Monday, January 31, 2011

Cal. Gov. Jerry Brown Delivers State of the State

Click on the following news outlets for more:

Reuters, LAT, Mercury News, and SacBee.

Pres. Obama's Health Care Law Declared Unconstitutional (Again)

Here is a roundup of news reports:

NYT, CNN, Fox, WSJ, USA Today, TPM, LAT, and CNBC

"No More Love Letters from the Legislature: A California Court Tells the Legislature to Stop Writing Official Ballot Measure Language"

You can find Jessica Levinson's piece on the California court's recent ruling by clicking here.

Update on Breaking News: "Judge rules health law unconstitutional"

Politico has this report.

Breaking News Update: Federal Judge Declares Controversial Health Care Law Unconstitutional

You can read Judge Vinson's ruling here. (Courtesy of Politico).

The 78-page opinion begins by quoting from the Federalist Papers.

Breaking News: A Federal Judge Declares Pres. Obama's Health Care Law to be Unconstitutional

The Florida judge making today's ruling is the second federal judge to rule that the controversial health care law is unconstitutional.

Did former State Senator Dick Ackerman violate anti-lobbying laws?

Jessica Levinson was quoted in the article:

"It sure looks like he's lobbying," said Jessica Levinson, an attorney in charge of political reform efforts.
"It stinks."
Levinson said Ackerman's efforts seem to sidestep the yearlong ban on lobbying.
"It's the whole revolving door issue," said Levinson. "You shouldn't use your former position as a representative for your own personal gain to lean on your former colleagues."

For the full article from the Voice of Orange County, click here.

How much did it cost the GOP to have a fundraiser with LeeAnn Rimes?

Answer: 80K.

And how much did they raise? About 85K. 

"The money that the PAC raised hardly covered the cost of the event — it took in $85,000. The San Manuel Band of Mission Indians donated $50,000 to the committee, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians Native donated $25,000. Blue Shield of California’s PAC chipped in $5,000 and the American Association of Clinical Urologists and a Tennessee-based donor gave $2,500 each."

Politico has more here.

Santa Monica City Council Members Resist Efforts to Strengthen Campaign Disclosure Rules

The Santa Monica Daily Press has this report.

How much family money can one candidate use?

A new bill may answer that question.

The Courier Journal has more here

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Colorado Editorial: "Voters best served by full disclosure"

Click here for more from the Times Call.

California's Fair Political Practices Commission passes rules to increase disclosure requirements for slate mailers

Click here for more from the Sacramento Bee.

Are political blogs worth more than political funds to candidates?

The NYT has this report, entitled, "Political Blogs Ready to Flood Campaign Trail"

"Finance reports show circuit judgeships come at high price"

The Dispatch has this report.

What role should "special interests" play in political campaigns?

Here is but one perspective:
"One man’s evil 'special-interest group' is another’s advocacy organization as pure as the snows of the High Sierra.
The Sierra Club is no less a 'special-interest group' than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both pursue political agendas. Both get considerable media attention. The members of both give money to political campaigns to influence lawmakers.
The subjectively defined 'special-interest group' is at the heart of debates over campaign financing. U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, wants to abolish public financing for presidential campaigns. State Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, wants to create a system of 'voter-owned' elections."

Will Virginia former Del. Phil Hamilton face campaign finance fines?

"The State Board of Elections will look at mounds of amended campaign finance reports filed by former Del. Phil Hamilton on Monday and decide whether to fine the former lawmaker for months of delays in providing spending and fundraising data."

Click here for more. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Egypt's High-Powered D.C. Lobbying Ties"

"Mubarak's government has employed some of the biggest names in the influence game"

Click here for more from the Atlantic.

"Dems Eye Legal Attack on Shadow Spending Groups"

Click here for more from Mother Jones.

Here is an excerpt from that piece:

In an interview with Mother Jones, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the past chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and one of Congress' staunchest campaign-finance reform advocates, says Democrats and left-leaning groups are mulling a legal fight that would challenge the tax-exempt status of independent right-wing groups that sprung up in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision. Their targets include groups such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and the American Action Network (AAN), run by former GOP Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, which together spent more than $43 million supporting conservative candidates and attacking Democratic ones, making up 23 percent of all outside conservative spending. "People are looking at different legal strategies through the courts because there's emerging evidence that these groups have abused the rules," Van Hollen says.

Rahm Gets to Run

More on the Illinois Supreme Court's decision to allow Rahm Emanuel to appear on the Chicago mayoral ballot from the following news outlets:

NYT, LAT, Slate, MSNBC and Vanity Fair.

More on the House's vote to end public financing for presidential candidates

The National Journal has this report, and there is more here from ABC, here from NPR, and here from Fox News.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Will voters in Minnesota need a photo ID to vote?

Click here for more from the Minnesota Post, and here for more from the St. Cloud Times.

"Court says Legislature can't write own ballot language"

Breaking news from California:

"A state appeals court today ruled that the state Legislature did not have authority to draft its own ballot language for the successful high-speed rail bond measure lawmakers placed on the 2008 ballot"

The Sacramento Bee has this report

Breaking News: Illinois Supreme Court says Rahm Emanuel will be on the mayoral ballot

Click on these news outlets for more: CNN, NYT, and USA Today.

Deal Reached on the Filibuster?

Not really. Click here for more from the NYT.

"U.S. House Votes to End Campaign Finance System, Senate Unlikely to Agree"

Click here for more from Bloomberg.

Sarah Palin's PAC raises almost 280K at the end of 2010

The NYT has this report.

"Koch conference under scrutiny"

Politico has this report.

Here is an excerpt:

"This weekend, for the eighth straight year, the billionaire Koch brothers will convene a meeting of roughly 200 wealthy businessmen, Republican politicians and conservative activists for a semi-annual conference to raise millions of dollars for the institutions that form the intellectual foundation – and, increasingly, the leading political edge – of the conservative movement."

