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

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August 31, 2005

Reports on Roberts

The Alliance for Justice and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have issued reports on John Roberts. (The AFJ report does not have a cover page.)

August 30, 2005

Katrina (part 3)

New Orleans is filling with water from a break in the levee. Ernie is trying to get out of town.

I used to go to New Orleans for conferences or oral arguments in the old Fifth Circuit, but the longest I spent in New Orleans was in September 2001. I was on a panel at the International Municipal Lawyers Association. The terrorists hit the World Trade Center towers about an hour before I was to speak. I was stuck in the city until Friday when I got one of the first Southwest flights back to DC (where I was living at the time). It was a strange 3 or 4 days as I rode the hotel shuttle to the French Quarter, ate lunch near Jackson Square, went to the bookstores and art galleries, rode back to the hotel and watch far too much TV about the attacks.

What do you do when the place that was your refuge is now a place people must flee?

I pray for all the people of New Orleans.

Katrina (part 3)

New Orleans is filling with water from a break in the levee. Ernie is trying to get out of town.

I used to go to New Orleans for conferences or oral arguments in the old Fifth Circuit, but the longest I spent in New Orleans was in September 2001. I was on a panel at the International Municipal Lawyers Association. The terrorists hit the World Trade Center towers about an hour before I was to speak. I was stuck in the city until Friday when I got one of the first Southwest flights back to DC (where I was living at the time). It was a strange 3 or 4 days as I rode the hotel shuttle to the French Quarter, ate lunch near Jackson Square, went to the bookstores and art galleries, rode back to the hotel and watch far too much TV about the attacks.

What do you do when the place that was your refuge is now a place people must flee?

I pray for all the people of New Orleans.

Katrina (part 2)

Shortly after I sent my good wishes to Ernie (who seems to be OK), Hurricane Katrina (or maybe she was a Tropical Storm by then) took the electricity from my house.

Blogging may be light the rest of the week. I have to teach tonight and I am heading off the the American Political Science Association meeting for the rest of the week. I hope to hear Rick Hasen's presentation, among many others.

August 29, 2005


Ernie the Attorney wrote last night at 7:05: So I tried to leave New Orleans today at 12:30 pm but after 4 hours of driving I had only made it 15 miles. I was alone and tired so I decided the safe play was to return. It's kind of sad when the 'safe play' is to go back and wait to be pounded by the gnashing fury of a Category 5 hurricane. -- Ernie The Attorney: Massive change is coming to New Orleans

Pray for him and all the other folks of N'Awlins. We're waiting for word you safe, Ernie.

August 27, 2005

Washington State: Mayor West seeks to block release of his computer info

AP reports: Lawyers for Mayor Jim West, the subject of a recall petition drive over a City Hall sex scandal, have asked a court to block the release of copies of potentially embarrassing contents of computer hard drives.

In a sworn affidavit filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court to support the request for a temporary restraining order, West said his city-owned computer's hard drive may contain information relating to "personal social contacts" from his use of the device outside City Hall. ...

West's lawyers want to block release of the city computer drives by the city attorney's office to media seeking to review their contents under the state's Public Records Act.

"I believe the information on the city computer disk is private, not subject to public disclosure, and is exempt from disclosure," West said in his affidavit.

Spokane's computer and e-mail policy states that City Hall computers are for public uses and that state or federal laws may make their data available to citizens. -- AP Wire | 08/26/2005 | Spokane mayor seeks to block computer info

Minnesota: checking metadata on political websites

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports: A GOP legislator's official news release finds its way to her congressional campaign website. DFL websites are found to contain material from computers at public schools and a private law firm.

Do such revelations, and others like them, represent an outbreak of political lawlessness in a state noted for aboveboard campaigning? Or are they a series of minor slipups by busy volunteer activists who are being outed in Minnesota's hottest new partisan blood sport?

A flurry of allegations have been exchanged in recent weeks, generally via e-mail or web logs, accusing political activists in both major parties of preparing political materials on computers where they work.

It is illegal under Minnesota law to use public resources for partisan purposes, and political work on corporate computers could, if officially sanctioned, constitute an illegal contribution.

The accusations typically follow a search of the "properties" field of Microsoft Word documents that is supposed to show where they were created. -- Latest political bickering focuses on who typed what, and where

Hint: download the "Remove Hidden Data Tool" from the Microsoft Support Site and use it before sharing your document with others.

Georgia: DOJ preclears voter ID law

AP reports: The U.S. Justice Department on Friday approved a Georgia law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. The measure's opponents immediately vowed to challenge it in federal court.

The decision, written by John Tanner, chief of the department's voting section, says that while Attorney General Alberto Gonzales doesn't object to the law, approval doesn't preclude lawsuits against it. ...

Democrats had argued the idea was a political move by the GOP to suppress voting among minorities, the elderly and the poor - all traditional bases for Democrats. Its opponents also included the AARP, League of Women Voters and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The measure wipes out several currently accepted forms of voter identification other than photo IDs, including the use of Social Security cards, birth certificates or utility bills at the polls.

"Requiring valid, photographic identification is a common sense step to ensure voter integrity and sound elections," Gov. Sonny Perdue said Friday in a written statement. -- Macon Telegraph | 08/27/2005 | Justice Department approves Georgia's voter ID law

August 25, 2005

Alabama: Dems rebut Flowers

The Alabama Democratic Party blog has this to say about the Steve Flowers column quoted yesterday: What Steve Flowes failed to point out in his piece is that the district boundaries were drawn in a bi-partisan nature. Legislators of both parties were involved in the process and had to vote on it. Former Republican Attorney General (and now Bush-appointed judge) Bill Pryor defended the boundaries previously, and they were swiftly approved by the Bush Department of Justice. Our districts have been approved every step of the way by Republicans, and this lawsuit is nothing more than an admission by the GOP that they can't take control of the legislature if they play by the rules in place - rules, I might again add, which have been supported by Republican after Republican.

I think it does a disservice to the readers of Flowers' column not to mention this. I am not accusing Flowers of having a political agenda in his columns, but I will say this is not the first time I've found misleading or factually inaccurate information in them. -- Steve Flowers Doesn't Get It - ADP Blog

Virginia: strange bedfellows litigate for free speech down at the mall

The Daily Progress reports: In a nine-page lawsuit filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court, attorneys for both groups [the conservative Rutherford Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia] ask the court to declare that the Virginia Constitution protects the right of free speech, even at privately owned shopping centers.

