Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Would strong mayor be good for Sacramento? Experts say it depends"

Great to talk to Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee for this article. 

“It’s ultimately an act of faith to create a strong mayor,” said Jessica Levinson, an elections expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s one of those instances where if people like the mayor, they want him or her to be a strong mayor. And that system can be more efficient, but if you pick someone who is a dithering idiot and is the essence of inefficiency, then no, it doesn’t work.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article3189903.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Schools officials face political penalties"


News from Riverside, CA. 

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, who is vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, said the reporting regulations are complicated. However, she said, the information is important for the public to hold officials accountable. 

"Court sends a message in sentencing ex-L.A. Councilman Richard Alarcon"

Always great to talk with Soumya Karlamanga of the Los Angeles Times for this article. 

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who studies election laws, said she thinks Lomeli's decision to give jail time "sends a message that we're serious about these kinds of convictions." She said she thinks Alarcon's sentence will have an effect on reducing residency law crimes in the Los Angeles region, and that only "people that possess an enormous amount of hubris" will still try to lie about where they live to run for office.

"Mirkarimi domestic violence issue haunts Assembly race"

Great to talk to Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle for this article

“I don’t think you can over-politicize domestic violence,” she said. “I think it’s a very political issue, as we’ve seen.”
Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University who specializes in election and governance issues, said it’s not surprising to see the issue become front and center in the race, considering its emotional nature and the fact that linking a candidate’s name with a domestic abuse case “loses votes.”
“This is all about what gets voters’ attention,” she said. “The mere association with domestic violence can be harmful.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Carefree Gov. Brown vetoes freely, ruffling some fellow Democrats"

Wonderful to talk to Melody Gutierrez of the San Francisco Chronicle for this article. 

“You are seeing 'Dem vs. Dem’ vetoes,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law and governance at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s symbolic of the fact he’s not scared of the California Legislature and he thinks he can work with them regardless if he vetoes certain bills.”
During his current term, Brown's four-year track record with vetoes moves him closer to the 15 percent to 16 percent average veto rate of his Republican gubernatorial predecessors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian and former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis
Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed an average of 26 percent of the bills sent to him during his seven years in office.
“It is one of the most aggressive moves a governor can make,” Levinson said. “It’s an act of confidence in oneself to veto.”

"Trailing in polls, California candidate offers scholarships, gift cards"


Wonderful to speak with Sharon Bernstein of Reuters for this article. 

Trailing in the polls and getting little media coverage, California's Republican candidate for governor handed out $40,000 in scholarships on Tuesday, just two weeks after offering gift cards to attendees at a campaign event.
Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official who is challenging popular Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in the lopsidedly Democratic state, is offering the incentives as his campaign trails Brown's by double digits in the weeks before November's election.
"Candidates spend money to reach the voters and get support and that’s what he’s doing," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "It’s just more in your face than what we typically see."

"California power regulator to exit amid criticism"

Great to speak with Ellen Knickmeyer of the AP for this one

Brown is headed into a November re-election ballot with a wide lead over his little-known Republican challenger. He had nothing to gain politically from taking public note of a scandal that still was below many voters' radar, said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola University law professor, political analyst and vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

Brown late last month vetoed ethics bills — regulating campaign donations and gifts — that lawmakers had presented in response to other political scandals.

"I don't think that he's running on a pro-reform platform right now," Levinson noted. With Peevey stepping aside, "Brown's breezy re-election has just gotten even breezier."

"Here’s Why Gwyneth Paltrow Doesn’t Belong in Politics"

To meet Obama, to tell him that “it would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass,” all that was needed was a $15,000 dinner ticket. The issue is not whether Paltrow is a working mother or not, but that she has the power to tell the president that, unlike so many American voters. “He’s not out there meeting ordinary people. He’s out there listening to the views of those who can afford to give him lots of money,” Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance researcher at Loyola Law School, told The Guardian last year. “Over time, this is bound to have a distorting [effect] on your views of the world.”

...

