Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: June 2004 Archives

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June 30, 2004


The Republican National Committee yesterday disclosed the names of 62 "Super Rangers" -- the new elite of fundraisers who have replaced the high-dollar corporate, union and wealthy donors of the past.

Each CEO, state party chairman, lobbyist, investor, elected official or corporate lawyer designated as a Super Ranger has raised at least $300,000 for the Republican Party, all from individuals in amounts of $25,000 or less.

Becoming a Super Ranger is -- for the moment -- the highest achievement for fundraisers in either party.

Bundlers, or collectors, of multiple individual contributions have supplanted big corporate, union and individual donors as the key players since the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banned unlimited "soft money" contributions, some of which exceeded $1 million. Both major political parties and the candidates have come up with a plethora of new names for successful fundraisers, using the designations as incentives to reach ever-higher goals. -- Republicans Name 62 Who Raised Big Money (

The article also has information on the Democratic bundlers.

"FEC levels large fine against developer"

The Federal Election Commission on Wednesday leveled one of its largest fines ever against a New Jersey developer for contributing money to political candidates in the names of his partnerships when he did not have the authority to do so.

Charles Kushner, a major Democratic Party donor, agreed to pay FEC $508,900, said FEC spokesman George Smaragdis. The FEC investigation focused on $540,900 contributed to various political candidates and committees between Dec. 5, 1997 and Aug. 17, 2000. Each check had the same Florham Park, N.J., address as the Kushner Companies, and all were signed by Kushner.

The investigation found that Kushner, who controls 40 partnership entities, violated the FEC's "partnership contribution regulations" by failing to obtain the agreement of the partners to whom the contributions were attributed. -- FEC levels large fine against developer (AP via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

Massachusetts legislature nears passage of special election bill

The [Massachusetts] Legislature has paved the way for a special election to replace U.S. Sen. John Kerry if he wins the presidency in November, stripping Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of his power to appoint an interim senator.

Republican House members opposed to a Democratic plan that would change how vacant U.S. Senate and congressional seats are filled spent hours yesterday trying to stall the plan but failed at each turn.

By a vote of 116 to 34, the Democratic majority managed to push through the bill after more than six hours of procedural maneuvering and debate by the GOP and majority party. The controversial bill, already approved by the Senate, still needs final approval in both branches before moving to Romney for his signature. The Republican governor opposes the plan, but it's unclear whether he will veto the measure or recommend an alternative proposal.

The proposal does appear to have veto-proof support in both the House and Senate, where it passed by more than a two-thirds margin, largely along party lines. -- Legislature wins: Special election would replace Kerry (Lowell Sun)

DOJ and Suffolk County settle bilingual voting case

The U.S. Justice Department yesterday announced an agreement with Suffolk County, settling allegations that the county had in the past violated the rights of Spanish-speaking voters.

Under the terms of the settlement, the county agreed to translate voting materials into Spanish, train poll workers to assist Spanish-speaking voters, and investigate and remove poll workers "who have engaged in hostile treatment of Spanish-speaking or Hispanic voters," according to Roslynn Mauskopf, the United States attorney for the Eastern District. ...

Under the terms of the settlement, voting information must be publicized in English and Spanish, voting materials must be provided in English and Spanish at polling places, and bilingual poll officials must be provided to help voters in proportion to the number of Spanish-surnamed registered voters in each polling place, according to the settlement. -- Suffolk settles voting rights case (

Nader's odd assortment of friends

In his search for access to the ballot, Ralph Nader can sometimes seem as if he has never met a third party he did not like.

After all, Mr. Nader, the left-leaning consumer advocate, and Patrick J. Buchanan, the right-leaning commentator, hardly seem like political soul mates. But four years after Mr. Buchanan won the endorsement of the Reform Party, Mr. Nader has succeeded him as the party's standard-bearer.

His alignment with the Reform Party is but one example of how Mr. Nader is facing such daunting forces to get his name on statewide ballots this year that he is seeking support from groups that do not necessarily share his long-held liberal beliefs.

Mr. Nader's efforts have only intensified given that last weekend he was spurned by the Green Party, which endorsed him for president in 1996 and 2000. -- Odd Alliances Form in Efforts to Place Nader on the Ballot (New York Times)

A good article with lots of historical background, including a couple of quotes from Richard Winger of Ballot Access News.

Ballot petition cases heard in Arizona

Two-term Rep. Deb Gullett, a prominent moderate Republican from Phoenix, withdrew from her race for re-election Tuesday rather than face a court challenge to her nominating petitions.

A judge also threw Republican candidate for Corporation Commission Tim Sifert off the ballot Tuesday because of a technicality with his petitions. Sifert said he will immediately appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

Rep. John Allen, one of Gullett's three GOP primary opponents, had accused her of signing off as a witness to several petitions that she did not personally collect. Gullett admitted Tuesday that she solicited some of her signatures by mail and that she made an "unintentional mistake" by signing as a witness to the signatures after they were mailed back. Had the challenged petitions been thrown out, Gullett said, she would have still had more than enough signatures to qualify. But she said she feared Allen would continue to question the legitimacy of her candidacy in a race that had already turned negative. ...

Opponent Carl Seel alleged all of Sifert's 6,540 petitions should be thrown out because he did not specify which commission seat he was running for. Sifert and Seel are taking on Kris Mayes, who was appointed to replace Jim Irvin after he resigned last year. That term expires in 2007, while the other contested seats expire in 2009. -- Gullett withdraws from House race (ArizonaRepublic)

Florida Dems to oppose Nader's ballot access

Ralph Nader may have to get past the Florida Democratic Party if he wants a spot on Florida's presidential ballot.

State Democratic Chairman Scott Maddox said he expects to mount a legal challenge unless Nader "dots every i and crosses every t" in his ballot submissions. ...

In a state where Nader won more than 97,000 votes in 2000 and Al Gore lost by 537, Democrats are especially antagonistic to the independent presidential candidate. Nader backers acknowledge that the vagaries of Florida election laws could give Democrats a legal opening to block him from easy access to the ballot. ...

The simpler option is running as a Reform Party candidate, but there could be a legal hitch. Florida law requires the candidates of minor parties to be affiliated "with a national party holding a national convention." Rather than gathering for a convention as they have in the past, Reform Party leaders in May endorsed Nader in a conference call. -- Worldandnation: Democrats say Nader must toe line in Florida (St. Petersburg Times)

CFI analysis of campaign reports

The monthly presidential campaign disclosure reports filed May 20 by President George W. Bush and Democratic Senator John Kerry say on their respective front pages that they are reports of the two candidates' pre-nomination campaigns. But from the reports' contents, it is clear that the candidates have been raising and spending unprecedented amounts for the early phases of a general election campaign that began the day after the Super Tuesday primaries of March 2.

Ironically, Senator Kerry's campaign staff chose May 21, the day after these financial reports, to float the idea that their candidate might postpone accepting his party's nomination for a month to correspond with the nomination date for President Bush. Having departed from the public financing system to avoid spending limits for the primaries, both candidates would like to stretch the fundraising season before they begin the publicly funded, and limited, part of their campaign.

"These reports show how badly outmoded is the current public financing system," said the Campaign Finance Institute's Executive Director Michael J. Malbin. "The thirty-year-old law was designed for a nomination process that once lasted through June and then flowed directly into a convention and general election. Obviously, that is not what we have now. Unless the public financing system is revamped - including realistic spending limits and additional incentives for small donations - the leading candidates will continue to abandon it and do whatever they can to win." -- Candidates Avoid Spending Limits in Primaries To Spend Unprecedented Amounts For the Early Phase of their General Election (Campaign Finance Institute, 05/25/04)

Kerry's debt

Among the many strategic decisions facing Senator John Kerry in the coming weeks, one may hit closer to home than others, whether to use campaign contributions to repay the $6.4 million that he lent his campaign or pay it off over time using his own money.

A provision in the new campaign finance law requires Mr. Kerry to pay back the loan shortly after the Democratic convention next month if he plans to use campaign money. Although Mr. Kerry has raised millions of dollars in recent months, using those contributions could not only reduce the money he can spend on his campaign, but also perhaps draw Republican attacks.

"No final decision has been made," a campaign spokesman, Michael Meehan, said.

Mr. Meehan declined to elaborate on how Mr. Kerry would make his decision. The Massachusetts senator mortgaged his house in Boston in December, when his fund-raising lagged as he dropped in the polls. Fund-raisers say the move was a well-timed display of faith that helped the campaign survive its darkest days and signaled supporters that he was not giving up. But the decision, of course, left him with this debt. -- Kerry Has to Decide Soon on Repaying a Big Loan (New York Times)

Ryan offers refunds to contributors

Former Republican Senate candidate Jack Ryan is offering refunds to donors following last week's collapse of his campaign amid embarrassing sex allegations.

Ryan had raised about $1.5 million since winning the Republican nomination, said Jason Miller, who managed Ryan's campaign. He said donors to the general election fund will be informed of Ryan's decision next week.

The campaign has not released figures on how much has already been spent, but Miller said Ryan will spend his own money for any bills and staff salaries that are not covered. ...

Miller said the campaign expects about half of the donors to request refunds. Campaign communications director Kelli Phiel did not immediately return calls Wednesday about the campaign's finances. -- Former GOP Senate Candidate Ryan Offers Donor Refunds (AP via

Supreme court affirms Georgia political gerrymandering case

The U.S. Supreme Court today gave a political victory to Georgia Republicans in upholding a lower-court plan that drew new state legislative districts this spring.

The 8-1 decision ends the 18-month-old case brought by 29 Republicans who claimed that they had been disenfranchised by the state House and Senate maps created in 2001 and 2002 by a General Assembly then controlled by Democrats. ...

The state GOP's Poitevint blamed Baker and Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox, the only named defendant remaining in that lawsuit, for the cost to taxpayers.

"Attorney General Thurbert Baker should have heeded Gov. Sonny Perdue's call to end the appeal and saved the taxpayers of Georgia millions in legal fees," Poitevint said in his statement.

The bills still are pending, but estimates are that the state's attorneys' fees top $400,000. Because the state lost the case, it will have to pay the estimated $1.13 million in legal bills for the Republicans who brought the case. Taxpayers also will have to pay fees and expenses for the experts who drew the maps that will be used in this year's elections. -- Supreme Court gives Republicans victory in redistricting dispute (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The case is Cox v. Larios. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the decision of the district court. Justice Stevens wrote a concurring opinion and Justice Scalia dissented.

For an analysis of the decision, go to Rick Hasen's Election Law (and scroll up for later comments).

Iraq will use PR elections

Not surprisingly, the January 2005 elections in Iraq will not be anything like the "winner-take-all" elections we have in the United States. Instead, Iraq will use a proportional representation system -- similar to what most democracies in the world use. They'll use a "party list" system that will allow for a diverse, representative legislature. And, incredibly,

"On any list, every third name must be a woman to ensure that at least 25 percent of seats in the assembly go to women, a stipulation made in Iraq's interim constitution, agreed earlier this year."

I think it's worth noting that we're spreading a more vibrant and inclusive version of representative democracy than we have here in the U.S. Not to mention that we're spending $260 million U.S. dollars to help put on this election -- at the same time that we're tying to pry election reform funds out of our own U.S. Congress to improve and secure voting right here at home. Arghh! -- Will Markson for President: Will's Campaign Journal

Will Markson is America's favorite fictional candidate.

June 29, 2004

Citizens Union complaint against "F 9/11"

As if Michael Moore and his documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 needed any more publicity, the conservative group Citizens United weighed in just in time to help.

Citizens United has a reputation for being outspoken. Its own ads critical of former President Bill Clinton aired during his recent 60 Minutes interview. Now the group is making news again by calling for government limits on TV and radio ads for Moore's new movie, alleging they are tantamount to campaign ads and should be subject to federal laws on campaign finance.

News of the Citizens United complaint was just part of the controversy over Fahrenheit 9/11, a media storm that helped the film top all other releases at the box office last weekend (and become the most successful documentary ever). -- Will Campaign Laws Govern 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Ads? (NPR print report)

New York GOP files complaint about Schumer

State GOP Chairman Alexander Treadwell filed formal complaints Tuesday against Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer for using taxpayer dollars to pay for flights to political events.

The complaints to the Federal Election Commission and the Senate Ethics Committee come in wake of Schumer's campaign last week reimbursing the federal government $18,929 after his Republican challenger, state Assemblyman Howard Mills, questioned the travel that included political events.

While the Schumer camp said the reimbursement stemmed from "accounting errors," Treadwell said Tuesday that "these acts constitute a violation of federal law."

Treadwell called for the Ethics Commission and the FEC to conduct a full audit of the Schumer campaign's spending and impose appropriate penalties. -- State GOP files complaints against Schumer (AP via New York Newsday)

Pro-GOP groups admit helping Nader in Oregon

A watchdog group says it will file a complaint with federal election officials, accusing two conservative organizations of illegally helping Ralph Nader's (search) presidential campaign, possibly with support from President Bush's (search) re-election campaign.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington planned to file its complaint Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission. It says the Oregon Family Council (search) and Citizens for a Sound Economy (search) violated election laws last week by telephoning people and urging them to help Nader get on Oregon's ballot in November.

Spokesmen for both groups denied wrongdoing.

Both groups acknowledge trying to influence Nader's petition drive Saturday in Oregon, in hopes that getting him on the ballot would take votes away from Democrat John Kerry (search) and help Bush win the battleground state. -- Conservative Groups Accused of Aiding Nader (

Millionaire's amendment to be used in Florida

Republican Karen Saull plans to begin television advertising on Wednesday in her fledgling bid for U.S. Senate, highlighting her roots as a successful business owner and a "conservative tax cutter." ...

In paperwork filed with the Federal Election Commission, Saull indicated plans to spend more than $4.8 million of her personal money in the race. Wilson said the figure was a "ballpark guesstimate" but expected the campaign would soon surpass the $1.3 million mark in expenditures.

That would trigger the "millionaire's amendment" under federal election law, allowing primary rivals to increase the amount of money they can collect from donors. Republican businessman Doug Gallagher recently crossed the figure, having spent more than $2.5 million. -- Saull to begin advertising in her Senate campaign (AP via

GOP complains about pro-GOP committee

The Republican National Committee filed a complaint Tuesday accusing a Texas group of posing as a GOP organization to raise money by phone using an Indian telemarketing firm and through fund-raising mailings.

The fund-raising telephone calls prompted false, widespread rumors that the RNC was outsourcing its donor phone calls to India, the committee's complaint to the Federal Election Commission says.

The complaint accuses The Republican Victory Committee, based in Irving, Texas, of impersonating the Republican Party and fraudulently raising money by telling prospective donors it was being solicited by the GOP for use by Republican candidates.

Jody Novacek, one of those named in the RNC complaint, said The Republican Victory Committee is a tax-exempt, political organization raising money for get-out-the-vote activities around the country. -- GOP accuses Texas group of outsource scam (AP via

Another problem for Nader in Arizona

A lawsuit seeking to keep Ralph Nader off Arizona's presidential election ballot is raising allegations that three different signatures purporting to be Nader's were filed with his nominating petitions.

Tom Irvine, attorney for two Democrats challenging the validity of thousands of Nader petition signatures, pointed out the discrepancies Monday as Nader's campaign mobilized its legal defense to keep his bid alive.

The consumer and environmental advocate's group hired attorney Lisa Hauser, who served in the mid-1990s as counsel to then-Gov. Fife Symington, a Republican, and often has been aligned with other GOP causes. Hauser said she is not being supported by the GOP in the case. -- Nader signatures questioned in Dems' lawsuit (Arizona Republic)

June 28, 2004


ActBlue makes it possible for anyone to fundraise for their own list of Democratic candidates, just like MoveOnPAC, EMILY's List, and other great Democratic organizations. Here's how it works, in brief:

1. Register and create a list of candidates. (We currently support all Democratic candidates for U.S. House and Senate, and John Kerry, of course; we'll be adding candidates for state offices as well.)

2. You get a web page displaying your list. Add your own language talking about the races and advocating for your choice of candidates.

3. Use your e-mail, website, blog, etc. to direct people to your page, where they can donate to your candidates with a single credit card transaction. We receive and disburse the earmarked funds, and handle all the reporting and accounting requirements.

4. You get reports on how much you've raised.

And you can create as many lists as you like, of course.

June 27, 2004

The Moby Dick of Hawai'i

It's been called the most ambitious attempt in Hawai'i history to clean up an ingrained culture of political corruption. Others see it as an obsessive hunt for Moby Dick that's mostly coming up dry.

