“Lawmakers denounce Florida elections chief a second time”

Miami Herald:

Gov. Rick Scott’s elections chief faced open hostility from Senate Republicans for a second time Thursday for opposing a bipartisan bill to allow online voter registration by 2017.

Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that he doesn’t have a plan to implement the change and is worried about having to coordinate with 67 counties while his agency and the state highway safety department upgrade their databases — which are the backbone of the system used to verify voters’ identities.

To placate Detzner, lawmakers pushed back the start of the online registration system to October 2017. But he’s still fighting a way to offer a new option to make it easier to register to vote that’s favored by every election supervisor, most legislators and the League of Women Voters.

Hard as it is to believe, Florida made things worse when it got rid of Secretaries of State elected in partisan elections (remember Katharine Harris?) and moved to make the position more political as a gubernatorial appointee.

“Hillary Clinton’s Bad Campaign Finance Ideas; She’s right that money in politics is a problem. But suggesting a constitutional amendment is foolish.”

I have written this piece for Slate.  It begins:

People are deservedly angry about the unprecedented flow of money into our elections. On Wednesday a postal worker literally risked his life to land a gyrocopter near the U.S. Capitol to protest the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United. The group 99Rise keeps risking jail time by sneaking into the Supreme Court and surreptitiously filming protesters’ outbursts in open court against decisions that have construed the First Amendment to prohibit most limits on money in politics.

So it is understandable that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is trying to harness some of that progressive energy by announcing that campaign finance reform is one of the “four big fights” that her campaign will emphasize. But Clinton’s early call for a constitutional amendment to fix campaign finance problems is counterproductive and will only make things worse


Freedom of Expression Scholars Conference 3 at Yale

I’m delighted to be on a plenary panel about campaign finance and the First Amendment with Tabatha Abu El-Haj and moderated by Jack Balkin at Yale’s 3rd Freedom of Expression Scholars conference on May 2 and 3.  The conference is co-sponsored by the Floyd Abrams Institute at Yale–and I’ll be presenting the two chapters of my upcoming Plutocrats United book which deal with First Amendment critics of reform, including Floyd.  Should be fun.


More on Support for Literacy Tests Etc.

In this post, I asked if anyone besides Ann Coulter on the national political stage has voiced support for literacy tests in recent years. Thanks to those who passed on more information.

The Brad Blog reports that Tom Tancredo did in 2010.  (More from Zack Roth (from when he was at TPM)).

FOX and Friends also seems literacy test-curious.

Steve Benen reports that Representative Ted Yoho also made noises supporting property requirements.


“2014 Eagleton Poll California RCV Survey Results”


As part of a broader project funded by the Democracy Fund, the Eagleton Poll at Rutgers University has conducted two polls—one in 2013 and another in 2014—that explore the impact of RCV on city elections in the United States. Each poll surveyed a random sample of more than 2,400 likely voters, the great majority of whom had voted in their local election that year. The surveys were conducted in English and Spanish and on cell and landline telephones.

The latest report explores the socioeconomic and demographic dynamics of support for and experience with RCV in the California Bay Area in November  2014. Likely voters in 11 California cities were polled: four cities holding RCV elections (Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and San Leandro), and 7 control cities with demographics and social structures comparable to a surveyed RCV city.  Key findings are summarized below.


“Partisan Balance Requirements in the Age of New Formalism”

Ron Krotoszynski, Jonjerica Hodge, and Wesley Wintermyer have posted this draft on SSRN (forthcoming, Notre Dame Law Review).  Here is the abstract:

This Article considers the constitutional status of mandatory partisan balance requirements for presidential appointments to independent federal agencies. Since the 1880s, Congress routinely has included partisan balance requirements, along with fixed terms of office and “good cause” limitations on the President’s removal power, as standard design elements in its template for independent federal agencies. Until recently, both federal courts and most legal scholars have assumed the constitutionality of such restrictions on the President’s appointment power — and with good reason, given the ubiquity of partisan balance requirements and the executive branch’s historical acquiescence to them. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in Free Enterprise Fund threatens to upend this well-settled consensus; the decision squarely holds that Congress may not unduly attenuate the President’s power to supervise and control executive branch entities — including independent agencies — without violating the separation of powers doctrine.

