“Accidental (and apparently harmless) password leak could prompt move away from Crosscheck program”

Capitol Fax:

Indivisible Chicago

Crosscheck is an interstate data-sharing program between 28 states. Participating states send their entire voter file to a server in Arkansas. Kansas then downloads all of this data, runs a rudimentary name matching algorithm, and then uploads the results back to Arkansas. We have the passwords to every step in this process.

We’ve posted documents obtained by Indivisible Chicago as a result of FOIA requests to Florida and Illinois. The “yellow paper” redactions are our redactions of usernames and passwords carelessly sent via email. We have redacted instead of posting publicly, as we take the sensitivity of this data more seriously than the Illinois, Arkansas, and Kansas election authorities.


“Senators Demand Online Ad Disclosures as Tech Lobby Mobilizes”


Senator John McCain and two Democratic senators moved on Thursday to force Facebook, Google and other internet companies to disclose who is purchasing online political advertising, after revelations that Russian-linked operatives bought deceptive ads in the run-up to the 2016 election with no disclosure required.

But the tech industry, which has worked to thwart previous efforts to mandate such disclosure, is mobilizing an army of lobbyists and lawyers — including a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign — to help shape proposed regulations. Long before the 2016 election, the adviser, Marc E. Elias, helped Facebook and Google request exemptions from the Federal Election Commission to existing disclosure rules, arguing that ads on the respective platforms were too small to fit disclaimers listing their sponsors.

Now Mr. Elias’s high-powered Democratic election law firm, Perkins Coie, is helping the companies navigate legal and regulatory issues arising from scrutiny of the Russian-linked ads, which critics say might have been flagged by the disclaimers. In a two-front war, tech companies are targeting an election commission rule-making process that was restarted last month and a legislative effort in the Senate.

According to Sen. Klobuchar’s press release, the bill (whose text I don’t believe has yet been released) would change existing law by:

  • Amending the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002’s definition of electioneering communication to include paid Internet and digital advertisements.

  • Requiring digital platforms with at least 50,000,000 monthly viewers to maintain a public file of all electioneering communications purchased by a person or group who spends more than $500.00 total on ads published on their platform. The file would contain a digital copy of the advertisement, a description of the audience the advertisement targets, the number of views generated, the dates and times of publication, the rates charged, and the contact information of the purchaser.

  • Requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate.

I’ll have more to say when I can see the actual legislation.


“Has the Supreme Court Legalized Public Corruption?

Important Matt Ford in The Atlantic:

Menendez has denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers argue the favors don’t rise to the newly heightened standard of official acts. Federal prosecutors, for their part, argue that the stream of benefits that flowed from Melgen to Menendez meet the threshold under federal law without linking specific quids to specific quos. Even though Walls declined to dismiss the charges against the lawmaker, he could still dismiss some of them later in the trial if the prosecution fails to present enough evidence. And like McDonnell himself, Menendez could also challenge any convictions under the stream-of-benefits theory on appeal.

Behind these legal doctrines and prosecutorial theories are questions about the popular legitimacy of the republican system—about voters being able to trust that the officials they elect aren’t the puppets of the country’s richest patrons. What McDonnell and other recent public-corruption rulings risk are institutions where cash and favors flow freely, where consequences are exceptional, and where public vice is made indistinguishable from civic virtue. No Americans expect a government of saints, but they expect their government to be able to root out the sinners in its midst.


CA: “Conservative group sets sights on state’s Voting Rights Act”

Bob Egelko for the SF Chronicle:

A conservative who led a successful legal challenge to a core provision of the federal Voting Rights Act is training his sights on California’s version of the law, which allows minorities to challenge the practice of local “at-large” elections on the basis of racial discrimination and seek to switch them to voting by district.

The 2002 California Voting Rights Act forces cities, counties and school districts “to make race the sole factor in districting,” said Edward Blum, president of the nonprofit Project on Fair Representation, as his Virginia-based group asked a federal judge to overturn the law.

You can find the papers supporting a motion for a preliminary injunction here.


“How Gridlock, Social Media Giants and the Clintons Made the Internet Ripe for Russian Meddling”

Daily Beast:

The co-authors of McCain-Feingold’s House companion bill, Reps. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA), were not pleased. They sued the FEC in part due to that omission, and successfully invalidated 15 FEC regulations. In response, the commission took another crack at regulating online political speech. In 2006, it codified a new definition of “public communications,” one that specified which types of digital speech were covered.

