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

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July 31, 2005

Boston: DOJ sues city over language provisions of VRA

The Boston Globe reports: Several Boston politicians sprang to the city's defense yesterday at the news that the US Department of Justice is suing the city for violating the rights of Hispanic and Asian-American voters with limited English skills, while others expressed concern.

The complaint, filed Friday, alleges that the city failed to translate election announcements, instructions, and other materials into Spanish and failed to provide enough translators for non- English speakers, in violation of the Voting Rights Act despite repeated warnings to do so. The lawsuit also accused the city of ''improperly influencing, coercing, or ignoring the ballot choices of limited English proficient Hispanic and Asian-American voters."

Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who has not commented publicly on the lawsuit, yesterday directed all questions to the city's chief lawyer, Merita Hopkins, who has disputed the Justice Department's allegations. ...

Hopkins, the city's chief lawyer, yesterday repeated her criticism of the Justice Department lawsuit, which does not point to specific instances where voters' rights were violated.

''We have asked them to tell us what the problems are -- if there are any -- and we have not been told," she said. ''This is not the way government should be operating. We should be working with each other. We shouldn't be wasting time and money suing each other." -- Voting Rights Act allegations rebuffed - The Boston Globe - - Mass. - News

Roberts opposed 1982 change to Voting Rights Act

The Washington Post reports: THE THOUSANDS of pages of just-released government files involving Judge John G. Roberts Jr. offer a tantalizing glimpse of the Supreme Court nominee as a young lawyer. While it's dangerous to make judgments based on a quick and necessarily spotty reading of quarter-century-old documents, the picture that emerges from the first wave of papers, including a huge batch unveiled from Judge Roberts's tenure as an adviser to President Ronald Reagan's attorney general, shows a lawyer fully in tune with the staunchly conservative legal views of the administration he was serving -- and indeed, at times to the right of some of its leading conservative lawyers.

Those who fear or hope, depending on their political positions, that Judge Roberts might be a stealth nominee in the mold of Justice David H. Souter -- a supposed conservative whose performance on the bench turned out to be far more moderate than predicted -- will find no support for such predictions in the papers that have emerged so far.

The memos show a younger Mr. Roberts expressing hostility to affirmative action programs and to a broad application of the Voting Rights Act. Congress was rewriting the law, and Mr. Roberts was vocal about making certain that it apply only to practices that were intended to harm minority voters -- not to those that simply had the effect of doing so. He criticized the solicitor general's office for failing to "be sufficiently sensitive" to the administration's civil rights views. In one memorandum, Mr. Roberts recommended against having the Justice Department intervene in a sex discrimination case involving disparities in vocational training programs for male and female prisoners -- even though William Bradford Reynolds, the administration's staunchly conservative civil rights division chief, wanted to participate. One particular area of concern is Mr. Roberts's writings on the ability of state prisoners to have their claims heard in federal court, something that he argued the Constitution does not require. "The current availability of federal habeas corpus, particularly for state prisoners, goes far to making a mockery of the entire criminal justice system," Mr. Roberts wrote in a 1981 memorandum that foreshadowed the high court's subsequent moves to restrict state prisoners' appeals in federal courts. Some tightening was justified, but the high court and Congress have since gone too far in eroding meaningful review. -- Young Lawyer Roberts

July 30, 2005

Washington State: judge uses business address for her voter registration

The Seattle Times reports: The Evergreen Freedom Foundation has challenged the voter registrations of 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Betty Fletcher and her husband, Robert Fletcher.

The complaint, filed Thursday with King County Elections, contends the Fletchers improperly used the King County Administration Building as their home address and a federal courthouse several blocks away as a mailing address. ...

The Fletchers live in a legislative district different from those addresses, Edelman said, so they have been casting illegal votes. He said the couple could have applied for an unlisted address under the state Address Confidentiality Program.

But Judge Fletcher said through her office yesterday that her home is in the same legislative district as her registration address. Fletcher, who was appointed to the appeals court by former President Carter in 1979, said she thinks she is legally registered. -- The Seattle Times: Local News: Voter registrations of judge, spouse alleged improper

Thanks to How Appealing for the link.

Roberts: Dems ask for documents on a list of cases

The Village Voice reports: Senators charged with vetting Bush nominee John Roberts for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court finally adjourned their tea party late this afternoon and began the investigation.

First, the Senate Judiciary Committee set a start date of September 6 for confirmation hearings. Then, the Democratic committee members lobbed their first shot. They wrote Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, demanding an intriguing set of documents from Roberts's days as a powerful lawyer for the Bush Sr. administration.

The letter reminds Gonzales that similar documents were requested and provided before the confirmation hearings of rejected Reagan nominee Robert Bork. ...

The Dems provided reporters the following list summarizing the cases on which they want Roberts's past papers. Of course, they are also obligated to satisfy the concerns of their constituents: ...

Voinovich v. Quilter, 507 U.S. 146 (1993)—A Voting Rights Act case in which the Solicitor General filed a brief opposing claims by minority voters in Ohio. Roberts co-authored the Solicitor General's brief. -- Dems Begin Digging into Bush Court Nominee

July 29, 2005

Maine: referendum to be held on gay civil rights law

AP reports: Voters will decide in November whether to repeal Maine's newly enacted gay rights law, the state's chief elections officer said Thursday after qualifying the measure for the ballot.

The declaration by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap sets into motion what will be the latest in a series of battles at the ballot box over over gay marriage around the country. ...

As passed by the Legislature earlier this year, the law would protect people from discrimination in employment, housing, education, public accommodations and credit based on their sexual orientation. Twice before, Maine voters have rejected similar legislation. -- Maine to Vote on Repealing Gay Rights Law

Roberts: liberal groups begin to attack

The Washington Post reports: After sitting mostly silent for more than a week after the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr., liberal activist groups and their allies in the Senate yesterday expressed growing concern about the conservative positions Roberts advocated while working as a young Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan administration.

Memos and other documents from Roberts's work as a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith show that Roberts took positions that some of those groups regard as hostile to civil rights. The documents show that he advocated a narrow interpretation of a variety of civil rights laws, and presented a defense of congressional efforts to strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction over busing, abortion and school prayer cases.

The emerging portrait of Roberts, liberal activist groups say, is not that of a dutiful advocate who was a step above the political fray, as Roberts has been described by his White House sponsors and supporters. Instead, they say, the documents reveal Roberts as an intense and ambitious partisan who appears to have been at the center of the Reagan administration's efforts to put a conservative stamp on government.

