Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: March 2005 Archives

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March 31, 2005

Texas: TRMPAC exhibits show "influence peddling"

The Texas Observer reports: "Unlike other organizations, your corporate contributions to TRMPAC will be put to productive use,” reads the document subpoenaed from Texans for a Republican Majority Executive Director John Colyandro. It’s one of hundreds of exhibits offered into evidence for a recent civil trial—and presumedly, presented to the Travis County grand jury for its ongoing criminal investigation as well. The political brochure—paid for with corporate money—was aimed at donors to the Tom DeLay-founded PAC, and titled “TRMPAC GOALS.”

What, you may ask, made TRMPAC so “productive” that it could accomplish what “other” political organizations had been unable to do in a century of political campaigning?

It continues: “Rather than just paying for overhead, your support will fund a series of productive and innovative activities designed to increase our level of engagement in the political arena.”

Specifically, TRMPAC took corporate money in 2002 from companies with business before the Texas Legislature or the U.S. Congress and used it for fund-raising, phone banks, polling, and campaign support for individual state candidates. The interpretation of what constituted legal administrative expenses—up until now—consisted primarily of items such as rent, utilities, and clerical needs. Spending corporate or union money on candidates has been illegal in Texas since 1905, when farsighted legislators recognized that if the vast treasuries of corporations and unions were applied to elections, they could easily overwhelm our democratic system.

All told, TRMPAC spent $1.5 million, of which more than $600,000 was undeclared corporate money. (The PAC’s use of corporate cash went unreported to the Texas Ethics Commission.) TRMPAC documents, entered as exhibits during a week-long civil trial brought by losing Democratic candidates that ended March 4, refer to the historic opportunity that presented itself in 2002. (At press time, Senior District Judge Joe Hart, before whom the case was tried, had yet to reach a verdict.) Redistricting in 2001 had created new, solidly Republican House districts. And a number of corporate interests were bursting with pent-up desire for goodies past legislatures had failed to bestow. -- TRMPAC in Its Own Words, 4/1/2005 - The Texas Observer

Texas: voter database is behind schedule

The Texas Civil Rights Review reports: A project to develop a statewide database for voter registration is running behind schedule, but the state's manager of the project predicts it will be completed in time to meet a federal deadline of Jan. 1.

"It has taken a little while to get the project on its feet," says Bob Futrell, who oversees the project for the Texas Secretary of State, "but it's okay now."

A mandate to create the Texas Voter Registration/Election Management System (TEAMS) originates in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 which requires all states to have centralized databases by Jan. 1.

"Meeting the January deadline will be a challenge," said Futrell, speaking by telephone Thursday from his Austin office, "but in my experience these things are always a challenge up front." Futrell is an expert in the management of software development, holding academic positions at the University of Texas and at Austin Community College. He has also co-authored a textbook in the field.

With an estimated 36,000 hours of work going into the project at an initial cost of $9.5 million, winning bidders IBM and Hart InterCivic promise to deliver a statewide voter registration database, election management, ballot definition, election night reporting, and a jury management system, too. -- texascivilrightsreview.org - Texas Voter Database Running Behind Schedule

March 28, 2005

Improving state election laws

From a press release by The Century Foundation: In an effort to improve future elections, The Century Foundation has created a Post-2004 Working Group on Election Reform. This bipartisan group of prominent election law and voting reform experts will produce concrete policy options states can follow in order to improve the voting process.

The members of the working group are: Tova Wang, senior program officer and democracy fellow, The Century Foundation (executive director); Doug Chapin, director, Electionline.org; Norm Ornstein, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute; Guy-Uriel E. Charles, associate professor of law, University of Minnesota Law School; Edward B. Foley, professor of law and director, Election Law@Moritz, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University; Samuel Isacharoff, visiting professor at NYU School of Law and Harold R. Medina Professor in Procedural Jurisprudence, Columbia University School of Law; Martha Kropf, assistant professor of political science, University of Missouri, Kansas City; Roy Schotland, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center; and Dan Tokaji, assistant professor of law and associate director, Election Law@Moritz, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University.

The 2004 presidential election was the first big test of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Enacted in the wake of the deeply flawed 2000 election, the law was passed in an effort to both improve the voting process and to increase voter access. However, the results on Election Day were mixed at best. While there were improvements in the voting process in a number of jurisdictions, the ways in which many states carried out the law’s mandates produced a number of unintended consequences, resulting in allegations of fraud and voter disenfranchisement.

The working group’s mission is to promote an election system that balances ballot integrity with voting rights and accessibility. The group will assess the key provisions of HAVA, analyze the ways in which they were implemented in 2004, and provide guidelines for how they ought to be implemented by the states in the future. In addition, the working group will analyze how states are preparing to comply with HAVA requirements that have implementation deadlines at the end of this year. They plan to provide the best policy options for states to meet these mandates in a report scheduled for release in late spring. more…

"While the goals of HAVA were generally positive, the law turned out to be deficient in many areas and implementation by the states was flawed," said Tova Wang, executive director of the working group. She noted that a variety of lawsuits have been filed throughout the country about the implementation of HAVA, and advocates and government officials continue to spar over interpretations of the law’s requirements and flaws in the voting process. "The disputes almost universally revolve around one core principle: the competing values of ensuring ballot integrity while maintaining wide voting accessibility. We will take a very practical approach to solving the problems that HAVA may have inadvertently created and provide realistic approaches the states can take in order to fulfill the promise that HAVA originally intended," she added.

