October 7, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – October 7, 2022
DataVault Requests US Election Agency’s Advice to Send NFTs as a Campaign Fundraising Incentive
Cointelegraph – Turner Wright | Published: 10/4/2022
The legal team behind nonfungible token (NFT) firm DataVault Holdings requested an advisory opinion from the FEC on using NFTs for campaign fundraising efforts. DataVault’s lawyers proposed sending NFTs as “souvenirs” to individuals who donated to political committees, as well as giving the token holder the option to use it for promoting a campaign “strictly on a volunteer basis and without any compensation.” The firm requested the FEC provide guidance on how it may operate as a commercial vendor, issuing the tokens to political committee members seemingly without violating federal campaign finance laws.
Election Officials Confront a New Problem: Whether they can trust their own poll workers
Yahoo News – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 10/4/2022
Election officials are growing concerned about a new danger in November: that groups looking to undermine election results will try to install their supporters as poll workers. The frontline election workers do everything from checking people in at voting locations to helping process mail ballots. Now, some prominent incidents involving poll workers have worried election officials that a bigger wave of trouble could be on the horizon.
In Trump White House, Classified Records Routinely Mishandled, Aides Say
MSN – Shane Harris, Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima, and Jacqueline Alemany (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
Aides who worked in Donald Trump’s White House were not surprised when the FBI found highly classified material in boxes at Mar-a-Lago mixed with news clippings and other items. During his four years in office, Trump never strictly followed the rules and customs for handling sensitive government documents, according to 14 officials from his administration. What those ex-Trump aides and advisers saw in an inventory of items recovered by the FBI in August – classified documents in boxes, stored alongside newspaper and magazine articles, books, and gifts – looked to them like the idiosyncratic filing system Trump used in the White House.
Justices Shield Spouses’ Work from Potential Conflict of Interest Disclosures
Yahoo News – Hailey Fuchs, Josh Gerstein, and Peter Canellos (Politico) | Published: 9/29/2022
Over the past year, Virginia Thomas has gotten attention for operating a consulting business that reportedly includes conservative activist groups with interest in U.S. Supreme Court decisions as clients. Her husband, Justice Clarence Thomas, has chosen not to reveal any of his wife’s clients, let alone how much they contributed to the Thomas family coffers, dating back to when her consulting business was founded. A Politico investigation shows potential conflicts involving justices’ spouses extend beyond the Thomas family.
Lawmakers Confront a Rise in Threats and Intimidation, and Fear Worse
MSN – Stephanie Lai, Luke Broadwater, and Carl Hulse (New York Times) | Published: 10/1/2022
Members of Congress in both parties are experiencing a surge in threats and confrontations as a rise in violent political speech has increasingly crossed over into the realm of in-person intimidation and physical altercation. In the months since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which brought lawmakers and the vice president within feet of rioters threatening their lives, Republicans and Democrats have faced stalking, armed visits to their homes, vandalism, and assaults. It is part of a trend that many fear is only intensifying as lawmakers scatter to campaign and meet with voters around the country ahead of midterm congressional elections.
Politics Are Becoming Tougher to Avoid at Work, Survey Finds
MSN – Taylor Telford (Washington Post) | Published: 10/5/2022
Escalating political tensions in the workplace are creating problems for organizations as midterm elections draw nearer, a new survey found. About 26 percent said they have personally experienced differential treatment (positive and negative) because of their political views or affiliation, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Corporations are under pressure from employees and consumers to weigh in on political issues. But the rise of politics in the workplace has consequences for polarization across the country, said Johnny C. Taylor Jr., SHRM’s chief executive.
