At Least Some PA Overseas Ballots Apparently Omit Gary Johnson, Contain Other Errors

I’ve just received what I’ve been told is a copy of the overseas ballot sent by Susquehanna County, PA.

Gary Johnson is omitted, the Constitution Party candidates are listed as being from the Conservative Party, and it has the wrong VP for the Green Party.

Details matter people!



Update: Apparently the county has sent out corrected ballots. More to come.


Court in TX Voter ID Case Grants DOJ Motion on Voter ID Education, Requires Preclearance of Materials

The plaintiffs in the Texas voter id litigation have been complaining that Texas has not properly alerted voters that for this election they can vote without one of the narrow forms of ID. The court has now issued this order, granting the US motion and denying the private plaintiffs’ motion. Among other things, the order requires Texas to show educational materials to plaintiffs before publicizing for possible objection–a type of preclearance. Wow.

From the order:

ORDERED that the State of Texas shall re-issue its press releases concerning voting to properly reflect the language in the Court’s Order Regarding Agreed Interim Plan for Elections (D.E. 895) in their respective titles or headings;

ORDERED that the State of Texas shall edit the poster to be printed and placed at polling locations to accurately reflect the language in the Court’s Order Regarding Agreed Interim Plan for Elections (D.E. 895);

ORDERED that the State of Texas shall provide to counsel for all Plaintiffs scripts and copy for documents and advertisements that have not yet been published for review and objection prior to publication;

ORDERED that the State of Texas shall edit digital materials on its website page(s) that address voting rights and procedures, including titles or headlines and FAQs to reflect that voters who “do not possess an acceptable form of photo identification and cannot obtain one due to a reasonable impediment” may vote after signing the Reasonable Impediment Declaration;

ORDERED that all materials related to the education of voters, poll workers, and election officials that have not yet been published shall reflect the language of the Court’s prior Order (D.E. 895);

ORDERED that the State of Texas is not required to alter training materials that have already been published except as set out above


Is a Vote for Stein or Johnson a Vote for Trump? Yes Without Instant Runoff Voting

I have written this USA Today oped: (with a condescending headline I did not choose)

Many Millennials and other voters who are cool toward Hillary Clinton, and warming up to Libertarian Party candidate Johnson or Green Party candidate Stein, may not remember how third-party alternatives like Ralph Nader helped elect George W. Bush overAl Gore in 2000. Nader drew tens of thousands more votes in Florida than the difference between Bush and Gore, and could well have cost Gore the election.

Despite Nader saying there was “not a dime’s worth of difference” between Republican Bush and Democrat Gore, without Nader on the Florida ballot, we might not have had an Iraq War and all of its aftermath.

And thanks to our convoluted presidential election system, we might see history repeat itself….

How do third-party candidates end up as “spoilers”? First, ballot access is relatively easy in the United States. In most states, it is not that hard for any candidate with even a small amount of support to get on the ballot. Second, once these candidates get on the ballot, they have virtually no chance of gaining even a single Electoral College vote. With just a couple of exceptions, whoever gets the most votes in any state wins all of the state’s electoral votes. So people can easily vote for candidates who have no realistic chance of winning the race, but do have a chance to distort the outcome.

Our winner-take-all Electoral College system tends to produce only two viable parties. Everyone knows this, making third-party candidates suffer in terms of name recognition, money, and organizational skills. The final hurdle for these outsiders is a relatively high polling threshold (15% this year in national polls) to get into the presidential debates. That creates a very difficult chicken-and-egg problem for these candidates, who need public recognition to get into the debates, but who need the debates for the public recognition.

Candidates like Nader have loudly protested that they are not “spoilers,” correctly pointing out that they have the right to run for office like everyone else, that the Constitution does not guarantee the Republican and Democratic parties the right to run unopposed in elections, and that they add valuable voices and perspectives to the debate.

There is much to be said for this position in the abstract. The best way to deal with it going forward is to adopt  something like “instant runoff voting” in our presidential races. Under that system, the votes of people who picked candidates at the bottom of the results would be re-allocated to their second choice, until one candidate had a majority of votes. I strongly support such a change in future elections….

The only certainty, however, is that under the rules in effect for 2016, third-party voters who stick with their first choice risk ending up with their last choice.



“Sheldon Adelson Backs G.O.P. Congressional Candidates More Than Donald Trump”


The Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson is shifting tens of millions of dollars into groups backing congressional Republicans despite months of entreaties from allies of Donald J. Trump, according to several Republicans with knowledge of Mr. Adelson’s giving, dealing a major setback to Mr. Trump’s efforts to rally deep-pocketed Republican givers.

