Tuesday, December 30, 2014

How to get more Angelenos to the ballot box

Honored to have another op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. 

You can read it here.

"Governor’s Choice to Lead CPUC Dismisses Concerns of Improper Ties with PG&E"

Good to talk to Ted Goldberg of KQED for this one

Picker’s remarks about his agency’s dealings with PG&E “were stunning in how politically tone deaf they were about how PG&E essentially owned members of the PUC and many of its top political advisors,” said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University Professor of Political Science who specializes in state politics.

“I wish he would have been more open and forthcoming,” said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who focuses on governance issues.

Monday, December 29, 2014

"City Council panel backs away from GMO ban it previously supported"

Great to talk to Soumya Karlamangla for this one

The GMO turnabout also reveals where city ethics regulations fall short in tracking the effect of lobbyists at City Hall. Lobbyists are required to report who they work for and how much they are paid — but sometimes not until months after they've completed their work.

Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who's on the city's Ethics Commission, said that can mean when an issue is being discussed the public won't "have the information necessary to see a full picture."

Thursday, December 25, 2014

"New FPPC chair takes low-profile approach"

Great to talk with Laurel Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee for this piece

“Being a State Bar judge is a lower-profile, more insular position – you’re one of a number of people as opposed to the person leading a state agency. None of which is to say that she lacks the proper credentials. She was still in the business of regulating bad behavior,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who sits on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.
Ravel raised the profile of the FPPC, Levinson said, by taking on well-known lobbyists and political operations.
“Every chair has their own style, and I don’t think Chair Remke is as interested in being high profile.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/article4956267.html#storylink=cpy

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"State Senate leader: Divest in coal to fight global warming"

Always wonderful to speak with Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle.

More here.

Jessica Levinson, professor of political ethics at Loyola University in Los Angeles, said that as long as Steyer is willing to throw his millions at liberal causes, he will have no trouble attracting the attention of California’s leading Democratic officeholders.
“If you have a billion dollars, your dance card is going to be full,” she said. “You’re going to have a lot of friends, and access and power in politics. California is no exception, and Jerry Brown is no exception.
“If anything it’s openly transactional, and that’s not a bad thing,” Levinson said. “We all know why everyone shows up at Tom Steyer’s events — because he may spend a lot of money supporting candidates and issues. And if you spend it, they will come.”

Friday, December 5, 2014

"New Los Angeles County officials sworn in"

Good to talk with Abby Sewell and Soumya Karlamangla for this one.

The transition creates "a moment of some opportunity" to reexamine priorities, said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor and member of the city's ethics commission.

But she said it doesn't necessarily herald major policy changes. Governing the county "is like steering a tanker," she said. "You can't pull a U-turn."

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Gov. Brown's unnecessary fundraising is certainly legal — but a turnoff"

Great to talk to George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times for this piece.

"It's about access and influence," says Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in political funding. "It strains common sense to believe that in giving they won't want something in return."

"It's pretty depressing," Levinson adds, "that this is the way we do business in every state capitol and city hall in America. Large donors call the tune and have enormous influence. Members of the public who can't give big donations don't play as large a role in representative democracy.

"It's very discouraging and dispiriting."

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Kentucky Congressman Goes to Bat for Wife’s Company on Capitol Hill"

Great to speak with Lee Fang for this piece

Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who focuses on ethics issues, told Republic Report, “I believe that the congressman should have disclosed his wife’s interest in the company prior to appearing at a hearing concerning that company. The public has an interest in knowing why their elected officials take certain positions. Most often disclosure and transparency laws focus on the need to report financial information. This case shows us why.”  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Sacramento lobbyist’s dual roles spark watchdog scrutiny"

Wonderful to talk to Laurel Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee for this great piece.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who sits on the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, said Ross’ transparency doesn’t eliminate potential concerns about the intersections in his professional relationships. “There are many people in Sacramento and in every city hall across the nation who have some dual role, and it’s under cover of darkness. But that doesn’t mean that just because his is out in the open it’s not a conflict,” she said.
“On the one hand you are working to get people elected, and on the other you are asking them for favors,” Levinson said

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/article3958362.html#storylink=cpy

Sunday, November 9, 2014

"California Still a Blue State"

Here is a link to my appearance on NBC's "News Conference."

