News You Can Use Digest - September 8, 2023 - State and Federal Communications

September 8, 2023  •  

News You Can Use Digest – September 8, 2023


AI Deepfakes in Campaigns May Be Detectable, But Will It Matter?

MSN – Jim Saska (Roll Call) | Published: 9/5/2023

Deepfake audio, authentic sounding but false recordings built from short snippets of a subject talking, have become extremely realistic, presenting the potential for underhanded political tactics. Artificial intelligence (AI) developers warn that the technology’s rapid development and widespread deployment risks undermining the foundations of representative democracy. Campaign attack ads have long used the most unflattering pictures of their opponents. But AI will supercharge the ability of campaigns, and their rogue supporters, to produce believable fakes.

Democrat Introduces Bill to Limit Defense Contractor, Foreign Government Influence on Pentagon

MSN – Brad Dress (The Hill) | Published: 8/29/2023

Rep. Andy Kim announced he reintroduced legislation that would limit the ability of major defense contractors and foreign governments to hire former Defense Department officials and influence the Pentagon as lobbyists. The Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would impose a four-year ban on defense contractors hiring senior Pentagon officials and enact a similar ban on former Defense Department employees who managed their contracts.

Court Undoes Ruling Allowing DOJ Access to Scott Perry’s Phone

MSN – Rachel Weiner and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023

A federal appellate court blocked Justice Department access to the phone records of a Republican lawmaker as part of the investigation charging former President Trump with trying to undo the 2020 election results. The ruling stymies investigators who have been fighting to review thousands of documents from Rep. Scott Perry. U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell granted the special counsel access to most of the records nine months ago. Perry had argued the search would violate constitutional protection from criminal investigation for lawmakers engaged in “speech or debate.”

Project Veritas Audit Accuses ‘Untouchable’ Founder of Improper Spending

MSN – Will Sommer (Washington Post) | Published: 9/5/2023

An audit showed Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe covered personal expenses with funds from the donor-supported nonprofit whose self-described mission is investigative journalism. The Westchester County, New York, district attorney’s office is investigating O’Keefe. Before he left Project Veritas in February, under pressure from its board of directors, O’Keefe was surrounded by a “cult of personality” that enabled him to behave as if he were “untouchable,” the audit concluded.

Republicans Hired Way More Ex-Lobbyists as Congressional Staffers in the Last Year Than Democrats, Analysis Finds

MSN – Brian Metzger (Business Insider) | Published: 9/5/2023

Republicans on Capitol Hill have hired far more former lobbyists to work in their offices than Democrats in the last year, according to a new analysis. Legistorm found that 61 of the 91 former lobbyists who took jobs in partisan offices on Capitol Hill in the last year were hired by Republicans. But the problem of the “revolving door” is one that besets both political parties.

Enrique Tarrio, Proud Boys Leader on Jan. 6, Sentenced to 22 Years for Seditious Conspiracy

Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 9/5/2023

Enrique Tarrio, the national leader of the Proud Boys on January 6, 2021, was sentenced to 22 years in prison for masterminding a seditious conspiracy aimed at derailing the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The sentence, the lengthiest among hundreds arising from the attack on the Capitol, is a reflection of prosecutors’ evidence that the Proud Boys, helmed by Tarrio, played the most pivotal role in stoking the violent breach of police lines and the Capitol itself.

Google to Require ‘Prominent’ Disclosures for AI-Generated Election Ads

Yahoo News – Davey Alba (Bloomberg) | Published: 9/6/2023

Google will make it mandatory for all election advertisers to add a clear and conspicuous disclosure starting in mid-November when their ads contain Artificial Intelligence generated content. Advertisers must include prominent language like, “This audio was computer generated,” on altered election ads across Google’s platforms. The policy does not apply to minor fixes, such as image resizing or brightening. The update will improve Google’s transparency measures for election ads, the company said.

From the States and Municipalities

Canada – Former CRT Chair Appointed as New Interim Federal Ethics Commissioner

Globe and Mail – Ian Bailey | Published: 9/1/2203

Konrad Winrich von Finckenstein, a former chairperson of Canada’s broadcasting regulator, has been named interim federal conflict-of-interest and ethics commissioner, after the government’s previous pick for the role resigned amid concern about the appropriateness of the appointment. Mario Dion, who stepped down as commissioner in February, said the vacancy has put investigations on hold. During Dion’s term, he found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several cabinet ministers had broken ethics rules.

