“Goodman: FEC Backlog Mainly Includes Cases Against Republicans, Conservatives”

Bloomberg BNA:

Republican commissioners on the Federal Election Commission are reluctant to approve new procedures to speed up resolution of pending campaign finance enforcement matters because the backlog of pending complaints at the FEC involves many more Republicans and conservative groups than Democrats and liberal groups, according to Republican FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman.
Of 73 cases that have been analyzed by agency staff but not yet been acted on by the FEC commissioners, about three-quarters of the matters with a partisan respondent involve Republicans or conservatives, Goodman said May 21 at an FEC open meeting.
While FEC Republicans are hesitant to go along with new procedures on enforcement matters, Goodman suggested they might consider more informal agreements to move matters along more speedily.
This is a very interesting development, because even though the FEC has been splitting in hard cases along party lines, the argument has been made, with some force, that the split is primarily ideological, not partisan, with Republican commissioners supporting less regulation and Democratic commissioners supporting more. (Though as I’ve noted before, the ideological position of the parties could help each of their parties in the long run.) But now this comment by Commissioner Goodman threatens to turn this into a more conventional partisan battle.
Here are three reasons why there more be more complaints against Republican-allied groups:
1. Republican groups are more opposed to campaign restrictions than Democratic groups, and are more apt to do things of questionable legality under the law out of the belief they have a constitutional right to do so or because they think they can get away with it thanks to a deadlocked FEC.
2. Democratic groups are more reluctant to push the envelope on campaign restrictions, and hence draw complaints, because they are ideologically opposed to loose campaign finance rules. (Though Hillary Clinton’s recent actions with Correct the Record undermine that to some extent.)
3. Democrats are more willing to use the FEC as a political weapon.
I suppose one’s views on whether it is a problem that more Republican-allied groups are the subject of complaints at the FEC depends upon whether you believe the problem is 1, 2, or 3.

“Department of Justice Proposes Legislation to Improve Access to Voting for American Indians and Alaska Natives”

Press release:

Today the Department of Justice proposed legislation that would require states or localities whose territory includes part or all of an Indian reservation, an Alaska Native village, or other tribal lands to locate at least one polling place in a venue selected by the tribal government.

“The Department of Justice is deeply committed to ensuring that every eligible individual is able to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “That’s why, today, I am calling on Congress to help remove the significant and unnecessary barriers that for too long have confronted American Indians and Alaska Natives attempting to cast their ballots.  The legislation we recommend today will make this nation stronger by extending meaningful voting opportunities to native populations, by encouraging full participation in our democratic institutions, and by bringing us closer to our most cherished ideals.”

“As citizens of a nation founded upon the principles of liberty and equality, Native Americans have faced unacceptable barriers to participating in the franchise, a situation aggravated by a history of discrimination, poverty and — significantly — great distances from polling places,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery.  “In spite of many reforms made possible by the Voting Rights Act and other measures, voting rates among Native Americans remain disproportionately low.  The legislation proposed today would address this unacceptable gap and we look forward to working with Congress to see it enacted.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives have faced significant obstacles that have prevented them from enjoying equal access to polling places and equal opportunities to cast a ballot.  In addition to suffering from a long history of discrimination, the distance many American Indian and Alaska Native citizens must travel to reach a polling place presents a substantial and ongoing barrier to full voter participation.  Following formal consultations with Indian tribes, the Department of Justice believes that there is a pressing need for federal legislation to ensure equal access to voting by Native American voters.

Today, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Congress with a legislative proposal, which would ensure that American Indian and Alaska Natives have access to at least one polling place in their communities to cast their ballots and require a number of additional obligations to ensure parity with other polling places.

This legislative proposal, a stand-alone bill, would:

  • Enable Native Americans to vote on or near tribal lands, by requiring any state or local election administrator whose territory includes part or all of an Indian reservation, an Alaska Native village, or other tribal lands to locate at least one polling place in a venue selected, and made available for the purpose of conducting elections, by the tribal government.
  • Require states to make voting machines, ballots, and other voting materials and equipment available at these tribally located polling places to the same extent that they are available at other polling places in the state.
  • Require states to provide compensation and other benefits to election officials and poll workers at these polling places to the same extent as at other polling places in the state.
  • Require states to use the same voting procedures at these polling places as at other polling places in the state — potentially including election-day voting, early voting, the hours during which polling places are open, the operation of voting mechanisms or systems, and same-day registration.
  • Allow states to meet their obligations by either creating new polling places or relocating existing ones.
  • Allow tribes with larger populations or land bases to request more than one polling place.
  • Make the states’ obligations contingent on the tribe filing a timely request and certifying that it has arranged for access to, and appropriate staffing for, the polling facility.
  • Require the tribe to ensure that the staffers for the polling place are properly trained.
  • Require the tribe to ensure that the polling place will be open and accessible to all eligible citizens who reside in the precinct, regardless of whether they are Indians or non-Indians.