"Jerry Brown looks to solidify legacy with big state projects"

Always wonderful to speak with Melody Gutierrez and Carla Marinucci of the SF Chroncile

Jessica Levinson, a law professor who teaches political ethics at Loyola University in Los Angeles, said Tuesday’s passage of Brown’s signature ballot measures, Props. 1 and 2 — a $7.5 billion water bond and a rainy-day fund — give Brown added credibility as he seeks to cement his legacy on infrastructure and budget issues.
“Both of those are forward-looking, long-term changes to the California Constitution meant to put us on a strong footing going forward,” Levinson said.
Levinson of Loyola University said that Democrats who may try to take Brown off track or pressure him for big spending items have already gotten the signal that he will keep them in line, and “he’s very comfortable flexing his political muscle,” she said.

There is a reason not to celebrate the record number of women in Congress

My op-ed appears in today's Sacramento Bee. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Despite election losses, S.F. progressives scored gains"

Great to talk to Marisa Lago of the SF Chron for this article

“The lesson of Prop. G and Prop. E is that money still has an outsized influence for voters,” she said.
Spending against ballot measures, added Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson, “tends to be more effective than money spent in favor.” But Levinson, a campaign finance expert, said “money can only move you so much.”

"Massive Hollywood project sits atop quake fault, California says"

Wonderful to speak with Ron Lin of the Los Angeles Times for this piece

Jessica Levinson, a professor of law at Loyola Law School who focuses on governance issues, says the conflict between seismic safety and the desire for development puts the city in a dilemma.

“Common sense dictates that we need to be careful about building a skyscraper on top of a fault line,” Levinson said. “Ideally, this is the type of thing we do beforehand, where there is a determination about where it’s safe to build — and then a project goes forward. And my gut feeling is that we may all learn from this experience.”

"Election 2014: Julia Brownley, Jeff Gorell in dead heat for 26th Congressional District"

Great to talk to Rick Orlov at the Los Angeles Daily News for this one.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert in campaign law, said she believes the Brownley-Gorell race says more about the district.
“I think it is an example of having a competitive district in an area that has always been more right of center,” Levinson said. “I think, from the start, everyone thought this would be a toss-up race and Gorell has proven to be a palatable Republican for California.” 

"Congress Marks Milestone With 100 Women"

Wonderful to speak with Kathy Vara at NBC4 for this piece.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

"An Election Night Chat"

I'll be commenting here on the "To the Point" Facebook page throughout the night.

"Rod Wright’s jail time goes from 90 days to less than 90 minutes"

Wonderful to talk to Laurel Rosenhall of the Sacramento Bee for this piece

Californians scratching their heads over Wright’s quick release could see it as a tangible example of the impacts of prison crowding – or as a sign that powerful people get treated better than everyone else, said Jessica Levinson, a professor of political law at Loyola Law School.

“When there is a high profile person … and we know they serve an infinitesimal fraction of their sentence, it really hits home for us. It is a minor part of a bigger discussion about what overcrowding means, and the supply and demand of prisons,” Levinson said.

“But a lot of people will get from that: ‘I always knew Rod Wright was never really going to serve, because he is a VIP and would get special treatment.’”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article3509632.html#storylink=cpy

"Convicted California Senator Spends Less Than 90 Minutes in Jail for 90-Day Sentence"

More here

Former state Sen. Rod Wright turned himself in to Los Angeles County jail authorities Friday night to begin a 90-day sentence for his perjury and fraud conviction, but was released before ever seeing the inside of a cell.
Wright, a Democrat, turned himself in around 9:30 p.m. and was released at 10:41 p.m. after being processed and booked, said Nicole Nishida, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Californians scratching their heads over Wright’s quick release could see it as a tangible example of the impacts of prison crowding – or as a sign that powerful people get treated better than everyone else, said Jessica Levinson, a professor of political law at Loyola Law School.

"JFK Nephew Bobby Shriver in Tight Race"

Always wonderful to speak with Tammy Audi at the Wall Street Journal

“Their budget is massive and nobody knows what they do, which allows them to function with very little oversight,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School and vice president of the Los Angeles City Council Ethics Commission. “They have control over so many really important issues–health, safety and transportation, criminal justice.”

Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Things You Should Know About the California Election

My latest piece on the Huffington Post. 