"With every passing day, it is becoming clearer that John Roberts was one of the key lieutenants in the right-wing assault on civil rights laws and precedents," said Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group. -- Judge's Reagan-Era Work Criticized

Common Cause launches Election Bill Tracker

Election Bill Tracker - Common Cause: The Common Cause Election Reform Team announces the implementation of a new Election Bill Tracker. This interactive database allows you to search for election-related bills in a particular state legislature, link to the bills' web sites for their exact language, and also find out the current status of the bills. Or, if you are interested in a particular election issue, you can find out about bills focusing on that issue all across the country, again with links to the bill's web sites and information about their current status.

Thanks to Daniel Levitas for the link.

July 28, 2005

Colorado: federal court OKs redistricting plan

AP reports: A federal court has thrown out the last remaining challenge to Colorado's congressional redistricting plan, saying the state Supreme Court resolved the case when it upheld a plan backed by Democrats.

Republican Party officials said today they expect to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling, handed down Wednesday and made available today, is a setback for the GOP, which has been seeking to overturn the state's congressional district map for two years. -- - LOCAL NEWS

Roberts: a "rather cramped view of the Voting Rights Act"

AP reports: After days of Democratic deference to John Roberts, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said Thursday that documents made public so far indicate the Supreme Court nominee holds a "rather cramped view of the Voting Rights Act."

Materials that Roberts drafted while at the Justice Department and White House counsel's office during the Reagan administration "certainly raise some questions in my mind about his commitment" to civil rights, said Kennedy, D-Mass.

Kennedy's remarks showed a willingness to raise pointed questions when most other Democrats have stuck to pleasantries about Roberts' credentials ahead of his confirmation hearings. ...

At the time, Congress was considering an extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act against the backdrop of a Supreme Court ruling that held that "proof of intent" was needed to demonstrate someone's rights had been violated.

House Democrats sought legislation to change so election results would be sufficient.

In a draft opinion article he sent to a county commissioner in San Antonio, Roberts wrote that the proposal would "not simply extend the existing and effective Voting Rights Act, but would dramatically change it. ... It's not broken so there's no need to fix it."

In another document, Roberts, then working in the White House, wrote that legislation designed to overturn a different Supreme Court ruling would "radically expand the civil rights laws to areas never before considered covered." He recommended against it.

In a third, he wrote that the administration could "go slowly on housing legislation" without fearing political damage. -- AP Wire | 07/28/2005 | Kennedy questions Roberts on civil rights

Bumper stickers, etc.

A friend of mine has been running Don't Blame Me I Voted for Kerry for several months. I took a look at it again tonight and laughed at all the new stuff he has. My favorites are the Make It Blue posters, with some of the best looking art work I have seen on a political poster in a while, and the hate mail page.

Go on over and take a look, buy something, and put a comment in the Ordering Instructions box that "Ed Still sent me."

July 27, 2005

North Carolina: Orange County will test voter-choice polling places

The News & Observer reports: Voters in Chapel Hill and Carrboro may be the first to participate in a pioneering elections program this fall.

A bill allowing the Orange County elections board to replace the 28 traditional precincts in the Chapel Hill Township with about 10 larger polling places tentatively squeaked through the House on Tuesday by a five-vote majority -- 61 to 56 -- with Democrats for it and Republicans against.

House Majority Leader Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat, said the legislation would let the southern half of the county conduct an important experiment that could increase voter turnout. Voters who live within the township would be able to choose where they vote. ...

But Republicans feared the experiment would create more opportunities for voter fraud. They also said it was intended to generate more turnout in a Democratic stronghold. -- | Politics

Mississippi: judges testify that Minor was just being nice without expecting a return

AP reports: A deceased judge and a member of the state Court of Appeals have testified that Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor secured loans for their political campaigns and never asked for anything in return.

Minor is accused of providing cash, loans and gifts to Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel in exchange for favorable decisions. All four defendants have pleaded innocent to bribery and fraud charges, and Minor has pleaded innocent to an additional count of racketeering.

On Tuesday, the testimony of former Appeals Court Judge James Thomas, who died in July 2004, was read by a defense attorney after U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate advised jurors that Thomas was deceased.

Thomas said Minor secured a $20,000 loan for his 1994 judicial campaign. He testified that he used $9,000 of the money and paid it back. -- AP Wire | 07/26/2005 | Judges testify Minor expected nothing in return for help raising money

John Roberts had key role in 2000 election recount

The Miami Herald reports: U.S. Supreme Court nominee John Roberts played a broader behind-the-scenes role for the Republican camp in the aftermath of the 2000 election than previously reported -- as legal consultant, lawsuit editor and prep coach for arguments before the nation's highest court, according to the man who drafted him for the job.

Ted Cruz, a domestic policy advisor for President Bush and who is now Texas' solicitor general, said Roberts was one of the first names he thought of while he and another attorney drafted the Republican legal dream team of litigation ''lions'' and ''800-pound gorillas,'' which ultimately consisted of 400 attorneys in Florida.

Until now, Gov. Jeb Bush and others involved in the election dispute could recall almost nothing of Roberts' role, except for a half-hour meeting the governor had with Roberts. Cruz said Roberts was in Tallahassee helping the Bush camp for ''a week to 10 days,'' and that his help was important, though Cruz said it is difficult to remember specifics five years after the sleep-depriving frenetic pace of the 2000 recount. -- | 07/27/2005 | Roberts had larger 2000 recount role

July 26, 2005

Los Angeles: proposal for public finance of elections

The Los Angeles Times reports: In a bid to reduce the influence of campaign contributors in citywide elections, three Los Angeles City Council members will submit a proposal today asking city staff to develop a public financing system for candidates.

City Council campaigns in Los Angeles routinely cost more than $500,000 for leading candidates. This year's two top mayoral candidates — incumbent James K. Hahn and challenger Antonio Villaraigosa — spent more than $13 million combined.

A draft of the motion — by Eric Garcetti, Wendy Greuel and Bill Rosendahl — offers no specifics. Rather, if it passes the council in the coming weeks, it would direct the city's chief legislative analyst's office to draw up a proposal within a 90-day window. -- City Considers Public Financing of Elections

Israel: PM's son charged with campaign finance violations

BBC reports: Charges have been brought against the son of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon over the funding of one of his father's election campaigns in 1999.

Accused of creating shell companies to conceal illegal donations, Omri Sharon has reportedly admitted overspending but questioned party funding limits.

The charges relate to Ariel Sharon's successful campaign to lead the Likud Party and to be its candidate for PM.