The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring equal access to voting for Native American voters.  This proposal would address serious voting obstacles faced by citizens who are members of Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages; provide equal access to polling places for all eligible citizens, including members of tribes and villages; reinforce our nation’s commitment to the fundamental right to vote; and strengthen the government-to-government relationship between the United States and tribal nations.

In 1975, recognizing the barriers to full participation that Native Americans continued to confront, Congress expressly included American Indians and Alaska Natives as protected groups under the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act.  Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act prohibited many jurisdictions with large American Indian or Alaska Native populations from changing their voting laws until they could prove that the change would not create new barriers to effective participation.  A number of jurisdictions with large Native American populations that have limited English proficiency — in six states, including Alaska — are also covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires bilingual election materials and assistance.

Despite these reforms, participation rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives continue to lag behind turnout rates among non-Native voters.  For example, in Alaska, turnout among Alaska Natives often falls 15 to 20 or more percentage points below the non-Native turnout rate.  The causes of these disparities are complex, but the reality is that political participation by Native Americans consistently trails that of non-Natives and unequal access to polling places is a significant contributing factor.

Review the legislation at www.justice.gov/tribal/department-justice-proposes-legislation-improve-access-voting-american-indians-and-alaska.


Goodbye Sitemeter

For a number of years, I have been using Sitemeter to keep track of visitors to the page. I now have Google Analytics too, but what was nice about Sitemeter is that I could see the domains (not the individual IP addresses) of visitors. For example, I know that people from the Supreme Court read the blog from time to time (could be anyone there), as well as many other government officials (from the Executive Office of the President, Senate, House, state governments), educational institutions, and many other places.  It also lets me see where the traffic comes from, which often leads me to interesting other stories. [Update, a reader on Twitter showed me how I can access some of the information about domains I was looking for.]

The problem is that Sitemeter has been bought by a company that puts adware on computers, and it is redirecting people to the wrong sites and slowing things down. So, as others have done, it is time to day good-bye. Before I go, here are some statistics running from some time in the mid-2000s: about 2.8 million individual visits and 4.8 million page views. That’s chump change for a large website, but for a niche site like mine, I’m pretty happy (especially given the 1,000+ people on the election law listserv who get full text posts each day and need not visit the blog itself.)

So, keep on reading, folks, even if I won’t know where you are coming from anymore!

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“Win Lunch with Bush; Owe Uncle Sam; For political sweepstakes winners, there really is no such thing as a ‘free’ lunch.”

Shane Goldmacher for National Journal:

Marcus Owens, a lawyer with the IRS for 25 years and now an attorney at Loeb and Loeb in Washington D.C., said that those issued a 1099 form could be caught fairly easily by the IRS if the taxes go unpaid. “The IRS actually has a computer matching program for those 1099s,” Owens said.

Flights, hotels, meals, transportation and other perks are all taxable, he said. The only part of the winnings that is untaxed is the time with the candidates themselves. “The IRS takes the position that the actual face time with the person is of no value,” Owens said.


WI GAB Has Only Tiny Budget to Get Out Word About New Voter ID Requirements

Troubling report from the GAB, indicating a budget of only $34,000 to get out the word about mandatory voter id requirements:

The G.A.B. staff does not believe that voluntary efforts and free media will be adequate to the task of getting the word out to voters about the need to show an acceptable photo ID to receive their ballot in all future elections, especially during a presidential election year. Staff is also concerned that without a robust public information campaign, certain elderly voters who are exempt from the requirement will believe they need to have a current photo ID. In 2011 and 2012 staff heard numerous stories about families who experienced unnecessary inconvenience and hardship in taking elderly relatives to the DMV because they did not understand the exemption for voters who are indefinitely confined due to age, illness, disability or infirmity. Additionally, the DMV’s new procedure to help people without birth certificates get a free state ID for voting is not well known. Re-launching the Bring It to the Ballot campaign in 2016 will be a significant expense which is not currently included in the agency’s proposed FY 2015-2017 budget. Staff has alerted members of the Joint Committee on Finance that the Board will be seeking funding for public education. It will be a policy and fiscal decision for the Legislature to determine at what level the campaign should be funded. The staff is still working with KW2 to develop detailed estimates and plans for a cost-effective, multi-media public education campaign. Based on initial work, we believe the cost will be at least $300,000 and could be as much as $500,000. This compares to the Board’s original budget of approximately $430,000 for all of 2012.