The Century Foundation has been at the forefront of efforts to reform the voting system since the issue achieved national prominence following the 2000 presidential contest. In 2001, the foundation cosponsored The National Commission on Election Reform, cochaired by former Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. The final report of that commission served as the model for important measures in the Help America Vote Act. Information on issues related to election reform is available at www.tcf.org.

For more information about the Working Group or election reform issues, contact Christy Hicks at hicks@tcf.org or (212) 452-7723.

March 26, 2005

"Election Protection and Democracy Expansion"

ELECTION PROTECTION AND DEMOCRACY EXPANSION:
A CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM AGENDA FOR THE NEW CENTURY

Presented by
Washington College of Law’s Program on Law and Government and the
American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy, & the Law

Thursday, March 31, 2005
1:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Room 603


Do We Need a Constitutional Amendment Guaranteeing the Right to Vote?

John Bonifaz – Founder and General Counsel, National Voting Rights Institute

Kim Gandy – President, National Organization for Women

Alex Keyssar – Matthew W. Stirling, Jr. Professor of History and Social Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Spencer Overton – Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School

Jamin Raskin – Professor of Law, Washington College of Law

Frank Watkins – Press Secretary, Director of Communication, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.

Graduating from Electoral College: Red-White-and Blue Proposals to Nationalize Our Presidential Elections

George C. Edwards – Professor of Political Science, Texas A & M University

John Koza – Electoral College Activist

Amy Morris – Political Analysis Coordinator, VotePair.org

Jamin Raskin – Professor of Law, Washington College of Law

Peter Shane – Professor of Law, Ohio State University

Diversifying Democracy: Enhancing Women and Minorities’ Chances for Political Participation and Electoral Success

Roger Clegg – Vice President and General Counsel, Center for Equal Opportunity

Anita Earls – Director of Advocacy, University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights

David Moon – Program Director, Full Representation Program, Center for Voting and Democracy

Mary Clark – Professor of Law, Washington College of Law (moderator)

Register online at www.wcl.american.edu/secle

and click on Event Registration

For more information, contact the Office of

Special Events and Continuing Legal Education

at (202) 274-4386 or secle@wcl.american.edu

A new blog on early voting

Prof. Paul Gronke of Reed College has started a new blog on early voting. Here is his description: This blog disseminates information about early voting (voting before election day, at non-precinct locations), an increasingly common form of voting in the United States, and worldwide. The blog is intended to be a resource to the election administration, reform, and research community. -- earlyvote


March 25, 2005

Pres. Carter to head election reform commission

Reuters reports: Former President Jimmy Carter will lead a bipartisan commission to examine problems with the U.S. election system, American University's Center for Democracy and Election Management said on Thursday.

Carter, a Democrat whose Carter Center has monitored more than 50 elections around the world, will co-chair the private commission with Republican James Baker, who served as Secretary of State under President George H. W. Bush. ...

The Center for Democracy and Election Management, which will organize the work of Carter's commission, said the group would hold two public hearings -- the first on April 18 at American University in Washington and the second at Houston's Rice University in June.

The Commission on Federal Election Reform aims to produce a report to Congress on its findings by September. -- Politics News Article | Reuters.com

FEC proposal on regulation of Internet politics

The New York Times reports: The Federal Election Commission on Thursday proposed new ways to apply campaign finance rules to online political activity, inviting members of the public to comment on how the agency should regulate things like online advertising and e-mailed political messages.

The proposal, which would primarily address paid political advertising on the Internet, was the first step toward new rules that were mandated by a federal court last year after the commission lost a legal challenge.

Accordingly, the six-member commission, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, is treading lightly as it begins what will be a months-long process that includes a public hearing in June. ...

The proposal suggests extending campaign finance rules that cover advertising in other media like television to cover Internet advertising as well, meaning, for example, that advertisements could not be bought using unlimited "soft money" contributions in many cases.

But it also proposes exemptions for political activity conducted by individual advocates, as well as for Web sites that carry news articles, commentary and editorial content. There are also proposed exemptions for state political parties. -- The New York Times > Washington > Election Commission Urges Finance Rules for Online Politics

The draft regulations can be downloaded here.

Roundup on voter ID bills

MALDEF has produced a chart of the bills pending in state legislatures regarding voter I.D. and proof of citizenship. You may download the file here.

MALDEF's testimony on three of those bills is available
here.

Thanks to Nina Perales for providing these to me.

Arizona: Clean Elections Commission orders legislator to vacate seat for overspending

The Arizona Republic reports: In a historic move, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission voted Thursday to oust state Rep. David Burnell Smith from office for overspending his public campaign limits by more than $6,000.

The 5-0 vote marks the first time in the United States that a legislator has been ordered to forfeit his office for violating a publicly financed election system.

