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

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June 30, 2003

New Rochelle redistricting

According to the Journal News:

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Brieant denied a preliminary injunction Thursday in the case [against the New Rochelle city council districts], which charges that the new lines violate the Voting Rights Act by shrinking the black population in one of the city's six council districts and thereby reducing their ability to elect a representative of their choice. The judge will still make a decision in the overall case that could affect future elections.

The Money Primary (2)

Peter Overby had a report
this morning on NPR's Morning Edition about how the "money primary" and candidate's emphasis on how much they have raised each quarter is becoming like the emphasis on quarterly earnings reports of corporations.

Vieth v Jubelirer

Sam Hirsch of Jenner and Block has provided me with copies of the two Motions to Affirm in the Vieth v Julelirer case: the one for the Governor and the one for the Legislative leaders.

The Money Primary

Howard Dean has raised the bar by announcing -- ahead of the end-of-quarter deadline -- that he has raised $6.2 in the second quarter, according to the New York Times.

June 29, 2003

"Soft" Money and the Texas GOP

The Dallas Morning News has a long article on the GOP and corporate campaign that lead to the Republican takeover of the Texas House.

The emergence of corporate money – whether used to produce advertisements, pay administrators or hire consultants – in 22 key House races last year helped the GOP overrun the last Democratic bastion in Texas government, campaign experts said.

Re-redistricting hearings

More hearings were held over the weekend to give a veneer of public accountability to the railroad job that the Republicans are going to carry out at the special session starting tomorrow. Many Democrats were fighting mad at the hearings.

"This has nothing to do with black or brown people. That's just a red herring," [Rep. Garnet] Coleman [D-Houston] said of arguments based on race that have dominated debate over redistricting. "This has everything to do with increasing Republican power."

Austin American Statesman (about the Houston hearing). The Dallas hearing was just as raucous.

Shouting, name-calling and some unmentionable actions were the order of the day Saturday as more than 400 angry Democrats and a much smaller – but just as cranky – group of Republicans voiced opinions on a GOP-driven congressional redistricting plan.

"I've been to a lot of redistricting hearings," said Dallas lawyer Ken Molberg. "I've never seen anything quite like this."

Dallas Morning News. In Brazoria County, the crowd hissed each time Tom DeLay's name was mentioned.

State Rep. Garnett Coleman, a Houston Democrat, noted that voters had already elected congressmen from the districts drawn in 2001. Any change would violate the voters’ rights, he said.

“People have already elected the congressmen of their choice,” Coleman said. “These people would be replaced by a Republican affirmative action program.”

The Facts (Brazosport). In Brownsville, the hearing never "heard" anyone.

An angry group of activists and a Democratic state representative shut down a public hearing on congressional redistricting in Texas Thursday, hurling insults at Republican House leaders and turning the hearing into a boisterous and emotional pro-Hispanic political rally.

Knight Ridder news wire.

The GOP is dangling a carrot before blacks and Latinos in promising them increased membership in the Congressional delegation if they will support the GOP plan, according to the Dallas Morning News.

A flash point in the hearing Saturday was argument over whether blacks would benefit more from electing another black to Congress from Texas, or from retaining a delegation of white Democrats who are sympathetic to blacks' issues and rely on their support.

[Ron] Wilson [D-Houston], a [black] member of the House Redistricting Committee, has joined Republicans who say the plan that the committee approved would help blacks by giving them the opportunity to control a third congressional district.

Houston Chronicle. The effort to draw Hispanic support was evident at the Laredo hearing.

The main bait, Democrats claim, is the prospect of funding badly needed medical school complexes in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, both in Senate districts held by Democrats.

San Antonio Express-News.

The plan is apparently not final, according to the Austin American Statesman. The GOP is still trying to decide how many ways to divide Travis County (containing Austin). One Republican activist explained, "Redistricting is simple. It doesn't get difficult until you try to protect incumbents or get rid of someone."

What's the ultimate goal?

"The Republican goal is to eliminate all Democratic districts, except those where Hispanics or blacks are the majority," said Alford, who was an expert witness for Republicans in the 2001 lawsuit that redrew the districts to what they are today.

"That is what the DeLay plan is, basically, to create overwhelmingly Democratic districts by packing as many Democrats as possible into as few districts as possible."

San Antonio Express-News.

Finally, we can all rest easy now that the New York Times has weighed in with an editorial calling DeLay a "gunslinger."

Update: Charles Kuffner has a long eye witness report on Political State Report about the Houston meeting.

June 28, 2003

Republican suit proceeds in Georgia

AccessNorthGa.com reports that U.S. District Judge Charles Pannell has refused to dismiss the Republican suit against Georgia's legislative and congressional districts. Their theory is that the population of districts was manipulated so as to favor Democrats. Here's my earlier post on the case.

Smart Mobs and Campaigning

Tomorrow's New York Times has an op-ed by Thomas Friedman, "Is Google God?" He includes this point toward the end:

"The key point is not just whether people hate us," says Robert Wright, the author of "Nonzero," a highly original book on the integrated world. "The key point is that it matters more now whether people hate us, and will keep mattering more, for technological reasons. I don't mean just homemade W.M.D.'s. I am talking about the way information technology — everyone using e-mail, Wi-Fi and Google -- will make it much easier for small groups to rally like-minded people, crystallize diffuse hatreds and mobilize lethal force. And wait until the whole world goes broadband. Broadband -- a much richer Internet service that brings video on demand to your PC -- will revolutionize recruiting, because video is such an emotionally powerful medium. Ever seen one of Osama bin Laden's recruiting videos? They're very effective, and they'll reach their targeted audience much more efficiently via broadband."

Now, turn that around and think about mobilizing people for your political campaign -- like, say, Howard Dean -- and think about the power of the Internet. Throw in Wi-Fi, and you have the ability to reach people where they are, even if they are not sitting at a desk. Throw in handheld Wi-Fi devices like the kind of phones people are using in Asia and Europe with text messaging, and look out, 'cause the times they are a-changing. (See my post on Christmas Eve about this.)

3rd Parties File FEC Complaint over Presidential Debates

Several third party presidential candidates have filed an FEC complaint alleging that the Commission on Presidential Debates should not be allowed to take corporate contributions for its 2004 debates and should return millions in contributions it has made to the major parties in 2000 (in the form of the debate events).

The complaint was filed by the 2000 candidates of the Greens, the Natural Law Party, the Constitution Party, and the Reform Party. The National Voting Rights Institute and a Boston firm are representing the complainants, according to a press release from NVRI.

The complaint and some of the exhibits are also on the NVRI site.

Another Westar Baby Gives Up His Money

AP reports N.C. Rep. Hayes Returns Westar Donations.

Begins to sound like a loan from the company. Pretty good deal; they don't have to buy a "seat at the table," just rent it.

Public Service Announcement

AP reports, Do-Not-Call List Logs 735K Phone Numbers.

Sign up today online. If you sign up online, they are supposed to send a confirming email, but mine still has not come after about 18 hours.

Why do Dems give so little?

In the Washington Post's article, Democrats Discovering Campaign Law's Cost, is this paragraph:

A report released yesterday by the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, found that, contrary to common perceptions, Republicans have a big advantage over Democrats in donations from small donors, while Democrats are king among only the biggest.

Here is the report.

Why? Is that because fewer Democrats give or they give less per person? If the latter, do Democrats feel they have less disposable income?

What's your answer?

MoveOn "primary" used Approval Voting

In all the hoopla over Howard Dean winning the MoveOn.org PAC online straw poll, most (but not Nathan Newman) have overlooked the second question:

Please select all of the candidates who you would enthusiastically support in the 2004 general election against George W. Bush, if chosen as the Democratic Party nominee next summer after the Democratic Primaries:

(Choose as many as you like.)

That is a classic use of the Approval Voting system. It allows voters to choose among several candidates, express their approval for more than one, and come up with a result showing the most approved candidate.