“It’s a constitutional provision which provides the basis of the First Amendment. Usually it doesn’t apply to the private sector ... but we believe it applies to private shopping centers when it comes to free speech,” said Steven D. Rosenfield, a Charlottesville lawyer and ACLU volunteer.

Collins lacked funds to advertise in newspapers or television. So he took his campaign for the Democratic nomination to the 57th House of Delegates seat to the streets, handing out leaflets to people at Shoppers World shopping center off U.S. 29, where Whole Foods is located.Shoppers World Manager Charles Lebo repeatedly asked Collins to leave. But Collins continued to hand out the leaflets. Eventually Lebo called police, and the 70-year-old Collins was arrested and charged with trespassing. ...

Shopping centers have replaced downtown areas as places where people congregate and share ideas, lawyers for Collins state in the lawsuit. Hence, space for such exchanges has diminished.

“As corporations and shopping centers get bigger, where do people go? They go to the shopping centers,” Whitehead said. “It’s the only place where people can congregate, where people can exchange ideas, leaflets.” -- Civil groups help Collins in lawsuit

To make this story a little clearer, here is the text of the Virginia Constitution I think they rely on: "Section 12. Freedom of speech and of the press; right peaceably to assemble, and to petition. That the freedoms of speech and of the press are among the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained except by despotic governments; that any citizen may freely speak, write, and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right; that the General Assembly shall not pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, nor the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances."

Thanks to Brian Patton for the link

Florida: The Department of State takes the redistricting initiative off the ballot because it contains an 81-word summary rather than the 75 allowed by law

AP reports: The Department of State rescinded its approval Thursday of a ballot initiative that would change the way the state's political lines are drawn, saying it is six words too long.

The petition is one of three the Committee for Fair Elections is circulating to ask voters to create an independent redistricting panel and set standards it should follow. The group already has more than 223,000 signatures to put the items on next year's ballot.

That work may now have to be scrapped. State law requires that ballot summaries be no longer than 75 words if they are part of a petition drive. Ballot questions approved by the Legislature can be longer.

In a letter to the Committee for Fair Elections, Secretary of State Glenda Hood said her department didn't detect the problem when it reviewed and approved the language. The 81-word summary would require districts be compact and preserve communities of interest rather than favor an incumbent politician or political party. -- AP Wire | 08/25/2005 | State rescinds approval on redistricting ballot initiative

Washington State: Supreme Court allows mayor recall to proceed

AP reports: The Washington State Supreme Court yesterday affirmed a judge's ruling that a recall petition against Spokane Mayor Jim West can proceed.

Just hours after lawyers for West argued that the petition by Shannon Sullivan was factually and legally insufficient, the high court affirmed a lower-court ruling that the document bearing a single abuse-of-office allegation could proceed to signature gathering.

Sullivan filed her recall petition in May, shortly after The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane published a series of articles detailing how West — a conservative Republican, former state senator and longtime gay-rights opponent — had been meeting men online for sex.

Her petition alleges that West used his elected office for personal gain — specifically, that West wrote a recommendation letter to help someone he believed to be an 18-year-old man get a City Hall internship. The teen turned out to be a computer forensics expert hired by The Spokesman-Review. ...

Spokane County Elections Supervisor Paul Brandt said it would be very difficult to get the required 12,600 valid signatures in time for an election this fall.

Brandt said the elections office would have to receive the signed petitions no later than tomorrow, because it will need four weeks to verify them and take other steps necessary to get the recall on the Nov. 8 ballot. -- Court upholds recall petition of Jim West

Looks like West got at least part of what he wanted. As Edward Bennett Williams used to say, "A delay is as good as an acquittal, but it doesn't last as long."

August 24, 2005

Nebraska: Hergert claims "honest mistake"

The North Platte Telegraph reports: Dave Hergert is fighting back against accusations that could lead to his impeachment.

While in North Platte on Tuesday, the University of Nebraska Regent defended himself against allegations that he purposefully withheld campaign-finance information during last year's election.

The dispute concerns two affidavits dealing with Hergert's campaign finances that did not reach the Accountability and Disclosure Commission by the deadline, thus depriving incumbent Regent Don Blank of $15,000 in matching public funds in the closing days of the 2004 campaign.

Hergert reached a settlement with the commission in April, admitting exceeding the limit for personal loans to his campaign and failing to report a late contribution and file two affidavits on time. He agreed to pay $33,512.10 in fines, and not face criminal charges.

State lawmakers are now looking into possible impeachment proceedings against Hergert for breaking state campaign-finance laws. -- North Platte Telegraph - News - 08/24/2005 - 'It was an honest mistake'

North Carolina: bill proposes appointment of judges with retention elections

The Charlotte Observer reports: North Carolina's top judges would get to the bench by appointment of the governor, instead of by popular election, under a bill proponents rushed into the legislature Tuesday night.

But voters would get a chance a few years later to confirm the appointment and award an eight-year term, or send the judge packing from the state Supreme Court or Court of Appeals.

The choices of Superior Court and District Court trial judges would remain strictly a matter for local voters to decide.

The bill won swift approval of the House Rules Committee on Tuesday evening and was expected to be taken up by the full House today. -- | Politics

Arizona: "Judge OKs removal of legislator"

The Arizona Republic reports: A judge concluded Tuesday that a legislator should forfeit his office and pay heavy fines for overspending his public campaign funds.

The judgment probably sets up a challenge to the constitutionality of the state's campaign financing system.

Administrative Law Judge Daniel Martin said the Citizens Clean Elections Commission was right on all counts when it voted unanimously in March to oust freshman Rep. David Burnell Smith, a Republican from Scottsdale.

The commission's investigation showed Smith overspent his budget by more than $6,000, or 17 percent, in the course of winning a tough primary election in 2002.

The voter-approved Clean Elections law says a candidate who overspends by more than 10 percent must be removed from office. -- Judge OKs removal of legislator

Alabama: campaign contributions drying up because of GOP suit

Steve Flowers writes in the Brewton Standard: An issue that looms over all of next year's legislative races has finally been set in motion. The GOP has threatened for more than a year to file a federal lawsuit similar to Georgia in hopes of overturning the legislative district lines approved in 2000.

