Clinton’s Campaign Finance Push as a Way to Inoculate Herself from Charges Related to Her Lack of Tranparency?

John Dickerson:

This campaign finance pillar of the Clinton campaign appears to be weakened already, but some campaign finance advocates were skeptical that Clinton was ever going to have a big fight over campaign finance reform as she pledged, seeing the policy gambit as a way to inoculate herself from the questions raised by donations to her family foundation. We’ll see in the coming months if she takes on this cause. She’s got to get off defense first.


“Intense Lobbying Failed to Assure Comcast’s Deal”


Despite the distribution of $5.9 million in campaign contributions by the two companies during the 2014 election cycle, and the expenditure of an extraordinary $25 million on lobbying last year, no more than a handful of lawmakers signed letters endorsing the deal. By contrast, more than 100 signed letters of support in 2010 when Comcast was pushing its merger with NBCUniversal.

Congress has no direct power to approve or disapprove any merger, but endorsements, particularly if they come from black and Hispanic leaders, can send a subtle but important message to regulators that the deal is in the public interest and should be cleared. It was not that many lawmakers spoke out against the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal — it was just that many of them remained silent.

Lawmakers cited a variety of reasons as to why Comcast’s elaborate pitch failed to gain traction this time: The miserable customer service ratings the company earns, for instance, made politicians leery of helping it out. In addition, there were much more substantial antitrust concerns associated with this deal, and some members of Congress said they thought Comcast had failed to live up to its promises in the NBCUniversal deal, and so could not be trusted this time.

Other lawmakers and staff members on Capitol Hill, in interviews Friday, cited Comcast’s swagger in trying to promote this deal. They said they felt that Comcast was so convinced in the early stages that the deal would be approved that it was dismissing concerns about the transaction, or simply taking the conversation in a different direction when asked about them.



“How We Will Save Our Democracy (and How We Won’t)”

Matthew Saks:

Last week, the election law expert Rick Hasen wrote a piece in Slate criticizing Hillary Clinton for coming out in support of a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. He argued that a constitutional amendment is a “terrible way to fix the problem” and that Clinton was simply pandering. Rick Hasen is a brilliant scholar (and a personal hero) but, in this case, he’s about as wrong as he could be. I would even go further and say that his views are dangerous insofar as he’s potentially steering the reform movement away from its last, best strategy to win.

I’m looking forward to continuing this dialogue once I lay out my whole case in Plutocrats United.



“Right-wing candidate’s nude campaign poster skirts election law”

Japan Times:

Campaigning for Sunday’s second wave of quadrennial unified local elections has highlighted a legal loophole that allows candidates to go to extremes — including nudity — to gain votes.

In contrast with the ubiquitous portrait shots preferred by most candidates, the campaign poster for Teruki Goto, an independent running for the Chiyoda Ward Assembly in Tokyo, went viral after it showed him posing nude against a Rising Sun flag motif while raising a katana over the Imperial Seal, his genitals covered by his name.

According to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the use of nudity is not banned because there are no restrictions on poster design in the Public Offices Election Law. All posters are legal as long they bear the name of the candidate and are posted on the designated boards.

View the picture.


“Feds charge ex-congressional chief of staff with secretly funding 2010 ringer candidate”

Miami Herald:

Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that inspired a more serious copycat case two years later.

Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as a GOP primary challenger to David Rivera.


“New Kinloch mayor blocked by police from entering city hall”

Holy cow:

Our Fox 2 cameras were the only ones there as the newly-elected Kinloch mayor was greeted by police for her first day on the job.

Betty McCray was not only prevented from entering city hall, she was also told she’d been impeached before she got a chance to start.

McCray ran for mayor in the April 7 election and won.

“I won. The people spoke,” McCray said. “I was sworn in by the St. Louis County. Today I take office. I want them out, I want the keys.”

After the election results were certified earlier this week by the St. Louis County Board of Elections, Kinloch’s outgoing administration refused to allow the city clerk to give McCray the oath of office, claiming voter fraud.

