Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: April 2003 Archives

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April 30, 2003

FEC may investigate head of

FEC may investigate head of Common Cause

The Hill carries an article today on a possible investigation by the FEC. Here are excerpts:

Campaign fundraising reports for Chellie Pingree, a former Democratic Senate candidate form Maine who now heads Common Cause, contain numerous infractions that may prompt an audit by the Federal Election Commission (FEC), The Hill has learned.


Last year, the FEC sent Pingree’s campaign 11 requests for additional information relating to a range of problems on six reports: three quarterly reports, two pre-election reports, and a 2001 year-end report.

The Great Texas Map Theft

The Great Texas Map Theft

Here is The Hill story about the latest allegations in the alleged theft of the GOP's proposed redistricting map in the Texas Capitol building.

Georgia v. Ashcroft Here is

Georgia v. Ashcroft

Here is the story on the argument from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

April 29, 2003

Georgia v. Ashcroft Here is

Georgia v. Ashcroft

Here is the report of the AP on the argument earlier today in the Supreme Court. Georgia appealed a decision holding that its redistricting plans violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

FEC's ruling on alleged party-controlled

FEC's ruling on alleged party-controlled groups

The New York Times and Washington Post have articles today about the decision of the FEC to drop complaints against The Leadership Forum and the Democratic State Parties Organization.

Blogs, Esq. Robert Ambrogi was

Blogs, Esq.

Robert Ambrogi was kind enough to mention this blog in his article, Blogs, Esq. in Corporate Counsel.

April 28, 2003

FEC takes mixed action on

FEC takes mixed action on complaint charging evaision of BCRA by both parties (2)

Trevor Potter has written to me:

The Campaign Legal Center now has all the public components of the FEC
case released today involving complaints against 'shadow party'
committees up on its website. This includes the General Counsel's Report
and recommendations, and the statements of reasons of the two dissenting
Commissioners and Commissioner McDonald. The documents make very
interesting reading.

Here is where you find it.

FEC takes mixed action on

FEC takes mixed action on complaint charging evaision of BCRA by both parties

The FEC has decided by a 4-1 vote that the Republican National Committee violated the BCRA by giving $1 million to The Leadership Forum, but only admonished them (because the Leadership Forum gave the money back). By a 4-2 vote, the FEC also dismissed a complaint against the Democratic National Committee claiming it had violated the BCRA by helping set up the Democratic State Parties Organization. See the AP report here.

Georgia Redistricting The Fulton Daily

Georgia Redistricting

The Fulton Daily Report has this report on tomorrow's argument in Georgia v. US.

Sen. Lieberman Wants FBI probe

Sen. Lieberman Wants FBI probe of GOP contributions

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), a leading Democratic candidate for president, has asked the Justice Department and FBI to investigate whether an accused spy [Katrina Leung] may have illegally funneled Chinese government money into Republican coffers in the 1990s, according to a letter he sent Friday.

By calling for a campaign finance investigation of Leung, Lieberman hopes to renew the government's inquiry into alleged attempts by China to influence the 1996 elections, this time with the focus on a prominent Republican fundraiser.

See the whole story in the Washington Post, here.

April 26, 2003

Federal candidates and state initiative

Federal candidates and state initiative campaigns

Larry Levine wrote me about my prior post about Flake:

Does the Clean Election Fund provide funds for candidates for federal offices or just for state offices? If it is the latter, then the use of federal funds would probably NOT be permitted under BCRA. If it funds both state and federal races, can federal funds be spent to repeal the state funding portions? On another level, can someone tell me why a person should be deprived of his or her first amendment rights to speak on public issues simply because that person holds or seeks a federal office? Let's see if I have this right: some people are moving with some success to restoring the right to vote to convicted felons while others are seeking to silence federal office holders and candidates in debate of issues that will appear on the same ballot on which felons can vote. I know it's an non-sequitur, but ironic anyway.
My response to him was:

The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Act applies only to state candidates. See Commission's web site. However, that does not make a difference. The point is that Flake has organized a group to put an initiative on the Arizona ballot. Whatever the subject matter of the initiative -- and it could be to regulate Indian gaming, air pollution, water rights, or anything else -- it is a state campaign not a federal one.

The BCRA does not prohibit Flake from speaking on the initiative. I think it was the Brennan Center that made that point in its comment on the Flake request. What it does do is prohibit Flake from raising or spending funds directly or indirectly in excess of the federal limit. In other words, Flake can spend his campaign's money on the initiative if he wants to. What he can't do is set up another committee that raises "non-federal" money and spends it to promote a ballot initiative.

