Monthly Archives: May 2015

“Hastert’s post-Congress life one of political withdrawal and chasing cash”


J. Dennis Hastert’s political winter in Washington has been defined by two seemingly contradictory traits. He shrank almost completely from the spotlight while becoming so dogged in the pursuit of wealth that it puzzled his longtime friends.

After retiring from Congress in 2007, the Illinois Republican did not avail himself of the traditional perks afforded elder statesmen. He didn’t serve on commissions or join think tanks, never became an ambassador and rarely made media appearances to dole out wisdom.

At the same time Hastert, 73, was relentless in pounding the K Street pavement, serving as a rainmaker for a law firm for the past seven years. He wasn’t a regular presence in the Capitol hallways lobbying his old colleagues, but he advised nearly two dozen corporate clients that paid millions for his counsel.

MORE from the NYT.

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“Jeb Bush: ‘I would never’ violate campaign laws”


“I would never do that,” he told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I’m nearing the end of this journey of traveling and listening to people, garnering, trying to get a sense of whether my candidacy would be viable or not. We’re going to completely adhere to the law, for sure. Look, politics is politics. There’s always people that are going to be carping on the sidelines. And should I be a candidate, and that will be in the relatively near future where that decision will be made. There’ll be no coordination at all with any super PAC.”

Note Jeb the Destroyer‘s use of the future tense in the last sentence.

NYT Editorial: The ‘Non-Candidate’ Money Spigot.


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Call for Papers – Voting Rights Act Symposium

From the Cumberland Law Review:

The Cumberland Law Review is doggedly searching for articles, insights, and ideas that implicate a subject that we believe our journal is uniquely situated (and arguably obligated) to explore: a sort of retrospective of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Our host city, Birmingham, Ala., is one of the more prominent characters in our national recollection of the Civil Rights era and the 20th century ills that necessitated legislation such as the VRA and the Civil Rights Act.

In light of the VRA’s 50th anniversary and recent SCOTUS decisions (from Shelby Co. to Ala. Legislative Black Caucus), we think it appropriate to devote enough space in one of our forthcoming editions to an articles symposium on point. As of now, though, the quantity and quality of articles we’ve received along this vein have been underwhelming, so we’re casting a wide net in soliciting contributions from such discerning and intelligent minds as yours.

If you have the time or interest in submitting or pitching articles, or just touching base with thoughts and suggestions re: other people to reach out to, please don’t hesitate to reach out to either me or our Articles Editor, Stewart Alvis. Thanks in advance! Enjoy your summers.


Yours truly,

Walker Mason Beauchamp

Editor-in-Chief, Cumberland Law Review / 205-821-5800


Stewart J. Alvis

Acquisitions Editor, Cumberland Law Review


P.S.—Please feel free to reach out about pieces that are only tangentially related to the VRA, too! We have other pieces in the works that implicate Civil Rights, but not necessarily the VRA or election law. E.g., UNC’s Al Brophy is writing a short legal history for us on early 20th-century Southern jurisprudence, and we’ve uncovered some (hopefully) excerptable material from Judge Horton’s papers (of Scottsboro Boys fame), archived here at our campus library.

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Before the Supreme Court Term Ends, It Could Take Another Blockbuster Elections Case

Kobach v. EAC is getting close to the end of briefing and a decision on whether to take the case. [Update: The government’s brief in opposition is here.]   The case could be a doozy on the question of federal vs. state power in setting the rules for federal elections, and I think there’s a pretty good chance the Supreme Court agrees to hear it. Here was my coverage of the 10th Circuit’s ruling:

Breaking: 10th Circuit, in Major Voting Case, Rejects Kansas and Arizona Citizenship Proof Requirement

You can read the unanimous 10th Circuit opinion in Kobach v. U.S. EAC, reversing the lower court,at this link.  Kansas and Arizona tried to force the federal government to require those who register to vote using a simple federal form for voter registration include proof of citizenship if the voter is a KS or AZ resident. (Update: To be clear, this case concerns only whether AZ or KS have to accept federal form without additional proof of citizenship. For those who register with AZ or KS forms, the states can still demand proof of citizenship.)

The lower court sided with the states, but the federal government won with a reversal on appeal. The case could well be headed to the Supreme Court as a major dispute over federal versus state power in voting.

From the opinion’s conclusion:

Kobach’s and Bennett’s argument that the states’ Qualifications Clause powers trump Congress’ Elections Clause powers is foreclosed by precedent. In ITCA, the Court clearly held that Congress’ Elections Clause powers preempt state laws governing the “Times, Places and Manner” of federal elections, including voter registration laws. 133 S. Ct. at 2253. Citing the Federalist Papers, the Court noted that the Framers expressly rejected giving the states exclusive authority to regulate federal elections because “an exclusive power of regulating elections for the national government, in the hands of the State legislatures, would leave the existence of the Union entirely at their mercy.” Id.Only the dissenting opinion by Justice Thomas endorses the theory that Arizona and Kansas press before this court. Id. at 2266-69 (Thomas, J., dissenting). The dissent proves the point….

In sum, the EAC had valid authority under HAVA to subdelegate decisionmaking authority to its Executive Director relating to the contents of the Federal Form. Under the unique circumstances of this case (involving a quorum-less EAC), an appeal from the Executive Director’s decision to deny the states’ requests to modify the contents of the Federal Form was impracticable. Consequently, the Executive Director’s decision constitutes final agency action. And that action—which fell within the bounds of the subdelegation that the EAC issued when it had a quorum—was procedurally valid.

Contrary to Kobach’s and Bennett’s claims, the NVRA does not impose a ministerial duty on the EAC to approve state requests to change the Federal Form. The Executive Director’s denial of the states’ requests survives our APA review, and the states’ constitutional claims are unavailing. We therefore REVERSE the ruling of the district court and REMAND the case to the district court with instructions to vacate its order instructing the EAC to modify the Federal Form.


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Common Cause “Gerrymander Standard” Winners Will Be Announced Next Week

Last year Common Cause launched the inaugural Democracy Prize Writing Competition to identify the best “gerrymander standard.”  We had the honor of serving as co-chairs of the judging panel.  Our goal was to encourage fresh thinking about a standard for partisan gerrymandering that can be used to challenge some of the most egregious examples of drawing districts for political advantage. With the Supreme Court poised to issue a decision in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, identifying a standard that empowers citizens to challenge unfair maps is more important than ever.

Scholars and students from around the country submitted papers putting forth a wide variety of ideas. Our distinguished panel of judges identified three winning entries.  Each of these papers represents especially thought-provoking and creative scholarship, making important contributions to the study of elections and democracy. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week, we’ll announce each of the winning entries in daily blog posts summarizing their ideas and linking to the papers. All three of the winning papers will be published in Election Law Journal this fall.

We’d like to thank our fellow judges for their hard work and thoughtful analysis of the submissions. Our judging panel included Wayne State University Law School Dean Jocelyn Benson, Duke Law Professor and Center on Law, Race and Politics Director Guy-Uriel Charles, Office of Congressional Ethics Board Member Alison Hayward, and Pepperdine School of Law Professor Derek Muller.

Thanks also to all of those who submitted papers. Many of those we didn’t select represent exciting contributions to the field, which we hope to see in print soon.

Norm Ornstein & Dan Tokaji

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