News You Can Use Digest - September 9, 2022 - State and Federal Communications

September 9, 2022  •  

News You Can Use Digest – September 9, 2022


‘Fat Leonard’ Goes on the Lam Weeks Before Sentencing in Navy Bribery Scandal
Portland Press Herald – María Luisa Paúl (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022

The Malaysian defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officials with sex parties, fancy dinners, and alcohol in a corruption scandal has escaped just weeks before his sentencing date. Leonard Francis, also known as “Fat Leonard,” fled while under house arrest in San Diego. A search by the San Diego Regional Fugitive Task Force and Naval Criminal Investigative Service is underway, officials said. “He cut off his GPS monitoring bracelet on Sunday morning,” the U.S. Marshals Service announced. “Task Force Officers went to his residence and upon arrival noticed the house was now vacant.”

FEC Approves Rule to Remove Candidate Loan Repayment Restrictions
OpenSecrets – Taylor Giorno | Published: 9/1/2022

The FEC approved an interim final rule that removes regulations that previously restricted the repayment of personal loans candidates made to their campaigns. In May, the Supreme Court ruled that existing candidate loan repayment restrictions were unconstitutional. Under the old rules, campaigns could raise money after election day to repay candidate loans up to $250,000 up to 20 days after the election.

From Border Town to ‘Border Town,’ Bused Migrants Seek New Lives in D.C. Area
MSN – Antonio Olivo (Washington Post) | Published: 9/7/2022

More than 230 buses carrying nearly 9,400 migrants, including young children, have arrived in the District of Columbia since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott began offering free passage to the city with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey following suit. Buses from Texas have also started heading to New York and Chicago. The governors are using the busloads of migrants as a political statement about what they have called lax border policies. But for many of those who have accepted the rides, any political gamesmanship has been irrelevant. The buses have turned into a welcomed opportunity for migrants to get to their preferred destinations.

House Committee Reaches Deal to get Trump Financial Records
Yahoo News – Kevin Freking (Associated Press) | Published: 9/1/2022

A U.S. House committee seeking financial records from former President Trump reached an agreement that ends litigation on the matter and requires an accounting firm to turn over some of the material. The case began in April 2019, when the House Committee on Oversight and Reform first subpoenaed records from Trump’s then-accounting firm, Mazars USA. The committee cited testimony from Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, that it said raised questions about the president’s representation of his financial affairs when it came to seeking loans and paying taxes.

In Voter Fraud, Penalties Often Depend on Who’s Voting
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 9/6/2022

A review by The New York Times of some 400 voting fraud charges filed nationwide since 2017 underscores what critics of fraud crackdowns have long said: actual prosecutions are rare events and often netted people who did not realize they were breaking the law. Punishment can be wildly inconsistent. Most violations draw wrist slaps, while a few high-profile prosecutions produce draconian sentences. Penalties often fall heaviest on those least able to mount a defense. Those who are poor and Black are more likely to be sent to jail.

In Washington, Agricultural Policymakers Circulate Among Farm Bureau, USDA and Industry
Investigate Midwest – Madison McVan | Published: 8/24/2022

Reporting and more than 100 pages of emails obtained by Investigate Midwest shed light on the movement of agriculture policy leaders between government, industry, and the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF). Terri Moore, vice president of communications for AFBF, said Dale Moore, executive vice president of the group, and Sam Kieffer, the organization’s top lobbyist, likely had communication with Joby Young during his time at as chief of staff for the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Young took over as AFBF executive vice president following a stint at a consulting firm.

Jan. 6 Committee Asks Former Speaker Newt Gingrich to Sit for Interview
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey (Washington Post) | Published: 9/1/2022

The House select committee investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol issued a request to interview former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The request cited evidence showing Gingrich was in communication with senior advisers to ex-President Trump, including Jared Kushner and Jason Miller, regarding television advertisements that amplified false claims about fraud in the 2020 election. The panel also said it obtained evidence suggesting Gingrich was involved in the fake elector plot designed to encourage Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress to affect the outcome of the joint session of Congress on January 6, 2021.

Judge’s Special-Master Order a Test of Trump’s Post-White House Powers
MSN – Ann Marimow and Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022

Justice Department lawyers are weighing whether to challenge a federal judge’s uncommon order to appoint an independent reviewer, called a special master, to assess more than 11,000 documents seized by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Florida residence. At issue are untested legal questions about the extent to which assertions of executive privilege can be applied to a former president. Legal experts called U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon’s decision problematic because it upends the usual course of a criminal investigation and suggests there are different rules for a former president.

Material on Foreign Nation’s Nuclear Capabilities Seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago
MSN – Devlin Barrett and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022

A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed at the Florida property. Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them.