The resulting rule, finalized in 2006, explicitly excluded political communications on the internet from regulation, provided those behind the communications were not compensated for their work by a political committee. It was a solution that protected blogs and other popular forms of online political speech but still encompassed digital political advertising.

That standard came to be known as the “internet exemption.” The rule establishing it passed unanimously, received broad bipartisan praise. Those doing the praising just didn’t know then that they had paved the way for the heyday of political blogging.


Critics of the FEC’s approach did sense a slippery slope. University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen, an expert and longtime writer on campaign finance law, predicted that efforts to exempt online news content from regulation would eventually be exploited by special interests.

“As everyone gets to own the equivalent of a printing press, and everyone can become a journalist, the corporate and labor limit on campaign activity stands to be swallowed up by the media exemption,” Hasen wrote in 2005. In a prescient warning nearly five years before the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. FEC, Hasen added, “Especially if limits on independent corporate and union election-related activity disappear, disclosure of funding sources become especially important.”


“In this 5K race, runners will meander NC’s ‘Gerrymander”

News and Observer:

Runners and walkers planning to take part in a 5K race in Asheville early next month might do better with a compass — a well-tuned political compass, that is.

As lawyers, judges and redistricting experts spend hours in a federal courtroom in Greensboro this week discussing the latest North Carolina redistricting lawsuit, the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County and others were planning an event meant to give people interested in North Carolina politics a ground-level view of how gerrymandering looks.

On Nov. 4, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the league is holding the Gerrymander 5K run and walkthat tracks the dividing line between the state’s 10th and 11th congressional districts, which have elected two Republicans to represent the largely Democratic city.


“Rigged: How Voter Suppression Threw Wisconsin to Trump”—Or Maybe Not

Ari Berman for Mother Jones.  Despite the headline, and despite this:

The impact of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received almost no attention. When it did, it was often dismissive. Two days after the election, Talking Points Memo ran a piece by University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen under the headline “Democrats Blame ‘Voter Suppression’ for Clinton Loss at Their Peril.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said it was “a load of crap” to claim that the voter ID law had led to lower turnout. When Clinton, in an interview with New York magazine, said her loss was “aided and abetted by the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin,” the Washington Examiner responded, “Hillary Clinton Blames Voter Suppression for Losing a State She Didn’t Visit Once During the Election.” As the months went on, pundits on the right and left turned Clinton’s loss into a case study for her campaign’s incompetence and the Democratic Party’s broader abandonment of the white working class. Voter suppression efforts were practically ignored, when they weren’t mocked.

Ari relies on a poorly done Priorities USA study and writes:

While we’ll never know precisely how many people were prevented from voting, it’s safe to say that thousands of Wisconsinites like Anthony were denied one of their most fundamental rights. And with Republicans now in control of both the executive and legislative branches in the federal government and a majority of states, that problem will likely get worse.

And again, I think this asks the wrong question:

As I’ve said many times, this whole analysis asks the wrong question. The right question is why a state like Wisconsin can burden the right to vote with unnecessary restrictions for no good reason, and for the bad reason of hoping it will suppress Democratic turnout (whether it actually does or not.)


Today’s Must-Read: “In North Carolina, Republicans Stung by Court Rulings Aim to Change the Judges”

Trip Gabriel for the NYT:

 Republicans with a firm grip on the North Carolina legislature — and, until January, the governor’s seat — enacted a conservative agenda in recent years, only to have a steady stream of laws affecting voting and legislative power rejected by the courts.

Now lawmakers have seized on a solution: change the makeup of the courts.

Judges in state courts as of this year must identify their party affiliation on ballots, making North Carolina the first state in nearly a century to adopt partisan court elections. The General Assembly in Raleigh reduced the size of the state Court of Appeals, depriving Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of naming replacements for retiring Republicans.

And this month, lawmakers drew new boundaries for judicial districts statewide, which critics say are meant to increase the number of Republican judges on district and superior courts and would force many African-Americans on the bench into runoffs against other incumbents.


