Saturday, December 31, 2011

"Newly Drawn Assembly Districts Could Lead to Competitive Races"

Many of our state's newly drawn legislative districts are under fire. As I previously wrote here, here, and here, those who oppose the new districts have launched a twofold attack against the legislative lines.

Opponents are going both to the ballot box (regarding the State Senate lines) and to the courthouse (regarding the Congressional lines). It remains to be seen whether newly drawn legislative districts -- drawn for the first time in the state's history by an independent redistricting commission -- will stand, or whether they will change as a result of either a judicial decision or the voters' decision.

Finish reading this article on KCET.

"Which State Senate Maps Will Show the Way?"

Challenges to California's newly drawn legislative lines are abound. As I have written about here, here, and here, opponents of our state's newly drawn district lines have waged a two-step attack and have taken their battles to the ballot box and the courthouse.

No one can predict the success of opponents' challenges. Judges may find that the lines are constitutionally drawn. Voters may decide that the independent redistricting commission did its job and that the current lines will stand.

Finish reading this article on KCET.

"The Housing Authority Gives Nothing But Disappointment"

This morning I spoke with one of my dearest friends, a very smart person, generally about the state of our government. The words we used to describe current events were "poisonous" and "unbelievably disappointing." At one point we agreed that much of what our public officials do is mere "theatrics."

Is this type of contempt and dismay warranted? Unfortunately this week brings yet another -- in a seemingly endless series of examples -- of a public official behaving badly.

Finish reading this article on KCET.

"Think Lobbyists Cannot Give Campaign Donations to California Politicians? Think Again."

Under California law, registered lobbyists are prohibited from giving campaign contributions to state candidates. The purpose of this prohibition is rather straightforward. Contributions from those overtly seeking to influence elected officials could lead to corruption, or at least the appearance of corruption. Simply put, such contributions are or seem particularly unseemly.

However, under federal law, lobbyists are free to give to federal candidates. Federal law controls federal races, while state law dictates the permissible behavior for state races. Therefore, when state elected officials run for federal office, the same lobbyists prohibited from giving to state campaigns are free to give to federal ones. It strains common sense to think that state elected officials would be thankful for contributions to their state campaigns, but not as grateful to lobbyists for contributions in their federal campaigns.

Finish reading this article on KCET.

"Occupy L.A.: Was It Worth It?"

Jessica Levinson's 12/22/11 piece on KCET.org is here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"How Will the Political Landscape Change in California in 2012?"

Jessica Levinson's piece on KCET.org on 12/27/11 is here.

"What is Next for Occupy L.A.?"

Jessica Levinson's piece on KCET.org on 12/29/11 is here.

"Tracing the L.A. Coliseum's fiscal decay"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Here is an excerpt:

The Coliseum is now so broke that it is unable to make upgrades promised in its lease with USC, whose football Trojans are the stadium's main tenant. As a result, the panel is about to turn over day-to-day control of the taxpayer-owned property to the private school.
Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies public corruption, described the commission's failure to spot warning signs of the scandal as a "great tragedy."
"This was below the standards of how you would run a neighborhood lemonade stand," she said.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"'Think Long' coalition will propose overhauling California's tax system"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece in the Sacramento Bee.


"If this is the way that they really feel you fix California and they have very deep pockets behind them, they may be able to really flood the airwaves with a really effective messaging campaign," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School.
While voters may be in the "mood for reform because things just aren't getting better," Levinson cautioned that the group's biggest challenge could be breaking down complex changes, and their urgency, to voters.
"If it takes more than two sentences to explain something to the electorate, your chances start decreasing exponentially," she said.

"Will Charges Against former Bell City Council Members Be Dropped?"

Click here for more on KCET.org

"If the defense attorneys for six former Bell City Council members have their way all charges against the officials will be dropped. The officials -- Oscar Hernandez, Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, Luis Artiga, George Cole, and Victor Bello -- are accused of, among other things, appropriating public funds. Simply stated, they have been charged with corruption. It may be worth stating the obvious, these officials, elected to serve the public, allegedly duped the public and used their funds for the officials' own benefit. Prosecutors have said that former officials essentially stole up more than $6 million in public funds. As some may remember, former City Manager Robert Rizzo reaped about $1.5 million per year in salary and other compensation."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Battles Over Corporate Political Disclosure Move to the SEC

Professor Ciara Torres-Spelliscy is involved in this important issue.

Click here for Ciara's comment supporting a new disclosure rule. Click here for the new SEC rule on transparency of corporate political spending.  

"Obamajam: Is Fundraising During a Los Angeles Rush Hour Essential?"

Here is a piece written during President Obama's most recent visit to Los Angeles (during rush hour).

"Traveling in a secured environment and raising money are necessities for any President. However, query as to whether fundraising in rush hour in Los Angeles is also a must."

"Will California's Newly Drawn Senate Maps Stand?"

Here is a post on KCET.org about the work done by California's independent redistricting commission, and various challenges to the newly drawn maps.

"[A] cynic would say this is much ado about nothing but sour grapes. Republicans are rightly worried that they could lose their one-third minority membership in the State Senate. If Democrats are able to garner two-thirds of the upper legislative house, it could make it much easier to implement a number of policies, including tax and fee increases."

"New Public Financing Program Implemented in District 15 Race"

Another piece on KCET, this one about public campaign financing in Los Angeles. You can find the piece here.

Here is an excerpt:

"Los Angeles' public campaign financing law has trigger funds provisions similar to those recently struck down by the Supreme Court. However, Los Angeles has found at least a temporary fix to that problem for the November 8 special election. Previously in Los Angeles qualified candidates could receive a 1-to-1 of public funds based on private contributions of up to $250 (e.g., based on a contribution of $100, a qualified candidate could receive $100 in public funds). Under Los Angeles' trigger funds provision, publicly financed candidates could become eligible to (among other things) receive a 3-to-1 match if a privately financed opponent and/or independent expenditure group spent over a threshold amount. However, in the wake of the Arizona Free Enterprise decision, Los Angeles will now provide all candidates with a 3-to-1 match of public to private funds on contributions of up to $250."

