banned this year. The judge granted Twitter’s motion to transfer the case from the Southern District of Florida to the Northern District of California, which is required by a clause in the company’s user agreement that all Twitter users sign. The case stems from Twitter permanently suspending Trump shortly after the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol that led to five deaths and injuries to hundreds of people.
Former Giuliani Associate Lev Parnas Is Convicted of Campaign Finance Crimes
National Public Radio – Associated Press | Published: 10/22/2021
A jury convicted a former associate of Rudy Giuliani of charges he made illegal campaign contributions to influence U.S. politicians and advance his business interests. Prosecutors accused Lev Parnas of using other people’s money to pose as a powerful political broker and get close to some of the nation’s leading Republican political figures. The case had drawn interest because of the involvement of Parnas and a former co-defendant, Igor Fruman, in Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden’s son during the 2020 election.
House Votes to Hold Bannon in Contempt for Refusing to Comply with the Jan. 6 Subpoena
MSN – Felicia Sonmez, Marianna Sotomayor, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2021
The House voted to hold former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for his refusal to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Bannon has argued he cannot respond to the subpoena because of executive privilege asserted by former President Trump. The matter now goes to the Justice Department, which will decide whether to pursue the matter. Legal experts have cast doubt on the merit of Bannon’s defense of his defiance of the subpoena.
Inside Facebook’s Struggle to Contain Insurrectionists’ Posts
Yahoo News – Alexandra Levine (Politico) | Published: 10/25/2021
In the hours leading up to the January 6 insurrection, engineers and other experts in Facebook’s Elections Operations Center were scrambling to thwart dangerous claims spreading across the platform, trying to detect false narratives of election fraud and squelch other content fueling the rioters. But much of what was happening across the social network that day fell into a bucket of problematic material Facebook has said it does not yet know how to tackle. Facebook had no clear playbook for handling some of the most dangerous material on its platform: content delegitimizing the U.S. elections.
Jan. 6 Protest Organizers Say They Participated in ‘Dozens’ of Planning Meetings with Members of Congress and White House Staff
Yahoo News – Hunter Walker (Rolling Stone) | Published: 10/24/2021
Two people who helped plan the pro-Trump rallies that took place in Washington, D.C., ahead of the Capitol riot on January 6 say members of Congress and the White House helped plan the protest that turned violent. Neither of the sources were identified, though Rolling Stone described one as a “rally organizer” and another as a “planner.” Rolling Stone reported the two are also talking to the House select committee investigating the insurrection. Both organizers also said Mark Meadows, who was serving as then-President Trump’s chief of staff, played a significant role in discussions regarding the protests ahead of January 6.
‘Threats of Violence’: School boards curb public comments to calm raucous meetings
MSN – Andrew Atterbury and Juan Perez Jr. (Politico) | Published: 10/26/2021
School leaders nationwide are beginning to eye ways to rein in public commentary at local meetings to quell raucous crowds over issues like mask mandates and critical race theory. The potential changes could add more strain between school boards and the public they serve, a domain that has emerged as a fierce culture war battleground amid the coronavirus. Parents across the nation are fighting for more control over what their children are learning in school, frustrations that have boiled over during the pandemic and are gaining support in the Republican Party.
Twitter Algorithms Amplify Conservative Content More Than That of the Political Left, Researchers Find
MSN – Taylor Telford (Washington Post) | Published: 10/24/2021
An internal evaluation of Twitter’s recommendation algorithms concluded they amplify right-leaning political content more than left-leaning content, undercutting allegations by many conservatives who contend they are being censored on the platform. The research is months in the making, part of Twitter’s promise to evaluate the underpinnings of its platform after the company was criticized for its role in the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol.
From the States and Municipalities
Alaska – After Federal Court Action, Alaska Prepares to Remove Most Restrictions on Campaign Contributions
Yahoo News – James Brooks (Anchorage Daily News) | Published: 10/27/2021
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it will not re-examine a decision that overturned many of Alaska’s most important limits on campaign contributions. The order clears the way for those caps to be lifted later this fall, ahead of next year’s municipal and state races. Those limits were part of a 2006 ballot measure, but the federal judges ended almost six years of legal arguments by saying they unconstitutionally limit the free-speech rights of political donors.
