May 26, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 26, 2023
National/Federal Chief Justice John Roberts Defends Supreme Court’s ‘Highest Standards of Conduct,’ Offers No New Rules ABC News – Devin Dwyer | Published: 5/24/2023 Chief Justice John Roberts defended the integrity of the Supreme Court in the face of slumping public approval […]
Chief Justice John Roberts Defends Supreme Court’s ‘Highest Standards of Conduct,’ Offers No New Rules
ABC News – Devin Dwyer | Published: 5/24/2023
Chief Justice John Roberts defended the integrity of the Supreme Court in the face of slumping public approval and growing political pressure after a recent barrage of misconduct allegations. It was the first time Roberts directly addressed growing concern about how the justices handle potential conflicts-of-interest with their personal lives, a topic that has gotten renewed attention amid a series of alleged ethical infringements by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Rioter Pictured with Foot on Desk in Speaker’s Offices Gets 4½ Years
MSN – Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2023
The U.S. Capitol rioter who was photographed with his foot propped on a desk in then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offices and then tried to make money with the image was sentenced to four-and-one-half years in prison. The photograph of Richard Barnett in Pelosi’s suite of offices in 2021 became one of the defining images of the insurrection. Barnett carried a walking stick with a 950,000-volt stun device into the Capitol along with a 10-pound metal flagpole and menaced police with them, prosecutors said, but he did not assault any officers.
Stewart Rhodes, Oath Keepers Leader, Sentenced to 18 Years in Jan. 6 Case
MSN – Alan Feuer (New York Times) | Published: 5/25/2023
Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his conviction on seditious conspiracy charges for the role he played in helping to mobilize the pro-Trump attack on the U. S. Capitol. The sentence was the most severe penalty so far in any of the more than 1,000 criminal cases stemming from the insurrection and the first to be increased for fitting the legal definition of terrorism. It was also the first to have been given to any of the 10 members of the Oath Keepers and another far-right group, the Proud Boys, who were convicted of sedition.
Tim Scott Begins Presidential Campaign, Adding to List of Trump Challengers
MSN – Jonathan Weisman and Maya King (New York Times) | Published: 5/22/2023
Tim Scott, the first Black Republican elected to the U.S. Senate from the South since Reconstruction, announced his campaign for president, bringing an aspirational message to a growing field of Republicans running as alternatives to Donald Trump. Scott enters the primary field having amassed $22 million in fundraising and having attracted veteran political operatives to work on his behalf. But his message of hope and inclusion may not resonate among base Republican voters steeped in Trump’s demands for vengeance, and the field of Republicans is about to grow far more crowded.
Crow Sidesteps Panel’s Questions About Gifts to Clarence Thomas
MSN – Michael Macagnone (Roll Call) | Published: 5/23/2023
A billionaire Republican donor brushed off questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about his relationship with Justice Clarence Thomas, in a letter that argues the panel did not have the authority to investigate the lavish gifts he provided to the member of the U.S. Supreme Court. An attorney for Harlan Crow told the committee Crow did not have to answer questions about reports Thomas did not disclose that Crow had provided luxury vacations for the justice, bought property from him and paid for a relative’s private education.
Ron DeSantis’s 2024 Kickoff on Twitter Is Plagued by Technical Issues
MSN – Hannah Knowles and Faiz Siddiqui (Washington Post) | Published: 5/24/2023
Ron DeSantis and his allies worked to build momentum ahead of a long-expected presidential campaign launch, rolling out endorsements, sleek videos, and the image of an alligator lurking just beneath the water on his campaign website. But the novel Twitter Spaces announcement with Elon Musk that the Florida governor’s team had hyped as the culmination of his big day was plagued by glitches. The live chat came to a halt after roughly 20 minutes of mostly silence; by the time it restarted and DeSantis began his remarks, hundreds of thousands of listeners had peeled off. It was an awkward start to a campaign that had already hit numerous roadblocks.
House Votes to Refer Santos Matter to Ethics Panel
MSN – Lindsay McPherson (Roll Call) | Published: 5/17/2023
The House voted to refer a resolution from Democrats that would expel U.S. Rep. George Santos to the Committee on Ethics. Speaker Kevin McCarthy defended the move as providing Santos with “due process.” Santos was indicted on 13 federal criminal charges, including wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and making false statements to the House. Expelling Santos would put a dent in the GOP’s narrow four-seat majority until a special election can be held. Another Republican victory there would not be guaranteed.
School Librarians Face a New Penalty in the Banned-Book Wars: Prison
MSN – Hannah Natanson (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2023
Librarians could face years of imprisonment and tens of thousands in fines for providing sexually explicit, obscene, or “harmful” books to children under new state laws that permit criminal prosecution of school and library personnel. At least seven states have passed such laws in the last two years. Another dozen states considered more than 20 similar bills this year. Some educators and activists say the laws will forge a climate of fear among school librarians, spurring the censorship of books by and about LGBTQ individuals even as the nation already faces a historic onslaught of challenges to books in those categories.
Sen. Feinstein’s Health Complications from Shingles More Severe Than Disclosed
MSN – Liz Goodwin and Carolyn Johnson (Washington Post) | Published: 5/18/2023
Sen. Dianne Feinstein returned to Washington after having suffered more severe health complications from her shingles diagnosis than were previously disclosed. Feinstein’s shingles triggered encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain, as well as Ramsay Hunt syndrome, which causes facial paralysis. She returned to the Senate after facing pressure to resign from a few members of Congress and California progressive groups, who complained her months-long absence was slowing judicial confirmations and imperiling the Democratic agenda.
Meet the Influential New Player on Transgender Health Bills
Yahoo News – Jeff McMillan and Kimberlee Kruesi (Associated Press) | Published: 5/20/2023
Do No Harm, a nonprofit that launched last year to oppose diversity initiatives in medicine, has evolved into a significant leader in statehouses seeking to ban gender-affirming care for transgender youths, producing model legislation that has been used in at least three states. Do No Harm organized as a charitable organization whose tax-exempt status would be endangered by substantial lobbying. In March, after the group had already made significant inroads in Legislatures with its model bill, lobbyists, and hearing witnesses, it incorporated Do No Harm Action as a separate nonprofit with a tax status that allows for more lobbying,
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Groups Settle Arizona Lawsuit Over Voter Intimidation at Ballot Boxes
MSN – Daniel Gilbert (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2023
An Arizona group that monitored ballot drop boxes for signs of fraud during the midterm elections settled a lawsuit and agreed to “publicly condemn intimidation of any kind in connection with the exercise of the right to vote,” according to the League of Women Voters of Arizona, which had filed the suit. The drop boxes, intended to provide a secure, convenient place to submit ballots, have become a symbol of mistrust in elections among many supporters of Donald Trump.
Arizona – Judge Dismisses Kari Lake’s Final Claim in Election Loss for Arizona Governor
Yahoo News – Associated Press | Published: 5/21/2023
A judge dismissed the only remaining legal claim in Kari Lake’s challenge of her loss in last year’s race for Arizona governor, affirming the election of Katie Hobbs. Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson said Lake failed to prove her claim that Maricopa County did not verify signatures on mail ballots as required by law. Lake faced a high bar in proving not only her allegation over signature verification efforts but also that it affected the outcome of her race.
California – 49ers’ Former Lobbyist Emerges as Key Witness in Anthony Becker Perjury Case
MSN – Lance Williams and Ron Kroichick (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 5/19/2023
The former chief lobbyist for the San Francisco 49ers testified Santa Clara City Councilperson Anthony Becker illegally leaked a confidential report criticizing the team’s political influence. Rahul Chandhok told a grand jury that Becker gave him a confidential copy of a watchdog agency’s report accusing the 49ers of having undue influence over government in Santa Clara, home of publicly owned Levi’s Stadium. Becker is charged with one felony count of perjury and one misdemeanor count of failing to perform his official duty.
Connecticut – Consultant on New London Pier Project Fined for Ethics Violations – Again
WSHU – Brian Scott-Smith | Published: 5/19/2023
The Connecticut Office of State Ethics fined Seabury Maritime $10,000 for violating the state’s lobbying law. It lobbied from 2017 to 2019 to gain contracts and other business from the Connecticut Port Authority, a quasi-public agency. Seabury spent over $3,000 in lobbying each year, which triggered a requirement for them to register their activity, which they failed to do. The company also did not complete any financial disclosures as required.
Florida – Developer Paid Miami’s Mayor $170K to Push His Project, Company Records State
MSN – Joey Flechas, Jay Weaver, and Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/23/2023
Internal company records provide details, for the first time, of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez’s private work for the development firm Location Ventures while he held public office. The company paid Suarez at least $170,000 over the past two years to help secure permits for a stalled real estate project, raising legal and ethical questions about the relationship between his role as mayor and his job as a developer’s consultant.
Florida – DeSantis Signs Bill That Makes His Presidential Run Easier
MSN – Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 5/24/2023
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis removed a threat to his campaign for president by signing into law a measure that makes it clear he does not have to resign his current position as governor. The change to Florida’s resign-to-run law was part of a larger overall elections bill that has drawn the scorn of Democrats and voting rights groups who have labeled it “voter suppression.” Two lawsuits were immediately filed in federal court challenging the law.
Florida – Florida Senator Sued by His Family Business for ‘Embezzling’ Money
Yahoo News – Lawrence Mower (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 5/22/2023
State Sen. Nick DiCeglie is being sued by his cousins and his family trash collection business for allegedly spending tens of thousands of the company’s dollars on political expenses, travel, and a personal loan. In two lawsuits, DiCeglie is accused of “embezzling” money while he was president of Solar Sanitation. DiCeglie has agreed to pay back some of the money, including $120,000 in loans from the company. But he said the political spending was to further the company’s business, which relies on contracts with local governments in Pinellas County.
Georgia – Book Removals May Have Violated Student Civil Rights, Education Dept. Says
MSN – Hannah Natanson and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff (Washington Post) | Published: 5/22/2023
In a move that could affect how schools handle book challenges, the federal government has concluded a Georgia school district’s removal of titles with Black and LGBTQ characters may have created a “hostile environment” for students, potentially violating their civil rights. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights investigated Forsyth County Schools’ 2022 decision to pull nearly a dozen books from shelves after parents complained of titles’ sexual and LGBTQ content. To resolve the investigation, the district agreed to offer “supportive measures” to students affected by the book removals and to administer a school climate survey.
Illinois – Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin’s Girlfriend, Ex-Business Partners and City Employee’s Husband Awarded Thousands in Taxpayer-Funded Grants
WTTW – Nick Blumberg | Published: 5/18/2023
The Aurora City Council has awarded dozens of taxpayer-funded business grants to local businesses in recent months. The owners of two of the companies are in personal relationships with top city officials. A majority of recent donations to Mayor Richard Irvin’s campaign fund are from people doing business with or getting incentives from the city, The council approved a $10,000 grant to Laura’s Furniture, owned by Laura Ayala-Clarke. Sources have described her as Irvin’s girlfriend.
Illinois – Under Pressure on Ethics, Illinois Lawmakers Consider Tightened Rules on Red-Light Camera Industry
Yahoo News – Dan Petrella (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/24/2023
Facing pressure to bolster state ethics laws following the recent bribery convictions of former Commonwealth Edison executives and lobbyists, Illinois lawmakers have turned their attention to another branch of a corruption investigation: the red-light camera industry. A bill approved in the Senate seeks to place new guardrails around an industry that has been at the center of multiple federal probes that have ensnared a host of state, county, and local officials, including two state senators.
Kansas – Kansas Ethics Commission to Evaluate Factors Influencing Waiver of Campaign Finance Penalties
KPVI – Tim Carpenter | Published: 5/25/2023
At a recent meeting, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission voted to waive fines against the Geary County Republican Central Committee’s treasurer along with penalties against the treasurer of the defunct Prairie Roots PAC and a lobbyist with Kansans for Life. Others appealing campaign finance penalties had their fines upheld. The hit-or-miss voting on appeals led to discussion of how commission members placed their fingers on the scale to either enforce or waive penalties.
