46 Republicans call on Ryan, McCarthy to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act

WASHINGTON — Nearly 50 House Republicans are calling on Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to bring a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to the floor before it expires Sept. 30.

“Since being signed into law in 1994, VAWA has helped to protect and support millions of Americans who have faced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking,” the group, led by New Yorkers John Katko and Elise Stefanik, wrote in a letter.

The group cited Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics that show one in three women and one in six men encounter sexual violence during their lifetime.

Congress first passed the landmark domestic violence law in 1993 and most recently reauthorized it in 2013. There are only seven legislative days where both chambers are slated to be in session until the end of the month.

“This landmark legislation has drastically improved our nation’s response to these crimes and has contributed to the overall declining rates of domestic abuse since its enactment. However, instances of violence are still very common,” said the letter.

“This is a bipartisan issue that affects every district in the country and we must act now to avoid any lapse in these critical services,” Stefanik said in a statement Monday.

A reauthorization proposal, introduced by Democrats in July, includes provisions to help victims of domestic violence and stalking stay in stable housing situations and to bar evictions based on the actions of an abuser. It also includes an expansion of gun control laws aimed at prohibiting persons convicted of dating violence and stalking and those under protective orders from possessing firearms. Some states already have so-called red flag laws in place, with the aim of preventing escalation of violence.

— CQ-Roll Call

Appeals court: Judge needed more information before staying abortion restrictions

ST. LOUIS — A federal appeals court Monday said a lower court should have weighed more evidence before temporarily blocking a law that can restrict some Missouri abortions.

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled that U.S. District Judge Howard Sachs didn’t have enough information about the abortion law’s effects to make a decision.

Sachs, they said, should have balanced the burdens on abortion access of the law against the benefits it provided.

The issue stems from a 2007 law that added most abortion providers to what is defined as an “ambulatory surgery center,” thus imposing two restrictions on abortion providers. Their doctors must have privileges at a nearby licensed hospital and the clinic must meet certain design and layout requirements.

In 2010, Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains settled a suit over the 2007 law, winning a modification of the requirements for the clinic in Columbia and a waiver for the facility in Kansas City.

After a 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in a Texas case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, that turned on the burdens versus benefits issue, Comprehensive Health sued to block both restrictions of the 2007 law.

They were joined by Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and a gynecologist who wanted to provide abortions at Comprehensive Health facilities in Missouri, the court’s opinion said.

Sachs, who has since been replaced on the case, issued his preliminary injunction in April 2017.

The appeals court said Sachs failed to weigh anything relative to the hospital privileges requirements. And the judges said no facilities would closed because of the design and layout regulations.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Campaigns, parties can accept free service from Microsoft, FEC says

WASHINGTON — Federal campaigns and national party committees can accept free security services from the Microsoft Corporation after a recent Federal Election Commission ruling.

But one watchdog group called it an unprecedented opening for corporations looking to influence lawmakers and skirt campaign finance laws.

The ruling, approved by a 4-0 vote at a commission hearing Thursday, noted the potentially “severe and long-term” damage to the Microsoft brand if a campaign were breached by hackers, especially considering the, “public scrutiny regarding foreign attempts to influence U.S. elections.”

Federal election law prohibits companies from providing free services to lawmakers. But the FEC would make an exception in this case, it ruled, because Microsoft would be acting out of business interests and not trying to curry favor. The decision also noted that Microsoft has promised to offer the services “on a non-partisan basis.”

Opponents of the change said the exception was too broad.

“If that is the standard, then pretty much any corporation could give anything to a candidate, because they always do it for business reasons,” said Adav Noti, an attorney for the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center and a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission. “It’s a loophole you could drive a truck through.”

Noti said the FEC has denied similar requests from other corporations.

“If I were a campaign finance lawyer who had corporate clients, I would certainly alert them to this and see what they could do with it,” he said.

A Microsoft spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment Monday.

Microsoft is among a handful of tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, that have begun offering below-market-rate services to candidates and lawmakers who could regulate their companies, the Campaign Legal Center pointed out in a letter to the FEC filed before its ruling.

Microsoft has spent over $6.5 million on campaign contributions and over $13.6 million on lobbying during the 2018 election cycle, according to Opensecrets.org.

Under its accepted proposal, Microsoft would provide a free package of “enhanced account security protections,” to “election-sensitive,” customers, including federal, state and local candidate committees, national and state political party committees, campaign technology vendors, think tanks and “democracy advocacy nonprofits,” according to an outline the company provided to the FEC.

Participants, who would have to opt in, would receive extra training, guidance, technical support, and notification of potential security threats, among other services.

The company argued that it has “strong business considerations” for giving away such services to the selected clients. It cited its desire to increase market share among “election-sensitive entities and organizations,” which are often not-for-profit entities with fewer resources to spend on cybersecurity than for-profit customers.

— CQ-Roll Call