Smith, who did not attend the meeting, said he will immediately appeal the panel's decision to an administrative law judge, vowing, "I have not yet begun to fight!" The Scottsdale Republican will continue serving in the Legislature pending the appeal. ...

Under state law, the penalty for a candidate who overshoots his publicly funded spending limit by more than 10 percent is to be removed from office. Smith is accused of overspending his limit by about 17 percent. During his GOP primary, Lemon said, Smith spent at least $6,000 more than the limit set by state law to disqualify candidates for violations of the voter-approved system.

His spending limit for the primary under Clean Elections rules was $24,500. An independent audit done for the commission showed that, according to Smith's campaign bank account and invoices from his consultant, Constantin Querard, he spent nearly $32,000 to win his primary. -- Legislator told to quit over campaign violation

March 21, 2005

FEC begins consideration of online regulation

The Washington Post reports: The Federal Election Commission has begun considering whether to issue new rules on how political campaigns are waged on the Internet, a regulatory process that is expected to take months to complete but that is already generating considerable angst online.

The agency is weighing whether -- and how -- to impose restrictions on a host of online activities, including campaign advertising and politically oriented blogs.

Election officials are reluctantly taking up the issue, after losing a court case last fall. The FEC, which enforces federal election law, had issued scores of regulations delineating how the campaign finance reform legislation adopted in 2002 ought to be implemented. But Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), who sponsored the legislation, complained that many of those rules were too lax, and they successfully sued to have them rescinded. The commission must now rewrite a number of those directions, including ones that left online political activities virtually free from government regulation.

"We are almost certainly going to move from an environment in which the Internet was per se not regulated to where it is going to be regulated in some part," said FEC Commissioner David M. Mason, a Republican. "That shift has huge significance because it means that people who are conducting political activity on the Internet are suddenly going to have to worry about or at least be conscious of certain legal distinctions and lines they didn't used to have to worry about." -- FEC Considers Restricting Online Political Activities (washingtonpost.com)

March 20, 2005

You are one of the "influentials"

The results of the BlogAds survey of you and your fellow blog readers have been posted: Now you can tell your pajama-bashing friends that the data from last week's blog reader survey indicates that 70% of blog readers are influentials, those articulate, networked 10% of Americans who set the agenda for the other 90%. (RoperASW, the folks who wrote the book on Influentials, have more information on the definition on influentials here.)

I guess the CBS guy just forgot to mention that those pajamas are silk, not rayon.

When I mentioned 70% data last Friday at the panel on influentials at the George Washington University conference on Online Politics, Carol Darr, the institute's director, said this ratio correlated with the data that her group had observed last year in a study of influentials online.

To put the blogosphere's influentials density in context, consider that the WashingtonPost.com likes to brag that 34% of its readers are influentials. -- Blogads weblog

Follow this link to see the detailed survey. Thanks to those of you who responded. The survey helps BlogAds sell ads to keep blogs going and it helps all of us understand blog readers better.

Provisional ballots -- rate of counting varied widely

The New York Times reports: Two-thirds of the more than 1.6 million provisional ballots cast in last year's presidential election were counted, but there were wide differences from state to state. Alaska counted 97 percent of its provisional votes, Delaware just 6 percent.

The figures are from a study by electionline.org, a nonpartisan clearinghouse for election information. It is the most comprehensive look yet at how states carried out the major change to grow out of the 2000 presidential vote in Florida, when administrative errors and voter registration database problems kept thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots.

In the 43 states where figures were available, provisional votes accounted for just over 1 percent of the total votes counted. In Alaska, 7.2 percent of all the votes counted came from provisional ballots, the highest of any state.

A law enacted by Congress in 2002 required all states to adopt procedures to allow people whose names are not on voter lists but who believe they are registered to cast ballots that can be checked later. Provisional voting "was a success in many ways in terms of what happened in 2000 when people were turned away and had no fail-safe way of voting," said Elizabeth Schneider, one of the authors of the study. -- The New York Times > Washington > Counting of 2004 Provisional Ballots Varied Widely, Study Finds

The study is here.

March 19, 2005

Al Sharpton campaign tied to Philadelphia corruption probe

AP reports: For anyone who looked closely enough, the presidential campaign finance reports posed a mystery: Why, in the winter of 2003, were a handful of wealthy investment bankers making donations to the Rev. Al Sharpton?

Federal prosecutors offered this surprising answer: It was all part of a scheme involving government pension funds, city contracts, and a plan to take over scores of fast-food franchises.

The unusual allegation was tucked away in a 150-page indictment handed up last June as part of a sweeping FBI probe of city government in Philadelphia. A federal jury began hearing more about it Wednesday in the trial of the city's former treasurer, Corey Kemp.

The case centers on charges that Kemp accepted thousands of dollars in illegal gifts from the late Democratic fund-raiser Ronald White in exchange for influence over which companies received city contracts. -- Investment Scheme Unfolds in Philly Trial (phillyBurbs.com)

South Dakota: federal judge stops use of redistricting law

The Argus Leader reports: A federal judge has blocked a South Dakota law that would have let county officials redraw their county commissioner districts more than once a decade.

The Legislature passed HB1265 as an emergency measure, and Gov. Mike Rounds signed it March 9. Legislators said the law was needed because of a federal lawsuit against Charles Mix County.

