News You Can Use Digest - September 23, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

September 23, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – September 23, 2022


A Landmark Supreme Court Fight Over Social Media Now Looks Likely
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 9/19/2022

Conflicting lower court rulings about removing controversial material from social media platforms point toward a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on whether the First Amendment protects tech companies’ editorial discretion or forbids its censorship of unpopular views. The stakes are high not just for government and the companies, but because of the increasingly dominant role platforms such as Twitter and Facebook play in American democracy and elections. Social media posts have the potential to amplify disinformation or hateful speech, but removal of controversial viewpoints can stifle public discourse about important political issues.

Appeals Court: Justice Dept. can use Mar-a-Lago documents in criminal probe
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022

An appeals court sided with the Justice Department in a legal fight over classified documents seized in a court-authorized search of former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, ruling the FBI may use the documents in its ongoing criminal investigation. The decision by a three-judge panel of the appeals court marks a victory for the Justice Department in its legal battle with Trump over access to the evidence to determine if the former president or his advisers mishandled national security secrets or hid or destroyed government records.

Apple Flexes Muscle as Quiet Power Behind App Group
Yahoo News – Emily Birnbaum (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/19/2022

The APP Association brands itself as the leading voice for thousands of app developers around the world. The majority of its funding comes from Apple, however. The tech giant is not a member of the association, but it plays a dominant behind-the-scenes role shaping the group’s policy positions, according to four former App Association employees. In fact, critics note, the association’s lobbying agenda tracks closely with Apple’s even when it is at odds with app developers, the companies that make the individual games and programs that run on Apple’s iPhone and other devices.

DeSantis Draft Effort Pushes Ahead After Campaign Finance Watchdog Deadlocks
MSN – Zach Montellaro (Politico) | Published: 9/15/2022

An effort to draft Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis into the 2024 presidential race promised to proceed with an unusual attempt to boost his would-be campaign, after the FEC deadlocked on a request for guidance about whether the strategy was legal. Ready for Ron is a federal PAC that wants to build a list of up to 1 million people urging DeSantis to run. But with those names, the group wants to deliver would-be supporters’ email addresses and phone numbers to DeSantis. The FEC has said candidates can rent or buy supporter lists compiled by other groups, but they cannot accept something of such value as a gift without breaking contribution limits.

Fugitive in Massive Navy Bribery Case Caught in Venezuela
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 9/22/2022

Leonard Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. military history, was arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing. The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in a federal court for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S. Navy officers. The U.S. government faces an uphill challenge returning the fugitive back to American soil.

Gaetz Sought Pardon Related to Justice Department Sex Trafficking Probe
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Amy Gardner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/17/2022

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz told a former White House aide that he was seeking a preemptive pardon from then-President Trump regarding an investigation in which he is a target, according to testimony given to the House select committee investigating the attack on the Capitol. Asked by investigators if Gaetz’s request for a pardon was in the context of the Justice Department investigation into whether he violated federal sex trafficking laws, Johnny McEntee replied, “I think that was the context, yes,” according to people familiar with the testimony.

Greg Norman Finds Friendly Faces, Harsh Criticism on Capitol Hill Trip
MSN – Rick Maese (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022

As a federal antitrust case winds its way through the court system, LIV Golf chief executive Greg Norman visited Capitol Hill, receiving mixed reviews from lawmakers as he tried to sell them on his breakaway tour that has upended the golf word. While some lawmakers seemed receptive to Norman, others questioned LIV Golf’s Saudi financing and said Congress should not spend time intervening in a business dispute between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour. LIV Golf and seven of its golfers have sued the PGA Tour, saying it violated antitrust laws, allegations the Justice Department is also reportedly probing.

House Passes Bill to Prevent Efforts to Subvert Presidential Election Results
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022

The House passed an electoral reform bill that seeks to prevent presidents from trying to overturn election results through Congress, the first vote on such an effort since the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob seeking to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win. The Presidential Election Reform Act would clearly reaffirm the vice president has no role in validating a presidential election beyond acting as a figurehead who oversees the counting process, barring that person from changing the results.

Jan. 6 Committee Reaches Deal with Ginni Thomas for an Interview
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Azi Paybarah (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022

The House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection reached an agreement with Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, to be interviewed by the panel in coming weeks. Virginia Thomas, a longtime conservative activist, pushed lawmakers and top Republican officials to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election, citing baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.

