Saturday, September 26, 2015

"California Ballot Measure to Revolutionize Disclosure of Political Money"

Honored to have been asked to weigh in on this. 

"The public has the right to know who is spending money to try to sway their ballot box decisions. If money is speech, voters must know who is speaking to them," Jessica Levinson Clinical Professor of Law at Loyola Law School.

"GOP debate is a tug-of-war for the Reagan mantle"

Always such fun to speak with Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle (soon to be moving to Politico).

Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, says winning the rights to the Reagan legacy isn’t even much of a contest.

“Who is the the next Ronald Reagan?’’ she asks. “None of them. It’s like, ‘Will the real Slim Shady please stand up,?’” evoking a famed question from rapper Eminem’s landmark work.

‘Movie star quality’

That’s because the vaunted Reagan shadow looms large over the culture, and the country — both among Republicans who hold him in awe, or Democrats who often hold him in contempt, she said.

“There was a movie star quality about him that appealed to the nation then,” in a way that will likely never be replicated in the age of social media, she said.

To his party, Reagan is still revered for his “ability to inspire, to make us feel better about the country we live in,” Levinson said. “And whether you think he was a positive or a negative, he did represent a sea change in terms of our expectations of what government should do for us — a paradigm shift.”

"Moderate Assembly Democrats emerge as powerful pro-business force"

Great to speak with Jessica Calefati for this piece. 

"Sophisticated, well-funded special interests are playing a long game," said Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance expert and Loyola Law School professor. "It makes a lot of sense to invest early in people who are attuned to your needs and are in position to vote your way when the time comes."

"Investigation: Candidates enrich themselves with campaign cash, gifts, travel"

Terrific to speak with Rachel Baye for this one

Even when legal, some expenses still might not be appropriate, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who specializes in campaign finance.
“The line should be drawn a bit more stringently to really say these are funds that were given to allow you, legislator, to get your message out to obtain voters, and these aren't funds that were given out so that you could obtain personal perks,” said Levinson, also president of Los Angeles' Ethics Commission. “A lot of what we're seeing here looks more like personal perks than bona fide governmental or legislative purposes.”

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"Carson mayor under investigation for not filing disclosure reports with the state"

Great to speak with Nathan Fenno, Paul Pringle, and Richard Winton on the Los Angeles Times for this one

Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor and president of the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, said it was unusual for an elected official to not file multiple statements, as opposed to submitting one past the deadline. "A penalty may very well be appropriate," Levinson said.

"San Jose commission will investigate nearly the entire City Council"

Great to talk to Ramona Giwargis of the San Jose Mercury News for this one

But a political ethics expert said the commission made a fair decision. "A comprehensive investigation seems like a rational response to the allegations," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Marne Foster’s ‘a Mother First’ – for Better or Worse

Good to speak with Mario Koran of the Voice of San Diego for this piece.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and vice president of the L.A. Ethics Commission, was more frank.
“What she did was clearly inappropriate,” she said. “I mean, is it treason? No. But when we take a step back and look at why we even create ethical rules, they’re meant for situations like this.” 

Compton mayor's charity tie-in to State of the City talk raises eyebrows

Good to speak with Angel Jennings for this important piece in the Los Angeles Times. 

Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School and president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, said that charities that receive payment at politicians' behest should be scrutinized to ensure they are legitimate.

"You look for certain things, like is it closely associated with the politician or her family," she said. "In this case, yes it is.... The closer the nonprofit is to financially benefiting the politician, the more problematic it is."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

L.A. wants more details about business groups that donate to city campaigns

More great reporting by Emily Alpert Reyes for this piece in the Los Angeles Times. 

At a meeting Wednesday, commissioners said they wanted city staffers to come up with ways to require corporations, limited liability companies and other "non-individual" campaign donors to publicly disclose more information about who controls them. The concern, said commission President Jessica Levinson, is that "it is really difficult to follow the money."


Levinson said such information was useful, but that it didn't address the broader question of whether such donations were sufficiently transparent to the public.

Can Carly Fiorina overcome past political failures?

Great to speak with Kathleen Gray for this piece in USA Today.

“She had no record of civic engagement, she hadn’t voted or held a political office. There was a perception that she had jumped over people and not paid her dues,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor with an emphasis on election law at Loyola University in Los Angeles. She also described the demon sheep ad as a "hail mary."

"We’re still talking about it, but it smacked of a political novice’s desperation,” Levinson said.


But that’s not going to work in a presidential campaign, Levinson predicted.

“Her experiences have not been rousing successes. Her biggest success has been the debate and by all accounts she won that,” she said. “She might be good enough for a vice presidential pick, but in terms of fundraising numbers and poll numbers, it’s still not good enough for the nomination.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"The insulting view of ‘the women’s vote’"

My latest op-ed is up in the Sacramento Bee. 

