Friday, April 10, 2015

"Ex-district attorney suggests ways to bolster ethics rules"

Good to talk with Imran Ghori of the Press Enterprise for this piece.   

“You can’t just have a code,” she said by phone last month. “You have to make sure the code is enforced, otherwise it will be largely ignored.”

Thursday, April 9, 2015

"California lawmakers’ campaign debt piled high in 2014"

Great to talk to Jim Miller of the Sacramento Bee for this article

“You’re not giving to them so they run a competitive campaign. You’re not giving to them so they can get their message out,” campaign-law expert Jessica Levinson, vice president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, said of campaign donors. “The purpose is, ‘Help me out. I need to retire my campaign debt.’ It’s much more of a specific goal.”

Read more here:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"Kamala Harris’ 'bizarre’ move: no press at kickoff event"

Always wonderful to talk to Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle. 

“I think, frankly, it’s not a bad calculation. ... She needs time to ramp up and know all the issues. She definitely doesn’t want a 'Katie Couric-Sarah Palin’ moment,” Levinson said, referring to the disastrous interview when Palin was a vice presidential candidate in 2008.
“There’s a big difference between being an attorney general and a U.S. senator,” and answers to the complex questions ahead may require a lot of in-depth preparation, Levinson said. That’s especially true in the age of social media, where answers live forever on YouTube and other sites.
Levinson said there’s no danger that Harris will be put in the same camp as Meg Whitman, the 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate who famously sidestepped reporters’ questions, literally running away from them at one point.
Harris “has seen the microphone before and seems to enjoy it,” Levinson said. “I don’t think she will implode, but she has kicked off her campaign much earlier than other candidates and she is someone who wants finessed answers.”
Harris may also be betting that it is “more harmful for her to have a fairly substantive mistake than it is not to invite the press” to a fundraiser, though she added that in the future, media access will be vital to her perception as a credible candidate.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

"Thanks to Obama, the New World of Campaign Finance Is Unlimited and Undisclosed"

Great to talk to Michael Bender of Bloomberg News for this one

“If you really want to influence a candidate, or a future candidate, you give to an outside group,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in election law. “Direct contributions and bundling are increasingly becoming a way of the past.”

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"Kamala Harris challenge to 'kill the gays' initiative may fail but still looks shrewd"

Nice to speak with Anita Chabira for this piece in the Guardian.   

“It’s not about the winning,” says Loyola law professor and election law expert Jessica Levinson about Harris’s decision to go to court. “She may feel that this is morally the right thing to do, but I think this is more of a move to impress upon everyone that you have left no stone unturned.”

"California Lawmakers' Spring Break Destinations: Japan, Cuba"

Great to talk to Ben Adler for Capitol Public Radio for this piece.

“We can absolutely look at some of these trips and say, oh, come on, you just wanted a vacation that was paid for by your campaign contributors,” Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson.

But she says it’s important to judge each trip on its own merits. “Not every trip is like that. I think some of these trips are actually useful, fact-finding missions.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"California attorney general to ask judge to halt 'shoot the gays' initiative"

Nice to speak with Anita Chabira for this piece in the Guardian.   

Loyola law school professor and election law expert Jessica Levinson agreed with that opinion, adding that Harris would likely ask the judge to “kick it off because it is clearly unconstitutional”. Levinson added that it is unclear how the court would rule, however. California judges have traditionally been loath to interfere with the initiative process, preferring to wait until an issue becomes law.

But she adds: “If there is ever a case where a judge would throw something out, this is it.”

"Rep. Mike Honda’s granddaughter a transgender icon at 8"

Wonderful to speak with Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle for this one. 

“Politicians make their families part of the political debate all the time ... but once you thrust the family into the public forum, they are fair game for the debate,” said law Professor Jessica Levinson, who teaches politics, ethics and privacy issues at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “And in this case, you’re thrusting an 8-year-old into the public debate at a really delicate time.”

Levinson said Honda deserves credit for publicly supporting his granddaughter, but she noted that in doing so, he has exposed her to a harsh limelight, possibly for years, at a time when she may be “really below the threshold for knowing consent.”

Oftentimes, “8-year-olds and 28-year-olds have different understandings of repercussions,” especially with regard to social media, Levinson said.

"Police Advocacy Group Leaves Few Fingerprints"

Great to talk with Rachel Baye for this piece in Time.