“Do Commissioners Weintraub and Ravel Want the FEC to Fail?”

Brad Smith:

Ann Ravel, the Democratic Chair of the Federal Election Commission, made headlines early this month when she told the New York Times that her agency was “worse than dysfunctional” and that “the likelihood of the [federal campaign finance] laws being enforced is slim.” Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub chimed in “the few rules that are left, people feel free to ignore.” Such statements are, of course, catnip to the so-called “reform” community—groups that want more regulation of political speech—and to news reporters covering “money in politics.”

All of this is, not to put too fine a point on it, patently absurd, but one must presume it serves a purpose for the Commissioners. The question is, what purpose?


Cleta Mitchell in Breitbart Interview Suggests Jeb Bush Breaking Campaign Finance Law

Very interesting.

UPDATE: A reader points me to the disclosure at the end of the article about the article’s author:

[Disclosures: Sarah Rumpf was a summer clerk at the Orlando office of Foley and Lardner, Cleta Mitchell’s law firm, and has been employed by or provided consulting services for candidates who Mitchell represented. Mitchell is currently advising Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’s PAC and Sen. Rick Santorum.]



“The FEC, the Big Issues, and Getting Right a Few Basics–Like Disclosure”


Public Citizen has concluded that the Federal Election Commission is failing.  Its shortcomings are “dramatic and uncharacteristic”, because they range across the entire field of their responsibilities in conducting audits; enforcing the law through investigations, settlements and lawsuits; and issuing regulations and advisory opinions.  The Public Citizen analysis is statistical and focuses on vote deadlocks.   The FEC is indeed disagreeing a great deal—about that, there is no doubt.  But is the agency failing or is the old regulatory model collapsing under the pressure of changing law and political practice?


“Feds probing alleged voting rights violations involving disabled Californians”


Federal authorities are investigating allegations that California and its courts are unlawfully denying voting rights to some intellectually disabled residents, according to documents released Wednesday.

Attorneys for the U.S. Department of Justice in Sacramento have requested records from Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye including the number of people disqualified from voting and policies for allowing residents in limited conservatorships to vote.


Two Great Law and Political Process Study Group Panels at APSA

All the more reason to come to San Francisco in September for the APSA conference:


Friday, 2:30 pm



Chair: Bernard N. Grofman, University of California, Irvine

Part: Matt A. Barreto, University of California, Los Angeles

Kareem Crayton, University of North Carolina

Pamela S. Karlan, Stanford Law School

Derek Muller, Pepperdine University School of Law


Saturday, 10:15 am


Chair: Daniel H. Lowenstein, University of California, Los Angeles

Disc: Yasmin Dawood

Papers: Ideological Donors, Contribution Limits, and the Polarization of American Legislatures

Michael Barber, Brigham Young University

The Federalist Safeguards of Politics

Anthony Johnstone, University of Montana

Legislators as Party Elites: Intraparty Factionalism and Presidential Politics in the New Hampshire State House

Seth E. Masket, University of Denver

Democratic Romanticism

Richard Pildes, New York University

I will also be on two panels, not connected to the LPPSG:

Friday, 11:30 am


Chair: Stephen M. Griffin, Tulane Law School

Part: John R. Vile, Middle Tennessee State University

Sanford Levinson, University of Texas, Austin

Richard L. Hasen, UC Irvine School of Law

Melissa A. Schwartzberg, New York University

Sunday, 8:00 am


Chair: Thad Kousser, University of California, San Diego

Part: Bruce E. Cain

Richard L. Hasen, UC Irvine School of Law

Frances E. Lee, University of Maryland, College Park

Raymond J. La Raja, University of Massachusetts,



“Pilot Who Landed Gyrocopter at US Capitol Facing 6 Charges”


A Florida man who piloted a gyrocopter through miles of America’s most restricted airspace before landing at the U.S. Capitol is now facing charges that carry up to 9½ years in prison….Hughes, who took off from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was arrested April 15 after he landed on the Capitol’s West Lawn. Hughes has said his flight was intended to call attention to the influence of big money in politics.