Alabama – Federal Court Strikes Down Alabama’s Second Attempt to Avoid Adding Another Majority-Black Congressional District

Yahoo News – Ethan Cohen and Fredreka Schouten (CNN) | Published: 9/5/2023

A federal court blocked a newly drawn Alabama congressional map because it did not create a second majority-Black district, as the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered earlier this year. The three-judge panel ordered a special master to submit three proposed maps that would create a second Black-majority district by September 25. The judges wrote they were “not aware of any other case,” where a state Legislature had responded to being ordered to a draw map with a second majority-minority district, by creating which the state itself admitted did not create the required district.

Alaska – Two More Alaska Ballot Measures Pass Legal Muster, But Another Is Disqualified

Alaska Public Media – James Brooks (Alaska Beacon) | Published: 9/6/2023

Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom approved two ballot measures and disqualified a third from advancing into the signature-gathering phase. One of the two measures approved by Dahlstrom would reimpose limits on political contributions.  The state has been without donation caps limits since 2021, when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Alaska’s prior limits after a lawsuit by Republican activists.

California – How a New City Council Map of L.A. Turned into a Political Brawl

DNyuz – Jill Cowan, Serge Kovaleski, and Leanne Abraham (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023

The redistricting battle in Los Angeles underscores how some big city leaders – often Democrats – have used gerrymandering for their political advantage, much the way Republican lawmakers have redrawn legislative lines to secure or expand their control over some statehouses. Similar fights have been waged in Boston, Miami, and Chicago. The conflict in Los Angeles became a national controversy after audio was leaked that revealed the racist language that politicians used behind closed doors to discuss where to draw district boundaries.

California – San Francisco Corruption: Ex-parole agent pleads guilty in bribery case

San Francisco Standard – Noah Baustin | Published: 8/31/2023

An ex-parole agent and local pop singer pleaded guilty to bribery charges in federal court, marking the latest development in a Justice Department investigation uncovering corruption in San Francisco City Hall. Prosecutors accused Ken Hong Wong of paying former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru $20,000 to get someone an engineering job in his department. An investigation revealed the job recipient was Xulu Liu, a recent college graduate and Chinese national. Public Works hired Liu as an assistant engineer earning $46 an hour in September 2019, public records show. She left the job after two weeks.

California – San Jose Council Eases Transparency Rule

San Jose Spotlight – Jana Kadash | Published: 9/5/2023

The San Jose City Council changed three ethics rules that could affect how money is used to influence policy. Officials revised the city’s “revolving door” protocol for former employees, removed fees for late lobbying disclosures, and uncapped reimbursement amounts for personal loans candidates made to their campaigns. City Clerk Toni Taber said the city did not collect fines for late weekly filings before the council nixed the fees. A media review found lobbyists often do not fill out the forms properly even if submitted on time.

California – Anaheim’s Corruption Scandal Causes Residents to Demand Reforms

Voice of OC – Hosam Elattar | Published: 9/6/2023

Anaheim residents and local community groups are charting their own path for reforms in the wake of a corruption scandal that has entangled City Hall. Residents and activists decided to take matters into their own hands after seeing Anaheim City Council members largely ignored calls for reforms until their most recent meeting on the heels of the former mayor agreeing to plead guilty to public corruption charges.

Florida – DeSantis Names Moms for Liberty Co-Founder to Florida Ethics Panel

MSN – Andrew Atterbury (Politico) | Published: 9/6/2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Tina Descovich, a co-founder of the conservative parental rights group Moms for Liberty, to the Florida Commission on Ethics. The move gives the governor a staunch ally on the panel responsible for weighing complaints against public officials in the state, which recently saw one remember resign after a conflict-of-interest violation. Aside from organizing the parental advocacy group, Descovich is a former school board member and runs a political committee that helped some conservatives win local education elections in 2022.

Florida – Judge Says DeSantis’ Congressional Map Is Unconstitutional, Orders Lawmakers to Draw New One

Yahoo News – David Kihara and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 9/2/2023

A judge ruled Gov. Ron DeSantis’s redrawn congressional districts in North Florida violate the state’s constitution and ordered the Republican-led Legislature to create a new map. The ruling is a rebuke to DeSantis, who previously vetoed the Legislature’s attempts to redraw Florida’s congressional maps and pushed lawmakers to approve his map that dismantled a seat formerly held by Rep. Al Lawson, a Black Democrat. The section violated is commonly referred to as the Fair Districts Amendment, which states that lawmakers cannot redraw congressional districts that “diminish” minority voters’ ability to elect someone of their choice.