Kentucky GOP gubernatorial primary Kentuckians

Kentucky GOP gubernatorial primary

Kentuckians continue to check the newspaper daily or the radio bulletins hourly to find out who is running for governor in the Republican primary.

The problems all started when Ernie Fletcher chose Hunter Bates as his running mate. Bates had lived out of state for most of the last decade, working in Washington for law firms and Sen. McConnell, while living, paying taxes, and registering his car in Northern Virginia. A judge ruled that Bates did not meet the state consitutional requirement of being a citizen and resident for the last 7 years. Bates decided not to appeal the decision and Fletcher chose Steve Pence as his new running mate. Start the daisy chains of earlier posts here.

The Nunn-Heleringer team then challenged Fletcher on the grounds that the incapacity of Bates meant that the whole ticket was improper. Last week, a circuit judge in Franklin County ruled that Ernie Fletcher can remain on the ballot. See the Lexington Courier-Journal story here.

Nunn has now filed an appeal to the state court of appeals. Story here.

April 25, 2003

Federal candidates and state initiative

Federal candidates and state initiative campaigns

The request (of Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)) to the FEC for an Advisory Opinion has drawn several comments. Flake set up a group called Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee which wants to circulate petitions for an initiative to repeal the Clean Elections fund in Arizona. The problem is that Flake is a federal official and he is wondering if working on this state campaign at the same time as he is running for re-election (or perhaps against Sen. John McCain) will violate the BCRA.

The Brennan Center argues that because the BCRA "unambiguously prohibits initiative campaign committees that were established by candidates for federal office from raising money from sources or in amounts that are not permitted by federal law," the Stop Committee must raise funds only in accord with the BCRA.

The Center for Responsive Politics agrees with the general point of the Brennan Center letter, but goes further in arguing that the Stop Committee will engage in federal election activity and electioneering communications during a federal election, and engage in prohibited coordination with a federal campaign (Flake's). It concludes that the Stop Committee "would resolve most, if not all, its compliance issues by soliciting, receiving and spending only federal funds. The Center also suggests that portions of the request ask for advice about hypotheticals, and the FEC should reject those.

Common Cause and Democracy 21 urge the FEC to reject the whole request because it asks for general advice about how to comply with the law if the Committee takes a variety of forms. In addition to the points made above by the other commentators, these two organizations argue that Flake and the Committee have already violated the BCRA by soliciting non-federal funds; and that it makes no difference what form the Committee takes (527 group or 501(c)(3)).

The Campaign Legal Center covers the same terrain in a longer letter that points out the importance of ballot initiatives and urges the FEC not to allow "a blurring of the line between political campaign and initiative processes."

Texas Association of Business loses

Texas Association of Business loses in federal court

The Texas Association of Business had sued a bunch of losing candidates in federal to forestall them from suing the TAB in state court. (I would tell you where I had talked about this before, but Blogger is once again not showing my archives.)

The federal court has now dismissed TAB's complaint and ordered it to pay the attorneys' fees of the candidates, the Dallas News reports (free registration required).

Maryland's ban on "walking around

Maryland's ban on "walking around money" is overturned

Here are a few excerpts from the Baltimore Sun article (thanks to Richard Winger for the article):

A Prince George's Circuit Court judge declared unconstitutional yesterday a state law barring the payment of Election Day poll workers, and threw out criminal charges against three workers tied to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s 2002 election campaign.

The decision, if unchallenged, would end a nearly 25-year-old Maryland ban on "walk-around money," the custom of handing out cash to Election Day workers, a practice critics equated with buying votes.

Noting existing state laws that bar vote-buying and electioneering within 100 yards of polling places, Sothoron said that the law barring walk-around money "is lacking in constitutionally mandated specificity."

"The reality," Sothoron wrote, "is that [the law] is unlimited in its geographic scope, thus providing no guidance whatsoever as to how the conduct is to be controlled on election day in Maryland."

FEC adopts Advisory Opinion to

FEC adopts Advisory Opinion to Virginia officials and Rep. Cantor

The FEC apparently adopted a modified version of the General Counsel's draft advisory opinion according to the details in this AP story.

Gingrich non-profits off the hook

Gingrich non-profits off the hook with IRS

The IRS has renewed the tax-exempt status of two non-profit groups organized by Newt Gingrich. The IRS had said 2 years ago that the groups had engaged in partisan activities and therefore could not be tax exempt. See the story here from the Washington Post.