The suit was filed in Mobile Federal Court which is seen as a Republican friendly venue. At issue is the Republican allegation that a democratically controlled Alabama Legislature packed voters with GOP leanings into a few districts. Indeed most Republican districts are overpopulated while most Democratic districts are under populated. The fact is clear but the question is whether a federal court will order new districts drawn in 2006, six years after the fact and only a few years away from the next redistricting. The Republicans won their case in Georgia based on similar facts causing the Legislature to go from majority Democrat to a Republican majority.

The case will be watched very closely by incumbent legislators of both parties, but the lobbyists and major campaign contributors will be watching even more closely. It has already shut down most campaign contributions because the case could linger throughout 2006 and you could have an election in 2006 and again in 2007.

A good many Montgomery special interests believe there is a good chance this scenario will occur. This cloud will hover over all Legislative and Senate races next year. Speaking of clouds, Don Siegelman has not let the threat of Federal indictment in Montgomery deter his campaign plans. As I have stated previously, the only way that Don Siegelman will not run for governor next year is if he is in jail or dead. -- The Brewton Standard - Opinion

Disclosure: I repesent the Speaker of the House, who has moved to intervene as a defendant.

North Carolina: Education superintendent race finally over

The Charlotte Observer reports: June Atkinson, a Democrat, was sworn in as the superintendent of public instruction Tuesday after a 10-month court and political battle with Republican Bill Fletcher. ...

Settling the race required the legislature to act for the first time since 1835. The House and Senate met in a joint session and voted 93-21 in support of Atkinson. ...

Atkinson, an education administrator who taught for four years at Charlotte's Myers Park High School, was credited with the most votes in a close race last November.

But Fletcher argued thousands of those votes were cast illegally. Other votes were lost by faulty voting machines, he argued. The state, Fletcher said, should have held another election.

The Republican-led N.C. Supreme Court agreed with Fletcher that voters cast about 11,000 ballots in precincts other than their own and those votes were illegal.

The court ruling led to a conflict over the state constitution. The state House and Senate -- led by Democrats -- said courts have no place in deciding statewide races. The N.C. Constitution gives that power to the legislature, they said. -- Charlotte Observer | 08/24/2005 | Legislators elect superintendent

August 23, 2005

Texas: DOJ settles with Ector County

From a Justice Department press release: The Justice Department announced today that it filed a lawsuit against Ector County, Texas, alleging violations of the rights of minority- language voters under the Voting Rights Act. The Department simultaneously filed a consent decree resolving the lawsuit against the county.

Section 4(f)(4) of the Voting Rights Act requires that certain jurisdictions with a substantial minority-language voter population must provide all voting materials and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. The complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleges that the county failed to meet its legal responsibilities under section 4(f)(4) to provide effective assistance to Spanish-speaking voters at the polls. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases :

Florida: word limit may trip up redistricting initiative

The St. Petersburg Times reports: A push to strip the Legislature of its power to draw political districts and give it to an independent commission has hit a snag: One of the proposals has too many words.

Under state law, ballot language for citizen initiatives to amend Florida's Constitution can't exceed 75 words.

The petition in question, one of three the Campaign for Fair Elections is trying to get on the November 2006 ballot, has 81 words.

The measure would require that congressional or legislative districts be drawn so that they favor no one political party or candidate - a dramatic change to the status quo where legislative leaders routinely draw boundaries to benefit individual politicians. -- Tampabay: 6 words may block overhaul of redistricting

August 22, 2005

A debate on independent redistricting commissions

The Tallahassee Democrat reports: On Thursday, both left a debate on the topic [on of redistricting] shaking their heads. The debate, between a law-school professor and a national advocate for independent commissions, was part of the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual conference. ...

The debate, between Daniel Lowenstein, a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, and Cecilia Martinez, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Reform Institute, was of special interest to Florida lawmakers in light of a campaign to put three amendments on the 2006 ballot creating an independent redistricting commission. ...

"Voters are troubled by politicians drawing their own districts," Martinez said. "I don't think you can remove politics from the process, but you can add independence to the process." ...

Lowenstein, the law professor, agrees that redistricting is a political and often bitterly partisan process. He just doesn't believe that taking that responsibility from lawmakers and giving it to an appointed commission will change that.

"I think that despite the fact that of course there's a conflict of interest, the legislature is the place where redistricting ought to be done," he said. -- Tallahassee Democrat | 08/22/2005 | Lawmakers cool to redistricting

Nebraska: Senate may impeach regent

The Lincoln Journal Star reports: The next phase of NU Regent David Hergert's battle with the state Legislature was set Monday, as senators formed a committee that will reccommend what, if any, course of action to take against him.

The group of 11 senators — including a couple from the western-Nebraska district Hergert represents — will begin its work shortly after Labor Day. Its goal is to release recommendations before the Legislature convenes in January.

"I think we have to look at everything on the table," including impeachment, said Sen. Vickie McDonald of Rockville, a member of the special committee formed by the Legislature's Executive Board.

Hergert broke four campaign finance laws on his way to unseating Don Blank of McCook last year. The violations kept Blank from receiving, according to estimates from state officials, at least $15,000 and possibly up to $63,000 in public campaign money. In a settlement with the state Accountability and Disclosure Commission, Hergert paid a $33,512 civil penalty. He also is facing a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General's Office. -- Committee formed to look at possible impeachment

August 19, 2005

Liberals plan opposition to Roberts

Knight Ridder Newspapers report: Leading Democrats and key interest groups intend to build a case against John G. Roberts' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court by highlighting his past stands on civil rights and women's issues and downplaying more divisive topics such as abortion and school prayer.

When confirmation hearings begin Sept. 6, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee will concentrate on Roberts' writings that shed light on his views of affirmative action, voting rights, pay equity and discrimination, aides and activists said.

That focus has evolved over the past several weeks, even though the most vocal opposition to Roberts has come from supporters of abortion rights. Senate Democratic aides and strategists said Democrats had more to gain by portraying Roberts as outside the mainstream on broad questions of fairness than on a polarizing subject such as abortion. Even if they can't defeat Roberts, they hope to define his conservative values in ways that will hurt Republicans and help Democrats in the 2006 congressional elections. -- KRT Wire | 08/19/2005 | Democrats to target Roberts' views on race, gender equality

Missouri: state rep spent campaign funds for personal expenses

AP reports: A state lawmaker has acknowledged spending campaign money on personal expenses, which could be a violation of state campaign finance laws.

