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

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June 29, 2005

Kos' remarks to the FEC

Kos told the FEC: How are Internet technologies different than their offline media counterparts?

The barriers to entry are ridiculously low. A computer and an Internet connection can turn anyone into a publisher who can speak to a mass audience. Every single one of the communication technologies I mentioned above - the blogging, podcasting, Yahoo Groups, etc - is available to people for free. By comparison, it takes millions to start or buy a newspaper, television station, magazine, or radio station.

And that low barrier to entry ensures that anyone can communicate. It ensures that corporations or labor unions or wealthy individuals have no bigger say than people like me. I am a former war refugee from El Salvador. Didn't speak English when I came to this country. I never had friends in influential places. I wasn't part of an old boy's network. My father, a Greek immigrant, loaded freight in a warehouse. My mother, a Salvadoran immigrant, started off as a secretary. It is rare to see people of such modest backgrounds become media stars. Yet here is a medium that didn't care about things that didn't matter - like class, wealth, influence, or social networks.

I was able to rise to where I am today precisely because of the purely democratic nature of the Internet. And what's more, me being at the top of the blogging world doesn't mean others can't publish their own blogs and some day displace me. It doesn't mean they can't podcast. It doesn't mean they can't create email distribution lists. The "spectrum" is infinite. Anyone who wants a voice can have a voice, and anyone who wants to listen to or read them can do so. -- Daily Kos: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

Democrats redesign website

The Democratic Party has relaunched or redesigned its website. Gone is the name "Kicking Ass" (and the picture of the same) and in with what looks like grassland (or my front yard when my 18-year old son won't cut it). It must be the grassroots -- or about 3 inches above it.

The other big news from the Party is the new way of raising funds -- Democracy Bonds. Despite the name, "You can only buy one bond."

California: you can't tell the redistricting proposals without a score card

AP reports: Key provisions of rival plans backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state Senate Democrats to draw districts for the Legislature, California’s congressional delegation and the state Board of Equalization:

WHO WOULD DRAW DISTRICTS?

Schwarzenegger plan: A panel of three retired judges who would be selected by legislative leaders from a pool of 24 ex-judges nominated by the state Judicial Council. There would have to be at least one panel member from each major political party.

Democrats’ plan: A seven-member commission. The governor, the four top legislative leaders, the Judicial Council and the president of the University of California each would appoint one member. No more than three members could be from the same political party. Calls for commission that reflects state’s diverse population. -- Comparing the Redistricting Plans

Oregon: GOP cuts Secretary of State budget; is it payback?

AP reports: A House panel carved $1 million from Secretary of State Bill Bradbury's budget for auditing government agencies, a move that could limit his office's ability to spot fraud and wasteful spending.

Republican Rep. Wayne Scott, chairman of the House Budget Committee and House majority leader, said Wednesday the cut resulted from a "prudent scouring of the budget. We feel strongly they can perform their duties and keep within the restraints of the budget."

Scott said the reduction had nothing to do with GOP complaints of bias in the Democratic secretary of state's redrawing of legislative districts in 2001. ...

If the full House passes the panel's budget bill for Bradbury's office, it would set up a confrontation with the Democrat-controlled Senate. That chamber has passed a version of the budget that doesn't cut funding for audits. -- OregonLive.com: NewsFlash - House committee shaves Bradbury auditing money

June 28, 2005

Washington State: recall proponents will push for speedy appeal

The Spokesman-Review reports: The Spokane woman who is leading the effort to recall Spokane Mayor Jim West said today she would fight West’s appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Shannon Sullivan also said she would ask the court, which is scheduled to take its summer recess beginning this weekend and not return to hear cases until Sept. 13, to expedite the appeal decision if necessary.

Sullivan’s press conference today followed West’s Monday announcement that he plans to challenge a Superior Court judge’s ruling that there is sufficient evidence for a vote to recall him.

Sullivan appeared at the conference with attorneys Mark D. Hodgson and Brant Stevens, who said they will provide legal counsel to Sullivan free of charge although they will not be representing her. Hodgson said he believed the mayor had intentionally delayed the filing of the appeal to coincide with the recess in order to sustain his position, and by extension his financial situation. -- Sullivan will seek to expedite appeal

Mexico: absentee voting approved

AP reports: Lawmakers overwhelming approved on Tuesday a law allowing millions of Mexicans living abroad to vote by mail in next year's presidential election - a measure that could reshape the country's leadership race.

To chants of "Viva Mexico," the lower house of Congress passed an absentee voting proposal 455-6 with six abstentions. The bill was already approved by Mexico's Senate and now only needs to signed by President Vicente Fox to become law_ something he has promised to do. ...

An estimated 11 million Mexicans, as much as 14 percent of the country's electorate, live overseas, most in the United States. Expatriates are legally allowed to vote and hold dual citizenship, but have been effectively barred from participating in elections because of the lack of an absentee ballot system. -- AP Wire | 06/28/2005 | Mexico approves absentee mail-in voting

California: Dems propose redistricting panel

The Los Angeles Daily News reports: Senate Democrats plan to announce today their own reform plan for redistricting, which would retain their political control of the process of drawing legislative and congressional district boundaries.

