Thursday, November 28, 2013

New IRS rules re political activities by tax-exempt organizations?

Enjoyed being on KBCS to discuss this topic.

Looking forward to being on AirTalk on KPCC to discuss further on Fri 11/29 at 11:20 PST.

More from the following news outlets: CNN, WSJ, WaPo, NPR, AP, & the NYT.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Rep. Hoyle draws pay from Democrats’ fund

Quoted in this one in the Register-Guard

Jessica Levinson, a professor of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, sees it as a conflict of interest.
“Obviously, it’s not rare for caucus leaders to fundraise on behalf of other candidates, and part of their agenda is getting or keeping their party in the majority,” she said. “But I think there’s still some difference between that and being essentially a paid consultant to the party.”
“Once you’re elected (to represent a district), you can’t just serve the party,” she added.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Despite Low Ratings, Obama Remains A Democratic Money Magnet

Interviewed for this one on NPR. 

Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance expert at Loyola Law School, says money talks, or screams rather, in our current political system. She says this is the game, and everyone is playing to win — politicians and donors alike.

"I think the only point in the near future where the money will stop making a difference is if it simply turns off voters, and we're not exactly there yet," Levinson says.

Replacing Filner: With Election, San Diego Looks To Move Past Scandal

Quoted in this one re the mayoral race in San Diego, CA. 

“I think that everyone wants to be the anti-Filner,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in ethics and governmental reform. “You show that every aspect of your life is open and that you don’t perform sexual assaults.”


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Nonprofits tied to legislators collect cash out of public view

Quoted in this article in the Los Angeles Times. 

SACRAMENTO — A federal allegation that state Sen. Ronald S. Calderon tried to hide a $25,000 bribe in a charity run by his brother has shed light on the use of nonprofits by California legislators to collect cash out of public view.
Some nonprofits, set up with the stated purpose of aiding a charitable or social cause, are also being used to benefit an elected official's career, public image or personal finances, say advocates for open government.
Several current and former California politicians or their relatives have established nonprofits in recent years. Some spent more money on travel, meals or entertainment than on direct assistance to their causes, according to their tax filings.
"This has become a huge loophole," a way to skirt campaign finance laws, said Jessica Levinson, an elections law professor at Loyola Law School.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Revealed: Obama's record-breaking effort to tap wealthy donors for cash

Quoted in this article in the Guardian

Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance researcher at Loyola Law School who has studied the growing influence of wealthy donors, says recent efforts in the supreme court to remove campaign finance limits for individuals are likely to exacerbate the trend.
"The downside of all this time spent away from office is the time the president is not doing his job as chief executive, promoting legislation or working with Congress," she said.
"As more money is dropped into the political process it has become a self-perpetuating cycle, requiring politicians to spend ever more time seeking donations rather than governing. It's an imperfect use of his time."
"Sadly, this will get worse before it gets better," said Jessica Levinson. "In the end, it is only public outrage that may stop this never-ending need to keep raising money."

Monday, November 11, 2013

Richmond nonprofit's aid seen as front for Chevron

Quoted in this one in the San Francisco Chronicle. 

Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance expert and law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles, said Richmond voters need to be diligent about advocacy groups that don't have to reveal their donors.
"It's great that this group seems to be doing good things now," Levinson said. "But that doesn't mean that people shouldn't stay alert and ask tough questions of them."

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Author Marianne Williamson launches new chapter, targets Rep. Henry Waxman in 2014

Quoted in this article in the Daily Breeze:

Many of those views could resonate with constituents, but whether or not Williamson can win is another question, said Jessica A. Levinson, a political analyst and law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. She noted that Waxman, because of his long tenure in Congress, holds considerable sway in Washington.
“Liberal-leaning voters — who are likely Williamson’s target audience — may be weary of tossing out a senior member of the Democratic Party,” Levinson said in an email. “While Williamson is a best-selling author, Waxman has a proven track record of winning elections for almost four decades.”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Why not a Yelp to rate politicians?

Picked up by USA Today.

We Need a Yelp for Politicians, with Comments and Ratings!

My latest piece on Zocalo Public Square is up. 

Here is the first bit:

Yelp is a wildly popular web service that allows customers to offer public reviews of the companies and professionals they patronize. Diners rate restaurants, patients rate their doctors, dentists, and health clinics, and shoppers rate their malls. But, at least so far, Yelp does not allow constituents to rate their politicians.
That should change. We all need more feedback on those who represent, or seek to represent, us. Since Americans are, for the most part, in between campaigns, now is the perfect time to build out a website to provide the public with something almost unheard of—useful information about politicians.
Modern campaigns are dominated by less-than-helpful advertisements. In the run-up to elections, our televisions and radios carry ads extolling the virtues, or warning of the vices, of our candidates. Our mailboxes, both real and virtual, brim with mailers explaining why we absolutely must not, under any circumstances, vote for a particular candidate. But very few of these campaign missives contain independent, factual information; campaigns, after all, aim primarily to get you to go to the polls, not to undertake a searching review of candidates.
This lack of helpful, substantive information leaves an ill-informed electorate grasping for answers. What is the solution? Here is one suggestion. Let’s create a dynamic website that would allow us to review our politicians based on a number of objective factors. And unlike well-intentioned but snoozy websites (I’m looking at you, League of Women Voters) that provide constituents with information on politicians, let’s promote a robust comment and ranking system.