"State Senators Dine on Our Dime While Cutting the State's Budget"

Jessica Levinson's post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

Over the past twelve months the State Senate has spent approximately $111,000 in taxpayer money on meals for themselves. To put this number in perspective over the previous 12 months the State Senate managed to spend over 10% less on taxpayer funded food. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Villaraigosa Donor Found Guilty of Money Laundering"

Jessica Levinson's piece on KCET is here


Here is an excerpt:


"This week the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission found Alexander Hugh, a real estate executive and a donor of Mayor Villaraigosa's re-election campaign, guilty of laundering money to the mayor. The Commission unanimously voted 4-0 to impose the maximum fine allowed under the law, $183,750, for campaign finance violations."

"Four ways to reform the initiative process on its 100th anniversary"

Jessica Levinson's piece, which originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, is here


Here is an excerpt:


"Moneyed interests now control the processes meant to give power to all of the citizens. What does one need to qualify a measure for the ballot? Money. Money won't guarantee a measure's success, but it will mean that members of the electoral must invest time and resources on a ballot measure, regardless of the propriety of the idea behind the measure."

"Contributors to 'Yes on Proposition 8' Are Not Exempt from Disclosure Laws"

Jessica Levinson's post on KCET.org is here


Here is an excerpt:


"Democracy can sometimes be unpleasant. People disagree. They fight, they argue, and sometimes, they harass. Sometimes it is productive, sometime it is not. Sometimes we find our fellow voters and the causes they support or oppose -- with time or money -- to be repugnant. But our First Amendment stands as a protection for free discourse in a free society, particularly when political speech is involved. When behavior crosses the line, criminal prosecution is possible."

"New Murals for Los Angeles?"

Jessica Levinson's post on KCET.org is here


Angelenos should keep a watchful eye out to determine the level of discretion the city gives itself in deciding what type of art is permissible. One woman's treasured painting is another's piece of visual noise. By and large, when it comes to determining the permissible content of art, let us live by the adage of "each to her own," not "each to the discretion of the government."

Monday, October 17, 2011

"California to Allow Political Contributions via Text Message"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on KCET.org is here


Here is an excerpt:


"Congratulations to California's political watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, for voting last week to allow political contributions by text message. The commission voted 3-0 to approve the change. California is taking a big step toward bringing campaigns into the modern era."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"California redistricting means many lawmakers might move"

Click here for the SacBee article. 


Here are some excerpts:


For some sitting legislators, preparing to run for re-election in 2012 includes packing up boxes and hunting for a new home.


...


"The fact that lawmakers or would-be lawmakers are moving around certainly doesn't support the purpose of putting redistricting in the hands of an independent commission," said Jessica Levinson, a redistricting expert and professor at Loyola Law School.

"Proposed California regulations spell out gift-reporting requirements for elected officials"

Click here for the entire article in the SacBee. 

Here are some excerpts:

The state political watchdog agency is set to consider next month adopting substantial changes to rules governing gifts to public officials and staff, including exemptions from disclosure for presents received from former spouses, dating partners and longtime friends.
Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, agreed that updating regulations to reflect current practices would be a positive move. But she cautioned that any exemptions "will have to be very specifically defined and interpreted in order to prevent endless haggling over what their exact definition is."
"It's difficult because you're drawing this line and you may either tweak them too much, so that people are going to having to disclose what their niece got them for the holidays, or you're exempting certain gifts that you would want to know something about," she said. "The ultimate question is: Is it giving the public enough information and is it preventing actual, apparent corruption?"


Friday, October 7, 2011

"This Doggone Direct Democracy: Would California Be Better Off Without Ballot Initiatives?"

Jessica Levinson has a post on Zocalo Public Square here.

No—but California’s system is horribly flawed

In 1911, Governor Hiram Johnson enacted a series of reforms, including direct democracy, to increase the clout of the citizens across the state. At the time, the Southern Pacific Railroad possessed a stranglehold over our lawmakers. While their names are different—Amazon, Mercury Insurance, and PG&E instead of Southern Pacific Railroad—the sad irony of direct democracy is that it is now controlled by the very interests that it was designed to guard against.
What does one need to force citizens of the Golden State to vote on a pet project? In a word: money. While qualifying a measure for the ballot hardly guarantees the ultimate success of that measure, it does mean that Californians will be required to invest time and resources on a ballot measure, no matter how ludicrous the idea behind the measure is.
Ballot measures present voters with a binary choice; they can either vote “yes” or “no.” This is problematic for numerous reasons. To use but one example, when voters weigh in on budgetary issues they are asked merely, “Do you want this program or service?” or “Do you want lower fees or taxes?” The rational voter will say “yes” to both questions.
However, voters are not asked to reflect on the consequences of their answers. The question should be, “Do you want this program if it means we need to raise taxes or less money can be used for X?” or “Do you want lower taxes if it means less money will be available for Y?” Voters make choices with only part of the pertinent information, and then get irritated with their elected officials when those lawmakers have a difficult time implementing the will of the voters.
In sum, direct democracy presents our state with a number of challenges. The processes created a century ago to give power to the people, and to reduce the influence of special interests over our lawmakers, have now been hijacked by those very interests. Direct democracy also promotes a cycle of discontent by presenting voters with artificially isolated decisions.
Jessica Levinson is a visiting associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.

"Kinde Durkee's Alleged Fraud Continues to Take Its Toll on California Politicians"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on the Huffington Post is here


The effects of the stunning fall from grace and subsequent arrest on September 2nd of veteran campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee continue to ripple throughout the California political community. Durkee is accused of stealing and misappropriating campaign funds from Assemblyman Jose Solorio (D). However, many more alleged victims have come forward. The reach of Durkee's alleged fraud is unprecedented. No less than 400 political committees were under her control.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Newly Drawn Congressional Districts Under Fire"

Jessica Levinson's latest pieces on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

"Last week former Congressman George Radanovich (R) and four others asked the California Supreme Court to declare California's newly drawn congressional districts unconstitutional. The state's 53 congressional districts now hang in the balance. The suit asks the state's highest court to appoint a special master to draw new congressional boundaries." 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"A New Redistricting Plan for Los Angeles County"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

"This week, by a vote of 4 to 1, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a redistricting plan. Supervisor Gloria Molina was the lone dissenter. The new lines will help determine the makeup of the little known, but very powerful, Board of Supervisors."  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"New campaign finance proposal questioned"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the Redlands Daily Facts.

