News You Can Use – November 9, 2018

campaign finance, elections, ethics, lobbying, News You Can Use

 

 

 

National:

Forget the Russians. On This Election Day, It’s Americans Peddling Disinformation and Hate Speech.
Washington Post – Craig Timberg and Tony Romm | Published: 11/6/2018

Even as Silicon Valley has become more aggressive in battling foreign efforts to influence U.S. politics, it is losing innumerable cat-and-mouse games with Americans who are eagerly deploying the same techniques used by the Russians in 2016. Experts point to a rampant online spread of misleading reports and images about the migrant caravan in Mexico, for example – and especially the demonstrably false allegations that billionaire George Soros is funding a violent “invasion” of the United States. Accounts controlled by Russians probably helped amplify such misleading narratives, but the evidence so far is they started with American political activists who are increasingly adept at online manipulation techniques but enjoy broad free-speech protections that tech companies have been reluctant to challenge.

Industries Turn Freedom of Information Requests on Their Critics
WRAL – Elizabeth Williamson | Published: 11/5/2018

Dennis Ventry Jr., a law professor at the University of California, Davis, drew the ire of tax preparation companies by criticizing a deal they have to provide a free tax filing service through the IRS. The companies promptly hit back with a tactic that corporations, lobbyists, and interest groups are increasingly using against academic researchers: their trade coalition filed a public records request with the university seeking everything Ventry had written or said about the companies this year, including emails, text messages, voice mails, and hand-jotted notes. It was just one example of how both state-level public records laws and the Freedom of Information Act, written to ensure transparency and accountability in government, have morphed into potent weapons in legal and business disputes, raising questions about the chilling effects, and cost, they impose on targets who are doing research in controversial or sensitive fields.

Federal:

Anyone Can Make a Super PAC – Even Prisoners and Kids Who Can’t Vote
Center for Responsive Politics – Kaitlin Washburn | Published: 11/1/2018

Super PACs wield massive financial power and influence in elections. Just this cycle alone, super PACs registered with the FEC have received over $1.3 billion and have spent $695 million. And by following a few simple steps, most anyone can own a super PAC. The Center for Responsive Politics identified eight super PACs created by people who cannot participate in elections. Some of them were started by teenagers who cannot vote, while others were formed by people in prison.

Far-Right Internet Groups Listen for Trump’s Approval, and Often Hear It
MSN – Kevin Roose and Ali Winston (New York Times) | Published: 11/4/2018

As President Trump waged a fear-based campaign to drive Republican voters to the polls for the midterm elections, far-right internet communities have been buoyed as their once-fringe views have been given oxygen by Republicans. These radical communities have entered into a sort of imagined dialogue with the president. They create and disseminate slogans and graphics and celebrate when they show up in Trump’s Twitter feed days or weeks later. They carefully dissect his statements, looking for hints of their influence. And when they find those clues, they take them as evidence that Trump is “/ourguy/,” a label for people internet extremists believe share their views, but who are unable to say so directly in public.

Lobbyists Hit Campaign Trail to Help Old Bosses, Earn ‘a Little Bit of Currency’
Politico – Theodoric Meyer | Published: 11/3/2018

Members of Congress received help before Election Day from a tiny but influential subset of on-the-ground volunteers: Washington D.C. lobbyists eager to help their old bosses, and perhaps their own careers. Lobbyists fanned out across the country to knock on doors for favored candidates, nearly a dozen of them said in interviews and emails. Building relationships with lawmakers and their staffs is crucial to success on K Street and spending a couple of days knocking on doors is one way to strengthen that bond. Some in the industry also remain close to old bosses on Capitol Hill or just want to get out of Washington and dabble in campaigning for a few days.

Sessions’s Ouster Throws Future of Special Counsel Probe into Question
MSN – Rosalind Helderman, Matt Zapotosky, and Carol Leonnig (Washington Post) | Published: 11/7/2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at the request of President Trump, causing uncertainty in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump named as acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff. A Justice Department official said Whitaker would assume final decision-making authority over special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. As a legal commentator, Whitaker has said Mueller appeared to be taking his investigation too far. There were immediate calls by Democrats and watchdogs for Whitaker to recuse himself. Democrats, emboldened by winning control of the U.S. House, also promised to investigate Sessions’ forced resignation and suggested Trump’s actions could amount to obstruction of justice if he intended to disrupt the criminal inquiry.