House Ethics Panel Drops Cases Against Campbell, Crowley and Price

The three Republican representatives were being investigated based on fundraising related to, and votes on, the financial overhaul law. The House Ethics Committee found that they did not violate any laws or applicable ethical standards.

Click here for more from the Hill.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Politics in California: It's a man's world...or is it? (VIDEO)"

A poignant satire.

"Effect of House GOP's anti-campaign-financing bill would be felt by Republicans"

Click here for more from the Washington Post.

"House votes to end publicly financed presidential campaigns"

The Hill has this report.

Congressional Black Caucus Prepares for Redistricting

Politico has this report.

Will the Senate reform the filibuster?

Maybe. The Washington Post has this report.

How much did Joe Miller's election challenge cost Alaska?

About 100K. The Alaska Dispatch has this report.

The Illinois Supreme Court will determine whether Rahm Emanuel can appear on the mayoral ballot

The AP has this report.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Reporting Begins

Here are reports from Politico, LA Times, NYT, WSJ, and WAPO

"Justice Scalia: Lawmakers Need To Get Familiar With Federalist Papers"

The AP has this report.

"Obama administration slow to adapt Hatch Act standards on electioneering laws, report says"

The Washington Post has this report.

"Scott Brown Wants To Use Campaign Funds To Buy Thousands Of Copies Of His Book"

The Huffington Post has this report.

"The Kumbaya State of the Union?"

This post by Jessica Levinson originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

When I first heard that Senator Mark Udall (D) suggested that members of Congress abandon their typical segregated seating for the State of the Union and cross the ever so broad swath of cloth on the House chamber floor separating the aisles where Republicans sit from those where Democrats do, my reaction was similar to the one I'd have if a random toddler approached me and announced plans to have a tea party on Pluto "how cute."

But then I thought, in typically cynical fashion, I'm not sure if we mature or if we just get older. If the latter is true, voluntary integration might be a great move for our motley crew of legislators.

I still remember, with stomach churning horror, an ugly high school cafeteria scene in which a group of friends told another friend that she best sit at a different table for lunch. My temporarily ostracized friend was different both politically and socially from my other friends. She forced my more closed minded lunching companions to consider a differing viewpoint, and frankly, to feel less free in their own knee jerk reactions.
Now of course the analogy between high school cafeteria and House chamber has a few minor holes, but can any of us argue that there aren't just a few similarities as well? If the "cool kids" didn't always sit at a different table from the nerds would my class have been filled with book smart fashionistas who were as well versed academically as they were socially? (The truth is, at my high school, they were. But that is for another day).

Allow me to provide another, perhaps less attenuated, example.
Some friends invited me to watch the final game of the World Cup. I know little about soccer except that people get extremely excited when an announcer screams "GOAL!" As my family is Dutch I felt some sort of allegiance to that team. Let me tell you, the first time I clapped at a successful Dutch play it was the definition of uncomfortable. Someone in my group of comrades should have told me they were all die hard fans of the Spanish teams. I was in enemy territory, and believe me, I only cheered when I felt pretty strongly about it, and not just because everyone around me was doing the same. No mob mentality at that viewing party.

So maybe this whole "sit anywhere" idea has something to it. But the next question is, of course, who does one ask to accompany them to the party?

"Colo. Secretary of State Plans to Moonlight at Law Firm to Help with $68K Government Salary"

Will that create a conflict of interest? The ABA has this report.

What will happen to Rahm Emanuel's campaign funds if he can't run for mayor?

Ben Smith has this piece in Politico.

"The Incumbent's Bane: Citizens United and the 2010 Election"

Bradley Smith has this piece in the WSJ.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What do California's special elections have in store for us?

Jessica Levinson has this post on KCET's new website about the February 15th special elections in California to fill two state senate vacancies.

More Breaking News re Rahm: "Rahm Emanuel booted off Chicago mayoral ballot"

Politico has this report.

Breaking News: "Rahm Emanuel's name can't be on mayoral ballot, says court"

Click here for more.

"Bell scandal inspires reformist legislative proposals"

The L.A. Times has this report.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle prepare for a fight over campaign finance law

Those on the left and the right are gearing up for a battle over campaign finance rules in anticipation of the 2012 elections.

Democrats want more disclosure. Republicans want less (or no) public financing. 

The Hill has this report

Justice Clarence Thomas Neglected to Report His Wife's Income


Virginia Thomas, Justice Clarence Thomas' wife, has recently made headlines for her strong ties to the Tea Party movement.

Click here for more from the L.A. Times.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What is the real impact of Citizens United?

Jessica Levinson is interviewed by filmmaker John Wellington Ennis about the impact of Citizens United. 

For an excerpt of the yet-to-be-released film, click here

NY Allows $100,000 Contributions to Political Parties

The WSJ has this report.

"House GOP Leaders See Corporate Donations Surge"

A local Fox affiliate has this report.

Will Congress kill the public campaign financing for presidential candidates?

Public campaign financing, adopted in the wake of the Watergate scandals, has been in effect, and routinely used since 1976. The program was passed to, among other things, enlarge the public debate and free candidates from the interminable burden of fundraising.

The NYT argues that the program is well worth saving. 

Will the internet lead to changes in California's campaign finance laws?

A Fair Political Practices Commission task force has recommended that California adopt electronic filing for state candidates and ballot measure committees.

Click here for more. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Who is giving to Rahm Emanuel's mayoral campaign?

The following is an excerpt from the article:

"Rahm Emanuel President Barack Obama's former chief of staff, raised $10.6 million through Jan. 19 for his bid to succeed Richard M. Daley as mayor of Chicago, with the help of Wall Street, LaSalle Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood donors, campaign disclosure records show.

Click here for the entire article from Bloomberg. 

Oklahoma Ethics Panel Urges Reforms

The Oklahoma Ethics panel urges legislatures to approve changes that would bring Oklahoma's campaign finance laws in line with the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United.  

