“Comments to FEC Back Rules for Super PACs”

Bloomberg BNA:

The Federal Election Commission has received nearly 12,000 public comments overwhelmingly supporting the latest FEC proposals to write rules to control super political action committees and other campaign spending groups.
Despite the number registering support, it was unlikely the comments would change attitudes at the FEC, where the commissioners have been deeply divided for years over whether new rules are needed.

“Pro-Tillis dark money group funded entirely by Crossroads GPS”

Open Secrets on how one non-disclosing group funds another:

One of the largest and most prolific politically active nonprofits in the country was virtually the sole backer of Carolina Rising, the group that spent $4.7 million on ads supporting now-Sen. Thom Tillis’ successful run to unseat incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014. That was nearly 100 percent of Carolina Rising’s spending, as OpenSecrets Blog wrote last month.
Crossroads GPS not only provided 98.7 percent of Carolina Rising’s funds, but it also spent tens of millions of its own money in North Carolina and elsewhere in the midterms, according to tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics.


Floyd Abrams on Campaign Finance, Inequality, Shelby County, and More

Tonight Floyd Abrams gave the Raymond Pryke First Amendment Lecture at UCI Law, and you can watch a video of it here:

Most of the lecture consisted of Floyd defending the Supreme Court’s approach to campaign finance cases particularly in Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. FEC. Having just written a book which examines some of Floyd’s arguments in detail, I found many of Floyd’s arguments familiar (well said, and interesting to the audience, but familiar to me). And in the Q&A I ask Floyd about the treatment of foreign money in elections.

But there was one part of the talk that was new to me and significant, and when I asked Floyd about it, he confirmed it was new. It comes near the end of the talk, when Floyd (around the 35 minute mark) says:

“Now in praising Buckley I don’t mean to denigrate the need for much greater attention to be played to the issue of equality with respect to elections as well as other topics. It’s not only a current political issue, but a moral one. But it is not to be solved, I would argue, or even addressed, by limiting speech. There are lots of non-First Amendment-threatening ways to seek to address the issue of equality generally or even ith respect to elections generally and other topics. The decision of the Supreme Court, holding unconstitutional a central part of the Voting Rights Act, for example, seems to me indefensible. The gerrymandering that has made elections to Congress in most districts so non-competitive that many find it irrelevant to vote is not only morally odious but raises legal issues that I hope someday the Supreme Court will sseriously address. Significantly increased voter identification requirements, limitations on times and places of voting, are at odds with what I think of as democratic norms. And I think we should have more public funding of elections and more disclosure of who spends what in elections. But limiting speech about elections is something else entirely.”


UPDATE: You can find Floyd’s prepared remarks here.


See, It’s Not Just Republicans That Seek to Undermine Campaign Finance Laws

News from Connecticut:

The legislature’s Democratic majority released a proposal Monday to close a $350 million budget shortfall by, among other things, suspending Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance system for the 2016 election cycle.

The suspension of the program would only help close $11.7 million of the $350 million to $370 million budget gap.

But Michael Brandi, the head of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, said the one cycle suspension would start the “death spiral” for the program.

“The CEF has been a huge success and this move would put it on life support if not kill it entirely,” Brandi said in a statement. “It will not leave the fund enough money to fund the 2018 elections — so this is not a one-time suspension, it’s a permanent weakening, that will likely result in a death spiral — and it will return all of our elected officials to the culture of soliciting special interest money to fund their campaigns. This is not what the citizens of Connecticut signed up for when the Citizens’ Election Fund was created.”




Patrick Marley:

Assembly Republicans on Monday sent Gov. Scott Walker a bill rewriting campaign finance laws and were poised to approve one replacing the state’s ethics and elections board with two new commissions.

The measure eliminating the Government Accountability Board was prompted by GOP ire over an investigation of Walker’s campaign that was terminated this summer by a state Supreme Court ruling. Anger over the probe also partly inspired the campaign finance legislation, which codifies the court’s finding that candidates and issue groups can work closely together.

The campaign finance bill would also double the amount donors can give candidates; allow corporations and unions to give money to political parties and campaign committees controlled by legislative leaders; and end the requirement that donors disclose their employers. That would make it harder for the public to find outwhich industries are funneling money to candidates.

