Elizabeth Hotlzman and David Yassky NYT oped:
To be clear, we see no reason to conclude that campaign contributions are in fact influencing district attorneys decisions. But we do believe that public confidence has been significantly damaged by the recent coverage of Mr. Vance’s donors. Perpetuating the current system will lead to further erosion of public trust and risks actual corruption. It is time to end that risk.
Alabama’s chief election official suggested nearly 700 people in the state may have committed voter fraud in an August runoff election, but a new review of records by local election judges shows that number is considerably exaggerated.
John Merrill (R), the Alabama secretary of state, sent the names of 674 people to election judges last month, saying his office believed they may have voted in the state’s Democratic primary and then in a GOP runoff between Sen. Luther Strange and Roy Moore in September for Strange’s U.S. Senate seat. The state banned this so-called crossover voting in May and the September runoff was the first time the law was in effect.
On Monday, the deadline for probate judges to submit their review of Merrill’s names, it’s clear the final number of those suspected of illegal voting will be far less than what the secretary of state claimed.
“I’m a little skeptical of these disclosure-type proposals that are floating around, which strikes me would mostly penalize American citizens trying to use the internet and to advertise,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview that aired Saturday….
Speaking with Hugh Hewitt for his weekend MSNBC program, McConnell also signaled that Russians should not be able to have the free speech protections to which Americans are entitled by the Constitution.
“In any event, the First Amendment shouldn’t apply to foreigners,” McConnell said.
Hadar Aviram, Allyson Bragg, and Chelsea Lewis have posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming Annual Review of Law and Social Science). Here is the abstract:
Crime control and prisons have featured prominently in electoral campaigns, yet currently and formerly incarcerated people are a profoundly disenfranchised constituency in the United States. This article examines the extent to which this population and its concerns have been excluded from American electoral politics. Starting with the philosophical debate on the extent of the right to vote, the article examines the scope of felon disenfranchisement in the United States, including comparative perspectives, policies in states that allow voting within prisons, and eligibility to run for office with a criminal record. The article also examines the problematic underlying issue of racial exclusion via felon disenfranchisement; the impact of disenfranchisement on civic engagement and recidivism; and the perspectives of disenfranchised, formerly incarcerated people. The article ends with thoughts on the prospects of bipartisan reform of voting rights.
A Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s oldest son last year says he indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election and asked her for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said in a two-and-a-half-hour interview in Moscow that she would tell these and other things to the Senate Judiciary Committee on condition that her answers be made public, something it hasn’t agreed to. She has received scores of questions from the committee, which is investigating possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Veselnitskaya said she’s also ready — if asked — to testify to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Not sure why anyone should consider this person a credible witness.
But expelling Menendez — even if he is convicted of a felony — might not be that easy.
Republicans need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to agree to expel a member, which means they would need Democratic votes. With partisan tensions so high — Democrats are still bitter that Republicans denied President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland the seat last year, among a host of other issues — they are in no mood to cooperate with the GOP majority.
In addition, New Jersey voters are about to pick a new governor. Democrat Phil Murphy is leading in the polls. If Murphy wins and takes office in January, he could replace Menendez with a Democrat, so the party would have incentive to delay rather than allow Christie to choose a new senator.
Democrats might even support Menendez staying in office even if Murphy takes over as governor. In private, several Democratic senators and aides said they’re not feeling any political pressure yet to cut ties to Menendez if he’s convicted. That might change if he’s found guilty, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Donald Trump — joined by editorial pages across the country — turn up the heat on them. But for now, Democrats remain committed to supporting Menendez through at least January, if not longer.
John Fortier and Don Palmer for the BPC.
Not since the death of poll taxes and literacy tests in the 1960s has access to the ballot box been so under siege. And as the march toward Election Day 2018 begins, the forces that helped abolish those voting obstacles appear to be moving in the opposite direction.
Fueled by conservative Supreme Court rulings, GOP politics and President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, attacks on ballot access now threaten to make voting more of a privilege in the United States than a constitutional right, say voting rights advocates.
There’s no evidence that Russians were able to change any votes after they were cast, but at the very least, they succeeded in raising questions about the U.S. voting process — questions that James Norton, a homeland security expert and former official in the George W. Bush administration, said aren’t unfounded.
The Fix talked to Norton ahead of Tuesday’s elections. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
While Trump has sought to dismiss these Russia ties as insignificant, or characterized the people involved in them as peripheral figures, it has now become clear that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III views at least some of them as important pieces of his sprawling investigation of Russian meddling in last year’s presidential campaign.