Here is the conclusion:

When asked about Donald Trump’s boorish and sexist comments toward women, Jeb Bush responded, “Do we want to insult 53 percent of all voters?” The assumption is that only women will be turned off by such comments. Apparently insulting women is just another “women’s issue.”

Read more here:

"Compton officials deny improperly inflating pay; D.A. investigation ongoing"

Good to talk to Marisa Gerber and Angel Jennings of the Los Angeles Times for this one.

Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School who serves on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, said Compton officials should work to change the city's charter if they want to pay themselves more.

"There are tons of laws that aren't indexed for inflation," Levinson said. "But that doesn't mean you just decide to work around them."

Saturday, August 22, 2015

"Trump's call to end abuse of US birthright citizenship divides GOP field, legal experts"

Great to speak with Joe Weber of Fox News for this one

“Trump thinks ‘our country is going to hell.’ Well, there is likely little more than a chance in hell that we are going to amend the Constitution,” Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola University of Los Angeles, said Wednesday. “Amending the Constitution is one of the most serious things that lawmakers can do. Therefore the path to doing it is rightfully arduous. I would put the chances … as beyond a longshot."

However, Levinson questions whether enough Americans will buy the argument.

“It may be politically popular with a certain segment of the electorate, but I do not believe this is a mainstream view,” she said, arguing two-thirds of Americans support a path to citizenship or permanent legal status for illegal immigrants. “This is an argument that is likely to gain traction in the primary elections, but I think it could be viewed quite differently in the general election."

"Tense times in government offices after Ashley Madison email leak"

Nice to speak with Abby Sewell for this piece in the Los Angeles Times. 

"Work email is created and set up and funded by the employer — in this case, the government — and it's inappropriate to use government email for personal purposes," said Jessica Levinson, a law professor and member of the city ethics commission.

Friday, August 21, 2015

"Compton officials have been illegally inflating their pay, district attorney says"

Always a pleasure to speak with Angel Jennings of the Los Angeles Times

Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School, said the D.A.’s letter raises question about the meetings’ merit.

“It makes the advisory board meetings frankly sound like scam meetings,” Levinson said. “The D.A.’s office is saying they don’t pass the smell test.”

"Is this woman the new Lois Lerner?"

Spoke with Rudy Takala of the Washington Examiner for this one

Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance attorney and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, disagrees, saying that an odd number of commissioners would be a good thing. "Given the gridlock and inaction that we've seen from the FEC over the past few years, I think that is an idea well with exploring. It is quite clear that the FEC is not functioning as is, and therefore that there is really no watchdog at the federal level. There is a reason that when appellate judges make decisions they sit on three-judge panels. For the same reason, there are nine Supreme Court Justices."

Monday, August 17, 2015

"Ticketed and towed: Owner of minivan hopes his court victory inspires others"

Great to talk with Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times for this piece.

Requiring that local governments post signs for every law on the books could "open a Pandora's Box" that would reach far beyond the 72-hour parking restriction, said Jessica Levinson, an associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

From watering a lawn on a restricted day to not signaling a left-hand turn, "there are things we do every day that are legal or illegal and don't have a sign to advertise them," Levinson said. The Court of Appeals could accept the overturned citation as new evidence, she said. "But honestly, a traffic court's decision having any bearing?" she said. "I guess I'm kind of dubious."

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Talking about the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

Looking forward to discussing the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, early voting, same day voter registration, gerrymandering, and more at 5:20 pm with Ian Masters on KPFK.

"L.A. hits the brakes on plan to allow Uber at LAX"

Good to talk with Alice Walton (aka @TheCityMaven) of the Los Angeles Times for this piece.

“In general, I think most campaign contributions and expenditures on lobbying are business judgments and the idea is that you spend money because you want to influence those who are making decisions that affect you, and that’s not necessarily evil,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School.

“Influence can also be a synonym for educate but I think that it kind of strains common sense to say campaign and lobbying money isn’t about trying to obtain favorable decisions,” she said.

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Inglewood files suit over disparaging videos of City Council meetings"

Good to talk to Angel Jennings of the Los Angeles Times for this piece

Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School, questions the suit's merits. "It looks like the city is using taxpayers funds to try to insulate itself from criticism," she said.

Experts note that in copyright cases, judges often order the loser to pay the winner's attorney fees, which could increase the cost to taxpayers.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"Is GOP resurrecting its ‘war on women’ image?"

More in this piece by Carla Marinucci in the San Francisco Chronicle

Jessica Levinson, a professor of politics and ethics at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, says she’s not surprised that the GOP rhetoric over Planned Parenthood has ramped up, as more than a dozen presidential candidates aim to raise their poll numbers.