Tory Peer Broke Lobbying Rules, Whitehall Watchdog Finds
The Guardian – Henry Dyer | Published: 9/6/2022

A Conservative hereditary peer breached lobbying rules in the United Kingdom by failing to register as a consultant lobbyist before contacting ministers on behalf of his client. The Office of the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists announced the outcome of its investigation into the Earl of Shrewsbury, whose full name is Charles Henry John Benedict Crofton Chetwynd Chetwind-Talbot, and his company Talbot Consulting. The earl remains under investigation by the House of Lords for allegedly misusing his parliamentary position to lobby for SpectrumX.

From the States and Municipalities

Arkansas Ex-Deputy Chief of Staff for Hutchinson Asks to Rescind Registration as a Lobbyist
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Michael Wickline | Published: 9/7/2022

Bill Gossage, the former deputy chief of staff for external operations for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, said he asked the secretary of state’s office to rescind his August registration as a registered lobbyist. Gossage is vice president of governmental affairs for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. State law bars an individual employed in the office of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor, or commissioner of state lands from being eligible to be registered as a lobbyist until one year after the expiration of the individual’s employment in that office.

Florida Jury Finds Seminole GOP Chair Guilty in ‘Ghost’ Candidate Case
Yahoo News – Annie Martin (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 9/1/2022

Seminole County Republican Party Chairperson Ben Paris was found guilty of a scheme to siphon votes from a Democrat in a Florida Senate race. Prosecutors say Jestine Iannotti ran as an independent candidate but did not campaign and had no previous political experience. Iannotti illegally accepted a $1,200 cash donation from political consultant James Foglesong. Iannoitti and Foglesong falsely used the names of others as contributors in campaign finance reports to skirt Florida laws on donations.

Georgia Election Deniers Repeatedly Visited Ga. County Office at Center of Criminal Probe, Video Shows
Portland Press Herald – Emma Brown and Jon Swaine (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022

Technology consultants who sought evidence that Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat was fraudulent made multiple visits to a county elections office in rural Georgia in the weeks after an alleged post-election breach of voting equipment that is the subject of a criminal investigation. Surveillance video shows the consultants, Doug Logan and Jeffrey Lenberg, made two visits in January 2021 to the elections office in Coffee County. Lenberg made an additional five visits on his own. The two men are under investigation for separate alleged breaches of voting machines in Michigan.

Georgia Judge Again Rejects Graham Bid to Throw Out Subpoena in Atlanta-Area Trump Probe
MSN – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 9/1/2022

A federal judge for the second time rejected U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s effort to block a grand jury subpoena issued by the Atlanta-area district attorney investigating former President Trump and his allies’ effort to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. District Court Judge Leigh Martin May ruled Graham’s claim to be immune from such questioning, thanks to the protections of the so-called speech or debate clause of the Constitution is not as sweeping as he claimed it to be. The ruling sends the matter back to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Illinois Political Operative Tied to Ald. Daniel Solis Probe Pleads Guilty to Fraud
MSN – Jason Meisner (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 9/2/2022

Roberto Caldero, a political operative at the center of the investigation into former Ald. Daniel Solis, pleaded guilty to variety of fraud schemes, including an attempt to influence a massive Chicago Public Schools janitorial contact, and using the alderman’s clout to solicit campaign cash and get a park and street renamed for a donor’s relatives. There was new mention in the plea agreement of an elected official, identified only as Public Official A, whom Caldero enlisted to pressure then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel to support the awarding of the janitorial contract to a company Caldero represented.

Indiana Contractor Avoids Prison, Ordered to Pay Sanitary District $104K
Yahoo News – Douglas Walker (Muncie Star Press) | Published: 9/6/2022

A contractor avoided a prison sentence after pleading guilty to a fraud-related count stemming from a federal investigation of corruption in Muncie city government. But Rodney Barber was ordered to pay $104,750 in restitution to the Muncie Sanitary District (MSD). He admitted paying Phil Nichols, a former Democratic Party chairperson, $5,500 in cash in exchange for winning a contract to do work for the district. Barber also acknowledged giving MSD official Tracy Barton $5,000 in cash to “illegally contribute” to then-Mayor Dennis Tyler’s re-election campaign.

Louisiana New Orleans’ ‘Night Mayor’ Fails to Respond to State Ethics [Board] After Trying to Rule on Conflict
LocalToday – Ben Myers (New Orleans Times-Picayune) | Published: 9/6/2022

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell named Howlin’ Wolf nightclub owner Howard Kaplan as the first director of the city’s new Office of Nighttime Economy. When Cantrell was asked about potential ethical issues in hiring a nightclub owner to manage the city’s nighttime economy, she cited a pending opinion from the Louisiana Board of Ethics to argue “there is no conflict-of-interest here.” But an ethics board attorney, Mallory Guillot, now says Kaplan has not responded to “numerous” attempts to contact him with additional questions about his dual role as city official and business owner.