Documents released last week as part of Papadopoulos’s guilty plea show that Mueller’s team is deeply interested in the Trump campaign’s operations, including possible links to Moscow, at even the lowest levels. And Mueller’s interest in Russian contacts may extend to Trump’s business, as well, with the special counsel’s office recently asking for records related to a failed 2015 proposal for a Moscow Trump Tower, according to a person familiar with the request.
Two Russian state institutions with close ties to Vladimir Putin funded substantial investments in Twitter and Facebook through a business associate of Jared Kushner, leaked documents reveal.
The investments were made through a Russian technology magnate, Yuri Milner, who also holds a stake in a company co-owned by Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House adviser.
The discovery is likely to stir concerns over Russian influence in US politics and the role played by social media in last year’s presidential election. It may also raise new questions for the social media companies and for Kushner.
Update: More from the NYT.
Jon Grinspan NYT oped:
One hundred and fifty years ago this month, ex-slaves lined up across the South, clutching their ballots, joining the first elections in which large numbers of black Southerners participated.
One year ago, on Nov. 8, Americans voted in another historic election. Donald Trump lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College. On the strength of this mandate, he began an inquiry into alleged voter fraud, raising the very real specter of voter suppression.
These two anniversaries are part of the same story of voting rights. It cannot be told as a succession of amendments and laws protecting ever greater freedoms. But neither is it simply a tale of dreams deferred and disenfranchisement. Rather, the vote has expanded and contracted, through law and custom.
David Remnick does a devastating interview with John Fund.
Donald Trump memorably claimed, without a shred of evidence, that millions of votes cast by undocumented immigrants had given Hillary Clinton the popular vote in the 2016 election. More circumspect conservatives argue that voter fraud is a real problem requiring more stringent checks on voting; their opponents see this position as a pretext for voter suppression of groups that favor Democratic candidates. Here, three views on voter fraud: a Kansas lawyer who defended a woman charged with fraud; the columnist John Fund, who argues that voter fraud may exist widely, whether we see it or not; and Lorraine Minnite, a political-science professor who researched the topic exhaustively, and who tells the staff writer Jelani Cobb that purposeful fraud in the electoral system essentially does not exist.
Fewer than one in five polling places were fully accessible to voters with disabilities during the 2016 general election, a government report shows — a finding that has prompted federal officials to recommend the Justice Department adopt stricter compliance rules.
The report released Thursday by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office comes less than a week before mayoral elections in Atlanta and New York, elections for governor in New Jersey and Virginia and a special U.S. House election in Utah, and gives a window of only a year to address problems before the 2018 congressional elections.
Frustrated with the Justice Department’s reluctance to investigate his political opponents, President Trump on Friday said he would like the agency to run itself, but he and “a lot of people” are disappointed in the top federal law enforcement agency.
“I’m really not involved with the Justice Department, I’d like to let it run itself,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he left the White House for an 11-day trip to Asia. “But honestly, they should be looking at the Democrats.”
Mr. Trump on Thursday acknowledged that presidents are not supposed to interfere with Justice Department investigations, but he weighed in anyway with a series of Twitter posts early Friday morning and said the department should investigate the Democrats’ activity during the 2016 campaign. The American public, he said, “deserves it.”
And here was my response on Twitter to the President’s tweet that Hillary Clinton broke the law with her joint fundraising committee with the DNC (click on link to see full tweetstorm):
It is actually activity made legal by the Roberts Supreme Court https://t.co/ZqV0TyiAjc
— Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) November 3, 2017
Kate Ackley for Roll Call:
The House Republican tax plan would upend a longstanding measure, known as the Johnson Amendment, that prohibits politicking from the pulpit, and critics say it could turn churches into new conduits for political money.
Under current law, churches, charities and other 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations are prohibited from endorsing political candidates. The bill released Thursday would allow churches to make statements about political campaigns and candidates in the course of religious services and activities, according to section 5201 of the measure.
A pastor, for example, could endorse a candidate for office, or oppose one, during Sunday service.
On the phone Gary told me the DNC had needed a $2 million loan, which the campaign had arranged.
“No! That can’t be true!” I said. “The party cannot take out a loan without the unanimous agreement of all of the officers.”
“Gary, how did they do this without me knowing?” I asked. “I don’t know how Debbie relates to the officers,” Gary said. He described the party as fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Bernie camp. The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse. Under FEC law, an individual can contribute a maximum of $2,700 directly to a presidential campaign. But the limits are much higher for contributions to state parties and a party’s national committee.
