Monthly Archives: December 2015

Will Republican Lawmakers Sue Pres. Obama Over How He Vetoed Greenhouse Gas Law?

Keep your eye on this issue raised by Professor Robert Spitzer in a WaPo oped:

In his two vetoes, Obama issued a so-called “protective return pocket veto,” whereby he announced a pocket veto and titled his veto message “Memorandum of Disapproval” (the name for a pocket veto message). But he then proceeded to return the two bills to Congress — a return veto. The justification for doing so is always the same: to “leave no doubt that the bill is being vetoed.”

The problem is that this gambit creates doubt because it combines two mutually exclusive actions: a regular veto and a pocket veto. Even more troubling, the history behind this veto mashup — claiming the exercise of a non-return pocket veto while simultaneously returning the bill to Congress — is a presidential power grab designed to stretch the no-override pocket veto into an absolute veto that could be used whenever Congress is not in session, giving the president the very power the Founders sought to deny the office.

This practice traces to former President Gerald Ford’s administration, when the president issued five such dual vetoes. Then-Sen. Edward Kennedy challenged these vetoes in federal district court, where he prevailed. Ford halted the practice and agreed to use a pocket veto only at the end of a two-year session of Congress. Yet the practice was resuscitated by President George H.W. Bush, who claimed to pocket veto two bills that he also returned to Congress. President Bill Clinton did the same thing three times in 2000, and President George W. Bush employed the practice once in 2007. Obama, meanwhile, has used the maneuver five times out of seven total vetoes.

The Republicans’ option is clear: Sue the president, arguing that the vetoes were facially unconstitutional because they combined two mutually exclusive procedures, and because Congress had designated legal agents to receive veto messages. Since Obama withheld his signature, the two bills, instead of being vetoed, should have become law without his signature after ten days.

An off the wall idea? Watch it move on the wall.

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No Wonder Donald Trump Opposes Va Loyalty Oath

A few days ago, Donald Trump tweeted against Virginia’s loyalty oath: “It begins, Republican Party of Virginia, controlled by the RNC, is working hard to disallow independent, unaffiliated and new voters. BAD!”

Well this new analysis from Nate Cohn of NYT’s The Upshot sheds light on Trump’s opposition:

He is strongest among Republicans who are less affluent, less educated and less likely to turn out to vote. His very best voters are self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats. It’s a coalition that’s concentrated in the South, Appalachia and the industrial North, according to data provided to The Upshot by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm.

Mr. Trump’s huge advantage among these groups poses a challenge for his campaign, because it may not have the turnout operation necessary to mobilize irregular voters.


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“How Obama failed to shut Washington’s revolving door”

Josh Gerstein with this year’s most important piece on lobbying:

The vow of a novice Chicago senator to freeze out lobbyists and nail shut the revolving door was no throwaway line in Barack Obama’s stump speech. It was central to the narrative animating his 2008 campaign: a promise of wholesale change to business as usual in Washington. His presidency would be different.

Eight years later, here’s how different it looks: The top lobbyist for the private health insurance industry that continues to battle aspects of Obamacare is a former Health and Human Services official who played a powerful role in implementing the legislation. The head of the software industry’s lobbying group is a former Obama White House appointee who oversaw the negotiation and enforcement of the intellectual property rules essential to that business. And an Obama aide deeply involved in crafting the White House’s broadband Internet policy now serves as the chief lawyer for the telecom industry group seeking to legally overturn those same rules.

All presidents back away from some of their most dramatic campaign promises. But seven years into Obama’s presidency, the revolving door shuttling officials out of his administration is spinning at a rapid clip, and Obama has seen his campaign promise founder against the deeply ingrained culture of selling government expertise in Washington. “They were overpromising on something they could never deliver,” said Melanie Sloan, former executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “It’s worse than doing nothing.”

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“Political Self-Interest and the Question of Corruption”

Must-read Bob Bauer:

Critics of the McDonnell prosecution have argued that elected officials engage in “routine” political behaviors that should not be confused with the “official acts.”   Politicians are kind to their campaign contributors and supporters, helping them where they can; they exercise “influence” for their benefit, within acceptable limits, solely to recognize and maintain these politically valuable relationships.  But this influence is not an exercise of government power and it is not the “quid” that makes for quid pro quo corruption.

As presented, for example, in a well-crafted brief by former federal officials, the argument includes the insistence that this routine behavior is also broadly “beneficial”, in the sense that it is “essential to the day-today functioning of any representative government.”  Failure to allow for this activity would “cast a shadow of illegality over legitimate, pro-democratic activities,” such as hosting special events or providing privileged access for contributors.

This is skillfully argued, but it is a point sure to run into resistance because it does not squarely address the element of political self-interest….

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“Political Party’s Lawsuit Challenges Conn. Election Law”

Connecticut Law Tribune:

The Libertarian Party has filed a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut, challenging laws pertaining to gathering signatures on petitions to place candidates on election ballots. Specifically, the Libertarians object to a provision that requires Connecticut residents to gather the signatures.

The lawsuit is part of a national effort by the Libertarians, the nation’s third largest political party, which has resulted in similar laws being overturned in 11 other states and the District of Columbia.


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“The Political Consultant Racket”

Adam Sheingate NYT oped:

Political consultants earn fees and commissions by turning the billions of dollars given to candidates, political parties and “super PACs” — like Mr. Bush’s Right to Rise — into the products and services of contemporary campaigns, especially TV (and Internet) ads.

More money means more ads, and more ads means more money. However, media saturation makes it more difficult to grab our attention, requiring more ads, and more money and contributions, to reach the electorate.

Consultants want their clients to win, but they also need their businesses to survive. Despite mounting evidence that the effects of TV on the electorate can be uncertain and often short-lived, television remains the single largest expenditure in most campaigns because candidates think they need it to win — and because it is the most reliable source of revenue and the most lucrative part of the consulting business. The economic incentives of the consulting industry are driving up the cost of campaigns.

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