In January, Native American voters, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit alleging the Charles Mix County Commission districts discriminate against Native Americans, reducing their opportunity to have affect elections in proportion to their numbers.

The county should have redrawn its voting districts after the 2000 census, the plaintiffs said. State law allows redistricting every 10 years after each census. -- Argus Leader - News

Georgia: bill would have tightest restrictions on voter ID

The Macon Telegraph reports: A bill to require voters to present photo identification at the polls before casting a vote would give Georgia the country's most restrictive voter ID law.

Senate Bill 84 and sections of House Bill 244 differ slightly, but both require voters to present certain forms of approved voter ID before casting a ballot. Voters who showed up at the polls without such ID would not be allowed to vote.

The Senate bill would only allow the following forms of ID: a driver's license or state-issued ID card, a government employee ID with photo, a U.S. passport or a military ID.

Tim Storey, a senior fellow with the National Council of State Legislatures, said five states currently require voters to present voter ID at the polls: South Carolina, Florida, South Dakota, Arizona and Louisiana. All of them have some form of contingency ballot if a voter doesn't have the proper paperwork.

"There is no state now where you would be turned away completely without an ID," Storey said. -- Macon Telegraph | 03/19/2005 | ID bill could make Georgia unique in turning away voters

Alabama also has a voter ID law.

Washington State: felons thought they could vote

The Seattle Times report: Of 99 felons who apparently voted illegally in King County in the last general election, just 10 showed up in person yesterday at a hearing where they could challenge the county's move to purge them from the voter rolls.

And none of the 10 actually denied being a felon or presented evidence that voting rights had been restored. ...

The hearing was held before Dean Logan, the director of the county's Office of Elections, Records and Licensing Services. Joly presented evidence that all of the 99 were registered voters, had felony convictions and had not had their civil rights restored.

Under Washington law, felons can petition the court to have their right to vote restored after showing they have completed their sentences and paid all restitution and fines.

Some of the 10 voters at the hearing clearly felt they were on trial again. Logan was seated at a dais and Joly, as the prosecutor, at a table in front of him.

After taking a seat at a table on the opposite side of the room and being sworn in, each of the voters was provided with copies of the evidence against them and a pamphlet from the American Civil Liberties Union explaining how they could regain their right to vote. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Felons tell officials they thought they still could vote

March 15, 2005

Votes for Puerto Rico?

Howard Bashman writes in his How Appealing blog: First Circuit panel to reconsider eligibility of Puerto Rico residents to vote for President and Vice-President of the United States: A reader emails:

Igartua v. United States is a case in which the U.S. District Court for Puerto Rico granted Puerto Rico electoral votes in U.S. presidential elections. The First Circuit, having overturned the granting of this relief in 2000 (Case No. 00-2083, available here), rejected it again in 2004 (case No. 04-2186; available here), over a dissent by Judge Torruella, who is from Puerto Rico and was formerly a District Judge there.

A motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc was filed, which was pending without decision for an unusually long time. Yesterday, quite unexpectedly, the panel granted rehearing in the following order (from PACER):

"ORDER entered by Judge Juan R. Torruella, Senior Judge Levin H. Campbell, and Judge Jeffrey R. Howard. The petition for panel rehearing is granted respecting the issues described below. The rehearing will be scheduled for Wednesday, May 4, 2005, at 3:00 p.m. in the John Joseph Moakley Federal Courthouse. The government and petitioners shall file briefs, not to exceed 20 pages, no later than 30 days from the issuance of this order, addressing the following issues: 1. the international legal obligations of the United States with respect to the eligibility of Puerto Rico residents to vote for President and Vice-President of the United States pursuant to international agreements, including (1) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217 A (III), U.N. Doc. A/810 (1948); (2) the Inter-American Democratic Charter of the Organization of American States, 28th Spec. Sess., OAS Doc. OEA/Ser.P/AG/RES.1 (XXVIII-E/01) (OAS General Assembly) (Sept. 11, 2001); and (3) the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, opened for signature Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171; 2. the availability of declaratory judgment concerning the government's compliance with said obligations, see 28 U.S.C. 2201. Subject to the provisions of Fed. R. App. P. 29, the court would also invite the submission of amicus curiae briefs not to exceed 20 pages addressing the above matters."

I thank my reader for sending along news of this quite interesting and potentially very important development. -- How Appealing

Go to How Appealling to get the links.

March 14, 2005

Democratic primary calendar

DailyKos reports and opines: The DNC commission looking into the primary calendar (and whether IA and NH should maintain their unfairly exhalted role) happened last week, and it looks like nothing much happened.

The less happens, the better for IA and NH. They need nothing to happen to keep the gravy train flowing. For all the high-minded talk of maintaing "retail politics", Iowa and New Hampshire couldn't give two shits about "retail politcs", otherwise they'd be happy to share the wealth with a rotating calendar.

There are other small states in which "retail politics" could take place. But NH and IA has a cottage industry of consultants who make a killing off presidential campaigns. In Iowa, party bosses are wined and dined around the clock, without letup, by candidates seeking their support. The local economy gets a jolt every four years from traveling campaigns and media -- hotels, car rentals, dining establishments, etc.