Click here for more. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Was Citizens United a triumph or a disaster?

Here are a number of views on the Court's decision in Citizens United:
Jamie Raskin, in this piece in the Huffington Post, argues against the propriety of the Court's decision. Katrina vanden Heuvel has a similar take in this piece in the Washington Post.

For the opposing view, Joel Gora argues that the Citizens United decision vindicates First Amendment rights. Click here for more from the WSJ.

David Bossie and Theodore Olson make a similar argument in the Washington Post.

NPR has this report, and the Center for Responsive Politics has this report, on the impact of Citizens United.

Happy Birthday Citizens United, You're One

The Supreme Court's uber-controversial decision in Citizens United was handed down one year ago today. The Supreme Court essentially ruled that it is unconstitutional to place restrictions on corporations' and labor unions' ability to spend general treasury funds on electioneering communications.

For a piece by Jessica Levinson written shortly after the decision on the real problems behind the ruling, click here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"Lawful travel gifts for city officials called into question"

The San Francisco Chronicle has this report.

"The 15-minute California budget solution"

Click here for more from the Los Angeles Times.

The Supreme Court agrees to hear a case on Medi-Cal rate cuts.

Click here for more from the Sacramento Bee.

California Gov Jerry Brown Declares a New Fiscal Emergency

Click here for more from the Sacramento Bee.

Gov Schwarzenegger sued over his decision to commute Esteban Nunez's prison sentence

Click here for more from Reuters.

You can find Jessica Levinson's KCET blog on Schwarzenegger's controversial decision here.

Where is Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan?

Waiting for jury duty. Click here for more.

Do corporations have personal privacy rights?

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard arguments on this question.

Click here for more from the NYT.

U.S. Supreme Court upholds background checks for employees of government contractors

Click here for more from the NYT.

Why are new California legislators rejecting perks like government-funded cars?

Jessica Levinson quoted in the story:

"I'm pleasantly surprised, (freshmen) may be ushering in a new atmosphere," said Jessica Levinson. She suspects the move is more image than substance, however."To be cynical, there may be a calculus that they're saving money and buying great PR at the same time," Levinson said.

Click here for more from the Sacramento Bee. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"House Votes for Repeal of Health Law in Symbolic Act"

Click here for more from the NYT.

Can we keep guns out of schools?

Jessica Levinson quoted in the article:

“The [Supreme] Court’s current interpretation of the Second Amendment means that relatively few gun restrictions are permissible,” says Jessica Levinson, adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Click here for more from the Christian Science Monitor. 

California Governor Jerry Brown's budget has something for everyone to hate

Jessica Levinson quoted about California Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget:


Jessica Levinson echoed a theme embraced by many fiscal reform advocates in Washington when she said that “Everyday Californians should understand that there is something here for everyone to hate, little for anyone to like. Democrats will scream at the top of their lungs about the cuts in this and Republicans will abhor the tax increases.”

Click here for the entire piece. 

Fmr Congressman tells new members of Congress to listen to lobbyists

Former Rep. Vic Fazio tells new members of Congress that they could learn a thing or two from lobbyists.

Click here for more from Politico. 


"Colorado lawmakers meet on redistricting"

Click here for more from the AP.

California's Fair Political Practices Commission Investigates San Diego County Supervisor

The FPPC is investigating San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn for possible failure to to disclose the sources of a contribution made during his successful campaign to obtain a fifth term in office. 

Click here for more from the Union Tribute. 

Did members of the U.S. Supreme Court have conflicts of interest when they ruled on Citizens United?

An advocacy group, Common Cause, has claimed that Justices Thomas and Scalia should have disqualified themselves from hearing and ruling upon campaign finance cases, including Citizens United.

The NYT has this report.

"Ambassadorial openings for open wallets"

The Washington Post has this report.

Will Iowa school board officials have to disclose internal emails?

The Iowa Association of School Boards is asking the judge whether they have to disclose internal emails under an open records request and their lobbyists is attempting to convince lawmakers to carve out an exception for them for open records requests. 

The Des Moines Register has this report.

"Gov. Cuomo rewarded campaign staffers with generous bonuses, financial reports show"

The NY Daily News has this report.

"Money flowing for some in Dallas mayor, council races"

Click here for more from the Dallas Morning News.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

NY Governor Cuomo Pledges to Increase Transparency

Click here for more from the NYT.

Minnesota's Largest Anti-Abortion Group Challenges Campaign Disclosure Laws

Click here for more from the Minnesota Independent.

Colorado's Former Secretary of State Says America's Campaign Finance System is "Irretrievably Broken"

Click here for more from the Aspen Times.

WA State considers laws to increase campaign disclosure

Click here for more from the Spokesman Review.

"Political Gifts From Beyond the Grave: Dead Woman Donates Thousands of Dollars to Tea Party Express"

Click here for more from the Open Secrets blog.

"States May Act to Rein in Citizens United"

Citizens United is the Supreme Court's controversial decision finding that corporations and labor unions have First Amendment rights to spend general treasury funds on electioneering communications.

Click here for more.

How much did Florida's public campaign financing program cost?

The answer, about $5.8 million.

Click here for more. 

"Campaign debt, GOP lawsuit over finance restrictions, still on defeated Rep. Cao's plate"

Click here for more from the AP.

John Edwards under investigation related to campaign finance issues

There is a federal criminal investigation related to what John Edwards knew about money spent to support his mistress, Rielle Hunter, and their child. The primary question is whether funds paid to Hunter should have been considered to be campaign donations.

Click here for more from the Associated Press.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Governor Schwarzenegger's Controversial Last Act"

Click here for a post by Jessica Levinson on the new KCET website.

"How Much Speech Will We Buy in 2012?"

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

The 112th Congress is in its infancy, and already we're off to the races fundraising for 2012. Congressman Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania apparently missed a swearing in ceremony in order to hold a purported fundraiser on Capitol grounds, a violation of House ethics rules. Fitzpatrick was accompanied by Representative Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. (Because Fitzpatrick and Sessions missed the swearing in ceremony their early votes were voided. Such is life, it is not like it is their job to vote and represent their constituents. Oh, wait.)