Kentucky – Agency Fines Alison Grimes $10,000 for Handling of Voter Data as KY Secretary of State
Yahoo News – John Cheves (Lexington Herald-Leader) | Published: 5/19/2023
Alison Lundergan Grimes must pay $10,000 in fines for improperly ordering the downloading and distribution of voter registration data from her office while she was Kentucky’s secretary of state. The Lexington Herald-Leader and ProPublica published a series of stories on her improper use of the Voter Registration System. They also showed how Grimes pushed through a no-bid contract with a company owned by a campaign donor.
Louisiana – New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s Office Sought to Avoid Public Disclosure Rules for Anti-Recall Mailer
NOLA.com – John Stanton | Published: 5/23/2023
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration circumvented city public bidding rules to hire a public relations firm with apparent ties to one of her top advisors to defend her record as mayor in the waning days of a failed recall effort. Documents turned over to the city council under a subpoena, provide the clearest picture yet into the development of a potentially illegal taxpayer-funded mailer sent to likely voters in the week before the recall petition deadline, and the lengths to which top Cantrell officials went to obscure their work on it.
Maryland – Treasurer for Baltimore County Campaign Committees Pleads Guilty to Stealing Funds
Maryland Daily Record – Madeline O’Neill | Published: 5/25/2023
William McCollum, the treasurer for a powerful Baltimore County political slate, pleaded guilty Thursday to theft and perjury charges, admitting to stealing campaign funds from the group and from a former county councilperson’s finance committee. The charges alleged McCollum embezzled nearly $100,000 from the Friends of Cathy Bevins fund for his personal benefit. Prosecutors said McCollum used campaign money to travel with a romantic partner while in Puerto Rico and for flights to Palm Beach, Florida, and Iceland. He did not disclose those expenditures on campaign finance reports.
Massachusetts – Calls for Arroyo to Step Down from Boston City Council after Rollins Investigation
WBUR – Walter Wuthmann | Published: 5/19/2023
At least one Boston city councilor and a conservative advocacy group are calling for Councilor Ricardo Arroyo to resign following the release of two federal investigations tying him to alleged election meddling by former U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins. The reports found Rollins attempted to influence the race for Suffolk County district attorney in 2022 by leaking negative information about interim District Attorney Kevin Hayden to help Arroyo, her preferred successor to the office. The Department of Justice report contains 299 mentions of Arroyo and includes portions of 380 private texts and encrypted chats between him and Rollins over two months.
Mississippi – Chris McDaniel’s Reports Deny Accurate Public Accounting of Campaign Money
Mississippi Today – Geoff Pender | Published: 5/18/2023
After six campaign finance filings – including amended, termination-amended, and even one the-computer-temporarily-ate-it reports – it is still unclear exactly how much money longtime Mississippi Sen. Chris McDaniel has raised or now has for his lieutenant governor campaign. McDaniel’s reports for his campaign and a PAC he created last year have been confusing and confounding, at times leaving voters in the dark on the sources of hundreds of thousands of dollars and continuing to contain double-reported donations and amounts and dates that do not add up.
Nebraska – A Year After Scandal, Nebraska Legislature Revises Its Workplace Harassment Policy
Omaha World-Herald – Erin Bamer | Published: 5/17/2023
Over a year after a scandal rocked the Nebraska Legislature, lawmakers adopted a handful of changes to its workplace harassment policy, although some say there is still more work to be done. The changes were developed after the revelation that ex-Sen. Mike Groene took photos of a former female staff member without her knowledge. Soon after, Groene resigned from the Legislature, and a later investigation found his conduct was “boorish, brainless and bizarre,” although not unlawful.
New York – Trump Makes Video Appearance in New York Criminal Case, Trial Date Tentatively Set for Late March
Associated Press News – Michael Sisak | Published: 5/23/2023
Donald Trump threw up his hands in frustration as a judge scheduled his criminal trial for March 25, putting the former president and current candidate in a Manhattan courtroom in the heat of next year’s presidential primary season. Trump has pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records at his family company, the Trump Organization. Trump often discusses the cases at his rallies and in other speeches and has repeatedly attacked prosecutors and judges by name. At the hearing, the judge reviewed an order barring Trump from publicly disseminating certain evidence turned over by prosecutors.
New York – Supreme Court Tosses Convictions of Cor Development Executives Steve Aiello and Joe Gerardi
MSN – Tim Knauss (Syracuse Post-Standard) | Published: 5/22/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions of business executives Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi, who were accused of bid-rigging and other crimes related to state development projects. The ruling was expected due to the court’s rulings in two related cases. Alain Kaloyeros, a former economic development official in the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also had his conviction formally set aside. Aiello and Gerardi, executives at Cor Development Co., were convicted of conspiring with Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
New York – Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano’s Brothers Run Lobbying Firm with Biz Before City
MSN – Carl Campanile (New York Post) | Published: 5/22/2023
Two brothers of Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano run a lobbying firm with clients that have had business before the city during the mayor’s tenure, including with the agency that doles out tax breaks and is chaired by him, records show. Empire Strategic Planning (ESP) was founded by Nick Spano, a former state senator. John Spano is on ESP’s executive team. Mayor Spano and his siblings-led firm said it lobbies on these clients’ behalf in Albany, not Yonkers City Hall.
New York – Lobbyists Fundraise for Adams 2021 Campaign
NY1 – Courtney Gross | Published: 5/23/2023
Documents show lobbyists raised money for Eric Adams in his 2021 race to be New York City mayor, fundraising that has not been reported previously. Adams’ campaign never reported any of these lobbyists as bundlers or intermediaries with the city’s campaign finance board. By law, campaigns must report who collects donations for their campaigns.
North Dakota – Lame-Duck North Dakota Lawmakers Roamed to Faraway Conferences on the Taxpayers’ Dime
Bismarck Tribune – Jeremy Turley (Forum News Service) | Published: 5/23/2023
Since 2014, the North Dakota Legislature has spent more than $45,000 to send a dozen retiring and defeated lawmakers to out-of-state conferences. Some of the departing lawmakers served on interstate policy boards and were expected to show up to faraway meetings, but others went to conferences that could have been attended by any of their colleagues who planned to remain in the Legislature. Sen. Ray Holmberg, Holmberg, who attended more out-of-state trips than any of his peers since 2013, also signed off on his own travel during the time he served as chairperson of Legislative Management, an interim panel of top lawmakers.
Oregon – Before Oregon Elections Officials Slashed Democratic Party’s Fine, State Lawyer Blasted Party’s ‘Lackluster’ Efforts to Find True Source of $500K Donation
Portland Oregonian – Hillary Borrud | Published: 5/23/2023
Two weeks before Oregon elections officials greatly reduced a fine against the state Democratic Party for falsely reporting the source of its largest ever campaign donation, Assistant Attorney General Kevin Gleim criticized the party, calling its efforts to correctly identify the donor “lackluster.” Gleim also said the Elections Division had no authority to reduce a resulting $35,000 fine on the party, which was determined solely on the size of the contribution donation and the number of days the party was tardy in reporting the donor.
Pennsylvania – Allegheny County Council Approves Campaign Finance Regulations
WESA – Julia Zenkevich | Published: 5/24/2023
The Allegheny County Council passed a bill that would impose FEC contribution guidelines on candidates for county offices. Those guidelines are adjusted for inflation every two years, but individual contributions are currently capped at $3,300, while PACs can give $5,000 per election cycle. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has said he would likely veto the bill. He said campaign finance limits should come from the state Legislature.
Texas – Texas Pushes Church into State with Bills on School Chaplains, Ten Commandments
MSN – Michelle Boorstein (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2023
Texas lawmakers were scheduled to vote on whether to require the Ten Commandments be posted in every classroom in the state, part of a newly energized national effort to insert religion into public life. Supporters believe the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of a high school football coach who prayed with players essentially removed any guardrails between religion and government. The legislation is one of about a half-dozen religion bills approved this session by the state Senate.
Texas – Investigators Detail Years of Alleged Misconduct by Texas AG Ken Paxton in Stunning House Committee Hearing
MSN – Zach Despart and James Barragán (Texas Tribune) | Published: 5/24/2023
A Texas House committee heard testimony that state Attorney General Ken Paxton may have violated multiple state laws and ethics rules during a hearing that summarized its months-long investigation. The testimony came a day after Paxton called for Speaker Dade Phelan to resign, accusing him of being “intoxicated” while presiding over the House recently. One area of the inquiry focused on a proposed $3.3 million agreement to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by four high-ranking deputies who were fired after accusing Paxton of accepting bribes and other misconduct.
Virginia – In N. Virginia, Endorsement Primaries Point to Increasingly Politicized School Boards
MSN – Karina Elwood (Washington Post) | Published: 5/21/2023
As Harold Sims Jr. knocked on doors for his school board campaign, many of the Northern Virginia residents on the other side did not know there was an election in May. Sims was not campaigning for the general election or primary that most voters are familiar with. He was door knocking, along with fundraising and debating other candidates to win the local Democratic Party’s endorsement. School board races in Virginia, like most of the country, are nonpartisan. But for years, local political parties around the state have endorsed school board candidates to signal to voters which candidates match their political ideology.
Virginia – A Republican Lawmaker Delivered Doughnuts to Teachers. Then Came a Political Food Fight
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 5/23/2023
Virginia Del. Amanda Batten bought almost 1,000 doughnuts to give to public school teachers in her Williamsburg-area district. The doughnut deliveries to 19 schools were accepted. But in a sign of the intensity of Virginia’s political debates over K-12 public schools, some in the system saw an ulterior motive in the gifts. A photo showed a doughnut-box label with a line in smaller print: “Paid for and Authorized by Friends of Amanda Batten.” That phrase signals an activity was funded by money from a political campaign. The pushback was so strong school officials told Batten similar doughnut drop offs would be declined due to their “political nature.”
Virginia – Though Critiques Persist, Many Agree Virginia’s New Political Maps Are ‘Quite Balanced’
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 5/17/2023
As Virginia enters a high-stakes General Assembly election year, the first playing out on electoral maps drawn by outside experts rather than incumbent legislators, many lawmakers, advocates, and experts agree it looks like a fair fight, with neither party getting an undue advantage based on political geography alone. Despite fears that the new redistricting process could lead to backsliding in minority representation, a look at the field of candidates running this year indicates the Legislature elected on the new maps will be more diverse, not less.
West Virginia – Democrats Sue W.Va. Gov. Justice Over Refusal to Disclose Work Schedule
MSN – John Wagner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/23/2023
Democrats sued West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, for refusing to release his work schedule as governor in response to public records request seeking to show a continued pattern of absenteeism. The move by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee follows months of back and forth with Justice’s office over whether disclosure of the records is required under West Virginia law. Such requests are a typical part of opposition research conducted by campaigns and political parties.
May 23, 2023 •
Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Mississippi: “Chris McDaniel’s Reports Deny Accurate Public Accounting of Campaign Money” by Geoff Pender for Mississippi Today Elections National: “Tim Scott Begins Presidential Campaign, Adding to List of Trump Challengers” by Jonathan Weisman and Maya King (New York Times) for MSN Virginia: “In […]
May 22, 2023 •
Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Elections Kentucky: “Agency Fines Alison Grimes $10,000 for Handling of Voter Data as KY Secretary of State” by John Cheves (Lexington Herald-Leader) for Yahoo News Ethics National: “House Votes to Refer Santos Matter to Ethics Panel” by Lindsay McPherson (Roll Call) for MSN Florida: “Lawsuit […]
May 19, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 19, 2023
National/Federal Durham Finds Fault with F.B.I. Over Russia Inquiry DNyuz – Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 5/15/2023 John Durham, the Trump-era special counsel who has pursued a politically fraught investigation into the Russia […]
Durham Finds Fault with F.B.I. Over Russia Inquiry
DNyuz – Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner (New York Times) | Published: 5/15/2023
John Durham, the Trump-era special counsel who has pursued a politically fraught investigation into the Russia inquiry, accused the FBI of having “discounted or willfully ignored material information” that countered the narrative of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. Durham’s final report revealed little substantial new information about the inquiry, known as Crossfire Hurricane, and it failed to produce the kinds of revelations accusing the bureau of politically motivated misconduct that Trump and his allies suggested Durham would uncover.
