Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Koch brothers’ cash will wash over California, experts say

Always great to talk to Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It is staggering,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “It’s not a pebble in the pond, it’s an asteroid in the ocean.”

The cascade of conservative cash is “an amount we could not have fathomed 10 years ago,” Levinson said. Not even California and other strongly Democratic states will be exempt from its effects, she said.


“It will change the tenor, the narrative of the debate and what we talk about,” Levinson said.

One race certain to be affected by the Kochs’ money, she said, is the contest for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, even though no prominent Republican candidates are on the horizon.

“No race is run in isolation, and to the extent the discussion about tax cuts and immigration reform happens in Ohio, candidates get asked about it in California,” Levinson said.


Levinson said the Kochs’ actions may “embolden both sides” of the political spectrum — especially California’s progressives.

“All you have to say is, 'A billion dollars — let’s do something!’” she said. “Nothing is going to get campaign finance reform efforts going like the Koch brothers.”

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"GOP’s about-face: Poverty a key 2016 issue"

Great to speak with Carla Marinucci of the San Franicsco Chronicle for this one.

“I don’t think you have to be poor to talk about poverty or a minority to talk about minority rights,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

Still, regarding Romney and Bush specifically, “it feels like a pretty quick shift,” especially considering some of their more recent public comments lambasting Democrats and President Obama on income inequality issues, which have been defined by some disapproving conservative Republicans as “redistributing wealth.”

While raising the issue could help both Republicans reach some low-income Southern and Bible Belt supporters, it may not help them expand their appeal to traditionally Democratic Latinos and African Americans, she said.

Levinson also noted that the theme may not be a winner with some of the most influential decision makers when it comes to the 2016 GOP nominee.

“In every campaign, you’re talking to voters — and donors,” Levinson said. Kashkari had to confront a question that both Romney and Bush will soon face, she said: “Is talking about poverty music to Republican donors’ ears?”

"Billionaire Tom Steyer won’t run for Boxer’s Senate seat"

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

Jessica Levinson, a law professor at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, said another problem for Steyer is the perception that he may have been a one-issue candidate.

“Can you excite people into voting on climate change and environmental issues?’’ she asked.

The lack of support for Steyer’s candidacy may have been dramatized this week, as a number of leading Democrats lined up to back Harris, and others called for Villaraigosa to get into the race. Even after donating an estimated $71 million to Democratic causes during the last election cycle, Steyer’s trial balloon didn’t elicit calls for him to make the run.

“Team Tom was not trending,’’ Levinson said.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"Trash-hauling contract leaves Huntington Park with a PR mess"

Great to speak with Ruben Vives of the Los Angeles Times for this article.

Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who specializes in good governance, said that when it comes to politics the benefit of the doubt can be hard to gain, but easy to lose.

"It's like any relationship were you are trying to regain trust and someone makes a mistake and it makes you question everything," Levinson said. "It feeds into their preexisting belief that there is a problem with their government."

Monday, January 12, 2015

"L.A.’s reluctance to vote by mail hurting candidates, causes"

Wonderful to speak with John Wildermuth at the San Francisco Chronicle for this one.

“If Los Angeles voters decided to turn out, it could absolutely swing the outcome of California elections,” said Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. “But now, we’re ceding many political decisions to Northern California.”


There are plenty of reasons county voters are avoiding the polls. Los Angeles is home to a young, transient and heavily ethnic population, all groups that seldom are regular voters. Add that to a general lack of concern about politics, and you have a recipe for disinterest on election day, Levinson said.

“The county is so spread out and voters have so little contact with their elected officials that Angelenos often don’t think about how state and local government can affect their lives,” she said.

Friday, January 9, 2015

"Here’s who’s poised to fight for Barbara Boxer’s Senate seat"

Good to talk with John Wildermuth for this one in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“The buy-in for this game is huge,” said Jessica Levinson, who teaches election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. The winning candidate “isn’t likely to be some unknown person who comes out of the shadows.”
Members of Congress “have a lot to lose, but politicians are an ambitious bunch and and always looking for the next step up,” Levinson said.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

LA Observed: "News and notes: End of year desk clearing"

Glad to have my LAT op-ed mentioned in LA Observed today.

"Jessica Levinson, vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, argues for moving city elections to even-numbered years and consolidating them with state and federal elections."

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Is the U.S. Senate anti-democratic?

Yes. Of the 100 members of the new U.S. Senate, the 46 Dems received 67.8 million votes, and the 54 Reps 47.1 million votes. (For those who think this is a partisan statement, it is not, the reverse was true in 2008 and 2012). What does it show? The Senate favors small states. Less than 600,000 people live in Wyoming. Almost 39 million people live in California. Both states get two senators