Old Money: How retirees are funding and fueling political candidates unlike ever before
Yahoo News – Madison Hall (Business Insider) | Published: 9/20/2022

Retirees are becoming one of the most powerful financial forces in politics as they spend their savings to fuel federal-level campaigns. By the 2020 election cycle, retirees accounted for more than 20 percent of contributions, amounting to more than $378 million. Retirees’ expanded influence coincides with the rapid increase in politicians fundraising by email and text message – and targeting older Americans with never-ending solicitations. Older Americans, many of whom are retired, tend to be more engaged politically and represent a larger share of each party’s base, said Sheila Krumholz, executive director at OpenSecrets.

Senate Republicans Block Bill to Require Disclosure of ‘Dark Money’ Donors
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/22/2022

Senate Republicans blocked legislation that would have required super PACs and other groups to disclose donors who give $10,000 or more during an election cycle, a blow to Democrats’ efforts to reform campaign finance laws. Spending in election cycles by corporations and the ultrawealthy through so-called dark money groups has skyrocketed since the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC, which allowed incorporated entities and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to promote or attack candidates.

The ‘Cost’ of Voting in America: A look at where it’s easiest and hardest
Seattle Times – Nick Corasaniti and Allison McCann (New York Times) | Published: 9/21/2022

A new study ranks all 50 states based on the overall investment a resident must make, in time and resources, to vote. The 2022 edition of the Cost of Voting Index, a nonpartisan academic study that seeks to cut through the politics of voting access, focused on 10 categories related to voting, including registration, inconvenience, early voting, polling hours, and absentee voting.  The study’s emphasis on early-voting options meant states like Washington and Oregon, where voting is conducted entirely by mail, ended up at the top of the rankings.

TikTok to Ban Campaign Fundraising, Require Verification for Political Accounts
MSN – Gina Martinez (CBS News) | Published: 9/21/2022

TikTok announced it is banning campaign fundraising on its platform. It also announced new policies for political accounts, including “mandatory verification.” The ban will include videos asking for donations, and videos from political parties directing people to a contribution page on their website. Verification will ensure that anyone watching content belonging to a government, politician, or political party account will know that the account is “genuine” and the source is “authentic.”

Trump Adviser’s Trial May Shed Light on Foreign Influence Campaigns
MSN – Rebecca Davis O’Brien (New York Times) | Published: 9/19/2022

The trial of Thomas Barrack, an informal adviser to former President Trump accused of acting as an unregistered agent of the United Arab Emirates, could shed light on how foreign governments jockeyed for access to the Trump administration, efforts that may have created lucrative opportunities for businesspeople close to the White House. Prosecutors have accused Barrack of using his sway with Trump to advance the interests of the Emiratis and of serving as a secret back channel for communications without disclosing his efforts to the attorney general, as the government contends that he should have.

From the States and Municipalities

Arizona 14 AZ Lawmakers Took 9-Day Europe Trip Sponsored in Part by Lobbyists and More Are Coming
MSN – Ray Stern (Arizona Republic) | Published: 9/18/2022

Fourteen Arizona lawmakers took a free trip to Germany recently, where they met government and business officials. Lobbyist firms and taxpayers funded the lawmakers’ expenses as part of a state House international relations program. The trip may have had trade benefits, but lawmakers should still take care to avoid the perception they are receiving gifts that could influence their policy making, said John Pelissero of the Markula Center for Applied Ethics. The number of lawmakers and that they could take their spouses seemed excessive to Pelissero, who called the trip a “junket.”

California Former USC Dean Admits to Arranging Bribery Payment for Mark Ridley-Thomas
Yahoo News – Michael Finnegan and Matt Hamilton (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/15/2022

A former University of Southern California dean agreed to plead guilty to bribery, admitting she arranged an illicit $100,000 payment for Mark Ridley-Thomas when he was on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in return for a university contract with the county. Marilyn Flynn’s admission of guilt strikes a major blow to Ridley-Thomas, now a Los Angeles city council member who has been suspended while he defends against federal charges of bribery, fraud, and conspiracy. Flynn’s plea also reduces the likelihood that evidence related to U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, the front-runner in the race for Los Angeles mayor, would get a public airing at trial.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom Strips Fresno County Supervisors’ Power to Draw Election Lines
Sacramento Bee – Juan Esparza Loera | Published: 9/19/2022

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation to give redistricting duties in Fresno County to a 14-member commission. Assemblyperson Joaquín Arámbula said it was the only way to ensure the Latino community gets a fair chance at political representation after the next census. Arámbula and community organizations said county supervisors cannot be trusted to draw fair and equitable districts because supervisorial districts have changed little despite a spike in Latino population.