Pro-DeSantis Hybrid PAC to File Lawsuit Challenging Unfavorable FEC Ruling
OpenSecrets – Taylor Giorno | Published: 10/3/2022
The political committee Ready for Ron asked the FEC for permission to share a list of supporters and their contact information with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to encourage him to run for president in 2024. The FEC ruled that Ready for Ron cannot share the list if DeSantis becomes a federal candidate or begins “testing the waters” for federal office, as the value would exceed the federal campaign contribution limit. The commission deadlocked on whether Ready for Ron could share the list if DeSantis is not testing the waters or running for federal office. The PAC plans to fille a lawsuit challenging the FEC’s decision.
Supreme Court to Scrutinize U.S. Protections for Social Media
MSN – Andrew Chung (Reuters) | Published: 10/3/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to federal protections for internet and social media companies freeing them of responsibility for content posted by users. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit, relying on as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. It protects “interactive computer services” by ensuring they cannot be treated as the “publisher or speaker” of any information provided by other users. Democrats have faulted it for giving social media companies a pass for spreading hate speech and misinformation. Republicans painted it as a tool for censorship of voices on the right.
The Onion Files Supreme Court Amicus Brief Defending the Right to Parody
MSN – Rachel Pannett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
A man who was arrested over a Facebook parody aimed at his local police department is trying to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The satirical website The Onion filed an amicus brief in support of Anthony Novak. A jury found him not guilty, and he is trying to sue the city for damages. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying the police had qualified immunity, and an appeals court upheld that decision. “Americans can be put in jail for poking fun at the government?” the brief asked. “This was a surprise to America’s Finest News Source and an uncomfortable learning experience for its editorial team.”
Trump Asks Supreme Court to Intervene in Mar-a-Lago Search Case
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
Former President Trump’s lawyers asked the Supreme Court to intervene in the Mar-a-Lago documents-seizure case, saying the special master appointed in the matter should be allowed to review the classified papers. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit granted the Justice Department’s request to keep about 100 classified documents separate from a review of documents being conducted by a court-appointed legal expert, called a special master. The department has launched a probe to determine if Trump or his advisers mishandled national security secrets or hid or destroyed government records.
U.S.: Oath Keepers, Rhodes attacked ‘bedrock of democracy’ on Jan. 6
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 10/3/2022
Members of the extremist group Oath Keepers led by Stewart Rhodes planned for an armed rebellion “to shatter a bedrock of American democracy” – the peaceful transfer of presidential power – culminating in their role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, a prosecutor said in the first seditious conspiracy trial of the January 6 investigation. Rhodes’ defense attorney Philip Linder said Oath Keepers came to Washington as “peacekeeping” security guards, believing then-President Trump could invoke the Insurrection Act to mobilize private militias, put down riots, and remain in power.
From the States and Municipalities
Alabama – Supreme Court Debates Alabama’s Refusal of Second Black Voting District
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
The U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices combined for an aggressive and unified defense against Alabama’s efforts to limit creation of voting districts in which minorities have the ability to elect candidates of their choice. The case is another major test of the Voting Rights Act, which the court’s conservative majority has diluted in recent years. At the end of oral arguments, it appeared a majority of the court might not embrace Alabama’s request for a broad reinterpretation of how the law is enforced, and that a narrower compromise was a possibility.
Arkansas – Missouri Health Executives Plead Guilty in Widespread Fraud
Stamford Advocate – Associated Press | Published: 9/29/2022
Two former executives of a Missouri health nonprofit pleaded guilty to their roles in a corruption scheme that ensnared several Arkansas elected officials and lobbyists, federal prosecutors said. Bontiea Goss and her husband, Tommy Goss, were executives at Preferred Family Healthcare, which provided services such as substance abuse treatments and counseling to people in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Illinois. Federal prosecutors said the Gosses and other co-conspirators paid bribes and kickbacks to Arkansas lawmakers to obtain favorable legislation and other official actions that helped the nonprofit.
California – A Cannabis Bribe and Arson: Former Adelanto councilman sentenced to federal prison
MSN – Gregory Yee (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/3/2022
Former Adelanto City Councilperson Jermaine Wright was convicted of taking a $10,000 bribe to help open a cannabis business and hiring someone to burn down his restaurant for an insurance payout. He was sentenced to five years in federal prison. Wright told an informant the money had to go to a nonprofit set up to conceal their scheme and he would put the informant on the nonprofit’s board so they could receive the money as well, a pre-sentencing report said.