California – California Sets New Rules for Mystery Donations Made on Behalf of Lawmakers
MSN – Melody Gutierrez (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/21/2021
California law requires that charitable donations of $5,000 or more requested by elected officials or their representatives, a practice known as behested payments, be disclosed to limit undue influence in government. But the identities of those who use so-called donor-advised funds to make those payments are often shielded in state and local disclosures. The Fair Political Practices Commission approved changes that will require elected officials to report the name of the person directing a behested payment through a donor-advised fund. When the contribution is made anonymously, the elected official must note that in disclosure filings.
California – Huizar Seeks to Gut Corruption Case, Says Alleged $1.5 Million in Gifts Were Not Bribes
Yahoo News – Michael Finnegan and David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/26/2021
Attorneys for former Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar readily admit that many of the allegations made against him in a wide-ranging corruption case are “distasteful.” Federal prosecutors have accused him of traveling on private jets, staying at luxury hotels, gambling at casinos in Las Vegas, and consorting with prostitutes – all paid for by businesspeople seeking to profit from the real estate boom in his district. But Huizar’s lawyers argued many of the steps he is accused of taking to help those businesspeople, such as setting up meetings and recommending consultants, were too informal to qualify as the type of “official acts” that meet the definition of bribery under federal law.
California – San Diego City Attorney, Mayoral Aides Met with Lobbyists Over Ash Street Litigation
San Diego Daily Tribune – Jeff McDonald (San Diego Union-Tribune) | Published: 10/24/2021
One of San Diego’s highest profile lobbying firms met privately with City Attorney Mara Elliott, her top lieutenants, and two senior aides to Mayor Todd Gloria to resolve litigation over the ill-fated lease for the former Sempra Energy headquarters. The confidential discussions with Southwest Strategies lobbyists came at the same time the company was raising tens of thousands of dollars in political donations for Elliott, Gloria, and members of the city. Legal and political experts say the arrangement is unusual and questionable.
Colorado – New Redistricting Lobbying Complaint Targets Latino Advocacy Group
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge (Colorado Springs Gazette) | Published: 10/22/2021
Another complaint alleging failures to properly disclose redistricting lobbying activity was lodged with the Colorado secretary of state, this time targeting an influential Hispanic and Latino advocacy organization. The newest complaint takes aim at the Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy, and Research Organization, arguing their registered lobbyist has not properly disclosed his activities, and two other employees of the organization should have registered as lobbyists and disclosed their contact with redistricting commissioners as lobbying.
Colorado – No-Bid Contracts to Campaign Contributors, Top-Dollar PR Firms Among ‘Custodial Funds’ Spending in Colorado
Denver Gazette – Evan Wyloge (Colorado Springs Gazette) | Published: 10/21/2021
So-called custodial funds in Colorado are an example of government spending that has little to no oversight. The money can be used at the discretion of a state agency, as long as the spending qualifies under the purpose of the funds’ source, like spending $400 million received from settlements with drug companies on anti-drug addiction efforts. But there is no oversight step built into the process. Attorney General Phil Weiser directed about $250,000 to no-bid contracts for a handful of his campaign contributors or their firms from a pot of money controlled by his office that is intended to help protect consumers from fraud.
Connecticut – Former State Rep. DiMassa Allegedly Billed West Haven $100K for Lobbying the City ‘Wouldn’t Need,’ Documents Show
Stamford Advocate – Mark Zaretsky (New Haven Register) | Published: 10/26/2021
Former Connecticut Rep. Michael DiMassa, who was arrested on federal wire-fraud charges related to his use of COVID relief funds, allegedly claimed on invoices he submitted to the city of New Haven a company he formed that received $636,000 in federal money was involved in lobbying activities. The documents do not specify who would have done the lobbying for DiMassa’s Compass Investment Group and authorities allege none of the work for which invoices were submitted was done, and state law also prohibits any member of the Legislature from acting as a lobbyist.
Florida – Florida Ethics Commission Clears Ken Welch in 2018 Lobbying Controversy
Florida Politics – Kelly Hayes | Published: 10/27/2021
The Florida Commission on Ethics found no probable cause former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch misused his position in 2018 when lobbying public officials on behalf of his wife. The commission cleared Welch less than two weeks before the St. Petersburg election in which Welch tops the ballot for mayor. The issue has dogged Welch’s mayoral campaign in some attack emails by a shadowy group that messaged voters highlighting the past controversy. The emails referenced a Tampa Bay Times editorial criticizing Welch for an “obvious conflict-of-interest.”
