Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Alarcon jurors were split, argued for days over criminal charges"

Good to talk to Soumya Karlamangla at the Los Angeles Times for this one.

Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School, said that the jury's decision to convict only selectively on some counts, based on the evidence, indicates they "were very careful" and "spent a lot of time thinking about what the words meant."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"Anti-tax group sues to kick Citizens United advisory measure off ballot"

Wonderful to talk to Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times for this one

Jessica Levinson, a professor of election law at Loyola Law School, said the Howard Jarvis group complaint conveys displeasure with the substance of the measure, as much as it expresses procedural concerns.

"It’s a suit about a California ballot measure – of course it’s going to be as much as about politics as it is about the law," she said.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What is holding up California ethics reform?

Good to talk to Michelle Bergman for this piece
2014 has seen numerous corruption stories in California government. Suspended State Senator Rod Wright awaits sentencing for eight felony counts of perjury and voter fraud. The FBI charged state Senator Ronald Calderon with accepting bribes. And most recently, suspended state Senator Leland Yee was indicted on federal corruption and gun running charges, along with a notorious San Francisco criminal figure memorably known as “Shrimp Boy.” All three senators have been suspended indefinitely.
"If two FBI raids on the Capitol aren’t enough to remind legislators on the importance of government ethics, nothing will be," said Peter DeMarco, a spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus.
The three cases started a public clamor for ethics reform, resulting in several pieces of legislation being introduced earlier this year. But as the San Jose Mercury News reports, enthusiasm for tough ethics reform seems to be waning, despite the stark reminders of the need for public trust in elected officials.
“Right after the scandals happened, everyone had to be in favor of ethics reform. But that was months ago… and months are years in political terms,” said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor specializing in campaign finance law and is also vice president of the L.A. City Ethics Commission.
Since the political drama unfolded in Sacramento, more than twelve ethics reform bills have been introduced. From banning fundraising events at lobbyist’s homes to doubling statutory fines for bribery, these measures all aim to promote greater government transparency and prevent public corruption.
“At a minimum, the legislature has a responsibility to ensure the public’s trust is not broken,” added DeMarco.
But so far the process to ensure the public’s trust has been slow. Many reform bills are being heavily revised or quietly being tucked away.
Take, for example, state Senator Jerry Hill’s proposal to strengthen California’s Political Reform Act. Parts of the proposal, like banning lawmakers from receiving all-expenses paid trips, were eliminated. Or Senate Republican leader Bob Huff’s bill which would prohibit lawmakers from using campaign accounts to finance criminal defense or pay the salaries of relatives, failed to pass a key committee when two Senators withheld their votes.
 With the Legislature essentially policing the activities of their members, Levinson was not surprised by the waning enthusiasm. In addition to their jobs as legislators, they need to raise campaign money.
“Legislators are asking themselves, ‘Do I really want to subject myself to these restrictions?’” said Levinson.
In the wake of the three indictments, CA Fwd, which has been working on reforms to protect public trust for several years, issued the Path Toward Trust which is a set of bipartisan proposals designed to restore public trust in government.
"California legislators work hard and take their jobs seriously," said Phillip Ung, director of public affairs for CA Fwd. "They understand that earning the public's trust is vital to the success of the state."
Ung noted that this legislative session has been productive, with the Legislature approving big issues like an on-time and balanced state budget that continues to pay down debt, and a bipartisan agreement on the constitutional amendment to enact a new budget reserve set to appear on the November 2014 ballot.
"Many voters are hopeful that additional ethics legislation will pass this session," Ung added. "Legislators understand that restoring trust in government is critical."
Trust is critical to Leila Pedersen as well, policy coordinator at California Common Cause. Pedersen argues that, while an ethics reform bill may seem like it doesn’t affect the public directly, it does.
“When a Senator like Leland Yee is arrested by the FBI that has implications on every piece of legislation he has touched,” said Pedersen. "It can compromise education reform, the environment or the economy."
Others added that voters also have a part to play in ethics reform. With a lack of engagement, legislation can simply fall to the wayside.
“Part of this is shame on us. I think there is a feeling that not everyone is watching these reforms to see if anything will happen,” said Levinson.
But something is expected to happen. Some reform bills have passed or are expected to pass. One bill approved by the Senate imposes a blackout period for fundraising during the last four weeks of the legislative session. But for Levinson, these types of bills just skim the surface.
“I think we have to see what would serve a purpose, versus just saying, ‘Well we passed an ethics reform!’”, said Levinson.
Then there is opposition behind the scenes where ethics reform can get complicated.
“Politicians don’t always think like the average voter," said Ung. "Legislators are, for the most part, political elite. They think about problems and they think about unintended consequences."
Those consequences include the ones from a blackout on funding: If applied to only members of the Senate, shouldn’t it also be applied to all government leaders? Or what about candidates running against legislators? Do they get to fundraise while the incumbent isn’t?
“Members put a lot of thought and time into the proposals and if we want to get it right, rushing to get knee jerk response is not going to solve the problem,” said DeMarco.
But maybe it’s not just the thought and time put into ethics reform that has legislators waning. Perhaps, as Levinson says, “It’s a lack of will.”