Mr. Adelson had once dangled the possibility of giving as much as $100 million to pro-Trump “super PACs,” an infusion that with a stroke would have given Mr. Trump a financially competitive network of outside groups to back his presidential campaign.

But with less than two months remaining in the campaign, the mercurial casino magnate — who entertained but ultimately rebuffed pitches from an array of Republican candidates during the party’s nominating contest this election cycle — appears to be focusing instead on Republicans in the House and Senate.

Republicans briefed on his giving said Mr. Adelson had committed $20 million each to two super PACs backing Senate and House Republicans, contributions that would again make Mr. Adelson the single largest known donor to political organizations in the country. CNN, which first reported the $40 million in contributions on Tuesday night, also said that Mr. Adelson had allocated only $5 million to supporting Mr. Trump.

As I wrote last night, the $5 million from someone like Adelson is quite a dis of Trump.


” An inside look at how politicians beg for big checks”

Matea Gold for WaPo:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had a lot of wealthy targets to hit in Palm Beach, Fla., on an April afternoon in 2011. There was a possible call with casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson. There was a private meeting with a clutch of high-level donors at the home of oil executive William “Lee” Hanley and his wife, Alice. And there was a car ride with two top advisers to hedge fund executive Paul Singer.

“Billionaire who writes large checks,” a fundraising consultant bluntly reminded Walker (R) in a briefing memo on Singer, adding: “You would like Paul Singer to donate $1m and help get the word out to his peers.”

Such heavy-handed attempts to extract huge contributions dominate email exchanges between Walker and his aides that were released in a trove of state investigative documents leaked to the Guardian last week. The documents, produced as part of a now-halted “John Doe” probe into suspected illegal campaign coordination, reveal in stark terms how the chase for big money by politicians has largely become a frantic pursuit of billionaires and corporate executives.

“Take Koch’s [sic] money,” Kate Doner, Walker’s fundraising consultant, urged him in September 2011. “Get on a plane to Vegas and sit down with Sheldon Adelson. Ask for $1m now. Corporations. Go heavy after them to give . . . Create a list of legislation that passed and benefits whom.”

The emails were written in 2011 and 2012 when Walker was raising funds to combat the attempted recall of a group of Republican state senators and then the governor himself. The documents expose how he played a leading role in securing big checks, making personal pleas to rich conservatives across the country.


“The Allure of Reform and A Modest Proposal”


Matt Grossman and David A Hopkins have pronounced many decades of liberal reform to be a failure. In a new book, they argue that the 1970s reform program did not lead to the success of liberal policies but may have been primarily advantageous to “ideological Republicans.” For a party that is “a coalition of social groups, each with pragmatic policy concerns,” the Democrats wound up undermining the transactional politics among various interests that would produce their preferred policy outcomes. Making matters worse was a shift of voter sentiment against government-driven solutions. The Republicans, happy to oblige the popular sentiment by blocking legislation, fared better than Democrats actually interested in passing it. Grossman and Hopkins conclude that in the future, Democrats “should assess whether each potential change is likely to benefit the Democratic coalition or the more ideological Republicans.”

The problem always is the hazards of predicting the partisan or policy impact of any reform measure. To the extent that Grossman and Hopkins are urging Democrats to guess, they are necessarily allowing for the fairly large possibility that they will guess wrong. And even the ways in which they may be wrong are not anticipated all that reliably. In other words, both the benefits and the costs–the shape of success and the look of failure–will be very hard to judge. The mistakes made can be costly.


“The Success of the Voter Fraud Myth”

NYT editorial:

How does a lie come to be widely taken as the truth?

The answer is disturbingly simple: Repeat it over and over again. When faced with facts that contradict the lie, repeat it louder.

This, in a nutshell, is the story of claims of voting fraud in America — and particularly of voter impersonation fraud, the only kind that voter ID laws can possibly prevent….

Credit for this mass deception goes to Republican lawmakers, who have for years pushed a fake story about voter fraud, and thus the necessity of voter ID laws, in an effort to reduce voting among specific groups of Democratic-leaning voters. Those groups — mainly minorities, the poor and students — are less likely to have the required forms of identification.

Behind closed doors, some Republicans freely admit that stoking false fears of electoral fraud is part of their political strategy. In a recently disclosedemail from 2011, a Republican lobbyist in Wisconsin wrote to colleagues about a very close election for a seat on the State Supreme Court. “Do we need to start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number?” he wrote. “I obviously think we should.”