The MoveOn "first past the post" results were Dean, Kucinich, Kerry. But the MoveOn members were willing to support enthusiastically the following: Dean, Kerry, Kucinich, Edwards, Gephardt, and Braun.

So for all the spin about Kerry losing big among the supposedly leftist voters of MoveOn is this fact, 3/4 of all the MoveOn voters would enthusiastically support him.

June 27, 2003

The Good is enemy of the Best

The Washington Post reports in tomorrow's paper, "D.C. Groups Divided Over Davis's Plan."

A proposal to give the District of Columbia a seat in Congress is drawing mixed reviews among proponents of D.C. voting rights, some hailing it as an important advance and others deriding it as a political ploy that undermines the goal of full statehood.

Although the proposal by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) is still a work in progress with various options under consideration, it already is drawing attention and causing even some initial critics to give it a second look.

Is the re-redistricting rigged?

Surely this headline in tomorrow's Dallas Morning News is exaggerated:
GOP accused of trying to fix remap hearing.
Here's the lede:

Some of the behind-the-scenes wrangling over redistricting spilled onto the stage Friday when Democrats accused Republicans of secretly trying to rig a Dallas hearing with manufactured text and planted speakers.

State Democratic Party chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm said an e-mail by Collin County GOP chairman Rick Neudorff sent to fellow Republicans was proof that legislative hearings on redistricting are "nothing but a sham."

The AP reports that some Democrats are trying to break up the "neck tie party" (my term; think of the old Westerns) by means of "voter protests, lawmaker walkouts and blistering accusations."

We can only hope that this movie turns out like they did when I was a kid: the guy on the big horse rides up and saves the damsel on the railroad tracks.

Vieth v Jubelirer

Today, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal of the plaintiffs in Vieth v Jubelirer. Sam Hirsch of Jenner & Block (who represents the plaintiffs) provided the link to the Jurisdictional Statement and the Brief Opposing Motions to Affirm. If anyone has the Motions to Affirm, please send them to me.

The Questions Presented are:

1. Whether the District Court erred in effectively concluding that voters affiliated with a major political party may never state a claim of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, thereby nullifying this Court's decision in Davis v. Bandemer, 478 U.S. 109 (1986).

2. Whether a State presumptively violates the Equal Protection Clause when it subordinates all traditional, neutral districting principles to the overarching goal of drawing a congressional redistricting map that achieves maximum partisan advantage for members of one political party.

3. Whether a State exceeds its delegated power under Article I of the Constitution when it draws congressional-district boundaries to ensure that candidates from one political party will consistently capture a supermajority of the State's congressional seats even if those candidates win less than half the popular vote statewide.

The plaintiffs brought one-person-one-vote and gerrymander claims against the Congressional districting plan adopted by the GOP-majority Pennsylvania legislature. The federal court held that the population claims were sustained by a plan that has a variation of no more than 19 people from the norm. So the Legislature moved thousands of people to correct this minor deviation. The court essentially refused to hear the gerrymander claims. There were three opinions: 188 FSupp2d 532, 195 FSupp2d 672, and 241 FSupp2d 478. (My links are to the federal court's website.)

AO to Home Depot

The FEC has published the Advisory Opinion to The Home Depot: Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinion Number 2003-14. My previous posts explain the request and draft opinion (adopted without changes). See here and here.

MoveOn.org primary may benefit even the losers

According to AP:

No matter who finishes first in the [MoveOn.org] online presidential primary, the Democratic candidates are counting on thousands of potential volunteers, donors and campaign dollars from the Internet event.

"This could be the biggest volunteer day of the entire cycle," said Wes Boyd, co-founder of MoveOn.org. "The primary benefit for candidates is to broaden their base of support, put new supporters on their rolls."

The Mess in Texas (DC division)

According to AP:

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the role of federal officials in last month's hunt for Texas lawmakers who fled to Oklahoma to block passage of a redistricting bill.

Democrats have been asking for a full accounting of the search, and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett told The Associated Press the late announcement of the investigation is another attempt to avoid his and other House members' requests for documents.

A House seat for DC?

Rep. Tom Davis (D-Va.) is working on a plan to add two seats to the House of Representatives -- one for the District of Columbia and one for Utah (which lost a seat in the last reapportionment), according to the Washington Post.

Press coverage of GA v Ashcroft

The decision on homosexual rights sucked all the air out of the room. Nina Tottenberg gave one sentence to Georgia v Ashcroft in the midst of a long piece on the Lawrence v Texas decision. There is some press coverage however. The Fulton Daily Report, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

AP reports that Attorney General Baker will ask the Georgia Supreme Court to dismiss Gov. Perdue's suit seeking to wrest control of the case from him.

The Charlotte News & Observer said, "The decision could come into play when North Carolina redraws its legislative districts again, which it probably will do before the 2004 elections."

Black leaders criticize Ala. Gov. on veto

Alabama black leaders held a press conference yesterday to blast the decision of Governor Bob Riley to veto the bill restoring the voting rights of most ex-felons. The word"betrayal" was used several times. Sen. Rodger Smitherman said that the veto would not affect his support for the Governor's tax reform and accountability package which faces a 9 September referendum. The Black Caucus said that it will oppose preclearance of the voter ID bill which was passed in tandem with the ex-felon bill.

See the coverage in the Birmingham News, AP, Montgomery Advertiser, NBC13, and Mobile Register.

June 26, 2003

Nonpartisan elections for NYC?

"Staff members of a commission looking at the future of elections in New York City will recommend dramatic changes, including a move to nonparty elections and a fast timetable that will make the changes effective either in time for the 2005 elections or, at the latest, four years later."

Panel Staff to Urge Big Change in How Elections Are Handled, New York Times. (thanks to Taegan Goddard's Poltical Wire for the link.)

GA v Ashcroft is not over

Even though Georgia v. Ashcroft is a pro-Democratic decision, the Democrats have not won yet because the case has been remanded. They have two hurdles: first, the three-judge district court could get creative with its fact-finding and rule against the preclearance again; second, the Georgia Supreme Court could rule that the governor can control the attorney general's handling of litigation.

The article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution makes oblique reference to the state supreme court case in the penultimate paragraph. (The last paragraph is just bizarre.)

AZ Gov. veto voter ID bill

Unlike the Governor of Alabama, who wants to keep the ballot box "pure ... mostly" (as Garrison Keillor describes Powder Milk Biscuits), the Governor of Arizona has had the guts to veto the voter ID bill. See the

story in the Arizona Republic.

Georgia v Ashcroft decision

The complete decision in Georgia v Ashcroft is on the Supreme Court's website. Once again, as with so many other voting rights cases, this is a 5-4 decision with Justice O'Connor in the majority. In fact, she is the author of the majority opinion.

To my mind, the most important part of the decision is found on pp. 16-19 of the majority opinion. The Court notes that a State may seek to maximize minority electoral success either by choosing to create safe minority districts or by choosing "to create a greater number of districts in which it is likely—although perhaps not quite as likely as under the benchmark plan—that minority voters will be able to elect candidates of their choice." The Court holds, "Section 5 does not dictate that a State must pick one of these methods of redistricting over another." It also discusses the political science literature ("various studies have suggested that the most effective way to maximize minority voting strength may be to create more influence or coalitional districts") and holds,

Section 5 leaves room for States to use these types of influence and coalitional districts. Indeed, the State’s choice ultimately may rest on a political choice of whether substantive or descriptive representation is preferable. The State may choose, consistent with §5, that it is better to risk having fewer minority representatives in order to achieve greater overall representation of a minority group by increasing the number of representatives sympathetic to the interests of minority voters.

GA v Ashcroft vacated and remanded

The Supreme Court has vacated and remanded Georgia v Ashcroft. The syllabus is here. Majority opinion here, concurrences by Kennedy and Thomas, and dissent by Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg, and Breyer.