In this Article, we posit that partisan balance requirements, at least when used in conjunction with fixed terms of office and good cause removal limitations, create a problem of at least equal magnitude to the problem identified in Free Enterprise Fund (namely, unduly insulating executive officers with policymaking authority via a two-tiered good cause removal limitation). Under the logic of Free Enterprise Fund, requiring the President to appoint political opponents to principal offices within the executive branch, and then prohibiting the President from removing such appointees except for good cause, unduly compromises the President’s ability to supervise and control these agencies. Although Humphrey’s Executor settled the constitutional status of good cause limits on the President’s removal power for principal officers serving on independent federal agencies, Free Enterprise Fund’s broadly formalist reading of the Vesting and Faithful Execution Clauses strongly suggests that the combination of a partisan balance requirement with a good cause removal limit constitutes a bridge too far in the age of new formalism.


“Mr. Noble in His Gyrocopter”

Bauer blogs:

Long in the field of campaign finance, well versed in its triumphs and tribulations, Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center objects strongly to the suggestions for disclosure reform I co-authored with Professor Samuel Issacharoff.  It’s all a magic trick, he argues, that accomplishes the reverse of its stated intention: it moves contributions into the dark, raises the risk corruption and disregards the lessons of Watergate.  The public is not “gullible”: it won’t buy it.

It is difficult not to imagine that Mr. Noble is engaged in theater of his own, something like the aerial feat performed yesterday by the mailman in a gyrocopter who touched down on the Capitol grounds with a similarly passionate appeal for campaign finance reform.  This gentleman, undoubtedly sincere but less clearly prudent,  entitled his project “Kitty Hawk”, after the Wright Brothers’ fabled flight in North Carolina in 1903.  Larry, if he were maneuvering a craft, might have  named it “Watergate,” and he would have refreshed the message by 70 years, with only another four decades to go to cross over into the current century and to the present time.


“Voter ID Laws: A View from the Public”

Gronke, Hicks, McKee, Stewart and Dunham have posted this draft on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The proliferation of voter identification laws in the American states has spawned a growing literature examining their effects on participation and the factors conditioning their enactment. In this study we move in a different direction, focusing on public opinion toward these laws. Superficially, it appears that voter ID is a valence issue. Public opinion shows broad support, primarily as a way to safeguard the integrity of the ballot box. We explore this supposed consensus on voter ID, probing the rationales and explanations put forth for requiring strict photo ID. Specifically, we draw upon a battery of questions in the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) to determine the degree to which respondents’ attitudes toward voter ID laws are influenced by beliefs about the prevalence of voter fraud, knowledge of existing voter ID laws, and opinions regarding the possible intentions and purposes for photo voter ID laws. Our findings make it evident that although large majorities favor strict photo ID laws, the factors associated with support for these laws vary by partisanship. It is not simply that Republicans strongly favor strict photo ID laws and Democrats are split on the matter. Instead, Republican popular support for strict photo ID laws cuts across virtually all demographic groups, while Democratic support is much more likely to vary as a function of factors such as ideology, education, attention to politics, and racial resentment in the case of white respondents. The partisan division in public opinion over voter ID laws strongly suggests an elite-to-mass message transmission reminiscent of the broader state of polarized party politics.


“Reports Reveal Elaborate Spending Up Until Schock’s Resignation”

NBC Chicago:

An examination by NBC5 Investigates shows the former 18th District congressman spent more than $42,000 on travel expenses, most of it on airfare, with one notable $4,000 stay at the swank White Elephant Hotel in Nantucket. The congressman dropped another $3,407 for gift bowls at Tiffany’s, and more than $3,000 at Garrett’s Popcorn. The federal records indicate that his American Express bills topped more than $75,000.


MT Disclosure Law Coming

Press release via email:


Governor Bullock: Montana Elections Are About to Become the Most Transparent in the Nation


HELENA – Governor Steve Bullock today released the following statement on the passage of the Montana Disclose Act:

“Montana elections are about to become the most transparent in the nation, requiring those trying to influence our elections to come out of the dark money shadows. Our elections should be decided by Montanans, not shadowy dark money groups.”


Ann Coulter Reaffirms Her Support for Literacy Tests

Media Matters has the video.