Or maybe a little of both.

The mammoth criminal investigation of Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign finances has spanned nearly 30 months, 40 suspects, hundreds of subpoenas and a seemingly endless paper trail detailing crooked contributions. ...

And although investigators have searched high and low for evidence of an illicit link between campaign cash and city contracting, no connection has been proven — or even alleged in court.

Still, the investigation has ripped the lid off one of Hawai'i's open secrets, firmly establishing that a campaign was illegally bankrolled with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many believe it wasn't the first time. -- Probe of Harris' campaign finances far from over (Honolulu Advertiser)

The rise of the small donor

It's true that independent groups are happily taking in millions of soft dollars that the parties can no longer accept, deploying foot soldiers to canvass and register voters, and airing TV ads aimed at influencing opinion. But the parties, too, are flush with cash. They've ramped up their quest for limited "hard money" donations, and been greeted by a flood of cash from individuals. The donor rolls of the two major parties have swelled by 2-1/2 million people.

"Really, the story of this election is in some ways the power of the small donor," says Anthony Corrado, a campaign-finance expert at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. "We have really seen a democratization of the financing of elections in this cycle. When the law was passed, everyone was saying ... 'The parties will wither away and die. The interest groups will rule the world.' Well, if we look through the end of May, national party committees have raised $546 million in hard money."

The presidential race is also awash with money, fueled by individual donations. ...

But the new rules don't necessarily explain the burst of giving. It may be as much a matter of passion, with Bush partisans focused on keeping the White House and Congress in Republican hands, and Democrats equally motivated after the close and controversial outcome in 2000.

"You always have increases in small gifts when people feel very strongly in an election," says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia.

The next question is whether this burst of donating will translate into higher turnout, in an era when voter participation has been drifting steadily downward since 1960. It's possible that those motivated enough to donate are already emotionally invested enough in the process to turn out on Election Day. But it's also possible, analysts say, that getting potential voters into the game now will heighten their motivation come election day. -- In politics, the rise of small donors (

"F 9/11" leads the pack on first weekend

Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" took in a whopping $21.8 million in its first three days, becoming the first documentary ever to debut as Hollywood's top weekend film.

If Sunday's estimates hold when final numbers are released Monday, "Fahrenheit 9/11" would set a record in a single weekend as the top-grossing documentary ever outside of concert films and movies made for huge-screen IMAX theaters. ...

The movie has been embraced by left-wing groups, which mobilized members to see it during the opening weekend. Conservative groups sought to discourage theaters from showing it and asked the Federal Election Commission to examine its ads for potential violations of campaign-finance law regulating when commercials may feature a presidential candidate.

"I want to thank all the right-wing organizations out there who tried to stop the film, either from their harassment campaign that didn't work on the theater owners, or going to the FEC to get our ads removed from television, to all the things that have been said on television," Moore said. "It's only encouraged more people to go and see it." -- 'Fahrenheit 9/11' Sets Documentary Record (AP via Biloxi

"Explanations ordered in bribery case"

A judge told prosecutors Friday to explain to defense attorneys how they concluded allegations against their five clients in Mississippi's judicial bribery case rose to the level of federal crimes.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate's order came after lawyers for Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor and former Gulf Coast Judge John Whitfield argued prosecutors failed in their indictment to show federal crimes were committed. They wanted the charges dismissed.

Wingate told prosecutors to submit explanations to lawyers for Minor, Whitfield and the other co-defendants — Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr.; Diaz' ex-wife, Jennifer; and former Gulf Coast Judge Wes Teel.

Wingate said he will rule on the motion to dismiss and other motions in the case before a July 8 status hearing.

Minor, the Diazes, Teel and Whitfield are accused of participating in a scheme in which Minor allegedly provided cash, loans and gifts to the judges in exchange for favorable decisions. Wingate earlier refused to dismiss charges against Diaz and his former wife. -- Explanations ordered in bribery case (Clarion-Ledger)

Incentives for registering voters

Cash! Concerts! Movies! All could be yours, free, for a little good old-fashioned, shoe-leather work of signing up voters in Missouri. ...

But consider these examples in the basic of battles for votes:

_ The Missouri Republican Party, perhaps for the first time, is offering a $3 bounty to local political groups for each new voter they successfully register. The same incentive applies to re-registering voters who have moved into different cities or counties.

State party chairwoman Ann Wagner announced the new policy to hundreds of party activists gathered earlier this month for the state Republican convention. Republicans have a goal of registering 34,000 voters for the November elections.

_ The Democratic leaning group America Coming Together, which is campaigning against President Bush, is sending paid canvassers door-to-door in St. Louis and Kansas City to register voters. The group plans to begin awarding small prizes, such as concert or movie tickets, to individuals who collect the most voter registration cards each week, said spokeswoman Sara Howard.

_ The Kansas City chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which works primarily with inner-city residents, gives its paid staffers a quota of 20 voter registrations during a five-hour period and pays a bonus of $1.50 per registration for each voter above that, said Andrew Ginsberg, ACORN's head organizer in Kansas City. -- Political groups using incentives to encourage voter registration (AP via

RIP: James Edward Gildersleeve

There is more to the James Edward Gildersleeve story than Selma, the 1960's and the Civil Rights Movement.

Gildersleeve, who died on June 17 at the age of 86. lived the life of an American hero before he became President of the Dallas County Voter's League (DCVL) and a member of the Courageous Eight.

A father of two and the grandfather of four, Gildersleeve served his country as an MP in Japan during World War II. In addition, he served 41 years as a teacher and principal in both public and private schools. However, it is the resolve that Gildersleeve showed in the early '60's that will keep his name in the history books. ...

The Courageous Eight began as the three-member Trustee Board of the Dallas Count Voter's League. The board expanded to eight members and later became called the Courageous Eight for their work.

The group banded together to fight segregation in Selma. They defied the white powers that sought to keep blacks oppressed. They fought for the right to earn a fair wage, equality in education, the right to elect leaders, and other basic freedoms. -- A Courageous Man: James Gildersleeve: 1918-2004 (Selma Times-Journal)

Suit challenges South Dakota city election for exclusion of Indians

The group gathering complaints about a [South Dakota] law that asks voters to show photo identification filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the outcome of a city and school election held last week in Lake Andes.

Four Directions Committee filed suit Friday in 4th Circuit Court and cited "a shocking array of election and civil-rights violations" in a news release announcing the suit.

Four Directions, working with a group of voter activists from Lake Andes, contend that some registered American Indian voters were not allowed to vote in the June 15 city council election, that a white person who is not registered to vote in the town was given a city council ballot and claim inexplicable changes to the voter rosters, including some voters who mysteriously disappeared from the rosters and others whose registration was moved out of the correct ward.

The election in one city ward was decided by a single vote, and the other two were decided by 18 votes and 26 votes. -- Irregularities in voting spur suit (Rapid City Journal)

North Carolina redistricting trial under way

A new three-judge panel charged with handling disagreements over legislative district lines met for the first time Friday, as judges heard low-key arguments in a case involving two eastern [North Carolina] counties. ...

Pender County and its commissioners have sued the state, arguing that new district lines are unconstitutional because they split Pender into two House districts.

Commissioners wanted to keep lines similar to those used in the 2002 legislative elections, in which all 41,000 Pender residents were in one district.

They asked that the July 20 primary be delayed so that the map could be reworked. After a 90-minute hearing, the judges went to lunch. When they came back, they denied the request. -- Panel rules against Pender in first redistricting court session(AP via Winston-Salem Journal)

Alabama grand jury investigates lottery campaign contributions

[Former Alabama Governor] Don Siegelman ignored warnings five years ago not to personally seek contributions for the 1999 lottery campaign.

Now those warnings could be coming back to haunt the former governor, whose failed lottery campaign appears to be the focus of a federal grand jury investigation in Montgomery. ...

Beginning in the summer months of 1999, he was told by Alabama Ethics Commission Director James Sumner not to personally solicit contributions. The problem, Sumner said, is that no one who does business with the state wants to turn a governor down when he asks for money.

"It's fine for anybody to be making those calls on his behalf, but it's much more difficult to say no to the governor," Sumner said then. "When the governor calls, you want to respond. You want to give an affirmative answer." ...

Jack Drake, one of Siegelman's defense attorneys, served on the Ethics Commission when Sumner warned Siegelman about the fund raising. Drake said he disagreed with Sumner's view then, and he disagrees with the suggestion now that a governor can't raise money from vendors who do business with the state.

"Somebody's perception is not a crime," Drake said. "The fact that Don Siegelman solicited contributions for the lottery campaign effort is not a violation of the ethics act." ...

Siegelman led an effort to raise more than $5 million for the campaign. The aggressive drive raised more than $4.2 million in individual contributions of $5,000 or more, and most of that money came from companies that did business with the state, campaign finance records show. Some companies that did little or no state work before received large contracts after contributing, records show. -- Lottery effort haunts Siegelman (Birmingham News)

Virginia Dems subpoena AG's records

[Virginia] Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore's office has been served with subpoenas in a federal lawsuit filed by Democrats who allege Republicans eavesdropped on their conference calls two years ago, sources told The Associated Press on Friday.

The subpoenas seek all documents or notes among attorney general's office staff members pertaining to the secret intercept by GOP operatives of two March 2002 phone calls in which Democratic lawmakers discussed legal strategy.

The U.S. District Court lawsuit contends that the Republicans violated the privacy rights of House and Senate Democrats in teleconferences held March 22 and 25, 2002, to discuss their legal challenge to the GOP-led 2001 redistricting. ...

Former state GOP executive director Edmund A. Matricardi III pleaded guilty last year to one federal count of illegally monitoring the Democrats by phone. -- Democrats Subpoena Kilgore's Office Eavesdropping Probe (AP via ABC 7 News)

Nader in Oregon and Washington

Ralph Nader made another bid Saturday to register as a presidential candidate in Oregon, where he has a chance to quickly get on the ballot in a state seen as one of roughly a dozen battleground states for the Nov. 2 election. ...

Nader is making his second attempt to bring 1,000 people together in a Portland high school to sign petitions to put him on the Oregon ballot, under a seldom-used provision of state electoral law for independent candidates. Anybody can sign regardless of party affiliation. An earlier attempt in April drew only 751 people.

By 6:30 p.m, low turnout seemed to put Nader's chances in doubt a second time. Elections officials said they had counted 1,150 people when the convention convened, leaving little margin for signatures that are later invalidated. ...

Republican-leaning groups had urged conservatives to attend and put the former Green Party leader on the ballot to foil Kerry's chances.

And on Saturday, a county Democratic spokesman asked Democrats to attend to take up seats in the hall while not signing the petition supporting Nader's candidacy.

"We need as many Oregon Democrats as possible to fill that room and NOT sign that petition," Multnomah County Democratic Party communications director Moses Ross wrote an e-mail sent to Democrats in the county. -- Nader makes second try at Oregon ballot (AP via Longview Daily News)

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader was scheduled to hold his Washington state nominating convention on the University of Washington campus Sunday night.

To make it on the ballot in Washington, third-party candidates have to gather 200 signatures at a nominating convention held sometime between the last Saturday in June and the first Saturday in July. -- Nader holds Wash. state nominating convention (AP via

"F 9/11" ads anger Republicans

The advertising push behind Michael Moore's new documentary critical of President Bush, "Fahrenheit 9/11," is angering some Republicans, who say it is little more than a commercial campaign devised to help Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts. ...

Until the marketing campaign began, Republicans had been dismissive of the film, arguing that it would have little effect on the election because its audience would consist mostly of people already planning to vote against Mr. Bush.

But the advertising campaign has been a different story.

"There's only a very small percentage of Americans that are going to go and see this movie," said David Bossie, head of Citizens United, a conservative group that has run advertisements to promote Mr. Bush. "A much larger number are going to be bombarded by these political ads run by Michael Moore, potentially all the way through the election."

Mr. Bossie has asked the Federal Election Commission to classify the advertising as political and subject to rules that restrict broadcasts of commercials paid by unregulated money from corporations or unions. Under those rules, the advertisements for the film would have to stop 30 days before the Republican National Convention begins on Aug. 30. -- Advertising: Movie Ads or Political Ads? Complaint Says Line Is Too Fine (New York Times)

June 26, 2004

Green nominate Cobb; Nader's chances of ballot access dimmed

The Green Party of the United States rebuffed efforts by Ralph Nader to win its endorsement for president by voting Saturday to make David Cobb, a longtime party activist, its 2004 presidential candidate.

Mr. Cobb, 41, immediately reached out to Mr. Nader, who drew 3 percent of the national vote when he was the party's nominee in 2000, as well as to Mr. Nader's Green supporters, asking them to put what had been a raucous convention battle behind them. ...

Many Democrats have blamed Mr. Nader's 2000 candidacy for costing Al Gore, the Democratic nominee, the White House, since Mr. Nader drew more votes in some crucial states than the gap between Mr. Gore and President Bush. This image as a spoiler party is particularly irksome to Green leaders, who say it is false. -- Greens Pick a Candidate Not Named Nader (New York Times)

Fahrenheit 9/11

I just returned from seeing Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." There is only one screen in the Birmingham area showing the movie, and that theater was only about half full. I was disappointed that more were not there. The ones who DID see it seemed to be pleased -- there was applause and a few cheers at the end of the film. The last time I remember clapping in a movie was the last "Lord of the Rings."

Since this is an election law blog, let me get to the big question. No, Michael Moore's movie is not fair and balanced. It is a pretty clear exorhatation for us to defeat Bush. But I think the ads will be protected under the "media exemption" and will therefore not be "electioneering communications" if they continue to run during the 30-day pre-convention period. Unlike the group asking for the proposed Advisory Opinion (not adopted by the FEC), Moore has a track record as a film maker and author. He is "media." (For more on the FEC action, see Rick Hasen and Bob Bauer.)

By the way, its a great movie. If you are going to vote against Bush, go see it; it will make you even more determined. If you are undecided, go see it; it will make you question the veracity and wisdom of this Administration. If you are a Bush voter, go see it; you are going to have to answer questions from the undecideds who see it.

PS -- When Moore in interviewing the former FBI agent early in the film, look on the bookcase to the right of the FBI guy. Isn't that "Nimmer on Copyrights" on the shelf?

The GOP's pro-Nader script in Oregon

Daily Kos has the script being used in the calls by the conservative groups in Oregon trying to get 1000 voters out to Nader's meeting tonight.

Nader won't make the Indiana ballot

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name likely will not be on the Indiana ballot in November, his state coordinator said.

Dallas Stoner said Nader's Indiana committee has collected only about 9,000 of 30,000 signatures needed to get the candidate's name on general election ballots. The deadline to collect the required number of signatures is noon Wednesday. ...

Stoner said the Nader committee will continue to seek signatures until Wednesday's deadline. Once the deadline arrives, county officials will look at the signatures and determine if the local petitions carry legitimate voters' names. The secretary of state will then examine the numbers.

The candidate must then file a statement with the secretary of state by noon on July 15. -- Nader likely to miss Indiana ballot (AP via

Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

Strange Bush ad

Rick Klau has a post, An anti-Bush ad at..., about an ad running on Bush's site and a wonderful, witting deconstruction and critique of the ad.

CREW files IRS and FEC complaints on Nader and chairty

An ethics watchdog group asked the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service yesterday to investigate an arrangement between Ralph Nader's presidential campaign and a charity that he created.

Nader and the charity, Citizen Works, committed "direct and serious violations of campaign finance law" when the campaign rented space and accepted phone service from the charity, according to a complaint filed with the FEC by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

In a separate letter to the IRS, the ethics group charged that Citizens Works, a charity formed in 2001 by Nader and the manager of his presidential campaign, Theresa Amato, breached its tax-exempt status by renting office space to Nader's campaign below market rate and by providing services for which the charity was not reimbursed.

Tax law prohibits public charities from aiding political campaigns. Violations can result in a charity losing its tax-exempt status. In addition, campaign finance law requires candidates to account for all contributions, including non-monetary donations.

Nader has denied that he broke any laws. He said that he paid market rate for the office space, had separate phone lines and vetted the arrangement with an outside lawyer. -- Ethics Group Seeks Inquiry on Nader (

Naders' real enemy is the winner-take-all election

Nader, 70, has every intention of playing a pivotal role in the 2004 presidential election, but his campaign is dogged by doubts, dissension and disorganization. The consumer activist is indefatigable, and his supporters are worshipful. But the pall of the 2000 election, in which many Democrats believe Nader tipped New Hampshire and Florida to George W. Bush, hangs heavily over the campaign.