California Legal Pot Spawned a Wave of Corruption, Threats and Secret Financial Deals for Politicians
MSN – Adam Elmahrek, Robert Lopez, and Ruben Vives (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 9/15/2022

California’s decision to legalize recreational cannabis ushered in a multibillion-dollar commercial market that officials in many small, struggling communities hoped would bring new jobs and an infusion of tax revenue. But the advent of commercial marijuana unleashed a wave of corruption that has rocked local governments across the state and left them with few effective tools to combat the problem. The industry has donated campaign money to local government officials as cannabis became a powerful special interest. Lobbyists and others say bribery and shakedowns have become so commonplace in licensing that it feels like a normal part of doing business.

California Santa Clara Mayor Asks Newsom to Give Campaign Donor a Break
San Jose Spotlight – Joseph Geha | Published: 9/21/2022

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor lobbied California Gov. Gavin Newsom to help a major real estate firm save money on the largest mixed-use development planned in the state, months before the developer made a six-figure donation to her campaign. Gillmor advocated that Related Companies should not be required to pay prevailing wages to workers. Related formed a local PAC to support Gillmor as she runs for reelection and funded it with $100,000. Executives from the company also donated to Gillmor’s mayoral election campaign in 2018, two years after the project was approved by the city council.

California Trial of Corruption Case Against California Sheriff to Begin
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 9/21/2022

A longtime San Francisco Bay Area sheriff is on trial on public corruption allegations involving her office’s granting of concealed-carry weapons permits and costly jail mismanagement. The unusual case against Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith is a civil process to seek removal of an elected official but is similar to a criminal case. The trial follows an investigation into allegations that Smith’s office traded concealed weapons permits for donations to her reelection campaign and mismanaged the jails, where mentally ill inmates died or were injured.

Florida Jury Awards $3 Million to Garbage Contractor in Opa-locka Corruption Lawsuit
MSN – Tess Riski (Miami Herald) | Published: 9/20/2022

A jury awarded a $3 million judgment to a garbage contractor that sued Opa-locka in 2017 alleging corruption and extortion in a city that has for years been plagued with financial and political turmoil. Jurors found the city failed to act in good faith with Universal Waste Services of Florida (UWS). Representatives of UWS made accusations of extortion against former city Commissioner Terence Pinder, who died in an apparent suicide in 2016, two days before he was scheduled to turn himself in on state bribery charges.

Florida Migrants Flown to Martha’s Vineyard File Class-Action Lawsuit Against DeSantis
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 9/20/2022

A group of Venezuelan migrants who were flown from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard – allegedly after being falsely promised work and other services – filed a class-action lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials who arranged the flights, saying the officials used fraud and misrepresentation to persuade them to travel across state lines. The migrants are seeking unspecified damages, as well as the cost of their legal fees, for emotional and economic harm.

Georgia Georgia 2020 Election Inquiry May Lead to Prison Sentences, Prosecutor Says
MSN – Matthew Brown and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 9/15/2022

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the prosecutor investigating efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to challenge the 2020 election results in Georgia, said her team has heard credible allegations that serious crimes have been committed and she believes some individuals may see jail time. At least 17 people have been notified they are targets of the criminal investigation, meaning they could eventually face charges. More targets will be added to the list soon, Willis said.

Georgia Video Shows Trump Allies Handling Georgia Voting Equipment
Yahoo News – Danny Hakim, Richard Fausset, and Nick Corasaniti (New York Times) | Published: 9/20/2022

Newly released videos show allies of former President Trump and contractors who were working on his behalf handling sensitive voting equipment in a rural Georgia county weeks after the 2020 election. The footage, which was made public as part of litigation over Georgia’s voting system, raises new questions about efforts by Trump affiliates in a number of swing states to gain access to and copy sensitive election software, with the help of friendly local election administrators.

Illinois State Sen. Emil Jones III Took Bribes from Red-Light Camera Company, Lied to Feds: Charges
WTTW – Heather Cherone | Published: 9/20/2022

Federal prosecutors charged Illinois Sen. Emil Jones III with three felonies, alleging he took a bribe from a firm that installed red-light cameras throughout the state and lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. After being approached by a former executive for Safe Speed, the red-light company, who was cooperating with law enforcement, Jones agreed to limit the scope of his bill to study red-light cameras only in Chicago, where the firm did not operate, prosecutors say. In return, the executive agreed to pay Jones $5,000 and to provide a job to an unidentified associate of Jones.