In my upcoming book, I was looking to find examples of modern politicians or pundits (of either party) supporting (fairly applied) literacy tests.  Coulter was the only person I found, but the reference was a bit old.  Well now I have a 2015 reference to Coulter.

Can anyone point to anyone in Congress or on the national stage who agrees (publicly) with Coulter?


“Magical Thinking About Reform”

Larry Noble:

Like any good magic show, misdirection is at the heart of Robert Bauer’s and Samuel Issacharoff’s op-ed, Keep Shining the Light on ‘Dark Money’, published in Politico on April 12th.  Directing the audience’s attention to the need for greater transparency of “dark money,” they talk about the need for “[r]eformed reporting requirements carefully drawn to bring into public view this spending while also addressing concerns about donor privacy and harassment.”  Then, right before our eyes, their reform resulting in greater transparency wondrously becomes a proposal to transform the current $200 threshold for reporting the identity of individuals who make political contributions into a threshold of $2,700 and to require reporting only during a narrow window sometime between 30 to 120 days before an election.  Since the maximum an individual can contribute to a federal candidate is $2,700, this proposal would magically make vanish the identity of every individual who contributes directly to a federal candidate and turn those contributions into a heretofore unseen animal: a large dark money contribution made directly to a federal candidate.  At the same time, contributions from party committees, leadership PACs and corporate and union PACs would not have to be disclosed unless the contributions exceeded $2,700 and were made right before an election.


“Jeb Bush’s noncampaign campaign honesty problem”

Adam Smith:

Put aside the legitimate questions about how Bush is skirting campaign finance laws – or breaking them, as some experts allege. How about that quaint notion that candidates for America’s highest office ought to tell the truth?

Does anyone actually believe Jeb Bush has not decided he is running for president? Perhaps that was the case in January, as he was just beginning to meet with donors and voters and reporters and had not yet seen how he would be received, how it would feel on the campaign trail. That no longer holds water, and it hasn’t for a long time.


“Language Accommodations and Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act: Reporting Requirements as a Potential Solution to the Compliance Gap”

Matthew Higgins has written this excellent student note for the Stanford Law Review.  Here is the abstract:

Certain voters with limited English proficiency (LEP) are afforded affirmative accommodations under section 203 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Section 203’s provisions, however, are often critically misunderstood and only partially implemented. The law’s substantial compliance gap stems largely from its complex and fact-specific mandates as well as its requirement that election jurisdictions themselves determine the extent of their own affirmative duties.

In an effort to partially close section 203’s compliance gap and promote universal enforcement of federal election laws, this Note adapts a recent proposal requiring the advance disclosure of federal voting changes to the language assistance context. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, academics and members of Congress have proposed a requirement that all election jurisdictions report to the local media and the government certain changes to their election laws before those changes take effect. This Note modifies and applies this general framework to address the low compliance rates of the VRA’s language assistance provisions.

This proposal requires all covered language jurisdictions to publicly present a section 203 compliance plan six months before an election. It represents a cost-effective way to inform election officials of their particularized legal obligations and to more efficiently leverage third-party resources to ensure that the language assistance provisions are consistently and properly enforced.


“Town of Mamakating, Village of Bloomingburg Charge Shalom Lamm with Racketeering In Federal Court”

Press release via email:

In a damning federal lawsuit filed today, two Hudson Valley communities argue that Shalom Lamm, a real estate developer seeking to take control of local government for his personal benefit, has engaged in racketeering activity consisting of repeated instances of deception, corruption, bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and voter fraud. The suit goes on to assert that, to secure his hold on local government and to divert attention away from his actions, Lamm has engaged in repeated lawsuits in which he has made false claims of anti-Semitism to mislead would-be sympathizers and intimidate local government officials and agencies.

The Town of Mamakating and the Village of Bloomingburg located within it filed their complaint with the federal court in the Southern District of New York. The complaint details allegations of a pattern of racketeering committed over nearly a decade through lies and deceit, in order to construct a disputed high-density housing development. Allegations include that Lamm secretly purchased large parcels of land, using local resident Duane Roe as his front man. Roe then made fraudulent representations about building a 125-unit luxury weekender golf course community to convince local officials to have the small Village of Bloomingburg annex the targeted land from the Town of Mamakating, and to acquire permitting and zoning approvals over it.  The complaint describes how, after annexation, Lamm then sought to take control of local government to pass additional regulations that benefitted the racketeering enterprise.