In private, four of Nader's five supporters around the table said they will vote for Democrat John F. Kerry if polls in late October show Nader tipping the state [New Hampshire] to President Bush.

At Nader's previous campaign stop in a small conference room at Suffolk University in Boston, his top Massachusetts aide said he had tried to rent a larger meeting space at FleetCenter but was told the facility did not want to offend Democrats who were preparing to host their national convention there in July.

And at a California fundraiser, Nader said, two contributors were so fearful of the backlash from Democrats that they showed up in disguise. -- An Outsider Tries to Shake the 'Spoiler' Label (

Will "Fahrenheit 9/11" affect the election?

During the screening [of Fahrenheit 9/11] at the Uptown Theatre, I sat next to a newspaper reporter who was raised in an activist Republican party family, whose sister worked previously for the Bush White House and who considers herself moderate. She cried through the second half of the movie, which featured graphic images of injured and killed Iraqi civilians and U.S. soldiers and focused on the U.S. military's efforts to recruit minorities and poor whites.

She and others who don't hew to Moore's hardcore lefty vision of the world gave him credit for, if nothing else, presenting an incredibly cohesive and emotionally stirring piece of work.

"There's no way people are not going to come out of this hating Bush," she said. Which, of course, is exactly what the GOP fears. Conservative opposition is not based on the belief that this is just some commie-pinko rant that'll be ignored by the masses.

The White House, furious about the Bush-bashing, anti-war movie, has wisely decided to take a low-key approach, allowing surrogates to do most of the work – and they've done it with zeal. One California-based organization, Move America Forward, has orchestrated a letter-writing campaign to theaters around the country, demanding that they refuse to show Moore's movie. Conservative talk radio and television hosts have filled their segments with rants against it. And the president's father called Moore a "slimeball."

The conservative group Citizens United announced Thursday that its president, David N. Bossie, had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, asserting that television ads for the movie are restricted under some of the new campaign finance rules created by the McCain-Feingold legislation. -- Buzz Around Moore's Movie May Be Able to Shake the Election (

June 25, 2004

Arizona Clean Elections under fire

Arizona voters likely will decide in November if they want to keep letting political candidates use public money as a way to fund their campaigns.

The fight over Arizona's Clean Elections system, which has become the financial muscle for hundreds of legislative candidates, is on.

A group called No Taxpayer Money for Politicians has an initiative for the Nov. 2 ballot that would amend the state Constitution and stop the use of public money for political races. The group's chairman, Eric Crown, filed 275,100 signatures on Thursday, well above the 184,000 signatures needed to change the state Constitution. The signatures still must be validated by state election officials, which could take several days. -- Anti-Clean Elections petitions being validated by officials (Arizona Republic)

Grand jury probes 1999 Alabama lottery referendum

Leaders of the Alabama Democratic Party during the time of [former] Gov. Don Siegelman's failed lottery campaign attended Wednesday's session of a grand jury probing possible public corruption.

Jack Miller, former party chairman, and Giles Perkins, former executive director of the party, declined to say why they were called before the grand jury. The two, both lawyers, would say only that they were cooperating with the investigation. ...

The state Democratic Party and the foundation that was formed to promote Siegelman's lottery effort apparently swapped resources during the 1999 campaign.

The lottery foundation reported paying the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee more than $730,000 on March 10, 2000, for "get out the vote" services during the 1999 campaign, according to campaign disclosure reports. -- Grand jury calls Siegelman's party leaders (Birmingham News)

The former CEO of Kimberly-Clark Corp. appeared before a federal grand jury Thursday to discuss the company's contribution to Gov. Don Siegelman's lottery campaign. ...

James Hawkins, a Kimberly-Clark lawyer accompanying Sanders, said Sanders was asked to discuss a lottery donation.

"As we understand, Mr. Sanders was contacted to discuss a contribution to an education foundation, specifically the Alabama Education Foundation," said Carolyne Mentesana, a spokeswoman for Kimberly-Clark.

The foundation was Siegelman's lottery campaign organization. Kimberly-Clark contributed $25,000 to the foundation on Jan. 24, 2000, according to campaign finance reports, three months after the lottery was defeated. It was not included on final campaign reports the foundation filed about a week later.

The organization, after news reports from The Mobile Register, filed an amended campaign report in 2002 that showed more than $400,000 in donations in 2000 that previously had been unreported. Kimberly-Clark's was one of the newly disclosed donations. -- Lottery supporters questioned (Birmingham News)

June 24, 2004

Audio report on the "Fahrenheit 9/11" political ad controversy

Citizens United wants to get commercials for "Fahrenheit 9/11", which show President Bush in a bad light, off the air by July 30. They're arguing that the documentary's TV spots act as political advertisements, which cannot be paid for by corporate money. The FEC has not set a date for its ruling. -- Marketplace for June 24, 2004 (audio report)

GOP helping Nader's ballot drive

TalkLeft has an item entitled, Bush Campaign Helping Nader in Oregon, which includes an email from on Oregon Democrat:

This Saturday, there will be a convention in Portland, Oregon to attempt to place Ralph Nader on the Oregon ballot. They will need 1,000 registered voters for his name to be on the November ballot and an independent. A few months ago, they attempted but came up short.

I am a Democrat who, a short while ago, gave my email address and phone number to the local Republican party to receive updates on what they were up to. Today I received a phone call from the local Republican party asking me if I wanted to go the Nader convention. They explained the need to get Nader on the ballot to help President Bush. The name on the caller ID on my phone said "Bush Cheney" implying that they were calling from the Oregon Bush Cheney headquarters.

Democrats (but not the Party) sue to keep Nader off the Arizona ballot

Democrats attempted to put a roadblock in front of independent candidate Ralph Nader's efforts to gain access to the presidential ballot in Arizona, with the filing of a lawsuit by two Arizona residents challenging the validity of the petitions submitted by Nader's campaign.

The suit underscores the determination of the Democrats to try to frustrate Nader's efforts to qualify for state ballots. It is a shift from four years ago, when party officials and the campaign of Vice President Al Gore generally ignored Nader, who was running as the Green Party candidate, in the hope that his campaign would not attract support.

The suit, filed in superior court in Maricopa County in Phoenix, charges that, of the 21,512 signatures on Nader's petitions, only 6,045 are valid. State law requires Nader to submit 14,694 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Although state law prohibits a political party from filing or financing such suits, the state party provided space in its office for volunteers and staff members working on their own time to review the signatures. -- Democrats Sue to Block Nader From Ariz. Ballot (

June 22, 2004

Nader may be booted from Arizona ballot

Democrats in Arizona are challenging signatures Nader submitted to get on that state's ballot. Word from the field is that there are probably enough suspect signatures to keep Nader off the ballot.

In addition to suspect signatures, entire reams of signatures can be invalidated if the person collecting them is a felon. Turns out that out of the 122 paid people who gathered the Nader signatures, at least 19 are confirmed felons. One of them was convicted for forgery. -- Daily Kos

"Super Bowls of influence-peddling"

The national political conventions in the U.S. this summer will be financed partly by Verizon Communications Inc., International Business Machines Corp. and dozens of other companies seeking federal action that will benefit their businesses.

Corporate donors will have their names displayed before lawmakers and government officials -- the same people the companies and other interest groups spent $2 billion lobbying last year. The conventions offer companies another way to make donations beyond the $2,000 their executives can give to candidates or the $15,000 their political action committees are limited to donating to each party.

In the case of conventions, the law places no limit on donations. Verizon has given $3 million to the convention host committee in New York, where Republicans meet in August. IBM donated $2 million for the events in New York and Boston, where Democrats meet in July. And Raytheon Co. has given $1 million to the Boston committee, according to committee Web sites and company officials.

"These conventions have become the Super Bowls of influence- peddling in America every four years,'' said Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington group that investigates public policy issues. "This is basically a deregulated zone in American politics where all rules go out the window.'' -- Donation Laws Go `Out the Window' at U.S. Conventions (

FEC dismisses complaint against Rep. Pryce

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has dismissed a complaint filed by campaign-finance watchdog groups against House GOP Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) alleging that she operated two leadership political action committees (PACs) in violation of fundraising rules.

The nearly 20-page agency report exonerating Pryce, in conjunction with two other recently completed "matters under review" (MURs), does much to clarify how campaign-finance law treats leadership PACs. ...

The controversy over Pryce Project and View PAC, an organization in which Pryce serves as an honorary chairwoman, began last March. The Center for Responsive Politics and FEC Watch filed a complaint alleging that the groups made and received contributions that exceeded campaign-finance limits because they were affiliated through Pryce.

View PAC, which stands for Value in Electing Women PAC, is dedicated to helping Republican women running for the House. It was created in the spring of 1997. -- Rep. Pryce is cleared over PACs (The

FEC trembles at news of Lott's oversight hearings

Senate Rules Committee Chairman Trent Lott (R-Miss.), concerned by what many lawmakers consider the slow pace of enforcement at the Federal Election Commission (FEC), will hold the first Senate oversight hearing on the agency in nearly six years.

News of the upcoming hearing, scheduled for July 14, has caused consternation at the FEC, where officials fear Lott's action could be the first step in abolishing the agency.

Last year, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) introduced legislation that would replace the bipartisan six-member commission with a single-administrator agency akin to the FBI.

Lott and other senators also will scrutinize the agency's decision not to implement rules curbing the activities of soft-money groups known as 527s. Democrats, who are relying heavily on such groups to fund their political activities this year, embraced the decision. But it disappointed many Republicans. -- Lott, other senators set to probe 'cumbersome' FEC (The

Groups file complaint against Americans Coming Together

A pro-Democratic group that opposes President Bush in its fund-raising solicitations is the target of a complaint by campaign finance watchdogs who argue the organization is spending illegally on its mailings.

America Coming Together should be using limited "hard money" donations, not unlimited contributions known as soft money, to pay for the fund-raising letters, the three groups said in the complaint filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.

The groups are Democracy 21, the Center for Responsive Politics and the Campaign Legal Center.

ACT has financed the mailings - possibly up to $1 million worth through March - with soft money, the groups say. Such unlimited donations can come from any source, including unions and corporations, but aren't supposed to be used for federal election activities. -- Bush Opposers Accused of Illegal Spending (AP via

To read the very long press release and complaint, go here.

Dems' suit against Virginia GOP can continue

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought by legislative Democrats against the Republican Party of Virginia and several Republican political operatives over two eavesdropped phone calls.

U.S. District Court Judge James R. Spencer ruled late Friday, however, that Democrats could seek a total of only $10,000 in damages from the Republicans.

The judge's decision means the Democrats can proceed with the lawsuit and, perhaps, bring up politically damaging information about the Republicans. ...

On March 22, 2002, the then-executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, Edmund A. Matricardi III, used access codes he received from a former Democratic Party operative to listen in on a Democratic Party-arranged conference call to discuss a redistricting case. He listened again March 25. -- Democrats' lawsuit will proceed (

House ethics committee will review complaint against DeLay

The House ethics committee said Tuesday that it will review a complaint from a Texas congressman that accuses House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a fellow Texan, of "serious criminal acts."

The committee said Democratic Rep. Chris Bell met House rules for filing such a complaint. The decision is largely procedural and does not address the merits of the allegations.

DeLay, a Republican, has called the complaint, which was filed last week, the product of a disgruntled lawmaker. Bell, a freshman, lost his re-election bid in Texas' March primaries after Republicans redrew his Houston district.

The committee's decision triggers a 45-day review of the complaint. -- House ethics panel to review Delay complaint (AP via

New Hampshire Supreme Court upholds re-redistricting plan

In a defeat for Democrats, the [New Hampshire] state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday the Republican-controlled Legislature's changes to House and Senate districts are legal and opened the affected seats to filing by candidates.

The court said candidates will be allowed to file for 255 House seats and nine Senate seats from June 29 to July 9. The primary is on Sept. 14.
Of the 103 new House districts, only 35 had been open during the filing period that ended June 11. Only 15 of the 24 Senate seats were open during the earlier period.

Democrats had argued the Legislature could redraw the districts only every 10 years and not more frequently. Democrats asked the court to block changes pushed through by Republicans.

Democrats said the changes protected incumbents and corralled Democrats into fewer districts. -- Court upholds redistricting plans (AP via

June 21, 2004

San Francisco initiative proposes voting rights for non-citizens in school elections

In a push to get more immigrants involved in their children's education, San Francisco officials are considering asking voters in November to give parents who are not U.S. citizens the right to vote in school board elections.

Under the proposed ballot initiative, even illegal immigrants would be able to vote, so long as they are parents with kids in public schools.

If the effort succeeds, San Francisco would become the first city in California to join a growing number of cities across the country that have adopted similar laws in recent years.

The controversial idea is already fueling charges from critics who say allowing non-citizens to vote devalues citizenship. But immigrant advocates and some voting-rights experts believe it's only a matter of time before the state comes to grips with its new demographic reality: Almost one-fifth of all voting-age Californians are non-citizens. -- San Francisco considers school board voting rights for non-citizens (KRT Wire via Biloxi Sun Herald)

Justice Department preclears Richmond "strong mayor" plan

The Justice Department on Monday approved Richmond's plan for a citywide election of a strong mayor, rejecting claims it would dilute the political might of the city's largely black electorate.

The ruling clears the way for a Nov. 2 election that would pit the incumbent, Rudolph McCollum, against the nation's first elected black governor, L. Douglas Wilder.

Wilder, a Democrat, and Republican former U.S. Rep. Thomas J. Bliley last year jointly championed a referendum in which city voters by a 4-1 ratio embraced the new at-large mayor proposal. -- Justice Department OKs Richmond's mayoral election plan (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

June 20, 2004

Lies by the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" crowd

Michael Bryan at Political State Report has this post about the campaign to repeal the Clean Elections program in Arizona:

This video captures a paid petition circulator bald-facedly lying to a 'voter,' who is wearing a wire, about what the "No Taxpayer Money for Politicians Act" is all about. He represents it as favoring "100% Clean Elections" and simply ensuring that no taxpayer money should be spent on political campaigns, as it would be "better used for education and health care for the elderly". As if.

Contrary to what initiative backers are simplistically claiming, that taxes are being used for campaigns, the Clean Elections law receives no appropriated tax dollars. The initiative was written to include its own funding mechanisms. The primary sources of funds are:

a 10% surcharge on civil and criminal fines and penalties,

a voluntary $5 check off on your income tax return, and

voluntary tax credit contributions, just like many other tax credit contributions such as those to schools.

"The Trouble With E-Ballots"

In a visit last week to NEWSWEEK, [Walden] O'Dell, whose company [Diebold] is under increasing pressure as more citizens learn about the details of touch-screen voting (the League of Women Voters just retracted its support of the technology), presented a spirited defense. Introducing himself as "Wally," and accompanied by experienced PR fire-putter-outers, he explained that Diebold, which makes billions in financial devices like bank ATMs, isn't in the voting game solely for lucre (though he'd like to see a profit down the line). It's about patriotism. "In November 2000 we couldn't elect a president," he says. "America had a problem. We could help."

If touch-screen devices with coherent interfaces replaced confusing systems like butterfly ballots, he explained, overvoting and unintentional undervoting could be virtually eliminated. The high-tech devices, equipped with audio readbacks, could also serve blind voters. So Diebold bought one of the pioneering companies in the field, and now its elections division is the leader among several firms selling touch-screen devices. It won contracts to supply all of Georgia and Maryland. O'Dell has a stack of documents and video testimonials attesting to the successful elections conducted by his machines (he didn't mention the March 2 debacle in California, where many polls opened late because the devices wouldn' boot correctly). "On our very worst day," he says, "we're 10 times better than what was out there before." -- The Trouble With E-Ballots (Newsweek)

Boston cabbies object to discount for Dems

The plan now being discussed would require [Boston] cabbies working the airport to accept discount vouchers and multiple riders [for the Democratic Convention]. Estimates on the value of the vouchers have been placed at $10 or more, but cabbies said compared to their regular multiple-rider fares, they would lose money.

"People can't be forced to do this,'' [cab driver Bill] Ford said. "If they do this, they would in effect be forcing us to make a donation.''

Other cab drivers have objected to the setting of a precedent, suggesting they'll be asked to honor discounts for other conventions down the road.

Ford said he was told by an FEC official last week that there appears to be a violation of campaign finance laws. An FEC spokesman told the Herald that while businesses and individuals are free to make cash or in-kind donations to host committees, the regulations do not specifically address a scenario in which licensed cabbies would be required to accept discounted fares or lose airport business.