Florida – Florida Senate ‘Ghost’ Candidate Alex Rodriguez Faces Potential $20,000 Ethics Fine
MSN – Mark Harper (Daytona Beach Journal) | Published: 10/27/2021
Alex Rodriguez, the former “ghost” candidate who pleaded guilty in August in an election-fraud criminal case, has been levied a $20,000 fine. The Florida Commission on Ethics announced it approved a settlement agreement with Rodriguez for accepting money “from an individual based on the understanding he would change his party affiliation, qualify to run” in the 2020 Senate District 37 race, and file a false financial-disclosure form. Rodriguez ran as a no-party affiliation candidate in a tight contest between then-incumbent Sen. Jose Rodriguez and Republican Ileana Garcia. He was considered a “ghost” candidate because he did not campaign other than filling out the paperwork and paying the qualifying fee.
Georgia – Judge: State can’t pursue charges against Georgia’s Oxendine
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/24/2021
A judge is throwing out ethics charges against former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, saying state officials waited too long to pursue action. Oxendine was accused of illegally using campaign funds from his failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign to buy a house and lease cars. He was also accused of accepting campaign contributions 10 times above the legal limit from insurance companies.
Iowa – Des Moines Schools’ Superintendent’s Wife Donated to School Board Candidate’s Campaign
MSN – Samantha Hernandez (Des Moines Register) | Published: 10/24/2021
Des Moines Public Schools’ Superintendent Tom Ahart’s wife donated $400 to a city School Board candidate’s campaign, a contribution that is legal but raises ethical questions, government watchdogs say. Jami Bassman Ahart donated to candidate Shelley Skuster, who is running to unseat Kim Martorano, who previously voted not to extend Ahart’s contract with the district. If elected, Skuster would be among those making decisions about Ahart’s future employment.
Michigan – Detroit Cops Accused of Pocketing Cash, Steering Towing Work, Offering to Leak Info
Detroit News – Robert Snell, George Hunter, and Oralandar Brand-Williams | Published: 10/27/2021
Two members of the Detroit Police Department, including an internal affairs lieutenant, were charged with bribery. The arrests are in connection with “Operation Northern Hook,” a broader FBI investigation of corruption within City Hall and municipal towing operations. Lt. John Kennedy and Officer Daniel Vickers conspired to accept bribes in exchange for steering towing work to an unidentified company, prosecutors alleged. The bribes included thousands of dollars in cash, cars, and new carpeting for Vickers’ home, according to the government.
Michigan – Feds Secure First Conviction in Taylor Mayor Bribery Scandal
Detroit News – Robert Snell | Published: 10/22/2021
Federal prosecutors secured the first conviction in a bribery case against Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars when a real estate developer admitted bribing Sollars with more than $53,000 in cash, appliances, home renovations, and gambling money. Shady Awad pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy almost two years after he was charged. Awad is the latest person convicted in a crackdown on public corruption in Metro Detroit. Since 2008, more than 100 individuals have been charged and there are ongoing FBI investigations targeting Detroit City Council members.
Mississippi – Brett Favre Repays $600,000 in Mississippi Welfare Fraud Case
New York Times – Michael Levensen | Published: 10/27/2021
Brett Favre, the Hall of Fame quarterback who was raised in Mississippi, paid the state back $600,000 he owed after he improperly received welfare money for speeches as part of an extensive fraud scheme. But Favre could still be sued if he does not pay the state the remaining $228,000 in interest he owes, said state Auditor Shad White. Mississippi had allowed millions of dollars in anti-poverty funds to be used in ways that did little or nothing to help the poor, with two nonprofit groups instead using the money on lobbyists, football tickets, religious concerts, and fitness programs for state lawmakers.
Missouri – Unexplained Exits Becoming the Norm for Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s Cabinet
Missouri Independent – Jason Hancock | Published: 10/25/2021
The October 12 departure of Sarah Steelman as commissioner of the Office of Administration marked the third time in six months that a member of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s Cabinet was let go suddenly and without any public explanation. Just like the previous two – Former Health Director Randall Williams and ex-chief operating officer for the governor Drew Erdman – Steelman was asked to resign effective immediately, and her resignation letter is being withheld from public disclosure. House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said the moves are especially troubling now that they involve the state’s purchasing agency.