It seems there will be no shortage of work for the House's Office of Congressional Ethics. But the incident speaks to a broader issue. Before our elected officials are even sworn in to do the job we elected them to do -- namely to represent us -- they are raising money for the next race.

Why Is It So Hard to Limit the Amount of Money in Politics?

In 1976 the United States Supreme Court changed the face of modern politics and political campaigns by ruling that money spent in political campaigns is the equivalent of speech. If pressed to categorize the ruling in two words, I would likely choose "unmitigated disaster." The Supreme Court has since eviscerated many of laws enacted to stem the tide of money (er, speech).

The Court's decision means that every time a person gives or spends money in politics, they are speaking, and whenever we enact laws the restrict the flow of money in politics, we are restricting speech. Because the Court is rightfully ruthlessly protective of First Amendment rights, the Court is reticent to allow most laws that restrict the amount of money we can give and receive in political campaigns, and as a result money flows very freely throughout our political system.

The Court's ruling rests on a foundation about as strong as quick sand.
Money plays a role in political campaigns that is difficult to underestimate. Money allows speech by candidates and independent groups to reach a wider audience. Simply put, money helps to enable speech. Money amplifies speech. It is not, however, speech itself. If money is not pure speech, but rather the antecedent to speech, it is entitled to a lower level of First Amendment protection and can be limited.

Money without a speaker conveys nothing. A speaker without money can still communicate. It may be that few people will hear the person with few funds. That is why candidates and independent organizations must be allowed to spend enough money to get their messages out, just not so much that I need earplugs to hear those messages. Put another way, use an inside voice. No need to scream it.

What Would Happen in World with Campaign Finance Limitations?

Something could transpire when contributors, candidates and independent organizations don't spend close to unlimited sums. We might hear from more people, namely those who can't or don't want to spend money. Hence, reducing the amount of money spent can actually increase actual speech.

Go to a music concert and take the amplifiers away. Many will still be able to hear the performance and those screaming in the audience. Add the amplifiers and virtually all I will hear is a louder version of the same performance, but the audience will be drowned out.

Why, Specifically, Are Campaign Finance Limitations Important?

Despite obstacles erected by the Supreme Court, legislatures on all levels of government have enacted laws to try to stem the tide of money pumping through our political system. Why? For starters, money spent in campaigns can lead to corruption or its appearance. Even if a politician doesn't actually give a favor in return for a large contribution, chances are we suspect that she or might have. This suspicion that politicians are too responsive to the wishes of big spenders and not to their constituents is one of the main purposes of campaign finance reforms. In a representative democracy it is vital that constituents feel their elected officials are representing them, not their contributors.

In addition, when money is all but unlimited in politics (or, when we have a system that provides for contribution limits but no limits on expenditures) the need and desire to fundraise in indefatigable. In such a system it is no surprise that elected officials like Fitzpatrick and Sessions begin fundraising even before (or actually when) they are sworn in. Part of the purpose of campaign finance restrictions, therefore, is to allow our representatives to do what we sent them to D.C., the state capital or city hall to do, make laws that best represent us.

Is Campaign Finance a Cure All?

Absolutely not. To paraphrase a famous quote, it may be that money, like water, will always find a way. I'm merely advocating that we plug a few cracks, and install a better drainage system.

Money doesn't always speak loudest, and quite likely is not the only or greatest influencer in people's behavior. Sometimes we make decisions because we believe them to be right and fair, regardless of the role money has played. Sometimes we seek the counsel of others. People, regardless of money, can wield enormous influence. Even as an adult, a lawyer, a sometimes law professor and political commentator, chances are that when faced with my high school principal, I'm going to listen. The only question is whether I respond like a tween or not.

The fact that is plays a role at all in the decisions of our elected officials is enough for me to argue in favor of reasonable restrictions of money. Perhaps such restrictions will foster an atmosphere where swearing in ceremonies are prized above fundraisers.

Will the Santa Monica City Council increase campaign finance disclosure laws?

The answer is no. Some on the the Santa Monica City Council unsuccessfully asked for increases disclosure of contributions by those doing business with the city.

Click here for more from the Santa Monica Daily Press. 

WA State Introduces Election Law Bills

WA State has introduced a number of election law bills in 2011. One would eliminate the Presidential Primary in 2012. Other bills would make County Auditor elections non-partisan.

Click here for more from Ballot Access News.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Early votes of two GOP congressmen voided"

Congressmen Fitzpatrick and Sessions skipped the official swearing in ceremony in favor of a purported fundraiser for Fitzpatrick. As a result neither was officially sworn in and their initial votes were voided.

Click here for more from CNN.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Will Gov. Jerry Brown's California budget run into legal roadblock?"

Jessica Levinson quoted about Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposals.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Getting two-thirds of a Democratic legislature to vote for $12.5 billion in spending cuts could be problematic, says Jessica Levinson, adjunct professor of law at Loyola Law School.

“This is still a Democratically dominated legislature,” she says. “They may be reticent to enact cuts before knowing that" voters in the special election will agree with Brown's plan to extend expiring taxes worth $12 billion.

“Those who turn out in special elections tend to be more conservative than those who vote in special elections,” she adds, noting that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was rejected on all four of his proposals in a 2005 special election. "It is difficult to get anything passed in a special election.”

For more from the Christina Science Monitor, click here

A member of CA's redistricting commission resigns

CA's newly formed independent redistricting commission lost one of its members, who resigned due to time limitations. The commission also hired an executive director.

Click here for more from the Sacramento Bee.

"Lawsuit filed as redistricting process gets underway"

Click here for more from the Star Tribute.

Alaska Tea Party Candidate Joe Miller Wants to Change Alaska's Election Laws

Click here for more from the AP.