“Jocelyn Benson Enters Michigan Secretary of State Race”


Election law expert Jocelyn Benson announced Tuesday that she is running for Michigan secretary of state, saying no one should have to wait more than 30 minutes to renew a driver’s license, register a vehicle or vote.

It is the second time the Democrat has sought the position. She was the party’s 2010 nominee but lost to Republican Ruth Johnson, who cannot run for a third term in 2018.

Benson, of Detroit, said the half-hour guarantee should apply to residents “no matter where you are in the state,” saying she waited two hours to vote in the August 2016 primary election. She launched her campaign outside a secretary of state branch in Detroit and at stops in Grand Rapids and Lansing.


“Trump Campaign Staffers Pushed Russian Propaganda Days Before the Election”

Daily Beast: 

Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.

The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP’s account termination.

The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election….

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. followed the account until its closure on August 23rd of this year. Trump Jr. retweeted the account three times, including an allegation of voter fraud in Florida one week before the election.

“BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida Please, RT,” the tweet read.


Fowler: “The Negative Effect Fallacy, Gobbledygook, and the Use of Quantitative Evidence in the Supreme Court”

The following is a guest post from Anthony Fowler:

The Negative Effect Fallacy, Gobbledygook, and the Use of Quantitative Evidence in the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has a mixed track record when it comes to quantitative evidence, and that record was further blemished earlier this month, during oral arguments for Gill v. Whitford, when Chief Justice John Roberts dismissed a quantitative metric as “sociological gobbledygook” without providing further explanation. This kind of convenient but vacuous argument is, unfortunately, a regular tactic for some of the justices. In a recent article in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Ryan Enos, Christopher Havasy, and I analyze another argument commonly used by the Court to justify the dismissal of quantitative evidence, and we call it the negative effect fallacy.

Courts often hear cases in which the answers to difficult empirical questions are relevant for decisions. Within the context of election law, consider Arizona Free Enterprise v. Bennett. A key question was whether the matching funds provision in Arizona’s campaign finance law chilled private political speech. The plaintiffs argued that it did; in other words, they felt that matching funds have a negative effect on private political contributions. Ryan Enos, Conor Dowling, Costas Panagopoulos, and I sought to quantitatively assess whether this claim was true, and we found no evidence to support it. In an amici brief and a subsequent article in the Election Law Journal, we showed that private political contributions did not increase relative to other states after an injunction against the matching funds provision. Chief Justice Roberts, writing the majority opinion, briefly considered this evidence but dismissed it, declaring “it is never easy to prove a negative.”

What’s going on here? Roberts has conflated the arithmetic and philosophical definitions of the word negative. We’ve all heard the adage that it’s difficult to prove a negative, meaning that it’s difficult to prove the absence of something (e.g., can we prove that Santa Claus does not exist?). However, the adage has no bearing on the quantitative estimation of an arithmetically negative effect![1] There’s no reason that negative effects are harder to detect than positive ones.

The negative effect fallacy is not unique to Arizona Free Enterprise or election law. This mistake appears to have originated with Elkins v. United States in 1960. Again, an empirical question played a crucial role in the case. Does the exclusionary rule prevent illegal searches and seizures? In principle, quantitative evidence could be brought to bear on this question, but Justice Stewart rejected even the possibility by asserting that “it is never easy to prove a negative.” Since then, negative effect fallacy has been repeated in many Supreme Court and lower court cases across many legal domains including free speech, voting rights, and campaign finance. Our investigation explains the negative effect fallacy in more detail, documents its use in federal courts, and provides recommendations regarding the use of quantitative evidence in court decisions.

How can the greatest legal minds in our nation fall prey to something like the negative effect fallacy? And why would they insist that relatively simple quantitative methods are gobbledygook? We can only speculate regarding the underlying motivations of the judges. Perhaps they don’t understand the evidence. Perhaps they don’t like the results and look for convenient ways to dismiss them. Perhaps they have legitimate reasons to believe the evidence is uncompelling or irrelevant for the case, but they fail to articulate those reasons. In any case, the pattern whereby evidence is dismissed based on sweeping statements, gut reactions, and logical fallacies is a troubling one. At best, these practices hide the justices’ true reasons for arriving at their decisions, and at worst, the courts regularly make bad decisions because they fail to engage with relevant evidence.