In down-ballot races like those for state supreme court, the secrecy of such nonprofits is particularly problematic, because the groups may be the only ones offering information about the candidates, according to Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in election law.

“People typically aren’t as ill-informed about who’s running for president or governor or even secretary of state as they are about judicial races,” Levinson said. “A few well-placed radio or TV ads can make a big difference because that can be the only thing that people remember about the candidate.

"Learn An Entire Semester Of Campaign Finance Law In Less Than 4 Minutes"

Thanks to Huffington Post Live for having me on to discuss. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Sen. Janet Nguyen’s misguided notion of banning bans"

My latest op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. 

Let’s talk about people who have served and continue to serve our country. Let’s talk about making sure that they have jobs, educations and health care. Let’s have a debate about how best to treat those Americans who risk their lives to keep us safe. Those are actual and important issues that need attention. The same is not true of the ability of a student council to vote for the removal of an American flag.

Read more here:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Will the Supreme Court Allow Legislators to Dilute Voting Power?"

My latest op-ed is up on Pacific Standard Magazine. 

Here is an excerpt:

The substantive issue in the case essentially boils down to whether the word “legislature” can include the public when it exercises its power to enact laws via the initiative process and repeal laws via the referendum. Put another way, does the term “legislature” just refer to the group of elected lawmakers who sit in state capitols, or can it also include the people when they act like lawmakers? If it is the former, the ability of Arizona and likely California’s independent redistricting commissions to draw congressional district lines is, as the kids say, “so over.”

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Who will replace Senator Barbara Boxer? Who won in Los Angeles last week?

I will be on NBC's "News Conference" on Sunday at 7:45 a.m. talking about elections in Los Angeles and who is likely to replace Senator Barbara Boxer. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Good to talk to Lee Fang of the Intercept for this one.

“There is no doubt that outside organizations — PACs, Super PACs, etc. — wield enormous influence over both candidates and voters,” says Jessica Levinson, clinical professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “Because money flows so freely throughout our political system, I think the important thing at this point is for there to be thorough transparency about who these lobbyists are, and the interests that they work for.”

"'Dismal' Doesn't Even Begin To Describe LA's Voter Turnout"

Thanks to Huffington Post Politics for picking up my quote in Alice Walton's Los Angeles Times article. 

“People may think about legalizing marijuana or other kinds of social issues on a regular basis, but whether or not we should link up city and state elections is something very few voters devote brain space to,” Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson told the Times.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Who Is Making All the Decisions in LA Elections?

Great to be on "Which Way, L.A." with Warren Olney here.

Election Roundup on Press Play

Always wonderful to speak with Madeleine Brand.

Here is a link to the show.

"Lack of hot-button issues fueled dismal voter turnout in L.A. election"

Great to talk with Alice Walton of the Los Angeles Times for this one.


In some parts of Los Angeles, the only items on voters’ ballots were candidates for the community college Board of Trustees and two charter amendments. The consolidation of elections wasn’t the kind of hot-button issue likely to draw in voters, said Jessica Levinson, a clinical professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“People may think about legalizing marijuana or other kinds of social issues on a regular basis but whether or not we should link up city and state elections is something very few voters devote brain space too,” she said.

Los Angeles is particularly challenging, according to Levinson. With about 250,000 constituents apiece, the council districts are too large for most voters to have face-to-face interactions with the candidates. Reaching those voters through slate mailers and radio or television ads can be prohibitively expensive.

Friday, February 27, 2015

"California GOP alive but struggling for a vision, candidates"

Great to speak with Juliet Williams of the AP for this one.

"This is not a great moment for the California Republican Party," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor with expertise in state politics.


Those headlines only hurt the party's image in California, making it appear out of step with Californians' values, Levinson said.

"The California Republican Party will really have to be careful about styling itself in a way that is palatable and appetizing to Californians," she said. "This is the state that elected Ronald Reagan. Being a California Republican has oftentimes denoted something different than just being a Republican.

"Proposals Aim To Reverse Low Voter Turnout In LA"

Here is a link to my short appearance on the CBS local news.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What's at stake in the upcoming LA elections

Great to be on "Take Two" today on KPCC talking about the LA elections. Here is the segment.

"Experts question relationship between donors, Arcadia officials"

Quoted in this piece.