Georgia – Efforts to Punish Fani Willis Over Trump Prosecution Are ‘Political Theater,’ Georgia Gov. Kemp Says

MSN – Jeff Amy (Associated Press) | Published: 8/30/2023

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp offered his strongest denunciation to date of efforts by his fellow Republicans to go after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, dismissing the moves as “political theater that only inflames the emotions of the moment.” Some Republicans in Washington and Georgia have been attacking Willis since even before she announced the indictment of Donald Trump for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. Kemp said any calls for a special session to impeach Willis or defund her office were wrong and she had done nothing to merit removal.

Georgia – Judge Denies Kenneth Chesebro’s Request to Sever Georgia Charges from Sidney Powell

The Hill – Zach Schonfeld | Published: 9/6/2023

A state judge denied Kenneth Chesebro’s attempt to sever his charges in the Georgia election interference case from fellow Trump-aligned attorney Sidney Powell, saying he did not deem it necessary to do so to achieve a fair trial. But Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee did signal he has doubts about District Attorney Fani Willis’s broader desire to try all 19 co-defendants, including former President Trump, together.

Illinois – Chicago Treasurer Accused of Misconduct and Ethical Violations in Letter City Kept Secret for Years

Yahoo News – Gregory Pratt (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/5/2023

Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin used government workers to plan her daughter’s birthday party and be her personal bodyguard while she also pressured public employees to hold events benefiting political allies and repeatedly misused taxpayer resources, two former top aides alleged in a recently released letter the city fought for years to keep confidential. After Conyears-Ervin in 2020 dismissed employees Ashley Evans and Tiffany Harper, they shared a $100,000 settlement from the city. That settlement came after the letter was sent to the city’s top attorney and the Board of Ethics.

Kentucky – Greenberg’s Wife Has Role in Administration. Louisville’s Nepotism Code Might Not Allow

MSN – Josh Ward (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 9/5/2023

The spouses of presidents and governors often have formal positions, as well as aides and offices. That is not common at the municipal level. But the Louisville mayor’s office bucks that trend, and it may run afoul of the city’s anti-nepotism rules. Sources said Mayor Craig Greenberg’s wife has an office in Metro Hall, a city-issued email, and gives orders to staffers. The Louisville ethics code says, “a family member of the Mayor” or other elected official “shall not be employed by or appointed to a position with such elected official’s office.”

Louisiana – Gubernatorial Frontrunner Jeff Landry Facing Ethics Charge

MSN – Ian Auzenne (WWL) | Published: 9/2/2023

A 2021 plane flight taken by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is the leading Republican candidate for governor, is landing him in trouble with the state Board of Ethics. The board voted to charge Landry and Stanton Aviation with one count each of ethics violations. Landry is charged with accepting a gift in relation to his position as attorney general. Stanton Aviation is charged with providing a gift to Landry.

Maryland – Compliance Board Orders Baltimore Board of Ethics to Release Mosby Legal Defense Fund Donors; City Vows to Appeal

MSN – Emily Opilo (Baltimore Sun) | Published: 9/6/2023

The Baltimore Board of Ethics must release the list of donors to a legal-defense fund formed to benefit city council President Nick Mosby and former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Maryland’s Public Information Act Compliance Board ordered. The compliance board found the ethics panel violated the Public Information Act by redacting the names of more than 130 donors to the fund when it released the list in March. The ethics board argued the names constituted financial information.

Nevada – Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow Won’t Run for Re-election Amid Scrutiny Over Nonprofit Ties

Nevada Independent – Jacob Solis | Published: 9/1/2023

Nevada Assemblyperson Michelle Gorelow will not run for re-election in 2024, a surprise move that comes after Gorelow had come under increasing pressure to justify taking a new position at a nonprofit that received hundreds of thousands of dollars in legislatively approved funding earlier this year. Separately, Assemblyperson C.H. Miller has come under fire for failing to disclose his employment by the Urban Chamber in a regular financial disclosure form ahead of a vote to give the nonprofit $100,000.

New York – State Gaming Official Voted on Rules Affecting Her Firm’s Client

Albany Times Union – Emilie Munson | Published: 9/1/2023

Over the course of about a year, New York Gaming Commissioner Marissa Shorenstein voted on multiple regulations with implications for a client of her employer, but the commission said her actions avoided any conflict-of-interest. Shorenstein worked as a principal at SKDK, a prominent public relations and lobbying firm that did work for the New York Racing Association, a not-for-profit corporation that operates three thoroughbred tracks in New York and is regulated by the Gaming Commission.

