October 28, 2022 •
News You Can Use Digest – October 28, 2022
Bannon Gets 4 Months Jail Term for Defying Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena
Yahoo News – Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein (Politico) | Published: 10/21/2022
A judge sentenced longtime Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon to four months in jail for defying a subpoena from lawmakers investigating the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. He will also pay a $6,500 fine. U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols said Bannon inappropriately defied the select committee on a matter of significant national interest, and even after roadblocks to his testimony had been removed. A jury convicted Bannon on two charges of contempt of Congress – one for refusing to testify to the January 6 select committee, another for refusing to provide relevant documents to the panel.
Big K Street Players Spend More as Election Uncertainty Brews
MSN – Kate Ackley (Roll Call) | Published: 10/21/2022
K Street’s 10 biggest spenders have shelled out a combined $238.3 million on federal lobbying so far this year, as the industry now gears up for brewing uncertainty when lawmakers return after the midterm elections. Business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as health care, pharmaceutical, and technology interests, topped spending in the first three quarters of this year, as Congress moved climate, health, and tax legislation and a new law to boost domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
Head of UK Lobbying Watchdog Calls for Tougher Disclosure Rules
Guardian – Rowena Mason | Published: 10/26/2022
The head of the United Kingdom’s lobbying watchdog called for tougher disclosure rules to show which ministers have been solicited, as well as a review of exemptions to the rules. Harry Rich, who is in charge of the register of consultant lobbyists and their clients, is making suggestions for more transparent lobbying declarations in a submission to parliament’s public administration and constitutional affairs committee in his first public intervention on the subject since taking the job in 2018.
How Votes Are Cast and Counted Is Increasingly Decided in Courtrooms
MSN – Patrick Marley (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
Disputes over redistricting, voter IDs, voting hours, recounts, and other election-related policies have long run parallel to political campaigns, but the numbers are rising. The increase began after the U.S. Supreme Court decided the 2000 presidential election and the trend reached a high in 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic prompted a host of new voting rules. Election experts say courts have the power to clarify vague laws or policies and resolve key questions before ballots are cast, but many also contend the barrage of lawsuits increases the chances of last-minute rulings that can spur voter confusion.
Jan. 6 Panel Issues Subpoena to Trump, Demanding He Testify
MSN – Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick (Associated Press) | Published: 10/21/2022
The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol issued its subpoena of Donald Trump, demanding testimony from the former president who lawmakers say “personally orchestrated” a multi-part effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The panel issued a letter to Trump’s lawyers saying he must testify, either at the Capitol or by videoconference, “beginning on or about” November 14 and continuing for multiple days if necessary. The letter also outlined a request for a series of corresponding documents, including personal communications between Trump and members of Congress as well as extremist groups.
Law Firms Eager for US Regulatory Clarity on Foreign Lobbying
Bloomberg Law – Ben Penn | Published: 10/26/2022
Carrying a maximum prison sentence of five years for willful offenders, the Foreign Agents Registration Act mandates public disclosures when individuals, companies, or nonprofits act on behalf of foreign interests. It contains exceptions that apply to attorneys, which have proven difficult to interpret for work at the border of legal representation and political advocacy. Those exemptions are now slated for a regulatory rewrite, with implications for lawyers, both those hoping to provide clarity to clients on whether they need to register and others concerned about their own need to file. The proposal is expected by the end of 2022.
Mar-a-Lago Classified Papers Held U.S. Secrets About Iran and China
MSN – Devlin Barrett (Washington Post) | Published: 10/21/2022
Some of the classified documents recovered by the FBI from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter. If shared with others, the people said, such information could expose intelligence-gathering methods the U.S. wants to keep hidden from the world. The secret documents about Iran and China are considered among the most sensitive the FBI has recovered in its investigation of Trump and his aides for possible mishandling of classified information, obstruction, and destruction of government records, the people said.