Host committee spokeswoman Karen Grant noted the Boston convention host committee is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, and that no taxi plan exists as yet. She declined to comment on a potential FEC complaint. -- Election 2004 News: Fare plan drives hub hack to eye FEC gripe (

June 19, 2004

WebVoter -- the GOP rolls out a new weapon

What I'm going to remember from the 2004 [Minnesota] GOP assemblage at the Xcel is the WebVoter demonstration I got at the computer table in the lobby. That's where I saw the future of grass-roots politics.

Here's how WebVoter works: If you're part of the Republican Party's already identified 60,000 core households, you have received in the mail your very own WebVoter user name and password.

Enter that information, and you are provided with a list of 25 names, some of whom you're likely to recognize, and their addresses, which you're sure to know. They are all in your neighborhood.

Those are names of voters not already known to the GOP to be either Republicans or Democrats. The public policy issue that gets them worked up is similarly not known. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to discover the party and issue preferences of your neighbors, and report them to the GOP brain in cyberspace.

Those whom you report to be open to Republican messages will suddenly be showered with invitations to events, pleas for donations, an array of literature and persistent phone calls. Those whom you report to be hopeless Democrats will be deemed unworthy of the expenditure of a 37-cent stamp, and dropped from the list (for now). -- GOP's WebVoter: the future of grass-roots politics (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Thanks to Rick Klau for the link. Rick had this to add about WebVoter:

This idea isn’t completely new, but it’s impressive in its scope. The Minnesota GOP has deployed WebVoter, a web-based precinct committee-person organizing system. We had a prototype of this in the Dean campaign, ready to roll once the primaries were done. (Ah, those were the days.) Little did we know that Dean would be done too…

In any event, this is absolutely the future of politics. Give motivated individuals the ability to play a part in the evangelization of the party; the party gets a dashboard view of voting trends, issue analysis and areas where more information/activity are needed.

Rep Cannon faces charges for asking for illegal donations

As voters gear up for the Utah Republican primary on Tuesday, four-term Rep. Chris Cannon is fighting off charges that he is in violation of campaign finance laws after making an appeal to illegal immigrants for campaign donations.

Cannon, sponsor of the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003, which gives long-time illegal immigrants employed in the U.S. agriculture industry the chance to qualify for work visas, appeared on Salt Lake City Spanish-language radio station KBJA last month with a part-time congressional aide.

During the 90-minute interview, which was conducted entirely in Spanish, Cannon's aide, Marco Diaz, urged illegal immigrants and those under 18-years-old to send in donations to Cannon's campaign.

"Really, if you are undocumented you must find, we welcome this money, but you have to find someone who is legal in order to donate money," Diaz told listeners, according to a translation of the broadcast.

A bit later in the interview, Cannon, a proficient Spanish speaker, said minor children of citizens can donate, leading Diaz to exclaim: "Very good! I hadn’t thought of that! But if your child is a citizen, you can donate in the name of your child. The only thing that you need is, is to be a citizen. Many of you, perhaps, have children who are citizens." -- Cannon Under Gun For Appeals to Hispanics (

Warning: an ad covers the screen for several seconds before the story appears.

GOP trying to squelch Bell complaint against DeLay

House Republicans are trying to block U.S. Rep. Chris Bell's ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, with Democrats saying the GOP is trying to silence any criticism of its chief.

Republicans denied they were trying to muzzle allegations against DeLay. But in the escalating partisan warfare touched off by investigations into DeLay's political dealings, Republicans' maneuvers may prevent Bell's complaint from being examined by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., took steps Thursday to throw out the complaint by Bell, a Democrat whose Houston-area district borders DeLay's.

LaHood said that because Bell is a lame-duck congressman, after losing the Democratic primary this year in his freshman term, he "has no stake in the institution" and should be disqualified from filing the charges. Bell's term expires at the end of the year. -- GOP moves could silence complaint against DeLay (

I tried to think of something snappy to say in response to this, but words fail me.

Florida restores voting rights to 22,000

About 22,000 ex-felons [in Florida] are now eligible to head to the polls in November.

Thursday Gov. Jeb Bush restored their voting rights, as well as their rights to serve on juries and take a job with state licensed firms. ...

Bush announced Thursday that state officials completed a reviewthis week of 125,000 cases included in a lawsuit filed against thestate on behalf of felons released from prison between 1992 and2001.

About 22,000 of them were found to be eligible to have theirrights automatically restored. Of those, about 11,000 have alreadyregained their privileges.

Of the remaining 103,000, about half likely will be able to gettheir rights restored if they go through a hearing process,although it's not clear how many will seek to do so.

Many of the remaining 50,000 or so won't be eligible to havetheir rights restored for a variety of reasons. -- Bush Restores Ex-Felons Right To Vote (

Europe adopts new constitution, still to be ratified

EUROPE'S leaders clinched a tentative deal on the first EU constitution last night.

After a firey two-day summit, disputes about national sovereignty, new voting systems and power-sharing were put to bed. ...

Voting rights had also beena highly contentious issue.

Talks broke down in December over majority voting which, it was feared, could ignore interests of smaller nations.

Now, for a measure to be passed, it will have to be backed by a majority of countries plus one representing 65 per cent of the EU's population. -- BRUSSELS BROKERS THE DEAL (Scottish Daily Record)

Absentee ballot controversy in Britain

The right to vote by postal ballot may have to be restricted if the [British] Government cannot find ways of eliminating fraud, the leader of Birmingham City Council has warned.

Sir Albert Bore, in a letter to the Prime Minister, called for an overhaul of the system following numerous allegations of malpractice during the local authority elections.

West Midlands Police is investigating claims of mis-use of postal votes across Birmingham, particularly in marginal inner city wards.

The defeated Liberal Democrat candidate in Aston, Ayoub Khan, is expected to take an election petition to the High Court next week. He will claim that Labour's victory in the ward was the result of postal vote fraud. -- Blair told to change voting system (Birmingham Post)

June 17, 2004

Cohen's treasurer alleges forgery

The former treasurer for [New Hampshire] state Sen. Burt Cohen's defunct U.S. Senate campaign said he believes someone forged his signature on two campaign finance reports and a campaign letter that bear his name.

Cohen, a Democrat from New Castle, dropped out of the race for Republican Judd Gregg's U.S. Senate seat last week after concerns about "the accuracy and completeness" of certain campaign finance transactions were raised, according to Marc Elias, Cohen's lawyer.

John Buchalski, a 74-year-old Portsmouth resident tapped by Cohen to be his campaign treasurer, confirmed on Wednesday that some campaign-related documents bearing his signature were not signed by him.

This information comes to light as former campaign workers attempt to reconcile those reports with the campaign's bank account, and to locate Cohen's former campaign manager, Jesse D. Burchfield, of Portsmouth. -- Cohen aide alleges forgery (Portsmouth Herald)

Can Sen. Hutchinson convert her federal campaign funds into a state campaign fund?

[U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's] campaign kitty had more than $6.5 million on hand as of March 31.

The question is whether Ms. Hutchison could transfer money raised for federal office to fund a run for governor [of Texas].

For many years, federal officeholders could do so. But the McCain-Feingold legislation that Congress passed two years ago deleted from a list of permissible uses of campaign funds the phrase "for any other lawful purpose."

The Federal Election Commission used to cite the language to allow transfer of unspent money to local races and recently urged Congress to restore it.

"It may be they didn't intend to take it out, but it's out," said commission spokesman Ian Stirton. -- If they're in the running, they've got cash on hand (Dallas Morning News via

Bush's faith-based strategy

President Bush's re-election campaign took its effort to enlist churches in turning out conservative voters to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination, this week, urging pastors to do everything short of risking their churches' tax-exempt status to support the president's re-election.

Mr. Bush's courtship of Southern Baptists began Tuesday when he addressed them in a live telecast from the White House and thanked them for their prayers. The campaign's appeals picked up in earnest the next day, when Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, who is now an official of the Bush campaign, arrived to ask pastors more explicitly for their help in winning votes.

Mr. Reed delivered his remarks at a Bush-Cheney "pastors reception," paid for by the Bush campaign. The hosts were the outgoing presidents of the Southern Baptists and three other prominent leaders, and the reception was in a conference room of a hotel adjacent to the convention. As the pastors came in, a campaign aide collected about 100 signatures and addresses from ministers pledging to endorse Mr. Bush's re-election publicly, to "host a citizenship Sunday for voter registration," to "identify someone who will help in voter registration and outreach" and to organize a " 'party for the president' with other pastors" on specific dates closer to the election.

As the pastors mingled around fountains of soft drinks and trays of cubed cheese, Mr. Reed urged, "Without advocating on behalf of any candidate or political party, you can make sure that everyone in your circle of influence is registered to vote." -- Strategy: Bush Allies Till Fertile Soil, Among Baptists, for Votes (New York Times)

GOP accuses Frost of using corporate money for legislative races

Travis County prosecutors said Wednesday they are investigating an allegation that U.S. Rep. Martin Frost illegally funneled more than $100,000 in corporate donations to Texas legislative candidates in the 2000 election.

Frost, D-Dallas, denied the accusation, saying the criminal complaint against him is a Republican attempt to deflect attention from an ethics investigation of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. ...

In his letter, Deuell said Internal Revenue Service filings for Frost's Lone Star Fund showed that between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2000, Frost had raised $256,800, mostly from corporations and labor unions. Only $60,000 was raised from individuals who could legally donate to state legislative candidates.

The filing showed $111,500 had been donated directly to committees associated with state legislative candidates.

A fact sheet released by Frost's office said the report referred to in Deuell's complaint only looks at one reporting period. It said the Lone Star Fund maintained two bank accounts. One was located in Texas and raised only candidate-eligible money, no corporate money.

A separate "soft money" bank account was maintained in Washington to accept corporate money for activities legal under federal law, the fact sheet stated. -- Campaign fund probe expands to Democrat (

Canada will end blackout of elections results

On June 10, 2004, the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada announced that the British Columbia Supreme Court decision (R. v. Bryan) to lift the blackout period on the premature transmission of election results would be applied nationwide at the June 28 general election.

For more details, please consult the press release posted on the Elections Canada Web site.

Thanks to J. Paul Johnston for the link.

June 16, 2004

Another felon voting rights suit in Florida state court

A panel of [Florida] appeal judges Tuesday called the state's explanation for not helping tens of thousands of former prison inmates to regain their legal rights baffling, contradictory and something out of "Alice In Wonderland."

The case, which involves a lawsuit filed shortly after the disputed presidential election of 2000, could have important political ramifications by helping restore voting rights to thousands in a state with a history of razor-thin election margins. ...

Judges expressed surprise the state did not provide the form.

"The statute is clear," said Judge William Van Nortwick Jr. "I'm really struggling with your logic." He later called the state's reasoning "an Alice In Wonderland response."

Judge Peter Webster repeatedly pointed to a line in the statute suggesting that the state provide applications. "You keep reading past that part of law," he said. -- Court chides state on voting rights (

American Indian group to encourage Indian voting rights

A group formed to encourage American Indian voting has ties to a defunct political action committee that gave more than $200,000 to the South Dakota Democratic Party.

''Some of the same people, obviously, were involved'' in both the Four Directions PAC and the Four Directions Committee, said Bret Healy, who runs the Four Directions Committee. Healy was executive director of the state Democratic Party at the time the PAC was operating.

The Four Directions Committee peppered the South Dakota Secretary of State's office with complaints of people being turned away from the polls during the June 1 primary and special U.S. House election.

Records from The Institute on Money in State Politics state that the Four Directions PAC gave $224,500 to the state Democratic Party and $1,750 to a legislative candidate. Federal Election Commission records indicate the PAC was organized in April 2003 and dissolved March 3, 2004. -- Get-out-the-vote group, former political action committee linked (AP via

No wrongdoing is alleged -- just "has ties to." I suppose the writer is surprised or shocked that political people know how to do different things from time to time.

Cohen abandons race after funds disappear

Five days after [New Hampshire] state Sen. Burt Cohen dropped out of the U.S. Senate race, the whereabouts of his former campaign manager remain unknown, as does the scope of financial discrepancies between Cohen's federal campaign reports and his campaign bank account, according to Cohen's lawyer.

The senator must make an accurate accounting of the campaign's finances for the first quarter of 2004 to the Federal Election Commission by June 24 or the FEC may audit or take other enforcement action against the campaign, according to a May 25 letter from the FEC to the Cohen campaign.

Meanwhile, a prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office in Concord would neither confirm nor deny whether law-enforcement officials are investigating the matter. -- Cohen's funds under scrutiny (Portsmouth Herald)

NRANews -- bullet or target?

In a direct challenge to federal limits on political advocacy, the National Rifle Association plans to begin broadcasting a daily radio program on Thursday to provide news and pro-gun commentary to 400,000 listeners.

The group says its jump into broadcasting with its program, "NRANews," means that it should be viewed as a media organization that does not have to abide by provisions of a sweeping campaign finance law from 2002. That law stops organizations from using unregulated "soft" money to buy political advertising that directly attacks or praises federal candidates in the weeks before federal elections and primaries.

The N.R.A. says its three-hour program constitutes news and commentary, not advertising. As a result, when other advocacy groups are required to stop running political commercials, "NRANews" intends to continue broadcasting its reporting and commentary against politicians who favor gun control to Nov. 2.

"The great thing about America is there is no test about the right to provide information to the American public," the executive vice president of the association, Wayne LaPierre, said in an interview this week. "There is no government licensing of journalists. Tom Paine was free to pamphlet. So are we." -- The New York Times > National > Gun Group's Radio Show Tests Limits on Advocacy (New York Times)

"Safe Harbor for Churches" dropped

The House Ways and Means Committee has killed a proposal that was intended to give clergy members freedom to endorse candidates for political office without endangering the tax-exempt status of their congregations.

The provision, titled "Safe Harbor for Churches," was removed from a corporate tax bill during a committee markup of the legislation Monday night, staff members said.

Watchdog groups -- including Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Interfaith Alliance and People for the American Way -- opposed the provision as a step toward dismantling the constitutional ban on state-sponsored religion. Some also called it a "back-door" attempt to help reelect President Bush, whose campaign is focusing on churches as potential centers of support.

But the proposal's fate was sealed when religious groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, also expressed strong reservations. -- House Panel Drops 'Safe Harbor for Churches' Measure (

June 15, 2004

Issue ad disclosure killed, for now, in Wisconsin

[Wisonsin] Representative Spencer Black has written to two Democrats on the State Elections Board to express his extreme disappointment with their votes to kill a key campaign finance reform measure. Black asked the two Democrats to reverse their votes and support reform when the measure is considered again at the September Elections Board meeting. The board defeated the reform measure on a 5-3 vote last month. ...

The proposal, modeled on the McCain-Feingold law, would require groups that run ads about candidates in an upcoming election to publicly disclose their spending and fundraising. The two Democrats, Carl Holborn (appointed by the Assembly Democratic leader) and Martha Love (appointed by the Democratic Party) joined the three Republicans on the Board to defeat the proposal on May 19. However, the Elections Board will reconsider the reform rule at its September meeting. -- Rep. Black: Asks 2 Democrats to Reverse Votes, Approve Reform (press release via

The first thing to do is tax all the lawyers

A [North Carolina] campaign reform group today laid out its agenda for this year's legislative session, including changing the state's new campaign funding program for appellate court candidates. ...

The first-of-its-kind program in the nation could face a shortfall of more than $1 million as it distributes money in this year's general elections for the first time to candidates for the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. ...

The program, signed into law in 2002, hasn't generated enough money from a voluntary $50 contribution by attorneys and a $3 checkoff on individual state income tax forms.

"It has not worked as well as the way we had thought," said Rep. Bill Culpepper, D-Chowan, who introduced a bill that would make the attorneys' fee mandatory. -- Bill would change appellate court fund (AP via

Colorado initiative seeks proportional presidential vote

The wealthy president of a Brazilian university is bankrolling an initiative to end Colorado's winner-take-all presidential electoral system. ...

For example, a candidate who wins 60 percent at the polls could snag five of the state's nine electoral votes, leaving the remaining four to a candidate who wins 40 percent on Election Day.

The group has begun to collect signatures; it needs 67,799 to get the measure on the ballot.

If approved Nov. 2, the constitutional amendment would affect this year's choice for president by immediately permitting the division of Colorado electoral votes. And it would mark the most ambitious Electoral College reform yet in the nation. -- Group pushes for vote switch: Colo. would split presidential tally (

The text of the initiative is here.