Election day is upon us. What should California voters know?
1. Jerry Brown will be re-elected as the governor.
Drought-stricken California could be hit with torrential rain. Wildfires could sweep the state. A blue moon could shine for three nights in a row. Jerry Brown will still be re-elected.
Do you want to know why? First, because he is Jerry Brown. In California a synonym for "Jerry Brown" is "someone who holds elected office." Brown has held nearly every elected office in the state of California. We know him. We're comfortable enough with him. We're going to re-elect him (again).
Second, because he is running against that guy who oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Yes, that's right. You don't even know his name. It is Neel Kashkari, by the way. He is apparently running to see how badly he will lose against the once, current, and future governor. He had handed out gas cards to get people to campaign events, spent a week living as a homeless person, and run a television commercial with a drowning child. Translation? He is going to lose.
2. Gavin Newsom will be re-elected as the lieutenant governor
You know Gavin Newsom, right? He is the former mayor of San Francisco who ordered the city clerk to issue marriage license to same-sex couples back when that violated state law. Still don't know him? He is the one with the slicked back hair who had an affair with the wife of his former deputy chief of staff and campaign manager. I thought that would ring a bell.
Newsom is running against Ron Nehring. Newsom is going to a have "party preference: Democrat" next to his name, while Nehring will have "party preference: Republican" next to his. Since this is California, and Newsom is the incumbent who hasn't done anything disastrous (or otherwise), that means Newsom will win.
3. Kamala Harris will be re-elected as the attorney general
You may remember Kamala Harris as the object of President Obama's now famous comment that she is "the best looking attorney general." Cue Derek Schmidt's clinical depression. (Just kidding, Mr. Attorney General of the great state of Kansas).
Harris is the former San Francisco District Attorney who eked out a win against the former Los Angeles District Attorney. Some have said that Harris didn't so much win as her opponent, Steve Cooley, lost.
Harris has focused on issues dealing with cyber-crime, cyber-privacy, recidivism and truancy. But she is likely best known for being named in every discussion had in the last four years in California about "rising political stars."
Harris is running against a Republican named Ronald Gold. I'll wait here while you google his name.
4. The most exciting statewide races are for the Secretary of State and the State Controller
Didn't think you were ever going to see the words "exciting" and "Secretary of State" or "State Controller" in the same sentence? Well, then you haven't really lived.
These races provide Republicans with their only real chance to elect a republican for statewide office.
Termed-out State Senator Alex Padilla (D) is running against Pete Peterson (R), the Executive Director of a policy institute at Pepperdine University. Peterson has picked up endorsements from a number of major papers. He has also garnered the support of some good government groups. Padilla is one Democrat who may not be cruising to statewide victory.
Another such democrat is Betty Yee. Yee is a member of the board of equalization (no, you're not alone, many people don't know what they do). Yee is facing off against Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (R). Like Peterson, Swearengin has picked up a number of big endorsements. Swearengin apparently managed to turn Fresno's fiscal house around, and now many are happy to entrust her with overseeing how California spends its money. 

So we have two open seats that are up for grabs. That sounds stirring, right? Well, no. Few of us skip to the ballot box to weigh in on who is going to print our ballots or count how the money is spent.
5. Turnout will be low. So very low.
Why will turnout be so low? See above. When the most rousing statewide races deal with who will maintain business filings (the Secretary of State) and watch the fiscal house (the State Controller), people tend to stay home.
But what about ballot measures? Surely some people will go the polls because a particular ballot mesure moves them.
These elections there are two legislatively referred ballot measures, and four ballot initiatives. As a refresher, the ballot initiative process allows citizens to stand on the same footing as their elected officials and directly propose new laws. It is ripe with problems that I won't detail here.
The two measures put on the ballot by the legislature deal with how we will try to save water and money. These are terrifically important issues, but let's face it, they're not attention grabbers. The television commercials for Proposition 1 and Proposition 2 picture Governor Brown talking about saving money and water and he's pictured next to a little umbrella. Enough said? Proposition 1 (which allows the state to issue billions of dollars in bonds to build dams and other such things) and Proposition 2 (which provides how the state should save money) aren't going to make anyone take it to the streets. Nor are they likely to get people to the polls.
Proposition 45 deals with whether the insurance commissioner can veto certain insurance rate changes, Proposition 46 addresses the legal cap on non-economic damages in medical negligence suits, Proposition 47 lowers the punishment for certain non-violent, non-serious offenses, and Proposition 48 would bless a compact made between the Governor and an Indian tribe regarding a casino. Some people will get fired up about one or some of these issues, but no one is going to write a play about whether we gave the insurance commissioner some additional powers, no one will wonder who is going to star in the musical about the Indian gaming contract, and no one is wondering whether there is a movie in the works about redefining certain crimes.
That is it, Californians. I would write more, but its time for us to start talking about how to increase voter turnout without a hint of irony in our voices.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"California lawmakers’ campaign credit-card spending often lacks disclosure, Sacramento Bee review finds"

Great to talk to Jim Miller of the Sacramento Bee for this one

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, a campaign-finance expert, said state regulations have to be tough enough to deter wrongdoing but avoid “regulating candidates out of the ability to function or even campaign.”