Here is an excerpt:

Jessica Levinson, a professor of law at Loyola Law School, said Rutherford's call for the FPPC to enforce its ordinance should it pass is a sad reflection of the times in the county.

"It's so depressing when you think about it, the acknowledgement by lawmakers that if we're the ones who appoint people to do this . . . then no one will think that it's bonafide," Levinson said. "That's just a sad statement of the state of civic affairs in San Bernardino County. I think it speaks to all past corruption and scandal."

"Can Californians Gamble Their Way Out of the Budget Deficit?"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

"While fears about consequences to individual gamblers are not unwarranted, neither are worries about the state's lack of funds. We need money, now. This is not a time when we can be picky about the source of revenue coming into the state."

"Street Art: Benefit or Detriment?"

Jessica Levinson's post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

Prohibiting art, particularly on private property, is a dangerous business. While the City has an interest in ridding the city of violent or offensive graffiti, or even less than that - blight, our lawmakers must be careful not to outlaw murals because they do no like or agree with the message or the messenger.

"FBI, IRS 'anteing up' in Colonies case, says legal expert"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the Contra Costa Times.

Here is an excerpt:


Jessica Levinson, a professor of law at Loyola Law School and no relation to Levenson, said that the federal government anteing up in the Colonies case means something even more far-reaching and serious is at play.
She couldn't say whether the targets of the federal probe could face charges with greater penalties than those in the state's case.

"That totally depends on what they're charged under, and what and if they're convicted of, and which judge sentences them," Levinson said.
She said RICO cases typically apply to organized crime and criminal street gangs, and she isn't aware of any RICO cases that involved government corruption.

"But that doesn't mean it's never happened," she said.

"S.B. COUNTY: Contribution limits eyed"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece in the Press Enterprise.


Here is an excerpt:

San Bernardino County supervisors Tuesday endorsed a plan to limit campaign contributions, describing the step as a sign that they are trying to turn around the county's scandal-plagued image. 

Jessica Levinson, a law professor specializing in campaign finance and government at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the board action was a step toward reform but that the proposal still allows donors to give large sums of money.

She suggested San Bernardino look into smaller limits, similar to other cities or counties instead of state races that might be more expensive to run in. In Los Angeles for example, city-wide candidates are limited to $1,000 and council candidates are limited to $500 per election cycle.
"I think it's a reform that does a little bit of work around the edges but I don't see this as a sweeping overhaul of the government," Levinson said.

Monday, September 19, 2011

"What Will Become of California's Newly Drawn State Senate Districts?"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

For the first time in the state's history, an independent redistricting group drew state legislative and federal congressional district lines. Thanks to two successful ballot measures, those who stand to benefit the most from drawing district lines - sitting lawmakers - were extricated from the process. The independent redistricting commission's charge was, among other things, to create legislative districts which fairly reflected communities of interest, and to pay no heed to whether districts would benefit or harm incumbent lawmakers.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"Our View: Veto the ban on primary election initiatives"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece.

"If the people must vote on ballot initiatives, it does make some sense to only permit initiatives to appear during higher turnout elections," wrote Jessica Levinson, a visiting professor at Loyola Law School, in her Monday column on KCET.org. "However, it will also mean that members of the electorate will face perhaps double the number of initiatives on a single election ballot (meaning) …. voters, with limited time and attention spans, could gloss over important decisions.

"Who stands to benefit from SB202? Not surprisingly, it is quite likely that Democrats would profit from the passage of the bill," Levinson writes.

Levinson is right about the number of initiatives. In the 2008 general election, 13 initiatives were on the ballot, which already had voters' heads spinning. If S.B. 202 had been in effect back then, the number would have been 15. In 2000, the combined June-November number would have been 28.

"Three Cheers for the Expo Line!"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

"While it is certainly expensive, so is the cost of so many hours of productivity lost to traffic. That is to say nothing of the hours we don't get to spend with family and friends. In addition, the cost and use of gas is no small issue. I for one would enjoy paying fewer visits to my neighborhood gas station."

"Good News From the Republican Presidential Debate!"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on the Huffington Post is here.

"Even though, according to many of the Republican presidential candidates who participated in this week's debate, our country is going on a collision course with disaster, it is time to rejoice."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"Editorial: Veto the ban on primary election initiatives"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this editorial in the OC Register.

Here is an excerpt:

“If the people must vote on ballot initiatives, it does make some sense to only permit initiatives to appear during higher turnout elections,” wrote Jessica Levinson, a visiting professor at Loyola Law School, in her Monday column on KCET.org. “However, it will also mean that members of the electorate will face perhaps double the number of initiatives on a single election ballot [meaning] …. voters, with limited time and attention spans, could gloss over important decisions.

“Who stands to benefit from SB202? Not surprisingly, it is quite likely that Democrats would profit from the passage of the bill,” Ms. Levinson writes.
Ms. Levinson is right about the number of initiatives. In the 2008 general election, 13 initiatives were on the ballot, which already had voters’ heads spinning. If SB202 had been in effect back then, the number would have been 15. In 2000, the combined June-November number would have been 28.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Should We Limit How Often We Can Vote on Ballot Initiatives?"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

If Governor Brown signs SB 202, California would join the great majority of other states with this initiative process, which limit voting on such measures to November elections. As with so many proposed changes to the initiative process, SB 202 is an incremental change that would largely benefit the sponsors of the bill. SB 202 does not provide the type of comprehensive reform that our initiative process so desperately needs. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"Los Angeles Mayor Urges End to Tax Limits for Businesses"

Jessica Levinson was quoted in this article in the WSJ by the brilliant Tamara Audi.

"Calling California's law limiting property taxes "a corporate tax giveaway," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday he wanted businesses removed from the protections of the measure, known as Proposition 13.

In pressing for the change, Mr. Villaraigosa took on a law considered sacrosanct in state politics, and as antitax sentiment is high nationwide.

Mr. Villaraigosa, a Democrat and president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said the law—which limits annual property-tax increases to no more than 2%—should apply to homeowners but not corporations.
That change would generate an estimated $2.1 billion to $8 billion annually, he said.