If every state adopted the proposal, we might begin to see a truly national election, rather than red-blue-purple trichotomy in which some states are ignored by the two parties because they are considered to safe territory for one party or the other. On the other hand, if only a few smaller states adopt this proposal, will it be worth diverting any campaign resources to such states? Since Colorado is already considered a purple state by some, this initiative (if already in effect) might have the perverse effect of making the national parties less interested in Colorado. It would only be worth one or two electoral votes to win it or win more of its votes, while it is worth 9 electoral votes now.

Thanks to Rick Hasen for the link.

Update: Kos has a contrary analysis:

But on a more immediate tactical level, this initiative will force Republicans to spend a great deal of money in Colorado when they hoped to completely ignore the state and take its nine EVs for granted. Despite all the talk of Colorado being in play this year, Kerry still has a ways to go before he pulls the state in play.

But with this initiative on the ballot, Republicans have to fight to defeat the initiative (millions will likely get spent on the effort), and also give the state some love (Bush's time and money) in case the initiative passed.

Oh well, as some fair and balanced media outlet says, "we report, you decide."

Brennan Center says Florida has "massive discrepancies" in voter list

Bump and update: Deborah Goldberg of the Brennan Center writes, "This comes a bit late. But in fact the Brennan Center has not sued Florida over the voter purge. We have been ferreting out the facts that might support future litigation -- and announced those -- but the reporter confused our ongoing case challenging felony disfranchisement in Florida with what was supposedly a new suit mentioned in the article."


Florida's $2 million centralized voter database, which is supposed to help weed out felons and people who have died, may have a serious flaw, a New York legal group that is suing the state said Tuesday.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law says this new database may not be including the names of thousands of people who had their voting rights restored by the state of Florida during a nearly 40-year period. If the information is true, it would raise serious questions as to the accuracy of a new list of nearly 48,000 registered voters that the state says are potential felons who are ineligible to vote. ...

The Brennan Center, which has filed a federal lawsuit to overturn Florida's voting ban for felons, says it requested records from both the state Division of Elections and the state Office of Executive Clemency and discovered ''massive discrepancies'' between the two offices.

Center lawyers said the documents revealed that the clemency office reported restoring voting rights to 171,408 people during a nearly 36-year period, while the Division of Elections said it only had records showing that 145,823 people had their rights restored at the time in question, between 1964 and 2000. -- State sued over voters' list (Miami Herald)

The Brennan Center press release and 34 pages of supporting documents are here.

June 14, 2004

Massachusetts legislation may call for special election to fill Kerry's seat

Prodded by a personal appeal from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic legislative leaders have agreed to take up a stalled bill creating a special election process to replace US Senator John F. Kerry if he wins the presidency.

House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and Senate President Robert E. Travaglini yesterday gave the green light to the joint Committee on Election Laws to hold a hearing on Tuesday, the first leg in what is expected to be swift and certain passage of the legislation.

National Democrats want the change to prevent Governor Mitt Romney from filling Kerry's seat with a Republican, but the bill had been stalled as Finneran and Travaglini weighed whether to take it up. ...

Without a change in current law, a Republican appointed by Romney would hold the seat until the 2006 election. The bill calls for a special election no later than 130 days nor sooner than 105 days after a senator submits a letter setting a date for vacating the seat. Potentially the seat could be filled in early February 2005, just weeks after Kerry would be sworn in as president on Jan. 20. -- Special election bill gets new life (Boston Globe)

Palm computers and video emails -- this ain't your father's campaign

Technology once unimaginable to political operatives is enhancing the influence of 527 organizations. Door-to-door workers frequently use hand- held computers to feed information into databases. Strategists use the data to fine-tune and target campaign messages.

[Club for Growth president Stephen] Moore plans to experiment with video e-mail to reach swing voters.

"You have the potential for reaching millions of people and it costs you nothing,'' he said.

Mary Repper, a former Republican consultant in Hillsborough County, is fascinated by the new uses of technology, particularly such personal digital assistants as Leasure uses door-to-door in Ohio.

Hand-held devices can quickly update databases with names, ages and voter registration status.

"That is very good information, and it's got to kick up the campaigns a notch,'' Repper said.
People identified as swing voters - especially in states such as Florida - can expect a barrage of phone calls between now and November. -- `527' Groups Gain Political Clout (Media General News Service via

A good article on 527s with much more good stuff than I could excerpt.

Reasons GOP 527's will have a hard time

David Keene writes in The Hill:

The problem the organizers of Republican 527 groups face today is that there aren't many Republican or conservative givers with the deep commitment of a Jane Fonda or the resources of a George Soros. Conservative true believers tend to give what they can, but that's usually more like a hundred dollars than a million. By way of contrast, Soros, Progressive Insurance Corp. Chairman Peter Lewis and Hollywood's Stephen Bing has each already given more than $7 million to liberal or Democratic 527s.

A lot of rich Republican-leaning business types out there would write sizeable individual and corporate checks to the party if they could, and many, many more would be willing to contribute a couple of thousand dollars to President Bush's re-election campaign, but very are few willing to give big bucks to a conservative independent effort, even one organized by well-known fellow establishmentarians.

There are good reasons for that. Non-ideological contributors tend to be politically risk-averse. Giving to a party (or both parties) is safe; giving to a 527 might bring scrutiny and criticism. The GOP benefits from the activities of nonparty and non-sanctioned groups, but party leaders have never really appreciated or encouraged them. ...

And, finally, few big GOP givers are ideological, self-motivated conservatives. There is no conservative George Soros, and it is virtually impossible to imagine three people giving anything like $7 million each to independent Republican or conservative organizations. Rich Democrats are often strong liberals; rich Republicans tend to be moderates. -- Right has few deep pockets (The

"Not fit to walk the streets" = unfit to vote

CRIMINALS "not fit to walk the streets" were unfit to vote, [Australian] Special Minister of State Eric Abetz said yesterday.

The Federal Senate will this week consider changes to the Electoral Act to ban all full-time prisoners from voting and to close the roll on the day writs are issued.

Senator Abetz said a plan by Labor and the Australian Democrats to block the changes showed they were "soft on law and order."

At present any person sentenced to less than five years in prison is still eligible to vote.

"If you're not fit to walk the streets as deemed by the judicial system in this country, then chances are you're not a fit and proper person to cast a vote," Senator Abetz said. -- A hard cell on right to vote (The Daily Telegraph, Australia)

California Assembly kills primary voting for 17-year-olds

[California] Assembly members rejected a proposed constitutional amendment Monday that would have allowed 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections, if they would be 18 by the general election.

The proposal, by Assemblyman Gene Mullin, D-South San Francisco, aims to encourage voting among adults between the ages of 18 and 24, who have the lowest voter turnout of all age groups.

The bill fell eight votes shy Monday of gathering the necessary two-thirds majority that would let voters decide the issue, but Mullin has asked the Assembly to reconsider it Thursday. -- AP Wire | 06/14/2004 | Lawmakers defeat proposal to let 17-year-olds vote (AP via San Jose Mercury News)

Bell files ethics complaint against Tom DeLay

A Democratic congressman plans to file a wide-ranging ethics complaint today against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), shattering the remnants of a seven-year-old, unwritten ethics truce between the two parties and possibly nudging the House back toward a brand of political warfare that helped topple two speakers.

The complaint, which Rep. Chris Bell (D-Tex.) said he will send to the House ethics committee, accuses the House's second-ranking Republican of soliciting campaign contributions in return for legislative favors; laundering illegal campaign contributions through a Texas political action committee; and improperly involving a federal agency in a Texas partisan matter. The House's top two Democrats raised no objections when Bell told them he would file the complaint, according to Bell's office and party leadership aides.

A grand jury in Austin has been looking into the Texas PAC's activities, although DeLay's aides say there is no evidence he is a target of the probe. DeLay has denied wrongdoing in all the matters cited in Bell's complaint. ...

A DeLay ally, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), said Republicans "are going to have to respond in kind" by filing ethics charges against key Democrats. From now on, he said in an interview, it's a matter of "you kill my dog, I'll kill your cat." Doolittle said he plans to file ethics charges against a prominent Democrat but would not name the target. -- DeLay to Be Subject of Ethics Complaint (

Ward Connerly ballot petition okayed in Michigan

A Michigan Court of Appeals ruling has reinstated a petition drive to put an anti-affirmative action measure on the fall ballot.

In a seven-page opinion dated Friday, the unanimous three-judge appeals panel overturned a March ruling in Ingham County Circuit Court that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was improperly worded and likely to confuse voters.

The decision removes a major obstacle for the campaign led by Ward Connerly, a California businessman and affirmative action opponent, The Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and The Ann Arbor News reported.

But MCRI spokesman Chetly Zarko said that, although he was elated by the court's decision, it may have come too late to salvage the petition drive for the 2004 ballot. -- Appellate court overturns MCRI petition drive ruling (Michigan Daily)

June 13, 2004

"These people are going to try to steal this election"

Recalling the contentious 2000 election, Democrats urged party activists on Sunday to find legal observers, push early voting methods and remain vigilant of any problems during the upcoming November election.

Party leaders and activists discussed ways to prevent a repeat of the 2000 election in Florida, in which George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes after a 36-day recount was halted by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Any way we cut it, these people are going to try to steal this election," said U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar. "The only thing we can overpower them with is accuracy and numbers."

Party officials suggested voting absentee as one way to avoid relying upon touchscreen voting machines in certain counties. The machines have been criticized by some Democrats for failing to have paper printouts of individual votes. -- Democrats aim to prevent repeat of 2000 election fiasco (AP via

June 12, 2004

Canadian court allows early broadcast of election returns

J. Paul Johnston writes, "It seems the British Columbia Supreme Court has overturned the Elections Canada regulation that prevents he release/broadcast of results from voting from earlier time zones in Canada until the polls have closed in a given time zone. So, for example, late voters in the Prairies will already know [at least some of] the results in Maritimes and Central Canada when they head to the polls. Elections Canada intends to appeal the ruling, but "open" reporting will take place for the current election. I seem to recal that in the last election a person in BC was actually prosecuted because he picked up results from eastern Canada via the Internet and posted them on his website prior to the closing of the polls in British Columbia."

Trial lawyers = a virus

A late infusion of plaintiff trial lawyer money in the Republican primary for three Alabama Supreme Court seats has stung the GOP's business interests - but not enough to bar such funds or disown a key winner.

"I can't tell a candidate, `Don't accept money from different groups,'" said state GOP Chairman Marty Connors. "But if you're going to accept money from a group that is anathema to the traditions of the party that you're running in, you ought to be doing that before the disclosure deadline, in the light of day."

At a February meeting, the state Republican Party's executive committee passed a resolution discouraging candidates from accepting money from the Alabama Education Association, the powerful teachers' lobby that has butted heads with the GOP in the past.

It's unclear whether the party will take up a similar measure regarding plaintiff trial lawyers' money at the executive committee's June 26 meeting. But Connors said the party "can't condemn a candidate for raising money to try to get out his message. ...

"I pleaded with all of those candidates ... to not be tempted to take personal injury trial lawyer money," [John Giles, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama] said. "It's like allowing a virus into the conservative ranks." -- GOP frowns on trial lawyer money, but unlikely to ban it (AP via Tuscaloosa News)

Nader's campaign was run out of non-profit's offices

Since October, Ralph Nader has run his campaign for president out of the same downtown Washington offices that through April housed a public charity he created -- an overlap that campaign finance specialists said could run afoul of federal laws.

Tax law explicitly forbids public charities from aiding political campaigns. Violations can result in a charity losing its tax-exempt status. In addition, campaign law requires candidates to account for all contributions -- including shared office space and resources, down to the use of copying machines, receptionists and telephones.

Records show many links between Nader's campaign and the charity Citizen Works. For example, the charity's listed president, Theresa Amato, is also Nader's campaign manager. The campaign said in an e-mail to The Washington Post that Amato resigned from the charity in 2003. But in the charity's most recent corporate filing with the District, in January, Amato listed herself as the charity's president and registered agent.

The office suite housing the campaign, the charity and other sub-tenants had a common receptionist for greeting visitors. -- Nader Had Campaign Office at Charity (

Search the audio and video files for campaign statements

More than 75 percent of Americans rely on broadcast news sources for information about the presidential campaign. Voters have had few ways to search these audio/video outlets for news and topics that are critical to them — until now. has gathered campaign-related video and audio files from a number of Web sites: George Bush's and John Kerry's campaign Web sites, C-SPAN, PBS, NPR and more. uses complex spoken-language-analysis software created by StreamSage to automatically identify the sections of audio/video news and speeches that are relevant to a voter's interests.

Similar to Google's ability to search web pages, StreamSage's system allows voters to search audio/video content for specific keywords. The StreamSage software automatically segments content into contextually relevant clips where those keywords are being discussed, other key topics discussed in these sections, and the relative degree of importance of each topic. --

Thanks to Inter Alia for the link.

"America does not stand for torture"

America does not stand for torture. That's not what this country is about. Our country is a refuge for the oppressed and tortured. If torture becomes national policy, what kind of plan must God have for us? -- Garrison Keillor, Prairie Home Companion, 12 June 2004.

I was in the car when I heard Garrison say that, so I may not have the quote exactly right. While we all have read statements by the high and the low justifying the torture, I think there's a large majority of Americans who will flatly reject torture as national policy. Is this a meme that Democrats can use to win this election?

Every Republican candidate should be asked these questions:

1. Do you support torture as a method of getting information from prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan?

2. If it turns out that the President of the United States authorized the use of torture in Iraq and Afghanistan, would you support his impeachment?

June 11, 2004

Washington files cert in felon voting rights case

Amid a widening campaign to restore the voting rights of individuals convicted of crimes, the issue has returned to the Supreme Court in a plea by the state of Washington to sort out a conflict among the federal appeals courts. (The case is Locke v. Farrakhan, 03-1597.)

Every state in the nation except two -- Maine and Vermont -- denies the right to vote to convicted felons who are still in prison. Most of those states also deny the vote to felons on parole or on probation, and at least 14 states ban felons from voting even after they have served their sentences. ...

At issue is a decision by the Ninth Circuit on July 25, 2003; rehearing en banc was denied over the dissents of seven judges on February 24. The Circuit panel ruled that the Voting Rights Act’s Section 2 applies to felony disenfranchisement laws, and concluded that “racial bias in the criminal justice system” – demonstrated by statistical disparities about race in conviction rates in the state of Washington – can provide the basis for a Section 2 claim. ...

In its petition to the Supreme Court, the state argues that the Ninth Circuit ruling conflicts with a 2003 decision by the Eleventh Circuit (Johnson v. Governor of Florida, now pending on rehearing petition) finding that Congress did not intend the Act to apply to felon disenfranchisement. There is another layer of conflict, the state says, with decisions of the Second and Sixth Circuits. -- New Appeal: Felons’ Voting Rights (SCOTUSblog)

If anyone has a copy of the decision, email it to me or email me for instructions on where to fax it. The email address is in the upper right corner of the page.

Is it a campaign or a film?

There are movie campaigns and there are presidential campaigns, and usually you can tell the difference. One features a red carpet, the other a war room.

But "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's scathing new documentary about President Bush, has both.

Its release later this month appears to mark the first time that a film slamming a major presidential candidate has opened on screens across the nation in the final months of a campaign. At the same time, the movie is producing a global publicity extravaganza for Moore and Miramax Film founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who bought the film after Walt Disney Co. refused to let Miramax release it. ...

To anticipate and fend off the criticism that already is brewing, Moore has set up a "war room" populated by former Clinton White House operatives plotting swift counterattacks on Bush supporters who question the film's credibility.

To lead the effort, Moore has hired Chris Lehane and Mark Fabiani, former political advisors to Bill Clinton and Al Gore. "Employing the Clinton strategy of '92, we will allow no attack on this film to go without a response immediately," Moore said Thursday. "And we will go after anyone who slanders me or my work, and we will do it without mercy. And when you think 'without mercy,' you think Chris Lehane." -- Film and Election Politics Cross in 'Fahrenheit 9/11' (Los Angeles Times)

New Jersey will test public funding of campaigns

The Legislature on Thursday approved a trial run of publicly funded elections in New Jersey, one of several ethics reform bills approved.

Under the plan, Assembly races in two of New Jersey's 40 legislative districts - each deemed competitive territory - would host the pilot program in the 2005 election. The program would be expanded in the 2007 contest and later evaluated for its effectiveness. ...

"There is no silver bullet when (dealing with) campaign finance reform. No panacea. We just have to move forward as aggressively as we can," said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Roberts, D-5 of Camden, sponsor of the bill, dubbed the "Fair and Clean Elections Pilot Act."