And aside from money -- the local political establishments fancy themselves presidential kingmakers. That sort of power is hard to surrender. -- Daily Kos :: Dem commission looks into primary calendar

March 13, 2005

North Carolina: proposal for independent redistricting commission

NC Rumors reports: Groups supporting voter education, participation and access, representing both liberal and conservative interests, have joined in support of a Constitutional Amendment to create a Non-Partisan Redistricting Commission.

Long championed by state Senator Ham Horton (R-Forsyth), he believes his proposed amendment to North Carolina's Constitution would take politics out of congressional and state legislative redistricting.

The amendment was first advocated by a legislative commission in 1997, the bill amendment is once again being sponsored by Horton and Sen. Ellie Kinnaird (D-Orange).

Among the groups supporting the amendment are the John Locke Foundation, Common Sense, Democracy South, the North Carolina Center for Voter Education and the State Grange. -- NC Rumors-News

Is sunshine a disinfectant or prelude to identity theft?

The Palm Beach Post reports: If you've ever driven a car, leased a home, applied for a loan or even received mail, chances are you, and lots of information about you, are in a database somewhere.

Using public records as well as private credit histories, data miners create your digital profile, which they then sell in bulk with millions of others.

The recent spate of security breaches at ChoicePoint and Seisint makes Florida's generous Sunshine laws even more vulnerable than they already are.

At least some of the information that alleged identity thieves took from ChoicePoint and LexisNexis' Seisint division, each with large computer centers in Boca Raton, originally came from public records.

"We might see a backlash because it's easier to close public records than it is to regulate the aggregators," said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, a watchdog group that monitors the state's laws designed to help the public watch over its government.

"We need to focus on the problem, and access is not the problem," Petersen said. "Some states have attempted to do that, and it is completely contrary to 100 years of public records policy in Florida." ...

For example, State Sen. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, has filed a bill (SB 2178) that would keep confidential much of the information that can be found on someone's application for an absentee ballot.

The measure would keep secret information such as the Social Security number, the date the absentee ballot was requested, when it was mailed, when the supervisor received it and, most concerning to open records advocates, "any other information the supervisor deems necessary regarding the request."

Posey said, "You shouldn't be able to get someone's driver's license number" from an elections supervisor. -- Data thefts imperil open records

What a wonderful thought on Sunshine Sunday.

DeLay, seeking to defend against charges of corporate contributions, seeks corporate contributions for defense fund

The New York Times reports: A legal defense fund established by Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, has dramatically expanded its fund-raising effort in recent months, taking in more than $250,000 since the indictment last fall of two his closest political operatives in Texas, according to Mr. DeLay's latest financial disclosure statements.

The list of recent donors includes dozens of Mr. DeLay's House Republican colleagues, including two lawmakers who were placed on the House ethics committee this year, and several of the nation's largest corporations and their executives.

Among the corporate donors to the defense fund is Bacardi U.S.A., the Florida-based rum maker, which has also been indicted in the Texas investigation, and Reliant Energy, another major contributor to a Texas political action committee formed by Mr. DeLay that is the focus of the criminal inquiry. Groups seeking an overhaul of Congressional ethics rules have long complained that companies might seek the favor of powerful lawmakers by contributing to their legal defense funds.

While the disclosure forms show that the defense fund has raised nearly $1 million since its establishment in 2000 and that Mr. DeLay is continuing to pick up generous donations from House Republicans and corporate executives, the documents also suggest that the majority leader's fund-raising efforts could soon be outpaced by ballooning legal bills. -- The New York Times > Washington > As DeLay's Woes Mount, So Does Money

March 12, 2005

New blog about politics and technology

From the first post of Politology: First, an apology is in order to language purists. "Politology" is actually a word simply meaning the study of policy - other countries use the word to mean the same thing that we mean by "political science".

But this weblog is specifically about both politics and technology, including (but not limited to) the intersection between the two subjects. Politics is where some of the most exciting web development is happening, and we only scratched the surface with the Dean campaign. This site will very much be about politics and technology in the United States. The word fits. -- Politology

Mostly he has been talking about the bankruptcy bill this week.

Thanks to beSpacifc for the link.

New Hampshire: TPM wonders what's next

Talking Points Memo suggests what may be coming after Jim Tobin is tried in New Hampshire for the phone-jamming scheme: Keep an eye out, though, for what comes next. And whether it pulls in someone else with lofty ambitions in the next few years: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) of Tennessee.

When Tobin organized this election-tampering scam he was working as the Northeast field director for the NRSC (the campaign committee of the Senate GOP). That was the cycle that Frist chaired the committee.

We hear that those involved in the phone-jamming scam are now claiming that the plan was aired with NRSC personnel in Washington in advance. If any of the key players are willing to testify to that effect when Tobin goes on trial later this year it could quickly open up a Washington dimension to this story. -- Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall

FEC fines corporations for using assistants in fundraising

Forbes reports: It's an executive status symbol: an assistant who schleps your dry cleaning, buys your gifts and plans your parties. Just make sure they're not political fundraising parties.