April 24, 2003

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

Just before today's meeting of the FEC, Commissioner David Mason filed a proposed revision of the General Counsel's draft advisory opinion in response to the questions of several Virginia state and local officeholders and Congressman Eric Cantor. They asked how much involvement Cantor could have in state and local campaigns. Mason's proposed changes would, like the proposal of Commissioner Bradley Smith, allow a federal candidate to ask for money generally but not ask for money above the federal limits. This reverses the presumption in the General Counsel's letter that the federal official or candidate would have to make an explicit statement that he or she was seeking money only within the federal limits.

The Campaign Legal Center filed a comment generally in support of the General Counsel's draft.

The Center for Responsive Politics filed a comment opposing Commissioner Smith's draft and generally supporting that of the General Counsel. However, the CRP would hold each person who speaks at an event responsible for the statements of other speakers.

Pending requests for FEC advisory

Pending requests for FEC advisory opinions

The AP had a story yesterday about the requests for advisory opinions by Rory Reid, Eric Cantor, and Jeff Flake. Old news to those who read this blog.

Follow up on two items

Follow up on two items

The Washington Post has two short reports about Sen. Kerry using his wife's fortune in his presidential campaign and the possibility of President Bush not being on the ballot in Alabama because of the lateness of the convention.

Paralegal's donations to Edwards under

Paralegal's donations to Edwards under investigation

Tom Edsall of the Washington Post reports that the Justice Department is investigating the donations made by employees of a Little Rock, Arkansas, law firm. My earlier post on this is here.

Georgia Redistricting sideshow Rick Hasen

Georgia Redistricting sideshow

Rick Hasen agrees with Howard Bashman and me regarding the Georgia Supreme Court case not being moot just because the U.S. Supreme Court has heard the argument.

Texas Redistricting The Texas Attorney

Texas Redistricting

The Texas Attorney General has opined that the Legislature may, but is not compelled to, redistrict Congressional districts this year.

Here is an article from the Dallas News on this and the alleged theft of the DeLay map. The article includes a categorical denial by Gerry Hebert that a theft occured.

April 23, 2003

Georgia Supreme Court to hear

Georgia Supreme Court to hear governor v. attorney general appeal

The Georgia Supreme Court will hear the appeal of the Governor over his right to withdraw the state's appeal of the adverse decision in the Voting Rights Act preclearance case. The hearing will be on 6 May, about a week after the argument in the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the Atlanta Journal Constitution suggests that the case might be moot by then, I think that a decision for the Governor before the U.S. Supreme Court rules would probably allow the Governor to withdraw the appeal.

Supreme Court Rule 47.2 says, "A petitioner or appellant may file a motion to dismiss the case, with proof of service as required by Rule 29, tendering to the Clerk any fees due and costs payable." No mention of a restriction as to time.

Thanks to SCOTUSblog for the tip, but their link to the AJC is wrong.

Will Bush be on the

Will Bush be on the ballot in Alabama?

According to the AP, the Republican Convention is being held so late that the Republicans will miss the Alabama deadline for nominating their presidential candidate.

Thanks to J.J. Gass for noting this story.

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

Common Cause and Democracy 21 have filed a comment with the FEC endorsing the General Counsel's draft of the advisory opinion.

Texas GOP accuses Gerry Hebert

Texas GOP accuses Gerry Hebert of stealing their map

The Hill has a story in today's issue about the Texas redistricting map I mentioned here.

The Republicans say that they left the map in a public hearing room and that it was gone a while later. They claim that they have viewed a security "tape of some guys walking down the hallway with what appeared to be [the Republican aide's] stuff.? I suppose the tape was clear enough so that anyone could read the map's title, "Tom DeLay's gerrymander."

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

Here is an article in The Hill discussing the forthcoming advisory opinion I have discussed here and here.

April 22, 2003

FEC requests public comment on

FEC requests public comment on enforcement procedures

The FEC is considering a request for public comment on its enforcement procedures and how they might be improved. The draft notice is at

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

At Thursday's meeting of the FEC, the Commissioners will have two versions of the proposed advisory opinion to Cong. Eric Cantor and several Virginia state and local officials. The General Counsel has proposed one version (discussed here), and Commissioner Bradley Smith has proposed another.