The measure passed 59-0, with all Republicans favoring it and all Democrats refusing to vote. Democrats declined to vote because they argued it was a conflict of interest for lawmakers to vote on changes to campaign finance laws that would take effect before the next election.

The legislation and the court’s ruling this summer could change the way candidates run campaigns. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said in a meeting last week with editors and reporters from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he was open to partnering with issue groups that do not have to disclose their donors. Such groups run campaign-style ads that escape regulation.


FEC Commissioner Weintraub: Sky Not Falling on Super PAC AO

In contrast to some of the press coverage, here’s Commissioner Weintraub’s statement on the recent Majority PAC AO:

A funny thing happened at the end of the long and contentious meeting where this Advisory Opinion was discussed. It turned but that commissioners agreed more than they disagreed on the principles underlying the requestors’ plans regarding testing the waters activities and the relationships between candidates and the Super PACs that support them. Commissioners agreed unanimously on five of the twelve questions (questions 4,5,6,8, and 9), and four commissioners agreed on the answers to questions 11 and 12 (Chair Ravel and I dissented on those). But even on the questions where we disagreed, our positions were not diametrically opposed. There was some common ground. And that should give pause to anyone who is making plans based on the assumption that the testing the waters phase of a candidacy is a regulation-free zone.


“VTP Released Report on New Polling Place Resources”

Charles Stewart for Election Updates:

Just as the one-year count-down for the 2016 presidential election has begun, the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Projecthas released a new report today about managing polling place resources.  Clickhere for the executive summary, andhere for the full report.

This report serves as a companion to a set of Web-based tools that the VTP developed and posted at the request of the bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), to facilitate the recommendation that local jurisdictions “develop models and tools to assist them in effectively allocating resources across polling places.”

The report takes several new steps in the effort to spread the word about the usefulness of applying queuing theory to improve polling place practices.  First, it provides a single source of facts about lines at polling places in 2012 (with some updating to 2014).  Second, it provides a brief, intuitive introduction to queuing theory as applied to polling places — with a brief list of suggested readings for those who would like to learn more.  Finally, the report uses data from two actual local election jurisdictions and walks through “what-if analyses” that rely on the application of the resource allocation tools.

The report released today provides basic facts about where long lines were experienced in 2012 and which voters — based on race, voting mode, and residence — waited longer than others.  Information about the 2014 election updates previous research, and underscores how long lines tend to be more prevalent in on-year (presidential) elections than in midterm elections.  Beyond providing basic facts about the location of lines in American elections, the report provides a basic introduction to the science of line management, queuing theory, and a list of further readings for those who wish to delve more deeply into the subject.  Finally, this report demonstrates how the Web-based tools might be used, by working through actual data from two local jurisdictions.


“Clinton’s Wall Street Donors Say More Than 9/11 Built Their Bond”


The way he and Clinton’s other Wall Street supporters see it, the connections that bind them are long, deep and nothing to be embarrassed about. As Clinton seeks the Democratic presidential nomination against candidates vowing to break up the biggest U.S. banks, her donors in the financial industry say their relationship doesn’t hinge on a quid pro quo or the September 2001 attacks.


“A Time to Revive the Party”

FEC Commissioner Lee Goodman has written this oped for the Washington Examiner. It begins:

This week the Federal Election Commission will vote on a proposal to revive political parties and make them more effective at mobilizing populist political participation. The proposal has the support of Democratic and Republican party advocates who lament the onerous government regulations that have handicapped parties and rendered them increasingly irrelevant.

The principal focus of the party proposal is the effectiveness of state and local parties. State and local parties are the most democratic institutions in American politics today. They are populist associations of local citizens from all walks of life who care deeply about their communities and the country and devote their time and passion — not necessarily their checkbooks — to participate in democracy. I refer to state and local parties as the “Motel 6” of civic engagement because there is always a state or local party office with a light on for people who want to get involved in the political life of America.


“How The Pro-Bowser FreshPAC Was Forced To Disband”

Patrick Madden for WAMU:

When Washingtonians elected Muriel Bowser as mayor last year, she promised to bring a “fresh start” to the city. A “fresh start,” after the campaign scandals of her predecessor, Vincent Gray. Gray is still under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office.

