Sunday, October 20, 2013

Confirmed to the Los Angeles Ethics Commission

Happy to announce that I've been confirmed as the newest member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. I look forward to working to make elections in Los Angeles fair and transparent.

Here is the Los Angeles Ethics Commission's press release re my appointment: 

200 North Spring Street • City Hall 24th Floor • Los Angeles CA 90012 
…preserving the public trust
For Immediate Release: October 18, 2013  
The City Council unanimously confirmed Jessica Levinson today as the newest member of the Ethics Commission, noting her extensive professional experience with elections and campaign financing. Ms. Levinson has taught election law and campaign finance courses at Loyola Law School as an adjunct professor and an associate clinical professor since 2009. Additionally, she has lectured for various educational institutions and civic organizations on election law issues.
Ms. Levinson previously served as the Director of Political Reform at the Center for Governmental Studies, where she researched and wrote reports on election laws, campaign finance laws, ballot initiatives, term limits, primary elections systems, and redistricting. In that position, she also authored an amicus curiae brief for the United States Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of public campaign financing. Ms. Levinson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Loyola Marymount University and a Juris Doctor degree from Loyola Law School.
“Commissioner Levinson’s valuable experience in the field of elections and campaign financing is a natural fit for the Ethics Commission,” said Heather Holt, the Commission’s executive director. “We look forward to benefitting from her expertise.”
Ms. Levinson was appointed by City Controller Ron Galperin to a five-year term ending June 30, 2018. She succeeds former commissioner Ralph Fertig, whose term ended on June 30, 2013.
The Ethics Commission was created by voters in 1990 to administer and enforce the City laws that help ensure fair and transparent government decisions. It has five part-time commissioners, who serve staggered five-year terms and are appointed by the Mayor, the City Attorney, the Controller, the City Council President, and the City Council President Pro Tem. Ms. Levinson joins President Paul Turner, Vice President Valerie Vanaman, Commissioner Nathan Hochman, and Commissioner Erin Pak.
The City Ethics Commission was created by Los Angeles voters in 1990 to impartially administer and
enforce the City’s governmental ethics, campaign financing, and lobbying laws.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Will the Supreme Court Strike Down Aggregate Contribution Limits?

Pleased to join Paul Sherman of the Institute for Justice, and Dan Roberts of the Guardian, with host Sheila MacVicar to discuss the Supreme Court's upcoming decision in McCutcheon v. FEC. 

My "explainer" on the case is here.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Much Ado About McCutcheon: The Continuing Erosion of Campaign Contribution Limits

My latest piece is up in Pacific Standard magazine.

Here is an excerpt:

Shaun McCutcheon wants to make political donations to federal candidates. Allow me to clarify; McCutcheon wants to make a lot of political donations to federal candidates. The Republican National Committee, among others, wants him to be able to do so. So what’s the problem?

Currently, McCutcheon can give $2,600 per election directly to a federal candidate, a total of $48,600 per election to all federal candidates, and $74,600 per election to federal political party committees and political action committees, or PACs, that give money to federal candidates. Put another away, McCutcheon (and other individuals) are subject to a $123,200 per election aggregate contribution limit with respect to candidates, political parties, and PACs. McCutcheon, an electrical engineer living in Alabama, would like to change that. The result is the latest and greatest campaign finance question to hit the high court since Citizens United.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Investigation: LA Sheriff Lee Baca turned pitchman?

Here is a link to my appearance on the local ABC news.

Here is an excerpt:

Eyewitness News asked Professor Jessica Levinson of Loyola Law School, a specialist in election law, to view the videos. "Sheriff Baca -- as Sheriff Baca -- is promoting this product," she says. "He's saying it's a good product. He's telling his guys that it's a good idea to use this product."

Sheriff Baca does not appear in uniform himself. However, graphics used to introduce his speeches and promote his overall endorsement of Yor Health do show Baca in his Sheriff's Department uniform. "So, he's very clearly there as Sheriff Baca, not just as Lee Baca, Joe Citizen off the street," says Levinson.

Eyewitness News has learned that Sheriff Baca received a $1,000 campaign donation from Yor Health in May of 2010. Three months later, Baca was a guest speaker at his first Yor Health annual conference. In 2012, Baca reported on an income disclosure statement that he accepted $527 in reimbursement from Yor Health for travel expenses to speak at their annual conference in Las Vegas.

But does Baca's endorsement of Yor Health violate L.A. County Conflict of Interest codes, which prohibit the use of "the badge, uniform, prestige or influence" for private gain?

Professor Levinson does not believe that Sheriff Baca has crossed that legal line, but she does think it raises questions about his judgment. "I'm not convinced he's kicked over that threshold, but when we look at the purpose of the conflict of interest statutes and the spirit of the law, then I think it's perfectly fair to ask questions" says Professor Levinson.