The authorities earlier decided not to indict the prime minister himself.

If found guilty, Omri Sharon faces up to five years in prison over charges of violating campaign finance laws, fraud, breach of trust and perjury. -- BBC NEWS | Middle East | Sharon's son charged over fraud

California: appeals court stays injunction on Prop 77

AP reports: Supporters of a ballot measure aimed at redrawing congressional and legislative districts filed an appeal Monday and were granted a temporary suspension of a lower court ruling that ordered Proposition 77 off the ballot.

The measure, one of three backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the November special election, would give authority for redrawing district boundaries to a panel of retired judges. But organizers of the petition drive mistakenly used two different versions in the circulation process prompting Sacramento County Judge Gail Ohanesian to toss the measure from the ballot last week.

But Justice Coleman A. Blease, of the 3rd District Court of Appeal agreed to stay Ohanesian’s order until the case could be decided. -- Appeal Filed on Redistricting Initiative

Virginia: GOP sues insurance carrier

AP reports: The Republican Party of Virginia is suing its liability insurance carrier, seeking nearly $1 million in reimbursement for the GOP's payout to settle a lawsuit over the eavesdropping scandal and attorneys' fees the insurer refused to cover.

The state GOP contends in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Richmond that the Union Insurance Co. of Lincoln, Neb., breached its contract by not covering the $750,000 the party paid in December to Virginia Democrats who sued over two intercepted conference calls.

The lawsuit also seeks $200,000 for legal bills from RPV's nine-month court battle with Democratic legislators and other party officials who alleged top GOP operatives violated their privacy rights.

The party contends it should have been covered because it did not know about or condone the espionage on calls made March 22 and 25, 2002, among Democratic lawmakers and, briefly, Gov. Mark R. Warner. The Democrats from across the state met by phone to discuss legal strategy for challenging the 2001 Republican-authored legislative redistricting plan.

As RPV's former executive director, Edmund A. Matricardi III secretly monitored the calls and pleaded guilty in 2003 to a single federal count of intercepting a wire communication. -- | News for Hampton Roads, Virginia | Virginia News

White House will release some Roberts memos

The New York Times reports: The Bush administration plans to release documents from Judge John G. Roberts's tenure in the White House counsel's office in the mid-1980's and his earlier job working for the attorney general, but will not make public papers covering the four years he spent as principal deputy solicitor general starting in 1989, two senior administration officials said Monday.

The decision fulfilled a request for disclosure of the documents made on Monday by Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which will hold the confirmation hearings for Judge Roberts, President Bush's choice to fill the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, said the senator's spokesman, Bill Reynolds.

But it falls short of the disclosure sought by Democrats, who have been demanding access to files from the nominee's work in the solicitor general's office at the Justice Department from 1989 to 1993, under the first President George Bush. Democrats say those files could shed light on the nominee's thinking about issues that could come before the court, and are especially important because Judge Roberts has not produced much of a paper trail when it comes to issues like abortion. Mr. Specter did not seek access to the papers from Judge Roberts's work as deputy solicitor general, Mr. Reynolds said. -- Some Documents of Supreme Court Choice Will Be Released - New York Times

I will be particularly interested in seeing the memos regarding the 1982 amendment to the Voting Rights Act.

July 25, 2005

Did the Dems suck up funds ACT would have gotten?

The Washington Post reports: America Coming Together, the liberal 527 that spent lavishly during the 2004 campaign, is sharply scaling back its operations and laying off employees in the face of lackluster fundraising. "It's been very difficult to raise the amount of money we had hoped to raise," Harold Ickes, one of the group's directors, told Roll Call.

So what has happened to all the liberal money? Ask Howard Dean.

The Democratic National Committee reported that Democrats' fundraising during the first half of this year jumped by more than 50 percent compared with the same period in 2003, the last non-election year. The Democratic National Committee, the party's Senate and House campaign committees along with its constellation of state and local parties reported taking in more than $86 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Their Republican counterparts posted a more modest 2 percent increase over the same period in 2003. But the GOP still significantly outfundraised the Democrats, receiving more than $142 million. -- Democratic Booster Cuts Liberal Spending

Impeachment charges against Pres. Arroyo

AP reports: Philippine opposition lawmakers filed an impeachment complaint today against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, accusing her of vote-rigging and other wrongdoing.

The filing against Arroyo, a staunch U.S. ally, claims she "stole, cheated and lied" to obtain power and hold it. Her aides have moved to block the complaint on a legal technicality.

A summary of the complaint seen by the Associated Press accuses Arroyo of 10 major crimes including election fraud and corruption. It claims she can be impeached on at least four grounds.

Arroyo has denied manipulating the May 2004 ballot by discussing vote counting with an election official before she was declared the winner. She has said she is ready to face an impeachment trial to clear her name and has announced a "truth commission" also will probe the accusations. -- Philippines leader faces more charges

Roberts advised Jeb Bush in 2000 Election controversy

AP reports: Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' brief meeting with Gov. Jeb Bush during the 2000 presidential recount in Florida has some Democrats questioning whether he would be a politically partisan justice.

Roberts, who was in private practice at the time, accepted the governor's invitation to come to Florida at his own expense to volunteer advice as Bush's brother was trying to clinch the election win over then-Vice President Al Gore.

Roberts spent about a half hour with the Florida governor and never played a major role at a time scores of attorneys swarmed into the state with legal advice for both sides during the 36-day recount.

"He came down and met with the governor briefly and shared with him some of his thoughts on what he believed the governor's responsibilities were after a presidential election, a presidential election in dispute," DiPietre said. "There were several experts, including professors, scholars, constitutional experts who came down to Florida at that time and Judge Roberts was one of them." -- AP Wire | 07/21/2005 | Supreme Court nominee helped counsel Gov. Bush in 2000 recount

A roundup of interest groups against the Roberts nomination

This list is limited to group that at least mention voting rights concerns:

The Alliance for Justice

ADA Watch

NAACP ("Senate should carefully scrutinize ...")

National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium ("Urges Senate to Closely Examine ...")

An op-ed against renewal of the VRA

Abigail Thernstrom and Edward Blum write: When it comes to issues involving race, apparently the first instinct of congressional Republicans is to grovel. They don't believe in appeasement abroad--only at home. The immediate issue is the reauthorization of the "emergency" provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act--provisions such as preclearance that constitute such a radical, unprecedented intrusion into state electoral prerogatives that they were originally designed to expire in 1970. Repeatedly extended, they are now due to die on Aug. 6, 2007.