Freshman Rep. Michael Brown, D-Kansas City, says he made a mistake when he dipped into campaign funds to help pay for such things as personal utility bills.

"When I moved to Jefferson City, we were in a pinch," Brown told The Kansas City Star for a story published Friday. "It was keep the lights on, keep the gas on, keep the phone on. It wasn't (spent on) trips. It wasn't vacations. It wasn't going out to dinner.

"It was a mistake to use that money," Brown, 42, said. -- AP Wire | 08/19/2005 | State lawmaker says he spent campaign money on self

South Dakota: federal court orders redistricting

The ACLU says in a press release: The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that a federal court in South Dakota has issued a final ruling ordering the redrawing of legislative district lines to ensure there is no discrimination against Native American voters in 13 of the state’s 66 counties. The order came in a case originally brought by the ACLU on behalf of four Native American voters in December 2001, after the South Dakota legislature redrew the boundaries of the state's 35 legislative districts. -- Federal Court Orders South Dakota to Comply with Voting Rights Act

Here is a copy of the opinion.

FEC fines Westar $40,000 for channeling money to DeLay

Thomas Edsall reports in the Washington Post: The Federal Election Commission yesterday fined Westar Energy Inc., two former corporate officers and the firm's lobbyist a total of $40,500 for their roles in channeling contributions to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and other Republicans.

Westar, a Kansas energy company, was fined $20,000; it admitted in a conciliation agreement that it violated campaign laws by engaging "on two separate occasions in the practice of facilitating corporate contributions to candidates for federal office." Corporations are barred from contributing to federal campaigns.

The agreements made public do not apply to DeLay and to some other corporate officials.

But DeLay was admonished in connection with the case for creating the "improper appearance" that Westar might receive special access or treatment when he attended the company's golf fundraiser in June 2002, according to the House ethics committee. -- Firm Fined for Channeling Donations to GOP

August 18, 2005

Ohio: Tafts pleads no contest, fined $4,000 reports: Ohio Governor Bob Taft was found guilty and fined $4,000 for violating state law by not disclosing golf outings and other gifts, becoming the first governor in state history to be convicted of a crime.

Taft, the son and grandson of U.S. senators and the great- grandson of the 27th U.S. President, William H. Taft, pleaded no contest to four criminal misdemeanor charges. Franklin County Municipal Judge Mark S. Froehlich imposed the maximum fine on Taft and spared him jail time.

``The message is simple and clear; No one is above the law in the state of Ohio,'' Froehlich said during the sentencing hearing. ``Even the governor can be charged and convicted of a criminal offense.''

Taft, a Republican, announced in June that he hadn't properly disclosed golf outings he played in, and began turning over information about the events to the state ethics commission. He failed to report about $6,000 of golf outings and other gifts. -- U.S.

The phony "rights group"

David Edwards writes on the Brad Blog: As our readers know, The BRAD BLOG has been a leading source for investigations and reports into the nefarious (and possibly illegal) actions of high-level GOP Operatives that have established a tax-exempt, 503(c)(3) organization called the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR). The group, since its creation, has released false and misleading information intended to advance GOP plans to disenfranchise millions of voters via legislation calling for national voter registration databases and a demand for photo IDs at the polls.

Increasingly, the mainstream corporate media and independent media sources have caught on to the "dirty tricks" being used by these GOP operatives though the cynically named ACVR. -- THE BRAD BLOG: "Phony 'Voting Rights' Group Exposed by Mainstream Media"

Edwards quotes extensively from this article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

California: FEC okays congressmen's plan to raise soft money to fight Prop. 77

The Los Angeles Times reports: In a decision that could feed the political spending frenzy for the November election, the Federal Election Commission today ruled that members of Congress are free to spend without limit on California ballot measures.

The decision involved a proposed ballot measure that would change how boundaries of legislative districts are drawn, but could open spending floodgates on other ballot proposals on topics as diverse as teenage abortions and political spending by unions.

The commission ruled unanimously that federal law limiting contributions to congressmen to $5,000 does not apply to November's special state election because the balloting is entirely a state affair, with no federal candidates involved.

The FEC ruled directly on one of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's key initiatives, transferring authority for legislative redistricting from lawmakers to judges. -- FEC Allows Unlimited Fundraising Against Calif. Redistricting Plan - Los Angeles Times

August 17, 2005

Ohio: Taft indicted

Toledo Blade reports: Gov. Bob Taft today became the first Ohio Governor charged with a crime. The four misdemeanor counts stem from failing to report 52 gifts including golf games, meals, and professional sports tickets. ...

The charges were announced this afternoon at a news conference with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer. The gifts were worth nearly $6,000 and occurred from 2001 through 2004, records show.

Mr. Taft, 63, the great-grandson of William Howard Taft, the 27th president, is Ohio’s first sitting governor to be charged with a crime. The maximum penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

The charges are the result of a two-month investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission into the governor’s alleged infractions. Although time behind bars in considered unlikely, the charges could lead to Mr. Taft’s impeachment under the Ohio Constitution.

Mr. Taft has said the errors and omissions were inadvertent. He has characterized any items he failed to disclose as “not purposeful.” -- Taft is first Ohio governor to be charged with crimes in office

August 16, 2005

Felon disfranchisement at the Supremes

Lyle Denniston reports on SCOTUSblog: The deepening controversy over denial of voting rights to those convicted of serious crimes -- an issue that has split the Circuit Courts in recent years -- is back at the Supreme Court, in an appeal challenging a Florida law. The appeal in Johnson v. Bush, Governor of Florida (docket 05-212) was filed a week ago by attorneys with the Brennan Center for Justice in New York.

The Supreme Court twice passed up review of that issue last Term, refusing in November to hear cases from Washington State and New York State. But there were good reasons for the Court not to get involved in either of those cases at that point: the Washington case had been sent back by the Ninth Circuit to a District Court for further fact-finding, and the New York case came to the Court amid clear indications that the Second Circuit was going to grant review of that case en banc if the Supreme Court refused to review a panel decision.

The Washington case (Farrakhan, et al, v. Locke, et al.) returned to U.S. District Court and is now scheduled to go to a non-jury trial in Spokane beginning next March 6. (In the District Court, it is docket 96-76). The en banc Second Circuit held a hearing on the New York case (Muntaqim v. Coombe, Circuit docket 01-7260) on June 22, and a decision is pending. -- SCOTUSblog

I will let you know when the Brennan Center posts the "appeal" (which should be a cert petition, I think). [Hint, hint to the Brennan Center folks.]