According to a copy of the proposal obtained by the Daily News, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to transfer the Legislature's redistricting power to a nonpartisan panel of retired judges would be scrapped. That authority would instead be given to a commission of seven political appointees, four of whom would be chosen by legislative leaders.

Republican leaders said the administration was unlikely to accept the plan but acknowledged it could be a first step toward a compromise.

"Certainly, discussions are a positive thing and there might be a possibility for compromise," said Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Irvine. "But if you look at the language in the bill compared to what we saw before, I think it makes it worse in terms of something we would sign off on and the governor would sign off on."

Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who authored Senate Constitutional Amendment 3, is scheduled to unveil the proposal today. Common Cause, a national group based in Washington, D.C., which previously endorsed Schwarzenegger's redistricting plan, and the League of Women Voters are expected to lend their support to the bill -- at least in principle, sources said. -- L.A. Daily News - News

I'm back

I'm back and will start gathering information soon.

June 21, 2005

CREW files FEC complaint against defense contractor

AP report: A congressional watchdog group filed a complaint Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission against a defense contractor whose dealings with Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham are the subject of a federal investigation.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, called for the commission to investigate MZM Inc., MZM President Mitchell Wade and the company's political action committee over possible illegal campaign contributions.

A message left at MZM's main offices in Washington, D.C., wasn't returned.

CREW accused MZM and Wade of forcing company employees to donate money to the company PAC in 2002, citing a report Tuesday in The San Diego Union-Tribune. One employee described being told to write a check in the company's Washington headquarters while the unnamed recipient stood nearby, according to the newspaper report. -- AP Wire | 06/21/2005 | Watchdog group files FEC complaint against defense contractor

Mississippi: Killen convicted of manslaughter

AP reports: The jury that convicted a one-time Ku Klux Klansman on Tuesday of manslaughter in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers was frustrated that there was not enough evidence for a murder conviction, one of the jurors said.

Warren Paprocki, a 54-year-old engineer who moved to Philadelphia from southern California several years ago, said the jury was torn over a lack of evidence tying 80-year-old Edgar Ray Killen to the shooting deaths of James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman in rural Neshoba County during what was called the "Freedom Summer."

"I think initially we were polarized by two positions," Paprocki said. "On the one hand, this guy needs to be convicted and on the other hand, the state needed to present better evidence."

The three civil rights workers were registering black voters when they were ambushed by Klansman exactly 41 years ago Tuesday. Their bodies were found 44 days later in an earthen dam. They had been shot to death. -- AP Wire | 06/21/2005 | Juror says panel in Killen trial frustrated not enough evidence for murder conviction

June 20, 2005

Light blogging this week

Blog posts may be few and far between for the next week or so because of travel to a convention.

June 19, 2005

New Hampshire: Judge wants to see all the GOP documents on phone jamming

The Union Leader reports: A judge has ordered the New Hampshire Republican State Committee to provide him with all documents from an internal GOP probe of an illegal operation that jammed Democratic and firefighters union get-out-the-vote telephone banks on Election Day 2002.

Judge Philip Mangones ruled this week that by June 30, the state GOP must give him “a complete copy of all internal investigation reports and their supporting documentation.”

The Republicans had provided some documents to the court in the past, but withheld others, citing the attorney-client privilege and saying some were “work product.”

Mangones said he will review the documents in private “to determine whether the privileges asserted by (the Republicans) are well-founded.”

If he finds the documents do not contain information that falls under the attorney-client and work product privileges, Mangones is expected to allow them into evidence in a Democratic Party civil lawsuit against the Republicans filed last summer. -- State GOP ordered to provide documents

Thanks to Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo for keeping up with this story.

Hong Kong: no election for chief executive

The Christian Science Monitor reports: Donald Tsang campaigned for months for the No. 1 post in China's most sophisticated and wealthy city. He hired top-shelf media managers. He sported a jaunty bowtie as his emblem. Sir Donald asked not to be called "Sir," a legacy of his British knighthood. He chatted with fishermen and truckers.

He was always the front-runner to serve out the term of shipping tycoon Tung Chee-hwa, fired by Beijing, whose unpopularity brought millions to the streets, seeking the right to vote for their leader.

Yet in the curious twists and turns that Hong Kong is heir to since the British handover, Mr. Tsang is now the new chief executive without any election at all, pending a stamp of approval in Beijing that could come as early as this week.

No opposition candidates got approved. None got the requisite 100 nominations out of an elections panel of 800 pro-Beijing loyalists. -- No ballot for new Hong Kong chief | csmonitor.com

June 18, 2005

Iowa: Gov. Vilsack will restore all ex-felons' voting rights

AP reports: Gov. Tom Vilsack said Friday he will soon sign an order restoring the voting rights of convicted felons who have served their sentences.

Currently, felons can apply for the right to vote, but it must be approved by the state's parole board and the governor in a lengthy process.