"We could take half the money we generate to fund schools and use the other half to cut taxes for homeowners," Mr. Villaraigosa said during a speech in Sacramento. "We can spur the housing market in the process. Phase it in over time to soften the impact on business."

Supporters of the law rejected Mr. Villaraigosa's suggestion.

"It's the single most devastating policy decision that California can make to adversely affect our economic rebound," said Teresa Casazza, president of the California Taxpayers Association, an advocacy group that represents businesses in the state. "It will significantly increase taxes on small businesses that are trying to create jobs."

Proposition 13, passed by a majority of voters in 1978, transformed California property-tax law and set off a national tax-overhaul movement. and in some cases, forcing residents out of homes when they could no longer afford their tax bills

Under the law, the state's property-tax rate is fixed at 1% of a home's current assessed value, and annual increases are limited unless the property is sold.

Changing Prop 13 most likely would require a ballot initiative approved by voters.

Businesses interests have quashed past attempts at changing the law, said Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Association, who has been pressing for this type of change for 15 years.
"I call it the Empire's new clothes. We avert our eyes from this big hole in the system. So thank you Antonio Villaraigosa for making us look at it,'' said Mr. Goldberg. "This is a linchpin of reform for the entire tax system of California.

According to the California Taxpayers Association, which opposes the change, homeowners pay about 40% of the property-tax burden, while "non-homeowners" including businesses and owners of rental properties, pay 60%.

Critics of Prop 13 have said it unfairly burdens homeowners, while letting corporations get around triggering a tax increase when companies change hands or take on new partners.

Still, attempts to change the law, which enjoys wide support among California voters, haven't succeeded. But there has been some support for taxing businesses separately, known as a "split roll." Mr. Villaraigosa's speech reignited the debate over such a change.

"I think it's a step in the right direction," said Lanny Ebenstein, president of the California Center for Public Policy, which supports the mayor's idea.

"This issue comes up every once in a while. It's like a recurring nightmare," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which pushed for Proposition 13 and opposes a split roll. Mr. Coupal says if the mayor's plan moves forward, "we will do what we've done for 30 years which is to defend Prop. 13."

Both critics and supporters of making such a change said they were unsure if Mr. Villaraigosa's decision to weigh in on the matter would have an impact.

Others wondered at the timing of the speech. The mayor's term ends in 2013, and his political future is unclear.

"I think the mayor is positioning himself to the left of Jerry Brown for governor or for Senate or he wants to go out in 2013 in a blaze of glory saying I was the real Democrat in the state," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor and expert in California politics."

Friday, September 2, 2011

"Will nonpartisan redistricting maps transform California politics?"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the CSM.

“We lose a lot of expertise when people cycle through and then leave the legislature,” says Jessica Levinson...Lobbyists have more opportunity to pressure novices, she adds.
“It’s an endless dinner buffet for lobbyists because the meal keeps changing,” says Ms. Levinson. “This is not because they are evil people but because their target legislators by definition have a less-entrenched perspective.”

"Republicans Target California's Independent Redistricting Commission"

Click here for more on KCET.org.

"So what are unhappy Republicans to do? As this is California, the answer is: circulate a ballot measure. A handful of Republican State Senators have contributed to a proposed ballot measure, which would repeal the newly drafted Senate districts. Former Governor Pete Wilson has also joined the effort. Thus far, those spear heading the effort to eviscerate the new district lines have raised approximately half a million dollars. The biggest donors are the California Republican Party, and groups that tend to support the GOP."

"If You Get A Dreaded Red Light Ticket, Do You Have to Pay?"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

"It would be nice of one branch, any branch, of our municipal government could work on giving motorists a clear answer. If there is one thing that unites most Angelenos, it is driving and traffic. Now the consequences of what unites us also befuddles us. So much for getting a clear edict from the government."

Friday, August 26, 2011

"California workers wasted state funds, audit says"

Jessica Levinson was quoted in this piece in the SF Chronicle by Joe Garofoli.

Here is an excerpt:

"None of this is going to mean that California doesn't still have a structural deficit," said Jessica Levinson, a professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and political reform expert. "But at a time when people are trying to feed themselves or pay for college, any amount of waste is offensive."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"Dear California Lawmakers: Time to Disclose Your Budgets and Expenditures"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

It is time to enact common sense rules that allow the public to see the money given to and spent by, their elected representatives. If there is truly confidential information, then it should be determined whether such information can be redacted. 



"San Bernardino County supervisors reverse course on naming buildings"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece in the Contra Costa Times.

Here is an  excerpt:

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said campaign-contribution limits for state legislators, who typically have a much larger constituent base and whose campaigns are more expensive to run, may not translate well for San Bernardino County's elected officials.

She said the FPPC may lack the resources to do what Rutherford is proposing.

"I think the FPPC is strapped. They're not awash in extra resources," Levinson said.

Still, the fact that the issue remains on the table in San Bernardino County and proposals are being made is a positive sign, Levinson said.


"I think it's a step in the right direction," she said.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Want to give surplus money to California? Proposal would make it easier"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the Sacramento Bee.

Here is an excerpt:

Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and Loyola Law School professor, said that people tend to prefer giving to a specific cause, not a catch-all like state coffers.

"I think people like more control of their money," she said.
 
Levinson said she would not be surprised if LaMalfa's program eventually were used as a weapon to argue that people are overtaxed already.
Tax opponents could use it as ammunition if Californians are told they can pay higher taxes if they want to, but few do, she said.

"They'll say, 'Look, no one pays,' " Levinson said.
 

Friday, August 19, 2011

"How Much Does it Cost to be Mayor of Los Angeles?"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

One of the problems with our current system is that fundraising prowess is used as a proxy for popularity. There is, of course, some correlation. However, fundraising ability, at most, demonstrates popularity with a certain segment of society, those who can and want to give campaign contributions.

So let's try to hear from all the candidates, and not make the balance of their bank accounts the only thing by which we measure their ability to lead the city. The best fundraiser may make the best mayor. But in the words of the Gershwins, "It ain't necessarily so."

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Dear Californians, You Don't Matter"

Click here for a KCET article about California's endorsement of the National Popular Vote program. It would change the way we elect presidents.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Redistricting, Round Two: Drawing Local Legislative Lines"

Jessica Levinson's latest article on KCET.org is here


Here is an excerpt:


"Just when you thought we were almost done talking about redistricting, it's time to refuel and prepare for another round of discussions about legislative line drawing - this time on the local level. The latest redistricting battle concerns lines for the little known, but super power powerful five-member Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"County redistricting starting to heat up"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the Daily Breeze.

