Monday, May 25, 2015

"California Assembly leaders single-handedly dictate spending"

Great to talk to Fenit Nirappil of the AP for this piece.

“This allows one person to have complete power of the purse strings,” said Jessica Levinson, a government ethics expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

"Arcadia City Attorney Responds to Criticism of Council’s Nonpublic Decisions"

More here

Jessica Levinson, a governance attorney and professor at Loyola University Law School, took issue with Deitsch’s policy versus procedural distinction.
“That’s not the distinction that we make to determine a Brown Act exception,” she said in an interview.
“‘In light of pending litigation’ is the hook as to why they should go into closed session, but it strikes me that the decisions they made, whether structural or procedural seem to be attenuated enough from the lawsuit that they could be discussed in a regular open session,” Levinson said. “The purpose [of exceptions] is to allow for a government agency to make litigation decisions in private so that they don’t have to tip their hand to other side, so that all of the normal evidentiary confidentialities can be maintained.”

Sunday, May 24, 2015

"Kevin de León called about job for daughter at nonprofit he helped with bill"

Good to talk to Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times for this article.

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said de León's action appeared inappropriate for an elected official. "Parents pick up the phone for their kids all the time. But they are not leaders of the Senate who are carrying sponsored bills," said Levinson, who is vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

"Water district found itself drowning in steep legal fees"

Good to talk to Ruben Vives of the Los Angeles times for this piece.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who specializes in good governance, said public agencies need to do everything they can to control legal costs.

"You just don't get to take your eyes off the ball, especially when you've paid for an expensive ball," Levinson said.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"Details Hidden on Legislative Lawyers Drafting Bills for Influential Groups"

Great to speak with John Myers of KQED for this piece

“Legislators are outsourcing their jobs to people in the shadows that we don’t know,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor of governance and ethics at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “I think the least they can do is give the public some information.”

"Hacked Sony Emails Reveal Behind-the-Scenes Political Dealings in L.A."

Good to talk to Robert Faturechi of ProPublica for this piece with Jack Dolan of the Los Angeles Times. 

In any case, election law experts said, if a donation is pledged but only publicly revealed after an election, it sidesteps the spirit of disclosure laws. "It deprives the voters of really important information‚...(about) what interests politicians may be beholden to," said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

"Indicted Paul Tanaka expected to ask for leave as mayor of Gardena"

Good to talk with Hailey Branson-Potts of the Los Angeles Times for this article.

Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in good governance, said she does not expect Tanaka to step down as mayor.

“In this case, history has indicated that Paul Tanaka is not going to go quietly into the night,” she said. “My guess is it’s going to take a lot of political pressure for him to step down,” she said, stressing that controversy has not stopped him from seeking public office in the past.

Levinson said that it’s unlikely voters in Gardena, who elected Tanaka even as controversy swirled around him, are unaware of his history. As a result, she said, it remains to be seen whether an indictment would be enough to create a major push among residents to pressure the mayor to step down.

“There have been rumors and discussions and chatter of serious wrongdoing for a very long time, so it cannot be that the voters of Gardena were utterly oblivious to that,” Levinson said. “And they elected him anyway. My guess is that he has a lot of loyal voters who might think he was wronged and might say they want to see the process play out."

"Advocates push lawmakers to help social programs in California budget"

Great to talk to Judy Lin of the AP for this article.

“I don’t think the governor is in a handing-out-money sort of mood,” said Jessica Levinson, who has written about state budgets and teaches at Loyola Law School. “It’s a normal human response to say let’s spend the money. And I think time and time again, he’s hit the brakes on that impulse.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Land deal has been costly debacle for City of Industry

Great to talk with Paul Pringle of the Los Angeles Times for this one. 

"If elected officials steer work to companies in which they or their families have a financial interest, it could represent a misuse of public funds," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies public corruption.

"The mayor should only be making decisions that benefit his constituents, not himself," she said. "It raises a lot of questions about the potential misuse of his position."

"Bills ‘Sponsored’ in Sacramento by Outside Groups Usually Become Law"

Great to speak with John Myers of KQED for this. 

“Whenever people try to influence elected officials, I think it is better for the public to know,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in governance ethics. “When bills are sponsored, the key is to give the public as much information as possible.”

Open wide: California dentists pony up for state Senate candidate

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

Jessica Levinson, who teaches law and political ethics at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, said the dentists’ efforts on Bonilla’s behalf dramatize how state interest groups — just like big national players — rely on special expenditures to boost their legislative agendas.

“It’s the way we do business now in Sacramento. It’s the way we do business in city halls, county seats and the nation’s capital,” Levinson said. “Independent expenditure groups spend money ... because they think candidates will do something beneficial for them.” And for legislators who chair key committees, she said, “It’s 'I have this business before you — and you’re in control of a decision.’”

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.”