Former Hawaii Executives Plead Guilty to Sending Illegal Donations to US Sen. Susan Collins
Honolulu Civil Beat – Nick Grube | Published: 5/15/2023
Clifford Chen and Lawrence Lum Kee. two former executives of a Hawaii-based defense contractor, recently pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to funnel tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins during her 2020 bid for reelection. Chen and Lum Kee used company funds to donate large sums of money to Collins’ reelection, including through a shell company meant to mask their identity when sending $150,000 to a pro-Collins super PAC. They also recruited family members to donate thousands of dollars directly to Collins’ campaign.
How Kyrsten Sinema Uses Campaign Cash for Her Marathon Habit
MSN – Sam Brodey (Daily Beast) | Published: 5/14/2023
When U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an avid marathoner and triathlete, ran the Boston Marathon last year, it was a proud moment she wanted to publicize. “It’s been a long road to get here,: Sinema tweeted, along with photos of her running and celebrating the finish. Far less publicized, however, was another aspect to Sinema’s long-awaited journey to Boston: she appears to have turned it into a fundraising junket, allowing her campaign to cover the thousands of dollars in expenses she would have incurred herself by traveling to the race.
Supreme Court to Review House Oversight Lawsuit from 2017
MSN – Michael Macagnone and Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) | Published: 5/15/2023
The Supreme Court will decide whether lawmakers can turn to the courts when the federal government denies them documents, as members of an oversight committee did when they sought information about the former Trump International Hotel in Washington. The case centers on a law that gives any seven members of what was then called the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee the right to request information from the federal government, which is separate from the typical authority of the panel’s majority to do so. A decision could reshape the ability of the minority party in Congress to oversee the federal government.
CNN Leadership Under Fire After ‘Disastrous’ Trump Town Hall
MSN – Paul Farhi and Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2023
CNN’s prime-time broadcast of a raucous town hall with Donald Trump propelled a tsunami of criticism from inside and outside the network and renewed questions about how the news media will handle the challenge of covering the serial falsehoods of the Republican Party’s leading candidate going into the 2024 election. The main impact may be the damage done to the reputation of the network. It also raised questions about the future prospects of chief executive Chris Licht, who is charged with striking a more neutral tone at a cable channel that exploded with impassioned commentary during the Trump years.
George Santos Confesses to Theft in Brazil to Avoid Prosecution
MSN – Terrence McCoy, Marina Dias, and Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2023
Rep. George Santos signed a deal with Brazilian prosecutors in which he confessed to theft and agreed to pay restitution and fines if prosecutors agree to drop the criminal case against him, bringing a likely resolution in a case that has tailed the embattled politician for more than a decade. Santos was given 30 days to pay around $2,000 in fines and $2,800 to the victim. The deal means Santos will not have to fight criminal prosecution in two countries.
Did Jan. 6 Defendants Act ‘Corruptly’? An Appeals Court Weighs the Question.
MSN – Tom Jackman and Rachel Weiner (Washington Post) | Published: 5/11/2023
When analyzing the prosecutions of rioters at the U.S. Capitol, some defense lawyers have zeroed in on a key word in the law used to charge many defendants: “corruptly.” The law requires proof that the defendants acted corruptly in obstructing the electoral vote certification. But the exact definition of what it means to be corrupt was at question as judges for an appeals court weighing whether a law used to secure felony convictions against more than 100 participants in the attack is being appropriately applied.
How to Raise $89 Million in Small Donations – and Make It Disappear
Seattle Times – David Fahrenthold and Tiff Fehr (New York Times) | Published: 5/16/2023
A group of five linked nonprofits have exploited thousands of donors in ways that have been hidden until now by a blizzard of filings, lax oversight, and a blind spot in the campaign finance system. Since 2014, the groups have pulled in $89 million from small-dollar donors who were pitched on building political support for police officers, veterans, and firefighters. But just one percent of the money they raised was used to help candidates via donations, ads, or targeted get-out-the-vote messages, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
From the States and Municipalities
Canada – Ford Government Defeats Attempt to Get Tough on Gift-Giving After Controversial Party and Wedding
Toronto Star – Bob Fergiuson | Published: 5/11/2023
A bill that would have changed Ontario’s conflict-of-interest rules after developers attended a stag-and-doe party and wedding for one of Premier Doug Ford’s daughters has been blocked. The bill would have amended the Members’ Integrity Act to make it clear members of the legislative assembly should not take gifts that could lead to the appearance of a conflict.
California – Should Nonprofits Have to Register as Lobbyists in Long Beach? Ethics Commission Still Debating
Long Beach Post – Jason Ruiz | Published: 5/12/2023
As the Long Beach Ethics Commission continues to tweak its recommendations to tighten the city’s lobbying laws, nonprofits are arguing they should remain exempt from registering as lobbyists to avoid a chilling effect on their advocacy. The commission met recently to discuss some new changes it is considering to a proposal from earlier this year when they signaled that they may do away with rules that exempted nonprofits from the lobbying ordinance. The proposal now includes “advocacy” as a form of lobbying, but a rule to make groups like business improvement districts and neighborhood associations register has been dropped for now.
California – Developer Fined $4 Million for Bribing Former L.A. Councilmember Jose Huizar
MSN – Michael Finnegan (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/12/2023
A Chinese real estate company was fined $4 million for the bribes its owner paid former Los Angeles City Councilperson Jose Huizar as it sought approval to build a downtown skyscraper. U.S. District Court Judge John Walter, who has presided over a series of City Hall graft cases, bemoaned “the crushing weight of corruption” as he imposed the sentence on Shen Zhen New World I. At the company’s criminal trial, witnesses detailed more than $1 million in bribes paid to Huizar, much of it through all-expense-paid trips to Las Vegas.
California – Oakland Ethics Commission Reckons with ‘Devastating’ Budget Proposal
Oaklandside – Eli Wolfe | Published: 5/11/2023
The Oakland Public Ethics Commission has laid out in stark terms how the proposed city budget will affect its operations. Commission staff said the budget would remove funding for the Democracy Dollars program, which aims to level the city’s campaign finance landscape by giving vouchers to voters to support candidates. With only a modest budget increase, the commission also will not be able to hire additional staff for its overburdened enforcement program. Due to a prolonged staffing shortage, the enforcement chief said he must put half the city’s existing ethics cases on hold indefinitely.
Connecticut – Sullivan Sentenced to 6 Months in Prison for Lavish 2015 Kentucky Derby, Golf Trips
Yahoo News – Claire Bessette (New London Day) | Published: 5/17/2023
James Sullivan, a former chairperson of the Connecticut Municipal Electric Energy Cooperative, was sentenced to six months in prison for using the utilities’ money to pay for lavish trips in 2015 to the Kentucky Derby and a West Virginia golf resort. The jury convicted Sullivan, former cooperative executive Drew Rankin, and former Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda on theft from a program receiving federal funds for the trips.
Florida – Miami Mayor Suarez’s Big VIP Weekend Was Worth $30K. And He Still Won’t Say Who Paid
MSN – Sarah Blaskey (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/17/2023
For the second year in a row, Mayor Francis Suarez made the rounds to lavish parties during the recent Formula One race in Miami, where hosts tied to local lobbying efforts waived cover charges for elected officials. If Suarez paid the cover for each event he and his wife attended, their Grand Prix weekend would have cost well over $30,000. Suarez would not say who paid for his weekend, nor did he file a quarterly report disclosing sponsors behind a similar tour of the party circuit he made last year, as is legally required when an elected official receives complimentary admissions or free tickets from anyone outside of their immediate family.
Georgia – Republican Tapped to Lead Fulton Elections Board Withdraws Under Pressure
MSN – Amy Gardner, Matthew Brown, and Michael Scherer (Washington Post) | Published: 5/17/2023
An Atlanta Republican withdrew his nomination to lead the elections board of Georgia’s most populous county after voting-rights activists and national Democrats, including the state’s two U.S. senators, lobbied to block the appointment. Lee Morris’s appointment would have given Republicans a majority on the Board of Registrations and Elections in a county that forms the core of metropolitan Atlanta and is governed by a majority-Democrat commission.
Illinois – Exelon Is Paying the Legal Tab for Two Former Executives Convicted in ComEd Bribery Scheme
WBEZ – Doug McKinney | Published: 5/15/2023
Exelon has been paying the legal fees for two now-convicted former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) executives who were part of a conspiracy to bribe former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan. ComEd spokesperson Shannon Breymaier noted a section of Exelon’s bylaws that specifies current and former directors and officers of the company and its affiliates qualify to have their legal costs covered in criminal cases so long as the charged were acting in “good faith” and did not believe they were engaging in criminal behavior.
Kansas – What’s in the Bag? Kansas Lobbying Expenditure
KSNT – Colter Robinson | Published: 5/17/2023
Last year, 165 “gift bags” were given to Kansas lawmakers. In Kansas, expenses related to lobbying must be reported. In 2022, a total of $287,252.76 in spending was reported. Of the total amount, only $75,209.63 was itemized. The annual lobbyist expenditure report must include the costs for items such as food and beverages, gifts, and entertainment. The purpose of the items must be documented.
Kentucky – Trump-Backed Daniel Cameron to Face Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in November
Associated Press News – Bruce Schreiner | Published: 5/17/2023
Daniel Cameron won the Republican primary for Kentucky governor, becoming the first major-party Black nominee for governor in the state’s history and setting up a November showdown with Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear. Cameron, the state’s attorney general, claimed a convincing victory over a 12-candidate field. Beshear easily dispatched two challengers in his own primary. The race now shifts to the general election, which will be one of November’s most closely watched contests and could provide clues heading into next year’s presidential election.
Louisiana – LNG Lobbyists Ghost Wrote Louisiana Officials’ Letters Supporting Gas Storage Project
Louisiana Illuminator – Sara Sneath | Published: 5/17/2023
In an effort to gain federal approval for a natural gas storage project, Sempra LNG lobbyists crafted letters for Louisiana elected officials to send to federal regulators in support of the project. Last fall, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission greenlit the Hackenberry gas storage project, which involves converting underground domes constructed in the 1970s to mine for salt into storage space for natural gas. Sempra LNG has been trying to build the project in Cameron Parish since 2006.
Massachusetts – Dana Pullman Sentenced to Prison in State Police Union Kickback Case
MassLive – Tréa Lavery | Published: 5/11/2023
Dana Pullman, the former president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts (SPAM), was sentenced to 30 months in prison for his role in a kickback scheme during his time heading the union. Anne Lynch, a lobbyist who worked with him in the scheme, will serve 24 months in prison. Lynch’s lobbying firm represented SPAM in exchange for monthly retainer payments. Prosecutors say that for six years, the two used Pullman’s position to defraud members of the union, the state, and vendors seeking to do business with the state police.
Massachusetts – Federal Watchdogs Issue Scathing Reports on U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts
Politico – Lisa Kashinsky, Josh Gerstein, and Kyle Cheney | Published: 5/17/2023
Massachusetts’ top federal prosecutor leaked sensitive Department of Justice information to a reporter as part of an effort to help an ally in a political campaign and then lied about it to investigators, a watchdog found. The finding was the most damaging in a pair of reports issued by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz and another federal watchdog agency against U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who announced she would resign her position.