Massachusetts Maura Healey to Face Trump-Backed Republican in Deep-Blue Massachusetts
MSN – Annie Linskey and David Weigel (Washington Post) | Published: 9/6/2022

Maura Healey, who made history as the country’s first openly gay state attorney general, will face former state legislator Geoff Diehl, who was endorsed by Donald Trump, in the Massachusetts governor’s race this November, a contest seen by analysts as one of the best chances for Democrats to flip control of a Republican-held seat. If she prevails in the fall, Healey would be the first woman elected governor of Massachusetts. Democratic primary voters in also picked a nominee for attorney general in a race that divided the two U.S. senators and other party leaders in the state.

Michigan Michigan Sheriff Sought to Seize Multiple Voting Machines, Records Show
Reuters – Peter Eisler and Nathan Layne | Published: 8/30/2022

A sheriff in Barry County, Michigan, already under state investigation for alleged involvement in an illegal breach of a vote-counting machine, sought warrants in July to seize other machines to prove former President Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, documents showed. A member of the so-called constitutional sheriffs movement, which holds sheriffs have supreme law enforcement authority within their counties, exceeding that of state and federal agencies, Leaf has appeared at events around the country organized by proponents of Trump’s rigged election claims.

Nevada Police Arrest County Official in Reporter’s Stabbing Death
Las Vegas Review-Journal – David Ferrara, Briana Erickson, and Glenn Puit | Published: 9/7/2022

A Las Vegas-area elected official was arrested as the suspect in the fatal stabbing of a veteran newspaper reporter who had written articles exposing complaints of wrongdoing at his office. Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles was taken into custody hours after investigators served a search warrant in the criminal probe of the killing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German. Soon after German’s investigation was published, Telles failed in his re-election bid, losing the Democratic primary in June.

New Mexico New Mexico Bars Commissioner from Office for Insurrection
MSN – Morgan Lee (Associated Press) | Published: 9/6/2022

A New Mexico judge ordered convicted Capitol rioter Couy Griffin to be removed from his county commissioner seat, ruling the Cowboys for Trump founder’s involvement in the January 6, 2021, insurrection disqualified him from holding public office. Judge Francis Matthew formally labeled the Capitol attack as an insurrection and found Griffin’s involvement fell under the so-called Disqualification Clause of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone from holding office if they took an oath to uphold the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” or gave “aid or comfort” to insurrectionists.

New York Former Trump Adviser Steve Bannon Charged with Defrauding Border Wall Donors
Yahoo News – Aaron Katersky (ABC News) | Published: 9/8/2022

Steve Bannon, a onetime political adviser to former President Trump, was charged by authorities in New York with defrauding donors to the We Build the Wall fundraising campaign for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The indictment charges Bannon and We Build the Wall itself with two counts of money laundering. There are additional felony counts of conspiracy and scheme to defraud. The state charges resemble federal charges for which Bannon received a pardon from Trump and allege Bannon and We Build the Wall defrauded 430 Manhattan-based donors out of $33,600.

New York How a Hochul Donor Received $637M in State Payments
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/8/2022

Last December, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration received an offer to buy 26 million at-home coronavirus tests from a distributor that happened to be a major campaign donor to the governor. The price offered by Digital Gadgets founder Charlie Tebele was $13 per test, far steeper than what other companies were proposing for similar rapid antigen tests. Hochul’s administration had just approved a deal with another firm to buy 5 million tests for just five dollars each. Still, the Hochul administration quickly agreed to pay $338 million to Digital Gadgets at the higher per-test price.

New York Panel Rejects 3 of the 10 Nominees to New York’s New Ethics Body
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 9/2/2022

A panel tasked with reviewing nominations to New York’s new ethics and lobbying oversight panel rejected three out of ten nominations, while confirming seven others. One of those rejected was Gary Lavine, an outspoken former commissioner on the state’s prior ethics body. the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Lavine’s rejection appears the most likely to set up a legal battle over a key aspect of the new law that established the Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government.

Ohio Akron Organizers Turn to the Ballot Box for Civilian Oversight of Police
Ohio Capital Journal – Nick Evans | Published: 9/7/2022

A proposed ballot measure in Akron establishing civilian oversight for the police department comes on the heels of the police killing of Jayland Walker, a Black man shot nearly 50 times by Akron officers after fleeing a traffic stop. The amendment to the city charter would establish a new citizen review board with oversight of the city’s existing police auditor. The proposal also expands the auditor’s office and directs city council to spell out in statute what information the auditor can demand from the department. Organizers have turned in 7,000 petition signatures. That is more than two and a half times what they get it on the November ballot.