Vilsack, a Democrat, said the current system is too time-consuming and unfairly affects minorities. His executive order would automatically restore felons' voting rights upon completion of their sentences. ...

A bipartisan panel of legislators asked the governor for an executive order after determining that lawmakers lacked the constitutional authority to lift the ban. He plans to sign the measure July 4, affecting as many as 500 to 600 felons a month. -- Iowa Gov. to Restore Felons' Voting Rights

Thanks to TalkLeft for the heads up on this.

Alabama: which way will the AG jump on the GOP's suit?

AP reports: Democrats and Republicans are watching to see which side Republican Attorney General Troy King takes in a Republican-inspired lawsuit seeking to redesign the state's legislative districts.

Democrat Lowell Barron, president pro tem of the Senate, said he expects King to defend Alabama's redistricting plan like his predecessor, Republican Bill Pryor, did.

Republican District Attorney David Whetstone of Baldwin County said King should side with the plaintiffs because, in his view, fast-growing, Republican-leaning areas of the state — like Baldwin County — are shortchanged by the current legislative districts.

King said Friday he had not yet received the suit, which is against state and county officials.

"It's premature to start speculating about what we'll do," he said. "I want to see what the merits of the claims are." -- AG King weighing legislative suit as both sides watch

June 17, 2005

Wisconsin: 3 indicted for campaign fraud

AP reports: Three more men have been charged in connection with a federal investigation into a phony billing scheme allegedly set up by a pair of construction executives to get money for themselves and their political and business contacts.

David C. Busch, 57, a former vice president of Roundy's Supermarkets Inc., has been accused of making illegal campaign contributions to prominent Republicans while working as a consultant for a construction company. He was criminally charged late Tuesday with aiding and abetting mail fraud.

Joseph P. Harvey, 42, chief financial officer of Bielinski Homes of Waukesha, and Walter E. Utter, 59, president of Mann Brothers Construction of Elkhorn, also were charged Tuesday with aiding and abetting mail fraud.

The U.S. attorney's office said the three were the latest implicated in a case in which Robert Mann, a former owner of Mann Brothers, and Robert G. Brownell, former chief executive officer of Bielinski, were charged with fraud earlier.

The criminal complaint against Busch says he was interviewed by the FBI and the U.S. attorney in February 2003. Busch allegedly said during that conversation that he was reimbursed by Roundy's for campaign contributions he made to city of Milwaukee officials during the mid-1990s.

State and federal campaign finance laws make it illegal for businesses or corporations to give directly to candidates, although employees can make personal contributions. -- St. Paul Pioneer Press | 06/17/2005 | 3 men charged in federal probe of campaign-donation scheme

California: FBI investigates Cunningham's house sale

AP reports: Questions over Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's home sale to a defense contractor spilled into his own district Friday as protesters beat drums and chanted slogans outside the congressman's $2.55 million mansion in America's wealthiest community.

"Two, four, six, eight, shame on Duke in Mansiongate," protesters chanted at the bottom of the palm-tree lined driveway that led to Cunningham's secluded home.

The eight-term Republican sold his previous home in Del Mar in 2003 to Mitchell Wade, president of the contracting firm MZM Inc., who took a $700,000 loss on it a year later. Around the same time, little-known MZM Inc., based in Washington, D.C., began getting large government contracts.

The San Diego Union Tribune, citing an unnamed Justice Department official, reported Friday that the FBI has opened a preliminary inquiry into the sale. -- AP Wire | 06/17/2005 | Anger over congressman's home sale spills into home district

Mississippi: Killen tied to killing of Goodman, Schwerner, Chaney

AP reports: The day after three civil rights workers were killed in 1964, local Ku Klux Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen talked about the deaths to a young Meridian police officer he had sworn in to the Klan only a few months earlier, the ex-officer testified Friday.

Mike Hatcher - who said he attended only a few Klan meetings - said Killen gave him a gun to pass on to someone else.

"He proceeded to tell me, 'We got rid of those civil rights workers. You won't have no more trouble out of Goatee,'" Hatcher, 68, testified in Killen's murder trial. ...

The most emotional testimony of the day came from Goodman's 89-year-old mother, Carolyn Goodman of New York, who talked about how Andy, the middle of her three sons, wanted to go to Mississippi for the Freedom Summer of 1964 to help register black voters.

Andy Goodman met Schwerner at a civil-rights training seminar in Oxford, Ohio, in mid-June 1964, and drove with him to Mississippi after Schwerner learned of the June 16 burning of Mount Zion United Methodist Church. Schwerner had spoken to the congregation May 31 about establishing a freedom school to teach black people about their rights. -- AP Wire | 06/17/2005 | Witness says Killen told him 'We got rid of those civil rights workers'

Alabama: GOP sues over district size

AP reports: Republican lawyers filed a federal court suit Thursday that seeks to do the same thing a similar suit did in Georgia -- create new legislative districts and switch control of the House and Senate from Democrats to Republicans.

Democrats said they are not concerned about the litigation because Alabama's legislative districts have been approved by the U.S. Justice Department and survived a previous federal court challenge. ....