But in September, less than a year after Bowser took office, she confronted her own campaign-finance controversy: a new political action committee bringing in unlimited donations from wealthy donors. It was called FreshPAC, a nod to Bowser’s campaign slogan.

This week, organizers announced they’d be returning the money — and shutting down the committee.

Here’s how it all played out.



“Clinton under fire for linking her Wall Street donations to 9/11”


Minutes after Hillary Clinton referenced 9/11 as part of the reason why she has received significant contributions from Wall Street, people on both sides of the aisle pounced or were, at the very least, left scratching their heads to account for it.

“So, I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is,” Clinton said, in response to a comment from Bernie Sanders about her acceptance of campaign cash from Wall Street executives. “I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

See also Debate Exposes Clinton’s Wall Street Underbelly.


The CBS moderators later returned to Clinton’s answer, citing a tweet during the debate from a University of Iowa law professor that reads, “Have never seen a candidate invoke 9/11 to justify millions of Wall Street donations. Until now.” Clinton was asked how her work after 9/11 was related to campaign donations.

“I worked closely with New Yorkers after 9/11 for my entire term to rebuild. So, yes, I did know people,” Clinton responded. “I’ve had a lot of folks give me donations from all kinds of backgrounds say, ‘I don’t agree with you on everything, but I like what you do. I like how you stand up. I’m going to support you.’ And I think that is absolutely appropriate.”


“Rich Tradition of Minority Party Representation Continues in Pennsylvania and Connecticut”

Chris Hughes for FairVote:

An interesting thing happened this year on Election Day in towns, cities, and counties across Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Despite the odds being stacked against them, minority parties earned representation thanks to fair representation voting methods. Many of the jurisdictions we highlight that use these sorts of non-winner-take-all voting methods had those systems imposed upon them by judges in Voting Rights Act cases, but just as many – including all these uses in Pennsylvania and Connecticut – introduced these reforms through statute.

Pennsylvania has used fair voting methods for over a century and Connecticut for more than half a century (since before the Voting Rights Act even existed). They ensure that minority parties can earn representation in communities where they would be otherwise shut out of government. Minority party representation in cities and counties across Connecticut and Pennsylvania reflects structural rules that have been in place for decades to ensure more political diversity than we see in most American cities today.

The key has been the use of a modest form of fair representation voting with the unfortunate label of “limited voting.” Contrary to the moniker, limited voting greatly expands the number of voters who can elect a candidate of choice. It does this by making sure that a single cohesive majority does not have the power to elect every single member of a legislative body. If five are to be elected, voters may only be allowed to vote for three. That way, that cohesive majority will be able to elect three, but not all five. Another group – otherwise shut out – will be able to organize to win the other two seats.

Most places in Pennsylvania and Connecticut couple limited voting with “limited nominations,” which means that no political party can nominate enough candidates to win every seat. The two are a natural fit for each other, but limited nominations is distinct from limited voting. The two do not always go together, and limited nominations raises voter choice concerns that limited voting does not.

Limited voting creates an opportunity for fair representation, but only when political parties limit their nominees, when candidates campaign to emphasize the right strategies, and when voters vote strategically. That makes limited voting a weak form of fair representation voting: it does break open winner-take-all, but it does not ensure fair results to nearly the degree as ranked choice voting does. Nevertheless, the fact that these elections took place demonstrates that U.S. elections are not all stuck in the rut of winner-take-all voting rules, and that the U.S. has a rich history of fair representation in at-large elections.


“Criminal Law: Free Speech, Anti-Corruption, and the Criminalization of Government Affairs”

This event, including Eugene Volokh, took place at the 2015 Federalist Society national lawyers’ meeting.

Watch the video.

Here’s the description:

If we accept the premise that government, and government power, is growing, then the stakes for elective office have never been higher. With the levers of power at stake, are we seeing an increase in the use of the criminal justice system to attack legitimate political activity? Or are we perhaps seeing the proper policing of increased fraud and abuse by those in the political sphere? In a media climate in which a mere investigation can be fatal to a political campaign or career, what actions are political and what actions are criminal, and who should decide?

