Votelaw, Edward Still's blog on law and politics: August 2007 Archives

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August 26, 2007

Michigan: Feiger indicted for reimbursing employees for contributions to Edwards

The Detroit News reports: Geoffrey Fieger, the Southfield lawyer known for winning multimillion-dollar civil judgments and antagonizing judges, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, making illegal campaign contributions and causing false statements.

A 30-page, 10-count indictment was unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in Detroit. A grand jury, which works in secret, returned it under seal on Tuesday, officials said.

The indictment charges Fieger and a law partner, Vernon (Ven) Johnson, of conspiring to make about $127,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' 2004 campaign. Johnson, 45, of Birmingham is also charged with making illegal contributions and causing false statements. ...

The indictment alleges Fieger illegally circumvented limits on individual campaign contributions by recruiting "straw donors" -- including employees, contractors and their family members -- to purport to make the then-maximum contributions of $2,000 each to Edwards. In fact, the more than $125,000 in donations were paid for by Fieger and Johnson and the Fieger firm, the indictment alleges. -- Fieger indicted: Illegal donations to Edwards alleged

August 23, 2007

Texas: fired state employee sues Rove and others

The Texas Lawyer reports: Three days after Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff at the White House, announced he will resign at the end of August, an attorney filed a suit in the 53rd District Court in Travis County, Texas, alleging that she was fired from the Texas Office of the Secretary of State for making comments to a reporter that embarrassed Rove and other Republicans.

Elizabeth Reyes filed Reyes v. Williams, et al. on Aug. 16. In her original petition, Reyes contends that the alleged reason for her termination in September 2005 was violating the Office of the Secretary of State's policy and procedures manual on press calls when she spoke to a Washington Post reporter about whether Rove's ownership of two rental cottages in Texas' Kerr County qualified him to vote in that county.

But Reyes alleges that she was fired because the statements attributed to her in the Post article -- that a county prosecutor could go after someone who votes in a place where he doesn't live -- caused political embarrassment for defendants Roger Williams, then-secretary of state, and H.S. "Buddy" Garcia, then-deputy secretary of state. -- Law.com - Lawyer Sues Rove, Former Texas Officials Over Firing

August 22, 2007

Alabama: Schools supt. arrested for misuse of campaign funds

The Talladega Daily Home reports: Former St. Clair County Schools Superintendent Tom Sanders was arrested Tuesday for allegedly using campaign contributions for personal use. ...

District Attorney Richard Minor said Sanders was indicted on two felony charges and one misdemeanor charge involving a campaign contribution.

According to the indictment, a campaign contribution check was given to Sanders by Trussville businessman and developer Jack Harris. Minor said Tuesday Sanders was indicted on one ethics violation, involving the conversion of those contributions to personal use, a Class B felony. -- Former superintendent of St. Clair schools indicted

Alabama: decision expected by Friday on Montgomery city election

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery officials will know by Friday whether the city elections will be held Aug. 28 or at a later date, according to attorney Edward Still, who argued on behalf of a City Council member and two mayoral candidates in a telephone conference with the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday.

District 3 council member Janet May and mayoral candidates William Boyd and Jon Dow filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court last week claiming a city ordinance that moved the election from October to August was a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The lawsuit contends the date change will confuse potential voters, including as many as 3,000 in May's district. On June 5, the City Council voted 9-0 to change the election date. ...

The city argues its date change was pre-cleared in a June 14 letter from the U.S. Department of Justice. However, the Justice department followed that letter with another saying that new information led it to believe that the city had not carried out its burden of proof, Still said.

"The city wants to ignore that and say the Justice department does not have the authority or that they did not say it in the right way or that the time for them to say anything has passed," he said. -- Printer-friendly article page

August 21, 2007

Alabama: Montgomery faces suit over election date

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A Montgomery city councilwoman and two mayoral candidates are suing the city and Mayor Bobby Bright to cancel the Aug. 28 municipal election.

Councilwoman Janet May, who is seeking re-election, and Bright challengers Jon Dow and William Boyd have filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court, claiming a city ordinance that moved the election from October to August was a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The lawsuit contends the date change will confuse potential voters, as many as 3,000 in May's District 3. The councilwoman did not return calls for comment. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com :: Election prompts lawsuit

Disclosure: As noted previously, I am one of the counsel for the plaintiffs.

The complaint is here.

Alabama: 11th Circuit kills suit against Chilton County consent decree

The Birmingham News reports: A federal appeals court on Monday delivered a victory to activists who integrated the Chilton County Commission, ruling on the last of more than 150 lawsuits that reshaped the way Alabamians elect local officials statewide.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned a lower court's decision, and left in place an election system that led to black representation on the commission. The suit was the last of the so-called "Dillard suits," which challenged the at-large voting system that civil rights activists said kept county commissions, city commissions and school boards all over the state almost exclusively white.