In fact, the suit claims, Lamm’s real project was to build a year-round high-density development nearly triple the size at 400 units. Lamm bribed key government officials to ensure his project went through. But for the fraud and bribery, the permitting and approvals would not have been obtained. Furthermore, the complaint asserts that Lamm has secured a monopoly over access to water and municipal sewer services in and around Bloomingburg which will paralyze any efforts at development other than Lamm’s.

The lawsuit centers on allegations of racketeering, opening with:

“The Town and Village are presently under siege in a hostile takeover spearheaded by a racketeering enterprise headed by Shalom Lamm and Kenneth Nakdimen. These men have attempted to exert power and influence in a variety of schemes with the sole goal of controlling these municipalities for the benefit of the racketeering enterprise which they head.

“Lamm and Nakdimen, and the other defendants named herein, have acted through highly sophisticated covert and overt schemes of fraud, bribery, intimidation, and corruptly influencing public officials and governmental institutions – all in violation of state law and the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“R.I.C.O.”) Act.”

Included among the defendants are: Shalom Lamm, Kenneth Nakdimen, Duane Roe, Mark Berentsen, Sullivan Farms II, Inc., Raymond Farms, LLC., Bloomingburg Rentals, LLC., and a number of known co-conspirators who are claimed to have illegally registered to vote in Bloomingburg elections.

“Through corruption and deceit, Defendants have manipulated elected officials and the democratic process to do their bidding and further the racketeering enterprise,” said attorney David Clifford Holland, Esq. “Defendants have led a campaign of voter fraud and advanced real estate development that would negatively impact the natural environment and overrun the limited resources of the 420-resident Village of Bloomingburg. “Hiding such criminality behind artificial claims of anti-Semitism in an effort to bully, intimidate and benefit personally is unethical and appalling. The complaint reveals the extent of the racketeering enterprise’s influence and machinations…so far.”

The suit explains how defendants Lamm, Nakdimen and Roe used the entity Sullivan Farms II, Inc. as “the core vehicle of the racketeering enterprise … to wage a sinister and covert campaign to benefit themselves and the enterprise by ultimately destroying true democratic rule and the institutions of the Town of Mamakating and the Village of Bloomingburg.”

Plaintiffs continue to seek integrity in the local voting process and prosecutions for voting fraud that has become systemic. At the end of March, after Sullivan County District Attorney James Farrell failed for the third time to prosecute those who cast ballots in local elections even after they were found by the Sullivan County Board of Elections to be ineligible to vote, Mamakating and Bloomingburg officials called on New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to independently investigate the claims of election fraud and to halt any further action in two elections in which the final outcome hinges solely on the issue of whether ineligible ballots were unlawfully included in the final tally.

The first election was a September 30, 2014 special election on the dissolution of Bloomingburg, in which 85 village residents voted in favor of the referendum for the Village to be dissolved and placed under Mamakating’s jurisdiction. That majority favoring dissolution was overcome by the inclusion of ineligible votes into the voting pool, and consequently, the referendum was defeated. The second was the March 18, 2015 general election for Village trustee, the results of which were contaminated through ineligible voter registrations. Attorney General Schneiderman has not yet responded.

“When public officials are bribed and corrupted, our democracy is stolen from us,” said attorney Philip T. Simpson, Esq., of the firm of Robinson Brog Leinwand Greene Genovese & Gluck, P.C. “When ballot boxes are stuffed and people’s votes are made worthless, our democracy is stolen from us. Either way, the entire community suffers because decisions large and small are not made in the interest of the community, but in the interest of those who would steal our democracy. The allegations of this lawsuit detail a long pattern of bribery, corruption, fraud, and stealing of elections. It’s critical that those who perpetrated these acts, which would completely uproot our democracy, be prosecuted by the Attorney General or U.S. Attorney before it is too late.”

The full case can be found online. [Corrected link] Attorneys David Holland and Philip Simpson are available to discuss the details of the case.