Fmr Gov Rendell leaves Pennsylvania with a troubling fundraising legacy

The article details, among other things, Rendell's large contributions from a wealthy Chicago businessman whose company had business with the state of Pennsylvania.

Click here for more from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

More restrictions on PACs in Seattle, Washington?

Out of scandals come legislative proposals. A legislative proposal in Seattle would prohibit contributions between PACs and create a rebuttable presumption that a person creating more than one PAC was attempting to keep the funding of the PACs secret. The proposal is likely to be altered before it is voted on.
 Click here for more from the Seattle Times.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Citizens United One Year Later

This piece includes a debate about the merits of the Supreme Court's controversial decision in Citizens United v. FEC. In that case a 5-4 majority of the Court ruled that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend general treasury funds on so-called "electioneering" communications. 

Click here for more from the Nation.

Proposed Voter Photo Identification Law in WI Facing Legal Challenge

Click here for more.

"Santa Monica: Councilman requests disclosure of financial contributions to lawmakers from entities seeking public benefits"

Click here for more from the Argonaut.

Minnesota Politicians Sen. David Senjem and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer fined for campaign finance violations

Emmer was fined for accepting corporate contributions. Senjem was fined for giving money to former Senator Paul Koering.
 Click here for more from the Minnesota Independent.

"Rep. Brady’s CUTS Act Could Be A Boon For Some Lobbyists"

CUTS is an acronym for “Cut Unsustainable and Top-Heavy Spending” Act.
If CUTS were passed, it would lead to a reduction of $153 billion in spending over 5 years. So how would this help lobbyists? Lobbyists make money fighting reductions in government spending, this would really give them something to fight about.

Click here for more from Forbes.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Abe Lincoln and Filibuster Fever"

Interesting OpEd about various meanings of the word "filibuster" and the history of that process.

Click here for more from the NYT

Should New Year Adopt Public Campaign Financing?

Should New York follow  Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's calls to adopt public campaign financing and other reform proposals?

Click here for more from the Buffalo News. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Oh How the Mighty Have Fallen: Former U.S. House Majority Leaders Gets Three Years in Prison"

This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

First comes the conviction, next comes the sentence. Late last year I wrote about a Texas jury's decision to nail Tom DeLay (aka "the hammer") to the proverbial wall. The former leader of our nation's house of representatives was convicted of money laundering for illegally directing just shy of $200,000 in corporate political donations to candidates from the Texas State Legislature. DeLay could have been sent away on what some euphemistically call a "government sponsored vacation" for up to ninety-nine years. So with that view, three years doesn't look half bad.
DeLay, ever his own cheerleader, is appealing the conviction, maintaining his innocence, and claiming that the prosecution is politically motivated. Just prior to sentencing DeLay, Judge Pat Priest stated "Before there were Republicans and Democrats, there was America, and what America is about is the rule of law." 

Though he was found guilty, the seeds of his illegal acts are still bearing fruits. The money DeLay funneled in 2002 to Texas state legislative candidates likely helped many of those candidates win, and hence for Republicans to take control of the Texas state legislature. Democrats had maintained control of the Texas legislature since reconstruction. In 2003, Republicans then redrew Congressional district lines to do something completely and wholly unsurprising--give them an edge in the next election. The controversial districting plan was successful, and in the next election, in 2004, Republicans bested five Democratic incumbents in Congressional races.
DeLay stated that "This criminalization of politics is very dangerous, very dangerous to our system." So too - assuming the conviction is a valid one - is the performing criminal acts for political gain. That too is hazardous. The acts DeLay was convicted of committing didn't merely help some of his favored candidates get elected, they robbed the voters of fair(er) elections, free from laundered money and dirty tricks.

Virginia is creating a bipartisan commission to help redistrict the state.

For more from the Washington Post, click here.

Is government service a gateway to lobbying?

For more from the NYT, click here, for more from the Washington Examiner click here, and for more from USA Today, click here

Is Tom DeLay Headed to Prison for Three Years?

A state court judge recently sentenced Tom DeLay to three years in prison based on his conviction for money laundering. A jury found DeLay guilty of illegally funneling corporate money to candidates for the Texas Legislature.

For more click on the following links, Dallas Morning News, Politico, and Washington Post.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jessica Levinson Quoted About Gov. Brown's Budget

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“Everyday Californians should understand that there is something here for everyone to hate, little for anyone to like … a tough budget for a tough economy,” says Jessica Levinson.... “Democrats will scream at the top of their lungs about the cuts in this and Republicans will abhor the tax increases.”

For the entire article, click here.

Background on Tom DeLay's Conviction

For some background on Tom DeLay's legal troubles, you can view Jessica Levinson's Huffington Post on the subject here.

Breaking News: Tom DeLay is Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

Click here for more from CNN, .

California Governor Jerry Brown's Proposed Budget Has Been Posted

Click here.

California Governor Jerry Brown Releases His Proposed Budget

Click here for the press release regarding Brown's proposed budget.

Jessica Levinson will be on KPCC talking about the budget around 11:20am PST.

Jessica Levinson Comments on the California Budget

Jessica Levinson will be live on KNX 1070am at 10:55am and KPCC 89.3 FM at 11:20am.

California Governor Jerry Brown to Announce His Proposed Budget

One thing remains clear, the proposed budget will include painful budget cuts. There is no easy way to balance a $25-28 billion deficit.

For more, click on the following links, LAT, NPR, CNN, ans SF Chronicle.

Jessica Levinson will be on KPCC (89.3 FM) Monday morning around 11am PST to discuss Governor Brown's budget proposals.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Idaho to Close their Primary Elections?

Republican legislators in Idaho have prepared a measure to close primary elections to Democratic voters. Insteat Republican and independent voters will be allowed to vote in Republican primaries. A federal judge will rule on the constitutionality of that measure. Currently in Idaho, regardless of party affiliation voters can choose any party's ballot. For more click here.