More details when I have a chance to read the opinions.

June 25, 2003

Draft AO to NAHB

The FEC General Counsel has circulated a draft advisory opinion to the questions posed by the National Association of Home Builders. The opinion is hedged about with so many qualifiers that it is not easy to summarize. Basically, NAHB wanted to invite members of Congress and the HUD Secretary to some of its meetings and wanted to make sure it was not violating the FECA by doing so. The draft AO explains how NAHB can do so with some limitations.

{corrected the title of the post}

BCRA leads to assaults on PAC's

The Hill reports PAC cupboard nearly bare.

Panicked lawmakers are going to extraordinary lengths to raise as much money as they can by the end of the month in the face of a drought of political action committee (PAC) funds.

Individual lawmakers are holding up to seven fundraising events this month, making hundreds of phone calls a week, and even scheduling events beyond the traditional three-day congressional workweek, a departure from past custom.

The director of one political action committee said he has had to hide in the closet so that his assistant could tell prowling lawmakers that he was not in the office.

Recall effort still has a ways to go

The campaign to recall Gov. Gray Davis of California is still short of its own goal of 1.2 million signatures by 2 September, according to Mercury Newsl.

Meanwhile, the AP is reporting that Rep. Darrell Issa is facing a renewal of the charges that he was involved in a car theft in 1980 (but the charges were dropped).

Texas re-redistricting hearings to begin

Texas state House members will hold six hearings around the state on the proposed re-redistricting of congressional districts. Three hearings will be held simulataneously on each of two days, Thursday and Saturday. According to San Antonio Express-News, some Democratic legislators are complaining that they have been assigned to hearings outside their congressional districts.

The Senate's hearings will begin on Saturday and end after the special session is over, according to News 8 Austin.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth will be proposing again that redistricting be turned over to a citizens commission after the 2010 census, the Houston Chronicle.

Ala. Gov. rejects ex-felon voting bill

The bills requiring voter ID and automatic restoration of voting rights to most ex-felons passed the legislature this year because black and Republican legislators made a deal that the bills would travel in tandem and that neither group would block the other's bills. After passage, however, Republican legislators asked Gov. Bob Riley (R) to veto the bill. Riley announced yesterday that he would pocket veto the ex-felon bill but has approved the voter ID bill. He said that he had never been a party to the deal.

Stories are in the Birmingham News, Mobile Register, and AP.

June 24, 2003

Westar and Ashcroft

Daily Kos explains "The Ashcroft/Westar connection." One of the ringleaders of the "contributions for a place at the table" scheme was "Westar Executive Vice President Carl Koupal (who left the company in 2001). Koupal ran Ashcroft's 1976 campaign for MO attorney general and his 1984 race for governor of Missouri. He also served in some official capacity or other for all eight years of Ashcroft's administration."

Conyers asks for special counsel on Westar

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has sent to a letter to Attorney General John Conyers requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the contributions on Westar to Republican members of Congress.

Thanks to Alfredo Garcia for the tip.

44 AG's back Colorado AG

The Denver Post reports that 44 attorneys general from other states and Guam have filed an amicus brief supporting Attorney General Salazar's right to sue to block the new re-redistricting law. The Rocky Mountain News also a story.

Jim Spencer, Denver Post Columnist, has suggested a long list of free parking days. One of them is this:

State Redistricting Day(s): In honor of the Republicans' unilateral redrawing of congressional districts to keep themselves in power, members of the GOP park free whenever and wherever they please without asking members of the public what they think.

Texas begins re-redistricting hearings

The Texas legislature is beginning its hearings on re-redistricting. According to the Houston Chronicle, "The Senate Jurisprudence Committee tentatively set public hearings in Laredo, San Angelo, Houston, McAllen and Dallas, beginning Saturday." Other hearings (apparently by the House) are set for Lubbock on Thursday (Amarillo Globe-News) and Nacogdoches on Saturday (Paris News).

New election laws in Alabama

Six election-related statewide bills passed the Alabama Legislature in the Regular Session; four have been signed by the Governor.

Act 2003-337 polling place hours Download file

Act 2003-339 automatic recount Download file

Act 2003-311 change the date for qualification for presidential ballot Download file

Act 2003-313 Help America Vote Act modifications to Alabama election code Download file


HB 104 restoring the right to vote for certain ex-felons Download file (Governor is considering a veto)

HB 193 requiring voter ID before voting Download file (Governor has said he will sign this)

June 23, 2003

National Review tries to undo the mess in Texas

Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall has a point by point refutation of the National Review Online article on the great Texas manhunt for the Killer D's. As usual, Marshall is witty, precise, and wonderful.

Georgia Dems seek to register 600,000 blacks

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports:

Prominent Georgia Democrats on Saturday urged black leaders to focus on unregistered African-American voters to reverse historic gains by Georgia's Republican Party. There are about 600,000 unregistered black voters in Georgia, and tapping that reservoir of potential ballots is key to putting Democrats back in power, officials told the summer meeting of the 700-member Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials.

Thanks to Paul McCord of Political State Report for the link.

Tom Edsall's story on Westar

Tom Edsall has this article, Westar a Saga of Money's Role on Hill, in today's Washington Post.

Sen. Reid and his sons

In the second part of the "hire a congress member's relatives as a lobbyist" series, the Los Angeles Times today dissects the relationships of the Reids of Nevada to practically everyone else in the state. See In Nevada, the Name to Know is Reid.

June 22, 2003

Texas budget deal reached

The special session dealing with redistricting will not have to rewrite the budget. Strayhorn, Perry reach budget deal.

Will Riley veto Ala. ex-felon voting bill?

He will if the Republicans in the legislature and party leadership have any sway with Riley.

Republican lawmakers sent Riley a letter last week expressing opposition to the felon bill. Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors called Riley, arguing for a veto.

"There's no more anti-Republican bill than this," Connors said. "As frank as I can be, we're opposed to it because felons don't tend to vote Republican."

UPDATE: The quotation is from the Birmingham News.

FEC must adopt new regulation on file disclosure

The DC Circuit has held in AFL-CIO v FEC,

At the close of such investigations [of alleged violations of the FECA], a Commission regulation has long required public release of all investigatory file materials not exempted by the Freedom of Information Act. In this case, the subjects of a now-closed investigation challenge the regulation as inconsistent with both the Federal Election Campaign Act and the First Amendment. We hold that the regulation, though not contrary to the plain language of the statute, is nevertheless impermissible because it fails to account for the substantial First Amendment interests impli- cated in releasing political groups' strategic documents and other internal materials.

4th Circuit Nixes Maryland Gerrymander Suit

After Maryland adopted a congressional redistricting plan which divided Anne Arundel County among 4 congressional districts, Duckworth and others in the Republican Party sued on several theories. The district court dismissed and Duckworth took an appeal in which he raised only one claim: that the 14th Amendment forbids a state from diluting the political voice of the county using bizarrely-drawn districts. The 4th Circuit has now affirmed in Duckworth v State Administration Board of Election Laws.

June 21, 2003

Hiring the Family (of the Rep. or Sen.)

The Los Angeles Times has a story in its Sunday edition that begins,

Two years ago, when regional phone companies wanted Congress to make it easier for them to compete in the high-speed Internet market, they did what special interests usually do with billions of dollars at stake: They amassed an army of experienced lobbyists.

But one of the so-called Baby Bells didn't stop there. BellSouth also hired a pair of lobbyists distinguished by their family trees -- John Breaux Jr. and Chester T. "Chet" Lott Jr.

Hiring the members of the family of the Senator or Representative is an indirect way to get on the Senator's good side or to get "access."

A negative influence on a decision maker is found when a litigant hires a firm because of its ties to the judge and thereby force the recusal of the judge. The Eleventh Circuit just upheld Judge Lynwood Smith's decision to bar BellSouth from hiring a firm with a partner who is the nephew of the judge to whom the case was assigned. The case is In re BellSouth Corp.

(Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link. And congratulations to Howard on having 1.5 million page views.)

June 20, 2003

Ask only what your country can give you, not what you can give

MyDD has this great headline, The Freeloading Welfare Bush. The post is about Bush not contributing to the Presidential campaign financing fund (through the check-off box on his Form 1040), yet he takes public financing in the general election. "Disconnect? No, there's no disconnect. Just unpatriotic greed on display in the Bush administration. This is how Bush and his ilk view the system-- take whatever you can, and give back however little you can."

Can Graham run for president and senator?

Everyone has been assuming that Bob Graham will have to make a decision whether to run for the Senate or continue to seek the presidential nomination, but that has been thrown in doubt by a lawyer in Tallahassee. The Orlando Sentinel has both sides of the story.

Frankly, I don't think it will be much of a problem for Graham. We will probably know the Democratic nominee long before then. Take a look at the primary calendar.

(Thanks to The Scrum for the link.)

Leung gets bail

Katrina Leung has been granted bail according to TalkLeft.

Some will refund Westar contributions

The New York Times reports today:

Two Republicans in Congress said today that they would give away campaign donations from a former chief executive of a utility who has been indicted. Some other recipients declined to do so, saying the contributions had already been spent.

Ex-Felon Voting Bill Could Face Veto

Alabama Gov. Riley has on his desk the bill to restore the voting rights of most ex-felons, but is considering whether to sign the bill. That bill and the voter ID bill passed because the Black Caucus and the Republicans reached an agreement not to fillibuster the bills. Black leaders predict that a veto of the voter restoration bill will hurt Riley's effort to gather support for the tax increase referendum set for early September, according to the AP.

Texas Legislature May Have More on its Plate

The Legislature may have to consider more than just re-redistricting at the special session. The state Comptroller has refused to certify the budget as balanced, perhaps forcing a legislative re-write, according to the Dallas Morning News. (Harvey Kronberg's Quorum Report [subscription required for some reports] just reported, "Quorum Report has learned that the Texas Supreme Court has been notified that they may receive a petition from the Attorney General's Office seeking to compel Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn to certify the budget."

Democrats are calling on the Governor to drop redistricting from the call for a special session, according to the San Antonio Express News .

The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas Monthly's July issue will name Tom DeLay as one of the Top 10 Worst legislators in Texas -- despite the fact that he is not a Texas Legislator.

June 19, 2003

Dems seek Westar investigation

DNC chair Terry McAuliffe and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) have requested an investigation of Westar according to the Kansas City Star.

The Washington Post has an editorial in today's paper calling on Ashcroft to appoint a special prosecutor (because Ashcroft received contributions from Westar staff or lobbyists).

FEC report on 2002 Congressional races

The FEC News Release on the spending by congressional candidates in 2001-02 is available. The release has links to detailed tables on spending and contributions.

June 18, 2003

Texas Gov calls special session for re-redistricting

Gov. Rick Perry has called a special session for re-redistricting. Here is the text of his letter:

This is to notify you that I am calling the Texas Legislature back into special session beginning June 30 for the primary purpose of addressing congressional redistricting. I believe duly elected officials, not federal judges, should be responsible for drawing district lines.

Once legislators have begun their work on this important issue, I will consider expanding the call to other unfinished business from the 78th Regular Session, such as funding for the Regional Academic Health Center and Texas Tech Medical School, and other important matters.

The recently completed regular session clearly demonstrates that legislators - regardless of political party affiliation and philosophy - can work together to address issues important to Texans. And I am confident that Democrats and Republicans can likewise work together to develop a map that is fair, compact and protects communities of interest.

(Thanks to Nina Perales of MALDEF for the link.)

Gephardt and Edwards are spamming

I just received an email from Dick Gephardt using an address from "bc5.customer-contact.net". Dick addressed me rather impersonally as "Dear friend" and began, "I am writing you because of your past support of my political efforts and because you are a supporter of the Democratic Party." I don't remember ever supporting him, but I do support the Democratic Party.

For a few weeks, John Edwards has been sending me a newsletter via email. I did not sign up for it either. Edwards at least uses his own domain as a return address -- "outreach.johnedwards2004.com."

Each communications contains a nice statement at the bottom about how I can remove myself from the email list.

I wonder how these two stand on the regulation of Unsolicited Commercial Email.

Draft AO to Home Depot

The General Counsel of the FEC has circulated a draft advisory opinion to The Home Depot regarding the distribution of pins to members of its PAC to show they had given contributions. The draft opinion approves this. My earlier post on this request is here.

Public Citizen Report on Westar

Public Citizen has issued this report on the contributions of Westar and its executives to members of Congress. The report should be available soon on the Public Citizen webiste at this address.

Texas Gov. to call special session on re-redistricting

Jim Dedman and KSAT 12 of San Antonio report that Gov. Rick Perry will call a special session on re-redistricting and government reorganization. (The latter will probably involve making the Republican Party the permanent majority party by law.)

Thanks to Jim Dedman for emailing me about this. Unfortunately, my DSL service was out last night.

June 17, 2003

AO on "Agent" under BCRA

the FEC has issued
Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinion Number 2003-10, requested by the Nevada Democratic Party and Rory Reid. The final opinion differs only a little from the draft proposed by the General Counsel, but it also includes a statement by Commissioners Smith, Mason, and Toner discussing the comment letters of Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Democracy 21, and the Center for Responsive Politics. These groups had argued that Rory Reid could not be an agent for a federal campaign and a state campaign in the same two-year cycle. My posts on the original request and the comments are here, here, and here.

June 16, 2003

The impact of the Colorado re-redistricting

The Denver Post explains the effects the re-redistricting of Colorado will have and why it was done.

"This map was made to maintain the hegemony of Republicans throughout the state and keep Republican Party members happy," said political consultant Rick Ridder of the Denver firm Ridder/Braden Inc.

Homeland Security clears itself

Now here is a real suprise. According to the AP,

Investigators found no wrongdoing by a Department of Homeland Security agency that helped Texas law enforcement track down the private plane of a state legislator when he and other Democratic lawmakers fled to Oklahoma in a political dispute.

In a report released Monday, the department's inspector general's office said it found a dispatcher at the California-based Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center made eight phone calls that took no more than 40 minutes.

The investigators said that assistance provided the Texas Department of Public Safety had "no reducible effect" on the center's mission.

House GOP uses telemarketing firm

The Washington Post has an article on the House Republican Campaign Committee's contract with InfoCision. A few excerpts:

In the first four months of this year, House Republicans spent more than $16 million on campaign fundraising pitches crafted by telemarketing guru Rodney Smith and delivered by GOP employees at a little-known firm in Akron, Ohio, federal records show.

That is a remarkable sum for one small company in a sea of political consultants. But House GOP leaders say they are happy with the results of InfoCision Management Corp.'s work: a huge surge in donations and an ever-growing rolodex of small donors the Republican Party can tap in future elections.

Under the arrangement, Smith, who is paid by the National Republican Congressional Committee and InfoCision, devises phone pitches tailored to specific audiences. For example, doctors are asked to contribute money in exchange for positions on a Physicians Advisory Board, and business executives are asked for money in exchange for positions on the NRCC's Business Advisory Council.

The NRCC's contract with InfoCision guarantees that the party organization will do no worse than receive a dollar in donations for every dollar it pays the firm. Even if the committee simply breaks even, it gains a list of new donors. That is an especially prized commodity now that stricter limits on campaign contributions have enhanced the importance of small- and medium-range donors -- those willing to give $100 to $5,000.

FEC v Beaumont reversed

The Supreme Court has reversed FEC v Beaumont. The complete decision is here on the Supreme Court's website. Here is the syllabus of the case.