While Smith's draft places more emphasis on the First Amendment, the major operational difference in the two opinions appears to be whether the federal officeholder/candidate is damned if he does, or damned if he doesn't. In the General Counsel's draft, the federal candidate had to make clear that he was NOT asking for amounts of money prohibited by federal law. In Smith's draft, the federal candidate is OK as long as he does not ask for an amount in violation of federal law. Thus, the GC would have the candidate say, "Give as much as you can to my friend, X, but limit it to $2000 per person." Smith would allow the federal candidate to say, "Give to my friend X" as long as he did not say something like, "I want you to dig deep into your pockets and give at least $5,000 a couple."

April 21, 2003

Corruption in New Jersey From

Corruption in New Jersey

From today's Morning Edition, "NPR's Nancy Solomon reports that the prosecution of New Jersey politicians is on the rise. Christopher Christie -- the state's new U.S. attorney -- has made stamping out corruption a priority. Within his first year in office, Christie has doubled the number of attorneys working on political corruption." Listen to the story here.

The Leung case

TalkLeft has an excellent wrap-up of the Leung case, emphasizing the campaign finance aspects of the case. Katrina Leung is the woman recently arrested for passing American secrets to the Chinese government (China, the big one, not Taiwan) while supposedly acting as an informer for the FBI. Her handler/lover has been arrested as well.

Since my first post on this case, I have been looking for more on the campaign fiannce aspects, but most of the stories I have seen are something like "well, here's another fine mess the FBI has gotten us into."

TalkLeft points out the connections between Leung and the Republican Party and weaves those into a conspiracy theory about the efforts to accuse the Clinton administration of knowingly taking Chinese government money. I'm beginning to feel like I did when I heard the Watergate offices of the Democrats had been burglarized. I kept asking people all summer, "Why aren't the Democrats complaining loudly about the Republican break-in?" My friends looked at me blankly.

2 FEC Commissioners propose changes

2 FEC Commissioners propose changes in presidential matching fund

FEC Commissioners Scott Thomas and Michael Toner have proposed that Congress change the amount candidates could spend (from $40 million to $75 million), increase the checkoff on the tax return to $5, and allow matching of the first $500 of each contribution (up from $250), according to the Washington Post.

Wagner (SD) school district adopts

Wagner (SD) school district adopts cumulative voting

The Wagner, South Dakota, school district has settled a vote dilution suit by agreeing to switch to cumulative voting. The suit, brought by the ACLU on behalf of American Indians, charged that the at-large system kept Indians (42% of the local population) from winning any seats on the 7-member board. See the story here, here, and here. Thanks to Rob Richie of the Center for Voting and Democracy for the tip.

April 19, 2003

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal

FEC Advisory Opinion on Federal Officials and State Campaigns

The General Counsel of the FEC has circulated to the Commissioners a draft advisory opinion in answer to the request of several Virginia state and local officeholders and Congressman Eric Cantor. They asked how much involvement Cantor could have in state and local campaigns. Here are most of the questions and my very short summaries of the answers. My comments are in [brackets]. I recommend you read the whole opinion which is here.

1. May Cantor solicit donations for the state candidates? Yes, but the request must make clear that the source and amount must be consistent with BCRA. [This means, for instance, that Cantor cannot make a request to a corporation or union, each of which may make contributions under Virginia but not federal law.]

2. Will Cantor violated the BCRA if someone he solicits make a contribution illegal under federal law? No.

3. May Cantor appear at a fundraiser for the state candidates even if funds to be raised are illegal under federal law? Yes.

4. May Cantor appear at a fundraiser for the state candidates even if funds used to pay for the event are illegal under federal law? Yes.

5. May Cantor's name be used in publicity for a fundraising event for state candidates? Yes. [Some of this is also covered in answer 3.]

6. May Cantor ask others to raise money for state candidates? Yes, but these people may become his "agents" and therefore have to raise money from sources and in amounts that comply with BCRA. [This part of the opinion, if adopted by the Commission, may form the basis for the answer to the advisory opinion request by the Nevada Democrats and Rory Reid.]

April 18, 2003

Edwards returns campaign contributions The

Edwards returns campaign contributions

The presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) announced yesterday it will return $10,000 to employees of a Little Rock law firm after a law clerk said she expected her boss to reimburse her for a $2,000 donation.

Federal election laws prohibit a person from funneling donations through someone else to conceal their source. Such practices would enable the reimburser to exceed the legal contribution limit for individuals, recently raised to $2,000 from $1,000 per election.

Washington Post.

April 17, 2003

Can non-dues-paying ophthalmology residents be

Can non-dues-paying ophthalmology residents be solicited by the association's PAC?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology Political Committee has requested an advisory opinion on whether it may solicit contributions from ophthalmology residents who are members-in-training of the Academy, but do not pay dues.