Via Crooks & Liars, Newly Elected Black Mayor Locked Out of City Hall by Police


Symposium on Voting Rights in the Wake of Shelby County v. Holder

Journal of Race, Gender and Ethnicity (Touro):


Elimination Dance
Sarah Jane Forman


Demography and Democracy
Phyllis Goldfarb


The Voting Game
Sarah R. Robinson


Setting Congress up to Fail
Margaret B. Kwoka


Post Oppression
Christian B. Sundquist


Unseen Exclusions in Voting and Immigration Law
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández


The Post-Shelby County Game
Steven R. Morrison


Charles Walker


We May See a New Flood of Foreign Money in Ballot Measure Elections

Bloomberg BNA:

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed—on a deadlocked party-line vote—charges that Manwin International, a foreign company producing online pornography, violated the law by bankrolling a campaign committee opposed to a Los Angeles ballot measure requiring the use of condoms in video sex scenes.
According to documents released April 23, the FEC’s three Republican commissioners voted to dismiss the case, supporting recommendations from the agency general counsel’s office.
An FEC counsel’s report concluded that a broad federal ban on foreign contributions in U.S. elections didn’t apply to ballot measure elections.
The three FEC commissioners holding Democratic seats on the FEC voted to pursue enforcement action in the case.

“Candidate Clinton and the Foundation”

NYT Editorial:

It’s an axiom in politics that money always creates important friendships, influence and special consideration. Wise politicians recognize this danger and work to keep it at bay. When she announced her candidacy, Mrs. Clinton resigned from the foundation board (Bill Clinton remains on the board). This was followed by the announcement of tighter foundation restrictions on donations from foreign countries, which had resumed after she left the State Department.

These half steps show that candidate Clinton is aware of the complications she and Bill Clinton have created for themselves. She needs to do a lot more, because this problem is not going away.


Worries Jeb Bush Super PAC Strategy Legally Risky


Bush’s reluctance to declare himself a candidate or even that he’s exploring a run, which enables him to sidestep campaign finance rules, allows him to continue raising unlimited sums of money for the super PAC, which could have its own policy shop and serve as the primary message machine, walled off from Bush himself and his actual campaign.

“There’s a worry that this is setting them up for a number of legal challenges,” a Florida-based donor said. “There’s some freedom allowed by this but there’s also a lot of arrogance because, even if they think they’re on firm legal ground, we all know the intent of the law is not to have presidential campaigns being run out of a super PAC. It’s untested, it’s risky — there’s that chance that it blows up, that some unforeseen legal challenge actually sticks.

“And the optics are horrible. If he wins the nomination this way, Democrats will seize on the tactics as evidence that Jeb Bush thinks he can play by his own rules. It’s the same playbook we’re trying to run against Hillary, which would be out the window.”



“Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company”

NYT sounding a little defensive:

The New York Times’s examination of the Uranium One deal is based on dozens of interviews, as well as a review of public records and securities filings in Canada, Russia and the United States. Some of the connections between Uranium One and the Clinton Foundation were unearthed by Peter Schweizer, a former fellow at the right-leaning Hoover Institution and author of the forthcoming book “Clinton Cash.” Mr. Schweizer provided a preview of material in the book to The Times, which scrutinized his information and built upon it with its own reporting.

Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors.


“Bullock signs Montana campaign finance bill into law”

Billings Gazette:

The Democratic governor signed the bill flanked by two Republicans, Sen. Duane Ankney of Colstrip, who sponsored the bill, and Rep. Frank Garner of Kalispell, who led the debate in the House. Later, a number of legislators who supported the bill and others who worked on it stood behind the governor and two lawmakers for another bill signing….

Ankney said he was proud that the bill passed after the Senate “squashed” a similar bill in 2013.

He recounted talking to one legislator this year who wasn’t sure he was going to support SB289.

“I said, ‘Okay, think of it this way,’” Ankney said. “ ‘You want a flier against you that says he voted for dark money or do you want to send a flier saying I voted to send them damn carpetbaggers out of this state?’ ”

The crowd cheered loudly at that line.

“Why in the world would not like to have fair elections?” Ankney asked, “Why would you not want to run your campaign in a manner that represents your constituents and not individual groups?”