California – New State Law Could Curb Pay to Play Politics in Orange County & California
Voice of OC – Spencer Custodio | Published: 10/3/2022
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation that bars local elected officials voting on items benefitting contributors who donated more than $250 within the past 12 months. Elected officials could return the campaign donations within 14 days of finding out about the contribution, which would allow them to vote on the item. In Orange County, an FBI corruption investigation into Anaheim City Hall that touches on Disneyland resort area interests has put a renewed focus on campaign finance, spurring calls of campaign finance reform.
Florida – The Story Behind DeSanti’s Migrant Flights to Martha’s Vineyard
Yahoo News – Edgar Sandoval, Miriam Jordan, Patricia Mazzei, and J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 10/2/2022
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a budget that set aside $12 million to create a program for transporting unauthorized migrants out of Florida. He touted it as the highlight of the state’s new spending when it came to immigration. But just three months later, the money was being used to round up Venezuelan asylum seekers on the streets of San Antonio and shipping them on private planes to Massachusetts. Details have begun to emerge of the clandestine mission. In the middle of it all was a woman with a background in military counterintelligence who investigators believe was sent to Texas from Tampa to fill the planes.
Georgia – Federal Judge Upholds Georgia Election Law in Challenge Brought by Abrams
MSN – Matthew Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 10/1/2022
A federal judge upheld Georgia’s election laws in a blow to Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, who also is the state’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Abrams’ group filed a lawsuit against the Georgia’s secretary of state soon after her 2018 election defeat, arguing the state’s absentee ballot policies, which require an “exact match” for names and addresses between voters’ IDs and voter registration records, represented “gross mismanagement” of the state’s election systems that violated Georgia voters’ constitutional rights.
Georgia – Georgia DA: GOP bankrolling lawyers for ‘fake’ Trump electors ‘rife with serious ethical problems’
Yahoo News – Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman | Published: 10/4/2022
The Georgia Republican Party is bankrolling the legal defense of most of the so-called fake electors in the state as part of a controversial arrangement that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charges in a new court filing is “rife with serious ethical problems” and “actual conflicts-of-interest.” Wills has launched a sprawling probe into Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Willis escalated the legal battle over the issue when she moved to disqualify the two lawyers being paid by the state GOP.
Georgia – Herschel Walker Paid for Girlfriend’s Abortion, Report Says
MSN – Bill Barrow (Associated Press) | Published: 10/3/2022
Herschel Walker, who has vehemently opposed abortion rights as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Georgia, paid for an abortion for his girlfriend in 2009, according to a report. Walker called the accusation a “flat-out lie” and said he would sue. The Daily Beast reviewed a receipt showing her $575 payment for the procedure, along with a get-well card from Walker and her bank deposit records showing the image of a personal check from Walker dated five days after the abortion receipt. The woman said Walker encouraged her to end the pregnancy, saying the time was not right for a baby.
Louisiana – Louisiana Officials Use Campaign Cash to Buy LSU, Saints Tickets
Louisiana Illuminator – Julie O’Donoghue | Published: 10/4/2022
Forty-nine Louisiana politicians spent $181,600 from their campaign accounts and PACs on tickets to collegiate and professional sporting events in 2020 and 2021. Over half of those purchasing the tickets were state lawmakers, but the group also includes the governor, sheriffs, district attorneys, and a state Supreme Court justice. State law prohibits elected officials from using campaign money for “personal use,” but sports tickets have long been considered a legitimate expense. The practice is legal so long as officials can explain why the spending is related to their campaign or job, said Kathleen Allen, the state’s ethics administrator.