Proposed Advisory Opinion re charitable

Proposed Advisory Opinion re charitable matching for PAC contributions

The General Counsel of the FEC has submitted a draft Advisory Opinion to the request by Freeport-McMoRan Cooper & Gold Inc., approving its plan to match contributions to its PAC by giving a contribution to the employee's charity of choice. My post on the original request is here.

More on Nevada Democratic Party

More on Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid

The Center for Responsive Politics has filed a comment to the Advisory Opinion Request of the Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid. The Center proposes a much brighter line between permissible and impermissible activity: they propose that Rory not be able to raise funds for non-federal campaigns in Nevada in any 2-year cycle in which he raises any funds for a federal campaign in Nevada.

DeLay proposes a new redistricting

DeLay proposes a new redistricting plan for Texas

According to an AP report, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay sent Texas legislators a redistricting map that would eliminate five Democratic congressmen and provides no new representation for minorities. The present congressional plan was adopted by a three-judge federal court.

Sen. Spector settles with the

Sen. Spector settles with the FEC

According to AP, "A long-running federal lawsuit that accused Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, of illegally accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of private plane rides during his failed 1996 presidential bid has been settled for $25,000, court records show. The settlement closes a bitter dispute between Senator Specter and the Federal Election Commission that began after he ended a yearlong run for the White House in 1995. The commission and the "Arlen Specter '96" campaign committee agreed on the settlement "without any concession as to liability," papers filed on Feb. 27 in federal District Court in Philadelphia show."

BCRA allows larger contributions and

BCRA allows larger contributions and (what a surprise) people are making them

According to a study by US Public Interest Group, about 40% of the funds raised by Democratic presidential candidates are from contributions above the pre-BCRA $1000 limit. See this story in the New York Times.

April 16, 2003

The Primary Calendar

If you are interested in knowing the dates that primaries and caucuses will probably be held in 2004, check The Scrum's Primary Calendar.

DC to hold an early

DC to hold an early presidential primary

The Associated Press reports:

District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams has signed a bill to move the district's presidential primary to the first Tuesday in January -- two weeks ahead of the tentative date for the New Hampshire primary.

New Hampshire "throws its shoes" at DC by refusing to change its primary date to earlier than DC's because DC is not a state.

FEC clears Gore campaign on

FEC clears Gore campaign on buying a URL

The FEC cleared the Gore-Lieberman campaign on an excessive contributions complaint. The campaign had bought the URL for $100 from a college student. The student had offered to give it to the campaign, but the campaign insisted on paying for it, according to the AP story.

FEC closes Forrester investigation The

FEC closes Forrester investigation

The FEC has announced that it has closed the investigation into the Senatorial campaign of Douglas K. Forrester (R- NJ). Here is the AP story on the case.

Democrats had charged that Forrester had used corporate funds (in the form of a dividend distribution) to finance his campaign. According to AP,

The commission reasoned that Forrester, as a majority shareholder in a company operating under Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code, regularly pays taxes on his share of earnings. The money is therefore his, even though he chooses to leave it in the company as working capital.

April 15, 2003

Theft from Rep. Boehner's campaign

AP reports:

A treasurer for Ohio Rep. John Boehner allegedly stole $418,559 from the congressman's campaign committee to support his gambling habit, according to amended campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.

Boehner, a big GOP fund-raiser, revealed the alleged fraud in amended files sent to the Federal Election Commission and in a letter sent to thousands of supporters.

DC Mayor Williams' staff under

DC Mayor Williams' staff under federal probe

Federal investigators have broadened their probe of D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams's chief of staff to include allegations that he coerced government employees to work for the mayor's reelection campaign and provided it with confidential personnel records, say sources familiar with the inquiry.

The new allegations expanded an investigation that began in February with reports that Chief of Staff Kelvin J. Robinson had urged a group of the mayor's political appointees to contribute money to the campaign, despite a federal prohibition against D.C. government employees making financial solicitations.

From the Washington Post, 6 April 2003.

Kentucky governor's race

Ernie Fletcher is still on the ballot in Kentucky. for now. The lawsuit to decide whether he had forfeited the right to run for governor when his lieutenant governor running mate was declared ineligible was sent back from the Court of Appeals to Franklin Superior Court. See Judge told to decide Fletcher's eligibility in the Courier-Journal.

Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid

The Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, and Democracy 21 have filed two comments on the request of Rory Reid and the Nevada Democratic Party for an advisory opinion. See here and here.