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Mobile, claims the current legislative districts violate the principle of one-person, one-vote because of population differences between the districts, and contends there are no legitimate reasons for the population differences. The suit seeks new districts that are more equal in population.

In the Alabama House, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Pelham, has the most overpopulated House district, which is 4.8 percentage points above the ideal population. Rep. Skippy White, D-Flomaton, has the most underpopulated district, which is 4.9 percentage points below the ideal size. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com

June 16, 2005

Wal-Mart supports VRA re-authorization

The Hill reports: Continuing its courtship of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), Wal-Mart is urging President Bush to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In recent months, Wal-Mart has moved toward a lasting alliance with the CBC, deepening the ties by stressing its legislative influence as the nation’s largest private employer of African-Americans. Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott’s letter, delivered to the White House on Tuesday, is his first follow-up on a productive winter meeting with the CBC.

“I hope that you will stand with me, members of the Congressional Black Caucus, other political and civil rights leaders and countless Americans in supporting an extension of the expiring provisions of the Voting Rights Act,” Scott wrote to Bush, whose reelection campaign received the maximum contribution from Wal-Mart’s political action committee. -- Wal-Mart prods Bush for the CBC

You may download a copy of the letter here. As you can see, it was emailed to me by Daniel Levitas of the ACLU.


June 15, 2005

Washington State: Mayor could delay recall petitions by appealing

The Post-Intelligencer reports: It may be months before recall petitions can be circulated by opponents of Spokane Mayor James E. West, who contend he abused his office by offering internships to men he met in a gay Internet chat room.

Should West appeal the move, state election law could delay signature-gathering until at least the fall, and an election until next year, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Even said.

Spokane resident Shannon Sullivan filed recall paperwork after a series of articles in The Spokesman-Review last month alleged that West used his city-owned computer to enter a gay chat room and offer City Hall jobs and perks to men he met there. -- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Court schedule could delay Spokane mayor recall effort

June 14, 2005

Washington State: recall petition for mayor OK'd by judge

AP reports: A recall petition against Mayor James West over a homosexual sex scandal can proceed to the signature-gathering phase, a visiting judge ruled yesterday.

Benton County Superior Court Judge Craig Matheson threw out two of the recall charges made against West by Shannon Sullivan, a Spokane resident, but said the allegation that West improperly offered city jobs to prospective dates should be put before voters.

"That to my mind is an improper use of the office," Matheson ruled. -- Activists can collect signatures for recall

This is why it's called "hard money"

The Washington Post reports: How do you collect $23 million, $2,500 at a time?

That is what Republican lawmakers have spent months doing in preparation for tonight's President's Dinner, a fundraiser for the party's House and Senate campaign committees that lures well-off donors from across the country to a blue-carpeted hangar-size hall for the chance to hear President Bush speak and to dine on beef tenderloin en croute with 5,500 others.

Because of the new fundraising limits Bush signed into law in 2002, the parties can no longer rely on mega-donors who once gave by the hundreds of thousands. Now much of the money is raised by selling $2,500-a-plate dinner tickets, a laborious process that is consuming an increasing amount of lawmakers' time and creativity.

Many members loathe working the blue call sheets of potential donors. So the parties have developed an enforcement system that, in the case of the House Republicans, includes specific goals for each lawmaker, a network of 35 team captains to track the collection process just the way whips check on votes, and strategic leaks of the latest tallies to embarrass recalcitrant members to get on the phone. -- Hard Cash Is Main Course for GOP Fundraiser

Virginia: GOP and Dems to hold simultaneous primaries

The Washington Post reports: For the first time in nearly two decades, Virginians will be presented with the following choice when they walk into their polling places Tuesday: Do they want a Democratic or a Republican ballot?

The last time the two major parties held a statewide primary on the same day was in 1988. In Virginia, voters do not register as Republicans or Democrats and may choose to vote in either party's primary -- but not both.

The answers voters give when asked which ballot they want will dictate who they can vote for and might shape the results of close elections where middle-of-the-road candidates are hoping to draw support from independents and supporters of the other party.

Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said centrist Republican lawmakers battling conservative challengers may get fewer Democrats voting for them because of the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. -- Va. Voters Must Choose Between Parties

California: Gov. calls special election for redistricting initiative

Bloomberg.com reports: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called for the state's fourth election in two years, seeking to pass political-district and budget proposals that could boost Republicans' power in the most populous state.

One measure supported by the Republican governor would place retired judges in charge of redrawing the state's political boundaries for Congress and the state Legislature. Democrats control 33 of the state's 53 seats in the House of Representatives and both chambers of the state Legislature.

``Once you take redistricting from the Assembly, you're going to open up California politics like it's never been opened up since the Progressive era,'' said Kevin Starr, the University of Southern California professor and author of a seven-volume state history. ``You'll get more Republicans, more conservatives and you'll get more independents.'' -- Bloomberg.com: U.S.