In fact, according campaign finance experts, the growth of presidential solicitation shows how fundraising has become a permanent and dangerous fixture of American politics. Since the Reagan administration, the number of fundraising events attended by sitting presidents has been increasing. That trend is dangerous because “the downside of all this time spent away from office is the time the president is not doing his job as chief executive, promoting legislation or working with Congress,” Levinson told The Guardian. “As more money is dropped into the political process it has become a self-perpetuating cycle, requiring politicians to spend ever more time seeking donations rather than governing. It’s an imperfect use of his time.”

More here

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Jessica Levinson sits in for Ian Masters"

I had a great time guest hosting Background Briefing on Monday. Wonderful speak with Dahlia Liwthwick about the Supreme Court, Jean Merl about politics in California, and Jojo Liu about the juvenile justice system. Audio is here
 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SCOTUS, SSM, Politics, and Criminal Justice

Last night I had the opportunity to guest host a radio program. In the program I had the honor of speaking with Dahlia Lithwick of Slate about the Supreme Court and same sex marriage, Jean Merl of the Los Angeles Times about politics in California, and Jojo Liu of Loyola Law School about the juvenile justice system. The audio recording to the program is here.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Metro to rename rail stations for Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina"

Nice to speak with Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times for this piece

Some government ethics experts say the decision could raise eyebrows. It's wiser for public agencies to wait until an elected official has left office, then use the "Mt. Rushmore test," weighing whether his or her work has stood the test of time, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School.

"Even if this is done with good intentions, it makes sense to wait for them to cycle off the board," Levinson said.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Jerry Brown vetoes California political ethics bills"

A pleasure to speak with David Siders at the Sacramento Bee for this piece.
Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said much of the legislation made “great talking points on the campaign trail” but was so minor that, even if enacted, it would not “change the way business is done in Sacramento.”
“There was this reaction like, everybody needs an ethics bill,” she said.




Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2014/09/30/3567530/jerry-brown-vetoes-california.html#storylink=cpy

"Statewide ban on disposable plastic bags is signed into law by Brown"

Great to talk to Melanie Mason for this piece in the Los Angeles Times

But Jessica Levinson, an election-law professor at Loyola Law School, disagreed, saying Brown was right to reject lawmakers' "knee-jerk reaction" to the recent scandals, which included federal corruption charges as well as perjury and voter fraud convictions for the other.

"There was a lot of political will to propose ethics reform," she said, "but Jerry Brown … understands that more regulation isn't always good regulation.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Passion at polls? Democrats look to widen Sacramento advantage"

Great to talk to Melody Gutierrez for this one

Jessica Levinson, a law professor who teaches political ethics at Loyola University of Los Angeles, said the criminal cases could help Republicans this election.

“It’s a great talking point to voters to say 8 percent of the state Senate faced indictment or conviction and they were all Democrats,” Levinson said. “They were three separate scenarios that happened at the same time, but we have six more weeks to go and I think that’s something we will hear more about.”
...
While candidates work hard to mobilize voters, Levinson said there appears to be an overall apathy.
“The story line is we are fighting so hard to get a few voters out,” she said. “I think we are going to see record low voter turnout. It’s sort of the, 'Oh, yeah, we have an election’ election.”

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Walmart's Plan To Encourage Political Donations Violates Election Law, Groups Claim"

Great to speak with Jillian Berman for this one in the Huffington Post. 
Though the FEC commissioners probably didn't envision a setup like Walmart's when they first approved charitable matching donations, that doesn't mean it's illegal, according to Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, who studies election law.
"Does the ratio raise some eyebrows? Yes. Does this directly fly in the face of the statute? I don't think so," Levinson said. "Welcome to the world of campaign-finance laws, where no one knows what loopholes will be used."

"E-mails suggest Mike Honda’s staff mixed fundraising, House work"

Always wonderful to speak with Carla Marinucci. Click here for the story. 