The questions in the Reid request are whether he can continue to raise money for his father (U.S. Sen. Harry Reid) and for the Nevada Democratic Party at separate events, times, etc -- it appears from the letter. Both comments say that the combination of the facts presented lead to the conclusion that Rory Reid would be an "agent" of the Harry Reid campaign while he was raising non-federal funds.

Both comments disclaim any desire to have a rule that children or other relatives of candidates are always their agents, but both emphasize that the totality of the situation makes Rory an agent of Harry. OK, let's leave aside the relationship for the moment. The Campaign Legal Center comment emphasizes that Rory wants to switch back and forth between being a federal and non-federal fund-raiser. Does that mean "once a federal fundraiser, always a federal fundraiser"? Or just for some finite but long period of time?

Does raising funds for Sen. Blowhard for his kickoff dinner in February make one an agent of Blowhard for the rest of the year? Is there a way that Sen. Blowhard can give a sort of commission that says, "You are my agent for the month of February and no longer" or "You are my agent to solicit from the people listed on attachment A"? Is that what it will take to allow one person to work on raising funds for both state and federal candidates (assuming the state candidates don't want to raise and report funds under the BCRA)? Otherwise, each person will have to decide before fundraising whether he or she wants to be in the Sharks or the Jets.

Maybe Congress should have required that every fundraiser have a license from the intended recipient and have to show the license to everyone solicited. (Or the FEC can adopt a regulation.) If Rory was raising money for the Harry Reid campaign, he could show his federal badge. But if he were raising non-federal funds, he could show his non-federal badge.

Sen. Fitzgerald

The Washington Post reports today,

Republican first-term Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, whose Illinois seat is considered key to the GOP's chances to maintain its majority in the Senate in 2004, will not seek re-election, state Republicans said Tuesday.

You will remember that Fitzgerald had requested an advisory opinion from the FEC late last month on whether his personal payment of the interest on his 1998 campaign debt might trigger the Millionaire's Amendment provision of the BCRA. I suppose he will withdraw the request now.

April 14, 2003

Georgia redistricting

How Appealing obtained a copy of the decision of the Superior Court holding that the state Attorney General rather than the Governor was in control of the redistricting case now pending in the Supreme Court. SCOTUSblog posted it for him here.

April 12, 2003

Nike v Kasky

Two weeks from now, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Nike v. Kasky. Nike ran ads claiming that its workers in overseas factories were well treated. Kasky sued in California state court claiming that Nike had violated California 's Business and Professions Code by making false statements. The questions presented are

1. When a corporation participates in a public debate ... may it be subjected to liability for factual inaccuracies on the theory that its statements are "commercial speech" ... ?

2. Even assuming the California Supreme Court properly characterized such statements as "commercial speech," does the First Amendment, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, permit subjecting speakers to the legal regime approved by that court in the decision below?

Only the petition and response -- not the briefs on the merits -- are on Findlaw. Goldstein & Howe, counsel for Nike, has many briefs of the merits (from parties and amici) on its blog. [Update -- even more briefs here.]

Two briefs from amici discuss the Nike case from the standpoint of its effect on campaign finance laws. See the brief of the Campaign Legal Center and the brief by the National Voting Rights Institute. Thanks to Trevor Potter and Kisa Danetz for pointing out these latter briefs.

April 11, 2003

Kentucky Governor race

AP reports on the latest developments in the Republican primary for governor of Kentucky. The story so far:

Ernie Fletcher chose Hunter Bates as his Lt. Gov. running mate. Bates was disqualified for not meeting the 6-year residency requirement. See here and here.

Fletcher chose a new running mate, but one of the rival GOP candidate teams is suing to have Fletcher disqualified because Bates was. The theory is that the two have to run as a team, so one being disqualified nixes the whole team.

Georgia redistricting suit

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Superior Court Judge Constance Russell has ruled that Georgia Attorney General Thurman Baker is "required by law to decide whether an appeal was appropriate" in situations where the AG is defending a law passed by the legislature.

For the background on the suit, see here , here, here, here, here, here, and here.

There will be a test on this material.

Holt Civic Club

Rick Hasen in the Election Law Blog has a post about a cert petition filed by Ken Starr asking for "proportional representation" on a school board. I won't try to paraphrase Rick -- just read it. What caught my eye was that the Court of Appeals had cited Holt Civic Club v. City of Tuscaloosa, 439 U.S. 60 (1978). This was my first case in the U.S. Supreme Court -- I lost. I think about the case now and again, but figured that no one else paid much attention to it. Rick's post got me to thinking and I used the KC feature on Westlaw and found that 178 cases have cited Holt. I'm not going to read them. Still makes me angry, and it was 25 years ago that I lost it.