That's the lesson from two little-noticed settlements last month with the Federal Election Commission. Harrah's Entertainment and Mirage Casino Resorts agreed to pay a combined $93,000 in fines because an executive at each had asked an assistant to help collect contributions and coordinate invitations and catering for political fundraisers aiding Republican senatorial hopeful William Gormley of New Jersey. The events raised a total of $65,000. Such activity, the FEC concluded, violates a regulation prohibiting the "use of corporate resources to facilitate contributions." -- Forbes.com: Get Coffee, Not Cash

Brett Kappel called this article to my attention. The corporations may have been lead astray by the Bush-Cheney '04 FAQ which had this:

Q: "Can I use my executive assistant to help with my fund-raising activities?"

A: "Any person can volunteer to help. Employees may volunteer a maximum of 1 (one) hour per week during working hours and an unlimited amount outside of the office." (see my earlier post)

Brett suggests the answer ought to be "Only if you pay your company in advance for the fair market value of the time your executive assistant spends assisting you in your fundraising activities." 11 C.F.R. 114.2(f)(2)(i)(A).

Florida: mayor and judge indicted for paying for absentee vote campaign

The Ledger reports: Mayor Buddy Dyer was suspended Friday after he, a judge and two others each surrendered on a felony charge that they violated a state law prohibiting payments for the collection of absentee ballots. ...

Dyer, Circuit Judge Alan Apte and Dyer's campaign manager, Patty Sharp, each were booked on one count of providing "pecuniary gain" for absentee ballot possession or collection. Campaign consultant Ezzie Thomas was charged with accepting pecuniary gain for absentee ballot possession or collection. Each is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

A grand jury indicted them Thursday.

The law was enacted after Miami's 1998 mayoral election was thrown out because of fraud committed in the collection of absentee ballots. Dyer voted for the law while he was a state senator. -- Orlando Mayor To Face Charges | theledger.com

March 10, 2005

Illinois: no mid-decade redistrcting; Kos comments

Roll Call reports that the Illinois Democratic delegation to Congress has decided against a mid-decade redistricting, a la Texas. Since I don't have a paid subscription to Roll Call, I have to pick up the crumbs others throw me. DailyKos quotes what appears to be the whole article, which ends this way:

[Rep. Rahm] Emanuel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, echoed the sentiment that Democrats wanted to send a message by taking the high road.

Kos then comments: Who is getting this "message"? There are only two types of people getting the message. To political junkies like us, the message is, "we're losers". And to their Republican colleagues, who are on a redistricting tear across the country, the message is, "we're patsies".

The idea wasn't to validate what DeLay has done. The idea is to fight fire with fire -- to show Republicans that their actions have repercussions. But once again, the GOP gets away with murder while the Dems cower under the bed in fear. -- Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

Texas: DeLay admits awareness of TRMPAC fund-raising methods

The New York Times reports: Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, said Wednesday that he was aware of how accounts for corporate donations had been set up at a political action committee that is under criminal investigation by a Texas grand jury and that the committee's lawyers closely monitored all fund-raising activities.

Mr. DeLay's comments, made at his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, were his most detailed public remarks to date on his involvement in the creation and fund-raising activities of the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority.

Discussing the committee's origins, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, it was my idea, or it was our idea - those of us that wanted to enhance the Republicans who served in the House of Representatives in the Texas Legislature."

The committee, set up in 2001, was instrumental in helping Texas Republicans take control of the Legislature in elections the next year. In turn, that Republican majority redrew the state's Congressional districts, benefiting Mr. DeLay by solidifying Republican control of Congress. -- The New York Times > Washington > DeLay Says He Was Aware of Fund-Raising Methods

Texas: TRMPAC trial over, waiting for the decision

The Austin Chronicle reports: As one of the defense attorneys in a campaign finance trial noted in his closing argument last week, the outcome of the long-running dispute over corporate money and Texas politics could spawn a whole new growth industry for law firms from here to Washington, D.C. The irony of that comment was not lost on the half-dozen lawyers seated in the spectator gallery who, even as silent observers, were already on the clock. Among the most expensive (though hardly silent) trial watchers was prominent state Republican consigliere Andy Taylor, who, during a midmorning break last Thursday, summoned reporters mingling outside the courtroom to announce that seven of the state's wealthiest political donors had retained his services to lobby for "clarity" in the state's 100-year-old-plus election laws ....

With the high-profile trial wrapped up and the courthouse emptied of political reporters, lawyers on both sides have resigned themselves to an anticipated two- to six-week wait for State District Court Judge Joe Hart to render a decision in the civil case that took attorneys two years to build and five days to argue. No matter how Hart rules, the trial court is undoubtedly just the starting point for a long appeals process. At every stop, the legal questions will center on whether the political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority violated state election laws in its quest to ensure the GOP takeover of the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections. TRMPAC achieved its goal of a Republican sweep, but not without cost. Five Democrats, including former Austin Rep. Ann Kitchen, subsequently sued three TRMPAC officers after losing their races to Republican candidates who benefited from the PAC's efforts. Two of the original three defendants – John Colyandro and Jim Ellis – were severed from the civil suit because they also face criminal charges of money-laundering in connection with the group's election drive. That left only co-defendant and TRMPAC treasurer Bill Ceverha to face their accusers. -- The Austin Chronicle: News: So What Now?