Law Professor Nominated To California High Court

Great to talk to Katie Orr of Capital Public Radio for this one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

One Ballot Initiative, Six Times the Fun

My op-ed in Fox & Hounds Daily is here

Here is an excerpt:

California is huge. I do not necessarily mean that as a compliment.
California is the nation’s most populous state. More than thirty-eight million people live in the Golden State. That is roughly twelve percent of the nation’s population. Add up the populations in about twenty-one of American’s least populous states and that will still not equal the number of people who live in California.
How many people represent these thirty-eight million people in the state legislature? One hundred and twenty. If that doesn’t seem like much, it is because it isn’t. California has the largest state legislative districts in the country. There are eighty State Assembly Districts (which each hold more than 466,000 residents) and forty State Senate Districts (which each hold more than 931,000 residents).
Want to get cozier with your state senator? You could move to Montana, Vermont, or Wyoming where around 20,000 people live in each state senate district.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

California recounts are rare, and should be fair

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

Here is the first part of the piece:

Until former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez called it off Friday, we were in the midst of what was likely to become the biggest election recount in California history. If anything good comes of this political tempest, it is to remind us how badly we need to reform our recount laws.
The race to be the next state controller was excruciatingly tight. Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, a Republican, is now set to face off against Board of Equalization member Betty Yee. Four hundred eighty-one votes separated Pérez and Yee, both Democrats. After the recount, which cost approximately $30,000, Perez picked up 10 votes.
The way we do recounts in California is, well, a tad unruly. Welcome to the Golden State, where a candidate or other registered voter must request and pay for a recount. And they can choose which precincts will be subject to the recount. 




Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/20/6564890/jessica-a-levinson-time-to-reform.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, July 18, 2014

News from LA: "Jury begins deliberating Alarcon perjury, voter fraud case"

Wonderful to talk to Soumya Karlamangla on this one

"Domicile cases can be a really tough call because you're trying to figure out someone's state of mind," said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School.
Levinson said pieces of evidence like that, which suggest intent, could be enough for the defense to create "reasonable doubt" in the jurors' minds. Before a jury can convict, the law requires it to agree the charges are true "beyond a reasonable doubt."


"The prosecution basically builds a ship and the defense tries to poke enough of a hole to get some leakage," she said

Monday, July 14, 2014

News from Sacramento: "Critics question supervisor’s votes on area where she owns land"

Good to talk to Brian Branan for this one

Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters has voted for dozens of projects at Mather Fielddespite owning land and office space at the former air base – an arrangement that has raised questions by Mather-expansion critics about whether she has a conflict of interest.
... 
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/12/6552331/critics-question-supervisors-votes.html#storylink=cpy

...

But Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on government ethics, said Peters appears to have a financial interest in the Mather votes she has made. Levinson reached that conclusion after The Bee provided her with a description of the votes and she consulted relevant sections of the California Political Reform Act.
“She should not have voted,” Levinson said. “She was within 500 feet and a reasonable person could conclude that she would benefit from the decision, and that is the standard.”




Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/07/12/6552331/critics-question-supervisors-votes.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, July 11, 2014

"California controller's race: Tough fight still lies ahead"

Wonderful to talk to Josh Richman for this one

...