Flag Day

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

Dont-Tread-300.gif

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

June 13, 2005

"Legal Guide for Bloggers"

EFF announces: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is pleased to release a document that informs bloggers of their legal rights. EFF's "Legal Guide for Bloggers" is a collection of frequently asked questions (FAQs) designed to educate bloggers about their legal rights in a number of areas, including libel law, copyright law, and political advocacy.

There is still a lot of confusion about the legal status of bloggers. Are they journalists, due the protections of the reporters' privilege and heightened First Amendment analysis? Are they online service providers, who are generally exempt from liability for the postings of others? EFF's guide explores all of these roles and explains how the law may be interpreted in particular instances. -- EFF: Breaking News

Thanks to BeSpacific for the link.

Congress: Follow the money (again)

Josh Marshall wonders: I'm really curious to see whether this story (noted below) about Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) gets much pick up or not in the press.

From the plain facts of the matter, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday, it seems like there's a pretty strong case that this defense contractor, Mitchell Wade, gave a congressman a personal gift of almost three-quarters of a million dollars and hid it in the form of home sale. And this was a congressman who was in a position to -- and by his own account apparently did --help the contractor secure numerous defense and intelligence contracts valued in the tens of millions of dollars. -- Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: June 12, 2005 - June 18, 2005 Archives

The "noted below" is a link to an earlier post two items below this one. Read both. Josh has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek on the earlier one.

June 12, 2005

Texas: DeLay had close ties to TRMPAC, despite his recent statements

The Los Angeles Times reports: When a judge said last month that a political committee founded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had broken the law by failing to report $500,000 in donations, the Texas congressman distanced himself from the matter.

DeLay's representatives insisted that he was a mere figurehead of the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. He had no control over its day-to-day operation, they said, and his lawyer dismissed suggestions of impropriety as "outlandish."

But in summer 2002, a crucial period of fundraising and activism for the committee, DeLay stepped off an airplane in Austin and received a list of people who were to attend a fundraiser billed as "a private meeting with Tom DeLay." Three days earlier, a Texans for a Republican Majority staffer had e-mailed three other DeLay associates to ask for the list. -- Court Files Shed Light on DeLay's PAC Ties

June 11, 2005

Mississippi: follow the money

The Biloxi Sun-Herald reports: Three attorneys testified Thursday in U.S. District Court that they wrote checks that Biloxi lawyer Paul Minor requested for a Biloxi bed and breakfast owned by state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and his wife.

With the testimony, federal prosecutors were trying to show Minor demanded checks of $5,000 to $25,000 from the attorneys, but lied about his plans for the money.

All three attorneys thought their contributions, in October 2001, would go toward events for attorneys at the bed and breakfast, Green Oaks.

Instead, evidence has shown, Diaz and Jennifer Diaz, then his wife, used the money to help pay off a $75,000 loan Paul Minor had secured for Jennifer Diaz a year earlier at The Peoples Bank. She had put $73,000 of the proceeds into her husband's 2000 Supreme Court campaign fund. -- The Sun Herald | 06/10/2005 | Attorneys say Minor asked for checks

Minnesota: was the cost of wrecking an ATV a gift?

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports: Gov. Tim Pawlenty violated the state gift-ban law when he used an all-terrain vehicle owned by Polaris Industries while at a state ATV convention last month, Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, charged Friday.

Pawlenty's vehicle struck a tree during the ride near Hill City, Minn., in early May, causing an estimated $2,500 in damage to the $7,000 machine. Polaris indicated then that it would cover the cost of repairs because it owned the ATV.

Under state law, Marty said, both Polaris and the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota, which sponsored the convention, are banned from giving Pawlenty a gift, and he is prohibited from accepting one.

In this case, Marty said unless Pawlenty paid rent for the machine under terms and conditions available to others, a violation occurred. In addition, he said if Pawlenty was not renting the machine under a contract that included collision damage coverage, the $2,500 repair paid by Polaris would be prohibited. -- Duluth News Tribune | 06/11/2005 | Pawlenty's ATV ride violated ethics law, state senator charges

Washington State: Commission fines Dems

The Olympian reports: State campaign-finance regulators fined the state Democratic Party a record $185,000 this week for failing to make timely disclosures of contributions during the 2004 election cycle.

The party entered into two agreements with the Public Disclosure Commission, which led to the total fine and avoidance of a possible lawsuit related to alleged violations of finance reporting laws. The Democrats also agreed to pay $2,500 for investigation costs, bringing the total sanction to $187,500, the PDC reported.

"Political parties need to be leaders in state politics," Mike Connelly, the PDC's citizen chairman, said in a news release. "And the Washington state Democrats are not setting a good example."

The party failed to report the source of $394,544 in contributions it received into federal accounts then transferred to its state accounts during the 2004 election cycle. Democrats also failed to disclose nearly $705,000 in debts and obligations that were outstanding in the election cycle, depriving the public and opponents from knowing the extent of its expenditures on candidate-support efforts until after the campaign. -- Top Stories - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington

Tennessee: Frist invested campaign funds in risky mutual fund -- and lost

The Atlanta Journal Constitution will report in tomorrow's paper: Election Day 2000 was five months off, but Bill Frist was already in an enviable position. With a fat campaign war chest and only token opposition in what he had decided was his last race for the U.S. Senate, Frist could turn his attention to grander plans.

