“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.]



“Clinton Friend’s Libya Role Blurs Lines of Politics and Business”


Mr. Gowdy’s chief interest, according to people briefed on the inquiry, is a series of memos that Mr. Blumenthal — who was not an employee of the State Department — wrote to Mrs. Clinton about events unfolding in Libya before and after the death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. According to emails obtained by The New York Times, Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time, took Mr. Blumenthal’s advice seriously, forwarding his memos to senior diplomatic officials in Libya and Washington and at times asking them to respond. Mrs. Clinton continued to pass around his memos even after other senior diplomats concluded that Mr. Blumenthal’s assessments were often unreliable.

But an examination by The New York Times suggests that Mr. Blumenthal’s involvement was more wide-ranging and more complicated than previously known, embodying the blurry lines between business, politics and philanthropy that have enriched and vexed the Clintons and their inner circle for years.


“Active Firms and Active Shareholders: Corporate Political Activity and Shareholder Proposals”

Geeyoung Min and Hye Young You have posted this draft on SSRN.  Here is the abstractL

Corporate political activity has become one of shareholders’ top concerns. We examine whether firms targeted by shareholder proposals show different campaign contributions and lobbying activities compared to non-targeted firms. We also ask whether different sponsors of shareholder proposals target different firms depending on the firms’ partisan orientation. Using data on S&P 500 companies during the period between 2007 and 2013, we find that firms that spend more on campaign contributions and lobbying are more likely to be targeted by shareholder proposals. After controlling for firms’ financial performance, governance characteristics and ownership structure, we also find that public pension funds and labor unions sponsors are more likely to target Republican-leaning firms, measured by the firms’ campaign contributions. This finding suggests that increasing corporate political activity can intensify a tension between management and public pension fund and labor union shareholders and lead to more activism by these shareholders.

(h/t Prof. Bainbridge)


“Racism Is Destroying the Right to Vote”

Sean McElwee at Demos:


As the chart shows, the relationship between racial stereotyping and ease of access is strong. Although other variables certainly play a role, the R-squared value suggests about a quarter of a system’s ease of access can be explained by racial animus. This builds upon previous analysis. It suggests that while racial animus might not immediately predict the passage of a law, over time it can change the structure of a state’s voting system.



With Justice Ginsburg, Is Today’s “Constitution” Yesterday’s “Broccoli?”

This morning Maureen Dowd reported for the NYT about a same-sex wedding she attended officiated by Justice Ginsburg:

But the most glittering moment for the crowd came during the ceremony. With a sly look and special emphasis on the word “Constitution,” Justice Ginsburg said that she was pronouncing the two men married by the powers vested in her by the Constitution of the United States.

No one was sure if she was emphasizing her own beliefs or giving a hint to the outcome of the case the Supreme Court is considering whether to decide if same-sex marriage is constitutional.

But the guests began applauding loudly, delighted either way. Justice Ginsburg, who has officiated at same-sex weddings in the past, also seemed delighted, either by their reaction or, perhaps, by the news that she will be played in a movie by Natalie Portman (who, in a strange casting segue, will play Jackie Kennedy Onassis in another film).

Reading too much into the tea leaves perhaps?  Well not with Justice Ginsburg.  Recall this 2012 post from Orin Kerr, writing just before the Supreme Court upheld the (first) challenge to the Affordable Care Act:

This post is nothing but sheer speculation without any support whatsoever. I’m sure I’m wrong about this, and you shouldn’t take this post at all seriously. Really, it’s just silliness that you should ignore. With those caveats, I was intrigued by Justice Ginsburg’s light and amusing tone during her commentary about the Affordable Care Act litigation at last week’s American Constitution Society convention. Justice Ginsburg often gives public speeches and comments to the press about the current Term, and more than any other Justice she is willing to give a few subtle hints about how the Court’s major undecided cases might be coming out. The thinking — perhaps foolish — is that her tone in these speeches acts as a modest but not-entirely-useless barometer of how her side is doing.

If you watch Justice Ginsburg speaking about the Affordable Care Act case starting at the 27:40 mark of the video, she seems to be having fun talking about the case. She says that the case is indeed “unprecedented,” at least if you mean unprecedented in “the number of press conference, prayer circles, protests, and counter-protests” held during the oral argument. She describes one of the questions as being whether the individual mandate should be “chopped like a head of broccoli” from federal law. She pokes fun at the obscurity of the anti-injunction act issue. She jokes about the rumors concerning when the case will be handed down. Maybe Justice Ginsburg was just in a good mood. Maybe there were just some obvious jokes to make on the mandate case relative to some of the criminal cases she covered. Yes, I’m sure that’s it. Any other conclusion would be silly speculation. But given all the interest in how the individual mandate case might come out, I wonder if some are speculating that Ginsburg’s tone reflects some satisfaction with how the case came out.



A Real Money Primary

People sometimes talk about the invisible primary, or the role of wealth in making candidates viable.  Well Bill Scher wants to put that insight into action for the Republican primary debates:

How do you accomplish that? Boil it down to the one objective measure that really matters before the first vote is cast: money. Here’s the only criterion the RNC needs: Only let on stage the top 12 fundraisers.