"Public funding of campaigns holds the greatest promise of really confronting the issue." -- 'Clean elections' trial run passes N.J. Legislature (Gloucester County Times)

Ohio commission refuses to investigate campaign "money laundering" charge

The Ohio Elections Commission gave notice once again Thursday that it has no intention of scrutinizing the hundreds of thousands of dollars being poured by big-city donors into the state candidate funds of rural county parties.

By a 5-1 vote, commissioners dismissed a complaint filed by Democratic operative Larry McCartney that accuses House Speaker Larry Householder and other Republicans of using three county parties as "laundries" for illegal campaign contributions. An individual can donate no more than $2,500 to a candidate, but can give up to $5,000 to a county state candidate fund. The fund can give up to $549,000 to a candidate during an election cycle.

Commissioners who appeared to be wavering on a request by McCartney to take sworn depositions voted to toss the case after Executive Director Phil Richter told them he believed the commission lacked jurisdiction.

The decision mirrored a commission ruling in 2002 after another Democrat accused Republican State Treasurer Joe Deters of steering donors to the Hamilton County GOP state candidate fund and then accepting nearly 100 percent of the fund's donations during one period. Commissioners also dismissed that case. -- State panel refuses to probe rural funds: Elections Commission says it lacks authority (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

The venture capital approach to campaign giving

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Andy Rappaport and his wife, Deborah, have never been shy about their support for liberal politics.

The couple have given thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party and progressive candidates. They've hosted political fund-raisers at their six- bedroom, contemporary home on Skyline Boulevard in Woodside.

But in the past year, the 46-year-olds have stepped up their involvement, committing more than $3 million to efforts to encourage Latinos and young adults to support the Democratic Party and progressive politics. In the process, they have come to rank among the country's biggest political donors.

Only a few individuals around the country, including international financier George Soros, Hollywood screenwriter Stephen Bing and Cleveland insurance executive Peter Lewis, have donated more to political groups this campaign season than the Rappaports, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and TRKC Inc., which both track political contributions.

Moreover, the couple are turning heads with their efforts to take a venture capitalist approach to political giving -- supporting and nurturing risky startups instead of just writing checks to established political causes. -- Couple's liberal largesse: Rappaports give millions to Democratic, progressive causes (San Francisco Chronicle)

Texas appeals court hears US Rep election contest

U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez on Friday asked a [Texas] state appeals court to reverse a lower judge's rulings and give him a chance to prove voter fraud occurred during his defeat in the Democratic primary election.

Rodriguez's attorneys asked a three-judge panel of the 4th Court of Appeals not to allow a "hypertechncial" reading of legal procedures to end his quest to overturn his March 9 loss to Henry Cuellar.

During 50 minutes of oral arguments, Rodriguez attorney Buck Wood defended his contention that Judge Joseph Hart erred last month when he barred him from bringing evidence of voting irregularities, including illegally cast ballots, in his election lawsuit.

Cuellar's attorneys continued to assert that the claims in Rodriguez's lawsuit were too vague. -- Appeals Court Hears Arguments In District 28 Election Lawsuit (AP via

Nevada to Nader: no veep is a no-no on the petitions

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader appeared to be just a few hundred signatures short of making the ballot in Nevada, but supporters found out this week they'll have to start over.

Nader supporter Stan Vaughan said he has gathered about 4,800 signatures to put Nader on the ballot, just short of the roughly 5,000 needed by July 9. ...

But the secretary of state’s office cautioned Vaughan on Monday that state law requires that petitions to put a third-party candidate on the ballot must name both the presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Nader doesn’t have a vice presidential nominee yet, so Vaughan’s signatures easily could be challenged if he were to submit them, said Steve George, spokesman for Secretary of State Dean Heller. -- Nader supporters starting over (AP via Reno Gazette-Journal Online)

Nader trying again to gather 1000 voters in Oregon

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader will make a second attempt to qualify for the Oregon ballot on June 26 in Portland, his campaign announced Thursday.

Nader will attempt to get on the November general election ballot by attracting at least 1,000 state voters to an "assembly of electors" between 5 and 7 p.m. at Benson Polytechnic High School.

The veteran consumer activist, who has run for the presidency twice before, failed to attract enough voters to an April 5 assembly at Portland's Roseland Theater.

Nader and his aides blamed the poor showing on organizational failures and competition with the college basketball final on television. -- Nader will try again in Oregon

Kansas GOP sued over open primary decision

A Sedgwick County [Kansas] district judge issued a temporary restraining order Thursday to block unaffiliated voters from participating in the Republican primary election pending further hearings.

A separate order was filed in Shawnee County District Court in Topeka but was not signed by a judge before court offices closed Thursday afternoon. ...

Open primaries are an issue because of a federal appeals court ruling that struck down an Oklahoma law determining who could participate in primaries.

The court said that political parties, not the state, must decide who can select the parties' candidates.

In the wake of that ruling, [Secretary of State] Thornburgh, a Republican, asked the state chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties how they wanted to conduct their primaries.

[Republican chairman] Jones made his decision after talking informally with some party officials. Democratic chairman Larry Gates opened his party's primary to unaffiliated voters after a conference call with the state party's executive committee.

In seeking the restraining order, Wichita lawyer Richard Macias argued that Jones' move exceeded his authority. He said the state Republican Party's constitution requires that any proposed amendments be approved by a majority of state committee members. -- Lawsuit filed to stop open GOP primary (Wichita Eagle via Biloxi Sun Herald)

Washington Supreme Court leaves the "Montana primary" in effect

The Washington state Supreme Court has cleared the way for Washington to hold a Montana-style primary this September. It will limit voters to one party's ballot for the first time in nearly 70 years.

The high court, acting with unusual haste, turned aside an effort by the state Grange to scuttle the primary system that Gov. Gary Locke created with an unusual veto on April 1. ...

The court's brief order, signed by Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, didn't explicitly say Locke was within his legal rights, but did reject the Grange's effort to halt the Montana-style system.

Opinions - apparently a majority opinion and a dissent - will be issued "in due course," the chief justice wrote. No vote was listed for the nine-judge court, but it was clear there was division. Alexander said he wrote for "a majority of the court." The ruling came down less than six hours after the oral arguments before a packed courtroom at the Temple of Justice. -- High court clears way for Wash. state partisan primaries (AP via

Earle won't have to disclose his investigation of the GOP

The [Texas] state attorney general has ruled that Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle does not have to publicly disclose details of his grand jury investigation into 2002 Republican campaign finance activities.

Earle is investigating whether the Texas Association of Business and a political committee called Texans for a Republican Majority - founded by Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land - violated state law by using corporate money to pay for candidate-related campaign activities.

Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, said in a pair of extensive rulings that Earle, a Democrat, does not have to comply with most of the open records requests filed by Texas Republican Chairman Tina Benkiser and TAB attorney Andy Taylor. -- Ruling: DA won't have to comply with some open records requests (AP via Fort Worth Star Telegram)

Kos sez Republicans are putting Nader on the Arizona ballot

Consider as rumour until verified, but this has been a solid source in the past.

42 Democratic volunteers in Phoenix are currently checking Nader's Arizona petition signatures. Nader needs a 32 percent bad signature rate to be knocked off the ballot, and so far, after 2,000 checked, the rate is 37 percent.

Of those 2,000 signatures, 5 percent have been Democrats, 3 percent "other" or independent, and 92 percent Republican. If this number is verified, and if it holds up over the full 22,000 petition signatures, it will be a clear indication from where Nader's "support" comes. -- Daily Kos || Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

In case anyone needs it spelled out: Nader on the Arizona ballot will hurt Kerry's chance of carrying the state.

June 10, 2004

Judicial candidates violating the campaign rules in Michigan

Some of the men running for judge locally [in Michigan] appear to be breaking the rules of the bench on the campaign trail.

Judges and judicial candidates can't serve as treasurers for their campaigns or let family members do so, under state judicial rules -- the idea is that judges shouldn't be shaking down donors -- but that's the case in three campaigns. ...

They're not alone. The Charlotte-based campaign finance newsletter Warchest recently reported that some 30 judicial candidates in Michigan acted as treasurers themselves this year. -- GOP chair faces criticism for ethics, endorsement snafu (Jackson Citizen Patriot)

Church pleads the First against campaign finance complaint

A [Montana] Baptist church asked the state political practices commissioner Thursday to dismiss a complaint over an event it hosted supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The complaint was filed last month by Montanans for Families and Fairness, a coalition formed to oppose the ban.

The group accused Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church of violating state campaign finance rules by failing to report its use of "in-kind" resources for a May 23 event urging support for Constitutional Initiative 96. ...

The church contends that applying such laws to churches stifles free speech and religious freedom, and says the investigation has discouraged other churches from collecting signatures to put the proposed ban on the November ballot. -- Church asks for dismissal of gay marriage complaint (

Guam primary law held unconstitutional

The way Guam prepares its primary election ballots is unconstitutional and violates a U.S. Supreme Court decision, according to Superior Court of Guam Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena, who yesterday afternoon struck down the local law related to primary election ballots.

Lamorena's decision to strike down the law comes at the request of Attorney General Douglas Moylan, who last year filed a civil suit to challenge the island's primary election process because it allows voters to cross over between races and vote for candidates from different parties. Federal court decisions, including a Supreme Court ruling in 2000, found that similar procedures in Washington and California are unconstitutional because they violate rights of political parties.

The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 4, and Guam Election Commission officials said July 13 is the latest they can wait for a resolution to the issue, because of the need to prepare and send absentee ballots. -- Judge rules against election law (

Washington Supreme Court hears arguments on Locke's partial veto of primary bill

The state Grange, original sponsors of Washington's popular blanket primary, urged the state Supreme Court on Thursday to throw out Gov. Gary Locke's "crafty" veto that created a new system that limits voters to one party's ballot.

"It was illegal. It was crafty," Grange attorney James Johnson told the high court.

The court indicated it will rule promptly, since candidates and election officials need to know by next month at the latest what kind of primary the state will have this September.

For nearly 70 years, Washington used a wide-open primary system that allowed a voter to pick a favorite candidate for each office, regardless of party label. Ticket-splitting has been permissible — and widely used. -- Grange asks high court to throw out new primary (AP via

At least every 10 years or only once per 10 years

If state law requires the Legislature to redraw House and Senate districts every 10 years, is that "at least" every 10 years or "only once" every 10 years?

The New Hampshire Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday that center on that issue. Democrats have sued over a new redistricting plan that affects elections this fall, calling it unconstitutional.

The state constitution requires redistricting following the federal census every 10 years. This forces the Legislature to adjust for population changes and ensures each vote carries the same weight.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Wynn Arnold argued for the Secretary of State, saying the law was written to make sure districts were adjusted "at least" every 10 years and that nothing prevents the Legislature from doing it more often. -- Supreme Court hears argument over redistricting (AP via

Movies as campaign materials -- not a new idea

Upton Sinclair's surprise victory in the California Democratic primary of 1934 frightened the California business establishment -- and the California press lords -- as did nothing before or after. A longtime socialist, Sinclair was the author of dozens of muckraking books, the best known being The Jungle, an expose of the meat-packing industry. But it was one of his numerous pamphlets, I, Governor of California, and How I Ended Poverty, that thrust him into the political spotlight. In the midst of the Depression, his EPIC (End Poverty in California) plan drew a huge grass-roots following. Sinclair advocated having idle factories turned into cooperatives and manned by the unemployed; public ownership of utilities; special taxes on large land holdings; and -- the clincher that brought Standard Oil of California, banks, insurance companies, realtors, and the major movie studios into the fray -- a state income tax on corporations. ...

In southern California, an ad agency, Lord & Thomas (later Foote, Cone & Belding), was, for the first time, given charge of a major political campaign, that of Sinclair's chief opponent, the lackluster Republican governor, Frank F. Merriam. Among Lord & Thomas's pioneering firsts were soliciting out-of-state financing; directing a sophisticated direct mail campaign, targeting such groups as doctors, Catholics, and Stanford alumni; and the airing of a series of anti-Sinclair radio soap operas. (Lord & Thomas had some experience in this area, having created the immensely popular Amos 'n Andy.) The firm also used more conventional techniques. As Don Belding later admitted, "We hired the scum of the streets to carry [EPIC] placards through the cities." Led by Louis B. Mayer, the motion picture studios for the first time set out to destroy a political candidate, visually. March-of-Time-like shorts -- California Election News and The Inquiring Cameraman -- produced by MGM's Irving Thalberg, played between features at local cinemas. As Mitchell notes, "An almost palpable stink drifted from the screen whenever a Sinclairite appeared." Most in fact were movie extras; some of the scenes of the "bums' rush" to California appeared to be out-takes from feature films. -- ...RIGHT BACK WHERE WE STARTED FROM by Curt Gentry (CJR, Sept/Oct 92)

Thanks to Joseph W. Doherty for the link.

June 9, 2004

End-runs around campaign finance laws

Prof. Michael Froomkin had a neat little post last week about the use of highly-partisan movies to skirt campaign finance laws (Movies as a Campaign Finance Law End-Run). The basic idea is to make a partisan movie, such as Michael Moore's virulently anti-Bush film Farenheit 9/11, and then advertise the heck out of it prior to an election. The 30-sec trailers for the movie could be as effective as campaign commercials as anything the candidates and the campaigns "officially" run. As Froomkin notes, this will be a "loophole it will be next to impossible to close." -- The Importance of...: Broadcatching as Political Reform

Nader on the Arizona ballot, but could be challenged

Nader dropped off 22,056 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State, far above the 14,694 required. The vast majority of these signatures were stamped with "PAID CIRCULATOR". The AZ Democratic Party has charged that former AZ GOP chief Nathan Sproul has been paying $3/signature in his efforts to get Nader on the ballot. Sproul and the Nader camp deny the accusations. Nader on AZ ballot (Daily Kos)

Should Democrats challenge this? Just ask Jerry Goldfeder.

Hastert pushing an amendment allowing campaigning by churches

House Republican leaders have tacked on to a major jobs bill a provision that would give religious leaders more freedom to engage in partisan politics without endangering the tax-exempt status of their churches.

Conservative Christian groups have been pushing for such legislation for years, while civil liberties organizations and religious minorities have opposed it. But unlike past proposals, which were stand-alone bills, the current provision is attached to a huge tax bill that House leaders have placed on a fast track for consideration.

A spokeswoman for the House Ways and Means Committee, Christin Tinsworth, said the provision was inserted in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 at the request of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) because "this is an election year and there are not many bills that will become law this year." Hastert's office did not respond to repeated calls Monday and yesterday seeking comment.

The provision's conservative Christian backers, including the Southern Baptist Convention, say selective enforcement by the IRS has had a "chilling effect" on evangelical churches. Some also say the tax code, which was changed in 1954 to prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity, has deprived religious groups of their historical place in U.S. politics. -- Speaker Pushes Jobs Bill Provision (

Thanks to Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo for the link.

Wilder wants to meet with DOJ over Scott's charges

Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, seeking to become mayor of Richmond, has asked for a meeting with U.S. Justice Department officials to counter Rep. Robert C. Scott's attempt to derail the city's at-large mayoral election.

Scott, a Democrat from Newport News, told Justice Department officials June 2 that the plan will dilute black voting strength in Richmond, even though 80 percent of the black majority city approved it in referendum. Scott said the plan was illegal under the Voting Rights Act.

The Justice Department is reviewing the plan, which also was approved by the Virginia legislature and Gov. Mark R. Warner. -- Wilder seeks meeting with feds on congressman's claim (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

DOJ objects to Ville Platte redistricting plan

The Ville Platte [Louisiana] City Council Tuesday received news that the U.S. Justice Department has rejected the city's redistricting plan. The plan, one of seven under consideration, would have kept the current three white and three black districts in the city.

The letter signed by Assistant U. S. Attorney General Alexander Acosta said the Civil Rights Division was concerned over the city's plan to reduce District F's black population percentage by 17 percent. The letter stated that the "city provided no evidence to rebut the conclusion that the plan was written to retrogress minority voting strength by eliminating the electoral ability of black voters in District F."

Justice went on and wrote that the city reviewed but did not give any consideration to Plan 4 prepared by the NAACP which would have created an additional black majority city council district.

The city council's elections were scheduled in the fall of 2002 at the same time as the mayor and police chief but were cancelled due to a problem with the census bureau accurately including newly annexed areas of the city. -- U.S. Justice Dept. rejects Ville Platte redistricting plan (Opelousas Daily World)

The DOJ objection letter is here.