Alabama: bill seeks to shut down PAC-to-PAC transfers

AP reports: A House-passed bill to restrict the transfer of money between some political action committees was rewritten by a Senate committee Wednesday to ban all PAC-to-PAC transfers.

Sen. Pat Lindsey, D-Butler, said the bill passed by the House a month ago, which exempted transfers between affiliated organizations, had too many exceptions and would allow the sources of some campaign contributions to remain hidden. He got the Senate Economic Expansion and Trade Committee, which he heads, to vote 6-0 for a new version of the bill prohibiting all transfers.

Gov. Bob Riley, along with the House Democratic Caucus and the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate, has called for a crackdown on PACs exchanging money to hide the sources of campaign contributions. -- Legislation rewrite bans PAC-to-PAC transfers

March 9, 2005

Texas: DeLay's role in TRMPAC revealed in testimony

The New York Times reports: Documents subpoenaed from an indicted fund-raiser for Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, suggest that Mr. DeLay was more actively involved than previously known in gathering corporate donations for a political committee that is the focus of a grand-jury investigation in Texas, his home state.

The documents, which were entered into evidence last week in a related civil trial in Austin, the state capital, suggest that Mr. DeLay personally forwarded at least one large corporate check to the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and that he was in direct contact with lobbyists for some of the nation's largest companies on the committee's behalf.

In an August 2002 document subpoenaed from the files of the indicted fund-raiser, Warren M. RoBold, Mr. RoBold asked for a list of 10 major donors to the committee, saying that "I would then decide from response who Tom DeLay" and others should call to help the committee in seeking a "large contribution."

Another document is a printout of a July 2002 e-mail message to Mr. RoBold from a political ally of Mr. Delay, requesting a list of corporate lobbyists who would attend a fund-raising event for the committee, adding that "DeLay will want to see a list of attendees" and that the list should be available "on the ground in Austin for T.D. upon his arrival." -- The New York Times > Washington > Documents Suggest Bigger DeLay Role in Donations

Washington State: bill would check citizenship of voter registrants

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Voter records would be randomly investigated and election officials would have to check on the citizenship of each new applicant under Republican-sponsored amendments that passed the state Senate on Monday as part of an election reform-driven voter registration bill.

Republicans have introduced a flurry of amendments on a series of election reform bills that started to hit the floor Friday, but Monday was the first day the GOP had any success on the issue in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

The bill to enhance voter registration record-keeping passed on a 49-0 vote. Republican amendments allow Department of Licensing agents to ask voter registration applicants if they are U.S. citizens; allow the secretary of state or a county auditor to check the citizenship of new applicants with federal immigration officials; allow county election officials to randomly investigate the record of all registered voters and to make corrections when a voter has died or if their residence has changed; and provide a box on the return envelope of absentee ballots that voters can check to indicate they are members of the armed forces. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Senate passes bill that would allow random checks of voter records, check of citizenship

Vermont: write-ins for wrong race

The Brattleboro Reformer reports: This is not Florida. This is not the fall of 2000. And the presidency of the United States is not at stake.

But the concept is the same: a portion of the electorate misread its ballots here, and in doing so swayed the outcome of an election.

At Saturday's School District Meeting in Chesterfield, incumbent school board member Barbara Girs defeated write-in challenger Carol Pelczarski by a count of 111 to 103 to retain her two-year seat.

Pelczarski, who missed an earlier deadline to get her name on the ballot, had been actively campaigning for the two-year seat. Leading up to Saturday, she was sending out literature that specifically encouraged residents to vote for her as a write-in candidate against Girs.

Pelczarski efforts not only brought her eight votes shy of a victory, but also helped her garner nine write-in votes for a three-year term on the School Board.

Had those nine votes been transferred to Pelczarski's column for the two-year term, she would have beaten Girs by one vote. -- Brattleboro Reformer - City & Town

Ohio: Blackwell seeks depositions of Kerry and Edwards

The Free Press reports: A spokesman for the Green Party's 2004 presidential campaign, which initiated the Ohio recount, today blasted the suggestion by Ohio's Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell that he would need to take depositions from John Kerry and John Edwards as part of the Ohio recount litigation.

"Mr. Blackwell's contention that he needs to depose Senators Kerry and Edwards is a laughable and blatantly political move. Mr. Blackwell has refused to be deposed himself about the Ohio election, has refused to appear before Congress and has refused to answer questions from members of the House Judiciary Committee who have been investigating allegations of election fraud. To suggest that Kerry and Edwards should be deposed to address a legal technicality while Mr. Blackwell continues to avoid any public scrutiny of his own misconduct in the Ohio election is the height of hypocrisy," said Blair Bobier, Media Director for the 2004 Cobb-LaMarche campaign.

The report by the House Judiciary Committee's Democratic staff on the Ohio election and recount states that "there were massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies in Ohio. In many cases these irregularities were caused by intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio." -- The Free Press -- Independent News Media - Election 2004

March 5, 2005

Washington State: GOP accuses 1135 of illegal voting

The Spokesman-Review reports: Jon Anson was just "trying to do the right thing" when he cast a ballot in November. Now he finds himself falsely accused by the state Republican Party of voting illegally.

