January 2012 - Posts

Florida Reforms Protect Elections "from Mishap and Mischief"
Tue, Jan 31 2012 5:19 AM

On Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation last month, Republican Florida State Rep. Dennis Baxley was interviewed regarding the Florida election law that he sponsored, which was passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott.

Baxley explained the reasoning for the change in election laws, by saying, “We have to have credible results in close elections.  Only the legislature can protect the credibility of the process.”  Thus, he sponsored a bill to protect elections “from mishap and mischief.”

Democrats have tried to engage opposition to the changes to Florida election laws in anticipation of the Florida primary.  But 76 of the 80 parts of the election law changes have already been cleared by the Justice Department.

Among the changes to the election laws include: (1) a revised early voting schedule; (2) a requirement for third-party groups to register and subject them to fines for delaying turning in voter registration forms;  and (3) the use of provisional ballots by voters who move from another county without updating their addresses.

With regard to the revised early voting schedule, Baxley said on Politics Nation that this was actually a change to the election laws that had bipartisan support.  By having the early voting period all on one day instead of partial days, voters would not be turned away from the polls for arriving too late.

As for third party voting, Baxley explained the reason for the change by saying, “People who submit voter information to others, they have that manipulated.  They don’t know what gets turned in and what doesn’t. This is a much more secure process.”

Finally, provisional ballots was a response to a concern about local elections being “polluted by anyone coming to other communities” and changing their residence the day of the election to vote for someone where they didn’t actually consider their home.  Baxley pointed out that no one is actually turned away from the polls, because “Everyone gets to vote by provisional ballot if they don’t have their affairs in order.”  On the whole, he said, “We are a very accessible system.  It’s accessible to everyone in the same way.”

Baxley explained that he did not the public’s faith in the integrity of elections – especially close ones – to be at issue.  This is a measure aimed at reducing fraud.  He said, “Unless you are trying to intentionally violate the election laws, you don’t have a problem under this bill."

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Concerns About Military Disenfranchised Expressed at Summit
Mon, Jan 30 2012 5:40 AM

 

On Friday, the Overseas Voter Foundation held its sixth annual Uniformed and Overseas Citizen Absentee Voting Act Summit, a conference dedicated to overseas military voting rights.

Representatives from the government tried to emphasize that turnout increased among military voters.  However, the Military Voter Protection Project (MVVP) released a separate report, basing it off of Election Assistance Commission Data.  The MVVP found that the turnout of military voters did not increase.  (Click here for the differences between the government’s data and the MVPP’s data.)

Even if you accept the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s data, there is still reason for concern. The 2010 Federal Voting Assistance Program report did indicate that:

Unfortunately, 29% of active duty military voters indicated they never received the absentee ballot they requested, up from 16% in 2008.  That represents approximately 120,000 active duty military personnel who never received their absentee ballot.

How can the federal government celebrate the “progress” in terms of military voting rights when they admit “[u]nfortunately” disenfranchising 120,000 of them?

At the 2012 summit, the 2009 Ed Meese Award winner and Heritage Foundation scholar Hans von Spakovsky offered a few explanations for how military voters have been disenfranchised.  He criticized the “inattention and incompetence by the Department of Justice” with regard to enforcement of the MOVE (Military Voter and Overseas Empowerment) Act.  (Click here for last year’s Veterans’ Day post from the RNLA blog covering these topics). 

Is the Obama administration truly committed to combating the disenfranchisement of voters, when they disregard the rights of the men and women in uniform?

 

by Maya Noronha | with no comments
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Obomination: DOJ Advancing a Political Agenda
Fri, Jan 27 2012 8:03 AM

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said that the Obama administration is using the Federal Motor Voter Law “to advance a political agenda.”  On July 12, 2011, the Justice Department sued Louisiana claiming that “Louisiana officials have not routinely offered voter registration forms, assistance and services to the state’s eligible citizens who apply, recertify or provide a change address for public assistance or disability services.” Schedler said there is no evidence of state employees deliberately neglecting to make voter registration forms available.

This week we also learned about the results of Freedom of Information Act request received by Judicial Watch.  What Judicial Watch discovered sheds light on the political agenda being advanced.  Just look at who the Department of Justice is meeting with:

On March 17, 2011, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli met with Project Vote, the American Association of People with Disabilities, Demos, the League of Women Voters, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Brennan Center for Justice, the Fair Elections Legal Network, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Legal Defense Fund, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.


On 
March 29, 2011, Project Vote attorney Estelle Rogers and the same groups that met on March 17, 2011, sent recommendations to the associate attorney general for strengthening “compliance with the NVRA.”

Project Vote and the NAACP filed a lawsuit on April 19, 2011, against the State of Louisiana alleging violations of the National Voting Rights Act.   Suing states under the National Voting Rights Act is a nationwide objective of these liberal organizations, which have pursued public agency registration cases in Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, and New Mexico.