New Jersey – An Oath Keeper Was at the Capitol Riot. On Tuesday, He’s on the Ballot.
New York Times – Tracy Tully | Published: 10/27/2021
Edward Durfee Jr. is an active member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia who leads the group’s northern New Jersey region and was outside the Capitol during the January 6 insurrection. He is also running for the New Jersey Assembly as a Republican. Durfee said he did not enter the Capitol during the assault, and he condemned the violence that led to several deaths. But he wholeheartedly embraces the ideology of the Oath Keepers, an antigovernment group that pledges to support and defend its interpretation of the Constitution against all enemies.
New York – Rep. Espaillat Campaign Paid Thousands to Online Influencers Who Delivered Flattering Posts
The City – Claudia Irizarry Aponte | Published: 10/25/2021
Campaign committees for U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat have paid nearly $15,000 to bloggers for posting hundreds of flattering articles dating to his first run for Congress in 2016. The bloggers’ posts do not disclose their financial ties with the Espaillat campaign, exploiting a legal gray area as paid social media influencers play a growing role in campaigns nationally. Two of those bloggers have also received payments from four candidates for the New York City Council, classified in campaigns’ filings as “communications” or “advertising.” The council contenders also have reaped favorable articles written by the bloggers, without disclosure to readers of the payments.
Ohio – Bankruptcy Court Overseeing Energy Harbor Case Didn’t Pre-Approve $500K Political Donation
MSN – Laura Bischoff (Columbus Dispatch) | Published: 10/24/2021
Bankrupt and struggling for survival, FirstEnergy Solutions donated $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association in October 2018 as part of a political strategy recommended by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, a powerful law and lobbying firm. But the contribution, designed to help Mike DeWine, did not get prior approval from the federal bankruptcy court. FirstEnergy and FirstEnergy Solutions, which is now called Energy Harbor, have not provided a full disclosure of how much money it pumped into Ohio politics via “dark money” groups.
Ohio – Cincinnati City Council Approves Anti-Corruption Reforms
WXIX – Jennifer Edwards Baker | Published: 10/27/2021
Rocked by a corruption scandal that saw three members indicted on bribery charges last year, Cincinnati City Council approved two anti-corruption reform measures. One will prohibit council members from soliciting and accepting campaign contributions from those having a financial interest in city business while that business is pending before council. The other will create the position of ethics czar. This person will investigate ethics complaints, oversee a confidential whistleblower hotline, and in general support ethics, election, and campaign finance efforts.
Ohio – Sam Randazzo Overruled PUCO Commissioners, Staff to Help FirstEnergy, According to Company’s Ex-CEO
MSN – Jeremy Pelzer (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/21/2021
Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairperson Sam Randazzo, whom FirstEnergy admitted to bribing, overruled other commissioners and staff to secure policies that benefitted the utility. Randazzo also succeeded in “burning” the final report of a PUCO-commissioned audit into a FirstEnergy customer charge the Ohio Supreme Court overturned the previous year. Critics are questioning whether that report contained information about whether FirstEnergy was improperly using money collected from customers to help pay a $60 million bribe to secure the passage of legislation favorable to the company.
Pennsylvania – Pennsylvania Lawmakers Get Started on Bills Restricting Lobbyists
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – Marc Levy (Associated Press) | Published: 10/25/2021
The Pennsylvania House began advancing a package of bills aimed at lobbying, including limiting gifts from lobbyists, and prohibiting lobbyists from trying to influence an elected official for whom they also worked as a campaign strategist. One of the centerpiece bills would bar state officials, including lawmakers, from letting a lobbyist pay for their transportation, lodging, recreation, or entertainment, and limiting gifts from lobbyists to $250 in value each year.