Frist began focusing on raising record amounts of cash for other Republicans. But while he was picking up political IOUs that could aid him greatly in a run for president in 2008, his own campaign finances took a sharp, and in some ways baffling, turn for the worse.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars Frist's supporters had given him to run for the Senate were dwindling at a rapid rate. Much of that money was lost in a stock market investment that experts say was out of line with the way candidates traditionally invest campaign funds. Frist's campaign also took on more than $1 million in debt so that it could repay Frist for interest-free loans he made to his campaign six years earlier.

And then, in a decision experts say violated federal campaign regulations, Frist filed reports with the Federal Elections Commission that made it difficult for his contributors and political foes to determine just how bad off his campaign finances were. -- Frist's finances questioned | ajc.com

Montana: fees awarded in election contest

Missoulian.com reports: In a court order issued late Friday, District Judge Kim Christopher of Polson said former House candidate Rick Jore must pay $15,663 in legal fees to his opponent's lawyer but suggested the state pick up the tab for the contested election.

Jore lost his race for HD12 last November in an election decided by the Montana Supreme Court. The litigation was initiated by his opponent, Democrat Jeanne Windham, yet state law requires that losing candidates pay the legal fees of an opponent, even if the candidate took no part in the litigation.

At the end of her order awarding all fees that Helena lawyer Mike Meloy sought, Christopher urged the state of Montana to reimburse both candidates for their legal expenses in the litigation. -- Missoulian: Judge recommends state pay in HD12 lawsuit

June 10, 2005

Minnesota: Supreme Court says let the evidence in

The Pioneer Press reports: Richard Joseph Jacobson, accused in what prosecutors call a blatantly illegal attempt to stack a 2002 municipal election, scored a modest victory in a ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday.

Jacobson, owner of the defunct Jake's strip club in Dakota County's tiny town of Coates, is facing felony criminal charges alleging conspiracy to procure unlawful voting and conspiracy to commit forgery.

The charges arose after 94 people — strippers, employees and others — registered to vote using the club's address and not their individual places of residence, as state law requires.

In mounting his defense, Jacobson wanted to show at trial that he had no intent to break voter-registration laws and was reasonably following the legal advice of one of his attorneys, Randall B. Tigue of Minneapolis.

Jacobson also wanted to use in his defense a letter written by Phil Prokopowicz, Dakota County's chief deputy prosecutor. In that letter, Prokopowicz found no criminal wrongdoing by Minneapolis police officers who registered to vote using work rather than home addresses.

Over prosecutors' objections, the Supreme Court agreed that Jacobson is entitled to present both arguments and let a jury decide. -- St. Paul Pioneer Press | 06/10/2005 | Court sides with strip-club owner

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

June 9, 2005

Texas: federal court rejects Dems' challenge to re-redistricting

AP reports: A three-judge federal panel today rejected legal challenges to the 2003 congressional redistricting plan that resulted in a Republican majority in the Texas delegation in Washington.

Democrats and minority interests challenged the plan, arguing that it was overly partisan and politically motivated.

Last year, the U.S. District Court panel for the Eastern District of Texas said the map redrawing congressional voting districts was constitutional. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which sent the case back to Texas for review by the panel. -- HoustonChronicle.com - Federal panel rejects redistricting plan challenge

The Campaign Legal Center has the opinion here.

And Rick Hasen already has some thoughts on what it all means.

Congress: House committee approves bill raising campaign contribution limits

The Washington Post reports: The House Administration Committee, acting with the support of the Republican leadership, yesterday approved legislation to dismantle many of the campaign contribution and spending limits enacted over the past 30 years. Under the bill, one donor could direct as much as $1 million in support of a candidate for federal office.

The measure, approved on a 6 to 3 party-line vote, would eliminate the $101,400 ceiling on total contributions to federal candidates and parties by one person. In addition, national parties could give unlimited amounts in support of candidates. ...

The bill is likely to win House approval. Prospects in the Senate, where 40 members can prevent action by filibustering, are dimmer, unless the GOP leadership attaches the bill to popular "must pass" legislation or to a budget resolution that is not subject to a filibuster.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), a critic of the bill, said one rich donor could effectively give more than $1.1 million to a candidate by channeling the cash through all 50 state committees and the national, congressional and senatorial campaign committees. Under the law, all the money could then be transferred to a single committee. Under the House Administration bill, that committee would be allowed to spend unlimited amounts for a candidate, working in coordination with the campaign. -- GOP Pushes Bill Easing Election Spending Limits

June 8, 2005

South Carolina: Internet access to campaign reports approved, but when will voters see them?

AP reports: South Carolina voters probably won't have Internet access to information on how money influences the governor's race next year.

The Legislature last month approved $318,000 to implement an electronic campaign finance reporting system at the urging of Gov. Mark Sanford.

But the electronic campaign finance reporting the Legislature approved likely won't be operating in time for the 2006 elections, said Herb Hayden, the State Ethics Commission's executive director.