Also, Perez chose not to abide by the state's $5.4 million campaign spending cap, so he couldn't place a candidate statement in the official voter information guide. He never came near hitting the cap, and when voters consulted the guide, the only Democrat they learned about was Yee.
"That is very important in off-year elections. Often times, the people who do bother to vote, that's the only thing they're going to look at," said Jessica Levinson, an election law and governance expert at Loyola Law School.
But Perez goes into the recount looking stronger, given the money he can raise and spend.
Any voter can request a recount in any number of counties in any order, but he or she must pay the costs daily; if the recount changes the election's result, the money is refunded. The request can be for a machine recount or for a by-hand review by election officials. And if the recount changes the tally, the other candidate can then demand a recount, too.
Perez asked for hand recounts in 15 counties where he beat Yee -- in order: Lake, Napa, San Mateo, Stanislaus, Merced, Fresno, Kings, Tulare, Kern, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial -- at an estimated $3 million cost. If he comes out on top and Yee has the option to request her own recount, "she's not going to have the funds to be able to do this," said Rodriguez, who worked on Perez's 2008 Assembly race.
Levinson said that's "very distressing, because getting votes counted should have absolutely nothing to do with financial ability."
"A recount should be a full recount, and it's troublesome to think about cherry-picking votes," she said. "It looks like you're playing politics with the most important right that we have to exercise our power in a democracy."

"Is the Supreme Court Out of Order?"

Watch Dahlia Lithwick and Linda Greenhouse discuss on Bill Moyers.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"Veterans Affairs Still Has A Subpoena Out For The Names Of VA Whistleblowers"

Good to talk to Evan McMorris-Santoro for this one in Buzzfeed. 

“Hearing nothing doesn’t mean they’re doing nothing,” said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola law professor who writes about the intersection of law and politics. “You don’t get to ignore a subpoena,” she added.

Monday, July 7, 2014

"Richard Alarcon's perjury and voter fraud trial to resume this week"

Great to talk to Soumya Karlamangla for this article about former Councilman Alarcon's trial. 

In his ongoing perjury and voter fraud trial, former Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon is seeking to fend off two intertwined lines of attack by prosecutors: that he allegedly lived illegally outside his district and was a career politician who put personal ambition first.
... 
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who studies election laws, said the prosecution wants the jury to conclude that "the Alarcons knew exactly what they were doing."
... 
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who studies election laws, said the prosecution wants the jury to conclude that "the Alarcons knew exactly what they were doing."

"Who pays the most for California government lobbying in Sacramento? Government"

Good to talk to Ben Beeder for this article.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Support wanes in Sacramento for tough ethics reform following scandal"

Good to talk to Jessica Calefati for this one.

After state Sen. Leland Yee's stunning arrest earlier this year, the Legislature's highest-ranking member urged his colleagues to finally fix a long-standing problem in California politics -- the corrupting allure of money.
"Sometimes it takes a crisis," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said after denouncing the San Francisco Democrat's alleged ties to international gunrunning during a speech on the Senate floor.
Since voting to suspend Yee and two other California senators indicted in recent months, Sacramento lawmakers have held a "day of reflection" and considered more than a dozen new pieces of ethics reform legislation. But while support for bills requiring more disclosure of gifts and contributions remains strong, interest in tougher proposals that would restrict politicians' fundraising and access to lavish free trips around the globe has waned significantly in the last three months.
"You can't be against an ethics bill the day after the scandal, but it's no longer the day after the scandal," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in campaign finance law.
Proposals that seek to ban fundraisers at lobbyists' homes, double the amount of campaign finance reporting required annually and limit the value of gifts lawmakers can receive from outside groups passed nearly unanimously.
These are worthy pursuits, Levinson said, but they're clearly not the kind of systemic changes Steinberg was talking about several months ago when he lamented the distrust sown by the "legal, acceptable and necessary" truth that money can corrupt.
"We're nibbling around the edges, grabbing the low-hanging fruit," Levinson said.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"Whatever else it is, Hobby Lobby ruling isn’t narrow"

Good to talk to Steve Sebelius for this one

“I really don’t view this as narrow, by any stretch of the imagination,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It makes ‘sincere religious objection’ a much stronger argument in areas that, quite frankly, we’re not even thinking about.”
Indeed, Levinson said we might have to wait another 20 years to find out precisely how broad Monday’s ruling really is, as corporations object to other laws and regulations on religious grounds.
Most troubling, Winkler and Levinson said, is the fact that while justices said laws against racial discrimination would probably withstand an attack on religious grounds, they left unmentioned laws prohibiting discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people. And it’s much more likely that a corporation would seek religiously based exemption from laws covering anti-gay discrimination than they would laws protecting racial minorities.
We’ll wrestle with that question, and perhaps many, many more, because Congress decided it could not leave undisturbed a perfectly reasonable set of Supreme Court precedents. Let no one ever say that pandering does not have consequences.