“I’m sure that there are people who want to abuse the system and will take those broad terms and use them to their advantage,” she said. But other lawmakers follow the rules, she said.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/investigations/the-public-eye/article3515410.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Government workers are a voting power in Sacramento area"

Great to talk to Jon Ortiz of the Sacramento Bee for this article

Government workers will be potent voting blocs in all three elections, said Jessica Levinson, a campaign expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, particularly in this low-key election year. 
“They are a group more likely to turn out,” she said. “They’re more invested in the government because they’re a part of it.”
Some of the state’s largest public-employee unions have endorsed Pan, who is a regular at rallies and has carried legislation to curtail job outsourcing. Dickinson has written bills to expand civil-service protections, eliminate criminal-history questions on civil-service job applications and to move state employees out of the defective Board of Equalization headquarters. 
A cynic would say those worker-protection bills were pandering to the base, Levinson said. But simply because a measure is politically savvy doesn’t mean the politician doesn’t believe in it. 
“And given the electorate, in a sense, it would be stupid not to do things like that,” she said.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/the-state-worker/article3458000.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"L.A. County supervisorial race a money battle between labor, business"

Wonderful to speak with Catherine Saillant of the Los Angeles Times for this article

The fundraising underscores that although both are liberal-leaning Democrats, Kuehl is viewed as more labor-friendly and Shriver more sympathetic toward business, said Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, who studies elections.

Yaroslavsky, also a Democrat, is considered a swing vote on the Board of Supervisors, and he's built a reputation as a fiscal watchdog willing to stand up to employee unions. The stakes in the race are high because the winner would be the deciding vote on a variety of spending and policy issues, including pay-and-benefit packages for the county's 100,000-member workforce and how tightly development will be regulated.

"What we're deciding is how far left of center is the next county supervisor going to be," Levinson said.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Shriver-Kuehl supervisorial race takes on a confrontational tone"

Great to talk to Catherine Saillant of the Los Angeles times for this article

Political and election experts say candidates often turn to negative advertising because it works, particularly with low-information voters who tune in to a race in the last days. In a close race, attack ads can make the difference, said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School.

"Negative advertising hits a chord with a lot of voters,'' Levinson said. "They may not be able to say why they're voting for Shriver. They just remember there's something they heard about Kuehl that they don't like."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"California candidates pour on negative ads as election nears"

Great to speak with John Wildermuth at the San Francisco Chronicle for this story

“With negative ads, it’s more about defeating your opponent than getting yourself elected,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s always easier to say why you don’t like someone.”


Hail Mary” ads like Kashkari’s late in the campaign “don’t come from someone who’s a competitive candidate,” Levinson said. “It comes because a candidate decides that some buzz is better than no buzz.”
But it’s also an act of optimism, a sign of a politician’s natural belief that anything is possible until all the votes are counted, she said.

"Jerry Brown expresses support for strong-mayor systems"

Good to talk to Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee again for this article about Measure L. 

Jessica Levinson, an ethics and campaign expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said Rhee’s voter registration would not have been a campaign issue had she “been forthcoming with it earlier.”
“It fundamentally boils down to whether the public is going to trust her argument less because she’s advocating for something she can’t vote on,” Levinson said. “It will likely be the case that some people will want to hear from her because they think she’s an expert and other people will say this doesn’t affect you, why are you weighing in?”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article3228012.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Would strong mayor be good for Sacramento? Experts say it depends"

Great to talk to Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee for this article. 

“It’s ultimately an act of faith to create a strong mayor,” said Jessica Levinson, an elections expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s one of those instances where if people like the mayor, they want him or her to be a strong mayor. And that system can be more efficient, but if you pick someone who is a dithering idiot and is the essence of inefficiency, then no, it doesn’t work.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/city-beat/article3189903.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"Schools officials face political penalties"

News from Riverside, CA. 

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, who is vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, said the reporting regulations are complicated. However, she said, the information is important for the public to hold officials accountable. 

"Court sends a message in sentencing ex-L.A. Councilman Richard Alarcon"

Always great to talk with Soumya Karlamanga of the Los Angeles Times for this article. 

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who studies election laws, said she thinks Lomeli's decision to give jail time "sends a message that we're serious about these kinds of convictions." She said she thinks Alarcon's sentence will have an effect on reducing residency law crimes in the Los Angeles region, and that only "people that possess an enormous amount of hubris" will still try to lie about where they live to run for office.