The relevance of quantitative evidence for legal decisions will likely not dissipate anytime soon. Does a new voting technology differentially impact a particular racial group? Does a campaign finance regulation restrict free speech? Does a state’s redistricting plan deviate from a reasonable standard of fairness? Courts will have to consider a lot of questions like these going forward, and social scientists will continue to collect data and develop methods to help them. Whether the justices like it or not, answering these questions and making informed decisions requires engaging with quantitative evidence and evaluating it on its merits.

Anthony Fowler (anthony.fowler@uchicago.edu) is Associate Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. He applies econometric methods for causal inference to questions in political science, with particular emphasis on elections and political representation.

[1] Even in the canonical usage of this adage, the word negative is a red herring because we can always write positive statements to be negative, and vice versa. At best, this phrase reminds us that induction does not provide certain conclusions, but in the case of arithmetically negative statements, the adage has no bearing whatsoever.




“Judge Pushes Back Against Trump Administration’s View of Emoluments Clause”


The hearing Wednesday marked the first public airing of arguments over the scope of the provisions and the definition of an “emolument.” Democrats in Congress and the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland filed similar lawsuits in June.

Brett Shumate, a Justice Department lawyer, told U.S. District Judge George Daniels that an emolument should be defined as a benefit conferred in return for a personal service provided by the officeholder.

“Why doesn’t emolument mean compensation?” asked Judge Daniels, who is considering the government’s motion to throw out the case. “Why do we need a more complicated definition?”

At one point, Mr. Shumate reluctantly agreed that the emoluments clauses could reach private business transactions, in response to a question from Judge Daniels, who asked whether the Constitution would allow the president to accept $1 million from a foreign government seeking his signature on a treaty.

Under Judge Daniels’ hypothetical, instead of paying the president directly, however, the foreign government would buy $1 million in hotdogs from the president’s hotdog-vending business.


A.J. Pate: Systemic Poison in the Body Politic

The following is a guest post from A.J. Pate:

Systemic Poison in the Body Politic

Ned Foley’s recent commentary, “Of X-Rays, CT Scans and Gerrymanders”, was an interesting analogy linking advancements in cancer research to advances in identifying partisan gerrymandering. However, cancer is an organic disease which attacks disparate parts of the body, most of unknown causes, thus unpreventable and most often incurable. Two preventable exceptions are lung cancer and skin cancer. But cessation of smoking will not cure lung cancer. And total darkness will not cure skin cancer.

Perhaps a more apt analogy would be people being poisoned by self-interested criminals. Partisan gerrymandering is a systemic poisoning of the body politic, a deliberate, corrupt process to achieve predetermined results by self-interested politicians.

Much attention has been fixated recently on scientific solutions, which appear to be reaching the outer limits of practical application, improbably providing a definitive judicially manageable standard. There are no magic cures lurking within those penumbrae, complex calculations incomprehensible to most Americans. In concluding his relentless, decades-long pursuit to end partisan gerrymandering, absent a bright-line rule, Justice Kennedy would not want his valedictory and legacy to end in indeterminacy, “not with a bang but with a whimper.”

There is a curious silence on one of the most ancient scientific principles, dating back to Aristotle, and still viable today. That is Occam’s Razor: the simplest effective solution is the best solution. The Court should no longer attempt so ineffectively to treat symptoms of this poison or search for an antidote, but simply remove the source of the poison. Let Occam’s Razor slice through the Gordian Knot of partisan gerrymandering.

The obvious root source of partisan gerrymandering is the ready availability of partisan political data in redistricting software. The simplest solution would be for the Court to ban its use as a negative, poisonous input into the redistricting process, extrinsic manipulations adverse to the constitutional provision of fair and effective representation. Banning the use of partisan political data in redistricting would be easily judicially manageable at every court level. But, this simple prophylactic receives virtually nil attention. Two primary tools employed by gerrymanderers are zero deviation as a cover and the divided census tracts necessary to achieve that dubious goal. Yet there is also a strange silence on the root source of partisan gerrymandering and these tools of its implementation.

This bright-line rule, a simple ban on the use of partisan political data, has many distinct and significant advantages, and no disadvantages are readily apparent:

  • could be implemented immediately by the states with minimal cost by simple software modification
  • would be applied ex ante to statewide maps and subject to forensic analysis before implementation
  • easily manageable by lower courts, drastically reducing years of appeals by shifting focus from ex post quantative litigation to ex ante qualitative compliance
  • would make redistricting process and plans transparent and accessible
  • would make judicial reviews strictly objective and technically neutral, with partisan consequences a nonfactor
  • self-explanatory, easily understood by the general public, becoming one of the most popular decisions the Court could ever deliver.