Tennessee – State Sen. Brian Kelsey, Nashville Club Owner Indicted in Campaign Finance Conspiracy
MSN – Rachel Wegner and Brinley Hineman (The Tennessean) | Published: 10/25/2021
A federal grand jury returned a five-count indictment charging Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey and club owner Joshua Smith with violating multiple campaign finance laws as part of a conspiracy to benefit Kelsey’s 2016 campaign for Congress. Smith owns The Standard, an elite Nashville club that also operates its own state PAC. There, the investigators allege, they illegally funneled money into Kelsey’s campaign on one occasion at a private dinner through the club’s PAC. A watchdog group filed an FEC complaint saying Kelsey and others may have been involved in illegal straw donations, inappropriate coordination, and other possible wrongdoing.
Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott’s Pick for Top Texas Election Post Worked with Trump to Fight 2020 Results
Texas Tribune – James Barragán and Patrick Svitek | Published: 10/21/2021
Gov. Greg Abbott appointed John Scott, an attorney who briefly represented former President Trump in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania, as Texas’ new secretary of state. Scott would oversee election administration in Texas, a task complicated in by baseless claims of widespread election fraud from Republicans in the highest levels of government, fueled by Trump. Scott will eventually have to be confirmed by the Legislature, which is not scheduled to meet again until 2023. Until then, Scott will serve as interim secretary of state and will oversee next year’s statewide races, in which Abbott will run for reelection.
Texas – Texas Abortion Law Model Could Spread to Guns, Free Speech, Supreme Court Is Told
MSN – Todd Ruger (Roll Call) | Published: 10/28/2021
The U.S. Supreme Court faces arguments that a novel enforcement scheme Texas created for its abortion law could be used by states to neutralize other constitutional rights related to guns, protests, campaign finance, and more. The warning comes from not only the Justice Department and the abortion providers that have challenged the law but also constitutional scholars, states, former prosecutors, and law enforcement officials and a California-based nonprofit group that pushes for gun rights.
Texas – Texas GOP Lawmaker Launches Investigation of Books on Race and Sexuality Used in School Districts
MSN – Mariana Alfaro (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2021
A Texas Republican lawmaker launched an investigation into some of the state’s school districts’ libraries, demanding in a letter that educators say whether their schools own books named in a list of 850 titles, many of which cover issues of race and sexuality. Rep. Matt Krause, who is running for state attorney general, sent the letter as part of his role as chairperson of the House Committee on General Investigating. Sarah Spurrier, a high school social studies teacher, said she does not teach critical race theory in her classes, because that is a concept she first heard of this summer, when it became a conservative talking point.
Texas – Texas GOP Lt. Gov. Patrick Offered $25,000 for Election-Fraud tips. The First Payout Was for a Republican’s Illegal Vote.
MSN – Julian Mark (Washington Post) | Published: 10/22/2021
Three days after the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden, and as then-President Trump took to Twitter and falsely claimed tens of thousands of votes were cast illegally, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said he would reward a minimum of $25,000 to tipsters who uncovered credible instances of voter fraud. Now Patrick has given out his first reward to Eric Frank, a Democratic poll worker from Pennsylvania whose tip led to the recent conviction of a registered Republican who cast a second vote in his son’s name last November.
Virginia – An Army of Poll Watchers – Many Driven by GOP’s ‘Election Integrity’ Push – Turns Out Across Virginia
MSN – Meagan Flynn and Shawn Boburg (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2021
In Virginia, the Republican Party’s “election integrity” push has driven an influx of election observers in this year’s gubernatorial race. In some trainings, prospective poll watchers have been taught to see themselves as a bulwark against election fraud. But while many registrars said they welcomed the poll watchers’ commitment to transparency, some tactics have made election officials uneasy because it is clear former President Trump’s claims of mass voter fraud have driven much of the interest, said Fairfax County General Registrar Scott, creating a created a sense among some staff members the observers do not trust them.
Virginia – Virginia’s Redistricting Commission’s Failure to Transcend Partisanship Has Lessons for Other States, Critics Say
MSN – Meagan Flynn (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2021
Last year, Virginia voters approved a bipartisan commission to take politics out of redistricting. This year, blowing past deadlines to deliver new state and congressional maps, the Virginia Redistricting Commission failed to reach agreement on any maps, with time running out to reconvene. It marks a stunning departure from the type of redistricting overhaul voters sought when they approved the commission. While voters and advocates hoped to end gerrymandering, instead what they got was a stalemate, as commissioners gridlocked along party lines almost every step of the way.
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