Massachusetts – SJC Upholds AG’s Ruling Striking Ballot Question
The Eagle-Tribune – Christian Wade | Published: 5/16/2023
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld a decision by then-state Attorney General Maura Healey to reject a ballot question calling for limits on campaign spending by PACs. The justices said the case is “moot” because the proponents of the referendum did not follow the state’s timelines for gathering the required number of signatures from voters to qualify for the ballot. As such, the justices said they are showing “judicial restraint” by not resolving the matter.
Michigan – Michigan Democrats’ Early Campaign Finance Bills Bolster Union Influence
Detroit News – Craig Mauger | Published: 5/16/2023
A committee in the Democrat-controlled Michigan House advanced bills that would help labor unions, which frequently support Democratic lawmakers’ campaigns, raise money for political contributions. Democrats won control of both the state House and Senate for the first time in 40 years in November. The new proposals would remove a ban on government bodies administering payroll deductions for political committees and would broadly allow automatic deductions to be set up for giving to labor union committees.
Michigan – 2nd Lobbyist Pleads Guilty in Medical Marijuana Corruption Scheme
MSN – Arpan Lobo (Detroit Free Press) | Published: 5/12/2023
Federal prosecutors secured the fourth guilty plea in a bribery scheme involving Michigan’s former medical cannabis licensing board. Brian Pierce said he conspired to give $42,000 and other benefits to former House Speaker Rick Johnson to help clients with license applications before the board was disbanded in 2019.
New Hampshire – Bill to Boost Political Finance Transparency Heads to Sununu’s Desk
New Hampshire Bulletin – Ethan DeWitt | Published: 5/15/2023
A bill to increase campaign finance transparency in New Hampshire is headed to Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk. House Bill 195 would expand which groups would count as political advocacy organizations, a designation that requires them to register with the secretary of state’s office and report receipts and expenditures. Currently, the label applies only to organizations that spend $5,000 toward advocacy for or against a candidate or party in an election cycle. The bill would lower that threshold to $2,500 or more.
New York – ‘Lobbying Loophole’ Bill After LaSalle Fight Advances Through Senate
Albany Times Union – Joshua Solomon | Published: 5/16/2023
State Senate Democrats advanced legislation to close a “lobbying loophole” on judicial nominations and other state offices that followed undisclosed efforts earlier this year to influence votes on the selection of New York’s chief judge. The bill was introduced after an Albany Times Union story highlighted the lack of public reporting requirements for outside groups seeking to buttress or oppose a judicial nomination.
New York – U.S. Supreme Court Tosses Convictions of Percoco, Kaloyeros, Developers
Albany Times Union – Robert Gavin | Published: 5/11/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court threw out two fraud convictions during New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration, dealing prosecutors the latest in a series of setbacks in their efforts to pursue federal charges of public corruption in state government. The court unanimously overturned the bid-rigging convictions of SUNY Polytechnic Institute founder Alain Kaloyeros and three businesspeople while also reversing the fraud-related conviction of Joseph Percoco, the once powerful top aide to Cuomo.
New York – Head of NYC Campaign Finance Board Resigns Six Months After Taking Job
Gothamist – Brigid Bergin | Published: 5/16/2023
The head of the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is stepping down from her post just six months after taking the job. Beth Rotman became the agency’s third executive director when she took the position in October. She cited personal reasons for departing her new role so soon. The former executive director, Amy LoPrest, will serve as the interim director of the program until the CFB completes its search for a new executive director.
New York – Eric Adams’ Transition Fined Nearly $20K by Campaign Finance Board
The City – Katie Honan | Published: 5/15/2023
The Campaign Finance Board hit New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team with nearly $20,000 in penalties for violations related to the weeks in between 2021’s election and his January 2022 inauguration. The board voted to approve $19,600 in fines for three violations, finding the account for Adams transition and inauguration committee accepted prohibited donations, failed to respond or responded late to requests for information or documentation, and failed to properly wind down “transition and inauguration expense” activities.
Ohio – Ohio Lawmakers Vote to Set Aug. 8 Election for Controversial 60% Constitutional Amendment Proposal
MSN – Andrew Tobias and Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 5/10/2023
Ohio lawmakers passed a resolution asking voters to raise the threshold for approving constitutional amendments. The vote caps off nearly six months of legislative wrangling largely meant to hobble an abortion rights amendment. Lawmakers are entering questionable legal territory, however, as they set the vote in August through the resolution itself. Legislation approved last December places strict limits on such special elections, and a measure aimed at loosening those restrictions faltered in the House.
Oklahoma – Ethics Commission Settles Conservative Alliance PAC Lawsuit, Kannady Mum
NonDoc – Michael McNutt | Published: 5/17/2023
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission settled a lawsuit against a PAC that spent more than $150,000 in multiple Republican legislative races in 2018 as part of an electoral effort participated in by a top GOP House leader to defeat several hardline members of his own caucus. The Conservative Alliance PAC and its treasurer, Chris Marston, admitted targeting specific candidates and failed to follow the disclosure requirements in Oklahoma law. The PAC and Marston will pay $45,000 to the state.
Oregon – Oregon Lawmakers May Consider Boosting Elected Officials’ Pay, Passing Ethics Reforms in Wake of Shemia Fagan’s Resignation
MSN – Grant Stringer (Portland Oregonian) | Published: 5/10/2023
Oregon lawmakers are mulling whether to boost pay for statewide officeholders and pass ethics reforms following the resignation of former Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who stepped down after it was reported she had taken a $10,000 a month side job with a cannabis company. Fagan said she took the lucrative side job in part because she struggled to pay her bills as secretary of state. The post pays $77,000 per year.
Oregon – State Election Officials Fine Democratic Party of Oregon for Cryptocurrency Donation Flap
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Lauren Dake | Published: 5/12/2023
State election officials issued a $15,000 fine for the Oregon Democratic Party Democratic Party after the party changed the name of the donor of a hefty campaign check. The state also plans to monitor the party’s financial disclosures to ensure campaign finance laws are being followed in the future. The secretary of state’s office initially proposed a fine of $35,000after a three-month investigation but lowered the amount.
Pennsylvania – Cherelle Parker Wins Crowded Democratic Philadelphia Mayoral Primary; Dems Keep Pennsylvania House Majority
CBS News – Caroline Linton | Published: 5/17/2023
Philadelphia Democrats selected Cherelle Parker to be their party’s mayoral nominee. Parker will be favored to win the general election in November when she takes on Republican David Oh. The mayor’s race was the most expensive in the city’s history, with two candidates – Derek Green and Maria Quiñones Sánchez – dropping out because the price of the race was too high. In addition, Democrats narrowly maintained their majority in the Pennsylvania House, thanks to a win in a closely watched special election.
South Carolina – Supreme Court to Consider South Carolina Plan That ‘Exiled’ Black Voters
MSN – Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 5/15/2023
The U.S. Supreme Court will consider South Carolina’s attempt to reinstate a congressional redistricting plan that a lower court found had “exiled” 30,000 Black voters to create a district winnable for a White Republican candidate. The three-judge panel in January said the plan by the GOP-led Legislature split Black neighborhoods in the Charleston area to create a “stark racial gerrymander.” The judges found that South Carolina’s mapmaker tried to keep the African American population below a certain target in the district, treating Charleston County “in a fundamentally different way than the rest of the state.”
Tennessee – Former State Sen. Brian Kelsey Won’t Be Allowed to Change Guilty Plea; July Sentencing Set
MSN – Melissa Brown (Nashville Tennessean) | Published: 5/16/2023
Philadelphia Democrats selected Cherelle Parker to be their party’s mayoral nominee. Parker will be favored Former Tennessee Sen. Brian Kelsey will not be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in a federal campaign finance case. Kelsey sought to take his case to trial after what he called a flawed plea deal in November 2022, when he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his failed 2016 congressional campaign. U.S. Chief District Court Judge Waverly Crenshaw, Jr. criticized Kelsey’s legal argument that he did not fully understand the implications of a criminal felony plea, given his career as a constitutional lawyer and a state lawmaker.
Texas – A TxDOT Commissioner Resigned in 2018. He Continued Drawing Pay for Five Years.
Yahoo News – Tony Plohetski (Austin American-Statesman) | Published: 5/11/2023
In February 2018, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Commissioner Victor Vandergriff resigned from his governor-appointed position. Instead of stopping his payments, the state continued to cut him 62 monthly paychecks totaling nearly $92,000, plus benefits over the next five years. The state took steps to stop the payments after reporters asked why Vandergriff was still getting paid. Vandergriff’s abrupt exit came a month after the Texas Tribune reported Vandergriff had performed work as a private lobbyist during trips to Austin that were paid for by TxDOT.
Virginia – How Redistricting Reform Is Launching the Virginia General Assembly into a New Era
Virginia Mercury – Graham Moomaw | Published: 5/16/2023
The dramatically different electoral maps created after Virginia voters approved a new redistricting process in 2021 have been a clear factor in the ongoing institutional shake-up at the General Assembly, pushing many incumbents out and opening more room for candidates to run in new districts other incumbents cannot fully claim as their own. No matter which party wins control in November, the state Legislature will look very different when it reconvenes. That is fueling both trepidation over the loss of longtime statehouse figures and optimism over the opportunity to build anew.
Washington – Smiley PAC for ‘Political Outsiders’ Actually Pays Campaign Debt
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 5/13/2023
A few months after her unsuccessful bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Republican challenger Tiffany Smiley announced the launch of a new PAC to boost “political outsiders” across the country. Making the rounds of sympathetic conservative TV and radio shows, Smiley promoted Endeavor PAC and appealed for money. What Smiley did not mention during her media tour is that donations solicited by her PAC are earmarked first to retire a six-figure debt lingering from her Senate campaign.
Washington – Before Rule Change, AG Bob Ferguson Moves $1.2M ‘Surplus’ to Campaign
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 5/11/2023
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson shifted more than $1.2 million in surplus campaign money to his 2024 gubernatorial bid, getting ahead of a ruling placing new limits on such transfers. The Public Disclosure Commission voted to close the loophole that allowed such transfers without counting them toward individual contribution limits, agreeing with critics that the loophole violated the spirit of Washington’s campaign finance laws. The new guidance says candidates transferring surplus money should attribute the cash to specific donors.
May 17, 2023 •
Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance New Hampshire: “Bill to Boost Political Finance Transparency Heads to Sununu’s Desk” by Ethan DeWitt for New Hampshire Bulletin New York: “Eric Adams’ Transition Fined Nearly $20K by Campaign Finance Board” by Katie Honan for The City Ethics California: “Developer Fined $4 Million […]
New Hampshire: “Bill to Boost Political Finance Transparency Heads to Sununu’s Desk” by Ethan DeWitt for New Hampshire Bulletin
New York: “Eric Adams’ Transition Fined Nearly $20K by Campaign Finance Board” by Katie Honan for The City
California: “Developer Fined $4 Million for Bribing Former L.A. Councilmember Jose Huizar” by Michael Finnegan (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
National: “Durham Finds Fault with F.B.I. Over Russia Inquiry” by Charlie Savage, Glenn Thrush, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner (New York Times) for DNyuz
Illinois: “Exelon Is Paying the Legal Tab for Two Former Executives Convicted in ComEd Bribery Scheme” by Doug McKinney for WBEZ
National: “Supreme Court to Review House Oversight Lawsuit from 2017” by Michael Macagnone and Ryan Tarinelli (Roll Call) for MSN
Virginia: “How Redistricting Reform Is Launching the Virginia General Assembly into a New Era” by Graham Moomaw for Virginia Mercury
New York: “‘Lobbying Loophole’ Bill After LaSalle Fight Advances Through Senate” by Joshua Solomon for Albany Times Union
May 15, 2023 •
Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Washington: “Before Rule Change, AG Bob Ferguson Moves $1.2M ‘Surplus’ to Campaign” by Jim Brunner for Seattle Times Elections National: “CNN Leadership Under Fire After ‘Disastrous’ Trump Town Hall” by Paul Farhi and Jeremy Barr (Washington Post) for MSN Ohio: “Ohio Lawmakers Vote […]
May 12, 2023 •
Ask the Experts – Paying lobbyists a bonus or success fee
Q: Can we pay our lobbyists a bonus or success fee? A: In most states, no. An overwhelming majority of states have banned payments to lobbyists as a result of, or based on some way upon, the lobbyist’s success in […]
Q: Can we pay our lobbyists a bonus or success fee?