Virginia: Insurance company subpoenas Kilgore and other Republicans

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports: Attorneys for an insurance company being sued by the Republican Party of Virginia in connection with an eavesdropping dispute subpoenaed the party's gubernatorial nominee, Jerry W. Kilgore, yesterday.

Christopher C. Spencer, an attorney for Union Insurance Co. of Lincoln, Neb., said he also is issuing subpoenas to GOP members of Virginia's congressional delegation, to U.S. Sens. John W. Warner and George Allen and to the Republican National Committee.

All contributed to the $750,000 the state party paid to settle a lawsuit brought against it by Democratic legislators after two GOP officials eavesdropped on Democratic phone calls.

"I want to know what they paid and why," Spencer said. "I want to know what the Republican Party lost, if anything." -- | Kilgore subpoenaed in civil case

Via GOTV and LeftyBlogs.

California: Sec. of State says districts could be ready for 2006 if Prop. 77 passes

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: Despite concerns about the tight timing, California's political map could be redrawn in time for the June 2006 election, if Proposition 77 passes in November, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson said Monday.

It's a tough criterion, "but I think the lines could be in place for next year,'' he said during an informal news conference.

It was an abrupt shift of direction for the former Santa Cruz legislator, who said several weeks ago that backers of the redistricting measure, who include Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, had no chance of having the new districts ready for next year's elections. -- SACRAMENTO / New districts possible for June 2006 vote / If Prop. 77 passes, secretary of state sees quick implementation

California: 2 congressmen ask FEC for permission to raise soft money to oppose Prop. 77

AP reports: Two California House members from opposite parties are asking a federal elections panel for permission to raise unlimited money to oppose Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting measure.

Reps. Howard Berman, D-North Hollywood, and John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, are seeking an advisory opinion from the Federal Election Commission that would allow them to collect "soft money" from unions, corporations and other donors to support or oppose ballot measures in the Nov. 8 special election.

Both oppose Schwarzenegger's redistricting initiative. Berman's chief of staff, Gene Smith, said the request was motivated by their desire to raise money to fight it.

Schwarzenegger's campaign committee will not be bound by limits in raising money to boost the initiative. Proposition 77 would take the responsibility of drawing legislative district lines away from lawmakers and give it to a panel of retired judges. -- AP Wire | 08/16/2005 | House members seek to raise money to oppose redistricting measure

527's raising more than in '04 cycle

The Hill reports: Soft-money political committees are well ahead of their fundraising pace for the 2004 election cycle, raising more than $48 million in the first six months of this year, according to a review of fundraising totals

Known as 527 groups, after a section of the tax code, the 30 groups that raised the most this election cycle have raised $48.3 million through the end of June, putting them on pace to raise at least twice that much by the end of the year.

The same groups that raised the most money for the 2004 election had raised $78.5 million in all of 2003, the preceding off year.

The Hill compiled the figures from report summaries posted on, a website that tracks fundraising activity. Many of the reports became publicly available at the end of last month or the beginning of this month. -- 527s outstrip 2004 cycle's pace

August 15, 2005

Texas: DeLay probably won't be indicted

Kos says: Many of us, me included, have harbored hopes that Ronnie Earle would work his way toward a DeLay indictment in his investigation of DeLay's illegal power grab.

And while the indictments have flown left and right, targetting a who's who of DeLay's Austin clique, we're going to have to surrender hopes that DeLay himself will get dragged into the fray.

A source close to the investigataion says it won't happen, and the reason is a technicality. Earle's jursidiction on election law violatioons extends only to the Travis County borders, and DeLay's home base is outside of Houston. DeLay would have to be investigated and indicted by the Fort Bend County DA. And given that he is a Republican, it ain't gonna happen. -- Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Roberts: Rick Hasen predicts Roberts would vote against constitutionality of Section 5

Rick Hasen writes on his Election Law blog: In my recent L.A. Times oped, I wrote about Judge Roberts' views on the 1982 Voting Rights Act amendments. He strongly opposed efforts to expand the Act to make it easier for members of protected minority groups to prove claims of vote dilution:

In these documents, Roberts wrote that the new Section 2 would "establish a quota system" and "provide a basis for the most intrusive interference imaginable by federal courts into state and local processes." He added that it "would be difficult to conceive of a more drastic alteration of local government affairs."

Imposing the new Section 2 nationwide, he concluded, would be "not only constitutionally suspect, but also contrary to the most fundamental [tenets] of the legislative process on which the laws of this country are based."

I concluded that these views provide a good indication that if Judge Roberts is confirmed to the Supreme Court, he would well cast the deciding vote holding that a reauthorized section 5 goes beyond Congressional power under the Court's recent federalism jurisprudence. -- Election Law: How Would a Justice Roberts Vote on the Constitutionality of a Reauthorized Section 5?

The whole post is worth reading. Read it and consider what is at stake, or as a brochure I received from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (on a different point) today said, "If you think the struggle is over, think again."

New Hampshire: RNC paying Tobin's legal bills

The Union Leader reports: The Republican National Committee began making huge payments to accused 2002 telephone jam conspirator James Tobin's private lawyers a week after he was indicted by a federal grand jury, records show.

According to RNC financial disclosures, it paid the high-powered Washington law firm Williams and Connolly $162,646 on Dec. 9, 2004, eight days after a grand jury charged that Tobin had aided former state GOP executive director Charles McGee in setting up an operation to jam voter-turnout telephone banks at Democratic and labor union offices throughout the state.

Five more disbursements were made on May 19, 2005, the same day a new indictment against Tobin was made public. Those five disbursements added up to $559,736, for a total of $722,382. ...

Tobin allegedly committed the federal offenses while working as a regional political director for the RNC-affiliated National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which was working to get Republicans elected to the Senate. A key 2002 Senate race on which Tobin focused was John E. Sununu's victorious campaign against Democratic former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. -- The Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News - 15-Aug-05 - RNC has paid Tobin's legal bills since indictment

August 13, 2005

California: Supreme Court puts Prop. 77 back on the ballot, but leaves open question of legality

The Los Angeles Times reports: The California Supreme Court handed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a major victory Friday, putting back on the Nov. 8 ballot his initiative to change how legislative district lines are drawn.