A corporation is prohibited from making "a contribution or expenditure in connection with" certain federal elections, 2 U.S.C. sect. 441b(a), but not from establishing, administering, and soliciting contributions to a separate fund to be used for political purposes, sect. 441b(b)(2)(C). Such a PAC (so called after the political action committee that runs it) is free to make contributions and other expenditures in connection with federal elections. Respondents, a nonprofit advocacy corporation known as North Carolina Right to Life, Inc., and others (collectively NCRL), sued petitioner Federal Election Commission (FEC), challenging the constitutionality of sect. 441b and its implementing regulations as applied to NCRL. As relevant here, the District Court granted NCRL summary judgment as to the ban on direct contributions, and the Fourth Circuit affirmed.
Held: Applying the direct contribution prohibition to nonprofit advocacy corporations is consistent with the First Amendment. Pp. 4-16.
(a) An attack on the federal prohibition of direct corporate political contributions goes against the current of a century of congressional efforts to curb corporations' potentially deleterious influences on federal elections. Since 1907, federal law has barred such direct corporate contributions. Much of the subsequent congressional attention to corporate political activity has been meant to strengthen the original, core prohibition on such contributions. Federal Election Comm'n v. National Right to Work Comm., 459 U.S. 197. As in 1907, current law focuses on the corporate structure's special characteristics that threaten the integrity of the political process. Id., at 209. In barring corporate earnings from turning into political "war chests," the ban was and is intended to "preven[t] corruption or the appearance of corruption." Federal Election Comm'n v. National Conservative Political Action Comm., 470 U.S. 480, 496-497. The ban also protects individuals who have paid money into a corporation or union for other purposes from having their money used to support political candidates to whom they may be opposed, National Right to Work, supra, at 208, and hedges against use of corporations as conduits for circumventing "valid contribution limits," Federal Election Comm'n v. Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Comm., 533 U.S. 431, 456, and n. 18. Pp. 4-8.
(b) National Right to Work all but decided against NCRL's position that sect. 441b's ban on direct contributions is unconstitutional as applied to nonprofit advocacy corporations. There, this Court upheld the part of sect. 441b restricting a nonstock corporation to its membership when soliciting PAC contributions, concluding that the congressional judgment to regulate corporate political involvement warrants considerable deference and reflects a permissible assessment of the dangers that corporations pose to the electoral process. 459 U.S., at 207-211. It would be hard to read this conclusion, except on the practical understanding that the corporation's capacity to make contributions was legitimately limited to indirect donations within the scope allowed to PACs. And the Court specifically rejected the argument made here, that deference to congressional judgments about corporate contribution limits turns on details of corporate form or the affluence of particular corporations. National Right to Work has repeatedly been read as approving sect. 441b's prohibition on direct contributions, even by nonprofit corporations without great financial resources. Equal significance must be accorded to Federal Election Comm'n v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Inc., 479 U.S. 238, on which NCRL and the Fourth Circuit have relied. In holding sect. 441b's prohibition on independent expenditures unconstitutional as applied to a nonprofit advocacy corporation, the Court there distinguished National Right to Work on the ground that it addressed regulation of contributions, not expenditures. Pp. 8-12.
(c) This Court could not hold for NCRL without recasting its understanding of the risks of harm posed by corporate political contributions, of the expressive significance of contributions, and of the consequent deference owed to legislative judgments on what to do about them. NCRL's efforts do not unsettle existing law on these points. Its argument that Massachusetts Citizens for Life-type corporations pose no potential threat to the political system is rejected. Concern about the corrupting potential underlying the corporate ban may be implicated by advocacy corporations, which, like their for-profit counterparts, benefit from state-created advantages and may be able to amass substantial political war chests. Also rejected is NCRL's argument that the application of the ban on direct contributions should be subject to strict scrutiny because sect. 441b bars, rather than limits, contributions based on their source. When reviewing political financial restrictions, the level of scrutiny is based on the importance of the political activity at issue to effective speech or political association, and restrictions on political contributions have long been treated as marginal speech restrictions subject to relatively complaisant First Amendment review because contributions lie closer to the edges than to the core of political expression. Thus, a contribution limit passes muster if it is closely drawn to match a sufficiently important interest. The time to consider the difference between a ban and a limit is when applying scrutiny at the level selected, not in selecting the standard of review itself. But even NCRL's argument that sect. 441b is not closely drawn rests on the false premise that the provision is a complete ban. In fact, the provision allows corporate political participation through PACs. And this Court does not think that regulatory burdens on PACs, including restrictions on their ability to solicit funds, renders a PAC unconstitutional as an advocacy corporation's sole avenue for making political contributions. See Right to Work, supra, at 201-202. 12-16.
278 F.3d 261, reversed.
Souter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and Stevens, O'Connor, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, J., joined.

Texas Re-redistricting to cost $1 million

Ty Meighan's
column in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times asks, "Is Rick Perry a glutton for punishment? Or would a special session on redistricting give him a way to punish Democrats for that run for the border?"

June 15, 2003

How the California recall works

Daniel Weintraub, a Sacramento Bee columnist, has explained the nitty gritty details of the recall in this recent
column. Thanks to Polizeros at Political State Report for the link and a pithy restatement and commentary on the Weintraub column.

Instant Runoff Voting

"Instant Runoff Voting" is a preferential voting system that allows voters to choose one winner with majority support even if there are more than two candiates. The Center for Voting and Democracy website has a page with lots of resources on IRV (to use some shorthand), including the text of the San Francisco charter amendment.

San Francisco adopted the amendment in March 2002, but it has yet to be implemented. The formal reason for the holdup is the lack of state approval of the software according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The City is planning to use handcounting as a backup.

What's the cost of hand counting? The City estimates $2.3 million, but the Center for Voting and Democracy disputes this in a San Francisco Examiner article.

The Book Store

I have removed "The Book Store" from the right margin till I can figure out why the links to the books were not showing up. Back soon. I hope.

June 14, 2003

Flag Day

Today is Flag Day. I'm flying the Gadsden Flag. Are you flying your American Flag?

Dont-Tread-300.gif

For more information on the Gadsden Flag, go to gadsden.info which provided the image.

Mississippi campaign contributions

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger has two articles today on campaign finance in the governor's race. The first reports that Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D) will be returning $6,500 in illegal campaign contributions to corporations. Corporations can give $1000 a year to candidates in Mississippi.

The second reports that Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck (D switched to R) reported $510,000 in loans to her 1999 campaign without disclosing the source and her reports since then have not provided a clue as to the present status of the loans.

Westar scandal

The Washington Post has an article today by Tom Edsall and Juliet Eilperin on the Westar provision that did not make it into the code:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) have said they backed a 2002 legislative provision sought by a Kansas energy company because it fit their deregulatory, free-market philosophy. Good policy, not politics, was their chief concern, they said, and the company's contributions to several Republican committees did not influence their actions. But the head of a Kansas regulatory agency said the Republican-backed provision was more likely to help the energy company's top executives than its thousands of customers.

Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) joins Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in disclaiming any knowledge of Westar, its intentions, or its money, according to the Kansas City Star.

Many paper are carrying this Knight-Ridder story tying the Westar story together with the actions of Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who tried to slip "into legislation a last-minute provision benefiting Philip Morris USA, a major donor that also employs his son and a close friend."

Surely, everyone is mistaken in seeing chicanery in all this. As Rep. Tom DeLay says in the Post article, "It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments."

Color me cynical.

June 13, 2003

The Mess in Texas

The San Antonio Express-news has this story on the latest revelations in the Kevin Bailey lawsuit. The state's Asst AG claims he gave only legal advice to the Speaker and did not put on his Homeland Security hat.

The Austin Chronicle has a good wrap-up story on what is known now, including a link to a DPS website with all the documents DPS admits to having on the search for the Killer D's.