“For Clintons, speech income shows how their wealth is intertwined with charity”


Bill Clinton was paid at least $26 million in speaking fees by companies and organizations that are also major donors to the foundation he created after leaving the White House, according to a Washington Post analysis of public records and foundation data.

The amount, about one-quarter of Clinton’s overall speaking income between 2001 and 2013, demonstrates how closely intertwined Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s charitable work has become with their growing personal wealth…

Four major financial firms — Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup — collectively have given between $2.75 million and $11.5 million to the charity, which is now called the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Between 2001 and 2013, their combined speech payments to Bill Clinton came to more than $3 million.



“Wisconsin Goes to the Supremes The U.S. Justices should hear a major First Amendment case.”

WSJ editorial:

Wisconsin’s attempt to criminalize political speech is destined to become a case study on the use of election law to silence political opponents. Whether it is a cautionary tale or a blueprint for nationwide imitation is now up to the Supreme Court.

On Friday the Justices will consider whether to hear O’Keefe v. Chisholm, a Section 1983 civil-rights lawsuit brought by Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe against Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm and other prosecutors. The suit charges the prosecutors with a multi-year campaign to silence and intimidate conservative groups whose political speech they don’t like.


Two on Money in Politics from Paul Blumenthal

Wealthy Donors Are Throwing Way More Money At The Republican Party This Year

(0) Comments | Posted April 22, 2015 | 5:35 PM

WASHINGTON — The Republican Party is taking full advantage of the new campaign contribution accounts and limits slipped into the omnibus budget bill that passed Congress in December.

In the first three months of 2015, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, the three main party…

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The Chamber Of Commerce Is Fighting Fiercely To Stop The Scourge Of Corporate Transparency

(212) Comments | Posted April 22, 2015 | 7:36 AM

WASHINGTON — This spring, shareholders in more than 100 companies will introduce resolutions calling for greater disclosure of corporations’ political and lobbying activity. Six major companies — Dean Foods, Eastman Chemical, H&R Block, Marathon Oil, U.S. Steel and Valero Energy — have already reached agreement with New York state Comptroller…

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In Never-Ending Texas Redistricting Litigation, Supplemental Briefs on Alabama Racial Gerrymandering Case

Via the indispensable Election Law @ Moritz:



“Jeb the Destroyer: Jeb Bush is tearing down what little campaign finance law we have left.”

I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:

In February, the Campaign Legal Center, a group which works on campaign finance reform issues, released a “white paper” contending that many of the leading potential presidential candidates were likely breaking federal law by not declaring their candidacy or setting up a “testing the waters” committee for a presidential election run. Such a declaration, among other things, limits donors to giving only $2,700 to the (would-be) candidate for the presidential primary season. It was an excellent report, but many shrugged off its findings as just one more way in which the campaign finance system has begun to unravel since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

But news this week that Republican (pseudo-non)candidate Jeb Bush intends to outsource much of his campaign to an allied super PAC reveals that Bush’s decision to delay declaring his candidacy has allowed him to undermine one of the last rules in campaign finance law. Worse, his approach will be the new model of presidential funding in future elections and greatly increases the threat that large donors will have even greater influence over electoral and policy outcomes than they already have.


“A Checklist Manifesto for Election Day: How to Prevent Mistakes at the Polls”

Josh Douglas has posted this draft on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:


Mistakes happen – especially at the polls on Election Day. To fix this complex problem inherent in election administration, this Article proposes the use of simple checklists. Errors occur in every election, yet many of them are avoidable. Poll workers should have easy-to-use tools to help them on Election Day as they handle throngs of voters. Checklists can assist poll workers in pausing during a complex process to avoid errors. This is a simple idea with a big payoff: fewer lost votes, shorter lines at the polls, a reduction in post-election litigation, and smoother election administration. Further, unlike many other suggested election reforms, this idea is likely to gain traction and see actual implementation. That is because the idea is “non-legal” in nature, in that it comes from the private sector and is achievable outside of the political process. Given the structural impediments to legislative or judicial change, non-legal solutions such as the use of checklists are the way forward in election reform.