Individuals who had maxed out their $2,700 contribution limit to the campaign could write an additional check for $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund—that figure represented $10,000 to each of the 32 states’ parties who were part of the Victory Fund agreement—$320,000—and $33,400 to the DNC. The money would be deposited in the states first, and transferred to the DNC shortly after that. Money in the battleground states usually stayed in that state, but all the other states funneled that money directly to the DNC, which quickly transferred the money to Brooklyn.
“Wait,” I said. “That victory fund was supposed to be for whoever was the nominee, and the state party races. You’re telling me that Hillary has been controlling it since before she got the nomination?”
Gary said the campaign had to do it or the party would collapse.
“That was the deal that Robby struck with Debbie,” he explained, referring to campaign manager Robby Mook. “It was to sustain the DNC. We sent the party nearly $20 million from September until the convention, and more to prepare for the election.”
Former Democratic party leader Donna Brazile called the Hillary Clinton campaign’s takeover of party fundraising a “cancer.” Writing in Politico Thursday, Brazile said it “broke my heart” to discover that her predecessor as party chair had given the Clinton campaign power over the Democratic National Committee’s “finances, strategy, and all the money raised” during her primary battle with Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Brazile inherited the DNC chair position from Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who handed the Clinton campaign keys to the party fundraising apparatus through a joint fundraising group called the Hillary Victory Fund: an agreement between the Clinton campaign, the DNC and 32 state parties to raise campaign funds together. The power of that agreement, which effectively allowed Clinton to avoid campaign limits by funneling donations through state parties, was a direct result of a split 2014 Supreme Court decision in which the court’s Chief Justice John Roberts called worries about such arrangments “hypothetical” and “divorced from reality.”
But campaign finance experts say the scenario, far from being hypothetical, may be the new political reality.
“This situation shows that if anyone is divorced from reality, it was the chief justice in assuming they wouldn’t take advantage of this,” Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy and external affairs for Common Cause, a non-partisan government watchdog group, told International Business Times.
The case in question is McCutcheon v. FEC, a suit brought by Shaun McCutcheon, a Republican activist from Alabama. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor, striking down a federal limit on the total amount individuals could give to parties, candidates and committees each election cycle, which at the time was $123,300.
As executives from Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Twitter Inc. face congressional committees this week over concerns that Russian agents used their platforms in order to influence the 2016 election, a Democratic member of the Federal Election Commission says the regulatory agency has limited power to increase the transparency of online political advertisements compared to Congress.
“What we’re working on right now at the FEC is just the smallest possible step forward on this,” Ellen Weintraub, who has served on the commission since 2002, said in a Monday phone interview.
Philadelphia Inquirer on some absentee ballot vote buying allegations:
Voice recorder in his pocket, Rodney Cotton, 51, got out of the private detectives’ car and headed for the Gilliam for Mayor headquarters on Atlantic Avenue.
As the two retired state troopers watched from a distance Saturday, Cotton went inside, then emerged and got into a white van driven by Craig Callaway, a city Democratic Party activist known for quarterbacking exhaustive vote-by-mail operations. The van left for Mays Landing, where the old Atlantic County courthouse was open for special Saturday hours to process ballots for Tuesday’s election.
Cotton would later report to the detectives that Callaway paid him $30 to obtain and sign for a messenger ballot for an Atlantic City man whom he said he did not know, and that rather than delivering that ballot to the man — as required by law — he handed it directly to Callaway, who put it in his pocket.
Some may take solace in the commission’s quixotic search for non-existent evidence. Perhaps the commission is fading into well-deserved oblivion.
We’re more worried. The commission’s lack of transparency and visible accomplishment could be a smoke-screen designed to protect it from criticism and embarrassment until next year, when it can drop dubious recommendations and unsubstantiated claims just weeks before the mid-term elections.
This one is my favorite so far:
Dan Tokaji has posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming Yale Law Journal Forum). Here is the abstract:
The most recent presidential election highlighted deep seated problems in American democracy that existing voting rights law cannot fix. This Essay employs the term “vote dissociation” to refer to a species of voting rights injury that is qualitatively different from both vote denial and vote dilution. A growing body of social science research documents the severance of the vote from its central function of ensuring that all members of our political community are accorded equal concern by elected officials. At the core of vote dissociation is the manner in which concentrated wealth translates into political power, with the concomitant effects of disconnecting less affluent voters from policymaking and exacerbating political polarization. Combatting vote dissociation requires that we understand the diminished political influence of less affluent voters as an injury to the constitutional right to vote.