“Sign of the Times: Florida Governor’s U-Turn on OVR”

A ChapinBlog:

Florida’s experience on OVR is just the latest example of how the policy debate has shifted on election issues in recent years. At this time four years ago, the hot topic was voter ID and all the divisive partisan heat that brings. While ID legislation lives on in some legislatures – and clearly in many legislators’ hearts – OVR’s emergence as the new trend is legislators is quite remarkable.

Some of this is the result of the steady support of OVR supporters, but I think the biggest factor in OVR’s emergence as a subject of “vehement agreement” nationally belongs to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The PCEA’s report went a long toward legitimizing OVR as a topic worthy of bipartisan agreement, in part by pointing out to would-be partisan opponents that online registration can both expand the rolls with supportive voters AND achieve many if not all of the policy goals underlying voter ID.

Indeed, we’ve reached the point where OVR’s emergence is starting to spark new battles within parties instead of between them – like in Ohio, where the Secretary of State continues to beat the drum and is assembling a Florida-style coalition of county offices in support in order to overcome apparent opposition from his fellow Republicans in the Legislature.


BREAKING: Cert Denied in Wisconsin John Doe Case at SCOTUS

Here is the order list:

14-872 O’KEEFE, ERIC, ET AL. V. CHISHOLM, JOHN, ET AL. The motion of Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The motion of The Maciver Institute for Public Policy for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The motion of Cause of Action for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The motion of Center for Competitive Politics, et al. for leave to file a brief as amici curiae is granted. The motion of The Cato Institute for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted. The motion of respondents John T. Chisholm, David Robles, and Bruce J. Landgraf for leave to file a brief in opposition under seal with redacted copies for the public record is granted. The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

This is not a big surprise, as this really was not a good case for looking at the campaign finance/coordination issues presented, especially because much of it could be mooted by an expected decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court this summer which, along party lines, could well put the case to rest.

(No order today in Evenwel v. Abbott, the one person, one vote non-citizen voting case, but I’m expecting an eventual summary affirmance [corrected].)


“Patience Roggensack to stay chief justice for now, after judge rules”

Patrick Marley for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

A federal judge on Friday declined to issue an order allowing Shirley Abrahamson to serve as chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court while she pursues litigation to allow her to hold that job until 2019.

It was the third time U.S. District Judge James Peterson declined to block the Supreme Court from putting another justice in charge of Wisconsin’s high court, and he hinted Abrahamson would have difficulty ultimately winning the lawsuit. He told her lawyer he had the “tougher argument” in the case and was “breaking new ground” with his arguments.

The Supreme Court has been marked by infighting and controversy in recent years, and Peterson said it was important to restore its reputation. But he isn’t the one who can do that, he said.

“If there is to be a restoration of the confidence the public feels in the Supreme Court, it has to come from the court itself,” he said.


“The Right Baits the Left to Turn Against Hillary Clinton”

Must-read NYT on Twitter and campaigns:

For months now, America Rising has sent out a steady stream of posts on social media attacking Mrs. Clinton, some of them specifically designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals. The posts highlight critiques of her connections to Wall Street and the Clinton Foundation and feature images of Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, interspersed with cartoon characters and pictures of Kevin Spacey, who plays the villain in “House of Cards.” And as they are read and shared, an anti-Clinton narrative is reinforced.

America Rising is not the only conservative group attacking Mrs. Clinton from the left. Another is American Crossroads, the group started by Karl Rove, which has been sending out its own digital content, including one ad using a speech Ms. Warren gave at the New Populism Conference in Washington last May.

“Powerful interests have tried to capture Washington and rig the system in their favor,” intones Ms. Warren, as images of Mrs. Clinton with foreign leaders flash by.

The new-style digital campaign captures some basic facts about 21st-century communication: Information travels at warp speed on social media, it is sometimes difficult to know where that information comes from, and most people like to read things with which they agree. The result, said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who specializes in political advertising, is something more sophisticated.


“How Money Runs Our Politics”

Elizabeth Drew in the NY Review of Books:

The three major defects of our election system—in voter registration, redistricting, and campaign finance—have all become worse in recent years. As a nation we’ve drifted very far from our moorings of truly representational government. Because of what has become known about the large sums of money being invested in the candidates by the super-wealthy at an early stage of the 2016 campaigns, the fact that something has gone wrong has begun to take hold. That may be the first step toward reform; what’s needed after that are stamina and keeping our attention on the fundamental requirements of a democracy.


CCP Seeks Emergency #SCOTUS Relief in CA Donor Disclosure Case

Lyle Denniston:

A Virginia-based political advocacy group asked the Supreme Court on Friday to bar state officials in California from gaining access to the lists of people who donate money or services to it.  The Center for Competitive Politics, a vigorous supporter of political free-speech rights that does not get involved directly in election campaigns, asked for the protection until it can file a formal appeal to the Court on the constitutional dispute.

The Center’s plea (application 14A1179), along with the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and other Circuit Court orders, can be read here.  It was filed with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who handles emergency matters from that geographic region.  He can act on his own or share the issue with his colleagues.The identity of those who give money to the Center is provided in a document (Form 990) that it must file with the Internal Revenue Service to qualify for tax-exempt status — under tax code 501(c)(3) — as an educational organization.

Ordinarily, that document remains confidential with IRS — a requirement imposed by federal law.  However, a growing number of state attorneys general — including California’s — have been demanding access to organizations’ copies of that document in full form, contending that they need the financial data as they enforce state laws regulating groups that raise money within the state as charities.