New York – Trump Accuser E. Jean Carroll Wins Liability Claims in Next Civil Case

MSN – Shayna Jacobs (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2023

E. Jean Carroll, the advice columnist who was awarded $5 million in damages at a civil sexual assault trial against former President Trump in May, won the majority of a related defamation case in a summary judgment decision. U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled the May verdict clearly proved disparaging comments Trump made about Carroll in 2019 were false. Those comments do not need to be aired again to prove liability to jurors in s civil defamation trial scheduled for January, Kaplan said.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown Bets a Progressive Can Still Win in Trump-Leaning Ohio

MSN – Camila DeChalus (Washington Post) | Published: 9/2/2023

Democrat Sherrod Brown has won three U.S. Senate terms in Ohio, once a key swing state that has shifted solidly to Republicans over the past two presidential elections with a personal appeal to working-class families and particularly union trades. Now facing a tough reelection challenge in 2024, Brown is wagering that by casting himself as a pro-labor, progressive populist, he can retain support from White working-class voters whose embrace of Donald Trump has propelled Ohio’s move to the right.

Ohio – The Catholic Church Will Campaign Against Ohio’s Abortion-Rights Amendment. What About the Separation of Church and State?

MSN – Andrew Tobias (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 9/3/2023

The Catholic Church in Ohio is gearing up for this November’s election in a manner that in some ways resembles a PAC. It is preparing to distribute literature to parishioners, deploy church leaders to political fundraisers, make direct campaign contributions, and have its priests preach from the pulpit in opposition to a ballot measure that would add legal protections for abortion to the state constitution. Brian Hickey, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio, said he has heard from people who believe that churches and other religious organizations are not allowed to wade into politics under federal tax law. But that is not the case, Hickey said.

Oregon – Campaign Finance Complaint Filed Against Fire Union Stemming from Contributions for Columbia River Board Candidatesw

MSN – Maxine Bernstein (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 9/1/2023

The St. Helens Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 321 failed to properly report the source of a $6,000 contribution for the May election of three new Columbia River Fire & Rescue board members, according to a complaint to the state secretary of state’s office. The three union-backed candidates also never reported any contributions from the union, which paid for posters, mailers, and signs promoting their candidacy for a board seat, according to state records.

Pennsylvania – Inside Spotlight PA’s Fight to Unseal Lobbyist Communications with the Legislature

Spotlight PA – Angela Couloumbis | Published: 9/1/2023

A clause in Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law says that correspondence between a state lawmaker and a person seeking their help is off-limits to the public – unless that person is a lobbyist. But for years, the Legislature has summarily rejecting all requests for its emails, letters, or other forms of communications regardless of who was on the sending or receiving end. Spotlight PA put the lobbyist clause to the test by requesting from both the state House and Senate copies of communications between legislators and a narrow group of well-known lobbyists.

South Dakota – Legislator’s Conflict of Interest Puts Meaning of ‘Indirect’ Under Microscope

MSN – Mackenzie Huber (Sioux Falls Argus Leader) | Published: 9/5/2023

Former South Dakota Sen. Jessica Castleberry was found to have accepted over $500,000 in allegedly illegal indirect benefits from state government while serving as a legislator. The state constitution prohibits lawmakers from being interested “directly or indirectly” in contracts with the state or counties. In the handful of state Supreme Court cases and opinions dealing with the matter over the last 135 years, none has explicitly defined “indirect,” said Michael Card of the University of South Dakota.

Texas – Judge Declares City Campaign Contribution Blackout Period Unconstitutional

Austin Monitor – Jo Clifton | Published: 9/1/2023

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman declared an Austin regulation on campaign fundraising unconstitutional. The regulation prohibits candidates for city council seats from seeking or accepting campaign contributions more than a year before an election. The rule was enacted after another judge struck down a city regulation prohibiting candidates from raising money more than six months before an election.

Texas – A Conservative Push to Save Ken Paxton

Yahoo News – J. David Goodman (New York Times) | Published: 9/4/2023

With television ads, text messages, direct mail, and billboards, supporters of the embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have embarked on an escalating campaign of political pressure, backed by hard-right billionaires, aimed at trying to sway the outcome of Paxton’s impeachment trial. The targets of their efforts are narrow: the 19 Republican members of the state Senate who will act as jurors in the trial and decide whether allegations of corruption and abuse of power are serious enough to warrant permanently removing and barring Paxton from office.

West Virginia – PSC Chooses Firm to Audit Mon Power and Potomac Edison Lobbying Expenses

Charleston Gazette-Mail – Mike Tony | Published: 9/5/2023

The West Virginia Public Service Commission chose Van Reen Accounting to audit Mon Power and Potomac Edison lobbying expenses in a review that will cover costs charged to the FirstEnergy subsidiaries related to the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history. The scope of the audit is to include lobbying and other costs of all FirstEnergy companies related to Ohio House Bill 6. That legislation was a billion-dollar bailout of FirstEnergy nuclear plants in Ohio.

Continue Reading

State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting

Sort by Month