Election 2014: Super PACs set stage for big spending in Shriver-Kuehl showdown

Great to talk to Frank Stoltze of KPCC for this one.

Super PACs are required to file campaign reports on contributors but often receive less scrutiny than contributions to candidates, said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who sits on the LA City Ethics Commission.

“When candidates accept contributions, there is more scrutiny and accountability,” she said. "Candidates can easily say they are not responsible for the message of super PACs that support them," said Levinson.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"California calls for constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United"

Great to talk to Sharon McNary for this one on the KPCC site. 

The California Legislature this week asked Congress to overturn the Supreme Court's ruling in the controversial Citizens United campaign spending case and curb the influence of corporate money in politics.
If 34 states ask, Congress would be required to hold a constitutional convention to draft an amendment.
In Citizens United, the court ruled that corporations have free speech rights under the First Amendment to independently spend unlimited amounts supporting candidates and measures. The 2010 ruling unleashed larger bouts of spending in national, state and local campaigns by corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations.
Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) was among the many voices denouncing the Citizens United ruling. Both houses of the state legislature approved his Joint Assembly Resolution 1, in which California asks Congress to draft a law overturning Citizens United.
There are two ways to amend the Constitution. One is for two-thirds of Congress to propose an amendment which becomes law only after three-quarters of the states (38 of them) ratify it.
The other way is for 34 state legislatures (two-thirds of the 50 states) to pass bills calling on Congress to hold a constitutional convention. The California legislature did so Monday, becoming the second state, after Vermont, to ask Congress to draft a law overturning Citizens United. Gatto said the Illinois legislature was also considering taking the same action.
If the convention results in a proposed amendment, it would have to be ratified by 38 states to become law.
Gatto said he objected to Citizens United because it gave corporations, which don't die, cannot be jailed and can be run from other states and countries, human-like rights.
"And the idea that they have the exact same free speech rights as human beings, it's something that I'm not sure our founding fathers would agree with," Gatto said.
He said that some past efforts to force Congress to hold a constitutional convention have ended short of the 34-state approval step when Congress wrote and passed its own amendment for states to ratify. The repeal of Prohibition is an example.
Gatto said he did not have in mind any specific language he wanted Congress to adopt. He said the necessity for so many state legislatures to reach agreement during the ratification process would guarantee the most widely acceptable language would be in the amendment.
Loyola Law professor Jessica Levinson said it was doubtful that 34 states would approve a call for Congress to overturn Citizens United. She said history has shown that members of Congress were more likely to short-circuit the constitutional convention process by writing their own amendment for states to ratify.
She said other means of change less drastic than a constitutional amendment were more likely to temper the impact of Citizens United. She said the Federal Election Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission and the IRS could enact regulations to make corporate sources of campaign money more transparent to the public. Congress could pass laws calling for more disclosure of the sources of campaign money.
Also, the public could show that big money campaigns are a turn-off, she said.
"For independent expenditure groups, people will stop spending money when they stop getting a bang for their buck," Levinson said.

Why Californians Don’t Vote

Thanks to California Secretary of State candidate Pete Peterson for linking to my piece "What the What?" re low turnout in elections. 

His post, on Zocalo Public Square, is here. 

--

In the stages of grief, media coverage of California voters’ low turnout in the June primary jumped denial, and headed straight to anger and bargaining.
“Something amazing happened in California on Tuesday: Hardly anyone came out to vote,” read a recent Washington Post piece. “I have three words to describe the primary elections held in California this week: What the what?” began an essay by Jessica Levinson in The Huffington Post.

 

Monday, June 16, 2014

"Stakes High in Few California SBOE Cases Involving Ex Parte Communications"

Quoted in this one in Bloomberg BNA. 

Even though SBOE members aren't judges and their forum isn't a court, the same reasons why ex parte communications aren't allowed in court proceedings could be valid at the SBOE, Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, who focuses on election law and ethics, told Bloomberg BNA May 9.
In a court setting, neither side should have a direct link to the judge without the other side being present, she said.

“It's fair to ask ourselves if we should do it in this setting,” Levinson said. “With so few people availing themselves except for sophisticated taxpayers maybe it's not working.”

At a minimum, the meetings should be disclosed, Levinson said. Next, someone needs to be watching the disclosures.