Lobbyist Gets More than 2 Years in Prison for Violating Campaign Finance Laws

Former Lobbyist Paul Magliocchetti admitted that he violated federal campaign finance laws by illegally funneling money. Magliocchetti asked those he knew to give campaign contributions to candidates and PACs and then reimbursed them for those contributions.
Click here for more from the WaPo.

"Anatomy of Brown's Budget"

For more from the Sacramento Bee, click here.

Jessica Levinson will be on KPCC on Monday around 11am PST talking about the CA budget.

Sarah Palin, Gabrielle Giffords and Political Speech

Many are discussing whether there is any connection between vitriolic political speech and the unspeakable tragic shooting in Arizona.

As one example of the current political climate, many are abuzz about a campaign Sarah Palin launched called "Take Back the 20" (the website has been taken down since the shooting), which called on Americans to vote Democrats out of office. The districts Palin targeted for her campaign were designated by crosshairs, a symbol commonly associated with gun sights. A Palin aide has vehemently denied that the crosshairs were meant to be gun sights. Palin was also criticized, for tweeting "Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!" when discussing the 2010 midterm elections. After the elections, when Republicans won in 18 of the 20 districts she targeted, Palin referred to her targeted 20 districts as her "bullseye" list. Palin was quick to offer condolences to all who were murdered in Arizona on Saturday.  

The description above is meant for sole purpose of providing background to a larger discussion. The description is not meant to contain an opinion on this important debate. 

For more, click on the following links, FoxNewsHuffington Post, NYT, and WSJ

"Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics"

For more from the NYT, click here.

Should we institute new laws requiring greater security for members of Congress?

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Arizona, some are calling for increased security for members of Congress.

For more, click on the following links, WashingtonTimes (written by the great Joe Weber), USA TodayFoxNews, and FoxLA.  

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jessica Levinson quoted in the L.A. Daily News about Brown's Budget for California

Here is an excerpt of the article discussing Governor Brown's proposal to cut enterprise zones and redevelopment agencies: 

"It doesn't sound as quote-unquote `bad' as cutting in-home care, welfare or food stamps," said Jessica Levinson. 

Click here for more. 

A United States Federal Judge Has Been Murdered

Among the victims today in Arizona was Arizona Chief U.S. District Judge John M. Roll.

Click here for more from Politics Daily.

Breaking News: Conflicting Reports About the Condition of Congresswoman Giffords

There were numerous reports that Congresswoman Giffords had been killed after being shot at close range at a public event outside a grocery store. Now there are conflicting reports about her condition. Let us hope that the initial reports were erroneous. Our nation's public servants, regardless of party affiliation, should never fear for their safety.

Breaking News: Congresswoman Giffords from Arizona Has Been Shot

Click here for more from the NYT.

"Redistricting 101: Eight facts about redrawing the US political map"

Interesting, informative article on the process of drawing legislative and congressional lines every 10 years.

Click here for more from the Christian Science Monitor.

Iowa to start redistricting

The process of drawing new state and federal district lines in Iowa will be an arduous one. In Iowa, unlike in other states, nonpartisan legislative staffers draw district lines, and the Legislature can then accept or reject the plan. Iowa does this in an effort to make the redistricting process less political. Click here for more.

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Scalia Accepts Invite of Tea Party Leader, Criticized for ‘Exceedingly Poor Judgment’"

Click here for more from the ABA Journal.

"Health repeal message-war ramps up"

For more from Politico, click here.

Jessica Levinson will be on AirTalk on Monday talking about CA's Budget

Jessica Levinson will be on 89.3 FM (for those in Los Angeles), on AirTalk discussing Governor Jerry Brown's proposed budget.

"Villaraigosa won't say if he agrees with clemency for Fabian Nuñez's son"

For more on Governor Schwarzenegger's controversial decision to commute the sentence of Fabian Nunez's son, click here.

"On Filibuster Reform"

An OpEd in the NYT depending both filibuster reform and keeping the filibuster.

Will public campaign financing return to Portland, Oregon?

One former candidate for Portland City Council is trying to bring public campaign financing back to that city.

Click here for more.

"Carlos Moreno's resignation from California Supreme Court creates opportunity for Jerry Brown"

Click here for more from the L.A. Times.

More on Congress' decision to read the Constitution

For more on Congress' decision to read the text of the Constitution from the House floor, click here for an opinion piece in Politico.

Congress reads the Constitution!

On January 6, 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives did something unusual. They read the text of the Constitution from the House floor.

Click here for more from the NYT.

For more on a wonderful project that focuses, in part, on readings of the constitution, go to My Daily Constitution.

"Gov. Brown blames Prop. 13 for state's money problems"

Oh Prop 13, California's (in)famous anti-tax measure.

Click here for Governor Brown's thoughts.

The Senate recess will be filled with Filibuster talk

The debate over whether and how to reform the filibuster process will likely occur behind closed doors until January 24th, when the Senate reconvenes.

Democratic hopes of reforming the filibuster with a simple majority vote, as opposed to a two-thirds vote, seem dim.

Click here for more from Politco.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jessica Levinson quoted about conflicts of interest

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Jessica Levinson — director of political reform for the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles-based nonpartisan think tank — acknowledged both the burden and importance of candidates knowing where their money comes from.
"On the one side, you should be able to run for office without having a professional team of campaign finance lawyers," she said. "On the other hand, there is a very strong public interest in knowing this information, in having this information."

Click here for the entire story.

Will there by filibuster reform?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced of a filibuster reform measure on the first day of the 112th Congress, but then waited to hold a vote until after the Senate returns to D.C. on January 24th.

Click for more from WaPo and more from the Hill.

Will Teapartyers create strong campaign disclosure laws?

This article argues that tea party officials could be natural allies of those who want to push for more campaign finance disclosure.Tea party members have contended that government is too big and the political process is run by special interests. The article suggests that tea party candidates might be persuaded by the argument that our democratic government is undermined by undisclosed corporate and union interests.
 Click here for more from the LAT.