Criminal Law: Free Speech, Anti-Corruption, and the Criminalization of Government Affairs

–Mr. Todd P. Graves, Partner, Graves Garrett LLC
–Mr. Edward T. Kang, Partner, Alston & Bird LLP
–Prof. Eugene Volokh, Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
–Mr. Peter R. Zeidenberg, Partner, Arent Fox LLP
–Moderator: Hon. Raymond W. Gruender, U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit


“Growing anxiety in Iowa as Democrats worry state is not ready for caucuses”

Ben Jacobs for The Guardian:

Iowa Democrats are increasingly worried the state party may not be prepared for the caucuses on 1 February, putting Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status at risk.

With a little more than 80 days left, a number of top Democrats in the state expressed their concerns to the Guardian that the party has not done the work necessary to ensure that the caucuses, run solely by the Iowa Democratic party, will go smoothly.

Iowa Democrats described growing anxiety over a state party they said was drifting and unprepared to organize in 1,681 precincts to ensure the result of the contest to pick Iowa’s choice for the Democratic presidential nomination is promptly reported.

In 2012, no winner was declared in the Republican caucuses for almost three weeks because of problems reporting accurate results. The state Republican party eventually announced that Rick Santorum had beaten Mitt Romney. There are mounting fears that the Democratic caucuses in 2016 may go the same way.

Flashback to my Feb. 2012 Slate piece: Kill the Caucuses! Maine, Nevada, and Iowa were embarrassing. It’s time to make primaries the rule.



Breaking: #SCOTUS Will Hear Virginia Redistricting Case

There will be a lot of attention (for good reason) to the Court’s decision to hear a Texas abortion case, but the Court will also hold a hearing on Wittman v. Personhuballah, a Virginia redistricting case.  (This case involves congressional redistricting and I’ve written about it here; there’s another Virginia case involving  Virginia state house redistricting which has also been appealed to the Supreme Court.)

Here are the questions presented:

1) Whether the court below erred in failing to make the required finding that race rather than politics predominated in District 3, where there is no dispute that politics explains the Enacted Plan; (2) whether the court below erred in relieving plaintiffs of their burden to show an alternative plan that achieves the General Assembly’s political goals, is comparably consistent with traditional districting principles, and brings about greater racial balance than the Enacted Plan; (3) whether, regardless of any other error, the finding of a Shaw violation by the court below was based on clearly erroneous fact-finding; (4) whether the majority erred in holding that the Enacted Plan fails strict scrutiny because it increased District 3’s black voting-age population percentage above the benchmark percentage, when the undisputed evidence establishes that the increase better complies with neutral principles than would reducing the percentage and no racial bloc voting analysis would support a reduction capable of realistically securing Section 5 preclearance.

But the Court in its order has also added a standing question:

Further consideration of the question of jurisdiction is postponed to the hearing of the case on the merits. In addition to the questions presented by the jurisdictional statement, the parties are directed to brief and argue the following question: Whether appellants lack standing because none reside in or represent the only congressional district whose constitutionality is at issue in this case.

This case is a follow on to the Alabama redistricting case decided last year. I’ve done a detailed analysis of that case, in a paper, Racial Gerrymandering’s Questionable Revival, about to be published in the Alabama Law Review‘s symposium on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.  You can find the near final draft on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Like history, the racial gerrymandering cause of action has repeated itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

In the 1990s, conservative members of the Supreme Court recognized a new cause of action, grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, of an “unconstitutional racial gerrymander.” The claim was not one, long recognized, for the intentional dilution of black votes through the manipulative drawing of district lines. Instead, it was a shaky, ephemeral claim based solely on appearances. Racial gerrymandering is an “expressive harm,” aimed at preventing jurisdictions from sending an impermissible “message” by separating voters on the basis of race without adequate justification. In practice, the cause of action helped limit attempts by the U.S. Department of Justice to force jurisdictions then covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to create more majority-minority voting districts which tended to vote Democratic. Sometimes doing so helped Democrats; at other times the concentration of reliable Democratic voters helped Republicans. Within a decade, however, racial gerrymandering claims seemed to wither away, as the Court used other methods to stop the Department from reading the Act too broadly.