“Mass disclosure only gets us part of the way there,” she said.

SCOTUS rules there is Art. III standing to challenge a false statement law

The Supremes issue a unanimous opinion in Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehause.

The opinion is here.

More from the indispensable SCOTUSblog here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

"California Democrats replace 'spend' with 'invest'"

Quoted in this one in the AP. 

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, described Democrats' replacing the word "spending" with "investment" as a rhetorical device to make their budget proposals more acceptable.
"Is it smart rhetorically to categorize this as an investment rather than just an expenditure? Absolutely, because it makes it sound like we're not just spending money," she said.




Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/06/11/6476065/california-democrats-replace-spend.html#storylink=cpy

"How the Supreme Court Saved the Right to Vote"

My latest book review is here, on the Los Angeles Review of Books. 

Here is an excerpt:

Smith also brings us inside the courtroom for the oral arguments and subsequent conferences, deliberations, and opinions drafting by the justices. This portion of the book will be particularly intriguing, even if not groundbreaking, for scholars of the Court. Smith’s behind-the-scenes portrayal of the Supreme Court is at times reminiscent of Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong’s classic book, The Brethren, which provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Supreme Court during the beginning of Warren Burger’s tenure as Chief Justice. And even though the reader ultimately knows the outcome of the major plot points, this middle section of the book, in particular, is full of maneuvering and suspense.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Riverside: City sues registrar to block marijuana ballot measure"

Quoted in this piece.

The intersection of federal and state marijuana laws is “a hornets’ nest of conflicts” but many states – including California – have chosen to allow medical use of marijuana despite the federal prohibition, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
Riverside’s argument, that the local marijuana measure exceeds voters’ authority, is common in fights over ballot issues, she said.
Levinson said she hasn’t read the proposed initiative or Riverside’s suit, but if the city is right, “It’s not contravening the democratic process. ... It says, ‘This is illegal, so why should it go through the democratic process?’” 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

"Those professors can keep professing."

Thank you.  

Quoted in this piece in the LA and OC Register. 

Some California legislators are poised to repeal Proposition 187, a controversial 20-year-old initiative that was ruled unconstitutional by a federal court and never enforced. But law scholars question whether the elected officials have the legal authority to act on their own.
“The California Constitution says you can’t amend or repeal an approved measure without submitting it to the voters unless there’s a waiver clause,” said Jessica A. Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes on election law.
...
Told of the legal scholars’ opinions, [Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles] said: “Those professors can keep professing.” Erasing the language of Prop. 187, he said, would be “powerfully symbolic.”

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

"Runoff vote in supervisor race will be pivotal for L.A. County"

Quoted in this one in the Los Angeles Times. 


"There will be prodigious fundraising on both sides and it's going to be a competitive race," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor and member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.
...
Two independent expenditure committees were formed during the primary campaign by business interests to support Shriver's candidacy. There is likely to be more such activity in the runoff, Levinson said.
But that spending, which can't be coordinated with candidates, can carry political risks, Levinson noted. In last year's L.A. mayoral contest, Wendy Greuel won labor's backing and more than $3 million in support from independent groups, much of it from a union representing Department of Water and Power workers. She lost to Eric Garcetti, who portrayed himself as a more fiscally responsible choice who would stand up to labor pressure for richer contracts.
"Independent spending can backfire,'' Levinson said. "Wendy Greuel became 'The DWP's mayor.' That did not help her."

ICYMI: My pre-election discussion with Madeleine Brand of KCRW's "Press Play"

Link here.

And a the post-election wrap up on "Press Play," here.

Election Night Recap: What the What?

Here is a link to my appearance on KCRW's "Press Play" today.


My initial thoughts on last night's elections: What the what?

My op-ed is posted here, on Politix. 

Here is the beginning of the piece:


I have three words to describe the primary elections held in California this week: What the what? Special thanks go to Tina Fey for coining this apt phrase.
Sure, the outcome of many races was not a surprise, but election night took a few unexpected turns.
First, voter turnout statewide was 18.3%. Read that again. Less than one of the five people who are registered to vote bothered to show up. There are about 17.7 million registered voters in California and just over 3.2 million cast a ballot in the June 3 elections. Over 38 million people live in the state, which means that each person who voted essentially weighed in on behalf of almost 12 others.
Things were worse on the local level with 13.1% of registered voters in Los Angeles County casting a ballot in a variety of contests from County Board of Supervisors to Sheriff. More on the Sheriff's race in a moment. Over 9.9 million people live in the County, and over 4.8 million are registered to vote. This means that each of the over 636 thousand people who voted in Los Angeles County made decisions affecting 15 others.
There are a number of reasons why this is the case. The "biggest" race on the statewide level was for Secretary of State, and that office typically does not bring people to the polls, although ironically it is that office that helps run the polls.