The brief order, issued by a 4-2 vote, ends a monthlong legal battle between supporters of the initiative, Proposition 77, and Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer. The attorney general had won two rounds in lower courts. Those judges accepted his argument that the measure should not be voted on in November because its backers had violated election law in the way they got the measure on the ballot.

The Supreme Court overturned those lower-court decisions. But it left open the possibility that the election-law violations could still sink the ballot measure. If voters approve the measure, the justices said, they might then review the legal issues to determine if it is valid. -- Redistricting Back on Ballot - Los Angeles Times

August 10, 2005

New Jersey: lawyer claims candidate violating campaign law

AP reports: A public interest lawyer on Wednesday charged Republican Douglas Forrester with intentionally skirting New Jersey law by licensing an insurance company out-of-state and using the shell operation to illegally funnel millions in loans to his largely self-financed gubernatorial campaign.

In the most scathing rebuke of the candidate and his finances to date, the lawyer, Bruce Afran of Princeton, accused Forrester of violating campaign finance laws enacted to prevent undue influence in state-regulated industries, such as insurance and banking. Among other things, the law bans insurance companies and those who own a majority stake in them from donating money to political causes.

Forrester owns a 51 percent interest in Heartland Fidelity Insurance Co., a Washington, D.C.-based company he started two years ago. Heartland insures the price of health benefit plans offered by BeneCard Services Inc., another Forrester company. ...

Banking and Insurance officials on Wednesday said they had requested additional documents from Heartland, two days after the company asked state regulators to look into the matter. -- AP Wire | 08/10/2005 | Lawyer claims Forrester's gubernatorial campaign violates law

Liberal groups settle on "message" re Roberts

The Hill reports: A coalition of liberal special-interest groups is settling on three major criticisms of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts that it hopes will resonate with two key Democratic constituencies: African-Americans and women.

The coalition, which includes nearly 90 organizations, is organized by Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, whom conservatives view as the mastermind behind the opposition to President Bush’s judicial nominees.

By targeting Roberts on issues of importance to blacks and women, the interest groups will make it difficult for Democrats not to pose a strong challenge to Roberts during the Senate confirmation process. ...

Citing documents from Roberts’s service in the Reagan Justice Department and the Reagan White House, the group asserts that Roberts “argued for weakening proposed voting-rights protections,” “viewed legislation to fortify the Fair Housing Act as ‘storm clouds gather[ing]’ and ‘government intrusion,’” and “defended legislation that would have stripped the federal courts of their authority to remedy school desegregation.” -- Left group refine plans on Roberts

August 9, 2005

North Carolina: Right to Life and a judge file suit

From a press release by the James Madison Center for Free Speech: Today, Judge Barbara Jackson of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, along with North Carolina Right to Life Committee Fund for Independent Political Expenditures and North Carolina Right to Life State Political Action Committee, filed a class action federal suit in the Middle District of North Carolina against the state's public funding provisions as an unconstitutional infringement on their First Amendment free speech rights.

Judge Jackson, who won her seat for the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the 2004 general election and intends to run again in 2012, is challenging the effect the financing scheme has on candidates who are not participating in the scheme, but who intend to raise their own campaign funds. In her 2004 judicial campaign for appellate judge, she did not qualify to participate in the public financing scheme but found that her ability to raise and spend funds on her own was severely restricted under the funding scheme. She brings this suit on behalf of herself as well as all judicial candidates who do not qualify to participate in the public financing scheme.

Download complaint

Virginia: Dems want the GOP to pay the piper

The Daily Progress reports: Democratic state legislators victimized three years ago by state GOP officials who eavesdropped on conference calls about a redistricting lawsuit offered Monday to help an insurance company sued last month by the Republican Party of Virginia.

The Republican Party sued its former insurer July 18, seeking $950,000 in reimbursement, including $200,000 for legal fees and $750,000 the party paid Democrats to settle an eavesdropping lawsuit in December.

Two Democratic delegates and six state senators sent a letter to the Richmond lawyer for Union Insurance Co. of Nebraska offering to assist the company “in any way possible to ensure that RPV and the other [GOP eavesdropping lawsuit] defendants remain accountable for their actions by bearing the cost of [last December’s] settlement.”

Democrats said in a news release that Jerry W. Kilgore, the Republican nominee for governor and former attorney general, could recoup $125,000 that his campaign fund paid in the settlement if the current lawsuit against the insurance company is successful. -- Democrats engage GOP insurer

California: court of appeals affirms order on Prop. 77

The Los Angeles Times reports: The state appeals court ruled today to keep Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's redistricting proposal off the Nov. 8 special election ballot, siding with the state attorney general and setting the stage for a quick appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In its 2-1 ruling, the three-judge panel backed Atty. Gen . Bill Lockyer, who had argued that the version of the proposition that was circulated among voters to collect signatures to place it on the ballot was different than the initiative that was given to his office, which is illegal. ...

"The petitioners could easily have avoided or discovered and corrected the problem of different versions before the circulation of the petitions," the ruling said.

Presiding Justice Arthur Scotland issued the dissenting opinion, saying that any challenges to the validity of the proposition should wait until after the election is held. -- Appeals Court Upholds Move to Strike Redistricting Proposal

Alabama: Governor moves to intervene in GOP's redistricting suit

AP reports: Republican Gov. Bob Riley agrees with most claims of a lawsuit challenging state legislative districts as unequal in population, but has asked to intervene as a defendant.

A group of voters filed a federal court lawsuit in Mobile in June alleging that the Democrat-controlled Legislature packed some Republican-leaning state House and Senate districts with too many voters, while doing the opposite in some Democratic districts.

Riley, in court papers filed Friday, asked to be included in the lawsuit as a defendant.

Spokesman John Matson said Tuesday the governor could legally intervene on either side. He said the governor chose to intervene on the side of the defendants because the lawsuit challenges all of the state's House and Senate districts "and he represents the entire state as governor." -- Tuscaloosa

Disclosure: I represent another would-be intervenor in this case, the Speaker of the House.

August 7, 2005

Oregon: House passes campaign bills reports: The House today passed important political campaign finance reform laws, bringing greater accountability and transparency to Oregon elections. House Bills 2167 and 3458 follow through on the Speaker's commitment earlier this session to strengthen Oregon's campaign finance reporting laws. House Bill 2167 now goes to the Governor for his approval and HB 3458 goes to the Senate for a concurrence vote. ...