Texas Association of Business

I have previously reported on the efforts by the Texas Association of Business to elect a pro-business legislature. The efforts of TAB have drawn some criticism. For a look at the kind of ads TAB used, see Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report and click on "TAB Flyers Under Fire" graphic.

(I know I have some other posts on this, but Blogger seems to have messed up my archives again.)

April 10, 2003

Rep. Flake and the campaign to repeal Clean Money

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ 6) and the Stop Taxpayer Money for Politicians Committee have filed a request for an advisory opinion from the Federal Elections Commission regarding Flake's involvement in the campaign to gather signatures for an initiative to repeal the Clean Money program in Arizona. The request and two supplements (plus the correspondence from the FEC counsel's office asking for the supplementation) is 16 pages long. For a change, the documents are presented in chronological order.

Flake wants to know how much a role he can have in the Committee and its initiative campaign in light of the BCRA's restrictions on interaction of state and federal campaigns.

FEC legislative agenda

The Washington Post reports today that FEC Wants Electronic Senate Race Data. This was one of the recommendations in the legislative agenda the Commission considered yesterday. No word on the other parts of the agenda.

Chinese campaign contributions

The New York Times has a story today entitled "Ex-F.B.I. Agent Is Accused of Passing Secrets to Lover." Among the secrets were details of the investigation into the Chinese government funneling campaign contributions to American campaigns.

April 9, 2003

Georgia Redistricting

The Fulton County Daily Report has this report on Tuesday's argument in Gov. Perdue's suit against Attorney General Baker.

April 8, 2003

Campaign Finance Criminal Case

AP reported yesterday that Mark Jimenez pled not guilty to the charge that he made $83,000 in illegal contributions to the Clinton campaign. My earlier post is here.

Kentucky absentee ballots

The Kentucky Postreports that absentee ballots for the Republican primary with the name of now-disqualified Lt. Gov. candidate Hunter Bates have already been printed and some are in the mail. Much like the situation in Minnesota when Sen. Paul Wellstone died, the Secretary of State is struggling to interpret the law to determine whether ballots already cast should be voided, those already mailed should be voided, ballot distribution should be halted till new ballots can be printed, etc.

Federal Election Commission meeting on 9 April

The FEC will consider a set of legislative recommendations at tomorrow's meeting of the Commission. The staff proposes that the Commission recommend:

-- making permanent the administrative fines program
-- allowing the FEC to restrict political activity of its employees
-- increasing and inflation-indexing all registration and reporting thresholds
-- making the FEC the sole point of entry for disclosure documents
-- "harmonize the biennial aggregate contribution limits and inflation indexing"
-- put more money into the presidential matching fund
-- raise the qualifying threshold for matching funds
-- eliminate the state-by-state limits on matching funds

Georgia redistricting

The AP and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report today that the suit by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue against state Attorney General Thurman Baker was heard in Superior Court today. The Governor has ordered the AG to drop the state's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court from the 3-judge US District Court which ruled that the redistricting plan passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The judge promised a quick ruling. The articles describe the arguments of the two sides.

April 5, 2003

Why the delay on McConnell v FEC?

Despite Nina Totenberg's usually fine reporting (discussed here), it seems that the concern over an ulterior motive or some in-fighting on the three-judge court is pretty overblown.

Tony Mauro has an article on covering the possible effect of a delayed ruling, and Howard Bashman has some down-to-earth analysis of the possbile reasons for the delay.

April 4, 2003

Nevada Democrats request FEC advice on "agency"

The Nevada Democratic Party and Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid have requested an advisory opinion regarding the meaning of "agent" for purposes of the BCRA. Rory Reid is the son of Sen. Harry Reid. The NDP wants Rory to raise money for its non-federal account.

The NDP wants to make sure that Rory is not considered an agent of Harry just be virture of being his son. It also wants to determine that Rory can raise money for the NDP non-federal account even if he also is raising money about the same time for Harry, but not in connection with the same event.

Michigan Democrats request FEC advice on fringe benefits

The Michigan Democratic State Central Committee has requested an advisory opinion on this question:

Should amounts expended by MDSCC for fringe benefits for employees, such as insurance and retirement benefits, be treated in the same manner as "salaries and wages" for purposes of allocating such expenses between Federal and non-Federal accounts under the FEC regulations?