Maryland Opinion Says Nash’s Lobbying Violated City Ethics Ordinance
Yahoo News – Ryan Marshall (Frederick News-Post) | Published: 9/16/2022

Frederick Alderwoman Katie Nash violated the city’s ethics rules by lobbying on behalf of a firefighter union’s concerns about county emergency services coverage in the city, an Ethics Commission ruled. Nash, a lobbyist registered with the state, improperly emailed people, including coordinators for various Neighborhood Advisory Councils, encouraging them to raise concerns with the county about plans to shift coverage of paramedic services in parts of the city, according to the opinion. Nash was a paid lobbyist for the International Association of Firefighters Local 3666 when she sent out emails and press releases.

Michigan Former Macomb Public Works Boss Marrocco Pleads Guilty in Corruption Probe
Yahoo News – Christina Hall (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/20/2022

Former Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco pleaded guilty to attempted extortion in federal court in a yearslong corruption probe that netted more than 20 other people. Prosecutors alleged he used an aide and others to shake down builders and contractors for donations to his fundraisers. If they did not contribute, the indictment said, Marrocco retaliated by holding up building permits, denying payment to vendors, and refusing to award contracts to firms. The charge to which he pleaded guilty carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000.

Michigan Here’s the Punishment for Warren Councilman Who Handcuffed Woman over BLM Stickers
Yahoo News – Christina Hall (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 9/19/2022

Warren City Councilperson Edward Kabacinski pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace and was sentenced to one-year probation for his actions toward a woman at a rally for then-President Trump. Kabacinski was charged in October 2020 with assault and battery and impersonating a police officer when he chased a woman and handcuffed her after she put a Black Lives Matter sticker on a Trump sign during a protest. Kabacinski claimed he is a former military police officer and federal law allows him to detain those who breach the peace or break the law. The woman was not facing criminal charges.

New Hampshire New Hampshire GOP Senate Nominee Abruptly Backs Off False 2020 Election Claims
MSN – Gregory Krieg and Dan Merica (CNN) | Published: 9/15/2022

U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc won the Republican nomination in New Hampshire after months campaigning on false claims the 2020 election was stolen from former President Trump. A little more than a day after the primary, he attempted an about-face. “I’ve come to the conclusion, and I want to be definitive on this: the election was not stolen,” Bolduc said. He is not the only GOP candidate who has tried to temper, or erase, hardline positions as the general-election environment starts to look less favorable for the party.

New Jersey When George Gilmore’s Public Work Dried Up, an Ally Gave His Wife a Job with Engineering Firm
Yahoo News – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 9/19/2022

When Ocean County Republican Party Chairperson George Gilmore was convicted on three federal tax charges in 2019, it did not just cost him his political leadership post. His work with public entities also dried up. Gilmore’s now-defunct law firm, Gilmore & Monahan, had made between $2 million and $3 million in public contracts annually between 2012 and 2018. He resigned from another job at the lobbying firm 1868 Public Affairs. But after Gilmore’s conviction, a political ally founded Morgan Municipal Services, a new division to expand the firm’s work in the public sector. It counted Gilmore’s wife as one of its three founding partners.

New Mexico NM Senator Defends His Reputation While Policy Silences the People Accusing Him of Misconduct
Source NM – Shaun Griswold | Published: 9/19/2022

New Mexico Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto said the sexual harassment complaint filed against him is closed. But outrage continues to grow, as everyone involved calls for reform of statehouse procedures shrouded in secrecy. The lobbyist who came forward with the initial complaint says her First Amendment rights have been violated because of the confidentiality rules about who is allowed to speak about the matter publicly. After the findings in the misconduct investigation were leaked, Ivey-Soto contacted the FBI about what he says is extortion.

New York Donald Trump, 3 of His Children Accused of Business Fraud by New York AG
MSN – Shayna Jacobs and Jonathan O’Connell (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit accusing Donald Trump, three of his grown children, and executives at his company of manipulating asset valuations to deceive lenders, insurance brokers, and tax authorities into giving them better loan and insurance policy rates and reduce their tax liability. The complaint asks the state Supreme Court to bar the former president, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump from serving as executives at any company in New York, and to bar the Trump Organization from acquiring commercial real estate or receiving loans from a New York-registered financial institution for five years.