In 2015, the Supreme Court revived racial gerrymandering claims. In Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama, the four liberals on the Court and Justice Kennedy agreed with Democrats and minority voters that the state of Alabama engaged in an unconstitutional racial gerrymander when it passed a legislative districting plan which over-concentrated black voters in majority-minority districts in ostensible compliance with the Voting Rights Act. There was great irony in the use of the racial gerrymandering cause of action by minority voters who had rejected it in the 1990s, in its acceptance by liberal justices, and in the defense of race-based redistricting by Alabama Republicans and some conservative Supreme Court justices. While racial gerrymandering has for now become a useful tool for Democrats and minority plaintiffs to fight certain Republican gerrymanders, it is no more coherent or justified now than it was the first time the Court recognized it in the 1990s.

This Essay, written for an Alabama Law Review symposium on the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, proceeds in three parts. Part I briefly describes the emergence of the racial gerrymandering cause of action in the 1990s and the critiques made of it. Part II briefly describes the circumstances leading up to the 2015 Alabama case and Court’s questionable revival of the racial gerrymandering claim. Part III argues that the racial gerrymandering claim is no more defensible when used by Democrats or minority voters than by conservatives or Republicans. No doubt the Alabama legislature used compliance with the Voting Rights Act as a pretext to pack more reliable Democratic voters into a smaller number of districts to help Republicans in the state overall. But that behavior should be policed as either a form of impermissible racial vote dilution or as inappropriate partisan behavior. In the end, the Supreme Court has relied upon the incoherent racial gerrymandering claim because lacks the right tools to police certain political conduct which might be impermissibly racist, partisan, or both. Liberal and conservative scholars have long recognized that the Voting Rights Act’s enforcement and interpretation can have partisan implications and motivations. The same is now true for racial gerrymandering claims, especially given the great overlap of race and party categories in the South.



“State of Alabama Signs MOU with DOJ on Motor Voter Compliance”


Governor Robert Bentley on Friday announced that the state of Alabama has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning compliance with the Motor Voter provision of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

In the spring, the state initiated efforts to integrate voter registration into the electronic driver’s license system.  The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) will modify its electronic driver’s license system, which is used for in-person license transactions at ALEA offices as well as at the license offices of Judges of Probate, License Commissioners, and Revenue Commissioners.  ALEA will also modify its new online system that allows citizens to renew their licenses or get duplicate licenses.  The Secretary of State will adjust Alabama’s statewide electronic voter registration system to be able to electronically receive the voter registration data from ALEA.

On September 8, 2015, the DOJ notified the state of Alabama that it had authorized a lawsuit for noncompliance with the Motor Voter provision.  The MOU signed Friday commits the state to undertake a series of actions to resolve DOJ’s concerns, avoid a lawsuit and bring the state into compliance.

Governor Bentley praised ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier and Secretary of State John Merrill for their efforts in reaching this agreement to bring the state into compliance.  He also thanked the DOJ for working with the state on an out-of-court solution.

“Voting rights are important to every citizen, and it is imperative that every Alabamian have the ability to vote,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “In signing the comprehensive and realistic agreement announced today, we have avoided spending time and money on litigation, allowing state resources to instead be directed to making it easier for Alabama citizens to register to vote. I commend Secretary Collier, Secretary Merrill and representatives from the Department of Justice who worked through this issue and created a sensible solution.”

“The Secretary of State’s Office is excited about the opportunity to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with all parties involved,” Secretary of State John Merrill said. “This agreement will lead towards full compliance of the National Voter Registration Act to help ensure each eligible Alabamian has an opportunity to register to vote as well as exercise that right to vote in the electoral process for the candidate of their choice. All parties have worked together in a cooperative manner to see that the state of Alabama complies with the NVRA, and our office will do all it can to allow citizens every access possible to voter registration.”

“Voting is a fundamental right and we want all eligible Alabamians to have the ability to vote,” Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier said. “Upon the full implementation of ALEA on Jan. 1, 2015, ALEA began the process of reviewing all former policies and procedures of legacy agencies consolidated into ALEA. As a result of this review, it was discovered that the former Department of Public Safety, had issues similar to other states as it relates to the NVRA. Immediately ALEA initiated discussions with the Secretary of State’s (SOS) Office and in April formulated a plan to better integrate the ability for citizens to register to vote when performing certain driver license functions.  We appreciate Governor Bentley’s leadership and the cooperation of the DOJ and the Attorney General’s Office in implementing our plan with the SOS.”