Three Candidates Indicted on Felony Fraud Charges Survive Midterms. One Just Barely.
Washington Post – Meagan Flynn | Published: 11/7/2018

Three Republican candidates facing an assortment of corruption charges appeared to squeak past their Democratic opponents to hang onto their jobs. They include U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, indicted on charges of wire fraud and accusations he funded a luxurious lifestyle with campaign donations; U.S. Rep. Chris Collins, indicted on insider trading charges; and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. indicted on felony securities fraud charges in state court, accused of lying to friends and potential investors about his financial stake in a technology company. Despite the close races in solid-red territory, their apparent victories highlight the polarizing political climate in which criminal investigations into elected officials are frequently met with more sympathy among supporters than scorn.

White House Shares Doctored Video to Support Punishment of Journalist Jim Acosta
MSN – Drew Harwell (Washington Post) | Published: 11/8/2018

CNN’s Jim Acosta had his White House press credentials revoked, with the Trump administration claiming he manhandled a female intern. During a press conference, Acosta got into a spat with the president and persisted in asking questions, and a female intern tried to take his microphone away from him. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders posted an edited video of the incident where the action is generally slowed down but speeds up right before the moment of contact to create the false impression of a deliberate jab on the part of Acosta. The event highlighted how video content, seen as a verification tool for truth and confirmation, has become as vulnerable to political distortion as anything else.

From the States and Municipalities:

Florida: Before Going to Prison, Former Opa-locka Commissioner Worked on Political Campaigns
Miami Herald – Jay Weaver and Maya Kaufman | Published: 11/6/2018

Before he surrendered to a correctional facility, former Opa-locka City Commissioner Luis Santiago – who pleaded guilty to pocketing thousands of dollars in bribes – spent the fall election season working as a campaign aide for John Riley, an Opa-locka commissioner running for mayor, and other candidates on the November 6 ballot. Riley said he had no qualms about hiring Santiago as a part-time campaign worker, despite his pleading guilty to extorting money from Opa-locka businesses seeking city permits and contracts. “It kept his mind busy and gave him a sense of purpose,” Riley said. “It’s depressing knowing that you’re going to be facing prison.”

Missouri: Amendment 1: Voters strongly support Clean Missouri redistricting plan, ethics reform
Columbia Missourian – David Reynolds, Thomas Oide, and Tessa Weinberg | Published: 11/6/2018

Amendment 1 was approved by Missouri voters. It bans all lobbyist gifts in the General Assembly worth more than five dollars and requires politicians to wait at least two years after the conclusion of the legislative session in which they last served before becoming lobbyists. Amendment 1 also lowers the $2,600 campaign contribution limit for state legislative candidates and requires legislative records to be subject to the state’s open records law. The amendment’s changes to the redistricting process have caused the most controversy. A nonpartisan state demographer will be tasked with drawing the districts and a bipartisan commission will review the results.

New York: Lobbyist Arrested, Accused of Bribing State Legislator
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle – Gary Craig | Published: 11/1/2018

Albany-based lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy faces federal charges for offering to pay a bribe during an investigation that already includes the arrest of New York Assemblyperson Joseph Errigo. Gaddy’s arrest grew out of an FBI investigation into fraud and corruption in a redevelopment project in Rochester. Federal authorities say that while investigating the project, agents learned of possible criminal conduct by Gaddy. A person working with the FBI allegedly approached Gaddy about paying a bribe to a member of the Assembly. “Yeah … yeah, no problem,” Gaddy responded, according to the FBI. Authorities alleged Errigo took money from a lobbyist to introduce legislation designed to stop the project.

North Dakota: Aimed at Combating Corruption, North Dakota Voters Pass Measure 1
Dickinson Press – Tu-Uyen Tran | Published: 11/6/2018

Voters in North Dakota approved Measure 1 on the November 6 ballot. It will, among other provisions, require the Legislature to pass laws requiring the disclosure of the “ultimate and true source” of money spent on media to influence campaigns, ban lobbyists from giving gifts to public officials, prohibit politicians from using campaign funds for personal purposes, and create a state ethics commission to investigate violations.

South Dakota: Out-Of-State Initiative Money Ban Likely to Face Challenge
Rapid City Journal – James Nord (Associated Press) | Published: 11/7/2018

South Dakota’s first-in-the-nation law that bans out-of-state money from ballot question campaigns faces an uncertain future, with critics saying it is likely to be challenged in court. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution’s free-speech protections as prohibiting any limitations on money in ballot measure elections, Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at Common Cause, has said. The high court has said contributions to candidates can be limited to prevent the corruption of public officials. At least two states, Alaska and Hawaii, restrict out-of-state donations to candidates, but Alaska’s limits face a court challenge.