But, terrified by the reauthorization campaign that the NAACP, the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, and other advocacy groups have begun to mount, Republicans in the House and Senate are pledging their support for reauthorization. Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay and House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner have announced that they will introduce legislation extending the "temporary" provisions another 25 years. This comes on the heels of Bill Frist, who said: "We must continue our nation's work to protect voting rights. And that is why we need to extend the Voting Rights Act."

Sen. Frist's statement is a non sequitur. Protecting voting rights is vital, but extending the temporary provisions of the Voting Rights Act is quite a different matter. Most of the legislation is permanent; basic 15th Amendment rights will never be denied again. And those who point their fingers at Florida should note that arguments over hanging chads had nothing to do with the Voting Rights Act. Florida was not a state covered by the emergency provisions in 1965, and today only five scattered counties (none involved in the battle of 2000) would be affected by another extension. -- OpinionJournal - Extra

Civil rights groups concerned over John Roberts

The Boston Globe reports: Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr. has a history of working to roll back government affirmative action and voting rights programs enacted to help minorities overcome the effects of past discrimination, leading some civil rights groups to eye him warily.

As an aide in the Reagan administration, Roberts helped develop legal arguments to narrow the scope of the Voting Rights Act and curb court-ordered busing for school desegregation purposes. The Bush administration has released only heavily redacted versions of Roberts's memos from this era, and some civil rights groups are calling for the full versions to be made public.

''We have concerns about Judge John G. Roberts mainly because we have very little information on his judicial philosophy with respect to the important issues of affirmative action, voting rights, and civil rights," Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, said this week. ''Because the next Supreme Court justice will make decisions affecting the lives of all Americans, it is crucial that they have a strong, positive, and demonstrated commitment to civil rights."

The blacked-out memos show that Roberts drafted op-ed pieces, talking points, and letters to the editor that went out under the name of Attorney General William French Smith to help promote the Reagan administration's efforts to limit the circumstances under which minorities could bring voting-rights claims. -- Civil rights groups cite concerns over Roberts - The Boston Globe - - Washington - News

July 23, 2005

If you are a blogger ...

Take the MIT Blogger Survey. I did and now

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

"Distributed Phone Banking"

Politics and Technology has an interesting post on (former GOP candidate for NJ governor) Bret Schundler's development of "distributed phone banking":

Now renamed Team Volunteer, the software allows call volunteers to access phone scripts, contact names and numbers, and customized questions and polls via the Web from wherever is convenient. Because volunteers enter responses into an online database, aggregated response results as well as volunteer progress can be viewed in real-time.

Schundler and People Power America have filed for a patent on this technolgy. But, as P&T says,

That's right, folks, the good folks at MoveOnPAC did just this sort of thing waaaaay back in 2003 during the Gray Davis recall campaign. ...

If I remember right, some folks did this for Dean too - under (gone now).

Read the whole post at Politics and Technology: Bret Schundler's Patent Power Grab

Spending like a drunken sailor

AP reports: The Navy hired a communications firm for $1.6 million in 2001 in an apparent attempt to influence the outcome of a vote on whether part of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques would continue to serve as a bombing range, according to documents obtained by a watchdog group.

Judicial Watch obtained the material under the Freedom of Information Act and provided them to The Associated Press.

According to the documents, the Navy's Fleet and Industrial Supply Center in Norfolk, Va., initially contracted with the Rendon Group of Washington for advice on "dissemination of accurate information" regarding the referendum of Vieques residents on whether to keep part of the island as a training range.

It later modified the contract to have Rendon "conduct public outreach to build grassroots support" for Navy training during vote. The contract value also went from an initial value of $200,000 to $1.6 million after two modifications. -- Firm Hired by Navy to Sway Vieques Vote

July 22, 2005

Connecticut: Should I recycle this bottle or help the public campaign fund?

AP reports: State legislators and the governor’s office are considering several sources of money to pay for a publicly funded campaign system, including unreturned bottle deposits, smaller lottery prizes and higher state fines and fees.

A working group of lawmakers, which held its second meeting Thursday, learned it will have to find about $8 million to $10 million a year — or roughly $35 million to $40 million over a four-year cycle — to create a new, voluntary election fund for legislative and constitutional officer races.

“I think several of the funding mechanisms will provide enough revenue,” said Sen. Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the group. “The question I think is which one. Which is the least painful of those various mechanisms?”
The bipartisan committee, created by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, plans to spend the summer attempting to hammer out a compromise by Sept. 15 that would reform Connecticut’s campaign finance system and limit special interest influence on elections. -- Panel floats plans for campaign financing

A coincidence of timing? Chevron contributes to CNOOC critics

AP reports: Three leaders in the congressional campaign to discourage Chinese oil company CNOOC Ltd.'s acquisition of Unocal Corp. accepted campaign contributions from rival suitor Chevron Corp. in recent weeks, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The lawmakers - Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. - have been among the most vocal on Capitol Hill in criticizing CNOOC's proposed deal as anticompetitive and a threat to national security. The perception that Congress could delay or spike a CNOOC deal is viewed as a major factor in Unocal's decision to stick with Chevron despite its lower bid.

All three donations were disbursed by Chevron on June 29, about a week after CNOOC announced its bid, according to Chevron's June report to the FEC. Pombo received a contribution of $2,000, while Conrad and Inhofe each received $1,000.

Pombo - who represents San Ramon, Calif., where Chevron is based - has received $21,500 from Chevron since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. -- AP Wire | 07/22/2005 | CNOOC critics took money from Chevron

Kentucky: county executive serves from jail

AP reports: A conviction and 16 months in federal prison for vote fraud and evidence of violation of campaign finance laws are not enough to force Knott County Judge-Executive Donnie Newsome out of office - at least not yet.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday said Newsome's opponent in the 2002 Democratic primary waited to long to challenge the outcome.

Mike Hall, who lost to Newsome defeated in the bitter 2002 Democratic primary by 520 votes, filed suit to have Newsome removed under a normal election challenge suit. But a unanimous three-judge appellate panel said the lawsuit was filed too late. ...

[Judge Rick] Johnson noted that after Newsome was incarcerated, he began cooperating with federal authorities and testified that he received $8,000 in campaign contributions that were not properly reported. -- AP Wire | 07/22/2005 | Appeals court: Convicted judge-executive may stay in office

July 21, 2005

California: redistricting initiative off the ballot

AP reports: A judge kicked Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure off the special election ballot Thursday, a crushing blow for a proposition that was held up as a centerpiece of the governor's campaign to reform state government.