"It's just going to take too much time," Hayden said.

Hayden says it will take at least six months to put the work out for bid. And implementing it will take an unknown amount of time. -- AP Wire | 06/08/2005 | Electronic campaign finance reports nixed in governor's race

Massachusetts: Finneran indicted

AP reports: Former Massachusetts House speaker Thomas M. Finneran was indicted Monday on federal charges of lying under oath about his role in redrawing state legislative districts.

Finneran was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice and could be sent to prison and lose his license to practice law if convicted. ...

The former lawmaker was accused of lying when he testified in 2003 before a federal appeals court in a lawsuit brought by minority groups. The minority groups said that a new legislative map would hurt black and Hispanic candidates and protect Finneran and other incumbents. Finneran told the three-judge panel he had no role in drafting the map beyond appointing members of a redistricting committee.

In its ruling, the court said it found his testimony hard to believe. -- Former Mass. House Speaker Indicted in Redistricting Probe

June 6, 2005

Washington State: Rossi will not appeal

The News Tribune reports: Republican Dino Rossi is abandoning his quest to overturn Gov. Christine Gregoire's victory last fall.

The former state lawmaker from Bellevue said he won't appeal today's decision by Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges.

"...With today's decision, and because of the political makeup of the Washington State SUpreme Court, which makes it almost impossible to overturn this ruling, I'm ending the election contest," Rossi said. -- Rossi won't appeal judge's decision | TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA

If you want the real reason that Rossi decided not to appeal, don't look to the composition of the Supreme Court of Washington, but to the explanation on Rick Hasen's Election Law blog.

Washington State: Gregoire wins

The News Tribune reports: A Wenatchee judge today rejected the GOP's legal challenge to Gov. Christine Gregoire's election.

While Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges agreed that the number of "illegal and improper" votes far exceeded Gregoire's 129-vote victory over Republican Dino Rossi, he said that alone was not enough to overturn the election under the law.

Rossi and the Republican Party had to show that those illegal votes went specifically to Gregoire, Bridges said.

Based on the evidence submitted during the nine-day trial in Wenatchee, the judge concluded there were 1,678 illegal or improper ballots cast in the November 2004 election, but no evidence that those people voted in the governor's race. -- Judge dismisses GOP's election challenge | TheNewsTribune.com | Tacoma, WA

June 5, 2005

Blogs: To regulate or not?

The Washington Post reports: A raft of lawmakers, campaign finance watchdog groups, election lawyers and bloggers urged the Federal Election Commission on Friday to exempt the vast majority of -- if not all -- individual political activists on the Internet from new regulations.

The comments, submitted hours before an agency deadline, came as the FEC considers whether and how to regulate online political activities, including blogging, advertising and e-mail. The commission had proposed shielding virtually all online political activities from government restrictions. But two sponsors of the campaign finance reform legislation approved in 2002 successfully sued to overturn that and some other policies. The court's decision left it to the FEC to decide which activities to regulate.

That has worried bloggers, in particular, who fear they will have to consult lawyers to ensure they do not run afoul of any new rules. The FEC, which is scheduled to decide the issue later this year, released a draft of its proposed regulations this spring that indicated it intended to take a relatively light hand. The agency also invited public comment on its proposal.

The authors of the campaign finance reform law, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) and Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.), filed a joint statement urging the agency to ignore individuals' politicking on the Internet and focus instead on tightening rules governing online activities of unions, corporations and state political parties. -- Groups Weigh In on Web Politicking

New York: state won't investigate excess contributions

AP reports: The state has refused to investigate a detailed report of 96 companies in 14 counties which apparently contributed far more to local political campaigns than allowed by law, a state official confirmed.

The report found some companies spending two to three times above the limit set to control corporate influence in politics.

he report was compiled by the New York Public Interest Research Group and Common Cause and submitted to the state Board of Elections two years ago. The records include $18,575 spent by a Nassau County property valuation firm for state and local officials, including the local assessor, and $19,750 spent by a Rochester area firm on state and local campaigns, according to NYPIRG's report.

State law limits companies to $5,000 in total campaign contributions in a calendar year for state and local elections. The aim is to limit the influence of narrow interests on public policy and to limit the ability of companies to gain unfair advantages in landing government contracts. -- New York City

Washington State: a wrap-up on the gubernatorial contest evidence

The Seattle Times reports: Much of the tenor of the governor's election trial was set just a few minutes into Republican attorney Dale Foreman's opening statement.

Foreman outlined now well-known complaints about King County's record-keeping. But he said evidence collected for the trial showed something "even more sinister."

"This is not just a case of sloppy election officials. This is a case of election fraud."

It hadn't been until then. The Republican gambit to prove someone stuffed ballots and stole ballots was the one new theme of the case as the trial opened in Chelan County Superior Court.