NRA Sends Incorrect Voter Registration Materials in Wisconsin

Patrick Marley: ‘. is sending voter registration packets to WI voters but telling them to send them to wrong place — the state instead of local clerks”

More: “So far, the state has received 24 voter registration applications that should have gone to local clerks”

Here is a mailer that went to a rural area in Wisconsin.

While some people are wondering if this is some kind of dirty trick, my guess is that it is more a question of incompetence.


FL Officials Trying to Keep McMullin Off Presidential Ballot, Reversing Earlier Interpretation of FL Ballot Access Law

Missed this Politico story from last week, and it looks like McMullin would have a good case if the campaign went to court:

he decision by Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to block Evan McMullin’s presidential campaign from the general election ballot seems contrary to past decisions made by his own election officials, and is deemed “unfair” and unenforceable by some ballot access experts.

On Aug. 31, the Independent Party of Florida formally filed nominating papers to make McMullin its presidential candidate in Florida. McMullin is a former CIA operative and Republican staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives who was recruited by a group of GOP consultants, including Florida’s Rick Wilson, looking for an alternative to Donald Trump.

n a Sept. 7 letter, Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews informed Ernest Bach, chair of the Independent Party of Florida, that its nominee for president could not be on the general election ballot.

The department, which is overseen by Scott, said the Independent Party of Florida could not get its nominee placed on the general election because it is not recognized as a “national party” by the Federal Election Commission….

The Scott administration’s recent decision seemingly runs contrary to a different 2011 ruling made by his Department of State.

That one dealt with a group called Americas Elect, which was pushing to get a presidential nominee on Florida’s ballot. The group, which was a non-profit organized as a 501(c)4, formed to advocate for a national online primary.

In a Sept. 2011 letter to an attorney representing the group, Department of State officials said they only have a “ministerial function” in qualifying candidates, so they could put up no road blocks as long as filing paperwork was on time and complete.

“Therefore, if a minor political party registered in Florida files the required certificate, which is complete on its face … the Secretary ‘shall order the names of the candidates nominated by the minor political party to be included on the ballot,’” read a letter signed by Daniel Nordby, the department’s former general counsel.

He said DOS would allow a candidate nominated by the group on the ballot, but clarified the “Department’s ministerial placement of the party’s candidates on the ballot” would not prevent an outside legal challenge. The letter specifically mentions the same statutes the department cited when blocking the Florida Independent Party’s general election ballot access.

“So Florida and other states were very respectful of Americans Elects and went out of their way to ease ballot access … they didn’t want to get sued,” Winger, who edits Ballot Access News, told POLITICO Florida. “Now that the parties are suffering in Florida and are less powerful, the state feels it can change the rule with impunity.”

When asked about the ruling, Beatrice, the department spokeswoman, pointed to a change made to the statutes in question during the 2011 Legislation session. The department ruling, though, came in September of that year, which was months after the legislative session…

n a statement sent to POLITICO Florida Friday afternoon, Secretary of State Ken Detzner acknowledged that the agency “made a legal error in 2012 when we granted these minor parties placement on the ballot.”


Adelson Gives Trump Super PAC a Relatively Paltry Sum of $5 Million; More Generous Supporting Rs for House and Senate


Conservative megadonor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, have committed roughly $45 million so far to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and downballot Republicans’ attempt to control Congress, according to a person familiar with Adelson’s thinking.

The billionaire on Tuesday will disclose having given $20 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC linked to George W. Bush hand Karl Rove and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
A check of a similar size is expected to go to the Congressional Leadership Fund, a similar super PAC focused on the House of Representatives.
And to back Trump, a donation of at least $5 million is likely headed to the political operation helmed by the Ricketts family, who are expected to finally spend their fortunes on Trump as well. Other cash may be routed to Ricketts-led nonprofit groups that are not required to disclose the funders.
By contrast, Gingrich and Romney super pacs each saw north of $10 million in 2012, with Adelson and his wife contriubuting somewhere between $98 and $150 million helping Republicans in 2012.
This plutocrat at least seems unenthused with Trump. (Maybe it is the support from white supremacists and neo-Nazis.  I don’t know.)
And another thing. If Trump were a multi-billionaire shouldn’t he have hit $100 million to his own campaign by now?

Texas May Pass a New Voter ID Law to Get Past “Democrat” Judge

From the KUT report I’ve just linked to:

During an appearance on Laura Ingraham’s radio show today, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says the Texas Legislature will try to pass a new voter ID law in the next session.

“I was one of the authors of our photo voter ID law that the court struck down,” he says. “We have a judge, a Democrat who’s just eviscerating our photo voter ID. We’re going to have to pass it again come January when we go back into session.”