Contrarily, the Court’s worse course would be to become a subjective arbiter between the major political parties in divining partisan winners and losers in our electoral process, stepping into quicksand in the middle of the political thicket. The current Court’s political polarization is obvious to the electorate and would render consequential decisions subject to intense suspicion of partisan bias, with resultant harm to respect for the Court and even the rule of law. The Court’s public approval would be in imminent danger of sinking to the depths of used car salesmen and the U.S. Congress.




“Is Trump Violating the Constitution? In Absentia, He Defends Himself in Court”


Donald J. Trump, Defendant” has graced reams of court papers through decades of dealmaking and New York real estate litigiousness.

“Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America” remains a relatively new phenomenon.

But inside a federal courtroom on Wednesday in Lower Manhattan, with the full force of the Justice Department defending him, Mr. Trump will be the focus, in absentia, of a remarkable legal drama: Is a sitting president — disinclined to relinquish his gilded empire before taking office — violating the Constitution by continuing to own and profit from his businesses?

At issue is a lawsuit filed this year in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York by a legal watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. It has argued that Mr. Trump is violating a constitutional provision that a president may not accept any economic benefit from foreign governments or the United States government beyond a salary.


“Trump’s small-dollar donors fuel surge in GOP fundraising”


The Republican National Committee raised more than $100 million in the first nine months of 2017, marking the first time it has raised that much, that fast, in a non-presidential election year.

The record-breaking fundraising can be largely attributed to a flurry of small-dollar donors responding to fundraising appeals by the first Republican president in eight years, Donald Trump, according to a new report to be released later this week and obtained by McClatchy.


“Republican lawmakers’ posh hideaway bankrolled by secret corporate cash”


But behind the scenes, several major corporations and trade groups secretly bankrolled a plush hideawayfor lawmakers at the same Republican National Convention in Cleveland where Trump gave the speech, records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show.

Comcast Corp., Microsoft, Koch Companies Public Sector, the National Retail Federation, Health Care Service Corp., the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron and AT&T are among the companies, associations and lobbying powerhouses that funded a limited liability company called “Friends of the House 2016 LLC,” according to bank records.

Friends of the House 2016 LLC, in turn, paid for the design and outfitting of an exclusive office, lounge and gathering space for Republican lawmakers — including House Speaker Paul Ryan — and controlled access to the so-called “cloakroom.”

The limited liability company effectively hid the corporations’ contributions from public view at a time when activist groups were pressuring companies to scale back giving to the Republican convention, and a few of the companies had publicly minimized their participation.


“Conflict Mounts Inside Voting Fraud Commission in the Wake of Child Porn Arrest”


The arrest, on child pornography charges, of a researcher for the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is intensifying conflict inside the group, with two Democratic members asserting again that a small band of conservatives holds disproportionate power. The researcher, Ronald Williams II, who was arrested late last week, previously worked as an intern at the Department of Justice on a case with J. Christian Adams, who is now a Republican member of the commission.

Democratic commissioner Matt Dunlap contends Williams’ involvement with the commission is the latest in a series of discoveries suggesting a few conservative members wield outsize clout; Dunlap claims that Democratic members have been largely excluded from planning. Today he wrote a letter to the commission demanding information.

“I am seeking information because I lack it,” stated the letter, a copy of which was given to ProPublica. “I am in a position where I feel compelled to inquire after the work of the Commission upon which I am sworn to serve, and am yet completely uninformed as to its activities.” The letter demanded copies of “any and all communication between members of the commission” beginning in May…..

It seems like you have the core of the commission — J. Christian Adams, Hans van Spakovsky and [Kris] Kobach — and then you have the rest of us, who are kind of like mannequins,” Dunlap said in an interview. He said he was surprised to learn of Williams’ history working alongside Adams.

Williams was an intern at the DOJ during the administration of George W. Bush. He worked alongside Adams on litigation the department filed against Noxubee County, Mississippi, in 2006 — the first time the DOJ used the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect white voters.