Menendez Facing Another Federal Investigation
MSN – Matt Friedman (Politico) | Published: 10/26/2022
Sen. Bob Menendez is facing another federal ethics investigation. It was reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating Menendez five years after a jury deadlocked on corruption charges against him. Prosecutors at first announced plans to try Menendez again but backed off. The new investigation threatens to cloud Menendez’s expected reelection campaign in 2024.
Social Security Whistleblowers Say They Were Sidelined for Exposing Fines
Yahoo News – Lisa Rein (Washington Post) | Published: 10/25/2022
Joscelyn Funnié and Deborah Shaw, attorneys in the Social Security Administration’s inspector general’s office, were removed from their jobs and placed on paid leave after expressing concerns about large fines imposed on disabled and poor elderly people. They were eventually reinstated. But since returning to work under Inspector General Gail Ennis, they said they have been excluded from meaningful assignments, given tasks below their experience and abilities, and denied opportunities for advancement. Experts on whistleblowers describe the treatment as evidence of retaliation in a case that is the focus of three ongoing probes.
From the States and Municipalities
Arizona – A Retiree Served Food to the Homeless for Years. Then It Got Her Arrested.
MSN – Jonathan Edwards (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
Police often patrolled Community Park in Bullhead City, Arizona, so Norma Thornton ignored two officers when they pulled up in cruisers as she finished serving food to homeless people. When one of the officers said he was arresting her for violating the city’s new ordinance that outlawed people serving prepared food in public parks for “charitable purposes,” Thornton suspected a prank. Only when the officer put her in the back seat of his cruiser did reality set in. Thornton recently filed a lawsuit against Bullhead City, accusing the officers of violating her civil rights. She is asking a federal judge to declare the ordinance unconstitutional.
Arizona – Ariz. Democratic Governor Candidate Hobbs Reports Break-In at Campaign Office
MSN – Amy Wang (Washington Post) | Published: 10/27/2022
The campaign for Arizona Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs said its Phoenix office was broken into and police are investigating the incident. A spokesperson for Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, implicitly blamed Hobbs’s Republican rival, Kari Lake, a charge Lake scoffed at as “absurd.” Phoenix police said unspecified items were taken, according to The Arizona Republic. In surveillance images obtained by the newspaper, a young man wearing shorts and a green T-shirt can be seen inside the building.
Arizona – Arizona Sheriff Steps Up Security Around Ballot Drop Boxes
MSN – Associated Press | Published: 10/25/2022
The sheriff in metropolitan Phoenix said he stepped up security around ballot drop boxes after a series of incidents involving people keeping watch on the boxes and taking video of voters after they were apparently inspired by lies about the 2020 election. Deputies responded recently when two masked people carrying guns and wearing bulletproof vests showed up at a drop box in Mesa, a Phoenix suburb. The secretary of state said her office has received six cases of potential voter intimidation to the state attorney general and the U.S. Department of Justice, as well as a threatening email sent to the state elections director.
Arkansas – Federal Judge Signs Off on Prosecution’s Motion to Dismiss Charges Against Gilbert Baker
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette – Dale Ellis | Published: 10/25/2022
A federal judge dismissed bribery and wire fraud charges against former Arkansas Sen. Gilbert Baker. Baker was indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and seven counts of honest services wire fraud. Prosecutors accused Baker of bribing former Faulkner County Circuit Court Judge Michael Maggio in 2013 as part of a scheme to get Maggio to lower a financial judgment against Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. A judge declared a mistrial when jurors acquitted Baker on the conspiracy count but could not reach a verdict on the remaining counts.
California – California Sets Up Age Requirement for Those Handling Political Campaign Bucks
Marin Independent Record – Gabriel Greschler (Bay Area News Group) | Published: 10/20/2022
The California Fair Political Practices Commission passed a rule prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 to be hired for a position that requires them to sign campaign finance documents under penalty of perjury. The change will mostly apply to a campaign’s treasurer but could affect other positions that involve financial decisions. Milpitas City Councilperson Anthony Phan was found to have hired his 14-year-old cousin as his treasurer during a bid for a council seat in 2016.