“Why Citizens United Just Scratches the Surface”

Adam Lioz and Brenda Wright in TAP:

Hillary Clinton told supporters on Thursday that if elected she will appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Citizens United, according to a Washington Post report. This is good news for our democracy—but the Court’s role in helping wealthy interests dominate politics goes far deeper than one bad case.

In fact, justices appointed by the next president—whoever that is—should look to transform the Supreme Court’s entire approach to money in politics going back to cases starting in the 1970s, just as the Court has reversed course on New Deal economic protections, racial segregation, LGBT rights, and more.



9th Circuit Panel Upholds Hawaii Ban on Campaign Contributions by Government Contractors

A important unanimous decision by Judge Fisher (joined by Kozinski and Watford) in the 9th Circuit as a challenge to the federal contractor ban remains pending. The 9th Circuit held the ban satisfied exacting scrutiny, even after McCutcheon, and even though it is a ban, rather than a limit on contributions, citing the danger of pay to play.

The bulk of the opinion also upheld a variety of reporting, disclaimer, and disclosure requirements required by Hawaii law. And the court included dicta affirming the special importance of disclosure in the Citizens United era:

Although not directly relevant to A-1’s challenge – because A-1’s political activities are self-financed and it receives no contributions – we also note the heightened importance of noncandidate committee disclosure requirements now that the limit on contributions to noncandidate committees has been permanently enjoined. A single contributor may provide thousands of dollars to independent committees, and yet avoid disclosing its identity if the committee makes all the expenditures itself. The noncandidate committee definition acts to ensure that the contributor’s identity will be disclosed to the voting public. Hawaii’s efforts to provide transparency would be incomplete if disclosure was not required in such circumstances.

The opinion is in A-1 A-Lectrician v. Snipes.


“Bronx DA Johnson Indicts Former Assembly Candidate Hector Ramirez”

The Bronx Chronicle:

The charges are related to the 2014 race in the 86th AD where Ramirez was accused of election fraud involving absentee ballots. Ramirez was narrowly defeated by the incumbent Assemblyman Victor Pichard. Pichardo won 86th Assembly District Democratic primary in a Bronx Board of Elections supervised manual recount by TWO votes over two-time challenger Hector Ramirez.

Hector Ramirez​ and Ana Cuevas (Ramirez’s campaign manager in 2014), were indicted on seven counts for each allegedly false instrument submitted to The Board of Elections in the City of New York​ totaling 242 counts involving absentee ballots and applications for some 32-35 persons, some of whom were not eligible to vote…. The duo are accused of acting in concert in falsifying and submitting fraudulent absentee ballot applications and ballots bearing the names of voters between August 14 and primary day, September 9, 2014 and inducing ineligible persons to vote in that primary.

Here is the indictment.

UPDATE: Doug Kellner of the NY Board of Elections comments.


“Pro-Scott Walker super PAC spells out perks for $1 million donors”

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

What does a million-dollar political donor get for his or her money these days?

The answer is spelled out in great detail in a handout from the super PAC supporting Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s potential presidential bid.

Among the perks:

Twice-a-year retreats, members-only briefings, weekly email updates, members-only conference calls, a dedicated staff contact, two private dinners with “VIP Special Guest(s),” inclusion in “all public/regional fundraising events,” and a special “Executive Board Member” pin.

Those benefits are itemized in a handout from Unintimidated PAC, the committee launched by longtime Walker advisers, to people attending a private reception with the governor that was held by the PAC in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.


“Hillary Clinton’s Hypocrisy”

Dana Milbank:

Her advisers claim campaign-finance reforms will be at the top of her agenda, a sensible choice because of the deep resentment in the populace toward a political system rigged in favor of the wealthy. But she gives supporters little evidence that she’s genuine. Asked by The Post last month about the role of the pro-Clinton Priorities USA Action, Clinton shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”

If she really thinks money is corrupting politics, she can take concrete steps right now. She could pledge to return immediately to the public finance system and call on pro-Clinton super PACs to cease and desist — if her Republican opponents will do the same. The Republicans won’t, of course, but then Clinton would have gained the moral high ground she now lacks.

She could also vow to enact four pieces of legislation if elected: reviving the public-finance system with matching funds for small contributions; curtailing candidate super PACs by drafting strict rules prohibiting coordination; forcing the disclosure of anonymous “dark money” contributions; and creating a new enforcement agency to replace the impotent and perpetually deadlocked Federal Election Commission.