The judge ruled that supporters violated California's constitution by using two versions of the initiative in the process of qualifying the measure for the ballot.

"The differences are not simply typographical errors," Judge Gail Ohanesian said. "They're not merely about the format of the measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the substantive terms of the measure." ...

Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked the judge to order the measure off the ballot because its supporters used two versions - one to gather voter signatures and another version given to the attorney general. -- AP Wire | 07/21/2005 | Redistricting measure off Calif. ballot

Alabama: legislative leaders intervene to protect districting plans

The Mobile Register reports: The two top lawmakers of each branch of the Alabama Legislature sought Friday to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit challenging the state's legislative boundaries and asked a judge to toss out the complaint.

A group of voters in southwest Alabama filed the lawsuit in federal court in Mobile last month, claiming the state's redistricting plan illegally diluted their influence by packing them into overly populous districts.

The plan, according to the complaint, was an attempt by the Democrat-controlled Legislature to benefit Democrats by stuffing as many Republican voters as possible into as few legislative districts as possible. ...

Senate President Pro Tem Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, and House Speaker Seth Hammet, D-Andalusia, filed paperwork Friday asking to be recognized as defendants. State Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, also sought to intervene.

The lawmakers argued they were better equipped to defend the interests of the two groups with the most to lose from a challenge to the district lines -- the majority of Democrats in the Legislature and black voters, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Sanders is a member of the Black Legislative Caucus. -- State legislative leaders want redistricting suit to be tossed

Disclosure and note: I am one of the attorneys representing Speaker Seth Hammett. This article appeared on Saturday.

DSL problems

Update: The new DSL modem has arrived and it is working well. I hope to get back to blogging soon.

I have been having DSL problems at home. The repair will not take place till Friday Monday Thursday at the earliest, so there may be a continued hiatus in posts here. In the meanwhile, read some of the folks over in the right margin.

July 19, 2005

San Diego: 2 convicted for bribery

The Los Angeles Times reports: Acting Mayor Michael Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza were convicted Monday of trading political favors for campaign contributions from a strip-club owner — adding to the political turmoil gripping the city where the mayor has resigned and the pension system is under federal investigation.

Prosecutors charged that the two men, both 35-year-old Democrats, took $23,000 from the owner of Cheetahs Totally Nude club and his associates and, in exchange, agreed to work to ease a city law that prohibits nude dancers from touching their customers. ...

Jerry Coughlan, Zucchet's attorney, said the contacts between the council members and the strip-club owner's lobbyist were identical to those carried on daily between officeholders and contributors seeking favors.

"There isn't a single public official in the country that hasn't done the same thing," he told reporters outside the federal courthouse.

The only difference, Coughlan said, is that the conversations of Zucchet and Inzunza were secretly recorded by the FBI and played for a jury. "Maybe this is a call for public financing [of campaigns] and getting rid of the current system," he said. -- 2 San Diego Officials Guilty in Strip-Club Graft Scandal

July 16, 2005

Arizona: Supreme Court allows parties to soliticit corporate contributions

The Arizona Republic reports: State political parties can once again solicit corporate donations for administrative expenses, as long as the funds aren't "earmarked" to influence any particular campaign, the state Supreme Court said this week.

The court reversed a 2004 Appeals Court decision that said the Arizona Democratic Party violated state law by soliciting more than $100,000 from corporations and using it for administrative expenses in 1998, a practice the party engaged in for at least four years. The court not only vacated the earlier ruling, but ordered the state to pay the party's legal fees, which are estimated to be between $75,000 and $100,000.

While state law prohibits corporations and labor organizations from contributing money to influence elections, "nothing in the statute prohibits a political party from accepting such contributions and using them to pay overhead expenses," wrote Vice Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. -- Court reverses contribution ruling

Appeals Court affirms decision on FEC rules

AP reports: An appeals court agreed on Friday that federal election regulators wrongly opened several loopholes in a 2002 campaign finance law that had been designed to take big contributions out of Congressional and presidential elections.

In a 2-to-1 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed a ruling last year by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Federal District Court here. Judge Kollar-Kotelly struck down more than a dozen Federal Election Commission regulations interpreting the 2002 campaign finance law and ordered the commission to write tougher rules.

The cornerstone of the 2002 law is a ban on the raising of soft money - corporate and union contributions in any amount and unlimited donations from any source - by national party committees, the president, vice president, members of Congress and candidates for federal office. The law, which broadly bars the use of soft money in federal elections, was intended to rid federal elections of special-interest contributions that had ballooned into six- and seven-figure checks. -- Appeals Court Upholds Ruling on Campaign Finance Rules - New York Times

July 12, 2005

Mississippi: Final prosecution witness in bribery trial

AP reports: Federal prosecutors in Mississippi's judicial bribery case put on a final witness Tuesday to guide a jury through the myriad of checks and loan documents key to the case against a prominent lawyer and a member of the state Supreme Court.

Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor is accused of providing cash, loans and gifts to state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel in exchange for favorable decisions. All four have pleaded innocent to bribery and fraud charges, and Minor has pleaded innocent to an additional count of racketeering.

On Tuesday, Kim Mitchell, a financial analyst with the U.S. attorney's office, began her testimony with the financial transactions involving Whitfield.

Past testimony and records have shown that Minor guaranteed two loans for Whitfield in the amounts of $40,000 and $100,000. One was for campaign expenses and the other was for a down payment on a home, according to testimony. -- AP Wire | 07/12/2005 | Prosecution calls final witness in judicial bribery case

South Dakota: Legislature will not change districting plan to comply with court order

The Argus Leader reports: Legislative leaders decided Monday they'll continue to play the hand they dealt themselves in a 4-year-old redistricting plan that a federal judge says violates Lakota voting rights.

The Legislative Research Council's executive board voted unanimously to reaffirm its 2001 action in the face of U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier's ruling.

Schreier said the plan packs Lakota voters into District 27 and dilutes the minority population's voting strength in neighboring District 26.

The two districts are part of an area that includes the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Indian reservations in southwestern South Dakota. Schreier gave the Legislature until July 29 to submit a plan that responded to her finding of a voting-rights violation.

Lawmakers instead will offer a resolution adopted Monday that affirms their earlier action. Then they'll wait for Schreier's final order in the case and almost certainly will appeal her decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. -- Argus Leader - News

Texas: judge refuses to dismiss indictment against DeLay aide

The Washington Post reports: A Texas state judge yesterday reaffirmed the indictment of a political associate of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), turning aside his claim that a state law barring the use of corporate funds in the 2002 Texas election was unconstitutionally vague.