California – Ethics Reform Proposal Stalled Amid Endless Negotiations Between City, Union
San Francisco Examiner – Adam Shanks | Published: 10/19/2022
A proposal to reform San Francisco’s ethics laws has been stalled for months amid prolonged negotiations with the union that represents top city officials. The union says it needs time to study the proposal and its many ramifications, but the city’s Ethics Commission says it is simply dragging its feet on reform. The Municipal Executives Association has been exercising its right to weigh in on the proposal for nearly a year despite a push from the Ethics Commission, which authored the reforms, to put it before voters in the form of a ballot measure.
California – Ex-Anaheim Mayor Refuses to Publicly Disclose Emails Amid FBI Corruption Investigation
MSN – Nathan Fenno, Gabriel San Román, and Adam Elmahrek (Los Angeles Times) | Published: 10/25/2022
The criminal defense attorney for former Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu claimed Sidhu’s emails and text messages sent while in office about city business on private devices were no longer public because he has resigned and invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination. Sidhu refusal to disclose the communications could obstruct a probe into a corruption scandal surrounding the sale of Angel Stadium. Public records experts say the refusal flouts California law and could encourage other government officials to use private accounts to conduct official business and avoid public scrutiny.
California – LA Councilwoman Raman Seeks Action on Lobbying Reforms
MSN – City News Service | Published: 10/25/2022
Los Angeles City Councilperson Nithya Raman filed a motion to have her colleagues adopt lobbying reforms presented by the city’s Ethics Commission but placed on the back burner by former council President Nury Martinez. The proposal seeks to make lobbying efforts more transparent and limit financial ties between lobbyists and city officials. The commission sent the council recommended updates to the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance in April, but Martinez never placed the report on the council’s agenda.
Colorado – Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser Attends Lavish Event in Hawaii Paid for by Corporations He’s Suing
CBS News – Shaun Boyd | Published: 10/19/2022
The Attorney General Alliance, a group made up of 48 state attorneys general, a private club that corporations and lobbyist organizations pay tens of thousands of dollars to belong to. Their membership buys them access to lavish events where they can schmooze the top legal officers for state government, individuals who have sole discretion over whether to sue, settle, or investigate them. The alliance’s 2021 annual conference in Maui was sponsored by companies like Google, Juul, and Pfizer, all of which were being sued by states at the time.
Connecticut – Connecticut Port Authority Employee Fined for Ethics Violation
Yahoo News – Greg Smith (The Day) | Published: 10/24/2022
Connecticut Port Authority employee Andrew Lavigne was fined $750 and suspended for two days without pay for violating state ethics rules when he accepted hockey tickets from a company doing business with the quasi-public agency. The fine is the settlement reached with the Office of State Ethics, which determined Seabury Maritime had violated the state code of ethics for public officials in 2017 and 2019 when it provided gifts, meals, and overnight accommodations to port authority employees and two board members.
Delaware – State Auditor Kathy McGuiness Sentenced for Public Corruption Convictions
Yahoo News – Xerxes Wilson (News Journal) | Published: 10/19/2022
The only statewide-elected official in Delaware history to be accused and convicted of crimes while in office was spared prison time and resigned her office. Auditor Kathy McGuiness was sentenced to a year of probation, 500 hours of community service, and a $10,000 fine for her misdemeanor conflict-of-interest and official misconduct convictions, guilty verdicts that stemmed from hiring her daughter to work in the auditor’s office.
Florida – Florida Commission on Ethics Recommends Doug Underhill Be Removed from Office
Yahoo News – Jim Little (Pensacola News Journal) | Published: 10/21/2022
The Florida Commission on Ethics asked Gov. Ron DeSantis to remove Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill from office one month before the end of his term. The commission said Underhill be removed for disclosing a county “shade meeting” transcript before the litigation was officially concluded and be fined the maximum of $10,000. The commission also recommended Underhill be fined $6,250 for each of four additional ethics violations of gift disclosure laws and solicitation donations from a county vendor or lobbyist, bringing the total recommended fine to $35,000.