Here is an excerpt:

In a Q&A below, Jessica Levinson -- a Loyola Law School professor and moderator of a recent Z√≥calo Public Square panel on redistricting -- makes the case for why this really matters.

Q: What's at stake in the Los Angeles County redistricting process -- for the supervisors and for county residents?

The composition of the little-known, but nonetheless uber-powerful, Board of Supervisors will be determined in the Los Angeles County redistricting process. This mighty group is limited to three consecutive four-year terms. The group is so powerful that it has been nicknamed the "five kings."

Every 10 years we count how many people live in legislative districts throughout the country, including the five supervisorial districts for the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. Boundary lines are drawn based on the number and local and residents in those districts. This redistrict process occurs to ensure that residents in each district are fairly represented.  

Q: Why should your average citizen -- or non-citizen -- care about this fairly obscure process?

The five-member, non-partisan county Board of Supervisors make up the county's governing body. Their decisions can have sweeping, significant repercussions for the residents of the County.

 With only five members and so many residents in the county, each member represents (almost) 2 million people. About 25 percent of the state's residents live in Los Angels County. Therefore, these five individuals wield enormous influence. Again, the way the boundary lines are drawn will help to determine who can be victorious in each of those five districts. 

Q. So why isn't anyone really paying attention to the county's redistricting? Do you expect that to change when board hearings start next week?

First, the independent redistricting, which has just released its final maps for state and congressional legislative districts, sucked up much of the oxygen in the redistricting debate. 

The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing about proposed boundary lines next week, and I expect politicos, policy wonks, and interested persons will then turn part of their attention to the County's redistricting process.

Second, who among us can even name all of the members of the Board of Supervisors? If we can't name them, and possibly don't know what they do, we're not going to be particularly enthralled by the process of drawing new boundary lines for them.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Legal Defense Funds: An Ethical Dilemma?"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

"[Villaraigosa] committed ethical violations and then he raised private funds to cover the costs of those violations. In essence the mayor's initial failure to disclose free tickets given to him -- very likely in attempt to curry favor with him -- has provided the mayor with yet another fundraising opportunity, and hence another crop of donors perhaps trying to curry their own favor with our city's chief executive."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"US Debt Deal Likely To Cut Billions in Calif. Health Care, Education"

Jessica Levinson's interview on KNX 1070 is here


“I think that we could see cuts everywhere,” said Jessica Levinson, a visiting professor at Loyola Law School who studies political reform and budgetary issues. “I think there will be a new normal in which it’s not realistic to say, ‘This sector has to remain untouched’.”

Saturday, July 30, 2011

More on the "final" redistricting plan in California

More from Politico, WaPo, LAT, AP, and NYT.  

"GOP crying foul over California redistricting"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece in the L.A. Daily News.


The shakeout from the commission's new maps remains to be seen, according to Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School. But she predicts there will be roughly 12 competitive congressional districts to emerge from the redrawn lines.

"Either it's incumbents, or the (voter) registration numbers show it could go either way," she said of the potentially combative districts.
Levinson also said that Republicans mistakenly believed that an independent commission re-drawing the lines, rather than members of a Democratic-heavy Legislature in Sacramento, could benefit them.
"The Republicans," she said, "didn't realize that they could get hurt."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

More coverage of the release of California's final redistricting plans

More from the Hill, Sac Bee, KPBS, and Mercury News

"California's final redistricting plan released"

KPCC has more here.

"Redistricting commission inches closer to forming districts"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the Santa Monica Daily Press.

"To be faced with a district where you've lost a majority of support must feel like a rug being pulled out from under you," said Jessica A. Levinson, a professor at the Loyola School of Law. "I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it's very challenging for incumbents who find themselves in the same district as another incumbent, or in one that doesn't play to their strengths."

...

"These are not map makers, they're not elected, so who are they accountable to?" Levinson said. "Well, legislators may be more experienced in drawing lines, but there's an inherent conflict of interests when they do. I prefer someone with less of a dog in the fight."

"SEBA fund at issue: Witnesses say Erwin sought more power"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the Contra Costa Times.


But if the allegations are true, it is a quintessential example of laundering campaign contributions that "flies in the face of the law," said Jessica Levinson, a professor of government ethics and political reform at Loyola Law School.

"All around it's such a disappointing and offensive tale of badly behaving politicians and badly behaving donors," Levinson said. "It just looks like a systematic use of money and PACs to peddle influence and get access."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"Goodbye Term Limits?"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

I think term limits should be repealed all together. Under the current regime lawmakers do not have the time to develop the knowledge and expertise necessary to develop into topnotch (or at least better) legislators. That means lawmakers are more heavily dependent on staffers and lobbyists, two unelected groups who we may not want running things from behind closed doors. In addition, lawmakers are consistently eying the next prize. Presumably, and quite naturally, lawmakers will be distracted by trying land their next political job.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"A ballot box battle brewing over the 'Amazon tax'"

Jessica Levinson has this piece in Loyola Law School's "Summary Judgments" blog, also appearing in this Los Angeles Daily Journal.

Here is an excerpt:

A small but well-publicized part of California's newly enacted budget, the so-called "Amazon tax," looks to be the catalyst behind California's next big ballot initiative battle. The law requires Internet retailers with a "physical presence" in the state to collect a sales tax from customers in the state and expands the definition of physical presence to include online retailers that have related companies or affiliates in the state. After the passage of the law, Amazon promptly cut ties with approximately 10,000 affiliates in the state.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"California Courts in Crisis"

Jessica Levinson is interviewed on Warren Olney's, "Which Way, L.A.?" on KCRW.

"COLONIES: Postmus was 'news wire' to opposition"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece in the Press Enterprise.


Jessica Levinson, a law professor with Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in government ethics, called such leaks offensive and a betrayal of the confidentiality of closed session. California government bodies are allowed under the Brown Act to discuss legal strategy behind closed doors to protect sensitive information, and releasing that information violates that law, she said.
"I think it basically decimates the ability to negotiate a fair and just settlement," she said.
"It's like playing cards with someone who knows what your card is. It becomes kind of a pointless exercise."