Los Angeles Ethics Commissioner Jessica Levinson, an attorney and professor at Loyola Law School, said the city should disclose the identities of those funding portions of the trip and what their interests are.

“Does it raise concerns or questions? Sure. Clearly these are people trying to influence our elected officials, but in the interest of transparency, it’s good for the public to know who they are.”

"Upwardly mobile women eager to hear Hillary Clinton’s message"

Always great to talk to Carla Marinucci. The full article is here.

In her appearance before a Silicon Valley women’s conference Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is staking an early claim to voters who could be key to her 2016 presidential ambition: upwardly mobile professional women who might be called “Lean In” voters.

“She is their high priestess,” said Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, who says the former first lady’s experience shattering the glass ceiling in politics, diplomacy and law will resonate with the hundreds expected to hear her Tuesday at the sold-out Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women. “She is a trailblazer,” Levinson said. “She speaks their language — and they speak hers.”


“Women are embracing that ... they’re talking about how her candidacy could be historic — and frankly, it’s something more feminists want to hear now than in 2008,” Levinson said. Unlike during her first run as president in 2008, Clinton today “is much more robust” in acknowledging her potential impact as the first female president, she said. “And a lot of these women are the first in female leadership in their companies. There’s a common understanding.”

John Oliver and I dislike judicial elections

Thanks to him for citing my LA Times op-ed on the topic.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Who wore it best and what are we voting on in LA on March 3, 2015?

I'll discuss that and #Oscar fashions and LA Elections on Take Two on KPCC Monday 2.23 at 10:10 a.m. #HalfTruth.

"Let’s roll out the red carpet for elections"

My latest Sacramento Bee op-ed is here.

Here is an excerpt: Let us compare those contests to other contests that actually affect our lives – elections. First, how many of us can honestly answer when the next election is? Or when the last election was? I guarantee you it is fewer than those who methodically planned what to serve at their Super Bowl parties or which performers they hoped would win an Oscar.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Why do so few people vote in the County of Los Angeles?

Here is a link to my testimony before a joint committee hearing of the CA sen and assembly. My main testimony begins at the 2 hour mark and ends after 12 minutes.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why do so few of us vote in LA?

I'll be testifying tomorrow before a joint CA Senate and Assembly committee meeting tomorrow with Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Los Angeles County Registrar Dean Logan, VP of Political Date Inc. Paul Mitchell, Executive Director of California Common Cause Kathay Feng, and others.

You can live stream it at 10am PST here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"Mitchum Sues Capps for Defamation of Character"

Good to talk to Nick Welsh of the Santa Barbara Independent for this one.

Jessica Levinson, an attorney specializing in election law issues at Loyola Marymount, commented, “A lot of ads are sleazy. A lot of ads are misleading. But that’s not enough to qualify as the intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Party committees move millions in California elections"

Great to speak with Jim Miller of the Sacramento Bee for this one.

“I guarantee you there’s someone with a huge Excel spreadsheet on one screen and the rules and regulations on the other, and they’re tracking it. It takes time and understanding, but it’s possible,” said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law. “People are forever becoming smarter about different ways to get money into elections. It can provide a very broad vehicle for people to exert their influence.”

Read more here:

Monday, February 2, 2015

"When a recent graduate of Marlborough, the elite L.A. girls’ school, posted an essay about a predatory teacher there, the story went viral."

More on my alma mater, via Vanity Fairhere.

"Angelenos say they generally feel detached from city government"

Wonderful to speak with Soumya Karlamangla of the Los Angeles Times for this piece.

Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School, said L.A. council districts "are so huge that it's really easy to feel like you have no connection to your elected official."

Each district contains about a quarter of a million residents and, in many instances, sharply diverse communities of voters. And L.A. is simply a less political place than San Francisco or large Eastern cities such as New York and Boston, where politics figures more prominently in daily life and culture, Levinson said.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Lobbying lawmakers with a personal touch"

Great to speak with Laurel Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee for this one

There’s nothing inappropriate about professional persuaders offering their skills to advance a personal agenda, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School with expertise in political ethics.

But the phenomenon is “part of a bigger story about lobbyists having a seat at that the table that the rest of us just don’t have,” she said. In many cases, campaign donations from lobbyists’ clients help get them that seat at the table, creating the potential for what Levinson called a “symbiotic relationship.”