'Pay to play’
Jessica Levinson, a law professor who teaches political ethics at Loyola University of Los Angeles, said the e-mails are suggestive of “pay to play” politics.
“As far as I can see, those are clear violations and worth talking about,” she said.
But she said the impact on Honda’s campaign — even if it is found to be a violation — could be minimal because voters have become numb to the connection between campaign donations and official business.
“Voters say, 'Tell me something I don’t know,’” she said. “They say, 'Of course they’re organizing their official duties according to what will benefit their campaign — and of course, people with more money will have access to more officials,’” Levinson said.
Not hot-button issue
“But campaign finance and election law issues don’t really get people to the polls.” Levinson said. “It’s more about, 'What have you done for me lately?’”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Red-light camera contractor spent thousands on meals for Sacramento County and CHP employees"

Great to speak with Tony Bizjak of the Sac Bee for this one.

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, a government ethics expert, said the scenario doesn’t appear to be illegal but that it does prompt questions about whether the contract process was fair.

“Even if it is not a corrupt relationship, it doesn’t look good,” said Levinson, who is a member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. “It tells a story of a company trying to curry favor with the government and tells the public that government is where people go who can pay to play.”






Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/21/6723295/red-light-camera-contractor-spent.html#storylink=cpy

Expand free speech by limiting political money

Here is my latest op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. 

Here is an excerpt:

But I have something to tell you. There is no tooth fairy, Santa Claus does not exist, and money is not speech. Seriously, it just isn’t. Money facilitates speech. Money allows politicians and political committees and others to reach a wider audience with greater frequency. Let’s stop this nonsense. Money and speech should not be treated as equivalent.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/21/6721114/jessica-a-levinson-expand-free.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Neel Kashkari speech in 'hangover slot' at state GOP convention"


Always wonderful to speak with Carla Marinucci.

"That's the hangover slot," said Jessica Levinson, a law school professor who teaches political ethics at Loyola University of Los Angeles.
The prime speaking slots, which traditionally garner the most media coverage, are going to a pair of nationally prominent Republicans. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a possible presidential candidate in 2016, will star at the Saturday luncheon, and newly named House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield will headline the Saturday evening dinner.
Kashkari, on the other hand, is being grouped in the Sunday post-breakfast general assembly with other candidates for statewide office.
With polls showing Kashkari 21 points behind Gov. Jerry Brown and running on fumes against the Democrat's $22 million bankroll, it may be no mystery why he isn't getting star billing or more robust grassroots backing, Levinson said.
"I do think he's trying to move the party toward the center," she said. "But a candidate who will lose badly and is not being embraced by the party is not revolutionizing."
Levinson said that among activist Republicans, there's more excitement for other statewide candidates like Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, running for state controller - who will speak at a Friday night event highlighting GOP women - and secretary of state candidate Pete Peterson, because both are within comfortable distance of their Democratic opponents.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Jerry Brown surges ahead with the 'non-campaign' campaign"

Always wonderful to talk to Carla Marinucci of the SF Chron. More on Jerry Brown's non-campaign here. 

Brown's strategy is "a non-campaign, which makes it a very smart campaign," said Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics as a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
The 76-year-old Brown, who first held statewide office in 1971, "doesn't need to introduce himself" to voters, Levinson said. "He has better name recognition than anyone else in the state. His platform is totally known. He's been governing since the Earth cooled."
And clearly, she said, "he's running against someone people don't even know."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"New finance disclosure tool lists top campaign spenders"

Wonderful to speak with Melanie Mason at the Los Angeles Times for this piece. 

Jessica A. Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School, said the format of the top 10 supporters and opponents “is a way of getting the voters cues about what these ballot measures really do.”

“Most voters will figure [for example] ‘my interests are generally aligned with Realtors or environmentalists,’” she said. “For a lot of people, that shortcut is a lot more useful than going through the proposed language [of the measure], which is frankly not as accessible.”

The law also seeks to curb anonymous political spending by requiring an organization to reveal its donors if it spends or contributes at least $50,000 in one year or more than $100,000 in four consecutive years.