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"California Courts in Crisis"

Jessica Levinson will be on "Which Way, L.A.?" tonight at 7pm PT talking about budget cuts in the California court system. Click here for more.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"What if Carmageddon was Electoralypse?"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on KCET is here.

Here is an excerpt:

Imagine, if you will, an alternative universe in which we pay as much attention to our political, governmental and electoral processes as we have to a potential two-day traffic jam.

"'Sister Wives' file lawsuit to prevent criminal polygamy charges"

Jessica Levinson is quoted here.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says the Browns will argue that criminalizing polygamy violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection, as well as the First Amendment’s clauses guaranteeing the free exercise of religion, free speech, and freedom of association.
“Kody Brown is saying it all boils down to holding that if you can’t criminalize private, same-sex conduct, then why can you criminalize polygamists?” says Ms. Levinson.

"Re-Shaping California's Political Landscape One Line at a Time"

Jessica Levinson blogs here.

The following is an excerpt:

"The political blood sport, commonly known as redistricting, hit a fever pitch on June 10, when California's newly-minted independent redistricting commission presented draft maps to the public.
Simply put, every 10 years we count how many people live here, and then we draw legislative lines according to that demographic information. While this may not sound particularly spicy, determining who draws district lines and how those lines are drawn evokes a legal and political struggle of epic proportions. Political wonks, voting rights attorneys, and interested members of the public know that where district lines are drawn can dictate the composition and balance of power in the state legislatures and Congress."

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Carmageddon: A Worthless Ordeal?"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Recently I wrote about the upcoming apocalypse fondly called "Carmaggedon." My perspective on the Carmaggedon controversy has been, "no pain, go gain." While living through 53 hours of heavy traffic due to the closure of the 405 surely will not be pleasant, I thought it certainly must be worth it for the long-term good. A wider freeway must mean less traffic, right?

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Jerry Brown link benefits Oakland charter schools"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the SF Chronicle.

Such donations are "problematic for the integrity for the political process" because they can influence officials and avoid campaign contribution limits, said Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson.
"Rather than giving to me, just give to my favorite charity," she said. "And I will know because I will have asked for the donation, and I will be appreciative."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

"California calls on citizen to redraw political lines"

Jessica Levinson is quoted. Reuters has more.

"Redistricting is absolutely a political blood sport for those who know about it, and it really determines the balance of power in state legislatures and Congress," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

"Justices Strike Down 'Rescue Funds' Provision in Public Campaign Financing Laws"

Jessica Levinson's article about the Supreme Court's recent decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club PAC v. Bennett (aka McComish v. Bennett) is here.

(The article first appeared in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, and was reposted on Loyola Law School's Blog, Summary Judgments).

Friday, July 1, 2011

"Fate Of Redevelopment Agencies Unclear"

Jessica Levinson is interviewed in this report by Katie Orr at KPBS.

— The state is relying on $1.7 billion from the elimination of redevelopment agencies across California to help balance its budget. The agencies would be allowed to continue only if they give millions of more dollars to local schools.

Redevelopment proponents have vowed to fight the state in court. Loyola law professor Jessica Levinson said lawsuits would likely be filed under Proposition 22. It passed last fall and prohibits the state from taking money designated for local use.

"Because that proposition is so complex, it’s not at all certain what the outcome of the case would be," she said. "Courts are typically reticent to weigh in on these political disputes, particularly disputes that deal with ballot measures."

Still, Levinson said because the law is so unclear, it may be appropriate for the courts to provide some guidance. If the issue is not overturned in court, the current legislation will stand.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Arizona Free Enterprise V. Bennett Explained"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on the Huffington Post is here.

Here is an excerpt:

This is a sadly ironic ruling. Far from chilling an open and robust debate, the ability of publicly financed candidates to obtain additional public funds to respond to privately financed opponents and independent expenditure groups actually promotes speech.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Supreme Court’s Arizona Free Enterprise / McComish decision chips away at states’ rights but leaves foundation of public financing for campaigns intact"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this release by California Common Cause about the Supreme Court's decision today re public campaign financing.

“Prior to today public financed jurisdictions had more discretion to determine when and how to provide public funds to candidates. The Court has now excluded one of the most efficient mechanisms through which jurisdictions provided candidates with taxpayer funds. However, there are still many legal avenues open to jurisdictions to design powerful public financing programs.” Stated Jessica Levinson, Visiting Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School and consultant to Common Cause.

Jessica Levinson interviewed about the SCOTUS' decisions today

Jessica Levinson will be on Background Briefing with Ian Masters around 5:15pm today. Click here for more.

Breaking News: "Jury convicts ex-Ill. Gov. Blagojevich at retrial"

AP has more.

Summary of the SCOTUS decision re Arizona Public Campaign Financing

Jessica Levinson's summary of the Supreme Court's decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club's Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett on Common Cause's blog is here.

"Carmageddon: Coming to a Theater Near You"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

There is one word that is familiar to all residents of the City of Angels: traffic. There are few other places in the world where it is perfectly reasonable to allot forty-five minutes for 3 mile drive in the middle of a workday. One of my Facebook friends recently posted that she spent 10 hours in the car over one weekend, and never left the city limits. That is sadly familiar news to too many of us.

Breaking News: The Court Rules that Rescue Funds Provisions are Unconstitutional

In a 5-4 decision the Court struck down the constitutionality of so-called rescue funds provisions in public campaign financing programs. Click here for more information on McComish v. Bennett.

Breaking news: The Court strikes down a law banning the sale of violent video games to minors

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Is the Party Over? Examining the Constitutionality of Proposition 14 as It Relates to Ballot Access for Minor Parties"

Jessica Levinson's latest law review article on the constitutionality of California's new open primary, top two election system as it relates to the ballot access rights of minor parties is here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Campaign Finance Ruling May Make NYC a Model for the Nation"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this story on WNYC.org.

If the Supreme Court rules against the Clean Elections program, a number of campaign public finance programs nationwide may be in for a redesign. Jessica A. Levinson ... said that because the Arizona case specifically targets trigger funds, it “will likely have long-reaching implications for other jurisdictions that have similar provisions.”