Defunding Planned Parenthood “may be a winner” for Republican candidates intent on energizing voters and donors and for “trying to get some of the oxygen away from Donald Trump,” who has big-footed their presidential race, she says.

GOP senators, including presidential candidates Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, are demanding a vote on defunding the organization as early as Monday — Cruz has even raised the threat of a government shutdown this fall over the issue.

Levinson says they — and their party — could pay the price in the general election next year. “This is not going to make a lot of new friends with female voters and young voters,” she said.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

"School Board President Solicits Funds for Kids — Her Own"

This piece via Mario Koran of the Voice of San Diego.

"How ethics probe of Rep. Mike Honda will play in 2016 election"

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

Law Professor Jessica Levinson, who specializes in ethics and politics at Loyola Law School of Los Angeles, said history shows it’s unusual for the House to investigate one of its own, let alone extend the process or reprimand a member. “You almost have to come to the House Ethics (committee) with a smoking gun and say, ‘I just fired it,’” she said.
Levinson, the law professor, said that if such allegations are true, Honda’s behavior presents serious questions about a “course of conduct” in office. House rules demand “you don’t have a ‘binder’ of donors, you don’t have your staffers do personal work on the government’s dime, and you can’t force staffers to do government work using your parents’ car to squire you around town,” she said.

"Sacramento mayor’s takeover of national group was ‘messy’"

Good to talk disclosure and transparency for this piece in the Sacramento Bee.

Loyola Law School professor and political ethics expert Jessica Levinson said Johnson’s national activities are not problematic if they help the city. “In an ideal world, there is something concrete where you can tell people this is how spending this money (on city staff and travel) helped you beyond the broad platitude that it helped put the city on the map.”

Read more here:

Sunday, July 19, 2015

"How a friendship between a California politician and a billionaire could shape climate policy"

Wonderful to speak with Laurel Rosenhall for the debut of Calmatters

This kind of coalescence is common in American politics, where campaign spending gives some advocates an outsized voice, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who sits on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. “This is the story of politicians and their benefactors,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s nefarious ... This is just the way it is. You get meetings and people pay attention because you can write checks that have a lot of zeros.”

Saturday, July 11, 2015

"Appeals Court Rips State Attorney for Misconduct at Trial"

Nice speaking with Brian Melley of the AP for this piece

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson said the ruling was unusual in its anger, but seemed warranted based on descriptions of Bilotti's conduct.
"It could be that (Caltrans) should have won, but look what harm you did to your client, look what harm you did to yourself," Levinson said. "Attorneys push the boundaries, and that's different than just flagrantly going against the court and, frankly, just disrespecting the court."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Aide To California Senate Leader Accepted Pot Gifts From Marijuana Lobbyist

Good to talk with Amanda Chicago Lewis of BuzzFeed for this
Loyola Law School professor and Vice President of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission Jessica Levinson agreed, saying she felt that having an adviser who is not under contract directly with the legislature and therefore is not subject to gift limits seemed to show a violation of the intent and spirit of the law.
“If it’s permissible, it shouldn’t be,” said Levinson. “He seems to be holding himself out as working for the Senate pro tem and enjoying the benefits of working for Kevin de León but not the burdens. Along with the privilege and power of working for a state senator, particularly one in leadership, comes certain responsibilities, and chief among those is filing disclosure reports and being subject to a variety of restrictions.”

Sunday, July 5, 2015

S.F. killing sparks national outrage, likely political fallout

Spoke to the terrific Carla Marinucci for this piece

“Politically, the timing is great for Trump, because he has this heinous crime to point to, a tragic incident that appears to be the poster child that he’s right,” she said. “But the truth is that undocumented immigrants are going to commit crimes ... as will the people who are born here.”

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Supreme vitriol in high court’s dissents

Great to talk with Bob Elegko for this piece by John Diaz in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Their affection for one another was certainly not reflected in the past two weeks of opinions. As Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson put it to my colleague Bob Egelko last week: “Justice Roberts is invested in upholding the integrity of the institution, and Justice Scalia is calling his colleagues morons.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court upholds redistricting by independent panels

Great to speak with Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle for this piece

The court majority was clearly aware that a contrary decision “would also call into question a host of other laws using direct democracy to affect congressional elections,” said Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

California GOP benefits from redistricting decision as bigger case looms

Wonderful to talk to Cathleen Decker of the Los Angeles Times for this piece

"In Arizona, the Republicans are upset today, but in California the Democrats might be a little less happy than they might have been otherwise," said Jessica A. Levinson, clinical professor of law at Loyola Law School, who specializes in election law. "Redistricting can sometimes make for strange bedfellows."