“E&E Legal Releases a Sierra Club Unearthed Report on Green Groups Record-Breaking Spending on the 2014 Elections; Precious Resources Used to Buy Campaign Ads Instead of Helping the Local Environment”

Press release:

Today, the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), a 501 (c) (3) watchdog group, released an investigatory report analyzing the money green groups spent on the 2014 elections. The report was released through E&E Legal’s recently launched special project, Sierra Club Unearthed, which is an investigatory portal aimed at revealing the extent to which a small group of national hacks have hijacked the Sierra Club and have used it for their own financial and political purposes.

The report details how green groups, including the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and the Environmental Defense Action Fund – to name a few – spent an unprecedented amount of money during the 2014 election cycle supporting leftwing candidates for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and state, and local candidates with virtually nothing to show for it once all the ballots were cast. As the report notes, “The largest and most visible groups, counting only money directly spent on electioneering, bragged about spending upwards of $85 million dollars for the midterms,” which is probably a significant underestimation when you consider other types of non-direct campaign spending such as phone banks, and get-out-the-vote efforts. $40 million of this money was a failed attempt at maintaining the Democrats majority in the U.S. Senate.


No Surprise Dept: Obama Admin. Will Continue to Do Nothing on Campaign Finance Reform

Bloomberg BNA: “The Obama administration has no specific plans to push for stronger campaign finance laws as the 2016 presidential election campaign gears up with predictions of record spending from candidates, super PACs and other organizations, White House spokesman Josh Earnest indicated.”

I will make the case in Plutocrats United that President Obama has been an awful President on this issue, probably the worst we’ve had since the passage of the FECA.


“Hillary Clinton embraces small donors in early fundraising”

Politico reports.

In 2008 and 2012, Obama relied more on small donors than his Republican opponents.  One question is whether that will replicate itself in this election.  (Clinton and/or the DNC could move to more tiered bundlers later on if she’s the (presumptive) general election nominee).  How she starts now may change over time as she becomes less worried about being seen as big, impervious and presumptuous as a candidate.

I write a bit about the greater Democratic success with small donors after 2008 in:

The Transformation of the Campaign Financing Regime for U.S. Presidential Elections (in The Funding of Political Parties, Keith Ewing, Jacob Rowbottom, and Joo-Cheong Tham, eds., Routledge, 2011) and

The Changing Nature of Campaign Financing for Presidential Primary Candidates, in Evolution and Revolution in the Nominations Process (Jack Citrin and David Karol eds., 2009))


“Rapper Pras Michel hit with campaign finance complaint”


Campaign finance watchdogs have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against hip-hop musician Pras Michel — one of the founders of the Fugees — and a politically active company under his control.

In the new complaint, the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 argue that Pras violated the law by giving money to a super PAC through his company without disclosing that he was the source of the funds. Federal lawprohibits making political donations in someone else’s name, which the groups argue was the effect of the corporate contribution.


“Walker’s past campaign ideas go against present GOP orthodoxy”

Fascinating Patrick Marley piece for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

As a state legislator nearly 20 years ago, Gov. Scott Walkerproposed a restructuring of campaign finance laws that goes against today’s Republican orthodoxy and includes provisions that would now be considered unconstitutional.

His proposals from the late 1990s could provide fodder for his GOP opponents who want to blunt the momentum of his all-but-certain presidential campaign.

The ideas offer a contrast to Walker’s current views and the way he has conducted his recent campaigns.

Walker’s campaign has faced an investigation for how it worked with independent groups; the probe has been stalled for more than a year and the state Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on whether it can continue or will be ended for good.

In 1995, Walker was the lead sponsor of a sweeping bill that would have required independent groups to provide scripts of their ads to the government 24 hours before running them; prohibited political action committees from transferring more than $5,000 to one another; and lifted spending limits for candidates who took public money for campaigns if they came under attack from outside groups.

“It’s not the kind of thing I’d suspect Gov. Walker proposing or supporting today,” said Rick Hasen, an election law professor at the University of California, Irvine.

“I’d also point out that people have the right to change their minds over 20 years.”

Some provisions of Walker’s package would be widely considered unconstitutional today because of court rulings, said James Bopp, an Indiana attorney who has won a series of cases broadening political speech rights. Bopp has backed Walker and conservative groups in the campaign finance investigation they have faced.