"Prosecutors ask judge to sentence Richard Alarcon to 180 days in jail"

Great to talk with Soumya Karlamangla for this piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School, said the recommended sentence for Alarcon seems reasonable given the nature of the crime. Because these aren't violent crimes, prosecutors are less likely to push for the maximum possible sentence, she said.

"In a lot of ways, the victory is the conviction," she said. "It's the idea that you did this, you broke the law, that's a problem, and you will face some sort of punishment."

Friday, September 5, 2014

"California Debate: No Knockout Moment for Kashkari"

Great to speak with Alejandro Lazo at the WSJ for this one.

“He showed himself to be a very prepared and articulate debater. I don’t know what Neel Kashkari is going to run for next, but I don’t think he hurt his cause,” said Jessica A. Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who focuses on government.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Obama approval rating slumping even in bluest of the blue California"

Great to talk to Dan Wood of the Christian Science Monitor for this one

Whatever the cause, a slump in popularity in the bluest of the blue states "may mean that President Obama's coattails are increasingly small," says Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"GOP challenger tries novel tactics against Brown"

Wonderful to speak with Juliet Williams of the AP for this article. 

"He's been independent enough to convince them to come out for him, so add that to name recognition, being an incumbent and fundraising prowess, and I think you have a very strong incumbent," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles with expertise in state politics.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article1320473.html#storylink=cpy

"California senators’ final-month fundraising down from 2013"

Good to talk to Jim Miller of the Sac Bee for this one.
Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said she expects senators’ fundraising to be back to normal as soon as the session ends.
“I think the purpose of the prohibition isn’t to limit the total amount of money,” Levinson said of the Senate end-of-session restrictions. “It’s because there’s something so unseemly about money being raised so close in time to votes.”

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/08/27/4090673/california-senators-final-month.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, August 29, 2014

"California State Senators Roderick Wright, Ron Calderon use campaign money to pay legal fees"

Quoted in this one in the Daily Breeze. 

But Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School, said legal defense funds aren’t all bad.
“I think that people who avail themselves in a public forum are more susceptible to suits,” Levinson said.
“Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright are not the poster children (for legal defense funds),” she said. “There are other situations to allow legislators to raise funds so they don’t have to bankrupt themselves to defend lawsuits.” Calderon has received contributions from PG and E: $7,500; Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a political action committee that receives most of its money from large corporations, $5,000; BNSF Railroad, $3,000; and Independent Insurance PAC, $3,000.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"How Jerry Brown ‘free ranges’ for advice"

Great to talk to David Siders at the Sac Bee for this one

There is also no official list of the people Brown consults, and “the public has no idea who these people are,” said Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at Loyola Law School inLos Angeles.
To Levinson, though, this concern is tempered by the breadth of opinions Brown solicits.
“The fact that there are a lot of people should be comforting,” she said. “No one person has a stranglehold over a specific issue.”




Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/24/6649492/how-jerry-brown-free-ranges-for.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why shouldn't California voters get to weigh in on Citizens United?

My latest op-ed in the Los Angeles Times is now up.

Here is the first paragraph:

Got an opinion about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission? Feel free to weigh in, just not on the November ballot.

LA Ethics Commission "wants L.A. to look at using prizes to boost voter turnout"

Good to talk to David Zahniser at the Los Angeles Times for this one.

Monday, August 11, 2014

California Supreme Court Ruling on Prop 49

California Supreme Court rules on Prop 49, the Citizens United advisory measure here.

"Corporate Lobby ALEC Aims at U.S. City Councils With New Group"

Good to talk to Tim Jones at Bloomberg News for this one.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in local government,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in campaign finance.
Levinson said that for the new group, “privatization makes perfect sense, working hand in glove with corporations makes perfect sense, moving the agenda or expanding the agenda to county and city makes perfect sense.”
... 

As for the American City County Exchange, its next goals are gathering more members and honing ideas to pitch to local officials, Russell said.
“People are realizing that a lot of work happens at the local level,” said Loyola’s Levinson.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

LA County Sheriff's Race: Jim McDonnell v. Paul Tanaka

Here is my interview on ABC7.