The evidence of liberal political organizations exercising influence on the Justice Department doesn’t stop at meetings and filing similar cases.  Estelle Rogers made many efforts to get the Voting Section Chief at the Department of Justice to hire individual applicants with the Civil Rights Division.  And (thanks to another FOIA request from Pajamas Media) we know that the Justice Department was very responsive to efforts to hire liberal attorneys, but made not a single hire of conservative or nonpolitical individuals for staff (nonpolitical) attorney positions.

There’s only selective enforcement of the Voting Rights Act by the Justice Department.  Section 8 mandates that voter rolls be purged of ineligible voters.  But the Justice Department has no interest in enforcing that part of the law.  Shouldn't the Justice Department be interested in open, fair and honest elections through enforcement of Section 8 too?

There’s a reason this agency is called the United States Department of Justice, because it should uphold all the laws of this nation, not advance a political agenda of certain leftist groups.

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A Quote Not “Questionable” at All
Thu, Jan 26 2012 4:37 AM

Professor Rick Hasen lists as his “questionable quote of the day” a quote not questionable at all. 

The quote, taken from a timely op-ed by FEC Chairman Caroline Hunter in the Washington Times, is that “SuperPACs may not coordinate with any candidate.”  Hasen says the quote should say: May not “illegally coordinate” with any candidate, but that much is understood.

These days the reform community, of which Professor Hasen is in sympathy if not a member, is making any argument to denigrate the freedom from regulation provided by the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org opinions. 

It is true that Hasen lists factors that demonstrate a parallel interest between the candidate and the SuperPAC, in much the same way there is parallel interest in Oprah’s endorsement and President Obama.

Presumably, both want roughly the same policy outcomes and believe that comes about by electing the right candidates. 

Call Chairman Hunter, the Courts and I sticklers, but that is called “democracy,” not coordination.

Still, let’s take Hasen’s tedious barbs one by one.

First, Hasen says “a federal candidate may solicit funds for a super pac (but not ask for unlimited sums).”  True enough.  This is because McCain-Feingold’s soft money ban still prevents candidates from soliciting funds above hard dollar limits, not because soliciting funds creates coordination that can result in a contribution from the SuperPAC to the candidate.  The ability to solicit is protected by the right of association.

Second, Hasen says “the candidate may appear in a SuperPAC’s ad” well before the election, then he admits that the question is open; “pending before the FEC.”  Both are true.  But they are true because the FEC regulates coordinated “expenditures” and “electioneering communications” that occur inside elections, not coordinated "anything."  For this, Hasen should blame the reformers, who had to curtail the definition of the electioneering communication because the Supreme Court limited the term expenditure to speech containing “express advocacy” in 1976.

Third, Hasen says that “a candidate may use footage from a super pac in his own ads.”  True enough—and utterly beside the point: No one worries whether federal candidates are subsidizing the speech of independent Super PACs by recycling it.

Fourth, in a bid to make the reader squirm, Hasen says “that a super pac may be made up of a candidate’s former campaign manager, his father, his best friends, and his former co-workers.”  Keep in mind that under the regulations former campaign managers and former co-workers cannot have been on the candidate's payroll recently enough to have their understanding of what a candidate needs said to the public to get elected.  And while the hearts of a candidate's father or best friends are probably in the right place, their political skills are nil and as likely to damage campaign as help it.  If Dad hires a consultant to guide him, regulation keeps him from knowing the candidate’s plans.  If Hasen is arguing that both father and friend forfeit their rights to spend money independently in an election his son has entered, I’d like to see the reasoning under the First Amendment.

I’ll skip Hasen’s fifth barb; it is too similar enough to his fourth.

And last, Hasen says SuperPACs don’t have to meaningfully report.  This argument needs to be unwound: too many reformers are indulging in it.  Individuals that give money to a group for independent speech must be reported.  This requirement is right out of the opinion in SpeechNow.org.  The wrinkle comes from Citizens United, which rightly allowed corporations to spend their treasury funds on independent political communications.  What, then, would Hasen have these corporations report?  The disclosure of both the purchasers and purchase price of a Ford Fusion or F-150?  And how the funds from that transaction resulted in dues paid to a trade association that decided to exercise its speech rights in an election?

Stephen M. Hoersting is counsel at DB Capitol Strategies, and was co-counsel to plaintiffs in the case creating the nation’s first SuperPAC, SpeechNow.org v. FEC. 

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Former FEC Chairman Demystifies Citizens United
Wed, Jan 25 2012 5:46 AM

The recent passing of the two-year anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC has brought predictable handwringing on the left. The hysteria has included debates on whether the decision portends the “end of democracy as we know it” and calls for constitutional amendments stripping all legal protection from corporations. Perhaps ironically, these calls are coming from people who have organized in the corporate form to disseminate political speech.

 

But are the dire warnings and extraordinary solutions justified? Brad Smith, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission who now chairs the Center for Competitive Politics, recently discussed Citizens United’s effects on our political system with Joseph M. Birkenstock, former chief counsel of the Democratic National Committee.

 

Smith addressed the common misperceptions about Citizens United explaining: (i.) how it actually changes campaign-finance law, (ii.) where the law could possibly be improved, (iii.) its likely effect on the current election cycle; and (iv.) what the decision means at the state and local level.