New York Executive Threw Hochul Fundraiser Weeks Before Landing $637M Deal
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/20/2022

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul maintains that when her administration paid a vendor $637 million last winter for COVID-19 tests, she was unaware the recipient was a campaign donor. Yet a month before the administration struck the deals, the company’s founder threw an in-person campaign fundraiser for Hochul. The deal was enabled by the governor’s revived suspension of competitive bidding rules for the administration’s purchase of COVID-19 supplies. Through an emergency executive order, Hochul suspended those rules four days after the fundraiser.

Oregon Oregon’s Nonaffiliated Candidates Face Long Odds Making It onto the Ballot
Oregon Capital Chronicle – Julia Shumway | Published: 9/20/2022

Democratic and Republican candidates in Oregon pay a fee ranging from $25 to $150 and fill out a two-page form to compete in a primary. Minor party candidates are nominated separately by their parties, through conventions or party-run primaries. But non-affiliated candidates must collect petition signatures from hundreds or thousands of voters, depending on the office. Efforts to change Oregon’s election system are again afoot, with a coalition launching its petition drive for a constitutional amendment to open primaries. Nearly 41 percent of Oregon voters are ineligible to vote in primaries because they are nonaffiliated or registered with a minor party.

Oregon Portland Elections Program Hits Council Candidate Rene Gonzalez with $77,000 Fine for Discounted Office Space
OPB – Rebecca Ellis | Published: 9/21/2022

Portland City Council hopeful Rene Gonzalez was fined for accepting and failing to report a steep discount on rent on his campaign office. The $77,000 fine, the biggest ever issued by the city’s Small Donor Elections program, stems from an unreported in-kind contribution Gonzalez is accused of accepting from the company, which is owned by Jordan Schnitzer, who personally gave $250 to Gonzalez in May. Program Director Susan Mottet said a normal tenant would have been asked to pay $6,900 per month for the over 3,000 square feet of space. Since May, Gonzalez’s campaign only had to pay $250 per month.

Pennsylvania Philly’s Board of Ethics Voted to Close a Loophole that Super PACs Use to Get Instructions from Campaigns
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 9/21/2022

The Philadelphia Board of Ethics voted to ban the strategy known as “redboxing,” in which candidates send indirect signals to independent expenditure campaigns like super PACs that can raise unlimited amounts of money but are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns. Candidates do that by publicly stating the strategic needs of their campaigns, and some in recent federal elections have put those instructions in red boxes on their campaign websites to guide super PACs buying advertisements on their behalf. The statements use lightly coded language to inform the PACs on what the campaign wants.

Pennsylvania Skill Games Company Woos Pa. Lawmakers with Trips to Wild Wyoming Rodeo
Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 9/19/2022

This past summer, a select group of Pennsylvania legislators, including House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, got to experience the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the premier summer festival in Wyoming that bills itself as the world’s largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration, courtesy of Pace-O-Matic. The company makes skill games that currently generate millions of dollars in revenue and, in Pennsylvania, operate in a legal and regulatory gray area, one the Legislature will play a key role in defining. For some of the lawmakers, it was an all-expenses-paid experience.

South Dakota Ethics Board Keeps ‘Action’ Secret on Complaint Against Noem
MSN – Stephen Groves (Associated Press) | Published: 9/20/2022

The Government Accountability Board will not publicly disclose the “appropriate action” it took after finding evidence South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem intervened with a state agency to influence her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. The board found there was evidence Noem engaged in a conflict-of-interest and malfeasance. A lawyer hired by the board, Mark Haigh, responded to an open records request by saying the board’s response would remain “confidential.” The board has never handled such a high-profile case since its inception in 2017.

Virginia Virginia Rule on Legislators Leaving Districts Could Add More Intrigue to 2023 Elections
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 9/22/2022

After past redistricting cycles, the number of Virginia General Assembly members having to switch districts was kept to a minimum because legislators were allowed to draw careful lines around each other’s homes to avoid doing damage to incumbents. That was not the case last year, when experts appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court effectively reset the state’s legislative maps with little regard for keeping incumbents comfortably installed in conflict-free seats. That means an unusually high number of legislators are facing the prospect of moving to position themselves for the next election cycle.

Virginia Youngkin’s Restriction on Trans Students’ Rights Is Probably Illegal, Experts Say
MSN – Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 9/21/2022

A directive from Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin for public schools to restrict the rights of transgender students is either unenforceable or will be struck down in court because it appears to violate both state and federal law, experts and advocates said. The model policies require schools to categorize transgender children by their “biological sex” when it comes to using the bathroom, locker room, and other facilities and participating in activities. They also bar students from adopting a new name or pronouns without parental permission.

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