The ruling was the latest of several in Texas courts to run against former officials of Texans for a Republican Majority, which was created by DeLay and his political aides to orchestrate a 2002 takeover of the Texas House. That victory in turn led to a redistricting of Texas congressional districts and helped cement GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The legal dispute has its roots in Texas's long-standing prohibition on the use of corporate money in state elections and the group's collection of more than a half million dollars of such funds, which it poured into the races of 17 Republicans elected to the state House.

In September 2004, a grand jury indicted John Colyandro, who directed the Texas group, on charges of illegally collecting the money. Colyandro, a veteran of White House political adviser Karl Rove's direct-mail firm, had sought to have the indictment dismissed on grounds that the law was poorly drafted and infringed on protected rights. -- Judge Refuses to Drop Case Against DeLay Ally

California: Dems will join AG's suit against redistricting initiative

AP reports: The Legislature's Democratic leaders are seeking to join a lawsuit aimed at removing the redistricting initiative from the special election ballot, a direct challenge to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The measure is one of three the governor placed on the Nov. 8 ballot as part of his "year of reform" package and seeks to change how boundaries are drawn for members of the state Legislature, Congress and the state Board of Equalization.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed a lawsuit last week claiming supporters of Proposition 77 violated the state Constitution by significantly changing the wording of the initiative after it was approved by state officials for circulation.

Attorney Lance Olson, representing Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, said he will file papers Wednesday asking the court to allow his clients to join with Lockyer in arguing that the measure should be removed from the ballot. -- Democratic leaders to join lawsuit over redistricting initiative

Washington State: Mayor West does not oppose fast appeal

The Seattle Times reports: Lawyers for Mayor James West say they do not oppose a quick review by the state Supreme Court about whether a recall effort can be fast-tracked in time for the November election.

But West — who is embroiled in a sex scandal that includes allegations he offered jobs for sex — wants enough time to present briefs and oral arguments, attorneys William Etter and Carl Oreskovich said yesterday in a motion to the Supreme Court.

"Even if the Supreme Court were to issue a decision this summer, it is highly unlikely that 12,600 signatures could be gathered, canvassed and verified in time for the general election on November 8, 2005," the motion said. -- Spokane mayor does not oppose fast review of recall effort

July 10, 2005


It's 6 p.m. in Birmingham and predicts "squalls" and 30-40 mph winds for the next 12 hours. Just to make sure, I looked up squall using Google. Here are some definitions:

Atmospheric phenomenon characterized by an abrupt and large increase of wind speed by at least 18 mph and rising to 25 mph with a duration of the order of minutes, which diminishes rather suddenly. It is often accompanied by showers or thunderstorms.

In U.S. observational practice, a squall is reported only if a wind speed of 16 knots or higher is sustained for at least two minutes (thereby distinguishing it from a gust).

Here's my favorite, from Wikipedia:

A squall or squall line is a line of thunderstorms with a common leading convection line, or mesocyclone, which tends to create a powerful gust front. It is classified as a multi-cell thunderstorm, since, unlike conventional thunderstorm lightning bolts, the line comprises multiple fronts much thicker than the standard 20 cells or nanometers. Squalls are sometimes associated with hurricanes or other cyclones, but they can also occur independently. Most commonly, independent squalls occur along front lines, and may contain heavy precipitation, hail, frequent lightning, dangerous straight line winds, and possibly tornadoes and waterspouts.

Hmm, that sounds like fun.

See you on the other side of this storm.

Tennessee: if you can't raise the money, lower the bridge (loan)

The Tennessean reports: During the special election earlier this year for the state Senate, Kathryn Bowers used what some call a loophole in the state's political fundraising rules.

The Memphis Democrat, who was a member of the state House then, was not allowed to raise cash for her campaign because it's against the law for sitting state elected officials to raise money while the legislature is in session. But here is what she could do: She could borrow cash and in-kind services, as long as she promised to pay back the contributors in the future.

And that's exactly what she did. On credit, she purchased ads on the local radio station, phone service for the campaign, office furniture and printing for pamphlets mailed to voters' homes. In all, Bowers racked up $40,000 in debt to beat back her opponents.

"While it does look funny, it is legal," said Drew Rawlins with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, the state agency that monitors elected officials' campaign finance. "There's nothing in the statute that says who you have to pay first." -- Bowers may have used loophole to cover election costs - Sunday, 07/10/05

Florida: campaign to change redistricting gains

The Ledger reports: A bipartisan campaign to change the way Florida draws lines for its congressional and state legislative districts is gaining momentum, according to its supporters.

Ben Wilcox, executive director of Florida Common Cause, the citizens' lobbying group that has spearheaded the effort, reports that the Committee for Fair Elections has gathered about 80,000 signatures from voters. Once those signatures are verified by state election officials, it will be enough to get the group's redistricting amendments before the state Supreme Court for a review.

If the court approves the wording of the three constitutional amendments, the proposal will be on next year's general election ballot if the redistricting group can collect enough additional signatures to reach the 611,000 signatures that will be needed. The Fair Elections group has until Feb. 1. -- Web Sites Become New Campaign Issue |

Sensenbrenner will introduce 25-year extension of VRA

The House Judiciary Committee announced in a press release: House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-Wis.) today is announcing he will introduce legislation to extend the Voting Rights Act for 25 years and is calling for a bipartisan approach to civil rights issues.

Chairman Sensenbrenner will be addressing these issues during a speech later today in Milwaukee at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) 96th Annual Convention. (Chairman Sensenbrenner also spoke at the organization’s 2001 Annual Convention in New Orleans.)

Chairman Sensenbrenner's prepared remarks are below. ...

In 2007, several key protections contained in the Voting Rights Act will expire, including the federal oversight protections provided by Section 5. I am here to tell you publicly what I have told others privately, including the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, Representative Mel Watt – during this Congress we are going to extend the Voting Rights Act. I am not alone in the Congress in supporting an extension; indeed, House Speaker Dennis Hastert last week stated that reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act is high on his list of issues the House will address this Congress.

Soon I will be introducing legislation to extend the Voting Rights Act. Just like its enactment and its 1982 extension, this bipartisan effort will succeed. Ladies and gentlemen, while we have made progress and curtailed injustices thanks to the Voting Rights Act, our work is not yet complete. We cannot let discriminatory practices of the past resurface to threaten future gains. The Voting Rights Act must continue to exist – and exist in its current form. -- Sensenbrenner To Introduce 25-Year Voting Rights Extension Legislation, Calls for Bipartisan Approach to Civil Rights Issues

July 9, 2005

South Dakota: Legislative Executive Board meets Monday on redistricting

AP reports: South Dakota legislative leaders will hold an emergency meeting Monday to decide how to respond to a federal judge's ruling that said the current legislative redistricting plan violates the rights of American Indians.