"Mirkarimi domestic violence issue haunts Assembly race"

Great to talk to Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle for this article

“I don’t think you can over-politicize domestic violence,” she said. “I think it’s a very political issue, as we’ve seen.”
Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Marymount University who specializes in election and governance issues, said it’s not surprising to see the issue become front and center in the race, considering its emotional nature and the fact that linking a candidate’s name with a domestic abuse case “loses votes.”
“This is all about what gets voters’ attention,” she said. “The mere association with domestic violence can be harmful.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"Carefree Gov. Brown vetoes freely, ruffling some fellow Democrats"

Wonderful to talk to Melody Gutierrez of the San Francisco Chronicle for this article. 

“You are seeing 'Dem vs. Dem’ vetoes,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law and governance at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s symbolic of the fact he’s not scared of the California Legislature and he thinks he can work with them regardless if he vetoes certain bills.”
During his current term, Brown's four-year track record with vetoes moves him closer to the 15 percent to 16 percent average veto rate of his Republican gubernatorial predecessors Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian and former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis
Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed an average of 26 percent of the bills sent to him during his seven years in office.
“It is one of the most aggressive moves a governor can make,” Levinson said. “It’s an act of confidence in oneself to veto.”

"Trailing in polls, California candidate offers scholarships, gift cards"

Wonderful to speak with Sharon Bernstein of Reuters for this article. 

Trailing in the polls and getting little media coverage, California's Republican candidate for governor handed out $40,000 in scholarships on Tuesday, just two weeks after offering gift cards to attendees at a campaign event.
Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury official who is challenging popular Democratic Governor Jerry Brown in the lopsidedly Democratic state, is offering the incentives as his campaign trails Brown's by double digits in the weeks before November's election.
"Candidates spend money to reach the voters and get support and that’s what he’s doing," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. "It’s just more in your face than what we typically see."

"California power regulator to exit amid criticism"

Great to speak with Ellen Knickmeyer of the AP for this one

Brown is headed into a November re-election ballot with a wide lead over his little-known Republican challenger. He had nothing to gain politically from taking public note of a scandal that still was below many voters' radar, said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola University law professor, political analyst and vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

Brown late last month vetoed ethics bills — regulating campaign donations and gifts — that lawmakers had presented in response to other political scandals.

"I don't think that he's running on a pro-reform platform right now," Levinson noted. With Peevey stepping aside, "Brown's breezy re-election has just gotten even breezier."

"Here’s Why Gwyneth Paltrow Doesn’t Belong in Politics"

To meet Obama, to tell him that “it would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass,” all that was needed was a $15,000 dinner ticket. The issue is not whether Paltrow is a working mother or not, but that she has the power to tell the president that, unlike so many American voters. “He’s not out there meeting ordinary people. He’s out there listening to the views of those who can afford to give him lots of money,” Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance researcher at Loyola Law School, told The Guardian last year. “Over time, this is bound to have a distorting [effect] on your views of the world.”


In fact, according campaign finance experts, the growth of presidential solicitation shows how fundraising has become a permanent and dangerous fixture of American politics. Since the Reagan administration, the number of fundraising events attended by sitting presidents has been increasing. That trend is dangerous because “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,” Levinson told The Guardian. “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.”

More here

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Jessica Levinson sits in for Ian Masters"

I had a great time guest hosting Background Briefing on Monday. Wonderful speak with Dahlia Liwthwick about the Supreme Court, Jean Merl about politics in California, and Jojo Liu about the juvenile justice system. Audio is here

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SCOTUS, SSM, Politics, and Criminal Justice

Last night I had the opportunity to guest host a radio program. In the program I had the honor of speaking with Dahlia Lithwick of Slate about the Supreme Court and same sex marriage, Jean Merl of the Los Angeles Times about politics in California, and Jojo Liu of Loyola Law School about the juvenile justice system. The audio recording to the program is here.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Metro to rename rail stations for Zev Yaroslavsky, Gloria Molina"

Nice to speak with Laura Nelson of the Los Angeles Times for this piece

Some government ethics experts say the decision could raise eyebrows. It's wiser for public agencies to wait until an elected official has left office, then use the "Mt. Rushmore test," weighing whether his or her work has stood the test of time, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School.

"Even if this is done with good intentions, it makes sense to wait for them to cycle off the board," Levinson said.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"Jerry Brown vetoes California political ethics bills"

A pleasure to speak with David Siders at the Sacramento Bee for this piece.
Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said much of the legislation made “great talking points on the campaign trail” but was so minor that, even if enacted, it would not “change the way business is done in Sacramento.”
“There was this reaction like, everybody needs an ethics bill,” she said.