James Blacksher, an attorney who represented civil rights activists in the Chilton County suit and many of the Dillard suits, said the suit was the only one remaining unresolved after 20 years of litigation. ...

The Dillard lawsuits are credited by civil rights activists, legal scholars and historians with giving blacks their first real representation in local government in Alabama since the end of slavery. Before the suits were filed, there were only a handful of blacks in local elected office. Today, more than 17 percent of local offices are held by blacks, according to the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. That makes Alabama one of just four states in the nation with a percentage of black elected officials in double figures. -- Chilton integration system upheld- al.com

Disclosure: I am one of the counsel for the black plaintiffs in the Dillard cases.

The opinion can be downloaded from the 11th Circuit website.

August 19, 2007

OSC investigating whether Rove's "asset deployment" violated Hatch Act

The Washington Post reports: Thirteen months before President Bush was reelected, chief strategist Karl Rove summoned political appointees from around the government to the Old Executive Office Building. The subject of the Oct. 1, 2003, meeting was "asset deployment," and the message was clear:

The staging of official announcements, high-visibility trips and declarations of federal grants had to be carefully coordinated with the White House political affairs office to ensure the maximum promotion of Bush's reelection agenda and the Republicans in Congress who supported him, according to documents and some of those involved in the effort. ...

Investigators, however, said the scale of Rove's effort is far broader than previously revealed; they say that Rove's team gave more than 100 such briefings during the seven years of the Bush administration. The political sessions touched nearly all of the Cabinet departments and a handful of smaller agencies that often had major roles in providing grants, such as the White House office of drug policy and the State Department's Agency for International Development.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee are investigating whether any of the meetings violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits government employees from using federal resources for election activities. They also want to know whether any Bush appointees pressured government for favorable actions such as grants to help GOP electoral chances. -- How Rove Directed Federal Assets for GOP Gains - washingtonpost.com

Hat tip to Talking Points Memo for the link.

August 18, 2007

California; GOP trying to grab a chunk of Golden State's electoral votes

Hendrick Hertzberg writes in the New Yorker: Two weeks ago, one of the most important Republican lawyers in Sacramento quietly filed a ballot initiative that would end the practice of granting all fifty-five of California’s electoral votes to the statewide winner. Instead, it would award two of them to the statewide winner and the rest, one by one, to the winner in each congressional district. Nineteen of the fifty-three districts are represented by Republicans, but Bush carried twenty-two districts in 2004. The bottom line is that the initiative, if passed, would spot the Republican ticket something in the neighborhood of twenty electoral votes—votes that it wouldn’t get under the rules prevailing in every other sizable state in the Union. ...

Nominally, the sponsor of No. 07-0032 is Californians for Equal Representation. But that’s just a letterhead—there’s no such organization. Its address is the office suite of Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, the law firm for the California Republican Party, and its covering letter is signed by Thomas W. Hiltachk, the firm’s managing partner and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s personal lawyer for election matters. ...

“Equal Representation” sounds good, too. And the winner-take-all rule, which is in force in all but two states, does seem unfair on the face of it. (The two are Maine and Nebraska, which use congressional-district allocation. But they are so small—only five districts between them—and so homogeneous that neither has ever split its electoral votes.) It would be obviously unjust for a state to give all its legislative seats to the party that gets the most votes statewide. So why should Party A get a hundred per cent of that state’s electoral votes if forty per cent of its voters support Party B? No wonder Democrats and Republicans alike initially react to this proposal in a strongly positive way. To most people, the electoral-college status quo feels intuitively wrong. So does war. But that doesn’t make unilateral disarmament a no-brainer. -- Votescam

Scotland: SNP wins a by-election on local council

The Scotsman reports (and this is the whole report): SNP candidate John Corall yesterday won the first local council by-election in Scotland under the new single transferable voting system. He swept to victory in Aberdeen's Midstocket and Rosemount contest caused by the death of Tory Councillor John Porter. -- The Scotsman - Politics - SNP takes council seat from Tories

A comment to the story gives more details: A row has broken out following Scotland’s first council by-election since the introduction of a system of electing councillors under a fair votes system known as the Single transferable Vote (STV).

The Midstocket and Rosemount by-election for Aberdeen City Council followed the death of long-serving Conservative John Porter.

At one stage during the count, when there were only four votes separating the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats requested a recount. The request was denied by the Returning Officer.

Liberal Democrats now plan on raising the Returning Officer’s controversial decision with the Electoral Commission.

Alabama: suit filed to stop city election

Three Montgomery voters have filed suit in federal court to stop the city of Montgomery from moving its election from October to 28 August because the change has not been precleared by the Justice Department. The suit also charges a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the invalidity of the city ordinance (for inconsistency with state law).

Cecil Gardner, Sam Heldman (both of the The Gardner Firm), and I are the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

I will post some of the pleadings when I get some computer problems worked out.