June 8, 2004

Ernie the Attorney: Should lawyers be able to contribute $ to a judge's campaign?

A proposal at the annual Louisiana Bar Association meeting is to adopt a Rule of Professional Conduct that makes it unethical for a lawyer to contribute to a judicial campaign. The trade-off for the judges is that the Bar Association would create a fund for judicial campaigns that is funded by mandatory contributions from bar dues or assessments. There are exceptions for more rural areas and other efforts to make the proposal fair and palatable to the member of both the bar and the judiciary. -- Ernie The Attorney

Montana investigating a church for political activity; church sues

A [Montana] church has sued the state political practices commissioner after she launched an investigation into whether it became a political organization by urging members to support a proposed ballot measure banning same-sex marriage.

Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church of East Helena contends in the federal suit filed Monday in Helena that the campaign finance laws at issue are unconstitutional.

Applying the laws to churches stifles free speech and religious freedom, and the investigation has discouraged churches from collecting petition signatures to put the proposed ban on the November ballot, the suit claims.

''Montana's election law regarding campaign finance and practice is so vague it allows the state to chill free speech and religious expression rights of churches that publicly take a position on the subject of marriage,'' said Benjamin Bull, chief attorney for Alliance Defense Fund. ...

The suit is in response to a complaint filed with Vaughey last month, alleging a May 23 church event urging support for Constitutional Initiative 96 transformed the church into a political committee. The church failed to register as such with Vaughey's office and to report spending associated with the event, the complaint stated. -- Vaughey sued over applying campaign laws to church (The Havre Daily News)

Martin, SD, voting rights suit

A voting rights lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the city of Martin is under way here before U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier.

ACLU attorney Bryan Sells said Monday that the city of Martin should redraw its three city wards to create one ward that favors American Indian voters.

"The 2002 redistricting plan in the city of Martin fragments the Indian population in such a way that Native Americans are pretty evenly distributed among the three city council wards. And they're a minority in all three," Sells said. ...

American Indians constitute 45 percent of the city's population and 38 percent of its voting population, Sells said. -- Judge hearing ACLU suit against city of Martin (AP via Aberdeen News)

The Madison Daily Leader thinks that the ACLU is promoting racism by this suit:

The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal. All adults are entitled to vote, and no one person's vote is more important than another.

This type of legal action actually promotes racism. If the ACLU wins the lawsuit, there will then be an "Indian part of town," and political nominations and elections will be unduly influenced by skin color.

We think the best way to eliminate racism is to stop focusing on race, national heritage or color of skin. We certainly shouldn't establish political boundaries based on those factors.

New Rhode Island plan now law

[Rhode Island] Gov. Don Carcieri on Tuesday signed into law a Senate map redrawn to increase minority representation in the capital city.

The changes affect 12 districts - nearly one-third of all seats in the chamber. They follow a two-year legal battle that ended with a settlement last month. Several minority organizations had claimed the state's 2002 redistricting plan was unfair to black voters on Providence's South Side. -- Carcieri signs into law new Senate map (AP via

June 7, 2004

Soft money is a hard sell for the GOP

Republican operatives attempting to compete with Democratic groups for large sums of unregulated presidential campaign funds have run into a number of roadblocks, including reluctance on the part of many corporations to contribute to new independent groups. ...

Meanwhile, election law lawyers said corporations are showing significant reluctance to get back into making "soft money" donations after passage of the McCain-Feingold law that went into effect on Nov. 6, 2002.

Unlike political committees regulated by the FEC, "527s" -- named for the section of the tax code that governs their activities -- have no restrictions on the sources or amount of contributions, and some have received gifts of $5 million or more. Republicans, encountering corporate unwillingness to give to GOP 527s and seeking to capitalize on the Bush campaign's unprecedented fundraising success, urged the FEC to clamp down on the these groups' activities.

"I would say that on the whole the corporate business community has been very reluctant to support 527s," said GOP lawyer Jan W. Baran. -- Republican 'Soft Money' Groups Find Business Reluctant to Give (

Donkeys in the Desert

In late April, a group of Americans serving in Iraq sent a letter to John Kerry, appealing to the candidate as both an ex-soldier and a peace seeker. It read, in part, "Put bluntly: we believe you need to get over here, suck in some sand and sweat a bit in the desert heat while talking to, among others, U.S. soldiers, Iraqi technocrats, Coalition officials, private sector reconstruction contractors, and tribal leaders. Perhaps only then will you begin to get a real sense of the real Iraq, for Iraq cannot be understood from the halls of Washington or via briefing papers alone." The letter concluded, "As our next Commander-in-Chief, the sooner you get over here, the better," and it was signed, "Donkeys in the Desert."

The Donkeys in the Desert are a small but increasingly vocal minority of Democrats working under the auspices of the Coalition Provisional Authority. They now number about two dozen, up from an original eight, last fall, and most of them are based in Baghdad, although satellite members can be found on the front lines in places like Baqubah and Ramadi. Roughly a third of the Donkeys are soldiers (from sergeants to colonels), and the rest are civilians working in various C.P.A. divisions -- force protection, trade, foreign affairs -- through private contractors or assorted government agencies. The group meets weekly, on Monday nights at eight o’clock, at an old Republican Guard swimming pool within Baghdad’s comfort area, the Green Zone. They eat pizza, drink beer, and discuss voter education and outreach. -- The Absentee Ballot: a Democratic Iraq? (The New Yorker)

Sen. Nelson joins CNN suit for Florida purge records

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson joined CNN on Monday in a lawsuit challenging a Florida statute that prevents copying a list of names of more than 47,000 potential felons set to be purged from voter rolls.

Florida's junior senator agrees with some of the 67 elections supervisors across the state who are concerned about the accuracy of the lists provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. They want to ensure voters are not disenfranchised in the 2004 elections. -- Nelson joins CNN lawsuit over copying felons' voter list (AP via

Voting on "Big Thursday" in London

WHEN Londoners go to the polls on Thursday next week, they will have a chance to vote in three different elections, for the Mayor of London, the London Assembly and the European Parliament.

June 10 has been dubbed Big Thursday, a reference to Big Tuesday in America when a large number of presidential primaries are run simultaneously. ...

There might be three elections, but we have five votes.

European Parliament: one vote This is the simplest election, but it is very different to how general or borough elections are run. We each have one vote, but we are not being asked to elect a local representative to the parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg: at least not directly, and not very local. ...

We could vote only for a party. The parties were then allocated seats based on a form of proportional representation and then decided privately who, from a list of "candidates", filled those seats. ...

Mayor of London: two votes The election of the Mayor will be by the "supplementary vote" system, under which we are asked to indicate our first and second choice of candidate, although you don't have to use your second vote.

If a candidate secures more than half of the first choice votes cast he or she is elected, and the process stops there.

But if, as is almost certain, no candidate passes this threshold, all the candidates, except those with the largest and second largest number of first choices votes is eliminated.

The second choice votes from all of the eliminated candidates are then added up and distributed and the candidate from the remaining two with the biggest combined total of first and second choice votes is elected. ...

London Assembly: two votes The London Assembly election combines the traditional English first-past-the-post system and a form of proportional representation.

The assembly has 25 members, but only 14 are elected to directly represent a constituency, such as Brent and Harrow. The other 11 are London-wide "top-up candidates" who provide the proportionality. -- Three Elections Five Votes On Big Thursday (from This Is Local London)

Colorado re-redistricting will not be heard by US Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate Colorado congressional districts redrawn by Republican lawmakers last year after they gained control of all three branches of state government.

The justices declined to second-guess the Colorado Supreme Court's decision throwing out the new map on grounds the state constitution allows only one redistricting after each census. Today's action leaves in place a congressional map drawn in 2001 by a court after the legislature, at the time split between Democratic and Republican control, couldn't agree on a plan.

Colorado and Texas are embroiled in legal fights over congressional districts adopted last year by new Republican legislative majorities seeking to boost their party's lead in the U.S. House of Representatives. With elections this November, Republicans hold 228 House seats and Democrats have 205 with one independent and one vacancy.

"It is the state legislature -- not any other part of the state -- that has the delegated power to establish the rules governing federal elections'' based on the U.S. Constitution, lawyers for the Colorado legislature said in court papers filed in Washington. -- Colorado Republicans Lose Bid to Restore New Congressional Map (

New Rochelle defends its redistricting plan against GOP attack

A Queens College sociology professor defended his redistricting plan for the New Rochelle [New York] City Council in federal court yesterday [Thursday].

Andrew Beveridge said the plan restored blacks to a majority in the council's District 3 and was in compliance with a federal judge's orders. ...

That suit against the city was brought by the New Rochelle Voter Rights Defense Fund, an organization set up by the city's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and later joined by the city's Republican Party.

The voter rights group and the city earlier this year agreed on a revised redistricting plan that restored District 3 to a 50.2 percent black population, up from 46 percent under the map used in the November elections.

The New Rochelle Republican Party is continuing the case, charging that the most recent plan is an attempt by Democrats, who are a 6-1 council majority, to ensure their overwhelming hold on that panel. -- First of two experts testifies in New Rochelle redistricting case (

Thanks to Jeff Wice for the link.

June 6, 2004

Napa Valley contest: judge rules against challenger

Barring a surprise move, there will be no replay of the March 2 District 5 supervisorial race in November. On Thursday a judge issued a tentative ruling, rejecting Supervisor Mike Rippey's challenge to the March 2 results that saw him lose, by 108 votes, to Harold Moskowite.

The collective hearts of those in Courtroom B in Napa County's Historic Courthouse may have skipped a beat Thursday when Judge Peter Allen Smith said he was ready to rule from the bench. He made the declaration immediately following closing arguments, just before noon Thursday.

"My conclusion is that the high burden of proof has not been met," said the judge. "The conduct described did not affect the outcome of the election."

In a brief interview afterward, Judge Smith said when the parties return to court, Rippey's attorney will have the opportunity to argue against the decision. Although it is uncommon for a judge to reverse a tentative ruling, Smith said his decision "is subject to change, depending on what's presented." -- Judge to rule for Moskowite (

Thanks to a correspondent for the link.

June 5, 2004

Shaprton's latest FEC problem

Former presidential candidate Al Sharpton, a newly-minted television commentator, apparently isn't talking much to the Federal Election Commission.

The FEC said late Friday that Sharpton's campaign, which has already been ordered to return federal matching funds, has not filed its required monthly report.

A report detailing April campaign spending was due by May 20. -- FEC Cites Sharpton Campaign for No Report (AP via

Wilder and Scott square off on preclearance of at-large mayor for Richmond

Former [Virginia] Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is seeking to become mayor, on Friday assailed a congressman who said Richmond's pending switch to an at-large mayoral election could dilute black voting strength.

Rep. Robert C. Scott apparently believes the people of Richmond "are obviously too stupid, too dumb or too racist to elect their own mayor," said Wilder, who, like Scott, is a black Democrat. ...

The mayor is now appointed by city council members, who are elected from wards within the city. The change to at-large elections, coupled with the strengthening of the mayor's executive powers, received 80 percent support in a city vote and was approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Mark R. Warner.

It is now being reviewed by the U.S. Justice Department, and if it is approved, residents will elect a mayor on the November ballot. -- Wilder assails congressman for criticizing change to Richmond, Va., mayoral elections (AP via Hampton Roads Daily Press)

Swanson has a double disability to running

A candidate disqualified from the [Alabama] Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate is suing to get back on the ballot and have another election.

Johnny Swanson of Birmingham filed a suit in federal court in Montgomery against Democratic Party officials and state officials. The suit, filed Tuesday as voters cast ballots in primary elections, seeks to reinstate his candidacy and have a Democratic primary election for the U.S. Senate.

The suit also seeks to have the state parole board restore Swanson's voting rights, which he lost following a 1996 conviction on a tax charge. Swanson said Friday he has been trying for nearly a year to get his voting rights back.

State Democratic Party Chairman Redding Pitt said Friday that party officials were unaware of Swanson's voting status until he filed the suit. -- Swanson sues to get back in U.S. Senate race (AP via

GOP primary would have been open if no opposing party candidates had filed

Odds are either Chuck Rushe or Heather Fiorentino will be [the] next school superintendent [in Pasco County, Florida].

The two are embroiled in arguably the most important local race in the county this year.

But 60 percent of the electorate won't be able to choose between the two candidates.

Many people blame that on James Sean Griffin.

The 33-year old Land O'Lakes Republican joined the race as write-in candidate Thursday, effectively freezing out Democratic, Independent and other non-Republican voters from casting ballots in the Aug. 31 primary. ...

According to state law, write-in candidates, regardless of party affiliation, are eligible to participate during general elections. Before Griffin filed, the primary election between Rushe and Fiorentino - both Republicans - was open to all voters because there was no outside competition. -- Pasco: School chief race hit by twist (St. Petersburg Times)

This is the first I have heard of this mandatory opening of party primaries only under certain conditions. It seems to violate the rights of the party to decide who will be its members.

"It's the database, stupid."

To paraphrase James Carville, "It's the database, stupid."

Both parties have invested millions in central, state-of-the-art data warehouses, data mining software and Web-based user interfaces, creating arsenals of marketing tools that rival those of large corporations. The Republicans, who started building this capability in the mid-1990s, got a jump on the Democrats, who have raced to catch up since 2000. By their own admission, the Democrats still lack some of the capabilities that the GOP already has in place, including the ability to give every field worker in every state online access to voter information. However, says Laura Quinn, managing partner with QRS Newmedia, who developed the Democratic National Committee's post-2000 IT strategy, the Democrats couldn't think of winning without the investments the party has made to date.

Regardless of who's ahead at this particular juncture, the party regulars agree on one thing: The 2004 presidential race may well hinge on how the donkey and the elephant use IT. -- IT on the Campaign Trail (CIO Magazine)

Thanks to Taegan Goddard's Political Wire for the link.

Herseth is first successful campaign-paid candidate

Stephanie Herseth, the South Dakota Democrat who won a hard-fought House race this week, is the first successful candidate to pay herself a salary to run for Congress.

Ms. Herseth took advantage of changes to campaign finance rules two years ago that allowed federal candidates to pay themselves a wage from their campaign treasuries. By allowing candidates to maintain an income, the new rule was intended to encourage people who are not wealthy to run for office.

The rule is being tested this election season in Mississippi, Arkansas and other states, as candidates weigh the benefits of collecting a salary against the possible political attacks and image problems. ...

Ms. Herseth, a 33-year-old lawyer, is probably the most high-profile candidate to pay herself from campaign funds. Since February, she has collected about $2,500 a month, the equivalent of $30,000 a year, said PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign finance. That is less than the roughly $84,400 that she made last year, and less than the $158,100 that members of Congress are paid. -- House Seat Winner Discovers That It Pays to Pay Yourself (New York Times)

June 3, 2004

Electronic Freedom Foundation joins Maryland e-voting case

EFF has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Maryland case that challenges the integrity of that state's electronic voting machines, which are manufactured by the troubled electronic voting machine company, Diebold Election Systems. EFF presented evidence of problems with electronic voting machines from more than 18 elections nationwide in the past few years, including the 2002 gubernatorial election and March 2004 primaries in Maryland. The evidence includes reports of lost votes, votes registering for the wrong candidate, and voters turned away from the polls using both Diebold and other electronic voting systems. ...

In Schade v. the Maryland State Board of Elections, the plaintiffs are a group of concerned Maryland voters who ask that the state of Maryland address widely publicized security and reliability concerns with the Diebold machines and implement a voter verified paper ballot as required by state and federal law. In the short term, the voters are seeking an injunction that would require the state to either take steps to remedy these concerns before the November 2004 elections or follow California's lead in decertifying the machines altogether. The interim steps the lawsuit asks the state to take include implementing the same 23 basic security standards that California is now implementing, and offering Maryland voters the alternative of a paper ballot if they do not wish to have their vote counted by the Diebold machines. -- EFF press release

Thanks to beSpacific for the link.

The press release has links to the EFF brief and the early pleadings in the Maryland case.

Can the IRS really oversee political non-profits?

Campaign-finance watchdog groups are questioning the ability of the Internal Revenue Service to track soft-money fundraising in light of a multi-million-dollar mistake by the Republican Governors Association.

They also say the IRS has little incentive to enforce accurate reporting because the organization is tax-exempt under tax code section 527. At the same time, the issue raises serious issues with how the RGA keeps its books, the congressional newspaper The Hill reported.

The RGA has told the IRS that last year it failed to report more than $3 million it raised in the months preceding the gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis. The organization also failed to report nearly $4 million in expenditures. ...