Looking forward to reading this!
The Georgia attorney general’s office will no longer represent the state’s top elections official in an elections integrity lawsuit filed three days before a crucial computer server was quietly wiped clean.
The lawsuit aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily questioned touchscreen election technology, which does not provide an auditable paper trail.
The server in question was a statewide staging location for key election-related data. It made headlines in June after a security expert disclosed a gaping security hole that wasn’t fixed for six months after he first reported it to election authorities. Personal data was exposed for Georgia’s 6.7 million voters, as were passwords used by county officials to access files.
No explanation given. This seems very unusual.
Top lawyers from Facebook and Twitter said Tuesday that Russian-linked posts and advertisements placed on the social networks after Election Day sought to sow doubt about President Donald Trump’s victory.
Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch told a Senate Judiciary panel that content generated by a Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency after Nov. 8 centered on “fomenting discord about the validity of [Trump’s] election.” That’s a change from Russia’s pre-election activity, which was largely centered on trying to denigrate Hillary Clinton, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a January report.
The problem with Russia’s use of online platforms was not its foreignness, but its falsity. To be sure, foreigners—individuals and corporations as well as governments—may be barred from engaging in express advocacy for or against the election of an American candidate (“Vote for Smith,” “Vote against Jones,” and the functional equivalent of such express electioneering). That’s because foreigners are not American members of “our national political community” (to quote the relevant court decision on this point) and can be barred from participating directly in America’s elections.
But much of the messaging that apparently came from Russian sources did not involve direct electioneering. Instead, it involved political topics in general—race relations, immigration, gun regulation, and so forth—rather than the election of candidates. While these messages were intended to affect election outcomes, that alone doesn’t make them electioneering for First Amendment purposes. If these generally political, but not specifically electoral, messages were sent by Americans, and if they were not demonstrably false, then they would be fully protected by the First Amendment. It would not matter their point of view: for gun control or against, pro-choice or pro-life, liberal or conservative, or whatever. This would be so whether these political messages were in print or online. And if it turned out that the same generally political, but not specifically electoral, message had a foreign rather than American author, that fact alone would not change the message’s protection under the First Amendment.
I fundamentally disagree with Ned that the problem is falsity, and I hope I can write something about this soon.
David Cottrell, Michael Herron, and Sean Westwood have written this article for Electoral Studies. Here is the abstract:
As Republican candidate for president and later 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump has claimed repeatedly and vociferously that the 2016 General Election was tainted by massive voter fraud. Here we use aggregate election statistics to study Trump’s claims and focus on non-citizen populations across the country, state-specific allegations directed at California, New Hampshire, and Virginia, and the timing of election results. Consistent with existing literature, we do not uncover any evidence supportive of Trump’s assertions about systematic voter fraud in 2016. Our results imply neither that there was no fraud at all in the 2016 General Election nor that this election’s administration was error-free. They do strongly suggest, however, that the expansive voter fraud concerns espoused by Donald Trump and those allied with him are not grounded in any observable features of the 2016 election.
Peter St. Onge for News and Observer ed board:
We looked at more than a dozen op-eds, interviews and projects that Persily has participated in during the last decade. He’s commented on court decisions involving North Carolina cases – as Strach notes in his filing – but Persily’s analysis of those cases wasn’t particularly controversial or partisan. Still, Republicans should be worried about the maps that Persily might draw – not because he’s biased against the GOP, but because he’s biased against voters being disenfranchised.
A three judge state court, on remand from the NC Supreme Court, unanimously held that the changes to the Election board rules came up as a nonjusticiable political question, meaning the courts were without the power to reach the merits. In the alternative, the lower court held that the changes to the composition of the elections board did not violate the separation of powers guaranteed by the state constitution.
The issue will now be appealed to the state Supreme Court, where Democratic judges outnumber Republican judges. These changes were put in place by the NC General Assembly just as a Democrat was elected governor, so as to weaken the governor’s appointment powers over the elections board.
The threat of serving hard time for failing to disclose foreign lobbying work is rattling Washington’s multi-billion dollar influence industry following Monday’s 12-count indictment against Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates.
And although the charges have largely been seen as a blow to the White House, Monday’s actions by special prosecutor Robert Mueller also sent shivers down the spines of Washington’s lobbyists, both Democrats and Repulicans.
“It’s a swampy place, and the swampy stink knows no partisan allegiance,” said one senior Democratic congressional aide.
Manafort and Gates, who allegedly failed to disclose the full extent of their work on behalf of the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions, are now being charged under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a 1930s era law aimed at curbing the influence of pro-German propaganda ahead of World War II.