Kinda think review of any new Texas voter id law is going to end up before the same judge, so we will see how this works out.


“Federal Judge Says Texas Election Officials Need to Follow Voter ID Court Order”


A federal judge sided again today with plaintiffs in the long legal battle over Texas’ voter ID law.

This time, the U.S. Department of Justice joined the group of Texas voters challenging the state’s law, arguing Texas election officials were misleading voters about court-ordered changes to the law.

According to lawyers in the case, during a hearing for that motion today, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ordered state officials to do a better job of communicating the changes she ordered several weeks ago.


Breaking: Court Holds FEC Applied Wrong Test to See If Koch-Allied Groups are Breaking Law by Not Registering as Political Committees

Major win for CREW here.

The court’s opinion granting CREW summary judgment explains that the three (Republican) FEC Commissioners used the wrong test to decide if AAN and AJS (501(c)(4)s that don’t disclose their donors) violated the law by not registering as political committees, because “their major purpose” could well be the election and defeat of federal candidates.

There’s still a long road here, but it is possible that the FEC will finally be forced to treat these sham Super PACs as political committees and force disclosure of election-related spending.



“Pro-painkiller echo chamber shaped policy amid drug epidemic”


An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Pressreveals that similar feedback loops of information and influence play out regularly in the nation’s capital, fueled by money and talking points from the Pain Care Forum, a loose coalition of drugmakers, trade groups and dozens of nonprofits supported by industry funding that has flown under the radar until now.

Hundreds of internal documents shed new light on how drugmakers and their allies shaped the national response to the ongoing wave of prescription opioid abuse, which has claimed the lives of roughly 165,000 Americans since 2000, according to federal estimates.

Painkillers are among the most widely prescribed medications in the U.S., but pharmaceutical companies and allied groups have a multitude of legislative interests beyond those drugs. From 2006 through 2015, participants in the Pain Care Forum spent over $740 million lobbying in the nation’s capital and in all 50 statehouses on an array of issues, including opioid-related measures, according to an analysis of lobbying filings by the Center for Public Integrity and AP.

The same organizations reinforced their influence with more than $140 million doled out to political campaigns, including more than $75 million alone to federal candidates, political action committees and parties.

That combined spending on lobbying and campaigns amounts to more than 200 times the $4 million spent during the same period by the handful of groups that work for restrictions on painkillers. Meanwhile, opioid sales reached $9.6 billion last year, according to IMS Health, a health information company.


“Clinton is losing some millennial voters to third-party contenders”


But a wide range of polls have found Clinton losing votes to Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. A new CBS-YouGov poll of Ohio showed Clinton winning voters under 30 by 32 points. But that amounted to just 51 percent of the millennial vote and represented a six-point decline since the summer. According to the 2012 national exit poll, President Obama won 63 percent of Ohio voters under 30. That year, Obama never lost his narrow lead in an average of Ohio polls. This year, Clinton has lost that lead, despite Trump’s lack of a sustained ad campaign and Republican Gov. John Kasich’s ongoing refusal to endorse him.


“The Campaign Finance Farce; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker showed how easy it is to game the system.”

Dan Weiner and Brent Ferguson:

The appeal of a pass-through entity like the Wisconsin Club for Growth is obvious. Whereas Walker’s campaign committee was subject to contribution limits and disclosure rules, the group could raise unlimited contributions and keep its donors secret, even as Walker’s control of the entity still guaranteed that its ads would contain – as another email put it – all the “correct messaging.”

You don’t need to be an election lawyer to see this reduces campaign finance rules to a farce. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court invalidated political spending limits for corporations like the Wisconsin Club for Growth because it assumed that such spending would be independent of candidates’ campaigns and fully transparent, and so pose little corruption risk. The court held that limits on direct contributions to candidates and disclosure were enough to protect the integrity of our political system. But such rules are pointless if a candidate can get around them as easily as Walker did.

These revelations are a stark example of what most political practitioners already know: Candidates and supportive groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth often coordinate their activities with one another to get around campaign finance rules. In 2014, theBrennan Center released a report documenting many instances of such coordination and showing how hard it is to write and enforce laws to prevent it. The problem has likely only gotten worse as candidates and groups have become more sophisticated and realized the potential benefits and low risk of coordinating their spending.


“Trump shatters GOP records with small donors”


Donald Trump has unleashed an unprecedented deluge of small-dollar donations for the GOP, and one that Republican Party elders have dreamed about finding for much of the last decade as they’ve watched a succession of Democrats — Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders and, to a lesser extent, Hillary Clinton — develop formidable fundraising operations, $5, $10 and $20 at a time.