Ohio Redistricting: One year later, Ohio a unique, flawed case
Ohio Capital Journal – Susan Tebben | Published: 9/2/2022

One year after the saga of redistricting began, Ohio is seen as a unique case study in the legal strategies and flaws that can emerge in the process. A series of meetings of the Ohio Redistricting Commission were held, where the elected officials who constituted the commission interpreted and re-interpreted a constitutional amendment more than 70 percent of voters had approved to reform the redistricting. One year, five legislative map proposals and two congressional redraws later, the state will hold a general election in November with maps that have been ruled unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Oklahoma Why Most Oklahoma State Legislative Races Are Uncontested
Oklahoma Watch – Keaton Ross | Published: 9/6/2022

Nearly 70 person of Oklahoma’s state legislative elections will be decided without a single vote cast in November. In 2018, nearly 75 percent of House and Senate races included candidates from at least two parties. Oklahoma now ranks among the nation’s least competitive states for legislative races. Without competitive local races, voters are more likely to become disengaged or feel alienated, studies have found. The same can happen to lawmakers who are not making their case to voters. A Georgetown University study found state legislators who run unopposed are less effective and engaged with constituents.

Oregon Tina Kotek Wins Over Potential Rival with Embrace of Campaign Finance Changes
OPB – Dirk VanderHart | Published: 9/7/2022

Oregon gubernatorial candidate Tina Kotek removed one potential obstacle in the race. In private discussions, Kotek committed to using her position to advocate for some specific campaign finance regulations if elected governor. With that commitment, and a newly added policy platform on her website, a notable competitor for left-leaning votes has now stepped down. Nathalie Paravicini, running for governor under the banners of the Oregon Progressive Party and Pacific Green Party, filed a form withdrawing her candidacy. Oregon is one of a handful of states that place no limit on how much campaigns can raise and spend.

Tennessee Registry of Election Finance to Audit Humble for Potential Illegal Coordination with PAC-Like Group
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 9/7/2022

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance is set to audit former state Senate candidate Gary Humble to determine whether his campaign illegally coordinated with his nonprofit organization Tennessee Stands. Registry board member Tom Lawless raised questions about Tennessee Stands, which has a 501(c)(4) federal tax status, and whether it is operating as a PAC without registering with the state. Humble is executive director of the organization, which is intertwined with his political activity.

Texas Appeals Court Sides with Texas Ethics Commission Over Lobbying Fine Against GOP Activist Michael Quinn Sullivan
MSN – Taylor Goldenstein (Houston Chronicle) | Published: 9/1/2022

An appeals court upheld a Texas Ethics Commission fine levied against conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan. He registered as a lobbyist from 2001 to 2009 but did not in 2010 and 2011. The court found Sullivan, acting on behalf of Empower Texans in 2010 and 2011, had lobbied state lawmakers. The judges dismissed Sullivan’s arguments that the commission was unconstitutionally exercising both legislative and executive branch powers. They reversed the trial court’s judgment on the amount of the fine – $10,000 – saying Sullivan is owed a jury trial on that question.

Washington Data Shows How Well Seattle’s Democracy Voucher Program Is Working
Seattle Times – Gene Balk | Published: 9/2/2022

Seattle’s novel “democracy voucher” program for funding local elections is attracting attention. “… It could revolutionize local elections,” said Brian McCabe of Georgetown University, the co-author of a new study on the program. The study found the democracy voucher program does appear to be living up to its name by helping to democratize political giving in Seattle by diversifying the donor pool to better reflect the city’s population. It also found the rate of participation in the program rose most significantly among Black, Hispanic, and young voters, groups that have historically been underrepresented in the campaign finance system.

Washington Washington State Judge Rules Facebook Violated Campaign Finance Rules
MSN – Naomi Nix (Washington Post) | Published: 9/2/2022

A judge ruled Facebook owner Meta repeatedly and intentionally violated Washington’s campaign finance law and must pay penalties. King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North said Facebook, which last year renamed itself Meta, repeatedly broke the state’s law requiring technology platforms make information about political ads available for public inspection in a “timely manner.” North also denied Meta’s attempt to invalidate the state’s decades-old law. The ruling arrives as Meta faces scrutiny over how much information it discloses about the way candidates use marketing campaigns on its networks.

Wisconsin Ginni Thomas Pressed Wisconsin Lawmakers to Overturn Biden’s 2020 Victory
MSN – Emma Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 9/1/2022

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed lawmakers to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 victory not only in Arizona, as previously reported, but also in a second battleground state, Wisconsin, according to emails. Ginni Thomas emailed 29 Arizona lawmakers in in November and December 2020. She urged them to set aside Biden’s popular-vote victory and “choose” their own presidential electors. The new emails show she also messaged two Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin: state Sen. Kathy Bernier, then chair of the Senate elections committee, and state Rep. Gary Tauchen.

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