Read more here: http://www.modbee.com/2014/09/30/3567530/jerry-brown-vetoes-california.html#storylink=cpy

"Statewide ban on disposable plastic bags is signed into law by Brown"

Great to talk to Melanie Mason for this piece in the Los Angeles Times

But Jessica Levinson, an election-law professor at Loyola Law School, disagreed, saying Brown was right to reject lawmakers' "knee-jerk reaction" to the recent scandals, which included federal corruption charges as well as perjury and voter fraud convictions for the other.

"There was a lot of political will to propose ethics reform," she said, "but Jerry Brown … understands that more regulation isn't always good regulation.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Passion at polls? Democrats look to widen Sacramento advantage"

Great to talk to Melody Gutierrez for this one

Jessica Levinson, a law professor who teaches political ethics at Loyola University of Los Angeles, said the criminal cases could help Republicans this election.

“It’s a great talking point to voters to say 8 percent of the state Senate faced indictment or conviction and they were all Democrats,” Levinson said. “They were three separate scenarios that happened at the same time, but we have six more weeks to go and I think that’s something we will hear more about.”
While candidates work hard to mobilize voters, Levinson said there appears to be an overall apathy.
“The story line is we are fighting so hard to get a few voters out,” she said. “I think we are going to see record low voter turnout. It’s sort of the, 'Oh, yeah, we have an election’ election.”

Saturday, September 27, 2014

"Walmart's Plan To Encourage Political Donations Violates Election Law, Groups Claim"

Great to speak with Jillian Berman for this one in the Huffington Post. 
Though the FEC commissioners probably didn't envision a setup like Walmart's when they first approved charitable matching donations, that doesn't mean it's illegal, according to Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, who studies election law.
"Does the ratio raise some eyebrows? Yes. Does this directly fly in the face of the statute? I don't think so," Levinson said. "Welcome to the world of campaign-finance laws, where no one knows what loopholes will be used."

"E-mails suggest Mike Honda’s staff mixed fundraising, House work"

Always wonderful to speak with Carla Marinucci. Click here for the story. 

'Pay to play’
Jessica Levinson, a law professor who teaches political ethics at Loyola University of Los Angeles, said the e-mails are suggestive of “pay to play” politics.
“As far as I can see, those are clear violations and worth talking about,” she said.
But she said the impact on Honda’s campaign — even if it is found to be a violation — could be minimal because voters have become numb to the connection between campaign donations and official business.
“Voters say, 'Tell me something I don’t know,’” she said. “They say, 'Of course they’re organizing their official duties according to what will benefit their campaign — and of course, people with more money will have access to more officials,’” Levinson said.
Not hot-button issue
“But campaign finance and election law issues don’t really get people to the polls.” Levinson said. “It’s more about, 'What have you done for me lately?’”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Red-light camera contractor spent thousands on meals for Sacramento County and CHP employees"

Great to speak with Tony Bizjak of the Sac Bee for this one.

Loyola Law School professor Jessica Levinson, a government ethics expert, said the scenario doesn’t appear to be illegal but that it does prompt questions about whether the contract process was fair.

“Even if it is not a corrupt relationship, it doesn’t look good,” said Levinson, who is a member of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. “It tells a story of a company trying to curry favor with the government and tells the public that government is where people go who can pay to play.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/21/6723295/red-light-camera-contractor-spent.html#storylink=cpy

Expand free speech by limiting political money

Here is my latest op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. 

Here is an excerpt:

But I have something to tell you. There is no tooth fairy, Santa Claus does not exist, and money is not speech. Seriously, it just isn’t. Money facilitates speech. Money allows politicians and political committees and others to reach a wider audience with greater frequency. Let’s stop this nonsense. Money and speech should not be treated as equivalent.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/09/21/6721114/jessica-a-levinson-expand-free.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, September 18, 2014

"Neel Kashkari speech in 'hangover slot' at state GOP convention"

Always wonderful to speak with Carla Marinucci.

"That's the hangover slot," said Jessica Levinson, a law school professor who teaches political ethics at Loyola University of Los Angeles.
The prime speaking slots, which traditionally garner the most media coverage, are going to a pair of nationally prominent Republicans. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a possible presidential candidate in 2016, will star at the Saturday luncheon, and newly named House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield will headline the Saturday evening dinner.
Kashkari, on the other hand, is being grouped in the Sunday post-breakfast general assembly with other candidates for statewide office.
With polls showing Kashkari 21 points behind Gov. Jerry Brown and running on fumes against the Democrat's $22 million bankroll, it may be no mystery why he isn't getting star billing or more robust grassroots backing, Levinson said.
"I do think he's trying to move the party toward the center," she said. "But a candidate who will lose badly and is not being embraced by the party is not revolutionizing."
Levinson said that among activist Republicans, there's more excitement for other statewide candidates like Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, running for state controller - who will speak at a Friday night event highlighting GOP women - and secretary of state candidate Pete Peterson, because both are within comfortable distance of their Democratic opponents.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Jerry Brown surges ahead with the 'non-campaign' campaign"

Always wonderful to talk to Carla Marinucci of the SF Chron. More on Jerry Brown's non-campaign here. 

