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 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 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 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 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."