The charge, delivered with its colorful language, also colored the Democrats' case in defense of the election. Democrats used the Republicans' own phraseology over and over, trying to portray as ridiculous the notion that administrative errors could be sinister or "exceedingly suspicious." -- The Seattle Times: Politics: Judge left to mull vote-fraud claim

Washington State: evidentiary rules and the gubernatorial contest

Anne Martens writes on the Blue Oregon website: I'm fascinated by the Washington Governor's trial (Borders v. King County), and enthralled by the evidence being offered. This is far better drama than any pedophilic pop star, and, more importantly, it's another step in the transfer of power over elections from the people to the bench.

Essentially, the Democrats are arguing that there is no such thing as a perfect election, mistakes will always and everywhere happen, but don't topple the mechanics of democracy over a few inadvertent mishaps. The Republicans have had to scuttle their "mistakes equal fraud" argument (the judge just wasn't buying that given the absence of any malicious intent) and are now arguing that "mistakes (at least the ones that favor Gregoire) are really, really bad and something ought to be done about it."

Of course both sides are right, and while nobody paid any attention to these issues until 2000, they now lead to what may be a landmark lawsuit. The mistakes were these: some felons voted, some dead people voted, some people voted but didn't sign the poll book, some ballots were misplaced, and some provisional ballots were counted when they shouldn't have been. The standard is whether these mistakes changed the outcome of the election.

For all you evidence-heads (is there such a thing?), remember good old rule 702, Frye and the two-part test, Daubert and the four-part test, and the purpose of those tests being to keep crap out of the courtroom? No? Well, nevermind, doesn't matter. As quoted by the Seattle Times, Judge Bridges said, "I can imagine how frustrated counsel has been with the court because you don't know me and you come to this court and I start making rulings which I'm sure some of you think are just not supported by any rules of evidence you've ever read." ...

Forget one-person-one-vote and majority rules, here the judges' evaluation of the admissibility of scientific evidence will determine the outcome. So if all the statistical assumptions get junked, what do we have? Governor Gregoire, a potential consolation prize of Cantwell's seat for Rossi, loss of public confidence in elections, a growing body of scholarly research on elections statistics, scrutiny and revision of the conduct of elections, and the assurance of future lawsuits. And if the court decides that statistics account for votes, what do we have? A rematch, new standards for evidence, loss of public confidence in elections, a growing body of scholarly research on elections statistics, scrutiny and revision of the conduct of elections, and the assurance of future lawsuits. -- BlueOregon: Defensive Democracy

Thanks to Peter Nordberg and his great Blog 702 for the link.

June 4, 2005

Texas: Gov. Perry and church stage a campaign event (?)

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports: Democrats and a group dedicated to keeping religion out of politics are protesting Gov. Rick Perry's plans to use a Fort Worth Christian school to sign bills aimed at cracking down on abortion and gay marriage.

On Thursday, the Washington, D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State called on Perry to cancel plans for the weekend bill signing or risk jeopardizing the tax-exempt status of the school and the church that oversees it.

"This is an absolutely grotesque misuse of the church to serve any politician's political interests. That's why we urge him to drop the whole idea," said Barry Lynn, director of Americans United. "If we're convinced that he has no possibility of changing his mind ... we will file a complaint with the IRS." ...

News of the bill-signing ceremony broke earlier this week when the Star-Telegram received an e-mail that originated from Perry's re-election campaign.

It said the Republican governor would stage a ceremony at Calvary Cathedral in Fort Worth on Sunday to sign into law a bill requiring that minors receive written permission from their parents before receiving an abortion.

He'll also sign the gay marriage proposition even though it's just a formality, because only voters can amend the Constitution. -- Star-Telegram | 06/03/2005 | Plans for bill signing draw protests

Georgia: state senator convicted

The Augusta Chronicle reports: A federal jury has convicted state Sen. Charles Walker on 127 of 137 criminal counts including mail fraud and conspiracy. ...

Mr. Walker was indicted on 137 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and filing false tax returns. ...

In the 66-page document, Mr. Walker was accused of running five alleged schemes that bilked advertisers of his weekly newspaper, the Augusta Focus, of defrauding two public hospitals, of dipping into his campaign funds for personal reasons and of stealing from the CSRA Classic charity event he co-founded in 1993. -- Latest News: Charles Walker found guilty on nearly all counts 06/03/05

June 2, 2005

Washington State: Judge will rule on Monday

AP reports: The judge in Washington's election challenge trial will issue his ruling Monday, Seattle television stations are reporting. The ruling will be carried live by TVW and at www.tvw.org.

Democrats asked the judge today to exclude the testimony of a Republican witness who described voting discrepancies in the 2004 gubernatorial election narrowly won by Democrat Christine Gregoire.

GOP data analyst Clark Bensen testified last week that the King County precincts with the largest discrepancies between ballots counted and people credited with voting followed a pattern: The five precincts with more votes than voters credited tended to favor Gregoire, and the six precincts with fewer votes than voters credited tended to favor Republican candidate Dino Rossi.

Republicans challenging Gregoire's 129-vote victory have focused on election errors in the Democratic stronghold of King County, the state's most populous county. They have pointed to the fact that King County counted 875 more votes than the number of people credited with voting. -- Top Stories - The Olympian - Olympia, Washington