“Menendez Trial Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss the Case”


 The federal corruption trial of Senator Robert Menendez resumed Monday after a judge rejected a motion by the defense to dismiss the case based on a major Supreme Court decision last year that overturned the corruption conviction against a former Virginia governor.

“We are going to the jury,” Judge William H. Walls said, after reading a lengthy opinion in a courtroom here with the jurors out of the room.

Judge Walls had suggested last week that the Supreme Court decision might limit the “stream of benefits” theory of bribery, which is important to the Menendez case and holds that a bribe can occur if a person offers something of value to another person as a retainer, expecting favors over time, rather than a more straightforward quid pro quo exchange.

But on Monday, Judge Walls said that the ruling, which reversed the conviction of the former Gov. Bob McDonnell, did not eliminate the theory, in part because there was no explicit mention of the term in the high court’s decision.

“I see nothing in McDonnell that attacks the stream of benefits theory,” he said, adding later that in his view, the Supreme Court would not have made such a major ruling without explicitly making a finding about the theory.


“Roy Moore’s Senate campaign blames Democrats for fake Twitter followers”


Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for Senate in Alabama, gained then lost thousands of apparently fake Twitter followers in the space of a few hours — a situation that his campaign blamed on Democrats.

“We highly doubt that reporters across the country spend most of their free time on Sunday breaking away from church, family, and football to review the Twitter followers of various candidates across the country,” Moore’s campaign said in an emailed statement. “It is more likely that Doug Jones and Democrat operatives are pulling a political stunt on Twitter and alerting their friends in the media.”

The saga did begin on Sunday, when multiple Twitter users noticed that Moore’s account had nearly doubled its follower count, from slightly more than 26,000 to more than 47,000, in less than a week. At least 1,100 of the new followers had Russian names and Twitter bios, often consisting of pure gibberish such as “Master of Plastic Shackles” and “to be a little girl.”


“NC Senate votes to override election law veto”


The state Senate voted Monday night to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of a measure that would cancel all judicial primary elections in 2018.

The House is expected to follow suit Tuesday, although that vote may be delayed.

Senate Bill 656 would also make it easier for third-party candidates to get on the ballot for statewide or municipal races, and for unaffiliated although not in legislative races. It would also lower the percentage of primary votes required to avoid a runoff.

Republican House and Senate leaders say they’re cancelling the judicial primaries because they intend to redraw the state’s superior and district court districts by next spring, so the primary would likely be delayed.


NV: “Republican-led efforts to recall three state senators hit with first lawsuit”

Nevada Independent:

Three campaigns to recall Nevada lawmakers have been hit with their first lawsuit, with plaintiffs arguing that the state doesn’t benefit from the recalls, that a special election would place an undue burden on voters and that the whole process undermines the hallmarks of the republican system.

Marc Elias, a nationally prominent attorney who served as former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s general counsel during the 2016 election, filed the suit Monday in federal court in Las Vegas with help from Bradley Schrager, a onetime attorney for the Nevada State Democratic Party. Defendants are Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Clark County Voter Registrar Joe Gloria, who would be tasked with carrying out a special election if the recall petitions qualify.

Read the complaint.


“Efforts to pry loose Trump tax returns hit a wall”


Efforts to pry loose President Donald Trump’s tax returns at the state level have hit a wall, stalling in statehouses across the country including in California, a hotbed of anti-Trump resistance.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation late Sunday that would have forced presidential candidates to make their tax returns public before appearing on the California ballot, marking the death there of a measure once ballyhooed by Democrats and open government advocates as an end-run to Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax filings.


“Do Seattle’s democracy vouchers work? New analysis says yes”

Seattle Times:

The program went into effect this year, and it’s had a bit of a bumpy start. One City Council candidate has been accused of defrauding the program. A libertarian-leaning group has sued, saying the program violates the First Amendment. And a Seattle Times analysis showed that the vouchers haven’t gotten big money out of politics, as some proponents claimed they would.

 But a new, early look at donor-participation statistics shows that the democracy voucher program does appear to live up to its name — that is, it is helping to democratize political giving in Seattle by diversifying the donor pool to better reflect Seattle residents.

The data analysis was performed by two liberal political-advocacy nonprofits: Seattle-based Win/Win and Washington, D.C.-based Every Voice. Both groups were major contributors to the Initiative 122 “Honest Elections Seattle” campaign that established the voucher program.