Derek Willis, an analyst with the Center for Public Integrity, said the amendments not only raise questions about the ability of the RGA to keep accurate books, but also the IRS soft-money tracking system. -- IRS Accused of Failing to Aggressively Track Tax-Exempt Organizations (AccountingWEB)

Pro-GOP group will run ads for Senate candidate in North Carolina

Remember that post I had nearly a month ago about the "shadow Republican Party" using 501(c) organizations? Here is one of those groups.

Americans for Job Security, a Northern Virginia group with ties to the insurance industry, is scheduled to launch television ads in North Carolina today that praise Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Burr. The commercials are the first sign of the national wave of third-party advertising expected to hit the state's Senate race.

Erskine Bowles, the expected Democratic candidate, called on Burr to request that outside groups not advertise in the campaign. A Burr spokesman on Wednesday evening said the campaign staff had just learned of the ad and couldn't respond until they had seen it.

The 30-second ad is running in Charlotte and Raleigh in what one television station official called a "large" purchase of airtime. The group appeared to have spent about $300,000 just in Charlotte, an official at another station said.

The ad lauds Burr as pro-business and highlights his votes against certain trade treaties seen as costing American jobs, according to an advertising executive who saw the commercial. Campaign finance laws prohibit independent ads from promoting a candidate for a specific office, so the commercial doesn't mention the Senate race but encourages viewers to call Burr, providing a telephone number. -- Va. group backs Burr with TV ads (Charlotte Observer)

Michigan Secretary of State dismisses charges

The [Michigan] Secretary of State's office on Thursday dismissed a complaint against a state representative that accused him of violating Michigan's campaign finance law by using a nonprofit agency he created to pay staff members for political work.

David Murley, of the Secretary of State's Legal and Regulatory Services, said the complaint filed against Rep. Stephen Ehardt by two of Ehardt's former aides, Mark Powell and Jake Wielock, doesn't show how Ehardt or his nonprofit organization violated the Michigan Campaign Finance Act.

Ehardt's two former aides accused the Lexington Republican of using the nonprofit organization he formed, Better Michigan Inc., to pay political employees. It was created in 2001 to raise money from corporations and give it to other community organizations.

The two also charged that the nonprofit received corporate donations, but Murley said they didn't show that the nonprofit received donations from corporations. -- Secretary of State says not enough evidence for campaign finance complaint (AP via Detroit Free Press)

12,000 Canadian prisoners get the vote

Convicted serial robber Kevin Culmer calls his new right to help pick Canada's next prime minister a "great gift of humanity." The 42-year-old dual citizen of the Bahamas is among 12,000 federal prisoners -- including mass murderers, serial rapists and child molesters -- who now have the right to vote behind bars.

This week Elections Canada is distributing information kits and posters to all penitentiaries, advising inmates their vote is secret, simple -- and that "it counts."

Culmer, who stays informed on the daily issues of the campaign while doing time for 14 robberies, will encourage his fellow inmates to join him in casting a ballot. He believes it instils a sense of civic responsibility.

"Voting is the greatest exercise in freedom that one can have, and to allow us to vote is a great gift of humanity," he said in an interview at Pittsburgh Institution near Kingston, one of seven sites in Ontario's prison hub. -- Cons set to cast ballots (Winnipeg Sun)

Latinos sue Modesto for at-large elections

Lawyers representing a Latino group said they plan today to file a lawsuit contending Modesto's at-large City Council elections are illegal.

The lawsuit will claim Modesto violates the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 by diluting the minority vote and denying Latinos their right to participate in city government.

The lawsuit, to be filed in Stanislaus County Superior Court, would be the first to test the voting law that took effect Jan. 1, 2003. The outcome is to have statewide ramifications. -- Proposed suit seeks district elections (Modesto Bee)

Rhode Island legislature approves new Senate districts

The House on Thursday unanimously approved new lines for 12 Senate districts, reconfigured to settle a lawsuit over minority representation.

The Senate has already approved the new map. It now awaits Gov. Don Carcieri's signature into law. Carcieri's spokesman, Jeff Neal, said the governor has not yet reviewed the new Senate map. -- House approves new Senate map (AP via

Arizona withdraws Section 5 preclearance request

The state on Thursday withdrew its application for federal clearance to use new legislative districts, ensuring that districts that closely track those used in 2002 will be used again in this year's election.

The Independent Redistricting Commission's attorneys withdrew the application before the U.S. Department of Justice immediately after the commission voted 3-2 to order the withdrawal. -- State withdraws redistricting application, map similar to 2002's will be used (AP via Tucson Citizen)

CNN sues Florida for copy of list of alleged felons

As Florida county election boards review a list of thousands of potentially ineligible voters -- including some who may be felons -- CNN is suing the state, claiming the public and media should also be able to review the list.
The move comes four years after the state's voter rolls were at the center of one of the closest elections in U.S. history.
The state Monday denied a CNN request for a copy of the list of up to 48,000 people. These people, according to the state, could be ineligible to vote because they are felons or have multiple registrations -- or have died since the last election. ...

The state said that only government officials, candidates for office, and political parties can be provided copies of such records under state law.

CNN as well as members of the general public were invited to view the documents in the Florida Division of Elections headquarters in Tallahassee, on the condition that there be no photocopying or note-taking. ...

CNN filed suit Friday in a state circuit court in Tallahassee, Florida. --
CNN asks Florida court for ineligible voters list (

Appointed House members amendment is dead

House lawmakers rejected a proposed constitutional amendment yesterday that would have allowed governors to name replacements if half the 435-member chamber died in a terrorist attack or other disaster.

Opponents said the House should never abandon direct election. Lawmakers supporting the amendment said that without the succession plan, the House would expose itself to a lengthy period of powerlessness should hundreds of members die at the same time.

"We feel very, very passionately about the need to ensure that no one ever serves in the 'people's house' without having first being elected," said House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), a critic of the amendment. ...

[The] proposal was defeated by a vote of 353 to 63, well short of the two-thirds needed to approve a constitutional amendment. -- Plan to Allow Appointed Successors Is Defeated (AP via

What to do about Nader? Jerry Goldfeder has this suggestion:

But persuasion may not be enough. A New York election lawyer by training, I instinctively think that Mr. Nader should not be given a free ride. He should be required to comply with the law in order to have his name on the ballot, especially in the 17 swing states. In other words, he should have his petitions checked very carefully.

Make sure he has the correct number of valid signatures; make sure all the signers are eligible voters, and make sure the voters are registered from the addresses they put on the petitions.

Most Democrats are not fond of challenging petitions. It seems undemocratic. Maybe it's because I live in a state that has about 50% of the nation's election-law litigation that allows me to easily urge that Mr. Nader be required to fully comply with the law.

As politically incorrect as it might seem, therefore, if Mr. Nader wants to attract votes in an election that promises to be hair-splittingly close, let him earn his place on the ballot.

If he hasn't complied with a state's election law, Democratic election lawyers should demand that courts knock him off. -- No More Mr.Nice Guy (New York Sun)

Spargo case on the Supreme Court conference today

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court launched a national debate over what candidates for judicial office should be able to say on the campaign trail.

Today, the high court will consider a petition from a controversial New York judge who wants to continue and expand the debate, but has been thwarted by procedural obstacles in courts below. This case, Spargo v. New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, 03-1273, is one of dozens the court will review at its closed conference to determine whether they should be added to the docket for the fall term.

In Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, the Supreme Court in 2002 struck down a Minnesota canon of judicial conduct that prohibited judges and judicial candidates from announcing their opinions on political and legal issues. For the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the code section "burdens a category of speech that is 'at the core of our First Amendment freedoms' -- speech about the qualifications of candidates for public office."

Albany, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice Thomas Spargo hopes to use this decision to his advantage in his fight against state disciplinary charges filed against him in 2002 by the Commission on Judicial Conduct. -- Judicial Campaigning Lands at Supreme Court Doorstep (Legal Times)

June 2, 2004

"I've never gotten a chicken dinner from Mayor Hahn"

Three Los Angeles attorneys, including prominent lawyer Pierce O'Donnell, have been charged with making illegal contributions to Mayor James K. Hahn in his 2001 political campaign.

O'Donnell faces 26 misdemeanor charges of making contributions in other people's names, which could result in a maximum sentence of 13 years in prison. O'Donnell allegedly gathered $25,500 in contributions for Hahn's campaign -- in order to comply with the legal limit of $1,000 per contributor -- and then reimbursed the donors, in violation of state law.

O'Donnell said Tuesday that his was not a case of pay-to-play -- the exchange of political contributions for government work.

"I never got a chicken dinner from Mayor Hahn," he said. -- Prominent Lawyer Charged With Making Illegal Gifts (Los Angeles Times)

Mississippi governor wants unlimited corporate contributions

[Mississippi] Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday that if lawmakers remove limitations on corporate donations to political action committees from the campaign finance bill, he would reconsider his veto.

Barbour said the cap on contributions included in House Bill 1244 limits political participation instead of increasing disclosure.

The bill would limit corporate PAC contributions to $2,000, the same as donations to political candidates and political parties. Companies can now make unlimited contributions to PACs, which run political issue ads during campaigns.

"If the bill authors and the leadership of the Legislature would agree to simply take out the problem language and send me the rest of the bill, I would add the campaign finance bill to a special session agenda," Barbour said in a written statement. -- Gov. may rethink campaign finance bill (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)

FEC fines Casal for reimbursing others for contributions

The Federal Elections Commission has fined a former Venezuelan commerce minister for making $2,500 in illegal campaign contributions to the 2000 re-election campaign of Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, now a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Jose Casal, a former Venezuelan senator and minister of commerce, agreed to a civil penalty of $8,250 for violating federal campaign finance laws barring contributions by a foreign national, according to documents released by the FEC on Wednesday.

Penelas' campaign said the mayor was unaware of the case and did not know Casal. ...

Casal reimbursed five employees of Victec Environmental Services, Inc., for making $500 individual contributions to Penelas' mayoral campaign committee, according to an FEC factual and legal analysis dated Oct. 7, 2003. -- FEC fines contributor to Penelas mayoral campaign (AP via

Bush seeking "friendly congregations"

The Bush campaign is seeking to enlist thousands of religious congregations around the country in distributing campaign information and registering voters, according to an e-mail message to a Pennsylvania pastor.

Liberal groups charged that the effort invited violations of the separation of church and state and jeopardized the tax-exempt status of churches that cooperated. Some socially conservative church leaders also said they would advise pastors against participating in such a partisan effort. But Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush administration, said "people of faith have as much right to participate in the political process as any other community" and that the e-mail message was about "building the most sophisticated grass-roots presidential campaign in the country's history."

In the message, dated early Tuesday afternoon, Luke Bernstein, coalitions coordinator for the Bush campaign in Pennsylvania, wrote: "The Bush-Cheney '04 national headquarters in Virginia has asked us to identify 1,600 `Friendly Congregations' in Pennsylvania where voters friendly to President Bush might gather on a regular basis."

In each targeted "place of worship," Mr. Bernstein continued, without mentioning a specific religion or denomination, "we'd like to identify a volunteer who can help distribute general information to other supporters." He explained: "We plan to undertake activities such as distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation." -- G.O.P. Seeking Congregations for Bush Effort (New York Times) **

Different pens used on absentee ballots are an issue in Napa Valley contest

A half-dozen witnesses took the stand Tuesday as the trial to determine the outcome of Napa County's District 5 supervisor race winds down. Closing arguments are expected to begin today.

At issue is challenger Harold Moskowite's slim 108-vote margin of victory over incumbent Rippey, and whether Rippey's attorney has raised enough doubt about the results to either reverse the outcome or force a new election.

Documents expert David Moore wrapped up his testimony, with Moskowite's attorney Charles Bell attempting to show that the use of different inks or different pens on the same ballot is not necessarily evidence of tampering.

Using Moore's own scale of probability -- used primarily in handwriting analysis to show a likelihood that a discrepancy exists -- Bell chipped away at the contention a person other than the original voter marked ballots for Moskowite.

Moore admitted that on their own, individual paper ballots are not conclusive. "I can't exclude the possibility a voter may have picked up a different pen, but there's no logical doubt in my mind (there was tampering)," he said.

But Moore has contended there were more than 100 such ballots. On Tuesday, he said, "If I'd found one or two, it's not a problem. Ultimately it became cumulative." -- Absentee ballots scrutinized in election trial (

Is the Arizona voting case resolved for this election at least?

The Hispanic Democrats likely will not ask the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn a stay issued Friday by the Court of Appeals, said Paul Eckstein, an attorney for the challengers.

With the June 9 candidate filing deadline fast approaching, the Court of Appeals said it was too late in the election process to switch to different districts or to leave uncertainty about which map would be used. ...

It could change if the U.S. Department of Justice this week authorizes use of a new map drawn by the Independent Redistricting Commission at the order of the trial judge or if the commission decides Thursday to delay withdrawing its application for authorization, but neither is likely, Eckstein added.

The Redistricting Commission has scheduled a meeting Thursday to review its legal position and to consider withdrawing the application. -- Voting map fight over? (AP and Casa Grande Valley Newspapers)

June 1, 2004

Does the "paid for by" line have to be in English?

A radio station [in North Carolina] temporarily suspended broadcasts of a commercial for a Republican congressional candidate who rails against illegal immigration but then signs off in Spanish, including the salutation "Yo, Gringo!"

WSJS-AM said it made the decision over the holiday weekend because it was unclear if the sponsor was clearly identified in the otherwise-English ad for candidate Vernon Robinson. The ad contends the prevalence of Spanish spoken in the United States can make English-speaking Americans feel like they're in "The Twilight Zone."

Only the final line is in Spanish. After "Yo, Gringo!" -- a contemptuous Spanish term for Americans -- the rest translates to "This episode of 'The Twilight Zone' was paid for by Robinson for Congress."

The commercial was returned to the air Tuesday with the English translation. WSJS manager Tom Hamilton said all political ads were temporarily suspended while the problem with Robinson's ad was resolved. -- Radio station suspends pro-English ad (AP via

The gang that couldn't count

The Republican Governors Association (RGA), the largest 527 group allied with the GOP, has informed the IRS that it failed to report millions of dollars in receipts and expenditures last year.

The errors misrepresented the organization's fundraising and political activities in the months leading up to the gubernatorial races in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi and the recall of Gov. Gray Davis (D) in California. ...

The watchdogs also say the sheer size of the errors raises serious questions about how the RGA keeps its books, and note that similar mistakes by a political committee regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) would certainly result in an audit and perhaps in fines as well.

Amended IRS filings show that the RGA failed to report more than $3 million or nearly 20 percent of the $15.7 million it raised in 2003. The filings also show that the organization failed to report close to $4 million or 25 percent of $15.5 million in expenditures. -- GOP governors group says it underreported millions to IRS (The

ND AG OK's ads without federal approval statement

Federal rules that require candidates for president and Congress to endorse their own campaign ads do not apply to people running for North Dakota office, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says.

Stenehjem said a disclaimer also would not be required if a candidate for state office or the Legislature featured an endorsement from a federal candidate, if the state candidate's campaign committee paid for the advertisement.

For example, if Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., or Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., appeared in a television or radio ad endorsing the re-election of state Sen. Mike Polovitz, D-Grand Forks, the ad would not need a federal disclaimer statement. Dorgan, Pomeroy and Polovitz are all running for re-election this fall. -- Federal campaign rules don't apply to state candidates, Stenehjem says (AP via

Some New Hampshire districts still not accepting qualifying papers

On the eve of the filing period, the state Supreme Court lifted an injunction Tuesday against filing for 15 state Senate seats but left filing closed for all state House seats.

The court noted that Democrats and the state had agreed on which Senate districts were affected by a redistricting lawsuit, but not the House seats.

The filing period for all state and federal offices opens Wednesday and runs through June 11. Other offices are not affected by the injunction.

Democrats asked the court Thursday to block changes to House and Senate districts pushed through by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Democrats argue the changes protect incumbents and corral Democrats into fewer districts.

Democrats also argue that Republicans lack constitutional authority to redistrict outside a 10-year reapportionment schedule. -- Court opens some Senate seats; leaves House filing closed (AP via

Texas redistricting case still on hold in Supreme Court

Sam Hirsch writes, "On Friday, May 28, the U.S. Supreme Court requested responses from the state defendant-appellees to the five jurisdictional statements filed by plaintiff-appellants in the Texas congressional redistricting case, Session v. Perry. The responses are due on Monday, June 28. Reply briefs will be filed this summer, and we would expect the Court either to note probable jurisdiction or to summarily affirm the judgment below this fall."