A: In most states, no. An overwhelming majority of states have banned payments to lobbyists as a result of, or based on some way upon, the lobbyist’s success in achieving a specific governmental action. Thus, as a practice, it is best to pay your lobbyists a straight salary or simple monthly retainer. However, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have not enacted contingency fee bans.
An important aspect of contingency fee bans to consider is their effect on staff selling to state governments. Many states require those selling to the state to register as lobbyists in some circumstances. Should registration as a lobbyist be required, they will then be subject to those same contingency fee bans, which can be problematic given most salespeople are paid commissions on successfully completed sales. Thankfully, many states have recognized this reality and have carved out an exception for bona fide commissioned salespeople, either allowing them to avoid the registration requirement or, if they do register, the ban on receiving commissions. Nevertheless, it is important to be aware of the rules regarding lobbyist registration and contingency fees as applied to salespeople so you can plan accordingly.
More information about contingency fees as applied to lobbyists can be found in the Contingency Lobbying section of the Lobbying Compliance Guidebook on the State and Federal Communications website. Information about registration requirements for procurement lobbying and contingency fee information specific to salespeople can be found in the Procurement Lobbying Compliance Guidebook.
May 12, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 12, 2023
National/Federal Tanked Biden FCC Pick Shows Influence of Dark Money on US Politics ABC News – Trenton Daniel (Associated Press) | Published: 5/8/2023 When Gigi Sohn was nominated to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, she found herself the target of an […]
Tanked Biden FCC Pick Shows Influence of Dark Money on US Politics
ABC News – Trenton Daniel (Associated Press) | Published: 5/8/2023
When Gigi Sohn was nominated to serve on the Federal Communications Commission, she found herself the target of an aggressive campaign funded by a conservative group that does not have to disclose its donors. The American Accountability Foundation called Sohn too partisan, anti-police, and soft on sex trafficking. The attacks landed to the point that even some Democrats abandoned her and Sohn withdrew her nomination. The battle over the nomination is the latest example of how organizations with political and financial agendas have been able to sway public opinion by deploying donations that are impossible to trace.
George Santos Pleads Not Guilty to Duping Donors, Stealing Campaign Cash to Burnish Wealthy Image
Associated Press News – Jake Offenhartz and Michael Sisak | Published: 5/10/2023
U.S. Rep. George Santos, infamous for fabricating his life story, pleaded not guilty to charges he duped donors, stole from his campaign, and lied to Congress about being a millionaire, all while cheating to collect unemployment benefits that he did not deserve. The thirteen-count indictment was a reckoning for a web of fraud and deceit that prosecutors say overlapped with his fantastical public image as a wealthy businessperson, a fictional biography that began to unravel after he won election last fall.
Jan. 6 Rioter Gets 14 Years for Police Attacks, Longest Sentence Yet in Inquiry
DNyuz – Alan Feurer and Zach Montague (New York Times) | Published: 5/6/2023
A Pennsylvania welder who attacked police officers at the Capitol with a chair and then chemical spray was sentenced to slightly more than 14 years in prison, the most severe penalty handed down so far in connection with the events of January 6, 2021. Peter Schwartz joined a growing list of people charged with assaulting the police on that day who have received stiff sentences.
Proud Boys Enrique Tarrio, 3 Others Guilty of Jan. 6 Seditious Conspiracy
MSN – Spencer Hsu, Rachel Weiner, and Tom Jackman (Washington Post) | Published: 5/4/2023
Former Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and three other members of the extremist group were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. The result was another victory for the Justice Department in the latest of three seditious conspiracy trials held after what it called a historic act of domestic terrorism to prevent the peaceful transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election.
Senate Panel Asks Crow for Full Accounting of Gifts to Thomas, Other Justices
MSN – Liz Goodwin and Marianne LeVine (Washington Post) | Published: 5/8/2023
The Senate Judiciary Committee asked billionaire Harlan Crow to provide a full accounting of the free travel and other gifts he has made to Supreme Court Judge Clarence Thomas or any other justice, marking an escalation of the committee’s efforts to convince the court to adopt stricter ethical standards for itself. The committee is the second Senate panel to target Crow after ProPublica reported he invited Thomas on expensive vacations, bought his mother’s house, and provided Thomas’s grandnephew with private school tuition, most of which were not disclosed by the justice.
Feinstein Returning to Washington After Health-Related Absence
MSN – Amy Wang and Liz Goodwin (Washington Post) | Published: 5/9/2023
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein will return to U.S. Capitol after a health-related absence that lasted more than two months. Her absence has stalled confirmations of some of President Biden’s judicial nominees, given that only judges with some Republican support can move to the floor without her tiebreaking vote on the committee. Her vote could also be crucial in negotiations over lifting the debt ceiling.
New White House Rules: Reporters can be kicked out if not ‘professional.’
MSN – Paul Farhi (Washington Post) | Published: 5/9/2023
The White House proposed new rules to determine who qualifies for access to its press briefing room on a regular basis and who can be thrown out for behavior officials determine is not “professional.” The rules represent the Biden White House’s attempt to establish a code of conduct to avoid the legal jeopardy the Trump administration ran into when it banished CNN reporter Jim Acosta and journalist Brian Karem from the White House complex. Courts later ruled officials violated the journalists’ due-process rights because they had acted without a set of written standards.
In Some GOP-Dominated Statehouses, Black and Trans Lawmakers Punished
MSN – Patrick Marley and Kimberly Kindy (Washington Post) | Published: 5/9/2023
In more than a dozen red states, Republican lawmakers passed bills to ban transgender health care and restrict access to abortions while ignoring calls for gun control measures. The fierce but futile opposition has often been led by a new generation of liberal lawmakers, some of them Black or transgender, who have represented their constituents by pushing the debate into places that have angered Republicans. GOP lawmakers have said Democrats are welcome to dissent but must follow rules of decorum, including acting civilly and not interrupting floor sessions. In some states, Republicans have voted to punish those lawmakers.
Under the Radar, Right-Wing Push to Tighten Voting Laws Persists
Seattle Times – Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon (New York Times) | Published: 5/8/2023
The first recent wave of legislation tightening voting laws came in 2021, when Donald. Trump’s false claims of voter fraud spurred Republican lawmakers to act over objections from Democrats. Two years later, a second wave is steadily moving ahead, but largely under the radar. Republican-led Legislatures have continued to pass restrictions on access to the ballot. Behind the efforts is a network of advocacy groups that has formed a new hub of election advocacy within the GOP, rallying state activists, and drafting model legislation.
Clarence Thomas’ Wife Ginni Was Paid Nearly $100,000 for ‘Consulting’ by a Nonprofit That Ended Up Filing an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court: Report
Yahoo News – Erin Snodgrass and Matthew Loh (Business Insider) | Published: 5/4/2023
Leonard Leo, a conservative judicial activist, helped Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, secure consulting work that yielded her nearly $100,000 while asking that her name was left off financial paperwork, according to The Washington Post. Leo told then-pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit he advised, Judicial Education Project, and give that money to Ginni Thomas in January 2012. That year, Leo’s nonprofit filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in a key voting rights case in which a majority that included Thomas ultimately opted to strike down a component of the Voting Rights Act.
New Twitter Rules Expose Election Offices to Spoof Accounts
Yahoo News – Ali Swenson (Associated Press) | Published: 5/6/2023
Impostor accounts on social media are among many concerns that election security experts have heading into next year’s presidential election. Experts have warned that foreign adversaries or others may try to influence the election, either through online disinformation campaigns or by hacking into election infrastructure. Election administrators have struggled to figure out the best way to respond after Twitter owner Elon Musk threw the platform’s verification service into disarray, given that Twitter has been among their most effective tools for communicating with the public.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – Tucson Lawmaker Who Hid Bibles Says Ethics Complaint Lacks Merit
Arizona Daily Star – Howard Fischer (Capitol News Services) | Published: 5/8/2023
Arizona Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton is asking for the dismissal of an ethics complaint filed against her. Attorneys for Hamilton said her actions to move and hide Bibles in the House lounge was a “peaceful protest regarding the separation of church and state.” The complaint accuses her of theft, saying she was controlling the property of someone else by hiding it, even if only for a short period of time.
California – How Free Trips for California Legislators Lead to Bills
MSN – Jeremia Kimelman and Alexei Koseff (CalMatters) | Published: 5/4/2023
The California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy for the past four decades has been taking legislators and other state officials on free trips to learn about policy issues – trips funded and attended by representatives of companies and interest groups with business before the state. The trips serve as an influential tool for shaping policymaking at the state Capitol, with lawmakers returning from their travels with new perspectives and ideas on energy, the environment, water, transportation, and housing.
California – Former Top City Attorney Gets 9 Months of Home Detention in DWP Corruption Case
MSN – Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 5/9/2023
A former high-level lawyer in the Los Angeles city attorney’s office was sentenced to nine months of home detention for taking part in an extortion scheme tied to the Department of Water and Power’s (DWP) 2013 billing scandal. Thomas Peters also was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine for his role in the corruption case. The sentence was far more lenient than the 18 months in prison sought by federal prosecutors. Peters admitted he threatened to fire one of the city’s outside lawyers unless that person paid off someone who was threatening to reveal damaging information about city lawyers’ handling of the DWP’s billing mess.
Colorado – Colorado Law Prohibits Utilities from Spending Ratepayer Money on Politics
Energy and Policy Institute – Joe Smyth | Published: 5/8/2023
A new law in Colorado prohibits investor-owned utility companies from using ratepayer money to fund trade associations, promotional advertising, certain kinds of lobbying, and other political influence activities. Currently, investor-owned utilities in Colorado charge ratepayers for most of their payments to trade associations, and only charge shareholders for a relatively small portion of the dues the trade associations determine were used for lobbying.
Florida – How Gov. Ron DeSantis Deploys State Police to Enforce Political Agenda
MSN – Beth Reinhard (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2023
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s (FDLE) on-the-ground involvement in a plan to fly migrants from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard speaks to how Gov. Ron DeSantis has increasingly deployed FDLE outside its traditional portfolio and in support of his own political agenda, according to a Washington Post investigation. Former FDLE officials say the governor is taking a dangerous risk by politicizing a statewide police force with a $300 million budget, almost 2,000 employees, and the broad power to launch criminal investigations and make arrests.
Florida – Andrew Gillum Not Guilty of Lying to FBI, Jury Deadlocks on Other Charges
Yahoo News – Jeff Burlew (Tallahassee Democrat) | Published: 5/4/2023
Jurors found former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum not guilty of lying to the FBI about a “Hamilton” ticket and other gifts he received from undercover FBI agents in New York. They deadlocked on the most serious charges against Gillum, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, and his co-defendant, Sharon Lettman-Hicks, involving the misuse of campaign funds. The jury was unable to reach consensus on one count of conspiracy and 17 counts of wire fraud against both defendants. The judge declared a mistrial on the counts that ended with no verdict reached.
Florida – Miami’s Mayor Attends Pricey Heat Playoff Games and Glam Grand Prix Parties. Who Pays?