Florida – Tampa Lawmaker Files Lawsuit Against Campaign Manager, Alleging Sexual Harassment
Yahoo News – Kirby Wilson and Emily Mahoney (Tampa Bay Times) | Published: 10/24/2022
Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo is accusing her campaign manager, a well-known Republican communications strategist, of sexual harassment. Fred Piccolo sent “unwanted, unsolicited, inappropriate, and grossly offensive” text messages to her, according to a lawsuit. Toledo, who made an unsuccessful bid this year for a U.S. House seat, also accuses Piccolo of trying to get fired to earn a $100,000 termination payout. She is seeking at least $30,000 in damages.
Georgia – Abrams’ Campaign Chair Collected Millions in Legal Fees from Voting Rights Organization
Yahoo News – Brittany Gibson (Politico) | Published: 10/24/2022
The voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams spent more than $25 million over two years on legal fees, mostly on a single case, with the largest amount going to the self-described boutique law firm of the candidate’s campaign chairperson. Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, Abrams’ close friend who chaired her gubernatorial campaign both in 2018 and her current bid to unseat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, is one of two named partners in Lawrence & Bundy. Some questioned both the level of expenditures devoted to a single, largely unsuccessful legal action and that such a large payout went to the firm of Abrams’ friend.
Georgia – Supreme Court Puts Temporary Hold on Graham Grand Jury Election Testimony
MSN – Robert Barnes and Ann Marimow (Washington Post) | Published: 10/24/2022
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas put a temporary hold on an order that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham appear before a Georgia grand jury investigating possible attempts by former President Trump and his allies to disrupt the state’s 2020 presidential election. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit denied an attempt to block a subpoena from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, in which Graham claimed a sitting senator is shielded from testifying in such investigations.
Georgia – Trump Chief of Staff Meadows Ordered to Testify Before Ga. Grand Jury
MSN – Amy Wang and Tom Hamburger (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
A judge ruled former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows must testify before a Georgia grand jury investigating Republican efforts to reverse the 2020 presidential election results in the state. Meadows has helped promote Trump’s baseless claims that widespread voter fraud delivered the presidency to Joe Biden. In her petition seeking Meadows’s testimony, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis noted Meadows’s participation in a telephone call Trump made on January 2, 2021, to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to “find” 11,780 votes that would enable him to defeat Biden in the state.
Illinois – Federal Oversight of Cook County Assessor’s Hiring to End; Supervision Tied to Decades-Old Shakman Patronage Lawsuit
MSN – A.D. Quig (Chicago Tribune) | Published: 10/25/2022
For years, federal courts have kept watch over the Cook County assessor’s office, making sure workers were not hired for their political connections, and that job descriptions were clear. That oversight will end on November 1. The so-called Shaman oversight is named for Michael Shakman, the man who first sued to end the practice of Democratic patronage, under which city and county jobs were filled by faithful party members, and firings or promotions were based on election-time efforts.
Illinois – Inside AT&T’s Alleged ‘Conspiracy’ to Bribe Powerbrokers at the Illinois Capitol
WBEZ – Jon Seidel (Chicago Sun-Times) and Dan Mihalopoulos | Published: 10/21/2022
For more than a decade, Brian Gray was AT&T’s top executive in Illinois for a critical area – dealing with politicians in a state known for its corruption. As the director of legislative affairs, he oversaw a stable of lobbyists, and in recent years he also headed the company’s PAC in Illinois. AT&T is cooperating authorities and promised to pay a $23 million fine admitting it used illegal means in efforts to win support for favorable legislation. Sources close to the investigation say the three employees referenced in the indictment are Gray and former company lobbyists Robert Barry and Stephen Selcke.