Trump has only been actively soliciting cash for a few months, but when he reveals his campaign’s financials later this week they will show he has crushed the total haul from small-dollar donors of the last two Republican nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney — during the entirety of their campaigns

All told, Trump is approaching, and has possibly already passed, $100 million from donors who have given less than $200, according to an analysis of available Federal Election Commission filings, the campaign’s public statements and people familiar with his fundraising operation. It is a threshold no previous Republican has ever achieved in a single campaign. And Trump has done so less than three months after signing his first email solicitation for donors on June 21 — a staggering speed to collect such a vast sum.


“NC Supreme Court election could change ideological tilt”

News and Observer:

It was not until May that it became clear Edmunds would face any challengers in his campaign to keep his seat.

In 2015, the Republican-led General Assembly passed a law that changed how sitting justices could be re-elected. Incumbent justices could choose to stand for a retention election, meaning that voters would decide at the polls whether to keep the justice on the bench. If the voters said no, then the governor would appoint someone to fill the seat until the next election year, when the seat would be open to any candidates.

That law was struck down by a three-judge panel in February, and the state Supreme Court, with Edmunds recusing himself, deadlocked three to three on whether to uphold that decision.

Because the high court was evenly divided, the lower court ruling stood and a special primary election was hastily scheduled for June….

But Morgan challenges Edmunds, noting he sides with the Republican majority in cases such as the redistricting challenges, whether the General Assembly had the power to make a law to spend public dollars on private-school vouchers and some rulings supporting the loosening of environmental regulations.

“There is that perception that politics has infected that court, and perception often becomes reality,” Morgan said.

Morgan noted Edmunds has referred to himself as a “conservative judge” in campaign literature and at events.

Edmunds has said his use of the word “conservative” is not referring to a political leaning, but rather that he is a constitutional conservative.

“I think judges should be fair and impartial and that’s what I have been,” Morgan said. “One should not espouse a political proclivity at all.”

Morgan, who has been presiding over the challenge in state courts to the N.C. voter ID law, found himself at the center of a political question posed by the conservative Civitas Institute.

A column posted on its website suggested that Morgan should recuse himself from the case, contending that he stood to benefit by having a say in the outcome as a candidate in the November general election and from publicity about the issue.

Morgan checked with the Judicial Standards Commission on whether he had a conflict in keeping that case before signing up as a Supreme Court candidate in “an abundance of caution.” He was told there was no conflict by the commission’s executive director Carolyn Dubay. In a recent interview, Morgan said that had he been politically motivated, he could have made a ruling already in the case and he has not. The case is pending.


“Meet the man at the center of the battle over the Texas voter ID law”

Extensive profile of Texas SOS Carlos Cascos, apparently the only person in Texas without a stated opinion on whether Texas’s voter id law is necessary to stop voter fraud or is really a pretext for suppressing likely Democratic votes:

While polls show that the idea that voters should have to show an ID is broadly popular, the particulars of the Texas law, and the question of how much of a threat voter fraud poses, is increasingly viewed through a partisan lens. Democratic partisans tend to think that Republicans are seeing things, and that they cry fraud as a pretext to suppress voting by folks who are more likely to vote Democratic. Republican partisans tend to think Democrats are turning a blind eye to fraud out of political self-interest.

And Cascos’ take?

“That’s for somebody else to decide. That’s for the A.G. and law enforcement agencies to decide,” Cascos said. “I can tell you that I believe every vote is sacred, every vote is important, every vote means something.”

And, said Cascos, who won his first re-election as county judge by 69 votes in 2010, “for someone to say that there’s not any (fraud), I have seen it first hand, where a friend of mine calls, `Hey, I found out my grandfather’s been voting for the five or six years, but he passed away in 2003.’”

“So there is some of it. How much of it, no one really knows,” he said. “I don’t know that the number is important, but every vote is sacred” and every fraudulent vote “canceled out somebody’s good vote.”


“Donald Trump’s Anything-Goes Campaign Sets an Alarming Political Precedent”

Important Jonathan Martin NYT news analysis:

In fact, this past week offered a vivid illustration of how little regard Mr. Trump has for the long-held expectations of America’s leaders. He is not only breaking the country’s political norms, he and his campaign aides are now all but mocking them.

Besides using his campaign as a platform to make money on a new hotel, Mr. Trump leveled an untrue assertion that Hillary Clinton had been the first to claim Mr. Obama was born abroad. He also boasted about his healthon the show of a daytime television celebrity while releasing just his testosterone levels and a few other details about his well-being.