Yahoo News – Sarah Blaskey and Camellia Burris (Miami Herald) | Published: 5/5/2023
Last year, Mayor Francis Suarez attended both the Miami Heat playoffs and Formula One events but was cagey about who picked up the tab. While state ethics laws require elected officials to report any gifts over $100, and records show Suarez eventually disclosed his playoff ticket as a five-figure gift, thousands of dollars of F1-related entertainment remain unaccounted for. Mayors are allowed to accept expensive gifts from non-family members so long as those gifts are reported and do not come from prohibited donors like lobbyists or city vendors, according to Caroline Klancke, executive director of the Florida Ethics Institute.
Florida – Accused ‘Ghost’ Candidate in Osceola County Commission Race Arrested
Yahoo News – Natalia Jaramillo (Orlando Sentinel) | Published: 5/8/2023
A former Kissimmee city commissioner accused of being a “ghost” candidate in the 2022 District 4 race for Osceola County Commission is facing 14 criminal charges for campaign finance reporting violations. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began its investigation after Jackie Espinosa, a candidate in the same race, filed a complaint, accusing Carlos Irizarry of being paid to enter the commission election, which she lost to the incumbent. Irizarry was charged with eight counts of willful certification of false or incomplete campaign treasure’s reports and six counts of deliberate failure to report campaign expenditures.
Georgia – 8 False Trump Electors Have Accepted Immunity Deals, Lawyer Says
MSN – Kyle Cheney (Politico) | Published: 5/4/2023
Eight Republican activists who falsely claimed to be legitimate presidential electors for Donald Trump have accepted immunity deals from Fani Willis, the Atlanta-area district attorney investigating Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election. It is the latest indication of Willis’s advancing investigation, which she recently revealed could result in charges, possibly against Trump himself and a slew of high-profile allies as soon as July.
Georgia – Kemp Signs Bill That Allows Ouster of Local Georgia Prosecutors
MSN – John Wagner and Matthew Brown (Washington Post) | Published: 5/5/2023
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation that would create a commission with the power to remove local prosecutors from office, a move Democrats in the state have decried as a power grab that usurps the will of local voters. The bill, which Democrats have vowed to challenge in court, would create an oversight panel that could recall any of the state’s elected district attorneys or solicitors general for several reasons, including “willful misconduct” or “persistent failure to perform his or her duties.”
Georgia – Watchdog Urges FEC to Probe Herschel Walker Campaign Over $535,200 Payment
Yahoo News – Jared Gans (The Hill) | Published: 5/5/2023
Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) urged the FEC to investigate former U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s campaign over a payment that Walker allegedly solicited for his company last year. CREW said Walker and his company, HR Talent, violated federal election law in accepting $535,200 a donor believed was being directed to Walker’s campaign. Dennis Washington believed all of the $600,000 he transferred following a solicitation from Walker was for campaign funding. But only $64,800 went to Walker’s campaign fundraising committee, while the rest went to HR Talent.
Illinois – Reformer Quinn Joins Discussion Over Illinois Ethics Laws
MSN – John O’Connor (Associated Press) | Published: 5/9/2023
Four political insiders were recently convicted in a wide-ranging bribery case involving Commonwealth Edison’s bribery of the once-powerful speaker of the Illinois House. While a key House Democrat confirmed discussions about a package of ethics reforms were underway, former Gov. Pat Quinn delivered a letter to legislative leaders seeking a special session to adopt more than a half-dozen reforms.
Illinois – A Former Illinois State Senator Convicted in Corruption Scheme Gets a New Job – State Lobbyist
WBEZ – Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 5/9/2023
Eleven days after completing a prison term for corruption, former Illinois Sen. Thomas Cullerton registered as a state government lobbyist in April. Cullerton pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from a labor union and was sentenced to more than a year in prison. Now, records show Cullerton registered as a lobbyist with Strategia Consulting, a public relations and government affairs firm. On its website, Cullerton is described as the firm’s chief public affairs officer.
Minnesota – Minnesota Passes Sweeping Election Reforms
Courthouse News Service – Andy Monserud | Published: 5/5/2023
Minnesota’s governor signed a number of changes to the state’s election rules into law, including provisions for automatic voting registration and a crackdown on the spread of misinformation intended to stop people from voting. The law is the largest expansion of the state’s electorate since it adopted same-day registration in 1974. Legislation also creates new disclosure requirements for would-be election advertisers and pamphleteers, and bars “foreign influenced” corporations and nonprofits from spending money to influence elections.
Missouri – ‘It Dilutes Their Vote’: Plan to restrict MO ballot measures could face legal trouble
Yahoo News – Jonathan Shorman and Kacen Bayless (Kansas City Star) | Published: 5/8/2023
Republicans in the Missouri General Assembly are intent on approving restrictions that make it more difficult for voters to change the state constitution. But a major first-in-the-nation proposal under consideration could violate the U.S. Constitution, some legal experts and lawmakers say. While the GOP-controlled Legislature has flirted with tightening requirements on the state’s initiative petition process for years, a measure that lawmakers are weighing would give rural residents more power in statewide votes on constitutional amendments.
Montana – One Family Has Spearheaded Montana’s Unflinching Conservatism
Yahoo News – Mike Baker and Jacey Fortin (New York Times) | Published: 5/4/2023
Montana Rep. Keith Regier has emerged as the patriarch of a new family political dynasty that has injected fresh conservative intensity into debates over abortion, diversity training, and transgender rights. Regier chairs the Senate’s powerful judiciary committee, while his daughter, Amy, leads its counterpart in the House. Regier’s son, Matt, is speaker of the House. The trio of legislators, each wielding a similar brand of conservatism, were among the most powerful proponents of a set of bills that took aim at the rights of transgender people.
New York – A Jury Finds Trump Liable for Battery and Defamation in E. Jean Carroll Trial
NPR – Becky Sullivan | Published: 5/9/2023
A jury found Donald Trump liable for battery and defamation in the lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, who says he raped her in a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. The jurors, who deliberated for barely three hours before reaching their unanimous conclusion, did not find that Trump raped Carroll. But they agreed he “sexually abused” her and he defamed her when he refuted her story. Carroll was awarded $5 million in total damages for both claims.
New York – Top New York City Hall Aide Worked Quietly with State Super PAC
Yahoo News – Joe Anuta (Politico) | Published: 5/10/2023
An independent expenditure committee supporting a suite of moderate state Assembly candidates last year received assistance from a previously unknown source – Ingrid Lewis-Martin, New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ chief advisor. Lewis-Martin made phone calls to solicit support for the Committee for a Fair New York and helped select the candidates who would benefit from its largesse. Under state law, New York City officials are allowed to raise money for political causes – except their own candidacy – provided they do it after hours and do not explicitly trade favors.
Pennsylvania – The Super PAC Backing Jeff Brown’s Mayoral Campaign Is Asking a Judge to Toss the City Ethics Board’s Lawsuit
MSN – Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) | Published: 5/5/2023
The super PAC that supported Jeff Brown’s mayoral campaign is asking a judge to throw out the Philadelphia Board of Ethics’ lawsuit accusing it of illegally coordinating with Brown, arguing Brown’s work with the group cannot be viewed as coordination because it occurred before he launched his campaign. If the judge agrees, the case could lead to a dramatic change in Philadelphia’s political landscape by making it easier for moneyed interests to work with their preferred candidates as they plan out their campaigns.
Tennessee – House Speaker Indicates Staff, Subcommittee Spent Money in Harassment Case
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 5/9/2023
Speaker Cameron Sexton is pointing at the Office of Legislative Administration and a Tennessee House ethics subcommittee in the disbursement of $9,000 in the case of a 19-year-old intern harassed by former Rep. Scotty Campbell. Yet an anonymous member of the panel was not aware the subcommittee had the authority to spend money or hand out punishment. The conflicting responses display the vagueness of the Legislature’s Workplace Discrimination and Harassment Policy, showing how it can be manipulated to cover up wrongdoing.
Texas – Facing Expulsion Vote Over Sexual Misconduct, GOP Lawmaker Resigns in Texas
MSN – Kyle Melnick and Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 5/8/2023
State Rep. Bryan Slaton resigned from his seat one day before his colleagues were slated to vote on whether to expel him from the Texas House after a committee unanimously recommended his dismissal over sexual misconduct with a 19-year-old aide. Slaton’s resignation is effective immediately. The General Investigation Committee accused Slaton in an investigative report of engaging in disorderly conduct – including harassment, serving alcohol to someone underage, and abusing his position.
Virginia – Lobbyists, Corporations Doused Environmental Bills in Virginia’s Legislative Session
Richmond Times-Dispatch – Luca Powell | Published: 5/7/2023
Despite the climate crisis, bills designed to curb pollution and emissions find fierce opposition in the growing, well-financed lobbies that have put down roots in Virginia. Money is the big differentiator between the environmental and industrial lobbies. Most of the former are nonprofits, for which it is illegal to make political donations. Trade groups, law firms, and big companies like Dominion Energy have no such restrictions.
May 11, 2023 •
Thursday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance New York: “Top New York City Hall Aide Worked Quietly with State Super PAC” by Joe Anuta (Politico) for Yahoo News Elections National: “Under the Radar, Right-Wing Push to Tighten Voting Laws Persists” by Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon (New York Times) […]
New York: “Top New York City Hall Aide Worked Quietly with State Super PAC” by Joe Anuta (Politico) for Yahoo News
National: “Under the Radar, Right-Wing Push to Tighten Voting Laws Persists” by Nick Corasaniti and Alexandra Berzon (New York Times) for Seattle Times
California: “Former Top City Attorney Gets 9 Months of Home Detention in DWP Corruption Case” by Dakota Smith (Los Angeles Times) for MSN
National: “New White House Rules: Reporters can be kicked out if not ‘professional.'” by Paul Farhi (Washington Post) for MSN
National: “George Santos Pleads Not Guilty to Duping Donors, Stealing Campaign Cash to Burnish Wealthy Image” by Jake Offenhartz and Michael Sisak for Associated Press News
Illinois: “Reformer Quinn Joins Discussion Over Illinois Ethics Laws” by John O’Connor (Associated Press) for MSN
Tennessee: “House Speaker Indicates Staff, Subcommittee Spent Money in Harassment Case” by Sam Stockard for Tennessee Lookout
Illinois: “A Former Illinois State Senator Convicted in Corruption Scheme Gets a New Job – State Lobbyist” by Dan Mihalopoulos for WBEZ
May 10, 2023 •
Wednesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Florida: “Accused ‘Ghost’ Candidate in Osceola County Commission Race Arrested” by Natalia Jaramillo (Orlando Sentinel) for Yahoo News Elections Georgia: “8 False Trump Electors Have Accepted Immunity Deals, Lawyer Says” by Kyle Cheney (Politico) for MSN Ethics Arizona: “Tucson Lawmaker Who Hid Bibles […]
May 9, 2023 •
Tuesday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Georgia: “Watchdog Urges FEC to Probe Herschel Walker Campaign Over $535,200 Payment” by Jared Gans (The Hill) for Yahoo News Elections Missouri: “‘It Dilutes Their Vote’: Plan to restrict MO ballot measures could face legal trouble” by Jonathan Shorman and Kacen Bayless […]
May 8, 2023 •
Monday’s LobbyComply News Roundup
Campaign Finance Pennsylvania: “The Super PAC Backing Jeff Brown’s Mayoral Campaign Is Asking a Judge to Toss the City Ethics Board’s Lawsuit” by Sean Collins Walsh (Philadelphia Inquirer) for MSN Elections Minnesota: “Minnesota Passes Sweeping Election Reforms” by Andy Monserud for Courthouse News Service […]
May 5, 2023 •
News You Can Use Digest – May 5, 2023
National/Federal Top Republicans Balk at WinRed’s Plan to Charge More for Online Donations DNyuz – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 4/28/2023 A battle over a threatened price increase has exposed growing tensions between top Republican Party officials and the company […]
Top Republicans Balk at WinRed’s Plan to Charge More for Online Donations
DNyuz – Shane Goldmacher (New York Times) | Published: 4/28/2023
A battle over a threatened price increase has exposed growing tensions between top Republican Party officials and the company with a virtual monopoly on processing GOP campaign contributions online. Party leaders have risen up in opposition to the proposed price increase, which would siphon millions of dollars from campaigns less than 20 months after the company, WinRed, had said its finances were robust enough to forego an extra fee on every transaction.