“Every jurisdiction that provides additional funds to publicly financed candidates in the face of either high spending, in the face of a privately-financed opponent or an outside expenditure group will have to reevaluate those provisions and probably take them off the books.”

“I think it is very likely that many jurisdictions, both on the local and state level, will look to the success of New York’s program and will adopt that kind of small-donor model where there is an initial amount of money that a candidate raises and then there is a high match,” said Levinson.

"Pavley, Waxman 'disappointed' by proposed redistricting"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the SM Daily Press.

"We are seeing lots of growth in the eastern parts of the state, like for instance the Inland Empire, which would traditionally have helped Republicans, but population growth in those areas has mainly come from Asians and Latinos, which tend to favor Democratic candidates," said Jessica Levinson ... "I think this could actually be a boon for Democrats."

"Santa Barbara City Council to reconsider controversial Brown Act vote; watchdog groups criticize Dale Francisco's comments"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the Daily Sound.

Jessica Levinson ... said she’d never heard of a legislative body advocating an "end-run" around the Brown Act. Being able to see how officials arrive at their decisions is almost as critical as knowing what those decisions were, she said.
"Government officials work for their constituents and I think their constituents have a right to know what they’re doing and how they’re making decisions," Levinson said.

Monday, June 20, 2011

"Governor Jerry Brown: Unpredictably Consistent When It Comes to the Budget"

Jessica Levinson's latest article on KCET.org is here


The Golden State's once and current Governor, Jerry Brown, has made history with two firsts. First, Brown vetoed a budget agreement passed by both houses. Second, Brown kept his word. Brown's veto has been widely reported, but this morning, it was a smart column by the George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times that elucidated Brown's real surprise move - consistency.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Can Redistricting Improve California?"

You can find the video link to this panel discussion, moderated by Jessica Levinson, by clicking here. The all-star panel included Dan Schnur, Joe Mathews, Kathay Feng and Steven Ochoa.

"California nears budget deal to meet deadline. Critics pan it as 'gimmicks.'"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article.

“It looks like Gov. Brown's middle name will not be ‘no gimmicks,’ " says Jessica Levinson... “While Brown has for months and months pledged to pass a gimmick-free budget, he appears to be peddling back that hard line as the constitutional deadline for a balanced budget approaches."
   “While [Prop. 25] punishes legislators – by not paying them – for failing to agree on a budget, does it also force them to hastily rush to compromise?” Ms. Levinson asks.

"Uncertainty reigns as Jerry Brown vetoes 'questionable' California budget"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the CSM.

"Brown is sticking by his pledge to accept only a realistic, gimmick-free budget,” says Jessica Levinson,... “While some may say Brown is a glutton for punishment, only the next few weeks will show whether his veto will ultimately force the legislature to pass a budget more in line with his proposals.”

Monday, June 13, 2011

"All Access Pass for Campaign Contributors?"

Fox News has more.

"House Republican claims campaign finance exoneration"

The Hill has more.

"California's Budget Comes Down to Four Votes"

Jessica Levinson's latest article on KCET.org is here. 


Governor Jerry Brown continues his attempt pick off the four Republican votes needed to support his budget proposal. Specifically, Brown needs two GOP lawmakers in the Senate, and the same number in the Assembly to agree to his proposed budget, which includes temporary increases to sales, vehicle and income taxes. Brown's efforts have continued for so long that some may wonder whether this budget battle began in the last Gov. Brown administration. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"New district maps would reshape the Valley"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in the L.A. Daily News about California's new independent redistricting commission here.

Here is an excerpt:

"The new maps represent demographic change," says Jessica Levinson. "The maps create a district that reflects the demographic reality, that there are a lot of Hispanics living in the Valley."

"California redistricting - 'musical chairs with switchblades'"

Jessica Levinson's appearance on "AirTalk" on Southern California Public Radio (KPCC) about the new independent California redistricting commission is here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Redistricting in California

Jessica Levinson will be live on 89.3FM or www.kpcc.org at 10am PT talking about the new draft redistricting plans, to be released today.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"As if Citizens United wasn't bad enough..."

Jessica Levinson's radio interview regarding Citizens United and its implications is here


Here is a description of the show: 

Last week a federal judge overturned a century old ban prohibiting corporations from directly contributing to political candidates in US vs. Danielczyk. US District Judge James Cacheris based his ruling on the controversial Citizens United case arguing that if corporations are endowed with the same rights as people and people can contribute directly to political candidates then corporations should be able to do the same.
On today’s Last Call we spoke with attorney Jessica Levinsonabout the potential implications of last week’s decision. Levinson is Director of Political Reform at the Center for Governmental Studies and an adjunct professor at Loyola Law School. Her research includes campaign finance reform, ethics, ballot initiatives and redistricting. She also blogs for the Huffington Post.

"Should Lawmakers Go Without Pay?"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on KCET.org is here


Here is an excerpt:


"Would you work harder, faster and better if you knew you would lose your pay? Or would you kick the deliberative process to the curb and make snap decisions in order to keep your salary coming? Lawmakers may now face that decision."

Friday, June 3, 2011

"The Edwards Indictment Explained: What Did Johnny Do? (Allegedly)"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece in the Huffington Post is here.

Will corporations be able to give campaign contributions to candidates?

Jessica Levinson be on WMNF radio talking about Citizens United and other campaign finance issues at 2:30pm PDT. 

Roundup on John Edwards Coverage Thus Far

Click on the following news outlets for more:

LAT, WaPo, and ABC.  

"Edwards Indicted Over Campaign Funds"

The WSJ has more.

More on the John Edwards Indictment

HuffPo has the breaking news piece and links to this AP article.

Breaking News re John Edwards

The former VP and Presidential candidate has been indicted on criminal charges by a federal grand jury.

WaPo has more on the face (pre-indictment) here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Poll: Californian Voters Want A Say in Budget Decisions"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on KCET.org is here.

News from California: "Bill alerts officials to ethics investigations"

The AP has more


"The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill requiring California's campaign watchdog agency to notify public officials that they are being investigated at least 24 hours before making the probe public."

"During Blagojevich’s testimony, it’s hard to avoid making faces"

The Chicago Sun Times has more


"The longer Rod Blagojevich stays up there on the witness stand at his trial, the more his act is wearing thin."