Mr. Trump also continued to flout 40 years of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, a decision that his eldest son admitted this week was not based on an audit, as Mr. Trump has repeatedly claimed, but on a desire not to “distract” from the campaign’s “main message.”

Beyond his handling of personal information, he also casually accused the chairwoman of the Federal Reserve of corruption, claimed that the bipartisan national debate commission was rigged against him, and stated that Mrs. Clinton had not proposed a child care plan. (She has, and did so a year before he did.)

He also mocked an African-American pastor who had just welcomed him to her church, and again referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who once said she had Native American roots, as “Pocahontas.”

And that was all before Friday night, when Mr. Trump hinted at violence against Mrs. Clinton by inviting her Secret Service detail to disarm “and see what happens to her.”

Routine falsehoods, unfounded claims and inflammatory language have long been staples of Mr. Trump’s anything-goes campaign. But as the polls tighten and November nears, his behavior, and the implications for the country should he become president, are alarming veteran political observers — and leaving them deeply worried about the precedent being set, regardless of who wins the White House.


“In major shift, Koch consolidates network of advocacy groups into Americans for Prosperity”

Matea Gold for WaPo:

Billionaire Charles Koch is consolidating the array of conservative advocacy groups financed by his donor network, merging all the organizations into the main political arm, Americans for Prosperity, officials announced Friday.

Network leaders cast the surprising move as a way to operate more efficiently and better coordinate their organizing reach on the ground, which has increasingly become the focus of the operation. The change means that three smaller groups that target Latinos, veterans and millennials will now operate as part of AFP. The leaders of the LIBRE Initiative, Concerned Veterans for America and Generation Opportunity are all expected to remain in place, but will be running their organizations as branded projects under the AFP banner….

“We want to grow this into a movement of millions,” said Holden, who is general counsel of Koch Industries. “We’re hopeful to grow more.”

The change comes days after the Koch network announced it was shifting its focus from television ads to its field program in the final month of the 2016 elections. As of now, the network does not plan to air any commercials after Oct. 4.


“Prosecutor hadn’t seen some Doe documents”

Interesting development in WI John Doe investigation reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The prosecutor who headed an investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign said Friday he had not previously seen some of the probe documents leaked this week, including ones regarding $750,000 in donations from the billionaire owner of a company being sued by people poisoned by lead paint.

The donations by Harold Simmons of NL Industries were made before and after Walker and Republicans in the Legislature passed laws making it tougher for victims to win such lawsuits.

“I have no recollection of ever seeing anything concerning that,” special prosecutor Francis Schmitz said.

His comments renew questions about how the Guardian US obtained the records. The U.S. arm of the British newspaper this week posted 1,352 pages of documents about the probe, including the ones about Simmons’ donations.


“Donald Trump Says Hillary Clinton’s Bodyguards Should Disarm to ‘See What Happens to Her’”

Chilling NYT lede:

Donald J. Trump once again raised the specter of violence against Hillary Clinton, suggesting Friday that the Secret Service agents who guard her voluntarily disarm to “see what happens to her” without their protection.

“I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons,” Mr. Trump said at a rally in Miami, to loud applause. “I think they should disarm. Immediately.”

He went on: “Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, O.K. It’ll be very dangerous.”

In justifying his remarks, Mr. Trump falsely claimed that Mrs. Clinton wants to “destroy your Second Amendment,” apparently a reference to her gun control policies.


“Some Republicans Acknowledge Leveraging Voter ID Laws for Political Gain”

Must-read Michael Wines NYT:

A senior vice president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, Steve Baas, had a thought. “Do we need to start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number?” he wrote in an email on April 6 to conservative strategists. “I obviously think we should.”

Scott Jensen, a Republican political tactician and former speaker of the State Assembly, responded within minutes. “Yes. Anything fishy should be highlighted,” he wrote. “Stories should be solicited by talk radio hosts.”

That email exchange, part of documents published by The Guardian on Wednesday with a report on Governor Walker’s political operations, was followed by a spate of public rumors of vote-rigging. A month later, legislators passed a state law requiring Wisconsin voters to display one of five types of approved photo IDs before casting ballots.

The Wisconsin statute was part of a wave of voter ID laws enacted in the last six years, mostly by Republican-controlled legislatures whose leaders claimed that cheating at the ballot box is a routine occurrence.

Yet academic studies and election-law experts broadly agree that voter fraud is not a widespread problem in American elections. Rather, they say, it is a widespread political tactic used either to create doubt about an election’s validity or to keep one’s opponents — in most cases, Democratic voters — from casting ballots.