Democratic AGs Are Using the Courts to Win on Abortion, Gun Control
MSN – Scott Wilson (Washington Post) | Published: 4/30/2023
Several Democratic attorneys general are moving aggressively on key social policy issues to blunt Republican initiatives across the country designed to loosen gun restrictions, outlaw abortion, and curtail the rights of transgender residents. The Democratic effort is creating what amounts to a series of state sanctuaries for those threatened by Republican laws. It also reflects a sense among the Democratic state attorneys general that a divided Congress is too deadlocked to pass any significant social policy legislation or impose civil rights protections.
Bill Would Require Disclosure of AI-Generated Content in Political Ads
MSN – Isaac Stanley-Becker (Washington Post) | Published: 5/2/2023
As AI image generators and other tools have proliferated, the technology has become an instrument of political messaging, mischief, and misinformation. U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke introduced legislation that would amend federal campaign finance law to require that political ads include a statement disclosing any use of AI-generated imagery. The FEC tightened rules about sponsorship disclaimers for digital ads, making clear the requirement to disclose who paid for ads promoted on websites also apply to advertising on other platforms, such as social media and streaming sites.
Fugees Rapper Pras Michél Guilty in Sprawling Corruption Trial
MSN – Paul Duggan (Washington Post) | Published: 4/26/2023
Pras Michel, a rapper and producer best known as a member of the hip-hop group the Fugees, was convicted on 10 felony counts for his role in a tangle of conspiracies involving money laundering, campaign finance violations, illegal lobbying, and witness tampering. He was accused of accepting $865,000 from Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho and giving that money to straw donors who used it to donate to former President Obama. Michel was also accused of trying to convince the Trump administration and the Justice Department to drop investigations into Low and assisting China in its efforts to have a dissident brought back to the country.
Pence Appears Before Jan. 6 Grand Jury in Trump Special Counsel Probe
MSN – Jacqueline Alemany and Spencer Hsu (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2023
Former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a grand jury that has been investigating the riot at the U.S. Capitol and alleged efforts by Donald Trump and others to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Pence has said he is not asserting executive privilege, which could span other discussions, including his conversations with Trump and other top White House advisers, and matters not directly related to his constitutionally mandated Senate role. Attorneys for Trump challenged the Pence subpoena on executive privilege grounds to preserve the confidentiality of presidential decision-making.
Deep Divide at Supreme Court Ethics Hearing, Despite Some GOP Calls for Action
MSN – Ann Marimow and Robert Barnes (Washington Post) | Published: 5/2/2023
A U.S. Senate hearing on Supreme Court ethics was dominated by partisan clashes, even as some Republican senators suggested the justices should be paying attention to public calls for a more robust and clear code of conduct. Judiciary Committee Chairperson Richard Durbin called the hearing after recent revelations about unreported lavish travel and real estate deals involving Justice Clarence Thomas and a billionaire Republican donor. He and other leading Democrats, along with advocates for court transparency, have grown increasingly frustrated with the justices’ refusal to set stronger rules for reporting and acting on potential conflicts.
Clarence Thomas Had a Child in Private School. Harlan Crow Paid the Tuition.
ProPublica – Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski | Published: 5/4/2023
In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in Georgia. Thomas had taken legal custody of Mark Martin when he was six years old. Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month. But Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for one year at the school was the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow. Thomas did not report the tuition payments from Crow on his annual financial disclosures.
Carlson’s Text That Alarmed Fox Leaders: ‘It’s not how white men fight’
Yahoo News – Jeremy Peters, Michael Schmidt, and Jim Rutenberg (New York Times) | Published: 5/2/2023
A text message sent by Tucker Carlson that set off a panic at the highest levels of Fox on the eve of its billion-dollar defamation trial showed its most popular host sharing his private, inflammatory views about violence and race. The discovery of the message contributed to a chain of events that ultimately led to Carlson’s firing. For years, Carlson espoused views on his show that amplified the ideology of white nationalism. But the text message revealed more about his views on racial superiority.
From the States and Municipalities
Canada – Council Approves Lobbyist Registry for Barrie
Barrie Today – Bob Bruton | Published: 5/4/2023
The city council approved creating a lobbyist registry for Barrie. The registry will take effect January 1, 2024, and Suzanne Craig, the city’s integrity commissioner, will be appointed as interim registrar. Lobbyists will be required to register and report their activities no later than 10 days after a meeting has taken place with a public officeholder. Those who are registering as a lobbyist must have their profile approved by the registrar. The city will develop an online tool for submissions.
Arizona – Group Wants to Keep Dark Money Out of Politics
KAWC – Howard Fischer (Capitol Media Services) | Published: 4/30/2023
The group that convinced Arizona voters last year to expose “dark money” contributions to political campaigns wants a federal judge to toss a bid by a conservative advocacy group to kill the new law. In court filings, attorneys for Voters’ Right to Know said there is nothing inherently unconstitutional about ensuring that voters know the true source of funds being spent to influence their decisions on candidates and ballot measures. Hanging in the balance is Proposition 211.
California – Cooling Off Bill Heats Up Capitol Controversy, Gets Shelved
Capitol Weekly – Lisa Renner | Published: 4/27/2023
A bill to slow the “revolving door” of legislative staffers to lobbyist firms in California was shelved after sexual harassment victims’ advocates expressed opposition. Senate Bill 573 would have set the waiting period at one year and would be applied to staff on an issue-specific basis. Members of We Said Enough, a harassment victims’ group, said the waiting period could prevent victims from pursuing “natural career pathways” if they have to leave their Capitol jobs to flee sexual abuse or bullying.
California – Cupertino Lobbyist Rules Likely to Weather Constitutional Challenge
Courthouse News Service – Natalie Hanson | Published: 5/1/2023
The League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale filed a lawsuit against the city of Cupertino in 2022, claiming the ordinance that requires lobbyists to register and file disclosure reports is an overbroad regulation. The complaint contends the requirements have chilled members’ ability to exercise their protected rights to assemble, engage in free speech, and petition the government. U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White dismissed the case, finding the ordinance does not directly regulate who can speak or what they can say.
California – FPPC Opens Investigation into Chula Vista Official Over Public Disclosure Laws
MSN – Tammy Murga (San Diego Union Tribune) | Published: 5/3/2023
The California Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating allegations that Chula Vista Councilmember Andrea Cardenas violated conflict-of-interest and economic-interest disclosure laws. Laura Wilkinson Sinton, who lodged the complaint, is a local cannabis business owner who sued the city in 2020 over a permit application for her business Caligrown. She asserts Cardenas has not publicly disclosed in her statements of economic interest the cannabis companies represented by Grassroots Resources, the political consulting firm that employs Cardenas.
California – S.F. Corruption Scandal: Here’s the latest prominent figure to plead guilty
MSN – Mallory Moench (San Francisco Chronicle) | Published: 5/2/2023
John Porter, a former executive at the Recology trash-hauling company, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit fraud, admitting he paid more than $55,000 in bribes to disgraced former San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who was at the center of a web of corruption in multimillion-dollar contracts for city services and now faces seven years in prison. The charge against Nuru for fraud in January 2020 started a domino effect of criminal actions against other city employees and contractors.
California – El Monte Will Require Lobbyists to Register, Limit Gifts to City Officials to $50 a Month
MSN – Jason Henry (Pasadena Star-News) | Published: 4/28/2023
Starting May 18, lobbyists in El Monte will need to register with the city, publicly disclose their clients, and adhere to a $50 monthly gift limit. The ordinance requires lobbyists to register within 15 days of any lobbying in the city and to identify their clients when presenting at council meetings if they are not already registered. After the initial registration, lobbyists are required to submit reports on their activities twice a year.
Colorado – Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams’ Day Job as a Legislative Aide Raises Some Concerns at the Capitol
Colorado Public Radio – Bente Birkeland | Published: 4/27/2023
Dave Williams, the new head of the Colorado Republican Party, is also working full time as a state legislative aide, an unusual arrangement that has some questioning how he can fulfill the responsibilities of both positions without running afoul of legislative rules. It is not unheard of for a GOP chairperson to have a day job and historically it was a volunteer role. Legislative rules say aides should be impartial and free of conflicts-of-interest while performing their duties, being sure to “maintain objectivity,” and not let outside biases impact their work.
Connecticut – Do Bridgeport Officials’ Free Concert Tickets Break Ethics Rules?
Stamford Advocate – Brian Lockhart | Published: 4/30/2023
Candidates challenging Joe Ganim’s mayoral re-election agreed that average residents should be granted better access to the 25-seat suite the city of Bridgeport maintains at its new concert amphitheater. City Attorney Mark Anastasi argued the use of the suite by Bridgeport officials does not violate sections of the municipal code forbidding financial gains and preferential treatment. Records for 2022 showed the two-tickets-per-person limit was not always enforced and many of the city employees who attended shows were not average rank-and-file workers but higher-level staffers or those with close ties to Ganim or the local Democratic Party.
Florida – In Blow to DeSantis, Florida Bills to Limit Press Protections Are Shelved
DNyuz – Ken Bensinger (New York Times) | Published: 5/3/2023
Legislation that would have sharply curbed press protections in Florida will not face a vote this year, a rare example of forces on the right thwarting a piece of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s agenda. The bills proposed sweeping changes to laws that shield media outlets from liability in defamation cases and sought to make it easier for private citizens to file libel suits. In addition to opposition from news outlets and free-speech groups, the legislation faced resistance from his allies, including right-wing media.
Florida – Appeals Court Upholds Florida Voting Restrictions Approved by GOP Lawmakers
MSN – Bruce Ritchie and Gary Fineout (Politico) | Published: 4/27/2023
A federal appeals court sided with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis when it overturned a lower court’s decision on a controversial voting law. That law placed restrictions on the use of drop boxes and set new requirements for voter registration groups, among other things. U.S. District Court Judge Mark Walker had ruled the law was discriminatory against minorities and placed unconstitutional burdens on voters. Walker ordered the state to get court approval for a decade before it enacts changes in three areas of election law.
Florida – The First Arrests from DeSantis’s Election Police Take Extensive Toll
MSN – Lori Rozsa (Washington Post) | Published: 5/1/2023
Many of the initial 20 arrests announced by the Office of Election Crimes and Security in Florida have stumbled in court. Six cases have been dismissed and five other defendants accepted plea deals that resulted in no jail time. Only one case has gone to trial, resulting in a split verdict. The others are pending. Critics say the low numbers point to the overall strength of Florida’s electoral system and a lack of sufficient evidence to pursue further charges. DeSantis pushed through a bill ensuring the statewide prosecutor has jurisdiction over election crime cases, an attempt to resolve an issue several judges have raised in dismissing cases.
Illinois – Defendants Found Guilty on All Counts in ‘ComEd Four’ Trial; Juror Says Panel Wanted ‘Politics to Run in a Correct Manner’
MSN – Jason Meisner, Ray Long, and Megan Crepeau (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 5/2/2023
A jury convicted all four defendants of bribery conspiracy at their trial in Chicago that provided an inside look at “pay-to-play” politics in Illinois that prosecutors said involved the state’s largest electric utility and, at the time, one of its most powerful politicians. Federal prosecutors presented evidence to show two former Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) executives, a former utility consultant, and a longtime government insider arranged contracts, jobs, and money for associates of then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, once one of the nation’s most powerful legislators, to ensure proposed bills boosting ComEd profits became law.