June 12, 2003

MoveOn.org and the Demo campaign

The Washington Post article about Wes Boyd, the founder of Move On, got me to look at his website, MoveOn.org: Democracy in Action. According to the Post, "The MoveOn political action committee has raised $6.5 million for like-minded candidates and has hopes of doubling that amount in this election cycle." Let's see, would that make them a Pioneer or Ranger or whatever if they were Republicans?

MoveOn.org is apparantly thinking of endorsing a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, according to a post on Howard Dean's blog.

The times, they are a'changing. Internet fundraising, spam by candidates, blogs by candidates.

AOR for ex-Sen. Bob Smith

Remember Bob Smith, the Republican Senator from New Hampshire who left the GOP, became an independent running for president, then rejoined the GOP -- the one who was defeated in the Republican primary in 2002? Yeah, that Bob Smith. He now refers to himself as "U.S. Senator Bob Smith, N.H., Ret'd."

Retired-Sen. Smith has requested an advisory opinion on the use of the unusable contributions to his general election campaign. He tried to give them all back (in accord with the law), but $60,000 in checks are uncashed. Retired-Sen. Smith wants to give the money to his new foundation, the American Patriot Foundation, Inc.

US Attorney opposes Treffinger's AO Request

James Treffinger asked the FEC for an advisory opinion on using his leftover federal campaign funds for his defense fund. The US Attorney who prosecuted Treffinger has filed a comment on the AOR. The prosecutor asks the FEC to hold that a guilty felon (he pled guilty) should not be allowed to use his campaign funds for his defense, since the case did not involve his campaign, but his earlier elected position in Essex County, NJ.

Howard Dean launches new blog

Blog for America is the title on Howard Dean's new blog. I suppose this is a take-off on his "Dean for America" slogan. It's a good looking blog. Take a look.

Primary Calendar

MyDD had this post on Kerry vs Dean & the Primary Calendar. (Sorry I overlooked it.) There is an update on Washington State here.

Will Texas re-redistrict?

Dave McNeeley's column in the Austin American Statesman is titled "Redistricting so the GOP 'can't lose'." He begins, "Democrats call Republican Tom DeLay's congressional redistricting plan an affirmative action quota plan -- for Republicans."

But Lt. Gov. Dewhurst has expressed some doubts about the DeLay plan.

"I am a very strong proponent of maintaining communities of interest, and I think, based on some of the third party explanations of the (last map offered), we've got too many cuts into the Hill Country and the (Dallas-Fort Worth) Metroplex," Dewhurst told the Austin American-Statesman editorial board Wednesday.

Bill Pryor and RAGA

The Alliance for Justice report on Bill Pryor includes more information on RAGA's solicitation of campaign contributions. The section on RAGA begins at the bottom of page 25.

Pryor hearing and RAGA

There was little mention of the Republican Attorneys General Association at yesterday's hearing on Bill Pryor's nomination to the 11th Circuit. These articles in the Birmingham News (here and here) are the only ones I can find that even mentioned the questions by Sen. Feingold. Here is an excerpt from one article:

Pryor also clashed with Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., over disclosure of political contributions to the Republican Attorneys General Association, an organization that Pryor helped found in the late 1990s, although he is no longer an officer. The group has drawn criticism for raising money from corporations that may have a stake in the official actions of its members. After Pryor repeatedly referred questions about specific donors to the Republican National Committee, Feingold retorted that he took those responses as a "refusal" to provide the information.

Nina Totenberg also included that exchange in her report on Morning Edition. The exchange on RAGA begins at 1:40.

I have not seen the transcript or watched or heard a complete video or audio of these questions and answers, but Pryor (in Totenberg's report) says something like "I'm not saying I oppose or favor" the release of the contributor list by the Republican National Committee. In fact, Pryor has expressed his opposition to the release of the information. See this article in the Decatur (AL) Daily:

Pryor said that even if he could find a list of RAGA contributors, "The last thing I want to do is to try to make the businesses that support us a target for trial lawyers."

So, Pryor is interested in protecting the privacy of corporations who "support" Republican Attorneys General.

June 11, 2003

Did the Pres. of Common Cause violate FECA?

The Boston Globe has an
article detailing accusations against Chellie Pingree, now the president of Common Cause. In 2002, Ms. Pingree ran against Susan Collins (R-Me) for U.S. Senate.

Pingree soliticted soft money from her contributors -- directing them to state and national party funds -- but did not explain that the contributions would directly benefit her campaign.

(Thanks to Taegan Goddard of Poltical Wire for the link.)

Sen. Shelby denies Westar contributions

AP reports

Alabama Senator Richard Shelby is denying reports today that he is one of several Republican lawmakers who solicited campaign donations for help with legislation. Internal documents from Kansas-based Westar Energy suggests Shelby and others sought contributions in exchange for assisting the utility get a federal exemption from regulatory oversight.
The accusation is here.

Suffolk County redistricting suit will not hold up elections

Suffolk Life Newspapers reports

Judge Arthur Spatt last week ruled to allow the redistricting plan adopted by the Suffolk County Legislature, effectively clearing the way for elections in November with a new minority-oriented district centered on the Brentwood area.

The suit continues. This deicsion is only on a preliminary injunction.

Colorado re-redistricting

The Rocky Mountain News reports that the attorney for the legislature will ask the Denver District Court for a 3-week extension in filing briefs in the private lawsuit against the redistricting plan, so that he can focus on the Attorney General's action against the plan in the state Supreme Court.

Texas re-redistricting not a sure thing

The Republican leadership in the Texas Legislature is making plans for hearings around the state on re-redistricting, according to the San Antonio Express-News. But the Houston Chronicle says the hearing room reservations were cancelled. The Governor is not saying when or if he will call a special session, the Dallas Morning News reports.

If Gov. Rick Perry calls a special session for re-redistricting the Congressional seats, getting it through the Senate may be a problem. The Austin American-Statesman has a useful guide to the possible defectors among the Democrats here. The problem for the GOP is that a 2/3 majority is needed to get consideration of a bill in the Senate.

Bill Pryor and Republican Attorneys General Association

Nina Totenberg had a report this morning (NPR, Morning Edition) on Bill Pryor's nomination to te 11th Circuit. Most of the report is on the questionable campaign funding practices of the Republican Attorneys General Association, founded by Pryor. You can listen here; the part about RAGA starts at about 1:25 into the audio.

For some background on this story, go to this post from January.

FEC hearing today on enforcement procedures

The Hill has a report about the hearing the FEC will be holding today on the revision of its enforcement procedures. Many are pushing to have the FEC act more like other adminstrative agencies in its enforcement actions.

Here is the schedule of witnesses for the hearing. The Notice of public hearing and request for public comment was published here in the Federal Register. The comments are here.

June 10, 2003

More on Westar

The Washington Post has more details in this article on the efforts of Westar Energy Inc. to get favorable treatment from Republican members of Congress.

Descriptions of Bornemann's role paint a clearer picture of how Westar planned and delivered campaign donations last year to the groups linked to Reps. Tauzin, Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). At the time, Westar was seeking an exemption from a federal regulation that treated it as an investment company, to Westar's financial disadvantage. Barton eventually inserted the Westar provision into the energy bill, but later pulled it when the company came under federal investigation.

My earlier post on this case is here.

June 9, 2003

Another leader of Texas Assn of Business held in contempt

The Dallas Morning News will report tomorrow in this story that Bill Hammond, president of the TAB, has been held in contempt for refusing to turn over its donor list and other records concerning ads the TAB ran to influence the outcome of last year's legislative election.

Costs of "buying a vote"

The L.A. Daily News - News has an article on the costs of "buying a vote" -- actually the campaign costs per voter: "Campaign cost soaring: Average amount per vote in Los Angeles election up sixfold in 14 years."

New Campaign and Ethics Law in Texas

The Austin American-Statesman has an editorial covering the main provisions of the new campaign finance and ethics law in Texas.

The Davis Recall and the BCRA

The San Diego Union-Tribune has a good article, "New campaign rules bring into question Issa funding of recall," quoting Rick Hasen as a 'neutral expert."