"Group fined $12,000 for violating campaign-finance law."

An administrative law judge has found that an advocacy group, Safe Street Colorado, failed to file campaign finance reports prior to taking contributions to get a measure on the ballot and imposed a $12,000 fine.
Click here to read more from the Denver Post.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christine O'Donnell to re-file her campaign finance filings with the FEC

And the Christine O'Donnell campaign finance saga continues. O'Donnell will re-file campaign finance documents with the FEC by the end of January 2011. O'Donnell's attorney said that the re-filing is necessary because the campaign, “did not have the funds prior to the 2010 primary in September, 2010 [,] to retain professional compliance vendors and counsel.”

For more, click on the following links to various news sites, WSJ, Politico, and TPM

"And Now, a Word from the California Supreme Court..."

Click here for Jessica Levinson's blog on the KCET website. The post concerns the Ninth Circuit's ruling yesterday in the uber-controversial Prop 8 litigation.

"Ms. Bass and Mr. Denham Go to Washington, Alone"

Click here for Jessica Levinson's first piece on KCET's new blog. The post concerns the new independent redistricting commission which will soon be drawing both state and federal legislative lines in California. This could be a huge shakeup to the political landscape in the golden state.

"How Wall St. execs bankrolled GOP victory"

Interesting piece about Republican donations in the 2010 midterm elections.

Click here for more from MSNBC.

"Campaign finance report takes aim at political slates, LLCs"

Maryland lawmakers and election lawyers want to, among other things, restrict the ability of political slates and LLCs to give campaign funds.

Click here for more from the Baltimore Sun. 

Will the Filibuster go nuclear?

All eyes will be on the Senate today to see if they can and will reform the filibuster.

Proponents of filibuster reform have claimed that they can change the filibuster rules by a simple majority vote on the first day of a new session (today!), but that they otherwise need a two-thirds vote for such reform. Proponents want to, among other things, end secret holds and force members who want to filibuster to be present (meaning the mere threat of a filibuster will no longer be sufficient).

For more, click on articles from these news outlets: NPR (piece argues in favor of reform), WaPo (piece by Sen. Mitch McConnell argues against reform), WaPo, WaPo (Ezra Klein responds to critics), Bloomberg, and NYT.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"Prop. 8 Case Gets Bumped Over to California Supremes"

Click here for more from the WSJ.

Click here for more from Jessica Levinson in the Huffington Post.

Breaking news: Prop 8 Ruling

The 9th Circuit has sent the case to the California Supreme Court, asking them to determine whether ballot measure proponents have standing to defend a proposition when state officials opt not to do so. For more, read Jessica Levinson's post in the Huffington Post, "Proposition 8: Who Will Be Left Standing?"

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

"Republicans Charge Harry Reid Power Grab on Filibuster"

Click here for more from U.S. News.

"Financial Advisor Admits Role In False Clinton Campaign Finance Reports"

Click here for more.

"Complaint alleges Press Herald broke election law by donating ad space"

The Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices is investigating whether the Portland Press Herald violated campaign finance laws when almost $50,000 of donated ad space was used for an ad urging voters to vote "yes" on a November 2 ballot measure. 
A newspaper executive says the newspaper donated the ads to the chamber of commerce for its use (in its discretion), not for use in a political campaign. The ads did not indicate that the newspaper had donated the space.
Click here for more from the Press Herald.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Saying goodbye to a campaign finance reformer

Senator Russ Feingold lost his bid for reelection and the senate now loses one of the primary proponents of campaign finance reforms. The nation's second comprehensive campaign finance scheme bears his name. (Much of that scheme has since been dismantled by the Supreme Court).

Feingold may have been a victim of his greatest foe (big money), as he was defeated during an election that saw hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by corporations.

Reformers face a conservative Congress and hostile Supreme Court. But, they say, they have a plan. First, they will push legislation leading to greater disclosure. Second, they will ask the IRS to enforce rules applying to the ability of non-profit corporations to spend political funds. Third, they will fight anti-reform lawsuits and legislative proposals. 
Click here for more from the LAT.

Jessica Levinson on the radio about new laws in California in 2011

Jessica Levinson will be on 830 am talking about new laws affecting California in 2011. The discussion will focus laws related to the use of alcohol and marijuana.

Click here for her appearance on the Fox 11 news on the same topic.

"Georgia's new ethics law not as strong as Alabama's law"

An editorial Times-Herald argues that Georgia's new ethics laws are weaker than Alabama's.First, Alabama, unlike Georgia, capped the amount that lobbyists can spend dining with public officials. Second, Alabama, unlike Georgia, limited transfers between PACs. Click here for more.

Maine ethics comission suggests changes

After a busy 2010, the Maine ethics commission staff is suggesting some changes to Maine's law. One proposed change would limit the ability of news organizations to obtain information under the Freedom of Access Act. Another would increase the fine for violations of campaign disclaimer requirements. A third change would limit the permissible uses of "Clean Election" money. Specifically, the commission recommends a ban on using public funds to buy PDAs, smart phones and laptops. Click here for more.

Money leads to power in North Carolina (and beyond)?

Interesting article in the News Observer about, in part, the importance of money in North Carolina congressional races. The article suggests that money (and fundraising prowess) determines the winner of elections. The article also states that incumbents, as opposed to challengers, are the clear beneficiaries of PAC spending. Click here for more.

New campaign finance and ethics laws for Colorado?

After the recent midterm elections, Colorado is looking to strengthen its campaign finance laws. For instance, lawmakers are looking to expand and improve disclosure laws. Click here for more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Breaking News: Governor Schwarzenegger Partially Commutes Fmr. Speaker Fabian Nunez's Son's Prison Sentence

Demonstrating that it still helps if your father is former speaker of the California Assembly, Governor Schwarzenegger partially commuted the prison sentence of Esteban Nunez, the son of Fmr. Speaker Fabian Nunez. Click here for more from the LAT.