In unguarded moments, some Republican supporters of the laws have been inclined to agree.



“Increasing Los Angeles’ Matching Funds Likely to Have a Big Impact on the Role of Small Donors; The Current Two-Tiered System Does Not”

The Campaign Finance Institute (CFI) has released a major new study of public campaign financing in the City of Los Angeles, co-authored by Michael J. Malbin and Michael Parrott. Malbin is CFI’s co-founder and executive director as well as Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany (SUNY). Parrott is a Research Analyst at CFI who completed his Ph.D. at the University of Maryland in May 2016. He will be an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow in 2016-17.

Los Angeles is one of about a dozen cities in the United States to offer candidates partial or full public financing for municipal elections. Some form of a mixed private-public system has been in effect since 1990, but the city in 2013 increased the public matching fund rate from the old one-for-one match for the first $250 a donor gives to a candidate, to a two-tiered system that offers a two-to-one match in primaries and four-to-one in general elections.

With two elections under the new system’s belt, CFI compared the elections preceding the change (2009 and 2011) to the two elections after (2013 and 2015). The report focuses on the role of small donors because the City’s Charter declares increasing their role to be one of the goals of public financing. The study found that the current two-tiered system hasnot increased either the number or proportional importance of small donors in city elections.

After the 2015 election, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission recommended six-to-one matching for both primary and general elections. Because the proposed rate would make the Los Angeles system similar to New York City’s, the CFI report estimates the potential impact of this new proposal by comparing pre-reform and post-reform elections in both cities. (It also checks the results in an Appendix by using a more complex research design that controls for the many differences between the two cities.)

The comparative analysis concludes that the commission’s recommendationswould be likely to enhance the role of small donors to city council candidates. However, achieving the same results for mayoral candidates may require stronger incentives. Recommendations are detailed in the full report, which is available here.

The study also documents the positive impact matching funds in both cities have in increasing the economic and racial diversity of the neighborhoods in which small donors reside.


“Senate Dysfunction Blocks Bipartisan Criminal Justice Overhaul”


A major criminal-justice overhaul bill seemed destined to be the bipartisan success story of the year, consensus legislation that showed lawmakers could still rise above politics and take on a serious societal problem.

Then the election got in the way. With Donald J. Trump demanding “law and order” and Senate Republicans divided on the wisdom of reducing federal mandatory minimum sentences, the effort that began with real promise stalled, and now its Senate authors acknowledge there is virtually no chance for action on the measure this year.

“I do believe it is over,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No .2 Democrat in the Senate, who put considerable effort into difficult negotiations with Republicans to strike a compromise. “We missed an opportunity.”

What remains is a stunning display of dysfunction given the powerful forces arrayed behind legislation meant to provide a second chance for nonviolent offenders facing long prison sentences while also saving tax dollars on prison costs.


“Anti-Trump Republicans: Don’t Waste Your Vote. Trade It.”

Vote trading ideas are back, this time on the NYT oped page (John Stubbs and Ricardo Reyes):

Republican voters who refuse to vote for Donald J. Trump are in a bind. They could vote for Hillary Clinton, but that means supporting a candidate whose positions likely run counter to their beliefs. Or they could vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, whose positions might be closer to their own but who stands almost no chance of winning a single state, let alone the White House.

Fortunately, there’s a precedent, and a solution: vote trading, which was first attempted during the 2000 election and which, thanks to today’s more robust internet, could make all the difference in a tight race.

Sixteen years ago, the concern was that votes for the left-leaning third-party candidate, Ralph Nader, could siphon off critical support for Al Gore in swing states like Florida. Gore supporters begged Naderites not to “throw away” their vote — an insinuation that Nader voters found offensive.

As the election neared, though, “Nader Trader” websites emerged. The idea was simple: A Nader supporter in Florida, where every vote mattered, could promise to vote for Mr. Gore — and, in exchange, a Gore supporter in a Democratic stronghold like Washington, D.C., would promise to vote for Mr. Nader.

It was a good idea, but in 2000, it didn’t work. Word didn’t spread fast enough, and the internet was still in its infancy. But it’s worth revisiting.

First, consider the size of the #NeverTrump Republican vote. In 2012 Ohio Republicans went 94 percent for Mitt Romney; President Obama received 5 percent of their votes and 1 percent went to “other.” This year, because of Mr. Trump’s candidacy, the percentage of Republicans who have indicated they are voting for Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Johnson or are unsure is 18.2 percent.