"The independent redistricting commissions typically do make life and elections harder for incumbents," Levinson said. "The losers today are self-interested incumbents."

Supreme Court rules that citizens commissions can draw congressional districts

My latest op-ed is in today's Sacramento Bee.

Monday, June 29, 2015

"Supreme Court upholds Arizona political map"

Great to speak with Rebekah Sanders of the Arizona Republic for this piece.

Election-law professor Jessica Levinson said she was surprised by the ruling after arguments in March appeared to favor the Legislature.

"I thought that they would give the constitutional provision a strict and narrow reading," said Levinson, of Loyola Law School. "I thought this was going to be another one of the cases where the court undermines voters rights and protections. This seems like it's a validation of citizens' ability to use their lawmaking power through the process of direct democracy."

After marriage, LGBT activists prepare for next challenge

Always a true pleasure to talk with Carla Marinucci of the SF Chronicle. 

Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says it is clear that “even if you have the right to be married, it doesn’t mean you are free from all discrimination — so the next frontier will be looking at discrimination laws.”

“You have to give couples the same rights in employment ... in hospital visits, and there are other instances of discrimination. It’s not the only question,” she said, “but it may be the biggest.”

More here. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"O.C. college district foundation closer to OKing Saudi consulting deal"

Great 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 even if it was an honest mistake there are consequences to violating open meeting laws.

"The public is injured when there is a Brown Act violation like this," she said. "The public is deprived from taking part in their government's decisions."

Supreme Court upholds another challenge to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)

The 6-3 decision, written by CJ Roberts, is here.

The Court rules that subsidies are available to those who bought their insurance on the federal exchange.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Cost of a Seat: California Legislators Raise More than $1,000 a Day

Great to talk to Marisa Lagos of KQED for this post. 

And they don’t even take into account the millions of dollars spent by independent outside groups to influence these legislative races, said campaign finance expert and Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson. Even though she studies these issues, Levinson said the numbers surprised her.

“That is an astronomical amount of money to raise every day,” she said. “It’s not just the absolute value of the money — which is high — but it takes a lot of time to raise money.”

Levinson noted that there are “only 24 hours in a day,” so fundraising must take attention away from other duties.

“You are either not sleeping or not legislating for a lot of time,” she said.

You also have to factor in campaign contribution limits, Levinson added. In 2014, legislative candidates could receive a maximum of $4,100 from an individual or business entity.

“Because we have contribution limits, you have to go to a lot of different people and ask for money to raise those amounts — so you are left, in effect, owing a lot of people,” she said. “The other thing is, who are you talking to when you are fundraising constantly? Only people who can give you money.”

California 'Kill the Gays' ballot blocked

Good to talk to Anita Chabria of the Guardian for this piece.

Professor Jessica Levinson of Loyola Law School said: “I am a little surprised because of the tradition, in California in particular, that we wait until measures are passed before ruling on their constitutionality. What we have here is a judge who is laying out a ruling saying that there is no world in which this is valid, so we are not going to waste our time. So it’s a very strong statement from both the attorney general and the judge.” 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"California Gov. Jerry Brown notches another budget victory"

Great to speak with John Wildermuth of the San Francisco Chronicle for this one

“For voters, 2008 is still in the public memory,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “They still remember the days of deep budget cuts and state IOUs.”
The governor can get away with issuing ultimatums and brushing aside legislators’ concerns because he’s, well, Jerry Brown, said Levinson. After decades as a high-visibility player in California politics, a record 13 years as governor and a reputation, deserved or not, for reversing the state’s financial woes, voters are far more comfortable with his plans for the state’s future than those of little-known, term-limited legislators.
Democrats, at least for now, can only make the best of what the governor gives them, she added.
Legislative leaders “can agree that they pushed for more programs, but you didn’t see them fight too hard for them,” Levinson said. “This is Jerry Brown’s budget.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Kevin Johnson’s push for more staff reflects continued national ambitions"

Great to talk with Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee for this piece
Loyola Law School professor and political ethics expert Jessica Levinson said that like many other big city mayors, Johnson has made no secret of his desire to increase both his own and the city’s national profile. And that’s not problematic, as long as he’s “not just trying to make a name for himself,” she said.
“You want to make sure you are raising your profile to help the city, not raising the profile to help yourself,” she said. “In an ideal world, there is something concrete where you can tell people this is how spending this money (on city staff and travel) helped you beyond the broad platitude that it helped put the city on the map.”

Read more here:

"Measuring the impact of new rule preventing 'pay to play' in fighting traffic fines"

Great to be on KPCC's AirTalk to discuss.

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.