Together House Bills 2167 and 3458 enact the following reforms:

* The fine for converting excess campaign funds to personal use is increased to $1,000 plus the amount converted to personal use.
* Political committees will be required to establish an exclusive campaign account, in the committee's name, in a financial institution, for campaign expenditures and deposit of contributions. The co-mingling of campaign and personal funds that account is prohibited and the Secretary of State is authorized to review contribution and expenditure statements filed with the Secretary's office.
* Requires candidates and political committees, when submitting reports to Secretary of State, to accompany political campaign contribution and expenditure statements with copies of financial institution account statements.
* Prohibits candidates from paying themselves for professional services provided to their campaigns. Prohibits member of the Legislative Assembly from using campaign contributions to pay expenses for which they are already reimbursed by the legislature.
* The reporting threshold for campaign contributions and expenditures is increased to $100 from $50.
* A web-based reporting system for campaign contributions and expenditures will be established by January 1, 2007. Within 42 days before an election, candidates and political committees will have seven calendar days in which to file electronic statements after a contribution is received or expenditure is made. At all other times, they will have 30 days to file contributions and expenditures.
* Expands the statutory definition of "indirect expenditure" to include expenditures made in connection with ballot measures (in addition to candidates); requires individuals to report indirect expenditures in excess of $50.
* Requires person holding office of Attorney General, Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries, or state senator to file statement of contributions received by or on behalf of the person during the first half of January following the first general election held during the person's term of office. -- Oregon House Passes Campaign Finance Reforms - (Medford Article)

Alabama: is the VRA still needed in Alabama?

The Mobile Register reports: "After four decades of tremendous progress, for which we can all be thankful, it is time to recognize that Section 5 (preclearance) has served its purpose and oftentimes unnecessarily restricts the ability of the states to regulate their own elections," Alabama Attorney General Troy King, a Republican, said in a prepared statement last week.

But Spencer Overton, a law professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said Alabama doesn't measure up so well in ensuring voting rights, at least when compared to other states.

Citing preliminary data collected for a forthcoming book, Overton said Alabama ranked 11th nationally from 1995 to this year in the number of voting rights violations and third in the number of Justice Department investigations.

Add in other signs of racially polarized voting, such as the lack of any black officeholders elected statewide, and "there is a strong argument that of all states, perhaps Alabama should be covered" by the Voting Rights Act, Overton said.

The act does have a "bail-out" provision allowing communities to end federal oversight if they satisfy several yardsticks, such as being in full compliance with pre-clearance requirements for at least a decade. As part of the process of making that case, however, they have to take the potentially costly step of filing a lawsuit in federal court in Washington, D.C.

While some suggest that Congress should ease bail-out standards, Bullock said he has heard no talk of that happening. No Alabama city or county has sought to bail out, a Justice Department spokesman said via e-mail. -- Voting Rights Act debate still resonates in state

August 6, 2005

Voting Rights Act events today

"All Things Considered" had two stories on the Voting Rights Act today: At a recent forum in Montgomery, Ala., many civil rights activists of the 1960s remembered the events leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, including the bloody march on Selma, Ala. -- NPR : Activists Recall Drive for Voting Rights

More than 10,000 people march through Atlanta, calling on Congress to reauthorize the 1965 Voting Rights Act. As Emily Kopp of Georgia Public Radio notes, portions of the law expire in 2007. -- Atlanta Marchers Want Voting Rights Act Renewed

And Scott Simon interviewed Andrew Young for Weekend Edition Saturday: Andrew Young helped draft the Voting Rights Act while he was an executive assistant to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. He went on to become a member of Congress, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and the mayor of Atlanta.

Young talks with Scott Simon about the fight to protect the right to vote for minorities and the current state of democracy in America. -- Andrew Young and the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Ruy Teixeira on the Voting Rights Act

Ruy Teixeira says: As a matter of simple justice, renewal of these provisions of the Voting Rights Act are needed to insure continued protection of the rights of minority voters. Because people of color tend to vote Democratic, it should be a priority for Dems. -- The Emerging Democratic Majority WebLog - DonkeyRising

VRA debate starts early

Ganett News Service reports: Debate over the future of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which changed the political fortunes of minorities, already is in full swing, two years before important elements of the act expire.

"The Voting Rights Act created an historic rise in Latino and African-American elected officials all around the nation, but it is not enough,'' said Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz. "It is unfortunate that after 40 years, voter inequities, disparities and obstacles still remain for far too many minority voters."

The act, which marks it 40th anniversary today, will be the subject of congressional hearings this fall. Lawmakers plan to vote next summer on renewing the measure, which expires in 2007.

Congressional debate is all but certain on the Supreme Court's interpretation of some of the act's most important provisions in September, when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds hearings on the nomination of John Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. -- New battle begins over Voting Rights Act before it expires

Atlanta: Voting Rights Act celebrated with a march

AP reports: Thousands of demonstrators streamed down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive chanting, singing and marching on Saturday in support of extending the 40-year-old Voting Rights Act.

Organizers hope the "Keep the Vote Alive" march will pressure Congress and President Bush to extend key provisions of the landmark law, which expires in 2007.

"Forty years later, we're still marching for the right to vote," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who participated in the civil rights struggles that helped secure passage of the law in 1965. "Don't give up, don't give in. Keep the faith, keep your eyes on the prize."

Activists from across the country joined Lewis, NAACP President Bruce Gordon and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who heads the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, at Saturday's demonstration. -- AP Wire | 08/06/2005 | March honors Voting Rights Act anniversary

August 5, 2005

Iowa: follow-up on Gov. Vilsack's order

The Washington Post reports: It's been a month since Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D) issued an executive order giving tens of thousands of Hawkeye State felons the right to vote. Experts expect the change to benefit Democrats, at least at the margin, but say it is too early to know how it will echo in the perennial battleground state. ...

But the governor's order is being challenged in court, and the state's Republican House leader has said the chamber will take up the issue when it reconvenes in January. -- A Matter of Convictions

August 4, 2005

Puerto Rico: 1st Circuit says "no" to right to vote

AP reports: A federal appeals court in Boston has said for the fourth time that residents of Puerto Rico do not have the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections.

In a 5-2 ruling issued late Wednesday, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a petition by attorney Gregorio Igartua, saying the U.S. territory must either amend its constitution, or Puerto Rico must become a state, before its residents can vote for president.