The Legislature's Executive Board, which handles management issues for the Legislature, will meet with lawyers from the attorney general's office.

Sen. Ed Olson, R-Mitchell, chairman of the Executive Board, said lawmakers will discuss whether to hold a special legislative session to pass an alternate redistricting plan or take some other action. ...

[U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier] had asked the South Dakota Supreme Court to determine whether the Legislature has constitutional authority to redistrict now. The court last week ruled that the Legislature does have constitutional authority to fix the redistricting plan in response to Schreier's order. -- AP Wire | 07/06/2005 | Legislative panel to meet Monday on redistricting dispute

Mississippi: judge orders new elections in Granada

AP reports: A federal judge has ordered the Grenada City Council to hold a new city election that includes residents annexed in 1993.

If the city fails to do so, U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers said he will order a special master to carry out his order.

Biggers issued the order Tuesday, instructing the city to correct the long-debated issue.

He gave the city 30 days from the date of his order — July 5 — to draw new ward lines and ordered the city to hold an election within 90 days of devising a new redistricting plan, which includes all citizens within the old corporate limits and the annexed area.

Grenada officials had sought to void the annexation that brought in several hundred white residents. Chancellor Percy Lynchard refused in 2002 to allow the city to de-annex the area only to get federal approval for new ward lines.

The Justice Department objected to both the city's 1993 annexation plan and the de-annexation. Federal officials said the then-majority white council in 1993 intended to use annexation to thwart the growth of black voting strength. -- Judge orders new city election

According to the order, the Justice Department withdrew its objection to the 1993 annexation in 2005.

Illinois: Rep. Evans settles with the FEC, but is not pleased

AP reports: U.S. Rep. Lane Evans said Friday his campaign was the target of an abuse of power by the Federal Election Commission and Republicans trying to discourage minorities from voting. ...

Evans' campaign last month agreed to pay $185,000 in civil penalties to settle FEC charges that Evans set up a second campaign fund and improperly used it to help him win re-election.

Evans said his campaign may have made some mistakes, but there was nothing wrong with supporting voter registration and other party-building efforts by the separate "17th District Victory Fund." ...

The FEC said Evans created the Victory Fund in 1998 and helped it raise $500,000 through the 2000 election cycle. More than $200,000 of that came from unions, which is prohibited under federal election law. The Victory Fund spent at least $330,000 to help Evans' campaign, the FEC said. -- SJ-R.COM - Evans says FEC, GOP targeted his campaign

California: AG sues to remove redistricting initiative from ballot

AP reports: Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed suit Friday to remove Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative from the November ballot, saying supporters violated the state Constitution when they significantly changed the measure's wording.

Lockyer filed the suit in Sacramento County Superior Court as the issue becomes increasingly politicized between the attorney general, a Democrat, and Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, a Republican appointed by Schwarzenegger.

The measure is one of eight on the Nov. 8 special election ballot and one of three that are part of the governor's "Year of Reform" package.

"By opting to collect signatures on a ballot measure different from the text reviewed and approved by the attorney general, the proponents violated state law and deceived voters," Lockyer said in a statement. "Allowing access to the ballot for initiative proponents who switch or modify text during the signature gathering phase would defeat existing laws designed to protect the integrity of state elections and would corrupt the people's initiative process." -- L.A. Daily News - News

July 8, 2005

Club for Growth vs. Free Enterprise Fund

The New York Times reports: A rift among the handful of millionaires behind the Club for Growth, a conservative fund-raising powerhouse, has degenerated into accusations of stolen donor lists and betrayed principles.

The dispute began in December when Stephen Moore, the organization's president, was privately ousted by the group's board and publicly announced his resignation. But as the disagreement becomes public, it threatens to confuse or divide other supporters of the group. ...

The dispute spilled out into the group's broader membership in late May, when Mr. Moore sent many of the club's members a fund-raising letter for his new group [the Free Enterprise Fund]. "As you may have heard, I left the Club for Growth after I lost control of a board fight and was forced to resign as president and C.E.O. - despite our fabulous electoral successes in 2004," Mr. Moore wrote in the letter. ...

In response, lawyers for the club sent Mr. Moore and his new group letters threatening legal action, accusing him of having stolen the club's mailing list. "We know of no source from which the Free Enterprise Fund lawfully could have obtained the mailing list used for the May 26 letter," said a letter dated June 21. "The club is preparing to forcefully pursue legal remedies," including a suit for damages and a complaint to the Federal Election Commission, the letter continued. -- Leadership Dispute Causes a Split in a Powerhouse of Fund-Raising for Conservative Causes - New York Times

July 7, 2005

A chill

I have been out of town taking depositions. I awoke this morning about 4:20 EDT in the hotel and could not get back to sleep. It was not until 6 when I turned on the radio that I heard about the bombings in London. On the the first reports said the bus bombing was in front of the Tavistock Hotel. The name immediately rang a bell -- and sent a chill down my spine -- because that was the first hotel in which I stayed in London 20 something years ago. The Guardian has a story on Where the bombers struck.

May the peace of the Lord be with those who have died and with their families.

July 5, 2005

A proposal to the FEC

Matt Stoller writes on DailyKos: The reason the FEC donor database succeeds in regulating where rules fail is because it works with the architecture of the internet, rather than against it. In other words, regulation in the internet age is about changing the information environment, and letting a network of bloggers, journalists, organizations, and citizens do the rest. In other words, the notion that regulating public communications solely means telling organized entities what they can and can't do rather than helping the public itself communicate is a flaw in the definition of public communication, and a misunderstanding of how power and corruption work in a decentralized system.

So let's turn the problem of political corruption from money in the process around, and unleash citizens on the problem of corruption rather than just a regulatory agency. To that end, the single best and least intrusive thing the FEC could do to root out corruption in the campaign world be to create a public database for communication by Federal political committees. This 'FEC Public Communications Database' would be an archive of all communications coming from any Federal registered Political Committee that is distributed to more than 10,000 people. Every direct mail piece, every TV spot, every radio spot, every email, every official blog entry - would go into this publicly archived and searchable database within 24-48 hours of its release. That way, just as political committees must stand behind who gives to them, they will also need to stand behind what they say. -- Daily Kos: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

July 4, 2005

A reunion for 1960's voting rights volunteers

AP reports: Forty years ago, when college students were recruited to come South to help register black voters, the volunteers stuck together for their own safety.