"On heels of big lawsuits, teacher tenure looms as a likely 2016 presidential issue"

More here.

Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, argues that tenure could at the very least be part of the 2016 debate, considering the country’s public education system in general is “always a talking point.”

Moreover, she argues, Americans continue to wrestle with the difficult question: “How do we give our kids a good education while retaining the best people and getting rid of the bad ones?”

...

“Liberals and Democrats typically understand that teachers unions will support them,” Levinson said earlier this week. “But it’s definitely a difficult situation for them. They have to thread the needle... Republicans never thought they would get that support.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Gov. Brown's Mexico trip provides business, lobbying opportunities"

Good to talk to Chris Megerian for this piece with Melanie Mason. 

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said that changing how the trips were funded wouldn't stop special interest money from flowing to politicians in other ways.

"I don't see a perfect solution here," she said.

"Sacramento, where water hogs like Nestlé profit and residents pay fines."

Great to talk to Cosmo Gavin of the News Review for this.

“My No. 1 reaction is, ’Wow that’s really awkward,’” says Jessica Levinson, an election-law expert and professor at Loyola Law School.

The fact the city pays someone to assist Johnson’s private organizations already raises a few ethical issues. But can anyone reasonably, honestly say that Cassandra Jennings’ job will carry no weight whatsoever when Rick Jennings is asked to vote on the mayor’s agenda?

Of course not. Still, like much of what this council does, it’s dubious but not flat-out illegal. “The question really becomes one of wisdom and appearance,” says Levinson. After all, if the city attorney didn’t see a problem, it must technically be OK, right?

Still, Levinson says, “People are entitled to ask whether their representatives are serving two masters.” They may or may not get answer. Neither Jennings nor the mayor’s office responded by press time.

"In Kern County, Voting Rights Bill Meets Opposition"

Great to talk to Kerry Klein of Valley Public Radio for this one.

Last week, the Kern County Board of Supervisors went on record against AB 280.  It’s a California bill that would require counties with high minority populations to get approval from Sacramento before making major changes in election procedure. 
For instance, before moving a polling site location, Kern County would need to get the ok from the California Secretary of State to ensure that it’s not discriminating against minorities and low-income voters.
Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez says that would be far too costly.
Perez: "The process by which the county would have to engage in determining these sites, getting them to the Secretary of State very early on, would really impose a remarkable burden on our elections division, it would be very expensive."
According to Perez, moving polling locations could cost the county as much as $700,000 per major election.  She says the county supports the spirit of the bill, but it’s just not practical.
At this point, Kern County has no say in whether or not the bill passes.  But Jessica Levinson of Loyola Law School says the county’s opposition is more than symbolic.
Levinson: "Kern County coming out and saying this is going to be too costly, it’s going to be too time consuming, could give some politicians who are predisposed not to want to vote for the bill anyway, some cover, or it could sway some people who are on the fence."
Levinson says that in some jurisdictions, legislation that protects voters is needed—and that some states are already feeling the vacuum left behind by the federal Voting Rights Act.
Levinson: "That’s why we see so many voting rights changes.  We see elimination of early voting, we see changes in registration laws, we see a number of states implementing voter ID. So we see a lot of proposals or laws that make voting more difficult."
Under the federal Voting Rights Act, 4 California counties had been singled out as needing voter protections. Under AB 280, any county with a minority population of more than 20% would qualify.
AB 280 has passed the State Assembly and is currently in the Senate.

"On heels of big lawsuits, teacher tenure looms as a key 2016 presidential issue"

Wonderful to talk to Joe Weber at Fox News for this one.

Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, argues that tenure could at the very least be part of the 2016 debate, considering the country’s public education system in general is “always a talking point.”

Moreover, she argues, Americans continue to wrestle with the difficult question: “How do we give our kids a good education while retaining the best people and getting rid of the bad ones?”

...

“Liberals and Democrats typically understand that teachers unions will support them,” Levinson said earlier this week. “But it’s definitely a difficult situation for them. They have to thread the needle... Republicans never thought they would get that support.”