Maine – Ethics Panel Says Candidate, Outside Group Violated Campaign Finance Laws
Yahoo News – Randy Billings (Portland Press Herald) | Published: 10/26/2022
Maine’s ethics commission ruled in separate cases that a state Senate candidate and an out-of-state political group did not properly disclose the funding sources for campaign communications, a violation of the state’s campaign finance law. October 26 marked the first day that independent expenditures from outside groups need to be reported within 24 hours. Previously, such spending needed to be reported within 48 hours.
Massachusetts – Groups Sue to Put Super PAC Question on 2024 State Ballot
MSN – Steve LeBlanc (Associated Press) | Published: 10/24/2022
Groups pushing for a 2024 ballot question aimed at reining in the spending power of super PACs filed two lawsuits in Massachusetts that target a decision by the state attorney general’s office to block the question on the grounds it would infringe on First Amendment rights. The lawsuits argue in favor of the proposed question, which would change state law to limit contributions by individuals to independent expenditure political action committees to $5,000. Currently, super PACs can raise and spend unlimited funds from individuals as long as they do not directly coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
Michigan – Michigan Jury Finds Three Men Guilty of Aiding Plot to Kidnap Governor
MSN – Tyler Clifford and Brendan O’Brien (Reuters) | Published: 10/26/2022
A jury found three men guilty of aiding a conspiracy to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, a plot that prosecutors said grew out of hostility over restrictions she imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Joseph Morrison, his father-in-law, Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar were convicted of gang membership, firearm violations, and providing material support for terrorism. They could face up to 20 years in prison. State prosecutors argued the men assisted two others who were found guilty in federal court of kidnapping conspiracy. It stands as the most prominent case involving domestic terrorism and militias in years.
Missouri – State Ethics Board Fines Former Candidate for St. Louis County Executive
St. Louis Post-Dispatch – Kurt Erickson | Published: 10/25/2022
A one-time candidate for St. Louis County executive was fined more than $34,000 for campaign finance violations. According to the Missouri Ethics Commission, William Ray Jr. had multiple problems with two campaign accounts, one for him personally and another political committee called Fannie PAC. Among the violations were failures to report more than $11,450 in contributions and more than $9,400 in expenses.
New York – New Ethics Commissioner Attended Assemblyman’s Campaign Fundraiser
Albany Times Union – Chris Bragg | Published: 10/24/2022
Leonard Austin, who is serving as the vice chair of New York’s Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government, recently attended a campaign fundraiser for state Assemblyperson Charles Lavine. Austin’s wife donated to Lavine’s reelection bid. Under state law, ethics commission members are prohibited from contributing to any candidate for state-level office, including Assembly members. The law does not address this situation, where an ethics commissioner attends a fundraiser and their spouse makes a donation.
New York – Trump’s Business, Under Threat, Faces a Tough Test in Court
MSN – Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, and Jonah Bromwich (New York Times) | Published: 10/23/2022
The Trump Organization is on trial in Manhattan, where the district attorney’s office accused it of tax fraud and other crimes. Although Donald Trump himself was not indicted, he is synonymous with the company he ran for decades. This case centers on special perks doled out by the Trump Organization, which comprises more than 500 corporate entities. The company’s chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded guilty to conspiring to carry out the scheme and agreed to testify at the trial.
Ohio – 2 Conservatives Accused in Hoax Robocall Scheme Plead Guilty
MSN – Mark Gillispie (Associated Press) | Published: 10/25/2022
Two right-wing operatives pleaded guilty to single felony counts of telecommunications fraud for having placed thousands of false robocalls in Ohio that told people they could be arrested or be forced to receive vaccinations based on information they submitted in votes by mail. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman could each receive a year in prison when they are sentenced. The have a history of staging hoaxes and spreading false smears against Democrats and public officials.