Brown's strategy is "a non-campaign, which makes it a very smart campaign," said Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics as a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
The 76-year-old Brown, who first held statewide office in 1971, "doesn't need to introduce himself" to voters, Levinson said. "He has better name recognition than anyone else in the state. His platform is totally known. He's been governing since the Earth cooled."
And clearly, she said, "he's running against someone people don't even know."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"New finance disclosure tool lists top campaign spenders"

Wonderful to speak with Melanie Mason at the Los Angeles Times for this piece. 

Jessica A. Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School, said the format of the top 10 supporters and opponents “is a way of getting the voters cues about what these ballot measures really do.”

“Most voters will figure [for example] ‘my interests are generally aligned with Realtors or environmentalists,’” she said. “For a lot of people, that shortcut is a lot more useful than going through the proposed language [of the measure], which is frankly not as accessible.”

The law also seeks to curb anonymous political spending by requiring an organization to reveal its donors if it spends or contributes at least $50,000 in one year or more than $100,000 in four consecutive years.

"Prosecutors ask judge to sentence Richard Alarcon to 180 days in jail"

Great to talk with Soumya Karlamangla for this piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Jessica Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School, said the recommended sentence for Alarcon seems reasonable given the nature of the crime. Because these aren't violent crimes, prosecutors are less likely to push for the maximum possible sentence, she said.

"In a lot of ways, the victory is the conviction," she said. "It's the idea that you did this, you broke the law, that's a problem, and you will face some sort of punishment."

Friday, September 5, 2014

"California Debate: No Knockout Moment for Kashkari"

Great to speak with Alejandro Lazo at the WSJ for this one.

“He showed himself to be a very prepared and articulate debater. I don’t know what Neel Kashkari is going to run for next, but I don’t think he hurt his cause,” said Jessica A. Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who focuses on government.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Obama approval rating slumping even in bluest of the blue California"

Great to talk to Dan Wood of the Christian Science Monitor for this one

Whatever the cause, a slump in popularity in the bluest of the blue states "may mean that President Obama's coattails are increasingly small," says Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"GOP challenger tries novel tactics against Brown"

Wonderful to speak with Juliet Williams of the AP for this article. 

"He's been independent enough to convince them to come out for him, so add that to name recognition, being an incumbent and fundraising prowess, and I think you have a very strong incumbent," said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles with expertise in state politics.

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/government-politics/article1320473.html#storylink=cpy

"California senators’ final-month fundraising down from 2013"

Good to talk to Jim Miller of the Sac Bee for this one.
Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said she expects senators’ fundraising to be back to normal as soon as the session ends.
“I think the purpose of the prohibition isn’t to limit the total amount of money,” Levinson said of the Senate end-of-session restrictions. “It’s because there’s something so unseemly about money being raised so close in time to votes.”

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/08/27/4090673/california-senators-final-month.html#storylink=cpy

Friday, August 29, 2014

"California State Senators Roderick Wright, Ron Calderon use campaign money to pay legal fees"

Quoted in this one in the Daily Breeze. 

But Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School, said legal defense funds aren’t all bad.
“I think that people who avail themselves in a public forum are more susceptible to suits,” Levinson said.
“Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright are not the poster children (for legal defense funds),” she said. “There are other situations to allow legislators to raise funds so they don’t have to bankrupt themselves to defend lawsuits.” Calderon has received contributions from PG and E: $7,500; Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy, a political action committee that receives most of its money from large corporations, $5,000; BNSF Railroad, $3,000; and Independent Insurance PAC, $3,000.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"How Jerry Brown ‘free ranges’ for advice"

Great to talk to David Siders at the Sac Bee for this one

There is also no official list of the people Brown consults, and “the public has no idea who these people are,” said Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at Loyola Law School inLos Angeles.
To Levinson, though, this concern is tempered by the breadth of opinions Brown solicits.
“The fact that there are a lot of people should be comforting,” she said. “No one person has a stranglehold over a specific issue.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/24/6649492/how-jerry-brown-free-ranges-for.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Why shouldn't California voters get to weigh in on Citizens United?