He didn't, and he has the documentation to prove it.

Anson, a Spokane resident, is on a list of names the state GOP released late Thursday of more than 1,100 felons the political party claims shouldn't have voted because they haven't had their voting rights restored. The list is alphabetized by county, so Anson is on the top of the list for Spokane, and on Friday, reporters started showing up at his door on the lower South Hill, questioning him about voting. ...

The list is the latest twist in the ongoing challenge of Democrat Christine Gregoire's election as governor. After she finished the hand recount just 129 votes ahead of Republican Dino Rossi, the GOP challenged the election results. Since shortly after the challenge was filed, Republicans have contended that dozens, then hundreds, and now more than 1,100 felons voted illegally, more than enough to call Gregoire's margin of victory into question and prompt a new election.

On Thursday, party officials said there were likely "hundreds if not thousands of other felons who cast illegal ballots in November." But they released to the state Democratic Party and the news media the 1,135 names "of which we are most certain." -- SR.com: Some voters surprised to be on list of felons

March 4, 2005

Texas: "trading money"

The Washington Post reports: A civil trial focusing on the fundraising activities of a political action committee set up by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) turned Thursday to one of the major allegations: that the PAC laundered money in its quest to elect Republicans to the state legislature in 2002.

At issue is $190,000 in corporate donations that the director of Texans for a Republican Majority sent to the Republican National State Elections Committee in mid-September 2002. Three weeks later, the committee sent checks in the equivalent amount that had been raised from individual donors to seven Republican statehouse candidates supported by TRMPAC. Texas law prohibits the use of corporate funds in election campaigns.

Charles R. Spies, the election law counsel for the Republican National Committee, testified that the practice of "trading money" between the RNC and state political committees was common through the end of 2002, when it was outlawed under federal campaign finance reform. Until then, he said, corporate dollars raised in states that outlaw such campaign contributions could be sent to the RNC, which would then send back donations raised from individuals -- but rarely on a one-to-one ratio.

"It's much harder to raise, so it's worth more," he said of individual donations. -- DeLay PAC Trial Looks at Money-Laundering Claims (washingtonpost.com)

Congress: Dems debate mid-decade redistricting

The Hill reports: Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the latest entrant in the race to become the next Democratic caucus vice chairman, does not believe his House colleagues should adopt the Republican practice of redrawing congressional boundaries outside of the traditional 10-year process.

Larson's approach to redistricting distinguishes him from his two rivals for the House Democrats' No. 4 slot. Both Reps. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) support plans to redraw congressional maps in off years and have made their support part of their pitch to their fellow lawmakers. Crowley, however, is making his support more integral to his campaign than Schakowsky.

Larson's view aligns him with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has said that she does not believe Democrats should engage in a tit-for-tat redistricting game outside of the prescribed 10-year census cycle.

However, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer's (D-Md.) strong support to retaliate against Republicans for their Texas cartography appears to be gaining momentum in the caucus. -- Larson splits with caucus rivals on redistricting

March 3, 2005

A survey

Henry Copeland at BlogAds is doing a survey of blog readers. Just click here to get to the survey. Please list Votelaw as the answer to question #16. The survey should take about four minutes to complete. The results will help us -- all of the blog community -- communicate with advertisers, the press and the public about the huge and unique audience that blogs serve.

Thanks.

Texas: testimony in TRMPAC case

The New York Times reports: The fund-raising strategy of a political committee set up by the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay, and Republican loyalists in his home state, Texas, were the focus of testimony this week in a civil trial being closely watched by local prosecutors who have already indicted two of Mr. DeLay's closest political aides.

The two aides, based in Washington, were charged last year with involvement in what prosecutors have described as a brazen scheme by the political action committee to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal corporate donations to Republican candidates in the state's 2002 elections. Texas law bars companies from donating to state candidates. ...

In testimony this week on behalf of the five defeated Democratic candidates in the lawsuit, a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Trevor Potter, said that Texans for a Republican Majority was "a highly sophisticated political operation" that had clearly violated state election laws.

Mr. Potter suggested he was especially disturbed by a September 2002 transaction in which the Texas committee donated $190,000 in corporate money to the Republican National Committee, which then quickly sent out checks totaling the same amount to several Texas candidates. -- The New York Times > Washington > Testimony at Texas Trial Focuses on Use of Donations

March 2, 2005

Vermont: Burlington adopts IRV

FairVote (the Center for Voting and Democracy) reports on its website: On March 1, Burlington voters gave instant runoff voting a landslide win. Even as other high-profile ballot measures went down in defeat, 62% of voters supported adopting instant runoff voting for mayoral elections.

Attention now turns to the Vermont's state legislature, where an IRV bill has been introduced with tri-partisan support and 43 sponsors. The bill (H. 385), calls for IRV in elections for United States senator and representative to U.S. Congress, electors for U.S. president, and all statewide offices. -- FairVote-The Center for Voting and Democracy

The only article I could find in a newspaper had the story buried in a one sentence far down in the story -- after the location of riverfront Y and a sales tax.