Maryland – Nash Seeking Clarity on Lobbying Rules After Ethics Decision
Yahoo News – Ryan Marshall (Frederick News-Post) | Published: 10/5/2022
Frederick Alderwoman Katie Nash will not challenge a decision by the city’s Ethics Commission that some of her professional lobbying activities violated city rules in court and is seeking guidance for future work. The commission found Nash, a lobbyist registered with the state, improperly emailed coordinators for various city Neighborhood Advisory Councils and others, encouraging them to raise concerns with the county about plans to shift coverage of paramedic services in parts of the city. Nash also asked that information about avoiding conflicts be made available to candidates when they file.
Massachusetts – Former State Police Union Boss Dana Pullman and Former Lobbyist Anne Lynch Face Trial for Alleged Kickback Schemes
MSN – Shelly Murphy (Boston Globe) | Published: 10/3/2022
Dana Pullman, the former leader of the Massachusetts State Police union, is on trial on charges he took kickbacks totaling $41,250 from a union lobbyist, Anne Lynch, and diverted thousands of dollars from the union for personal expenses, including flowers, gifts, a Florida vacation, and meals at upscale restaurants with a girlfriend. When announcing the charges in August 2019, federal authorities accused Pullman of running the union “like an old-school mob boss” and tapping the union’s account as if it was “his own personal piggy bank.”
Michigan – Michigan’s Proposal 1 Would Change Term Limits, Require Financial Disclosure for Lawmakers
Yahoo News – Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 10/6/2022
Michigan voters will have a chance to decide this November whether they want to end the current term limits for state lawmakers in favor of reducing the total number of years lawmakers can serve in Lansing while increasing the number of times they can seek reelection in either chamber. The proposal would also establish new financial disclosure requirements for some elected officeholders. It would require annual reports describing their assets and sources of income, positions held outside of state government, agreements or arrangements regarding future employment, gifts and travel payments received, among other requirements.
Missouri – Missouri Ethics Commission Hobbled Again After Parson Pulls Appointees
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Jack Suntrup | Published: 9/29/2022
The Missouri Ethics Commission again is unable to function, at least temporarily, because it does not have enough members. Gov. Mike Parson removed three members of the panel on recently, said Liz Ziegler, executive director of the commission. Ziegler said Parson took the three members off the ethics commission “due to the special legislative session” the governor had called on tax relief.
Montana – Commissioner of Political Practices to Step Down Before Term Ends
Helena Independent Record – Sam Wilson | Published: 10/3/2022
Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Jeff Mangan announced on social media he will be retiring before his term ends, stepping down just before Election Day. Not since Dennis Unsworth’s departure at the end of 2010 has anyone served out a full term as commissioner. Past commissioners have at times come under fire for bringing a perceived partisan bias to their work investigating political complaints. Republican lawmakers have for years brought legislation seeking to disband the office or reduce the power commissioners wield.
New Mexico – NM Sen. Ivey-Soto Resigns from the Chairman Position of an Influential Committee
Source New Mexico – Shaun Griswold | Published: 9/29/2022
Fallout from a harassment complaint filed against New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto has now affected his position of power as a lawmaker in Santa Fe. Ivey-Soto submitted a letter resigning as chairperson of the Senate Rules Committee. His resignation as chair shields lawmakers from having to take a public position on Ivey-Soto’s behavior at the Capitol. A meeting to discuss Senate committee assignments would have been the first public discussion and vote by lawmakers about Ivey-Soto after an investigation about sexual harassment allegations against Ivey-Soto.
New York – City Council Redistricting Drama Underscores Dropped Commission Ethics Policy
Gotham Gazette – Ethan Geringer-Sameth | Published: 10/3/2022
New York City’s redistricting process was thrown into disarray in September after the commission responsible for drawing new city council district lines voted down its own draft map. An aide to Mayor Eric Adams individually lobbied his appointees on the commission to vote no, activity the mayor has denied knowing about. There are few formal barriers in place to prevent conflicts-of-interest between the 15 redistricting commissioners and the elected officials who appointed them.