Ohio – FirstEnergy Cuts Off Its ‘Dark Money’ Spigot in Ohio, Disclosures Show
Yahoo News – Jake Zuckerman (Cleveland Plain Dealer) | Published: 10/24/2022
Besides some nominal payments, FirstEnergy has cut off its contributions to Ohio-based nonprofit entities that spend outside money to support politicians. But the disclosures show FirstEnergy made about $130,000 in similar “dark money” payments to political firms in 2021 in New Jersey and West Virginia, where it also operates utilities. Since the initial arrests in the House Bill 6 scandal, candidates and party committees in Ohio have returned a combined $390,000 in contributions from the company’s state and federal PACs. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy keeps just one lobbyist on hand in the state compared to the 15 it retained in 2019.
Oregon – Portland City Auditor’s Office Issues Penalty Against Gonzalez’s Campaign
MSN – Michaela Bourgeoise (KOIN) | Published: 10/20/2022
Rene Gonzalez’s campaign for Portland City Council is facing another fine after an investigation into the campaign’s rented office and parking spaces revealed it accepted an unlawful in-kind contribution. The city auditor’s office said it issued a $5,520 civil penalty against the campaign for allegedly accepting six months of parking at a Portland office rented from Schnitzer Property Management.
Tennessee – Election Watchdog Disputes Harwell Claim That Shifting State Funds to Federal Campaign Was Legit
Tennessee Lookout – Sam Stockard | Published: 10/26/2022
Former Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell contends the transfer of money from her state PAC to a super PAC that supported her failed congressional bid this summer was legal. But a watchdog group that monitors potential campaign finance violations says Harwell’s actions are “outside the law,” which prohibits state election funds from being used for federal campaigns. Saurav Ghosh, director of federal campaign finance reform for the Campaign Legal Center, said his organization will consider filing a complaint with the FEC against the Harwell campaign.
Texas – Greg Abbott Ran as a Small-Government Conservative. But the Governor’s Office Now Has More Power Than Ever.
Texas Tribune – Marilyn Thompson (ProPublica) and Perla Trevizo | Published: 10/25/2022
Greg Abbott has consolidated power like no Texas governor in recent history, at times circumventing the Republican-controlled state Legislature and overriding local officials. Abbott’s executive measures have solidified his conservative base and dramatically raised his national profile. Lower courts have occasionally ruled against Abbott, but Texas’ all-Republican highest court has sided with the governor, dismissing many of the cases on procedural grounds. Other challenges to Abbott’s use of executive power are still pending. In no case have the governor’s actions been permanently halted.
Texas – Texas Agencies’ Plan to Monitor Harris County Elections Raises Concerns Among Observers
Houston Public Media – Adam Zuvanich | Published: 10/19/2022
The Texas secretary of state’s office, in a letter submitted days before the start of early voting for the 2022 midterm election, informed Harris County it will send a team of inspectors and election security trainers to observe and help administer the November 8 election in the state’s largest metropolitan area. Representatives of state Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is on the ballot, also will be present to “immediately respond to any legal issues” raised by the inspectors, poll watchers, and others.
Washington – Facebook Parent Company Fined $25M for WA Campaign Finance Violations
Seattle Times – David Gutman | Published: 10/26/2022
A judge fined Facebook parent company Meta nearly $25 million for repeatedly and intentionally violating Washington’s campaign finance law. King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North issued the maximum possible fine after finding the company had, between 2019 and 2021, violated a longstanding disclosure law 822 separate times. Each fine carried a penalty of $30,000. It is the largest campaign finance penalty ever issued in the U.S., state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office said.
Washington DC – Bowser Fires Official Who Took Job at insurer after Medicaid Procurement
MSN – Julie Zauzmer Weil and Michael Brice-Saddler (Washington Post) | Published: 10/26/2022
A week after the District of Columbia Council awarded multibillion-dollar contracts for insuring Medicaid patients to three companies seeming to end a years-long struggle to right the city’s Medicaid system after court and council fights, Mayor Muriel Bowser called for a new investigation related to the procurement process. Bowser fired the interim director of the Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs after he took a new job with the parent company of one of the insurers awarded the lucrative contract. Bowser referred him to the city’s ethics board and inspector general.
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