“Roiled in Partisan Gridlock, the FEC Cannot Do Its Job in the 2016 Elections”

Press release:

The nation’s elections agency remains incapacitated by the ideological divide between its Democratic and Republican commissioners, according to a study (PDF) Public Citizen released today.

In “Roiled in Partisan Gridlock, Federal Election Commission is Failing,” Public Citizen found that deadlocked votes by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on enforcement actions and audits remain at an all-time high.

Partisan deadlock prevents actions on regulations and advisory opinions as well. At the same time, the number of actions even considered by the agency has plummeted.


“Popular study on same sex marriage attitudes was based on fabricated information”


Update: It turns out that the Michael LaCour and Donald Green study described here really was “miraculous”: it wasn’t true. Two other political scientists, David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, tried to conduct an extension of the study, and ran into a number of irregularities, not least an unusually high response rate among survey participants. When they contacted the survey firm they believed performed the study and asked to speak with an employee believed to have helped, the firm said it was unfamiliar with the project, had no employee by that name, and didn’t have the capabilities to run many aspects of the study.

Eventually, LaCour confessed to “falsely describing at least some of the details of the data collection.” Green retracted the study on his website and has requested that Science, the journal that published the study, retract it as well. LaCour was set to become an assistant professor at Princeton this July, but Retraction Watch’s Ivan Oransky notes that this position has been scrubbed from LaCour’s personal website.



Texas Appeals Court Confirms New Election Required After Illegal Votes Found

Press release:

Late last week, Najvar Law Firm scored a victory in the Thirteenth Court of Appeals that sets a landmark precedent in the fight against illegal voting in the Texas Rio Grande Valley.

After a four-day trial in March 2014, a Hidalgo County trial court found that NLF had proven by clear and convincing evidence that 30 illegal votes had been cast in a race for Weslaco City Commission, ordering a new election. The illegal votes–more than twice the purported margin of victory in the November 2013 election–were comprised of votes cast by individuals falsely claiming to live at relatives’ homes in the city district and ballots by mail that were returned in violation of the Election Code.

Our opponent appealed the ruling, but the Court of Appeals’ decision affirmed the order for a new election.


“Clinton says she’d make Supreme Court picks aimed at campaign finance reform”


Hllary Rodham Clinton was clear Monday during a campaign stop about one quality she would expect from her nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court if she were to become president – an overhaul of the rapidly evolving campaign finance system that is giving extremely wealthy donors ever more say in presidential contests.

Her position was remarkable for a candidate positioned to shatter fundraising records and push the boundaries of campaign finance law further than any Democrat who has ever run for the White House.



“Hillary Clinton was paid millions by tech industry for speeches”


In one of her last gigs on the paid lecture circuit, Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed an eBay summit aimed at promoting women in the workplace,delivering a 20-minute talk that garnered her a $315,000 payday from the company.

Less than two months later, Clinton was feted at the San Francisco Bay-area home of eBay chief executive John Donahoe and his wife, Eileen, for one of the first fundraisers supporting Clinton’s newly announced presidential campaign.


Breaking: #SCOTUS Denies CCP Emergency Application on Donor Disclosure, With Chance to Renew Later

Rather than asking for a response from the state of California, Justice Kennedy (Circuit Justice for the 9th Circuit) has denied without prejudice CCP’s emergency application for a stay. The order is not yet online, but SCOTUSBlog reports that Justice Kennedy allowed for the order to be renewed “in light of further developments.”

The case involves a requirement that 501c3’s like the Center for Competitive Politics provide unredacted copies of their IRS 990 forms to the State of California.  The 990s list all of the Center’s donors—information which is not released publicly. California does not want these documents for public disclosure, but for California’s law enforcement purposes.

Why would Justice Kennedy proceed this way, rather than order a response from the A.G. and then rule on the merits, either alone or with the entire Court?

One possibility is because the 9th Circuit has already stayed the mandate in this case, although it declined to issue an injunction pending appeal.  (See Rule FRAP 41 and the Circuit comments.) With the mandate stayed, the State of California is unlikely to try to act until the Supreme Court rules on a cert. petition – – and if it does, as Lyle Denniston notes, Justice Kennedy has kept the door open to CCP.

According to the circuit comments to FRAP 41, the fact that the 9th Circuit stayed the mandate means that the court has determined CCP has a non-frivolous argument to be made to the Supreme Court.

[This post has been updated.]