Last weekend, a dozen of them gathered again in Atlanta - this time to remember.

Now grayer and heavier, they came from places like New York, California and Illinois to remember that summer of hope and resistance. Their memories of canvassing slices of the Deep South have always stayed with them, they said. ...

The decision to bring in Northerners proved pivotal in the civil rights struggle. Where some native blacks had battled segregation for decades in obscurity, the mostly white college students attracted media attention and the nation's outrage when they were attacked for trying to help black Southerners vote. -- AP Wire | 07/04/2005 | Reunion brings back college students who worked for civil rights

Arizona: Legislator fined for listing insufficient details on campaign reports reports: The Citizens Clean Elections Commission issued a $10,000 penalty June 23 to Rep. Rick Murphy (R-Peoria) for failing to report sufficient information about his campaign spending.

The freshman lawmaker plans to appeal the decision, noting his campaign reports are no different than several state elected officials. District 9 includes portions of Glendale, Peoria, Sun City and Youngtown.

Peoria resident Phil Hanson, a former legislative incumbent in District 9, lodged a handful of complaints after the primary election last year.

Gene Lemon, a private investigator hired by the Commission found an allegation with merit related to how Rep. Murphy's campaign reported nine checks for mailings, automated calls and signs written to Constantin Querard, a campaign consultant also under investigation.

Mr. Lemon said names and addresses of individuals providing the service were not recorded, only a "middleman" was. --

Alabama: Christian Coalition says Choctaws gave funds from non-gambling revenue

The Birmingham News reports: Alabama Christian Coalition leaders said Friday a 2000 contribution they received from a Mississippi casino interest did not violate their policies because the money came from the Indian tribe's non-gaming funds.

The Christian Coalition of Alabama on Friday released the results of an internal investigation prompted by disclosures that money raised for the group by conservative activist Ralph Reed came from the Mississippi Choctaws, a tribe that operates casinos.

Coalition Chairman Bob Russell and President John Giles said the group never knew the Choctaws were behind the donation. ...

Giles said the coalition didn't violate its policy against accepting gambling proceeds, because, according to Reed and tribe officials, the funds came from the tribe's non-gaming ventures. The tribe runs manufacturing facilities in addition to the Pearl River Resort casinos. -- Coalition: Donation adhered to policy

Independence Day

One of my favorite things to do on the 4th of July is listen to Morning Edition's reading of the Declaration of Independence. The readers' lineup changed a bit this year: the late Red Barber is still there, but Bob Edwards has been replaced.

If you want a visual to go along with the reading, listen and watch as Morgan Freeman introduces a group of Hollywood stars read the Declaration. (Click on "Declaration Reading.") Watch for Graham Greene reading the accusation that King George had caused the Indian tribes to attack the colonists.

And today is the third anniversary of my first entry in this blog.

Have a happy and safe Fourth.

July 3, 2005

New York: is it a non-profit or a party?

The Buffalo News reports: Attorneys for Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds have filed complaints with the Federal Election Commission and other entities charging Jack Davis, Reynolds' 2004 challenger and presumed 2006 opponent, with improperly injecting politics into his anti-free trade efforts.

Bradley J. Stamm, an attorney with close ties to the Republican congressman from Clarence, said the complaint he filed as a Reynolds supporter seeks fines against Davis for his handling of his nonprofit Save American Jobs Association and his new Save Jobs Party.

The political party has become intertwined with the nonprofit Save American Jobs Association, he said, violating a host of federal regulations.

"The abuses were staggering," Stamm said. "Davis first used his failed political campaign to launch the not-for-profit. He then used the not-for-profit to launch his so-called political party. Now he's using the political party for his own self-promotion - a deliberate scheme to circumvent federal and state laws." -- Buffalo News - Reynolds accuses Davis of abusing nonprofit

Texas: Dems' attorney wants TAB records

AP reports: An attorney representing defeated Democratic candidates wants to know which corporations gave the Texas Association of Business $1.7 million to mail ads to voters during the 2002 legislative campaign.

Attorney Buck Wood has threatened to sue three corporations identified as donors last year by the Austin American-Statesman unless the companies confirm or deny their involvement, the newspaper reported Sunday. Wood said he would name the corporations as defendants in his lawsuit against the TAB, the state's largest business organization.

Officials with the companies - AT&T Corp., Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. - are continuing their stance of not commenting because of pending criminal investigations and the threat of litigation.

Wood contends that the business association violated state law by raising and spending corporate money on two dozen legislative campaigns, then failing to disclose it to state campaign finance authorities.

He claims the association operated as a de facto political committee and should be required to disclose its donors under the state's campaign finance laws. He says 20,000 pages of documents he obtained from the association last week show it spent more on mailings than on its other operations, suggesting its primary purpose in 2002 was political. -- AP Wire | 07/03/2005 | Lawyer wants identities of TAB contributors

July 2, 2005

Why the replacement for Justice O'Connor is important to voting rights lawyers

Rick Hasen writes in the New Republic Online: No doubt the coming Senate hearings to confirm Sandra Day O'Connor's successor will focus on hot-button issues like affirmative action and abortion. This is understandable, of course, since O'Connor's replacement with a more conservative justice could mark a change in direction for the Court on these topics--two years ago, for instance, she granted a twenty-five year reprieve to affirmative action programs, and a few years before that she was the decisive vote in striking down state bans on partial birth abortion.

But while these issues will grab the headlines, O'Connor's departure from the Court could have equally startling consequences in an area of the law that may not even come up during the Senate hearings: election law. It is possible, even likely, that her resignation will lead to both the deregulation of campaign financing and a serious challenge to major parts of the Voting Rights Act. Such changes would, in turn, mean radical shifts in the way elections are conducted in the United States.

In 2003, O'Connor was the decisive fifth vote in McConnell v. FEC when the Court upheld McCain-Feingold, Congress's first major revamping of federal campaign finance law in a generation. In the case, she voted to bar political parties from collecting large soft-money contributions from corporations, unions, and wealthy individuals; she also endorsed limits on so-called issue ads, which corporations and unions had previously used as a backdoor way of participating in campaigns. -- The New Republic Online: Rock the Vote

Thanks to Rick Hasen who mentioned this piece on his blog this morning.

Initial thoughts on the resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

More later when I have thought about it some more.