Voucher donations, just like all donations, are public record, so researchers know precisely who used the program. They worked up a demographic profile of the nearly 11,000 Seattleites who used vouchers through the Aug. 1 primaries. The vouchers could be used in three races — the City Council’s two citywide seats and for city attorney.

The vouchers are not yet accepted for the mayor’s race, and the researchers took advantage of the fact. They used that donation pool as a sort of control group, which could be compared with the people who used vouchers in other races this year.


“Want to deepen our democracy? Get ready.”

E.J. Dionne:

This is why the recent introduction of the “We the People” Democracy Reform Act of 2017 by Rep. David E. Price (D-N.C.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) could prove to be an important milestone even if the conflict-of-interest maven who occupies the White House and the Republicans who currently dominate Congress choose to ignore it.

The bill is a compendium of ideas aimed at fixing particular problems in our political system. But its comprehensiveness underscores that the republican form of our government is being undermined by the rising power of oligarchic big money in politics and the increasingly unrepresentative nature of our institutions.


“Of Aliens, Money and Politics: Should Foreign Political Donations Be Banned?”

Joo-Cheong Tham has posted this interesting draft on SSRN (forthcoming Kings Law Journal). A snippet:

Against premise 1), I argue that non-citizenship and the inability to vote are not sufficient grounds for exclusion from the political community. Against premise 2), I point to other bases for residents of a country being able to legitimately influence its political process (even when not members of its political community): human rights, in particular the rights of political expression and association, and being subject to the laws of the country. I also argue that the ‘foreignness’ of corporate political donations does not pose any additional danger to democracy unless the corporation is an agent for a foreign government. The article concludes that there is just cause for banning political donations from foreign governments and those being sourced from overseas, but any further measures in relation to ‘foreign’ political donations should be approached cautiously. Rather than focus on the ‘foreignness’ of the political donations, the article concludes that the underlying risks stem more from the ‘corporateness’ of these donations, pointing to general measures to deal with large political donations rather than specific regulation of ‘foreign’ political donations.


“Menendez Trial May Hinge on a New Definition of Bribery”


The defense is scheduled to begin its case on Monday, but first Judge William H. Walls is expected to rule on a motion to dismiss it, a motion that he hinted he was considering during arguments in court about the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the corruption conviction of Bob McDonnell, a former governor of Virginia.

In fact, the McDonnell decision has loomed over prosecutors throughout the Menendez trial, and Judge Walls suggested that he was leaning toward interpreting the ruling as invalidating a theory of bribery, known as “stream of benefits,” that is central to the government’s case.

The Supreme Court’s decision also set a high bar for what constitutes the kind of act an elected official must perform to have an exchange qualify as bribery — setting up meetings for constituents or making a phone call on behalf of a constituent no longer qualifies.

But in a narrative spun out in tedious, often repetitive, fashion over six weeks of testimony in the federal courthouse in Newark, prosecutors laid out the many ways that Mr. Menendez had helped Dr. Melgen whenever he ran into trouble.


“Trump campaign legal bills topped $1 million last quarter”


President Trump’s reelection committee spent more than $1 million on legal bills last quarter as investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election pressed on through the summer, according to a disclosure filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission.

The filing shows the committee’s “legal consulting” expenditures came to $1.1 million between July and September, including $802,185 paid to the law firm Jones Day, which has represented the campaign. Another $267,000 was paid to attorneys representing the president’s ­eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in the Russia investigations.

Since the beginning of the year, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have spent $2.4 million on legal fees — and the bills appear to be mounting. The latest FEC reports show that the campaign spent more on legal bills over the past three months than it did during the first and second quarters of this year combined.


“Donald Trump campaign ramps up 2020 re-election fundraising”


New financial disclosures President Donald Trump’s re-election committee filed Sunday with the Federal Election Commission tell a story of two Trump campaigns.

On one end, Trump, both by choice and circumstance, remains tethered to his 2016 presidential election effort. A federal investigation is probing whether he or his political aides colluded with Russians, and Trump himself frequently skewers his Democratic foil, Hillary Clinton, as if he didn’t defeat her in November. Trump’s campaign committee this summer spent more than $1 million on legal bills, disclosures show — much ostensibly stemming from the Russia controversy.