"California’s Lockyer Urges Pensions to Oppose Secret Political Donations"

Bloomberg has more


"California’s treasurer is urging the state’s two biggest public pension funds, with $391.1 billion of assets, to push shareholder initiatives requiring companies they invest in to disclose political spending."

News from Nevada: "Major Campaign Finance Reform Bills Pass Senate, Move Closer To Final Approval"

The Nevada News Bureau has more


"Two major bills seeking reforms to and transparency in Nevada’s campaign finance laws won approval in the Senate today and now must await review in the Assembly before they can go to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his consideration."

"FEC Seeks $67,900 Penalty Against Lawmaker’s Former Dealership"

Bloomberg has more.


Here's the scoop:


"The Federal Election Commission says a Florida car dealership formerly owned by U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan illegally reimbursed employees’ donations to his congressional campaigns." 

"Campaign finance laws at heart of John Edwards case"

The Miami Herald has more


"The main questions in a criminal case would be whether payments to Edwards' mistress and a campaign staffer were intended to keep his 2008 campaign alive, and whether he knew about them - substantive legal issues aside from the Edwards soap opera, which includes the affair while seeking the presidency as his wife battled cancer, conceiving a child with the mistress, and publicly denying paternity as an aide, Andrew Young, claimed it."
 

"Will Corporations Be Prohibited From Giving to Candidates After All?"

Jessica Levinson's latest piece on the Huffington Post is here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Ryan's Plan Unpopular With Voters, Not With Industry"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this story on KCET.org.

Here are some excerpts:

"Contributions given during the budgeting process can raise unique problems because legislators are making decisions which can directly affect that contributor's livelihood and business," said Jessica Levinson...

...

"It is merely human nature that representatives would consciously or unconsciously be grateful to their large contributors," Levinson said. "That gratefulness can manifest in a budget that is favorable to large contributors."

...

His donors might have been thrilled, but many of Ryan's constituents weren't. So even if Ryan's 2011 contributions did not, in fact, influence his budgetary decisions, they may have further eroded public support of his policies, Levinson explains.

"[The contributions] may merely be an appearance issue, but appearances are important in a democracy, where every constituent should feel their legislators are making decisions that best serve the public good," she said. "If the public feels that their representatives are more responsive to the needs of contributors, as opposed to constituents, that sentiment can lead to a dangerous erosion of public confidence."

Monday, May 30, 2011

"California Legislators Want Their Gifts"

Jessica Levinson's latest post on KCET.org is here.

Here is an excerpt:

Last week California lawmakers killed a bill that would have prohibited them (and members of their families and other officials) from accepting certain gifts from lobbyists and their employers. Those seeking to curry favor with Golden State legislators take note. The gates of access remain open, for some.

In case you didn't hear, "John Edwards may face criminal charges"

Politico has more.

Should corporations be able to contribute directly to candidates?

Check out the vigorous debate in the comment section of Jessica Levinson's latest Huffington Post article by clicking here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Are the State's Watchdog Agencies and Public Campaign Financing all Doomed?"

The Hartford Advocate has more.

"Ex-Newark Mayor Sharpe James accused of using nearly $100K in campaign funds for legal defense"

The New Jersey Star Ledger has more.

"The Influence Industry: ‘Super PACs’ could test campaign finance law"

T.W. Farnam at WaPo has more.

"Not laughing at Colbert"

Ben Smith at Politico has more.

"Judge: Corporate donations ban unconstitutional"

There goes the 1907 Tillman Act?

The AP has more.

"Good Luck Turning the John Edwards Fiasco Into a Campaign-Finance Teaching Moment"

Dee Dee Myers has more in Vanity Fair.

"FEC Falls Short on Enforcement, Commissioner Says"

Roll Call has more.

"Interest groups give differing viewpoints on how new political districts should be drawn in region"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this piece in the LA Daily News by Dakota Smith.

Here are excerpts:

"Redistricting is a political blood sport for those who understand it," said Jessica Levinson ... "The last redistricting accounted for politicians' desires to keep their districts safe - to make sure they can be re-elected," Levinson said.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Supreme Court orders California to slash prison population by more than 30,000"

Jessica Levinson is quoted in this article in the CSM.

Here is an excerpt:

“Constitutional violations do not wait for recessions or booms. A violation is a violation regardless of whether the state has a surplus or is on the edge of bankruptcy,” says Jessica Levinson ... “It is also time for legislators and members of the electorate to focus not only on the fact that prisons are overcrowded, but why they are so overcrowded,” she says.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"Supreme Court tells California to cut prison population"

More from Julie Small and Mark Sherman at KPCC/AP.

"How Did a Conservative Finish as One of Top-Two Vote-Getters in the Liberal 36th Congressional District?"

Jessica Levinson's latest article on KCET.org is here


Here is an excerpt:


File this under, "I was wrong." In a true political upset, conservative Republican Craig Huey and Democratic Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn bested 14 other candidates in the special election to fill former Rep. Jane Harman's congressional seat. Hahn, daughter of Los Angeles County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, and sister of former Los Angeles Mayor, James Hahn, was widely expected to be among the top-two finishers. Huey was not.

"Do it yourself redistricting comes to LA County"

Can you do it better?

Computer World has more.

"Dems want to paint new Congressional map blue"

The Chicago Sun-Times has more.

"Illinois' Redistricting Map To Oblivion"

"If you had any doubt that the North Side of Chicago was the political center of gravity in Illinois, just look at the new legislative map drawn by Democrats in Springfield. Nearly a dozen Senate districts radiate from the state’s liberal heartland to share the wealth of Democratic voters among as many lucky politicians as possible."


NBC Chicago has more

News from Texas: "Even With New Congressional Seats, Tricky Redistricting Work Isn’t a Priority"

"When it comes to Congressional redistricting in Texas, inaction is louder than words. It’s all but certain now that when Texans go to the polls next year, they’ll elect their 36 members of Congress from maps drawn by federal judges — not by state legislators."


The NYT has more

News from Maryland: "Delegates push for 'lump sum' finance reform"

The Balitmore Sun has more.

"Money isn't everything in winning local elections, campaign finance reports in St. Louis County show"

Is this possible?

More here.

"Committee will review Maine campaign finance bills"

The Portland Press Herald has more.