Canada nears passage of campaign finance bill

The Toronto Star reports the predicted passage of a campaign fianance bill by the end of the week. The bill will limit individual, corporate, and union contributions to parties and candidates, while providing parties and candidates with subsidies.

June 8, 2003

iRS clears the Gingrich groups

On 25 April, the Washington Post reported that 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 my post here.

After two months of fact-checking (including 3 weeks of trying to get the IRS to respond), the New York Times has published this article, "Ruling May Open Finance Loophole." it includes the usual suspects Viewing With Alarm and the other set of usual suspects saying What, Me Worry?

Why the GOP wants Texas re-redistricting now

Columnist Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News has an explanation for the Republicans' insistance on getting re-redistricting done now: the explosive growth of the Hispanic population (and electorate) may tip the scales against the GOP soon.

Dems celebrate the Killer D's

The Austin American-Statesman has an article with the title, "Democrats cheer seven boycotters at Houston rally," including the following: "The Harris County Democratic Party was selling piñatas with the face of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the suburban Houston congressman who pushed the redistricting plan hardest, superimposed on a cloven-hoofed demon's body."

June 7, 2003

FEC publishes draft voter application

The FEC has published for comments a new nation-wide voter application form as required by the Help America Vote Act. The draft has instructions for each state.

Comments on the draft application should be forwarded to Bryan Whitener in the FEC’s Office of Election Administration either by fax at 202-219-8500, or by email at nationalform@fec.gov. Comments should be submitted no later than June 26, 2003.

The Mess in Texas

The Washington Post has a good summary of the fallout from the search for the Killer D's -- at least as to the possible misuse of three federal agencies. See In Texas Feud, a Plane Tale of Intrigue.

The Search for the Killer D's and the Fallout

the Washington Post has a good roundup piece on the search for the Killer D's and the possible misuse of three federal agencies to do it. See In Texas Feud, a Plane Tale of Intrigue.

June 6, 2003

Udall can join the suit against Colorado redistricting

Rocky Mountain News reports,

The state Supreme Court today granted a request from Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to join a lawsuit challenging the new congressional redistricting law.

Can the Democratic Party fly with two wings?

In today's Washington Post is this article with the negative spin title, :Progressives' Conference Highlights Democrats' Split."

Westar thought it could buy influence

I know you will be shocked, shocked to hear this. The Washington Post says, "Firm Saw Link in Favor, Donations.

Executives of a Kansas-based energy company believed that $56,500 in donations to political groups linked to four key Republican lawmakers last year would prompt Congress to exempt their firm from a problematic federal regulation, according to documents disclosed as part of a federal investigation of the company.

Draft FEC Advisory Opinions

At today's meeting of the FEC, the Commissioners will consider two draft opinions proposed by the General Counsel.

In answer to the request of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the draft would hold that student members are "members" and may therefore be solicited for contributions to the AAO's PAC.

In answer to the request of the Nevada Democratic Party and Commissioner Rory Reid, the draft proposes that the FEC find that
1. Comm. Reid is not automatically the agent of his father, Sen. Harry Reid.
2. Comm. Reid is not the agent of his father now just because he was in past.
3. Comm. Reid may raise money for the state party and for Sen. Reid, as long as his authority from Sen. Reid is for federal fund-raising only. (This is way too simplified, but just go read the opinion -- or wait for it to be modified by the Commission.)

2 articles on Dem-leaning groups

Yesterday's Washington Post had these articles:

From Screen Savers to Progressive Savior? (TechNews.com)

and this one on the Partnership for America's Families.

June 5, 2003

New York City Terms Limits

Newsday reports,

The [New York] Court of Appeals refused to overturn a lower court's decision that said the council members -- who had been elected to two-year terms instead of four-year terms -- have the right to seek an additional two years in November.

Most council terms last four years, and the limit is two terms, or eight years in all. But under redistricting based on the 2000 census, candidates ran for two-year terms, forcing some council members out after six years.

Grenada Mississippi

The City Council of Granada voted to de-annex some parcels of land after the Department of Justice denied preclearance. The chancellor denied the de-annexation. The City appealed to the state Supreme Court. This article from the Daily Sentinel Star concerns the City's brief, and this one the brief from the other side.

The Mess in Texas May Fizzle in Part

MySanAntonio.com is reporting that the State of Texas sought to dismiss Rep. Lon Burham's suit against the Department of Public Safety. Burnam had claimed that the DPS continued to destroy documents even after he had requested them under the open records law. The DPS has now produced some documents and has cast doubt on the (not yet heard) testimony of a legislative staffer.

More details on the search for the Killer D's is contained in this article from the Austin American-Statesman. A DPS official testified that nearly every good lead in the case came from the Speaker or the other politicos, not from the cops following wives, staking out homes and hospitals, and the like.

Texas Association of Business files habeas

Two officials of the Texas Association of Business were held in contempt in Texas state court on Monday for refusing to answer questions before the grand jury. For more details, see this post. The officials have filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. You may download the Word documents here:

cover sheets

habeas writ

Motion for Leave to File

Index of Authorities

Table of contents

Verification

Thanks to Amanda Peterson and Andy Taylor for providing this to me and allowing me to share it.

June 4, 2003

The chances for re-redistricting in Texas

Charles Kuffner at Political State Report: straight from the trenches has a long post on the rules and traditions of the Senate that may affect the chances of the re-redistricting bill passing in a special session. Much too complicated to explain in a short post. Go read Kuffner.

Jackson (MS) begins redistricting hearings

The Clarion-Ledger reports on the first meeting seeking public input on the city's redistricting plan.

Massachusetts redistricting

the Boston Globe reports that attorneys for the state have asked a 3-judge federal court to grant summary judgment against a Latino group's challenge to a legislative redistricting plan for Chelsea and East Boston.

The Mess in Texas

The Dallas Morning News reports that 9 members of the U.S. House Government Reform Committee have sent a letter to Sec. Tom Ridge asking that he turn over the Homeland Security Department's files on the hunt for the Texas Killer D's. Under Congressional rules, the request of 7 members of an oversight committee is the equivalent of a subpoena.

The Austin American-Statesman reported today that some records had survived the purge ordered by the Department of Public Safety. Those records show that Gov. Perry was more closely involved in the hunt for the Killer D's than he has previously admitted. Testimony in a deposition revealed that Gov. Perry did give a letter to a DPS official telling him that one state legislator might be at a Galveston hospital's neonatal unit with his twins.

Canadian website on Charter

The "Bill of Rights" for Canada is called the Charter. The website
Mapleleafweb.com has a summary of many decisions of the Canadian Supreme Court under the Charter (I am not sure how close to complete it is). The website has a search feature, so you can search for particular keywords or provisions. (Thanks to J. Paul Johnston for the link.)

A local blog listing

I was just looking for something on the al.com website (the one that carries 3 major papers in Alabama), and noticed that they have a page about weblogs. Lo and behold, under "Other Local Weblogs" is a listing for this blog. Anyhow, check out their list if you are interested in other Alabama voices.

A new blog on election law

Robbin Stewart, an election lawyer in Indiana, has just started a blog, soapbox. It's a bit rough at the moment, but I expect it will improve.

Texas Association of Business case

The Hill has a good summary of the investigation against the TAB including the contempt citation on Monday against two officials for refusing to answer a grand jury's questions.

Dems to form American Majority Institute

The Hill reports today:

The Democrats are ramping up efforts to launch a liberal think tank in September that they say will give their party the unified message it lacked in 2002 and counter the well-funded network of conservative policy shops.

If it run correctly, the AMI will be completely outside the campaign finance rules.

June 3, 2003

Mississippi judicial probe

The Biloxi Sun Herald has a couple of stories about politicians claiming that they know nothing, nothing about what's going on, but having claimed they did in the past.