New York – Contender for Top NYC City Hall Post Left Trail of Penalties and Debt as a Lobbyist
MSN – Michael Gartland (New York Daily News) | Published: 10/3/2022
Tiffany Raspberry, who currently serves as a senior advisor for external affairs in New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ administration, is being considered as the mayor’s next chief of staff. Before her stint at City Hall, Raspberry worked as a lobbyist through her firm York Group Associates. The firm failed to follow city and state disclosure requirements dozens of times between 2011 and 2020, leading to nearly $38,000 in fines for late and incorrect filings. Records reveal Raspberry’s former clients are still registered to lobby on both the city and state levels.
New York – Hochul Says She Had No Role in New York’s $637M Deal with Campaign Donor
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/6/2022
Gov. Kathy Hochul said that before her staff authorized $637 million in payments to a major campaign donor, she was never asked to give final approval to the taxpayer-funded deal for COVID-19 tests from Digital Gadgets. The governor also said she was not briefed about the cost of the purchase orders, which were significantly higher than what other companies had charged for providing rapid tests to New York. Before finalizing the deals, Digital Gadgets had little history as a distributor of COVID-19 tests. The company’s chief executive officer, Charlie Tebele, held campaign fundraisers for Hochul around the time the contract was awarded.
Ohio – Cleveland Police Commander Faces Discipline for Hiding His Work with Private Security Companies, Failing to Pay Taxes
MSN – Adam Ferrise (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/28/2022
Cleveland police Commander Michael Butler faces accusations involving his work for private security companies, including that he hid from city officials his work for the businesses during a time he led the city’s efforts at staffing both officers and security firms for major events, according to an internal disciplinary letter. The city’s letter also said Butler broke state law by failing to pay taxes on income he had earned.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Fights to Keep Records Tied to Bribery Scheme from the Public
Ohio Capital Journal – Jake Zuckerman | Published: 10/5/2022
FirstEnergy, which has admitted to spending tens of millions of dollars bribing top government officials in Ohio, asked state regulators to shield documents about its bribes from release to the public. The company’s request will soon be decided by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, whose former chairperson, Sam Randazzo, allegedly accepted a $4.3 million bribe from the utility for favorable regulatory treatment. The records could unmask the identities of several government officials and energy executives that FirstEnergy anonymously identified in its deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department.
Ohio – Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Creating Public Integrity Unit in Office Reorganization
MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/5/2022
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose is reorganizing his office to form a “public integrity” unit, a shuffling he said will include hiring of investigators with the authority to issue subpoenas to look into potential elections-related crimes. The secretary of state would make the decision on what cases to pursue. Any cases would be turned over to the attorney general’s office or local county prosecutors, which play a role in enforcing state criminal laws, or the Ohio Elections Commission, which is a clearinghouse for violations of state elections law. The move comes as increasing numbers of Republican voters view the accuracy of elections with suspicion.
Oklahoma – Okla. GOP Ties Hospital’s Covid Funds to End of Gender-Affirming Care
MSN – Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 10/4/2022
Oklahoma lawmakers added a controversial provision before awarding the state’s largest hospital system $108 million in pandemic relief funds. OU Health would only get the money if its Oklahoma Children’s Hospital stopped providing gender-affirming care. The move, which the governor signed into law, marks the first time that conservative state lawmakers have tied gender-affirming care to the receipt of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. Some advocates worry it might embolden other Legislatures with GOP majorities to add similar restrictions before allocating money to publicly funded hospitals.
Oregon – City Elections Office Upholds Campaign Penalty Against Council Candidate Rene Gonzalez
Portland Mercury – Alex Zielinski | Published: 9/29/2022
Portland City Council candidate Rene Gonzalez’s appeal of a $77,000 campaign finance violation was rejected by the Small Donor Elections program. Gonzalez had argued that accepting a $250 monthly rate for an office rental in downtown Portland that normally goes for a monthly rate of $6,900 was not an in-kind contribution from property owner Jordan Schnitzer. According to Gonzalez, that is because vacancy rates are so high in downtown Portland the office would have gone unrented if his campaign had not occupied the space.
