Monthly Archives: March 2012

“The Impact of Petition Signing on Voter Turnout”

Janine A. Parry, Daniel A. Smith and Shayne Henry have written this article for Political Behavior.  Here  is the abstract:

Generally speaking, campaign-related contact motivates voters. One form of such contact not much explored in the voter mobilization literature is the petitioning for ballot initiatives that occurs with considerable frequency in about half the states and even more localities. Using newly-available data that allow us to match individual petition signers with their subsequent election behavior, we explore the role of having had a hand in a ballot measure’s qualifying stage in propelling individual voters to the polls. Specifically, we perform multivariate analysis on a random sample of 1,000 registered Arkansas voters, 1,100 registered Florida voters, and all 71,119 registered voters in Gainesville, Florida to measure the influence of petition-signing in spurring voter turnout. We find marginal effects in the statewide samples, but substantial and significant turnout effects in the Gainesville municipal election—an off-cycle, low-profile election. Furthermore, the effect of petition-signing—across all of our samples—is strongest among irregular, as compared to habitual, voters. These findings are in keeping with recent campaign mobilization experimental research and comport with previous findings on the “educative effects” of ballot measures on voter turnout.

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Breaking News: Court Decision Could Lead to More Disclosure of Money Funding Election Ads

In a 31-page opinion, a federal district court in Van Hollen v. FEC has just ruled that the FEC’s rules implementing an important piece of McCain Feingold’s disclosure laws are improper.  Those rules narrow the circumstances in which money funding “electioneering communications” needs to be disclosed to the FEC.

While Super PACs are already must disclose their donors to run election ads, this is not true as to most campaign ads run by 501c4s, c6’s like the Chamber of Commerce and others.

It is not clear what will happen next.  Here are some possibilities.

1. The FEC will appeal, and the appellate court will reverse.

2. The FEC does not appeal, and tries very quickly to get new regulations out.

3. The FEC does not appeal, and gets no new regulations out, leading to questions, and possibly a request for an advisory opinion on what these groups must now disclose as to their contibutors.  The FEC could well deadlock on this question.

4. Groups will ignore the language of the statute, and reform groups will file complaints at the FEC against them for failing to disclose their contributors.

5. Someone will file a new suit in federal court claiming that the statute, as now construed by the court, violates the First Amendment speech and associational rights of contributors to these organizations.

Probably there are a few more possibilities.  Of course, this coming in the throes of the election season makes this all the more dicey.

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“A Court of Radicals: If the justices strike down Obamacare, it may have grave political implications for the court itself.”

I have written this Essay at Slate. It begins:

In the middle of this week’s three-day health care oralargumentmarathon at the Supreme Court, the justices pondered how Congress would react if the court struck down the individual mandate and perhaps either part or all of the rest of the 2,700-page health care law. Justice Kennedy, recognizing that the current hyperpolarized Congress cannot get much done, asked if the court in thinking about congressional reaction to its ruling should consider “the real Congress or a hypothetical Congress.”

Justice Kennedy’s question introduced a dose of realism into the debate. Of course the current Congress won’t overcome its differences and do anything constructive if the court kills Obamacare. For the foreseeable future, the court’s word on the health care law will be final.

And if that word is a death knell to Obamacare, it would likely mark the end of any remaining illusions of a “hypothetical Supreme Court.” You know which court I’m talking about—the one where justices act as “umpires,” calling balls and strikes, discovering but not making law, acting with humility and judicial minimalism. The one which Chief Justice John Roberts promised the country at his 2005 confirmation hearing.

After discussing the electoral implications of such a ruling, its likely effect on the Senate confirmation process for Supreme Court justices, and partisan realignment on the Supreme Court, it concludes:

I have no idea whether or not Justice Kennedy or Chief Justice Roberts will blink when faced with the political implications of a ruling striking down the health care law, the signature achievement of President Obama’s first term. But such a decision could not only influence whether or not Obama gets a second term; it could also change in fundamental ways how justices are chosen and what the public thinks of them and the institution they represent.

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“Activities of former Cain operative scrutinized”

Daniel Bice: “No Quarter reported last year that Prosperity USA helped Cain get his fledgling campaign off the ground by originally footing the bill for such items as iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas, according to internal records. Expenses totaling nearly $40,000 are listed in Prosperity USA’s internal documents as “due from FOH,” a reference to Friends of Herman Cain, the name of his campaign committee. A number of election law experts have said these payments for campaign events appeared to cross the line.”

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“Corrupt Intentions: Bribery, Unlawful Gratuity, and Honest-Services Fraud”

Alex Stein has posted this draft on SSRN (Law and Contemporary Problems). Here is the abstract:

This Article develops an economic understanding of bribery, unlawful gratuity, and honest-services fraud offenses. Given the inherently transactional and private nature of these offenses, courts should elicit the parties’ intent from the economics of their exchange. When the exchange yields the parties a benefit not available on the open market, then – depending on the exchange’s particulars – it constitutes bribery, unlawful gratuity, or honest-services fraud. Based on this simple insight, I criticize the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence of criminal corruption.

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