The state is also implementing a paper-based solution to be in place in the short term, until the electronic solution is complete next summer.  Additionally, the state has agreed to adopt a change of address form for driver’s license purposes, and has agreed to certain requirements concerning training, reporting, public education, and consulting with the DOJ.

A full copy of Friday’s MOU can be found here.


Senate Rules Entangle Bid to Repeal Health Care Law”


In the Senate, Republicans are determined to dismantle or defund the law using a fast-track procedure that requires a simple majority vote, rather than the 60 votes needed for most hotly contested measures.

But the Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, ruled this week that some provisions of the House-passed bill were not eligible for expedited procedures, aides to Senate leaders of both parties said Thursday. Democrats said the ruling meant that Republicans would need a supermajority of 60 votes, which they do not have, to repeal the individual and employer mandates.

The office of the Democratic leader, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, issued a statement on Thursday saying, “The parliamentarian has ruled that Obamacare cannot be repealed through reconciliation.”

“Any fix that repeals the individual or employer mandates will require 60 votes and therefore will not pass,” the statement added.

However, Republicans said that Mr. Reid had misrepresented the parliamentarian’s ruling, the text of which has not been made public. They said that if some provisions of the bill were changed, the Senate could still take up the bill by a simple majority vote and consider it using fast-track procedures.


“In Obama Era, G.O.P. Bolsters Grip in the States”


While Mr. Obama’s 2008 election helped usher in a political resurgence for Democrats, the president today presides over a shrinking party whose control of elected offices at the state and local levels has declined precipitously. In January, Republicans will occupy 32 of the nation’s governorships, 10 more than they did in 2009. Democratic losses in state legislatures under Mr. Obama rank among the worst in the last 115 years, with 816 Democratic lawmakers losing their jobs and Republican control of legislatures doubling since the president took office — more seats lost than under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower.


“No tweeting what you actually think about Clinton or Carson if you’re on the clock: new limits on feds”


If you work for the federal government, your Twitter or Facebook profile can show a photo of you hugging Ben Carson or Hillary Clinton. But you can’t share, tweet, ”like,” friend, follow, comment on or retweet anything your candidate says or does when you’re on the clock.

If your job is in intelligence or law enforcement, you can ”like” or comment on a tweet from a candidate when you’re not working — but you can’t share or retweet it even when you’re off duty.

And if you’re on a coffee or lunch break at the office, you must walk out of your building to post anything on social media that would be considered partisan, even from your personal smart phone or laptop. Even from the bathroom or cafeteria.


“Lobbying at the Water’s Edge: The Corporate Foreign Policy Lobby”

Emilie Hafner-Burton, Thad Kousser, and David Victor have posted this draft on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Each year, groups ranging from multinationals to non-profits spend hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying America’s federal government on foreign policy. This massive flow of private dollars raises concerns about the health of political pluralism in the realm of America’s international relations. Using an original dataset that combines tens of thousands of Lobbying Disclosure Act filings from 2007 to 2011, information on the content of proposed legislation, and financial data on all publically listed firms in the U.S., we argue that corporate interests dominate the foreign policy lobby; that there are inequalities among firms in lobbying investment that parallel market advantages; and that the firms that lobby are not representative of the median voter. Rather than providing counteractive lobbying that represents the broad range of American opinion, the multitude of voices that lobby major foreign policy bills affecting America’s stance in the world are likely compounding the bias towards large corporations that on average advocate center-right positions.



“Podcast: The meaning of ‘one person, one vote’”

Constitution Daily:

On December 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Evenwel v. Abbott, one of the most important cases of the term that could have huge implications for U.S. politics.

In 2013, the Texas state legislature drew up district maps in order to fill 31 seats in the state senate, as required by the Texas constitution. To do so, the legislature started with the total population and divided by 31, seeking to equalize the number of people across the districts.

But two registered and active voters, Sue Evenwel and Edward Pfenninger, challenged the redistricting plan. They argued that they were underrepresented because the state looked only at total population. Had legislators used the total number of registered voters, they said, the state would be much closer to meeting the Supreme Court’s “one person, one vote” requirement.

Rick Hasen is the Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. He is an expert in election and campaign finance law, and the author of the authoritative Election Law Blog.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute in Washington and editor-in-chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review. He is also a member of the Center’s Coalition of Freedom Advisory Board.