An article on Friday quoted Attorney General Mike Moore as saying he had recused himself from the investigation of judicial influence peddling because of his long friendship with Richard Scruggs, an apparent target of the probe. But, the paper says, he had been claiming for 8 months to be involved.

Then on Saturday, the paper reported that Lott had told Roll Call back in October that he had called state and federal officials about the case and been assured that Scruggs was not implicated in the investigation. BUT: "I haven't talked to anybody with the Justice Department," Lott told The Sun Herald on Thursday. "I would not do that, and I don't appreciate the inference."

John Edwards, the $ raising machine

The New York Times has an article about John Edwards, "A Candidate Turns New Money Rules to His Advantage." It's not just George Bush who is making more off the $2000 contribution limit, according to the Times.

According to an analysis of Mr. Edwards's donations by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, one-third, or $2.46 million, came from that part of individual donations above the old $1,000 legal limit.

Texas Assn of Business officials held in contempt

Houston Chronicle reports:

A state district judge held two Texas Association of Business executives in contempt Monday after they invoked First Amendment rights in refusing to testify before a Travis County grand jury. The panel is investigating whether the association and its political consultants violated state law by using corporate funds to influence the outcome of state House elections last year.

Now that's something you don't see much -- invoking the First Amendment right not to testify.

Another try at re-redistricting Texas?

Columnist Gromer Jeffers Jr. in the Dallas Morning News reports that the GOP may try a "more inclusive approach" if they decide to take up re-redistricting again. I suppose that means the normal political process of giving a few key people a gold mine and the rest get the shaft.

The Mess in Texas

Rep. Kevin Bailey and several Department of Public Safety officials were deposed on Monday in Bailey's suit about the DPS improperly destroying the documents relating to their search for the Killer D's. Bailey identified his aide as his only source. Now the AG wants to depose the aide. See the articles in the Houston Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman. (Thanks to Talking Points Memo for the links.)

Talking Points Memo has a copy of the press release issued by Rep. Bailey summarizing his findings and some open questions. Among the points: there were at least 2 calls to Homeland Security; 2 men in an unmarked SUV followed one representative's wife for 180 miles; and the Texas coordinator for Homeland Security was "an integral part of the decision-making process" in the hunt for the Killer D's.

June 2, 2003

The Book Store

Three young political scientists -- Shaun Bowler, Todd Donovon, and David Brockington -- have written Electoral Reform and Minority Representation: Local Experiments with Alternative Elections. The "alternatives" discussed in the book are Limited Voting and Cumulative Voting, now used in dozens of U.S. towns, counties, and school boards. The book discusses not just the raw election results from these places, but uses survey data, statistical analysis, and interviews with key players to discuss the campaign strategy a candidate must use, the attitudes of voters to these systems, and the effect on voter turnout.

The book covers an issue close to my heart because I wrote on the same topic in 1984 (except that I was advocating the use of these "alternative election systems," rather than reporting on their use). Disclosure: the book cites two of my articles.

This slim book is a worthy addition to your library on election systems.

Howard Dean has another blog

Howard Dean has had a blog since March, but appears to be testing a new format (using Movable Type) and domain name, Deanforum.com. No official word yet on when this one will be "for real." (Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.)

Goddard also has an item, "The Internet Candidate," dealing with Dean's use of the Internet -- far more than any other candidate.

GOP divides Dems in hopes of conquering

Would blacks and Hispanics be better served by a new redistricting plan giving their groups new seats at the expense of white Democrats? Some black Democratic legislators thought so and stayed at the Legislature when the Killer D's took their bus ride to Ardmore. Other black legislators were on the trip and argue that more Democrats are better than fewer, even if more of the fewer are minority. See the Houston Chronicle story here.

The Mess in Texas

Last week, Rep. Kevin Bailey (D-Houston) said he would have a dramatic revelation to make about the Great Roundup of the Killer D's. Well, here it is: Gov. Rick Perry instructed a state trooper to search for Rep. Craig Eiland at the hospital where Eiland's children were in the neonatal unit. See the stories in the Austin American-Statesman and the Houston Chronicle.

Charges about who's lying, who's covering up, etc. are laid out in the San Antonio Express.

Gorver Norquist explains himself

A week ago, Grover Norquist was quoted in the Denver Post:

"We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," said Grover Norquist, a leading Republican strategist, who heads a group called Americans for Tax Reform. "Bipartisanship is another name for date rape," Norquist, a onetime adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said, citing an axiom of House conservatives.

Today the Washington Post has this:

Veteran GOP operative Grover Norquist called Friday to clarify some comments in the Denver Post and in this column last week. He said he was not inveighing against the merits of bipartisanship per se, only noting that partisan fights at the state level seem to stop tax increases but bipartisanship or nonpartisanship in some states -- such as Utah and Nebraska -- seems to lead to tax hikes. And that line "bipartisanship is like date rape" is not his, he said, but was coined by former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) when the GOP was in the minority and being bipartisan meant getting the short end.

Yea, that's so much better.

More PACs in Virginia

The Washington Post reports on the increasing number of PACs being used in Virginia state elections.

"Barbeque Donations to Two Republican Campaigns Questioned"

Any article with a headline like that above is going to get my attention. According to the Washington Post, Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q in Georgia contributed barbeque catering to campaign events for Saxby Chambliss and Jeb Bush. The value of these donations was $8,000 and $10,000 to the respective campaigns, but they are allowed to accept food or service up to $1,000 (under FEC rules) or $500 (under Florida law) without reporting the contributions.

Chambliss's campaign called it a "billing error" and promised to pay the bill immediately.

FEC hearing on Presidential public financing

The FEC has a News Release on the schedule for the 6 June public hearing on Presidential public financing. The Commission proposed a revised rule regarding payments to presidential campaigns and national party conventions, which you can see here.

Written comments filed are here.

7th Circuit to Indiana: Who is a "Person"?

The Indiana Law Blog has a thorough discussion of Majors v Bell in which the court certified a question to the Indiana Supreme Court: what "persons" have to identify themselves in ads that expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate? The district court held that "person" includes only the candidate, candidate's committee, and candidate's agent. The plaintiff contends it reaches everyone.

June 1, 2003

College Republicans offer "influence"

Greg Greene at Political State Report reports that the University of Georgia Republicans are promising sponsors of their fundraising golf tournament "an influence with the Republicans officials you sponsor." Greg thinks this is a violation of the bribery laws [well, if the officer holder never gets the money, it's not bribery], but others making comments take issue with that.

Tennessee campaign finance info to go on web

Bill Hobbs at Political State Report reports that the Tennessee Senate has passed a bill to require that all campaign finance information be posted on the Internet.

New feature: The Book Store

Look over in the right margin, below "Recent Entries" and above "Some Blogs I Read" and you will see the "Book Store." Here I will place books I have read or mean to read "real soon now." Most of them will be about the same things I cover in this blog, but others may be other stuff just to show you that I have some other interests.

The Right to Vote by Alexander Keyssar is an absolute must-read if you are interested in how the U.S. got a relatively open suffrage (with exceptions for felons, most ex-felons, and a few others). In addition to a a very readable text, the book contains page after page in appendix tables covering the changes in suffrage in the states over the last 227+ years.

I wish I could write as engagingly as Steven Hill does in Fixing Elections. Steven has a way of writing that makes those who did not know the problem understand that there is something wrong with the winner-take-all election system (and those who thought they knew understand even better). Even better, he has not written just a "ain't it awful" book, but one that makes practical suggestions to solve the problems.

You can order any or all the books in the Book Store by clicking on the title. You will be taken to the Booksamillion.com site. Why bamm.com and not amazon.com? If you compare the prices (and bamm.com makes it easy to do so), you will see that you save money with Books-A-Million -- especially if you get the Millionaire's Club card for a 10% discount. And, Books-A-Million is an Alabama company, and I have to look after the home folks.