"From White House cabinet to county office: Why Hilda Solis is back home"

Good to talk to Niraj Chokshi at the Washington Post for this one.  

“They wield tremendous influence and much of that influence is wielded behind the scenes,” says Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola University’s law school in Los Angeles and the vice president of the city’s ethics commission.

Candidates push to the finish line: Special election decides who will take open seat on City Council for 10 months.

Quoted in this one re local special elections. 

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who focuses on election law, said although she expects "dismal turnout" during the statewide primary, it could have been worse if it was a city-only special election.
"It's a very good idea to make sure a special election coincides with a statewide election. Even if we hit 18% or 20% turnout, that still is better than turnout would be for a special election just for a local issue," she said. "Those elections have really, really dismal turnout."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

"California’s new ‘jungle primary’ gets its second-ever test on Tuesday"

Quoted in this one in the Washington Post

“It changes voter behavior to the extent that you’re not just locked into the voting for whichever member of party you think should get to the general election,” says Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola University’s law school in Los Angeles and the vice president of the city’s ethics commission.

New title announcement - I am an "Election Sherpa" -- "What you need to know before you vote"

Here is a link to my appearance on "Press Play" with Madeleine Brand.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

"Mud getting slung across Bay Area ahead of primary election"


Quoted in this one in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jessica Levinson, a professor of government and political ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, calls it the "TMZ-ization of our elections."

"Is it our fault that we are totally uninformed (about political candidates) but we know what Kim Kardashian wore to her wedding?" Levinson asked.

In this year's primary, which by all accounts is attracting few voters' attention, campaign strategists' approach appears to be, "Anything that is not defamation or slander is fair game," Levinson said.

California "State Senate scandals inspire new wave of ethics bills"

Quoted in this one in the San Francisco Chronicle. 


Scandals are typically followed by political reform efforts, said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in governmental ethics.
"If you want to pass something dealing with ethics, this is the moment," she said. "We have to be sure when we are passing these laws, it's real reform and not window dressing reform or PR reform."

Saturday, May 24, 2014

News from CA "Outside money pours into Inland races"

Quoted in this one in the Press Enterprise.

There are no limits on what committees can spend to support or oppose candidates. But they cannot coordinate their activities with a candidate or ballot measure committee.

That said, committees are often led by friends or former staffers of the candidates they help, said Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance expert and law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

"Yaroslavsky proposes electronic filing of political donations"

Quoted in this one in the LA Times.

Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who serves on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, called the move "a step in the right direction." But she said even electronic reporting systems can have issues and suffer computer glitches.

Monday, May 12, 2014

"GOP hopeful defends comment on Nazi, Israeli flags"

Quoted in this article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Jessica Levinson, a professor of political law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said it appeared that Donnelly "was just calling out two sides of the debate" when he said he would allow the sale of the Nazi flag, the Israeli flag or any other flag in a state-run store.

"It's completely defensible to say, 'There are good things, there are bad things, and I won't vote to ban any of them,' " Levinson said. "But when voters hear it together, that's not how it plays."

She added, "Whenever a comparison is made to Hitler or Nazis, it's never good politics."

Kings' Twitter trash talker

Quoted in this article in the Los Angeles Register.

Jessica Levinson, vice president of the L.A. City Ethics Commission and a Loyola Law School professor, said taunting other fans is unusual for a public agency and possibly inappropriate.

“It’s a very bizarre use of an official Twitter,” Levinson said. “You can partner up with the Lakers or the Dodgers and you don’t have to vilify the Angels and the Clippers.”

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Steinberg powers through Senate’s ethics crises in his final year

Quoted in this one in the Sacramento Bee.

“These are isolated incidents that really don’t have anything to do with his leadership,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor of political law at Loyola Law School and a member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. “They would have happened regardless of who was in his position ... What can we criticize him on? Maybe the aftermath.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/09/6393961/steinberg-powers-through-senates.html#storylink=cpy