New Jersey gearing up for a new fight over district lines

New Jersey, like every other state in the nation, will soon be drawing new state and federal district lines. The redistricting process could determine if Democrats will retain control of the state Senate and Assembly. On the federal level, New Jersey is losing one congressional district.

The 11 member redistricting commission will have to propose a legislative district map by April 1, and a new congressional map by January 2012. The commission is made up of 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and one member appointed by the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Click here for more.

Redistricting could change the political landscape in Virginia

This spring the Virginia will draw new state and federal district lines. Those in charge of the process will likely add a new state senate seat, alter all 40 state senate districts, create more house seats, and change the face of Virginia's 11 congressional districts. This year, every state in the Virginia legislature is up for election. Click here for more.

How can we fix California?

Nicolas Berggruen and Nathan Gardels have an interesting piece in the Sacramento Bee about how to fix California. They have created the "Think Long Committee" to propose solutions to what ails California. Items on the committee's agenda include: 1) realigning state and local taxes and responsibilities; 2) reforming the tax system to make it more stable/less volatile; 3) reforming the budget process to create, among other things, a rainy day fund, pay-go, and sunset laws; 4) reforming term limits laws; and 5) reforming the ballot initiative process to reduce ballot box budgeting. Click here for more.

Breaking News: President Obama poised to sign the 9/11 health care bill

Click here for more from CNN.

"GOP Fundraising Avoids Campaign Limits Through PACs Ahead of 2012"

The title tells much of the story. For more from USA Today and ABC news, click here.

In New Jersey, do you need to pay, to play?

As I previously posted (click here), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is hot water over donations made to a political advocacy group called Reform Jersey Now. The organization is run by close confidants of Gov. Christie, and supports many of his proposals. Contributors who are prohibited, under pay-to-play laws, from giving directly to Gov. Christie, are relatively free to give to Reform Jersey Now. Some of the larger donors include companies vying for (and obtaining) state contracts. 
Click here for more from the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Illinois tries to prevent another Blagojevich scandal

In the wake of scandals related to Rod Blagojevich's time as governor of Illinois, that state has passed campaign finance laws meant to reduce the possibility that history will be repeated. Illinois' new campaign finance law creates contribution limits applicable to individuals, PACs and interest groups. The law also creates certain campaign disclosure requirements. The law, however, contains a provision that could undermine the goal of reducing the influence of money over politics. There is no limit to what political parties and legislative leaders can give to candidates in the general election. Click here for more from the Herald News. 

Bye Bye McCain-Feingold?

The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka McCain-Feingold), enacted in 2002, is a landmark piece of federal legislation concerning campaign finance law. In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the vast majority of the comprehensive scheme embodied in McCain-Friengold. However, sometimes happened to the Supreme Court after 2003, it got more conservative. Justice Alito replaced Justice O'Connor and (less significantly for these purposes) Chief Justice Roberts replaced Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Since the composition of the Supreme Court changed, the Court has consistently narrowed the application of McCain-Feingold, even more dramatically, overturned large provisions of that law. For instance, in 2010 in Citizens United, the Court invalidated a large portion of McCain-Feingold, which prohibited corporations and unions from using general treasury funds on so-called "electioneering communications."

According to a new report (click here for more from UPI), the Republican National Committee has its sights set on invalidating one of the largest remaining provisions of McCain-Feingold, the provision which limits political parties' use of so-called "soft money." 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"Will his failures save the state?"

Fascinating OpEd in the LAT by Joe Mathews (author of the great new book, California Crackup) about the consequences of Schwarzenegger's seven years in office. Mathews posits that Schwarzenegger's spectacular budget failures could spell future success for California.

The Office of Congressional Ethics Lives

House Republicans are keeping the controversial Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). House Democrats created the OCE in 2007. The OCE is the House's independent ethics board. The OCE has been the target of bitter complaints by lawmakers who have been the subjects of its investigations. Incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner opposed the creation of the OCE, and some speculated that it would be eliminated in the Republican-controlled House.

More from the WSJ, AP, and NYT.

"Voter fraud law takes effect today"

A voter fraud law goes into effect today in Oklahoma. The law increases the punishments available for certain violations of election laws. Click here for more.

"Sarah Palin’s Nomination Chances: A Reassessment"

Nate Silver, writing in the NYT, reassesses Sarah Palin's chances to win the Republican nomination for president in 2012. Silver looks back at an article he wrote in November 2009 containing 10 reasons he thought she had a chance at clinching the nomination.

The 10 topics Silver covers are: 1. "Enthusiasm" (can Palin motivate people to go to the polls--both to vote for and against her?), 2. "2010" (Republicans gained in the midterms, but Palin-endorsed Tea Party candidates didn't all fare particularly well), 3. "The other candidates are flawed" (Romney, Ginrich, Pawlenty and Huckabee -- the likely Republican 2012 contenders -- all face popularity problems of their own), 4. "The other candidates might not run" (Palin could gain a great deal if a conservative like Ginrich or Huckabee opts to sit it out in 2012), 5. "The media will be rooting for her" (Palin is good for ratings). 6. She's tough to campaign against (criticisms of her can be seen as sexist or elitist), 7. "There are virtually no moderates left in the Republican base" (based on some recent exit polling about one-third of Republican voters self-identify as moderate or liberal, how much will this hurt the conservative Palin?), 8. "Attempts by the Republican establishment to neuter her may backfire" (Palin could play the victim card), 9. "Parties tend to nominate more extreme candidates in elections against incumbents" (this may or may not be a strong trend), 10. "She gets new media; new media gets her" (Palin knows how to use new media, and at least some in the blogosphere love her) 
Click here for more.

"Tricky Call for New Governors: Price of Inaugurals"

More on the politically sensitive decision that the nation's 26 new governors have to make about the size and price tag of their inaugurations. Many governors are planning less extravagant, toned down affairs in light of the budgetary constraints facing their states and constituents. Click here for more from the NYT.