“Group files federal lawsuit challenging Alaska campaign contribution limits”


The constitutionality of limits on Alaska campaign contributions is challenged in a new federal lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

Three individuals and the local chapter of the Alaska Republican Party filed the lawsuit against the executive director and board of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, which enforces state political financing laws.

The suit alleges that four aspects of campaign laws violate the U.S Constitution: a $500 limit on individual contributions to a candidate, a $500 limit on individual contributions to a group, the $3,000 limit on out-of-state contributions, and limits on political party contributions.

Kevin Clarkson, an attorney representing the group, said he plans to file an injunction that would halt some contribution limits until the issue is settled.

Anyone have the complaint?


“The Dog Ate My Vote: How Congress Explains Its Absences”


ProPublica has collected all of the Personal Explanations filed since 2007 — some 5,058 in all, covering 21,176 votes — and created a database that lets readers look up their representatives’ missed votes, as well as their explanations. These statements are by no means required — only one in six absences are explained — but they document a little-discussed aspect of the lives and work of lawmakers, and provide hints at the competing priorities and difficulties of a system that, to many, seems chronically dysfunctional.

The reasons lawmakers cite most for missing votes range from the mundane (travel delays, often due to weather, or remaining in their districts for job fairs) to more personal (the birth of a child or a graduation ceremony or illness). Lawmakers have missed more than 2,000 votes for medical reasons, and thousands more for personal and family reasons.


“American people want their democracy back”

Jonathan Soros for CNN:

Last Monday, I hosted a dinner with President Obama for 50 people to raise money for the House Democrats. As host, I enjoyed the additional privilege of a few minutes in private with the President during which I pressed him, ironically, to take action on campaign finance reform. Sorry, but I can’t tell you how he replied. Part of the privilege is to hear the President off-the-record.

Later in the week I hosted a smaller dinner for a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Our common passion for campaign finance reform is such I could convince myself he was just there to anchor our thoughtful discussion, but there’s only one reason New York is an essential campaign stop for candidates from all 50 states: money.


“D.C. PAC Shutters, Highlighting Fine Ethical Line For Groups Across The Country”

Patrick Madden for NPR:

Unlike their counterparts on the national level, local superPACs and outside groups like FreshPAC aren’t being funded by wealthy donors with an ideological bent. Instead, the big spending political committees are often funded by interests who do business with the city government. Moreover, large sums of money spent in local races can often tip the scales more than money spent on national races.

It’s something cropping up across the country with similar outside spending groups that have been active this year from Philadelphia and New York City to Chicago andNashville.


“How the Kochs created Joni Ernst”

Ken Vogel for Politico:

Until now, little has been known about the secretive role played by the Kochs’ donors and operatives in boosting Ernst. The Koch network has focused primarily on policy fights, mostly leaving the spadework of recruiting and nurturing candidates to the party.

But the network’s financial support for Ernst ― detailed here for the first time ― offers the first signs of a move into GOP primaries. The Kochs and their allies are investing in a pipeline to identify, cultivate and finance business-oriented candidates from the local school board all the way to the White House, and Koch operatives are already looking for opportunities to challenge GOP incumbents deemed insufficiently hard-line in their opposition to government spending and corporate subsidies.

The ambitious effort, spearheaded partly by a for-profit consulting firm called Aegis Strategic that’s backed by the Koch network, is one of several ways in which the brothers and their allies are seeking to influence the types of candidates who carry the GOP banner. The network has taken on a vetting role in the GOP presidential primary, offering favored candidates access to its donors and activists. And some within the network have even advocated targeting from six to 12 GOP House members who have run afoul of the Koch orthodoxy on fiscal issues and who are facing 2016 primary challenges, sources told POLITICO.

Tim Phillips, president of the most aggressive Koch-backed group, Americans for Prosperity, declined to comment on whether his group had any plans to spend money in GOP primaries. “We have not taken any options off the table. That’s the best way to put it,” he said. “We have not precluded the possibility of it. We’re looking at every option.”

In the Ernst race, the Koch support included hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of television ads funded by undisclosed donors and tens of thousands of dollars in direct campaign contributions. The spending would have been difficult to trace back to the Koch network during Ernst’s campaign, but details are expected to emerge this week when the central Koch nonprofit, Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, files its tax disclosures.