In the last half century, the Justice Department has brought only a handful of enforcement actions against lobbyists for violations of FARA. That lack of prosecution resulted in a proliferation of under-the-radar lobbying. Now Washington’s cottage industry of consultants and public affairs specialists can only wonder if that era has come to an end.
The new ad from Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a hub of the Koch donor network, comes at Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) from a surprising angle — attacking her as a foe of the little guy. In the spot, one of three now running in Wisconsin, a narrator talks over hard-rocking guitar and images of blue-collar workers.
The guilty plea of a 30-year-old campaign aide — so green that he listed Model United Nations in his qualifications — shifted the narrative on Monday of the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russia: Court documents revealed that Russian officials alerted the campaign, through an intermediary in April 2016, that they possessed thousands of Democratic emails and other “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
That was two months before the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee was publicly revealed and the stolen emails began to appear online. The new court filings provided the first clear evidence that Trump campaign aides had early knowledge that Russia had stolen confidential documents on Mrs. Clinton and the committee, a tempting trove in a close presidential contest.
By the time of a crucial meeting in June of last year, when Donald Trump Jr. and other senior Trump campaign officials met with a Russian lawyer offering damaging information on Mrs. Clinton, some may have known for weeks that Russia had material likely obtained by illegal hacking, the new documents suggested. The disclosures added to the evidence pointing to attempts at collaboration between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, but they appeared to fall short of proof that they conspired in the hacking or other illegal acts.
….because, among other things, he attended a conference in 2006 and “Anita Earls, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, worked for the center [hosting the conference] at the time.”
Facebook will inform lawmakers this week that roughly 126 million Americans may have been exposed to content generated on its platform by the Russian government-linked troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency between June 2015 and August 2017, CNN has learned.
That estimate, which is equivalent to more than half of the total U.S. voting population, offers a new understanding of the scope of Russia’s use of social media to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and in American society generally.
In written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch says that 29 million people were served content directly from the Internet Research Agency, and that after sharing among users is accounted for, a total of “approximately 126 million people” may have seen it.
A professor with close ties to the Russian government told an adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign in April 2016 that Moscow had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to court documents unsealed Monday.
The adviser, George Papadopoulos, has pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about that conversation. The plea represents the most explicit evidence connecting the Trump campaign to the Russian government’s meddling in last year’s election.
“They have dirt on her,” the professor told him, according to the documents. “They have thousands of emails.”
From the unsealed statement:
Notably, the arrest was in July and the indictment was revealed today, and today’s statement includes the following tantalizing note which could well indicate that Papadopolous has been cooperating and wearing a wire:
The Papadopolous plea is quite different.It shows a Trump foreign policy advisor in active communication with what appear to be Russian government officials or spies trying to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, arrange meetings with Russian government officials (even Vladimir Putin, rather ludicrously) and solicit Russian support. That an active foreign policy advisor was taking these actions while in active communication with the campaign about those actions is quite damning. An unnamed campaign official sent back word that a meeting with Trump himself was not happening.
Papadopolous was arrested in July and has apparently been cooperating since. I see no purely legal reason why the news of his arrest in July and guilty plea in early October had to be revealed today, other than keeping the news from Manafort. One other potential reason is that one of the ‘campaign officials’ referenced in the Papadopolous plea appears to be Manafort. It sends two clear messages. First, we’re not at all done with collusion and we’re making progress. Second, we arrested Papadopolous in July and he pled out in October and no one knew. So don’t think you have any idea what we have.
A government watchdog group is suing Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, accusing her office of allowing voters to be illegally purged from the state’s voting roles.
Common Cause Indiana is asking a federal judge to put a stop what it calls “discriminatory and illegal” practices the Republican secretary of state’s office adopted in the wake of new state law that went into effect in July. Lawson’s general counsel has dismissed the allegations as “baseless.”
At issue is how the election division in Lawson’s office allows local officials to remove voters from their rolls if it is believed that they have moved to another state.
More than 160 political committees and similar groups together owe the government more than $1.3 million worth of unpaid fines, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of Federal Election Commission and U.S. Treasury records since 2000.
Some of those unpaid fines amount to as little as $10 while others soar into five figures. Many cases concern all-but-forgotten also-ran political candidates, but others involve political luminaries — the Rev. Al Sharpton, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, among them. Super PACs and politically active nonprofits have joined the nonpayment parade of late. And there’s little evidence any of that cash will soon begin to roll in.