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:

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:

"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: