February 2012 - Posts

Former FEC Chairman Says SuperPACs Are Good for Democracy
Wed, Feb 29 2012 6:46 AM

In a radio interview last week, Center for Competitive Politics and former FEC chairman Bradley A. Smith spoke about the benefits of SuperPACs and how they actually benefit the electoral process. Mr. Smith believes one benefit is that without SuperPACs one candidate would have already won the Republican nomination because he would have far more money than his opponents. Mr. Smith said it is especially good if you are a supporter of one of the other Republican candidates.

 

One other benefit of SuperPACs is that they offset the monetary advantage that one candidate can have over another. Mr. Smith says the money from SuperPACs has enabled the campaigns of other candidates to stay alive. So instead of drowning out the voices of these other candidates, it has enabled them and their supporters to be heard. Going further to address the concerns that one person has the ability to keep a campaign afloat, Mr. Smith says this just shows the importance of large donors to keep a potentially unpopular message alive, citing historical examples such as civil rights and anti-slavery.

 

Mr. Smith finds support for these ideas by looking at the last race before the Federal Elections Campaign Act in 1968 when Senator McCarthy’s anti-war ideas were only able to be heard because a handful of millionaires spent almost ten million dollars to get the campaign up and running. Mr. Smith also rebutted the argument that wealthy individuals are only contributing in order to gain access and favors by saying that they are only contributing to candidates they like, as opposed to who they think is going to win. He says that the money is only going to candidates with whom the donors agree with and support, not the other way around. He cites political science data that has proven that the only benefit these wealthy donors wish to receive is good government.

 

Despite all the demagoguery in the media that SuperPACs are suffocating democracy, Mr. Smith makes good arguments to the contrary. SuperPAC contributions help support minority candidates.

by Brian Bennett | with no comments
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Democrats Impersonated Election Officials in Michigan
Mon, Feb 27 2012 5:53 PM

 

As those in Michigan go to the voting booth in the primary today, let’s recall its election history, which does not generate confidence.    In the Wolverine State in 2006, there were some wolves in sheep’s clothing… literally.  Democratic workers in Detroit wore orange vests which had the words “Don't Leave Without Voting. I Can Help You.” Multiple voters said they were confused and intimidated because it was unclear if the people in the vests were election officials. (Read more about this in Michigan Lawyers Weekly.)

There were multiple ways the law was broken.  First, Michigan law provides that "challenger shall not threaten or intimidate an elector while the elector is entering the polling place, applying to vote, entering the voting compartment, voting, or leaving the polling place."  Mich. Comp. Laws 168.733(4).   Then, the law dictates that “a person shall not impersonate, falsely represent himself or herself as, or falsely act as a public officer or public employee….” Mich. Comp. Laws  750.217(c)(1).  Furthermore, the week before the election, Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land even told poll watchers and challengers that they did not have the authority to approach or talk to voters.

News media asked the Michigan Democrats to comment on such activity, and their response was that the workers were part of the same voter protection program that they ran in 2004 and Republicans did not object to the program two years ago, according to party spokesman Jason Moon said.   So essentially, the Michigan Democrats’ position is if others do not object, the illegal activity is okay. 

Well, a judge in Michigan didn’t buy that argument and issued a restraining order to stop the orange vested impersonators. 

But the disturbing question lingers: how much of this intimidation occurred in 2004 before it was recognized as illegal and brought to court? 

 

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Five Years Later, Still Unproven Claims by Voter ID Opponents at Debates
Mon, Feb 27 2012 7:17 AM

On Thursday, the National Press Club hosted a debate on voter ID featuring Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow and manager of the Civil Justice Reform Initiative Hans von Spakovsky and American Civil Liberties Union Washington legislative office director Laura Murphy. In his opening statement, von Spakovsky quoted Independent Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chaffee, who said voter ID legislation is “a reasonable request to ensure the accuracy and integrity of our elections.”

Von Spakovsky then spoke about the legal precedent supporting voter ID laws. He started by discussing the Supreme Court case that upheld a voter ID law in Indiana, Crawford v. Marion County Board of Elections. Von Spakovsky quoted the majority opinion of Justice John Paul Stevens, who said, “voter fraud is a big problem in any election.” He also discussed the unsuccessful legal challenges to voter ID laws in Georgia and Indiana because the plaintiffs failed to identify individuals that lacked photo ID and were prevented from voting.

Von Spakovsky also offered additional facts to disprove opponent’s allegations that voter ID laws cause voter disenfranchisement. He stated that since voter ID laws were enacted in Georgia, the state has seen a 6% increase in voter turnout, ranking fifth in the country. However, this does not even compare to Indiana, one of the first states to pass voter ID legislation, which has seen the largest increase in voter turnout for any state in the United States during this time period. Additionally, von Spakovsky dismissed the argument that voter turnout only increased in 2008 because it was an irregular election year, stating that the turnout for the 2010 election saw an even larger increase than turnout for the 2008 election. These facts all came directly from the secretaries of state for each state. Von Spakovsky closed his remarks by quoting Democratic Rhode Island state Rep. Jon Brien after Rhode Island passed voter ID legislation who said, “Voting is one of the most important rights and duties as an American, and should be treated accordingly.”

While von Spakovsky’s arguments were largely based on verifiable facts and legal precedent Ms. Murphy’s were not as composed. Appearing to have some facts and statistics to discount von Spakovsky’s arguments, she did not cite most of her sources. In fact, the one source that she did cite was from the liberal Brennan Center for Justice. Ms. Murphy also spent a good deal of time discussing the history of voter disenfranchisement in the United States, yet offering no modern day examples to support her theories.

Another flaw in Murphy’s arguments was that she contradicted herself numerous times in her ten-minute statement. First, she said that voter fraud does not occur in large numbers, but said later that a huge number of voters were disenfranchised by the Indiana’s voter ID law. Second, she stated the importance of voting rights under the Constitution, then said that states do not have room in their budgets to pay for free voter ID cards to ensure legally eligible people the right to vote. Murphy closed by personally attacking von Spakovsky for his support of voter ID and drudged up the same liberal fighting words by calling voter ID a “poll tax” and speculating that Republicans are “inventing excuses to deny [minorities] the ability to vote.”

The debate at the National Press Club was indicative of other debates on voter ID where an advocate for voter ID cited solid legal precedent and verifiable facts to support that voter ID laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud. Then there was an opponent of voter ID laws who offered unsupported statistics and contradictory arguments, opting instead to turn a cordial debate into a witch hunt by hurling personal attacks and insults. After the debate von Spakovsky said, “[opponents of voter ID] are unable to prove the facts they’ve been talking about for five years.”

To indicate further that supporters of voter ID have the facts on their side, please read Mr. von Spakovsky’s voter ID memorandum.

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Obomination: Obama’s SuperPAC Hypocrisy
Fri, Feb 24 2012 7:03 AM

 

It’s no surprise Obama thinks religious institutions should compromise their beliefs on abortion.  Obama compromises his own beliefs when under enough pressure.  Exhibit A: Super PACs. 

At the State of the Union two years ago, Obama chastised the Supreme Court justices in the chamber for the Citizens United opinion which Obama claimed “reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”

Six months later, as Obama supported legislation to ban foreign funding in federal elections and heighten disclosure.  He said, "Now, imagine the power this will give special interests over politicians."

The Obama campaign did not support superPACs… until the campaign discovered their stance on policy would be beat financially. 

Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina announced early this month that “the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC.”  He also said that White House and Cabinet officials will attend and speak at Priorities USA fundraising events.

Priorities USA, the political committee founded by former Obama aides, raised only $59,000 in January.  The vast majority of that money came from one donor: John W. Rogers, who donated $50,000.  In comparison, Mitt Romney’s Restore Our Future raised $6.6 million, and Newt Gingrich’s Winning our Future raised $11 million, Santorum’s Red White and Blue Fund raised about $2 million and Ron Paul’s Endorse Liberty raised $2.4 million.

With its White House backing, the pro-Obama SuperPAC is already running attack ads in Michigan where there is a primary on Tuesday.  For the 44th president, apparently principles don’t matter as much as the almighty dollar.

 

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What Do Ed Meese and Michael Chertoff Have in Common?
Thu, Feb 23 2012 8:23 AM

 Edwin Meese, III and Michael Chertoff have something in common.  Both of these men distinguished themselves from and annoyed the liberal establishment simply by promoting the rule of law and making the country safer.

 

Unlike the chaos and timidness associated with the current Attorney General, the Meese Justice Department helped secure the Mexican border, worked on realistic and broad international law enforcement goals, and worked to find way legal ways to make America more secure.  Meese helped to create a culture where DOJ worked with the armed forces to pursue common goals, instead of standing in their way.

Similarly, Michael Chertoff also helped expand the role of law enforcement in national security.  As head of the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, Chertoff helped to write the USA PATRIOT Act and prosecute terrorists including Zacarias Moussaoui.  In 2005 he was selected to become the second Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  He was confirmed without a single dissenting vote in the Senate and remained in the post until the end of the George W. Bush’s presidency. 

Whether it was arresting drug lords or thwarting terrorists, both Meese and Chertoff excelled in
promoting the rule of law while protecting the country and annoying the left all at the same time. 

 

If you think Meese and Chertoff have something in common, you’re not alone. The Republican National Lawyers Association, for one, thinks Chertoff’s accomplishments deserve recognition for following in the footsteps of Meese. 

 

Twenty seven years ago today, Edwin Meese, III, was confirmed by the Senate to become the 75th Attorney General of the United States.   Today, the Republican National Lawyers Association is proud to announce that the 2012 Edwin Meese, III Award will be bestowed on Michael Chertoff at the National Policy Conference this April 20.

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PRESS RELEASE: Outrageous Claims In Meritless Voter ID Lawsuit
Thu, Feb 23 2012 7:26 AM

Two days after election officials reported there were no problems with the implementation of the voter ID law in Wisconsin, three liberal organizations have launched an outrageous attack on voter ID laws in court.  The Advancement Project, the League of Young Voters and the Milwaukee Area Labor Council, are reportedly filing a lawsuit today alleging that the voter ID law violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and citing a study about numbers of Wisconsin residents without identification. 

Republican National Lawyers Association Chair David Norcross said, “The Advancement Project’s voter ID lawsuit is just the latest development in the far left, anti-democracy and divisive campaign funded by George Soros.  A ‘study’ cited in the lawsuit is filled with outrageous accusations that have no bearing on reality.  Similar and less outrageous studies have already been debunked in the past.  Voter ID has already been successfully implemented in Wisconsin and across the country.  Even liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens writing for the majority of the Supreme Court found that voter ID laws are not discriminatory, are constitutional and serve an anti-fraud purpose.”

Republican National Lawyers Association Wisconsin chapter chair Donald A. Daugherty said, “Over many years, polls have consistently shown that the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin voters favor a law that, like the laws of many other states, requires voter ID.  The reason is legitimate public concern about voter fraud, like what was documented in detail, for example, by the Milwaukee Police Department in 2004.  At the same time, Wisconsin remains one of the few states that make it easier to vote through its election day registration process.  Instead of filing meritless lawsuits, Advancement Project and its allies should be advancing open, fair and honest elections in Wisconsin by educating voters about reforms like the new voter ID law.”

This lawsuit will be filed two days after the first primary with Wisconsin’s voter ID law, held on Tuesday, February 21, 2012.  According to media reports:

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Sue Edman says most voters had their IDs ready Tuesday, and says there were more problems with ballot machines and new redistricting maps than the new Voter ID Law.  “For the most part, it’s going very, very well.  It’s really been the least of our concerns today,” Edman said.

Jenna Sachs and Justin Williams, Polls closed, election officials say new Voter ID Law test went well, Fox News, Feb. 21, 2012.  See also Clay Barbour, Voter ID law off to smooth start in Wisconsin, Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 22, 2012; Jeff Starck, Voter ID law causes no issues in local primary elections, Wausau Daily Herald, Feb. 22, 2012.

The Republican National Lawyers Association is an organization that supports common-sense voter ID laws like those enacted in Wisconsin.    

### 

 

Republican National Lawyers Association
P.O. Box 18965
Washington, D.C. 20036 
www.rnla.org

For Immediate Release: February 23, 2012
Contact: Michael Thielen
(703) 719-6335

Click here for a pdf of the press release.

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Democrat Senator Proposes Undemocratic Constitutional Amendment
Wed, Feb 22 2012 7:01 AM

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Last November, Democrat Senator Udall proposed an amendment to the United States Constitution that would destroy the most fundamental of American freedoms—the right to freedom of speech. 

The amendment, if enacted, would enable Congress to place limits on “the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to” candidates in federal and state elections.  The new amendment would restrain corporations and organizations in “electioneering communications”—such as pamphlets, commercials, or documentaries—whereby opinions of candidates are expressed.  By advocating for the proposed amendment, several Senate Democrats are attempting to regulate our most important freedom.

The amendment, in effect, would reverse the Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC.  In Citizens United, the court protected freedom of speech by concluding that the First Amendment prohibited the government from limiting corporations and unions in their independent spending for political purposes.  The court found it unconstitutional for the government to suppress a non-profit corporation from releasing a documentary critical of former Senator Hillary Clinton.  (The RNLA previously discussed the aftermath of the monumental Supreme Court decision here.)

Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated “Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence.”  

Hans von Spakovsky, The Heritage Foundation’s Manager for Civil Justice Reform Initiative, described the Court’s ruling in Citizens United as also protecting the right of people to assemble.  Mr. von Spakovsky looked at the Court’s reference to “ancient First Amendment principles,” and he correctly articulated how “[t]he Founders […] knew that the ability to associate freely (think the Sons of Liberty) and to engage in political speech without being censored by the government were fundamental rights crucial to our republic.”

Kathryn Ciano, who works for the Institute of Justice, submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court that was cited by the Court in Citizens United.  Ms. Ciano concludes that a constitutional amendment limiting such speech would “make it impossible for people to associate and speak more effectively and for voters to judge the messages they hear on their own.”  Ms. Ciano views the Citizens United decision as recognizing that “individuals, not the government, have the right to decide what to say and what messages to listen to.”

Last month, Supreme Court Justice Scalia heartily defended the precedent set in Citizens United.  When speaking to the South Carolina Bar, Scalia emphasized the importance of the First Amendment by declaring “I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier… People are not stupid.  If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

Despite the Supreme Court’s adamant protection of the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, Senator Udall proposes to amend the Constitution and take the legs out from under the Court.  The misguided Senator incorrectly describes the Court’s holding, which protects the First Amendment, to be a “threat to our democracy.”  The real threat, however, would be for the government to ban people from speaking through associations that share their beliefs. 

Justice Kennedy made it clear in his opinion why this amendment must be fought.  “Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subject or viewpoints or to distinguish among different speakers, which may be a means to control content.”  Senator Udall’s proposed amendment to the Constitution would give the government dictatorial control and is antithetical to the First Amendment.

 

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Liberals Oppose Citizens United . . . Except When They Don’t
Tue, Feb 21 2012 7:17 AM

Usually, the mere mention of Citizens United v. FEC is enough to send liberals into fits of flabbergasted fury. But a little over two years after President Obama famously and unjustly chastised Supreme Court justices for the ruling, a pro-abortion PAC in his home state is citing it as authority, as it contests the state’s campaign-finance regime in federal court.

 

The group, which has direct ties to current Illinois governor and Democrat Pat Quinn, asserted the Rod Blagojevich-inspired laws violate their First Amendment rights by unconstitutionally limiting their ability to disseminate political speech. Under the state’s current structure, PACs cannot receive more than $10,000 dollars from individuals or $20,000 dollars from corporations or unions per year.

 

The PAC’s attorney declared that Citizens United—the landmark free-speech case decided in 2010—has “changed the rules of the game.” And its CEO claimed current donor-contribution limits force the group to “run campaigns with one hand tied behind our back.”   

 

The lawsuit follows a similar and successful campaign-finance challenge in Wisconsin. Last December, the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of a pro-life PAC, Wisconsin Right to Life, which contested a comparable speech-restricting state law. That law limited the amount individuals could contribute to state and local parties, political candidates, and PACs to a total of $10,000 per year.  

 

The lawsuit also comes on the heels of Supreme Court action in the recent Montana campaign- finance case, which the RNLA previously discussed here. Last Friday, the Court granted a stay that allows temporary unlimited political spending by corporations and unions pending final Court action, which could include a summary reversal or full review.

 

 

 

 

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What would George Washington Say to Barack Obama on President’s Day?
Mon, Feb 20 2012 6:24 AM

How does the 44th president compare to the first?  On this President’s Day, remember George Washington –a Founding Father and the person who presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787.  Remember the commander-in-chief of the Continental army during the American Revolution who fought for America to be free.   What would he say to our current president?

George Washington’s Farewell Address, which was delivered on September 19, 1796 to his “Friends & Fellow Citizens,” offers some insights on what the Father of our Country would say.  He called upon his successor to strive to fulfill the duties of the office of president, namely “that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained.”  Washington explained that it is “important” that: 

the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its Administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another.

Of utmost significance to Washington was upholding the founding principles of this nation.   These principles include separation of powers and checks and balances.  As for separation of powers, Washington said, “The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism.”  The last thing Washington wanted was for himself to become a despot of a fledgling new country.  But today, Obama only seeks to consolidate power, taking power from the states to the federal government and taking power from Congress to the executive branch.  Need I offer any other explanation of this, than Obamacare?

As for checks and balances, Washington said, “The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power; by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes.”  To Washington, the danger of violating these principles was serious.  Obama has simply disregarded the role of the Senate to provide advice and consent on appointments, taking it upon himself to decide when the legislative branch is in session or not.

George Washington advises, “let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”  By contrast, Obama, after encountering gridlock and opposition from Congress, institutes progressive change in the exact way Washington warned against: usurpation. 

The man who first led this country ultimately relinquished his title, calling for “a new election of a Citizen, to Administer the Executive government of the United States.”  If only our current president would do the same now.

by Maya Noronha | with no comments
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Obomination: Obama Tramples on the First Amendment
Fri, Feb 17 2012 7:30 AM

 

Last Friday, Obama held a press conference offering a “compromise” on the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate.  It was assuredly a compromise: Obama declared that religious institutions must compromise their consciences and provide abortifacient and other services.

154 Congressmen wrote to Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius criticizing this rule.  Speaker of the House John Boehner declared that the new rule was “an unambiguous attack on religious freedom in our country.”  He continued, “In imposing this requirement, the federal government is violating a First Amendment right that has stood for more than two centuries, and it is doing so in a manner that affects millions of Americans and harms some of our nation’s most vital institutions.”  Boehner announced that the House will enact an “effective and appropriate” bill protecting rights of conscience.

Many lawsuits have been filed challenging this Obomination.  Three lawsuits have been filed by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty on behalf of Belmont Abbey, Colorado Christian College and EWTN in the District of Columbia, Colorado and Alabama.  The Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that the State of Michigan will be a lead state challenging the mandate, joining with the Becket Fund’s cases.  Priests for Life announced it is filing a lawsuit as well.

Through this mandate, Obama has ignored the law.  First off, Obama’s regulation flies in the face of the the religion clauses in the First Amendment.  His administration constructed an exceedingly narrow definition of religion, which characterizes religion it in terms of houses of worship where services are rendered only to those who hold that religion.  Even Jesus Christ himself, who administered to the poor and needy who were not Jews, would not qualify under that definition.  Ed Whelan of National Review explains how the contraceptive mandate can be successfully challenged under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Obama’s supposed “compromise” announced at a press conference last Friday has no legal force.  Despite Obama’s supposed accommodation, the HHS rule is still the same text as before the press conference.  There was entirely no accommodation for religious liberty.  Nothing was actually changed except how the administration is pitching the mandate in the news media. 

It’s not just substance of the law that Obama is flouting.  It’s also process.  The Department of Health and Human Services did not offer the rule for public comments, rushing an interim final rule instead of following administrative law procedures. 

The editorial board of USA Today came out in opposition to the HHS mandate, writing, “The First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom deserves more weight than the administration allowed.”

Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the how the Obama administration has “trampled on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.”  Committee chair Darrell Issa (R-CA) said, “A government policy that encroaches on the conscientious objections of religious groups concerns all Americans who value the protections of the First Amendment.” One witness, William Thierfelder, who is president of Belmont Abbey College, said, "I don't think there should be any compromise when it comes to our rights to religious freedom."  Amen.

 

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CPAC Panel Addresses How Vote Fraud Will Taint 2012 Elections
Thu, Feb 16 2012 6:58 AM

CPAC brought many interesting and informative sessions for attendees.  One such session was a panel on vote fraud which included The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, John Fund, a senior editor for the American Spectator, and King Street Patriots President Catherine Engelbrecht.  David Norcross, RNLA Chair, moderated the panel.

 Norcross began the panel discussion by asking the audience, “Will there be fraud at the polls in 2012?” Without hesitation, he answered, “The answer is undoubtedly YES, but what are we going to do about it?”  Norcross then gave some background information to attendees stating that Service Employees International Union (SEIU) would be a powerful force for potential fraud going into the 2012 elections. They are more organized, and have “deeper roots” than the ACORN organization.  He also discussed a recent RNLA study on vote fraud convictions and stated how 46 out of 50 states since 2000 have had at least one prosecution for vote fraud.  Norcross then turned the session to the panelists who each discussed different aspects of vote fraud in previous elections and potential fraud in the upcoming election.

 Hans von Spakovsky began the discussion by explaining the connection that exists between ACORN and Project Vote. “They are basically interchangeable,” he said. During his presentation he also spoke about how the Left insists that vote fraud doesn’t exist and the measures to combat fraud by the Right are ways to suppress votes and disenfranchise voters.  Spakovsky then quickly discussed how this thought process is untrue, citing the most recent example of vote fraud that took place in Troy, NY.   von Spakovsky went on to explain how the Obama Department of Justice’s Voting Section is politicized. Fund jumped in to state how this administration considers efforts to enforce election laws as disenfranchisement. 

John Fund helped to gather the crowd’s attention on the support for photo ID.  In the simplest terms, large majorities “of every demographic group” in American support photo ID and voter integrity laws.  In fact, Fund said photo ID laws are “supported more frequently by the general public than motherhood and apple pie.” Because some people don’t enjoy apple pie and others don’t get along with their mother.  He encouraged audience members to pressure law enforcement officials responsible for upholding existing laws.

 Catherine Engelbrecht, who is also active with True the Vote, called on audience members to become more active in their home states to act as a counterbalance to fraudulent activities. She also said it was important to become active in urban areas where Republicans are too easily intimidated. 

 The session concluded with each of the three panelists giving their best tips for combating vote fraud.  All three panelists agreed that photo ID is the simplest way to combat fraud and restore integrity. The panel ended with the final words "Leave no polling place unmanned and no polling list unchecked if you want to win this election in 2012."

by Ashley Carter | with no comments
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Coordination Conspiracy: Que Sera, Sera
Wed, Feb 15 2012 1:23 PM

The Daily Caller has blown the lid off a scheme to coordinate communications funded by non-profit Media Matters with organizations and officials eager to elect Democrats in the fall.

 

Founded by [David] Brock in 2004 as a liberal counterweight to “conservative misinformation” in the press, Media Matters has in less than a decade become a powerful player in Democratic politics. The group operates in regular coordination with the highest levels of the Obama White House, as well as with members of Congress and progressive groups around the country.

 

The Media-Matters strategy is to spend $20M this year crafting ledes for the Washington Post, The Daily Kos, MSNBC and other outlets—and to finance the protest groups that will boycott advertisers on right-leaning cable and radio shows.  Media Matters claims already to have dedicated 50 employees to collecting the scalp of CNN’s Lou Dobbs alone, and with financing the forcing of Glenn Beck from the cable rotation at Fox News to a smaller audience watching behind an internet pay-wall.

 

“A group with the ability to shape news coverage is of incalculable value to the politicians it supports, so it’s no surprise that Media Matters has been in regular contact with political operatives in the Obama administration,” the Daily Caller reports.

 

I cannot help but wonder what campaign “reformer” Fred Wertheimer thinks of all this.  On Feb. 7th, Fred released a statement that called the Romney-supporting Super PAC an “illegal operation,” saying that “to believe that the Super PACs … are ‘independent’ from the presidential campaigns they support, you must believe in the tooth fairy.”  Fred’s organization also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service alleging that the non-profit Crossroads GPS is really just a political organization, and should lose its tax designation.

 

One might make a snide comment regarding Fred’s vigilance; suggesting hypocrisy—something about sauce, goose and gander.  But, while I would be interested to see whether Fred would support an IRS investigation into Media Matters, Fred has been remarkably consistent in his critique of Super PACs, charging that Obama’s Super PAC is no more independent or legal than Romney’s.

 

This isn’t surprising.  The betting all along has been that Fred’s campaign restrictions are designed to sideline robust political speakers, in a manner that survives the Equal Protection Clause, while permitting mainstream news outlets to prepare November’s playing fields.  This is reminiscent of the Progressives’ winning combination in 2008: McCain-Feingold plus JournoList equals Obama for America.

 

So on January 7th, media commentator George Stephanopoulos asked Republican candidates an out-of-the-blue question, taken straight out of the Democratic blueprint: Can a state outlaw contraception?  The follow-up from MSNBC suggests that a matter impinging on fundamental religious liberty is better understood, by a casual listener, as a denial of contraceptives available in any pharmacy.

 

No doubt, keeping-up with the machinations can be frustrating.

 

But the answer to Media Matters’ apparent conspiracy is not just to preserve Super PAC spending, but to preserve the First Amendment in all its applications.  Media Matters may drive the news cycle, strategize with the White House, and organize and fund boycotts of advertisers to the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin programs.

 

But so long as the law recognizes the rights of the Daily Caller to write, radio and cable jocks to speak, and Super PACs to spend, messages from both sides will get through.

 

And the efforts of Uncle Fred and Brother Brock will likely go for naught; filtered-out as background noise.

 

Stephen M. Hoersting is counsel to DB Capitol Strategies, PLLC.

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RNLA Chair Responds to Democrat Senators' Campaign Finance Constitutional Amendment
Wed, Feb 15 2012 1:10 PM

Senators Tom Udall (D-Colo.) and Michael Bennet (D-N.M.) have proposed a constitutional amendment which would drastically limit First Amendment protections of free speech.  Chairman David Norcross submitted this letter to the editor after reading comments by the Democrat Senators appearing in Monday's Washington Post .

To the Editor:

I would like to think that those who seek to amend the constitution by regulating free speech understood the enormity of their propositions.  Obviously they do not. Senator Udall is quoted in Monday’s Post as saying “We are going to regulate and legislate on campaign finance.  We are taking it back.”  They aren’t taking anything back, they never had it to take back.  The Court agreed in Buckley v. Valeo years ago that some limitation on campaign finance was constitutional, but it never gave Congress anything but limited power--power it exceeded when it imposed limits on electioneering communication by corporations and unions.  The Court said Congress you may not do this, you do not have the authority, under the Constitution, to do this.  There is nothing to take back.  Failure to understand the fundamentals  of free speech under the First Amendment is a poor starting point from which to amend the most basic of rights in a free Republic.  I would also suggest to both Senators Bennet and Udall that the Founders did not want the Justices to be elected and very purposefully made them appointees.  The Justices’ alleged failure to grasp “the practical effects of the decision” (Bennet and Udall) puts the proposition exactly backwards.  The practical politicians (Congress) must legislate and regulate within the bounds of the Constitution not the other way round.

David Norcross
Chair, Republican National Lawyers Association 

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Heritage Panel Criticizes Obama’s “Unprecedented and Unconstitutional” Appointments
Wed, Feb 15 2012 7:06 AM

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The President’s recent appointments of three members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and one member to the Consumer Financial Protection Board (CFPB) are not constitutional.  On Monday, the Heritage Foundation hosted a panel featuring Senator Mike Lee, former Attorney General Ed Meese and former Office of Legal Counsel attorney Todd Gaziano that reviewed the dangers and ramifications of these activities. (See RNLA’s previous blog post here)  President Obama’s “recess” appointments are efforts to bypass congressional oversight and the will of the American People in order to promote his liberal agenda. 

At the panel discussion, Todd Gaziano, Heritage’s Director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, reexamined the language of the Constitution and President Obama’s clear violation of our country’s principles.  Mr. Gaziano described the constitutional power given to the Senate to provide “advice and consent” to the President on such federal appointments, and he reviewed the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause, which dictates that “The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the senate by granting commissions which shall expire by the end of their next session.”  However, as Gaziano pointed out, Obama’s recent appointments were not made during a recess.

Article I Section V of the Constitution established that “Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days [...]” The House of Representatives never consented to a Senate recess, and the senate continued to hold “pro forma” sessions every three days.  Nevertheless, President Obama made the official appointments and bypassed the traditional “advice and consent” procedures.

The Obama controlled DOJ took a tyrannical position when it issued a memorandum arguing that the Senate sessions were not real sessions because the Senate had agreed not to conduct business.  Additionally, the memo said that it was up to the President to decide if the Senate was available to act on approving appointments.  However, there is nothing in the United States Constitution to support these absurd claims.  Moreover, Gaziano described how the Senate signed off on one of Obama’s laws during these sessions early last December.  Obama does not have the right to tell the Senate when they are “really” in session, yet he is picking and choosing when he considers the Senate to be open for “his” business.

President Obama bypassed the normal Senate review process because he was appointing candidates that might not have passed the Senate’s inspection.  Investigative reporter Lachlan Markay revealed that two of Obama’s appointments to the NLRB failed to submit the proper paperwork to the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee.  This paperwork, according to Markay, would have “allowed the committee staff to do a formal background check on the candidates.”  The constitutional advice and consent procedures examine candidates for impropriety, past criminal actions, and potential conflicts of interest.

Markay described Obama’s recent appointments as “establishing a revolving door between major labor unions and the national labor relations board,” and he emphasized that the NLRB was “not created to be an activist arm for the labor movement and largest and most corrupt labor unions.”

Edwin Meese III, former Attorney General under Ronald Reagan, spoke of the dangers associated with Obama’s recent appointments.  Meese described the appointments as direct attacks on the separation of government powers, which “protect the liberty of the people” and “make sure the government is acting within the consent of the governed.”

The panel also discussed how the President’s unconstitutional appointments could bring remedies varying from aggressive filibusters, oversight hearings, and eventual challenges in court.  Senator Mike Lee, who is leading the charge against these “non-recess” recess appointments, committed to writing amicus briefs for lawsuits challenging these appointments.   At the Heritage panel, Senator Lee dismissed the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel’s memo on which Obama relied, and he pronounced, “It is for the Senate and Senate alone to decide when it is in recess.” 

As Senator Lee urged, we cannot let Obama’s “unprecedented and unconstitutional” actions stand.  There is too much at stake when the constitution is disregarded for direct Presidential appointments without the Senate’s review.  


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DISCLOSE Act Still A Bad Idea Second Time Around
Tue, Feb 14 2012 5:58 AM

As President Obama continues to deflect attacks from those in his own party over his super Pac-super flip-flop, Democrats on Capitol Hill sought to provide him cover by reintroducing the DISCLOSE Act on February 9.

 

In the name of transparency, the proposed legislation requires a myriad of speech-restricting regulatory burdens that entities must navigate if they wish to speak politically.

 

In addition, David Keating, the Center for Competitive Politics’ new president, notes the proposed act will force speakers to “use 10% or more of their message with government-dictated pablum that voters have little interest in hearing.”

 

Even worse, according to Keating:

 

[T]he new DISCLOSE will require regular, dues-paying members of private organizations to DISCLOSE their own contributions, thereby eviscerating the hard-won rights of the American people to be free of government interference in their private affairs and beliefs.

 

These “hard-won rights” have been part of First Amendment doctrine at least since NAACP v. Alabama. And, for those worried about transparency, the RNLA has previously noted, super PACs are still PACs and thus subject all normal disclosure requirements.

 

This bill’s introduction follows the defeat of a similar bill in 2010, which the RNLA opposed on freedom-of-speech grounds. 

 

Some argue the bill’s tweaks this time around—removal of provisions that restricted the speech rights of government contractors and domestic subsidiaries of foreign companies—should alleviate concerns that doomed the previous bill. But while these modifications may make the current bill more politically palatable, they do not change its basic constitutionally suspect structure.

 

In reality, the current DISCLOSE Act is simply the latest assault in the continued coordinated attack on Citizens United v. FEC by those who do not like the ruling. In the end, however, this attack must fail—either in the political arena or in the courts—because it attempts to do what the Supreme Court has said Congress cannot do: use excessive regulatory tools to burden political speech.  

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