Pennsylvania – As TV Doctor, Mehmet Oz Provided Platform for Questionable Products and Views
MSN – Colby Itkowitz and Lenny Bernstein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/3/2022
As a Republican candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, a key battleground in the fight for control of the chamber, Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is putting his medical background and his popular television show at the center of his campaign pitch. But during the show’s run from 2009 to 2021, Oz provided a platform for potentially dangerous products and fringe viewpoints, aimed at millions of viewers, according to medical experts, public health organizations, and federal health guidance.
Pennsylvania – Unresolved Gray Areas in Pa. Mail Voting Law Likely to Spur Fresh Confusion, Legal Challenges
Spotlight PA – Stephen Caruso and Katie Meyer | Published: 10/5/2022
Some key questions on mail ballots remain unsettled in Pennsylvania, opening the door for more legal action and confusion after the upcoming gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races. State lawmakers in 2019 passed a bipartisan overhaul of the state’s election law and allowed no-excuse mail voting for the first time. That law does not say, for instance, whether counties should be able to contact voters who have submitted mail ballots with errors and allow them to fix them, a process known as ballot curing. The law also does not mention ballot drop boxes or how they should be regulated.
Texas – Ethics Commission Shelves Lobbying Complaint Against Austin Pets Alive! Employee
Austin Monitor – Chad Swiatecki | Published: 10/3/2022
The Ethics Review Commission opted not to move forward with a lobbying complaint against Katie Jarl, a member of the city’s Animal Advisory Commission who also works in a governmental affairs job for Austin Pets Alive (APA). The complaint was based on the likelihood that Jarl was involved in lobbying activity for APA in 2021 when it was negotiating with the city for a long-term lease for a shelter property. City laws bar a registered lobbyist from serving on boards and commissions.
Texas – Fort Worth City Manager Apologizes After Reprimanded for Trip with Sundance Square Owners
MSN – Lana Ferguson (Dallas Morning News) | Published: 10/5/2022
Fort Worth City Manager David Cooke was publicly reprimanded for taking a trip to Colorado on a private plane with Ed and Sasha Bass. Some argue the trip was, in part, to promote the city, but Cooke said it was a “personal trip with friends.” Cooke will remain in his role but must recuse himself from all city business tied to Sundance Square, which the Basses own, and the Downtown Public Improvement District. Mayor Mattie Parker and the city council said Cooke’s decision to take the Labor Day weekend trip to Aspen showed “questionable judgement” and that, when asked about it, he “exercised poor communication to the public.”
Virginia – IT Issues Stall Voter-Records Processing for 107,000 in Virginia
MSN – Laura Vozzella (Washington Post) | Published: 10/5/2022
Local registrars across Virginia began scrambling to process about 107,000 voter records dumped on them overnight by the state Department of Elections, where computer network failures had left applications in limbo for months. Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office blamed unspecified technical problems for the backlog, which affected new voter registration applications, address updates, and other changes submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Registrars do not face a hard deadline for processing registrations, but state law requires they notify voters of their polling place 15 days before an election.
Virginia – Virginia Paid Governor Youngkin’s Political Ad Agency $268K to Make a Tourism Ad – Featuring Youngkin.
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Patrick Wilson | Published: 10/5/2022
The political advertising agency behind Glenn Youngkin’s successful bid for Virginia governor, which created his branding, received a $268,600 contract from a state agency to produce a tourism video that heavily features Youngkin himself. The ad will appear in Virginia’s airports and welcome centers at a time when the governor is considering a run for president and is seeking to boost his national image. Poolhouse specializes in digital advertising for GOP candidates. It was formed in 2013 and has never performed marketing work for the state before the Youngkin tourism advertisement.
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