All the while, Trump is racing forward with unprecedented haste to win re-election in 2020. He’s conducting campaign rallies and raising millions of dollars in cash despite no one of stature — save, perhaps, for Rep. John Delaney, D-Md. — yet running against him.


“Black Lawmakers Hold a Particular Grievance With Facebook: Racial Exploitation”


 For more than an hour, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s high-profile chief operating officer, sheepishly pledged to “do better” — over and over — as stern-faced members of the Congressional Black Caucus grilled her on Thursday about Russian ads aimed at exploiting racial divisions during last year’s election.

For black lawmakers, it was a chance to vent — at the outrage they felt toward Russian intelligence and its efforts to foment racial unrest in the country; at the frustration they felt toward three separate congressional investigations into Russian interference that have plodded on and yielded little; and at Facebook itself, which has been long on promises and short on action.


“Trump voter fraud commission researcher arrested on child pornography charges”


 Maryland man arrested this week after authorities said they found child pornography on his cellphone worked for President Trump’s voter fraud commission, according to a senior administration official.

Ronald Williams II, 37, of Suitland, was a researcher for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss a personnel matter.


“Wary of Hackers, States Move to Upgrade Voting Systems”

Michael Wines for the NYT:

State election officials, worried about the integrity of their voting systems, are pressing to make them more secure ahead of next year’s midterm elections.

Reacting in large part to Russian efforts to hack the presidential election last year, a growing number of states are upgrading electoral databases and voting machines, and even adding cybersecurity experts to their election teams. The efforts — from both Democrats and Republicans — amount to the largest overhaul of the nation’s voting infrastructure since the contested presidential election in 2000 spelled an end to punch-card ballots and voting machines with mechanical levers.

One aim is to prepare for the 2018 and 2020 elections by upgrading and securing electoral databases and voting machines that were cutting-edge before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Another is to spot and defuse attempts to depress turnout and sway election results by targeting voters with false news reports and social media posts.


“Ohio’s illegal voter purges shouldn’t be getting Trump Justice Department’s blessing: Vanita Gupta”

Oped in Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Ohio appealed the ruling, and in a troubling about-face, the Trump Justice Department reversed its earlier opposition to Ohio’s actions and decided to support the state’s continued efforts to purge voters.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights proudly joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in submitting a “friend of the court” brief, arguing that the Supreme Court should be skeptical of DOJ’s new position, particularly given the length of time DOJ had opposed purge practices like Ohio’s.

The sudden shift in a longstanding position because of a change in political administrations validated the worst fears about the Trump administration.

It also raises real concerns about the politicization of the Justice Department’s historic role in protecting voting rights for all eligible voters. It could also have real consequences for the rights of thousands of Ohioans, and ultimately millions of Americans, to exercise their right to vote.


“Google, Facebook putting an early mark on political advertising bills”


Google and Facebook are looking to make an early imprint on legislation being drafted in the House and Senate that would force them and other online networks to disclose information about the buyers of political ads.

Lobbyists from the Silicon Valley behemoths have met with the staffs of Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Derek Kilmer, all of whom are drawing up bills that would impose new regulations on the industry, according to Democratic aides and company representatives. The Senate bill is expected to be formally introduced next week. It is not clear when the House legislation, which has not been previously reported, will be introduced.


NC: “Voting defamation suit seeks to widen net, accuses GOP attorneys of conspiracy”


The attorneys who brought a defamation lawsuit over voter protests filed in the wake of last November’s election want to add former Gov. Pat McCrory’s legal defense fund and the attorneys who helped file those protests to their suit.

They also want to turn the case into a class-action suit on behalf of more than 100 people who they say were unfairly maligned when Republicans falsely accused them of casting fraudulent votes. Attorneys for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice argue there was a coordinated effort by attorneys from a well-connected Republican law firm in Virginia to throw the results of North Carolina’s close gubernatorial race into doubt.

Those attorneys, the lawsuit argues, helped North Carolina voters challenge Democratic votes “to delay certification of the election and suggest that voter fraud affected the election results.”

Attorneys with the firm accused, Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky, did not return messages seeking comment Friday. Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, called the lawsuit “a disgusting intimidation effort” meant to dissuade people from filing reasonable challenges.