Don't you think the answer should be "yes."

More on the McConnell v FEC delay

After Nina Totenberg's report last Saturday (discussed here), the Washington Post follows up today with more

April 3, 2003

The Wealth Primary

Tom Edsall and Dan Balz have an article in today's Wahington Post, Kerry Shaded By Edwards In Fundraising. It describes in almost horse-racing terms who's ahead and who is falling back in the race to win the big bucks.

Sen. Fitzgerald requests FEC advisory opinion (2)

A high official at the FEC has pointed out to me that I mischaracterized the Fitzgerald request. Here is what Unnamed Official said:

The Fitzgerald AO Request does not ask "whether the Senator may pay interest on bank loans made to his campaign committee from his personal funds or whether this constitutes an "expenditure from personal funds" prohibited by the FEC regulations" (it clearly is not prohibited - as you know, an individual can spend unlimited amounts of his own funds on a senate race). Rather, he asks if doing so will trigger higher contribution limits for an opponent under the "Millionaire's Amendment" of McCain-Feingold, when the bank loans in question were for his 1998 campaign.

My apologies to all and thanks to Unnamed Official. I should have double checked the regulatory citation in the Fitzgerald letter.

SWP can keep donor list secret

The AP reports that the FEC yesterday approved the advisory opinion to the Socialist Workers Party I had discussed here.

April 2, 2003

FEC and public funding (3)

The Hill reports FEC may dim lights on party conventions. This is an article explaining some of the background to the proposal being considered by the FEC on the use of public financing.

More on the FEC and public financing

FEC Commissioner Toner may propose an amendment to the staff proposal on public financing I mentioned here. His amendment would add some regulations affecting the use of PAC funds (especially Leadership PACs) for the "testing the waters" fundraising period.

The Way We Vote

Rob Richie has a good letter in the NY Times today. See The Way We Vote. Here's the whole letter:

To the Editor:

Janet Malcolm's attack on third-party candidacies (letter, March 26) is based on the fact that George W. Bush was elected even though a majority of voters in Florida and the country voted for either Al Gore or Ralph Nader. She should attack our antiquated plurality voting system rather than third-party candidates who seek to bring diverse viewpoints into elections.

Most countries choose presidents in runoff elections, which ensure that the popular will is respected. They also ensure that voters are not punished for exploring options other than the major candidates, who, in their efforts to capture at least half the votes, too often avoid the most pressing issues.

Better still is Australia's instant runoff voting, which accomplishes the goals of runoffs but in a single election.
Executive Director
Center for Voting and Democracy
Takoma Park, Md., March 26, 2003

April 1, 2003

Gender gap in campaign contributions

The Scranton Times Tribune reports:

"Our research shows women on average vote more than men, but men traditionally make up most of the campaign contribution pool because they have more monetary resources," said Ms. Germano, 22, who was guided by Alexandra Cooper, assistant professor of government and law at the college.

"We found that if men and women are granted equal monetary resources to contribute to campaigns, women are more risk averse in their contribution strategies while men display more risk acceptance," Ms. Germano said. "This means women are less likely to contribute because of the risk of losing money on an unsuccessful campaign."

Oklahoma senator pleads guilty in federal court

KFOR of Oklahoma City reports that a former state senator has pleaded guilty to making illegal contributions to a congressional campaign. The candidate who received the money has also pleaded guilty.

Sen. Fitzgerald requests FEC advisory opinion

Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) and Fitzgerald for Senate have requested an opinion on whether the Senator may pay interest on bank loans made to his campaign committee from his personal funds or whether this constitutes an "expenditure from personal funds" prohibited by the FEC regulations.

Cong. Lewis withdraws request for FEC advice

Cong. Ron Lewis (D-Ky2) has withdrawn his request for an advisory opinion. I reported his request here.

FEC to consider amending rules re public financing

The Federal Election Commission staff has proposed new rules regarding the public funding of candidates and nominating conventions. The proposal is 163 pages long (typed). Commissioner Toner has submitted a proposed amendment (but there was a dead link to the document when I checked it a few minutes ago).

Many of the changes are necessitated by the BCRA. For instance, the treatment of salaries to candidates and the question of the status of the municipal committee hosting the nominating convention. Others grow out of problems the Commission has seen with aspects of public financing. In this category are proposals to change "winding down expenses."

An aside here: I wish the FEC would put a table of contents on these voluminous proposals and do a better job of converting the document to PDF.