“I wish for a world in which it’s not just the lobbyists who can bring their pet projects to the legislators,” Levinson said.

Read more here:

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Koch brothers’ cash will wash over California, experts say

Always great to talk to Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It is staggering,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s not a pebble in the pond, it’s an asteroid in the ocean.”

The cascade of conservative cash is “an amount we could not have fathomed 10 years ago,” Levinson said. Not even California and other strongly Democratic states will be exempt from its effects, she said.


“It will change the tenor, the narrative of the debate and what we talk about,” Levinson said.

One race certain to be affected by the Kochs’ money, she said, is the contest for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, even though no prominent Republican candidates are on the horizon.

“No race is run in isolation, and to the extent the discussion about tax cuts and immigration reform happens in Ohio, candidates get asked about it in California,” Levinson said.


Levinson said the Kochs’ actions may “embolden both sides” of the political spectrum — especially California’s progressives.

“All you have to say is, 'A billion dollars — let’s do something!’” she said. “Nothing is going to get campaign finance reform efforts going like the Koch brothers.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"GOP’s about-face: Poverty a key 2016 issue"

Great to speak with Carla Marinucci of the San Franicsco Chronicle for this one.

“I don’t think you have to be poor to talk about poverty or a minority to talk about minority rights,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Still, regarding Romney and Bush specifically, “it feels like a pretty quick shift,” especially considering some of their more recent public comments lambasting Democrats and President Obama on income inequality issues, which have been defined by some disapproving conservative Republicans as “redistributing wealth.”

While raising the issue could help both Republicans reach some low-income Southern and Bible Belt supporters, it may not help them expand their appeal to traditionally Democratic Latinos and African Americans, she said.

Levinson also noted that the theme may not be a winner with some of the most influential decision makers when it comes to the 2016 GOP nominee.

“In every campaign, you’re talking to voters — and donors,” Levinson said. Kashkari had to confront a question that both Romney and Bush will soon face, she said: “Is talking about poverty music to Republican donors’ ears?”

"Billionaire Tom Steyer won’t run for Boxer’s Senate seat"

Always wonderful to speak with Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, said another problem for Steyer is the perception that he may have been a one-issue candidate.

“Can you excite people into voting on climate change and environmental issues?’’ she asked.

The lack of support for Steyer’s candidacy may have been dramatized this week, as a number of leading Democrats lined up to back Harris, and others called for Villaraigosa to get into the race. Even after donating an estimated $71 million to Democratic causes during the last election cycle, Steyer’s trial balloon didn’t elicit calls for him to make the run.

“Team Tom was not trending,’’ Levinson said.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Trash-hauling contract leaves Huntington Park with a PR mess"

Great to speak with Ruben Vives of the Los Angeles Times for this article.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who specializes in good governance, said that when it comes to politics the benefit of the doubt can be hard to gain, but easy to lose.

"It's like any relationship were you are trying to regain trust and someone makes a mistake and it makes you question everything," Levinson said. "It feeds into their preexisting belief that there is a problem with their government."

Monday, January 12, 2015

"L.A.’s reluctance to vote by mail hurting candidates, causes"

Wonderful to speak with John Wildermuth at the San Francisco Chronicle for this one.

“If Los Angeles voters decided to turn out, it could absolutely swing the outcome of California elections,” said Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “But now, we’re ceding many political decisions to Northern California.”


There are plenty of reasons county voters are avoiding the polls. Los Angeles is home to a young, transient and heavily ethnic population, all groups that seldom are regular voters. Add that to a general lack of concern about politics, and you have a recipe for disinterest on election day, Levinson said.

“The county is so spread out and voters have so little contact with their elected officials that Angelenos often don’t think about how state and local government can affect their lives,” she said.

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Here’s who’s poised to fight for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat"

Good to talk with John Wildermuth for this one in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The buy-in for this game is huge,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. The winning candidate “isn’t likely to be some unknown person who comes out of the shadows.”
Members of Congress “have a lot to lose, but politicians are an ambitious bunch and and always looking for the next step up,” Levinson said.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

LA Observed: "News and notes: End of year desk clearing"

Glad to have my LAT op-ed mentioned in LA Observed today.

"Jessica Levinson, vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, argues for moving city elections to even-numbered years and consolidating them with state and federal elections."