Illinois – Illinois Set to Become First State to End Book Bans
Politico – Shia Kapos | Published: 5/3/2023
Illinois is poised to become the first state to punish public institutions that ban books. Gov. JB Pritzker has said he supports a House bill that would withhold state funding from any of the state’s 1,600 public or school libraries that remove books from their shelves. The impetus for the legislation came from Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, whose office oversees library systems and their funding. Giannoulias said he could not fathom that book banning is happening in 2023.
Illinois – Judge Rules Niles Cannot Have an Elected Ethics Board; Voters Won’t Learn Results of April 4 Election
Yahoo News – Caroline Kubzansky (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 4/26/2023
Voters in Niles, Illinois, will probably never know the results of an April 4 election after a Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled that village ordinance and structure does not allow for the creation of an elected ethics board. The ruling appears to end the effort by some citizens to initiate an elected ethics panel and Mayor George Alpogianis indicated the village’s appointed ethics board would be reconstituted.
Iowa – Iowa Legislature Passes Bill Restricting State Auditor’s Access to Records
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 4/27/2023
Republican lawmakers in Iowa passed a bill that would limit the state auditor’s access to certain records, a move the auditor says is intended to hamstring the office of the only statewide elected Democrat and could put $12 billion of federal funding at risk. The bill would prohibit the auditor from accessing a wide variety of records unless the agency being audited “agrees that the information is necessary for the purposes of the audit.” It would set up a three-person arbitration board in the case of any disputes about whether a state agency should provide documents to the auditor’s office.
Kentucky – Louisville Councilman Anthony Piagentini Sues Ethics Commission Investigating Him
MSN – Lucas Aulbach (Louisville Courier-Journal) | Published: 5/4/2023
Louisville Metro Council member Anthony Piagentini is pushing back against an ethics complaint filed against him. Piagentini filed a lawsuit alleging the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission disclosed confidential records in the case to the media and to the person who filed the complaint against him, and the city has failed to comply with its open meetings laws.
Maine – Portland City Council Establishes Clean Elections Program
Yahoo News – Rachel Ohm (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 5/1/2023
Portland city councilors approved creating a municipal clean elections program that will provide campaign funding to candidates in local races, starting with the November election. Candidates for mayor, city council, and school board will all be eligible for the funds staring June 1. Those interested in participating can register with the city clerk and begin collecting qualifying contributions of five dollars from voters to be eligible for the municipal funds.
Maryland – Ex-Legislative Black Caucus Chair Sees Lobbying Opportunities for People of Color
Maryland Daily Record – Jack Hogan | Published: 4/27/2023
Former Maryland Del. Darryl Barnes, the previous chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he hopes his transition into lobbying will open the door for more Black people to join the profession. Barnes recently joined Evans & Associates, an Annapolis lobbying firm. Barnes plans to establish a Black lobbying association in the state to recruit and mentor future lobbyists and focus on policies affecting the African American community.
Michigan – Will Michigan’s Financial Disclosure Law Reveal Politicians’ Long-Hidden Perks? It’s Up to Them.
MLive – Simon Schuster | Published: 5/1/2023
Last November, Michigan voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring state elected officials to disclose information about their personal finances for the first time. Proposal 1 provides some broad disclosure requirements such as descriptions of assets and debts, sources of earned and unearned income, and memberships in organizations without much more detail. The proposal required legislators to pass a law implementing the financial disclosure system by the end of this year. It means the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will have a lot of latitude to choose precisely how much transparency voters see.
Montana – Son Asked Montana Governor to Veto Anti-Trans Bill. It Didn’t Work.
MSN – Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff (Washington Post) | Published: 4/28/2023
Few expected a lobbying effort from the Montana governor’s son. Gov. Greg Gianforte had heard from other queer activists for weeks as the state Legislature advanced anti-transgender bills. But his son caught the attention of queer and trans people across the state and country for trying to persuade his father not to sign the bills. David Gianforte, who came out publicly as nonbinary very recently and uses he and they pronouns. Despite his son’s attempts, the governor signed a bill restricting gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths, joining 14 states that have passed similar laws since January.
Montana – Judge Rejects Zooey Zephyr Bid to Return to Montana House
Yahoo News – Amy Beth Hanson and Matthew Brown (Associated Press) | Published: 5/2/2023
State Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the transgender lawmaker silenced after telling Republicans they would have blood on their hands for opposing gender-affirming health care for children, was barred from returning to the Montana House floor in a court ruling that came just hours before the Legislature wrapped up its biennial session. District Court Judge Mike Menahan said it was outside his authority to overrule lawmakers who voted to exclude Zephyr from the floor and debates. He cited the importance of preserving the Constitution’s separation of powers.
Nebraska – Complaint Dismissed Against State Capitol Bible Study, Leader Says He’s Being More Careful
Nebraska Examiner – Paul Hammel | Published: 4/27/2023
A formal complaint that Arin Hess, the leader of a State Capitol Bible study group, needed to register as a lobbyist has been dismissed by the Nebraska Accountability and Disclosure Commission. Hess organizes a weekly Bible study with about a dozen state senators and offers a similar meeting for legislative staffers. He also provides pastoral support and counsel at least three days a week at the Capitol. Hess said he has become more watchful that the studies do not stray into legislative matters.
Nebraska – Lawmakers Denounce Complaint Against Megan Hunt Alleging Conflict of Interest in Trans Bill
Omaha World Herald – Chris Dunker (Lincoln Journal-Star) | Published: 4/26/2023
Several Nebraska lawmakers denounced a complaint filed against state Sen. Megan Hunt, who is mother to a trans child, alleging she could benefit financially if a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors fails in the Legislature. Senators from both sides of the political aisle condemned a complaint submitted to the Accountability and Disclosure Commission as “frivolous” and “malicious.” Others called it a deliberate attempt to intimidate and harass a lawmaker and her family.
New Jersey – N.J. Campaign Manager Charged with Election Fraud in 2021 Primary for Governor
MSN – S.P. Sullivan (NJ Advance Media) | Published: 5/2/2023
A longtime New Jersey political operative faces criminal election fraud charges after authorities say he filed a petition with nearly 2,000 bogus signatures on behalf of his romantic partner, a frequent candidate for office. Jim Devine faces third-degree charges of election fraud and records tampering stemming from a petition for Lisa McCormick’s failed 2021 bid for governor. The charges against Devine are the latest in a string of political controversies involving the couple.
New York – State Launches Investigation of Assembly’s Unregistered Day Care Center
Albany Times Union – Brendan Lyons | Published: 4/28/2023
The New York Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) confirmed it will investigate an unlicensed childcare center that state Assembly leaders have been operating for several months in the Legislative Office Building. The complimentary childcare service, which has been staffed by two legislative aides, has provided day care services for a handful of Democratic Assembly members. Although Speaker Carl Heastie’s office has used the term “drop-in center” to describe the day care room, OCFS generally defines those centers as serving homeless and runaway youth.
North Carolina – North Carolina Court, with New Partisan Mix, Reverses Itself on a Key Voting Case
Yahoo News – Michael Wines (New York Times) | Published: 4/28/2023
The North Carolina Supreme Court, with a new Republican majority, threw out a previous ruling against gerrymandered voting maps and upheld a photo voter identification law that colleagues had struck down as racially biased. The practical effect is to enable the GOP-controlled Legislature to scrap the court-ordered district boundaries that were used in elections last November, and draw new maps skewed in their favor for elections in 2024. Overturning such a recent ruling by the court was a highly unusual move, particularly on a pivotal constitutional issue in which none of the facts had changed.
Ohio – Can Cincinnati Recover from ‘Culture of Corruption’ Reputation While Bribery Cases Linger in Court System?
WCPO – Paula Christian | Published: 4/26/2023
Cincinnati drew national attention in 2020 when the FBI arrested three city council members on public corruption charges. Now, as two of those cases still linger in federal court, experts say the city cannot move past the embarrassment or reputational damage until they finally end. Former prosecutor and ex-council member Steve Goodin said out-of-town investors, particularly ones in commercial real estate, are still hesitant to develop in Cincinnati despite its hot market.
Ohio – Shammas Malik Wins Akron Mayoral Primary, in Line to Be the First Person of Color as Mayor
WOSU – Anna Huntsman, Abbey Marshall, and Abigail Bottar (Ideastream Public Media) | Published: 5/2/2023
City council member Shammas Malik will likely be Akron’s next mayor after winning the Democratic primary. A former assistant law director for Akron, Malik is expected to win the general election in November since there is no Republican or independent challenger on the ballot. Malik would be the first person of color to serve as mayor.
Oregon – Shemia Fagan Resigns as Oregon Secretary of State Following Cannabis Consulting Scandal
Oregon Public Broadcasting – Dirk VanderHart and Lauren Dake | Published: 5/2/2023
Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan will resign May 8 in reaction to a scandal over her decision to accept lucrative side work as a cannabis consultant. Fagan’s announcement followed days of escalating fallout over revelations she signed a $10,000-per-month contract with the owners of an Oregon cannabis chain at the same time her office audited state regulations on marijuana businesses. The owners are also high-profile Democratic campaign donors.
South Carolina – Final Sentences Issued in SC Statehouse Ethics Scandal Cases
Charleston Post and Courier – Jessica Holdman | Published: 4/27/2023
A judge sentenced two former South Carolina lawmakers, bringing an end to proceedings in an eight-year corruption probe that ensnared six politicians and a leading political operative. Former Sen. John Courson was sentenced to a year of probation with 100 hours of community service. Former Rep. Tracy Edge paid a fine of $500 in lieu of six months in prison six months. Both former lawmakers saw reduced sentences for cooperating with prosecutors.
Vermont – Vermont Democratic Party Files Complaint Against True North Radio, Alleging Failure to Disclose Lobbying Activity
VTDigger.org – Sarah Mearhoff | Published: 4/28/2023
The Vermont Democratic Party filed a complaint against the conservative broadcasting company True North Radio for failing to disclose alleged lobbying activity. In February, True North Radio purchased dozens of spots from WCAX to air advertisements that appear to oppose the Affordable Heat Act just as lawmakers began hashing out details of the bill. Vermont’s lobbying disclosure laws require that an advertisement “intended, designed, or calculated to influence legislative action or to solicit others to influence legislative action” be disclosed within 48 hours of purchase if the ad costs more than $1,000.
Washington – Early WA Governor’s Race Skirmish? Campaign Finance Loophole Scrutinized
Seattle Times – Jim Brunner | Published: 4/28/2023
The Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) is considering whether to close a loophole that could give Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson a big campaign money advantage if he runs for governor next year. The debate revolves around so-called surplus accounts where state politicians are allowed to park unspent campaign donations for use in future campaigns. Under current rules, Ferguson could transfer it to a gubernatorial campaign, and then ask donors for new contributions. Ferguson’s potential opponent asked the PDC to close the loophole, saying it allows an end-run around the state’s contribution limits.
May 4, 2023 •
Montana Legislature Adjourns Sin Die
The Montana Legislature adjourned sine die May 2, after a surprising motion from Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers leading to an impromptu close of the contentious 2023 session. The House, playing catch up to the Senate’s sudden adjournment, was able […]
The Montana Legislature adjourned sine die May 2, after a surprising motion from Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers leading to an impromptu close of the contentious 2023 session.
The House, playing catch up to the Senate’s sudden adjournment, was able to pass both of the session’s marque bills.
House Bill 2, the state’s $13.4 billion budget bill, and House Bill 816, an income and property tax rebate bill.
This does affect lobbyist reporting. The principal end of session report is due June 1.
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