Why isn’t this illegal vote buying? California made that claim after 2000, and the 9th Circuit held that these were not binding promises, and they were a form of First Amendment protected speech.  Not clear if other courts would agree should this arise again. (Here’s the last of the Ninth Circuit’s opinions on this.)


“Legislating in the Shadows”

Chris Walker has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming Penn L Rev).  Here is the abstract:

Federal agencies are deeply involved in legislative drafting — both in the forefront by drafting the substantive legislation the Administration desires to submit to Congress and in the shadows by providing confidential “technical drafting assistance” on legislation that originates from congressional staffers. This technical drafting assistance helps Congress avoid considering legislation that would unnecessarily disrupt the current statutory scheme by leveraging agency expertise on the subject matter. But it also allows the agency to play an active yet opaque role in drafting legislation from the very early stages. In fact, the empirical findings presented in this Article, based on extensive interviews and surveys at some twenty federal agencies, suggest that agencies provide technical drafting assistance on the vast majority of proposed legislation that directly affects them and on nearly all such legislation that gets enacted.

The under explored yet widespread practice of legislating in the shadows has important implications for administrative law theory and doctrine and the conventional principal–agency bureaucratic model. On the one hand, this phenomenon perhaps supports the growing scholarly call that agencies should be allowed to engage in more purposivist interpretation (than their judicial counterparts) because of their expertise in legislative history and purpose and their role in statutory drafting. On the other, the phenomenon may cast some doubt on the foundations for judicial deference to agency statutory interpretations, in that agencies are intimately involved in drafting the legislation that ultimately delegates to the agencies the authority to interpret that legislation. In other words, many of the agency self-delegation criticisms raised against Auer deference could apply with some force to agency statutory interpretation and Chevron deference as well. Or we should at least be considering more closely the administrative state’s role in drafting legislation — especially drafting legislation in the shadows — when considering to what degree courts should defer to agency statutory interpretations. Such reconsideration is particularly warranted in light of the transparency concerns implicated by agency legislating in the shadows.

This looks like it will be a very important paper.


“Polling places become battleground in U.S. voting rights fight”


A Reuters survey found local governments in nearly a dozen, mostly Republican-dominated counties in Georgia have adopted plans to reduce the number of voting stations, citing cost savings and efficiency.

In seven of those counties, African-Americans, who traditionally back Democrats, comprised at least a quarter of the population, and in several counties the changes will disproportionately affect black voters. At least three other counties in Georgia dropped consolidation plans under public pressure.

While polling place cutbacks are on the rise across the country, including in some Democratic-run areas, the South’s history of racial discrimination has made the region a focus of concern for voting rights advocates.

Activists see the voting place reductions as another front in the fight over Republican-sponsored statewide voting laws such as stricter ID requirements that disproportionately affect minority and poorer voters who tend to vote for the Democratic Party.


“Hillary Clinton Takes Aim at Voters Drifting Toward Third Party”


WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton and her Democratic allies, unnerved by the tightening presidential race, are making a major push to dissuade disaffected voters from backing third-party candidates, and pouring more energy into Rust Belt states, where Donald J. Trump is gaining ground.

With Mrs. Clinton enduring one of the rockiest stretches of her second bid for the presidency, her campaign and affiliated Democratic groups are shifting their focus to those voters, many of them millennials, who recoil at Mr. Trump, her Republican opponent, but now favor the Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, or the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein.

While still optimistic that the race will turn decisively back in Mrs. Clinton’s favor after the debates, leading Democrats have been alarmed by the drift of young voters toward the third-party candidates.

The principal “super PAC” supporting Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy, Priorities USA Action, has concluded from its polling and other research that the reluctance to embrace the Democratic nominee among those who intensely dislike Mr. Trump is not going away and must be confronted.

“We’ll be launching a multimillion-dollar digital campaign that talks about what’s at stake and how a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump, who is against everything these voters stand for,” said Justin Barasky, a strategist for Priorities USA.


“State Police investigating voter registration fraud”


The Indiana State Police is investigating what it says are fraudulent voter registration forms in Marion and Hendricks counties.

The forms are among more than 28,000 submitted to county registration offices by a little-known group called the Indiana Voter Registration Project.

“We have determined at least 10 voter registration forms are confirmed to have fraudulent information,” said Dave Bursten, an Indiana State Police spokesman.

Bursten said a team of six detectives is working to determine whether other forms are also fraudulent. The FBI has also been briefed, he said.

“This is not an investigation that’s going to end in three days,” he said. “This is going to take time to peel back multiple layers of the onion.”

The group has no website and is not registered with the Indiana secretary of state’s office.