My latest op-ed in the Los Angeles Times is now up.

Here is the first paragraph:

Got an opinion about the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission? Feel free to weigh in, just not on the November ballot.

LA Ethics Commission "wants L.A. to look at using prizes to boost voter turnout"

Good to talk to David Zahniser at the Los Angeles Times for this one.

Monday, August 11, 2014

California Supreme Court Ruling on Prop 49

California Supreme Court rules on Prop 49, the Citizens United advisory measure here.

"Corporate Lobby ALEC Aims at U.S. City Councils With New Group"

Good to talk to Tim Jones at Bloomberg News for this one.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in local government,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who specializes in campaign finance.
Levinson said that for the new group, “privatization makes perfect sense, working hand in glove with corporations makes perfect sense, moving the agenda or expanding the agenda to county and city makes perfect sense.”

As for the American City County Exchange, its next goals are gathering more members and honing ideas to pitch to local officials, Russell said.
“People are realizing that a lot of work happens at the local level,” said Loyola’s Levinson.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

LA County Sheriff's Race: Jim McDonnell v. Paul Tanaka

Here is my interview on ABC7.

"On heels of big lawsuits, teacher tenure looms as a likely 2016 presidential issue"

More here.

Jessica Levinson, a political analyst and professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, argues that tenure could at the very least be part of the 2016 debate, considering the country’s public education system in general is “always a talking point.”

Moreover, she argues, Americans continue to wrestle with the difficult question: “How do we give our kids a good education while retaining the best people and getting rid of the bad ones?”


“Liberals and Democrats typically understand that teachers unions will support them,” Levinson said earlier this week. “But it’s definitely a difficult situation for them. They have to thread the needle... Republicans never thought they would get that support.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Gov. Brown's Mexico trip provides business, lobbying opportunities"

Good to talk to Chris Megerian for this piece with Melanie Mason. 

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said that changing how the trips were funded wouldn't stop special interest money from flowing to politicians in other ways.

"I don't see a perfect solution here," she said.

"Sacramento, where water hogs like Nestlé profit and residents pay fines."

Great to talk to Cosmo Gavin of the News Review for this.

“My No. 1 reaction is, ’Wow that’s really awkward,’” says Jessica Levinson, an election-law expert and professor at Loyola Law School.

The fact the city pays someone to assist Johnson’s private organizations already raises a few ethical issues. But can anyone reasonably, honestly say that Cassandra Jennings’ job will carry no weight whatsoever when Rick Jennings is asked to vote on the mayor’s agenda?

Of course not. Still, like much of what this council does, it’s dubious but not flat-out illegal. “The question really becomes one of wisdom and appearance,” says Levinson. After all, if the city attorney didn’t see a problem, it must technically be OK, right?

Still, Levinson says, “People are entitled to ask whether their representatives are serving two masters.” They may or may not get answer. Neither Jennings nor the mayor’s office responded by press time.

"In Kern County, Voting Rights Bill Meets Opposition"

Great to talk to Kerry Klein of Valley Public Radio for this one.

Last week, the Kern County Board of Supervisors went on record against AB 280.  It’s a California bill that would require counties with high minority populations to get approval from Sacramento before making major changes in election procedure. 
For instance, before moving a polling site location, Kern County would need to get the ok from the California Secretary of State to ensure that it’s not discriminating against minorities and low-income voters.
Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez says that would be far too costly.
Perez: "The process by which the county would have to engage in determining these sites, getting them to the Secretary of State very early on, would really impose a remarkable burden on our elections division, it would be very expensive."
According to Perez, moving polling locations could cost the county as much as $700,000 per major election.  She says the county supports the spirit of the bill, but it’s just not practical.
At this point, Kern County has no say in whether or not the bill passes.  But Jessica Levinson of Loyola Law School says the county’s opposition is more than symbolic.
Levinson: "Kern County coming out and saying this is going to be too costly, it’s going to be too time consuming, could give some politicians who are predisposed not to want to vote for the bill anyway, some cover, or it could sway some people who are on the fence."
Levinson says that in some jurisdictions, legislation that protects voters is needed—and that some states are already feeling the vacuum left behind by the federal Voting Rights Act.
Levinson: "That’s why we see so many voting rights changes.  We see elimination of early voting, we see changes in registration laws, we see a number of states implementing voter ID. So we see a lot of proposals or laws that make voting more difficult."
Under the federal Voting Rights Act, 4 California counties had been singled out as needing voter protections. Under AB 280, any county with a minority population of more than 20% would qualify.
AB 280 has passed the State Assembly and is currently in the Senate.