"The case for giving Puerto Ricans the right to vote in presidential elections is fundamentally a political one, and must be made through political means," Chief Judge Michael Boudin wrote.

The ruling marks the fourth time since 1994 that the 1st Circuit has denied such a bid by Igartua, who had asked the full court to review the case after a three-judge panel last year rejected his arguments. -- - News - Court Again Rejects Puerto Rican Vote

John Roberts on why the VRA should not be amended (1981)

The New York Times reports: He produced a torrent of memorandums explaining why the Reagan administration was right to oppose new provisions in the Voting Rights Act that had just passed the House with an overwhelming majority.

He drafted op-ed articles for his boss, Attorney General William French Smith, and he circulated talking points warning that Congress - by trying to make it easier to prove voting rights violations - was on the verge of creating "a quota system for electoral politics." He scribbled angry notes on newspaper articles that showed an official from another department was veering off-message.

It was 1981 and John G. Roberts Jr. was 26, two years out of Harvard Law School and an eager combatant in the political wars - including the one over the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was up for renewal in Congress. In general, he wrote to one of his mentors after three months on the job: "This is an exciting time to be at the Justice Department. So much that has been taken for granted for so long is being seriously reconsidered." ...

He argued, according to a January briefing paper to prepare Attorney General Smith for Congressional testimony, that the House bill would essentially "establish a quota system for electoral politics, a notion we believe is fundamentally inconsistent with democratic principles." He added that "at-large systems of elections and multimember districts would be particularly vulnerable to attack, no matter how long such systems have been in effect or the perfectly legitimate reasons for retaining them."

He drafted an op-ed article for Mr. Smith warning that the bill would "gradually lead to a system of proportional representation based on race or minority language status." And he prepared Mr. Smith for a meeting at the White House with a memorandum that declared: "The president's position is a very positive one and should be put in that light. He is for the Voting Rights Act and wants to see it extended."

He added, "That is essentially the president's position - if it isn't broken, don't fix it." ...

Richard L. Hasen, an election law specialist at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, noted that views could change over time, but added that Mr. Roberts in 1981-82 "showed a pretty strong disagreement with the efforts to make it easier to prove vote dilution."

Mr. Hasen added, "I certainly think that had the Roberts view prevailed, we would have many fewer minority elected representatives in Congress and in state and local government." -- Roberts Helped to Shape 80's Civil Rights Debate - New York Times

August 3, 2005

ACT going dormant

The New York Times reports: A primary Democratic fund-raising engine in the 2004 presidential race, America Coming Together, is shutting down most of its operation, leaving unclear its role in the elections next year and beyond.

The group, known as ACT, engineered an extensive effort to mobilize Democratic voters in 12 closely divided states last year while an allied organization, the Media Fund, backed the plan with thousands of television commercials. The strategy resonated with liberal donors, and the two groups together raised almost $200 million to become a crucial component of the Democratic effort to retake the White House. ...

ACT ran 78 field offices and had almost 6,000 employees at its peak. It is now cutting all but a handful of its 28 remaining staff members as leaders re-evaluate its future. -- Democratic Fund-Raiser Unit Is Curtailing Most Operations - New York Times

August 2, 2005

California: Legislative Counsel says governor can cancel special election

AP reports: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has the authority to cancel the November special election and can do so anytime before voting begins, according to an analysis released Tuesday by the nonpartisan California legislative counsel.

The ruling, which was drafted at the request of state Sen. Debra Bowen, D-Redondo Beach, came as another Democratic lawmaker announced he would introduce legislation calling on Schwarzenegger to scrap the election.

The developments were the latest in a series of skirmishes over the fate of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's embattled government reform agenda. But as Schwarzenegger expressed hope for a compromise with legislators over his ballot initiatives, his campaign team vowed to press ahead with a full-fledged campaign.

According to Deputy Legislative Counsel Christopher Dawson, the governor has the sole authority to rescind a proclamation calling for a special election. That contradicted an opinion by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, who had suggested lawmakers could approve legislation by a two-thirds vote that would call off the election. -- AP Wire | 08/02/2005 | Governor can cancel special election, legislative counsel rules

California: Gray Davis supports redistricting initiative

The L.A. Daily News reports: Facing declining popularity and increasingly heated partisan opposition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger must be thankful for the support he's received from an unlikely quarter.

Former Gov. Gray Davis, whom Schwarzenegger replaced in the 2003 recall election, said he supports the plan to reform the redistricting process, allowing a panel of judges rather than politicians to draw political boundaries.

Every elected official should have some sense of jeopardy in a November election," Davis told Sacramento radio talk-show host Eric Hogue. "They should have some obligation to the general interest and not just have to win their primaries.

"People should have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want the Legislature and the governor to continue to draft reapportionment plans or take it out of their hands." -- L.A. Daily News - News

August 1, 2005

More on Roberts in the Reagan administration

The Washington Post reports: In the early 1980s, a young intellectual lawyer named John G. Roberts Jr. was part of the vanguard of a conservative political revolution in civil rights, advocating new legal theories and helping enforce the Reagan administration's effort to curtail the use of courts to remedy racial and sexual discrimination.

Just 26 when he joined the Justice Department as a special assistant to Attorney General William French Smith, Roberts was almost immediately entrusted to counsel senior department officials on such incendiary matters of the day as school desegregation, voting rules and government antidotes to bias in housing and hiring. ...

Other memos by Roberts similarly argued for reining in the federal government's role in civil rights disputes. They indicate, for example, that he was at the center of articulating and defending the administration's policy that the Voting Rights Act -- a seminal law passed in 1965 and up for renewal in 1982 -- should in the future bar only voting rules that discriminate intentionally, rather than those that were shown to have a discriminatory effect.

After the House rejected administration concerns and passed a bill embracing the more broad "effects" standard in October 1981 by a vote of 389 to 24, Roberts wrote in a memo to Smith, "my own view is that something must be done to educate the Senators on the seriousness of this problem." He argued in a memo to Starr that the House bill made sense only if "our laws were concerned with achieving equal results rather than equal opportunity."

The Senate eventually backed the House version after then-Sen. Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) added a brief passage stating that the revisions were not intended to mandate "proportional representation" by minorities -- a viewpoint that backers of the House bill had insisted was already clear. It is not apparent from the disclosures so far what position Roberts took on that amendment, which Reagan said he supported after Dole introduced it. -- A Charter Member of Reagan Vanguard