 

At its core, Citizens United aligned an inconsistent area of law by overturning the speech-repressive outlier Austin v. Michigan State Chamber of Commerce. Its primary impact is to permit corporations and unions to spend money on campaigns. The Citizens’ ruling, combined with SpeechNow.org v. FEC, which allows unlimited contributions to “527” advocacy groups, enables competing speakers in the political marketplace to get their messages out quicker and easier. The net result is a better-informed citizenry and a stronger democracy.  

 

According to Smith, any defects in the current set-up involve disclosure requirements. While people often mischaracterize Citizens United as allowing clandestine Super PAC donations, Super PACs are still PACs and have to abide by all previous disclosure requirements. The problem, to the extent it exists, is identifying large corporate donors contributing to generic-sounding PACs. Any change could involve removing overly burdensome regulations on small donors and requiring more transparency on “mega-donations.”  But these issues are minimal as internet research can usually apprise the curious to underlying funding sources.

 

Regardless of disclosure issues, however, Citizens United changes very little about our political process. In 2010 for instance, Citizen United-enabled political spending accounted for about 300 million dollars—an amount less than one-tenth that spent by candidates and political parties. The 2012 election cycle will be nasty and expensive, and a contrary Citizens United holding would have almost no effect on that premise. There will be slightly more money spent this election cycle but the main change will be who is spending.

 

Any deviations from the current campaign-finance paradigm would stem from the minority of states that ban Citizen United-type expenditures for state and local races. Smith commented on the recent Montana ruling, which the RNLA previously discussed here. He views the decision as a direct challenge the Court’s holding. And believes the Supreme Court will summarily reverse the Montana court, thus blocking any further attempts by states to dodge Citizens United by proclaiming their “uniqueness.”

Thus contrary to the “sky is falling” meme disseminated by some, Citizens United has not wrecked our democracy, but made it stronger by allowing more voices into our national conversation.  

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Voter ID Considered by New Hampshire; Reform Supported by the Democrat Secretary of State
Tue, Jan 24 2012 7:52 AM

Why should New Hampshire have photo identification requirements?

New Hampshire Secretary of State (which is the chief elections official) William Gardner offers an answer. He said: Because “Someone’s going to be less likely to commit voter fraud.”

Today, the New Hampshire Senate is considering a voter ID bill.  State Senator Russell Prescott (R-Kingston) proposed a bill to be heard today by the Senate Public Municipal Affairs Committee.

It is hoped that Prescott’s bill will generate widespread support in the chamber, from both parties.  William Gardner, the New Hampshire Secretary of State, is a Democrat.  Prescott, a Republican, has crafted the New Hampshire voter ID bill in response to Gardner’s comments on the 2011 bill.

According to the Associated Press:

The latest bill would require voters to present government-issued photo identification to vote but voters without proper identification could sign an affidavit swearing they are who they say they are and vote. Beginning in 2016, the affidavits would include a photo of the voter and the voters would be told to return a letter verifying their identity.

In five months, a new bill is before the New Hampshire Senate, five months after the body failed to override Governor Lynch’s veto of the previous voter ID bill.   What changed was James O’Keefe created a stir in the Granite State in his latest exposé video showing how New Hampshire polling officials, who are not required by law to ask for photo identification, do unwittingly hand out ballots to people impersonating dead voters.

Former Congressional Black Caucus Chair and former Democrat Alabama Congressman Artur Davis now favors voter ID, despite his opposition to such legislation while in Congress.  Davis responded to the news about O’Keefe’s New Hampshire video saying, “Voter fraud is common in many jurisdictions.  I’m struck by the people who forcibly argue there’s no such thing, that it never happens. Many jurisdictions are slow to purge their rolls, so people who have been dead for a number of years can still be on those rolls, and people who have died more recently are certainly on them.”

Given the fraud in New Hampshire, which includes voting in the names of the deceased, there is an opportunity today for the Democrat Secretary of State, who has said he supported voter ID laws generally, to throw his support behind a specific bill.

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District Court Nominee Opposed by Sessions Because of Judicial Activism
Mon, Jan 23 2012 5:06 AM

On May 2, 2007, Judge John Gerrard of the Nebraska Supreme Court authored an opinion on capital punishment six days before the date of an execution of an inmate named Carey Dean Moore.   The opinion by Judge John Gerrard demonstrates reason for very serious concern about whether Gerrard lets an agenda influence his judicial rulings.  Gerrard wrote an unprecedented opinion intervening in the matter, when the inmate didn’t actually request a stay of his execution in 2007. 

The Nebraska Supreme Court, on its own motion, intervened in order to evaluate whether the electrical chair was a constitutional method to conduct the death penalty.  As the dissenting opinion by three justices in the 2007 case said that the Nebraska Supreme Court “has no immediate basis to act and it is unprecedented to do so.”  The dissenters explained, “there have been no requests for relief to this court by Moore, nor has he rescinded his earlier request that no action be taken by this court in his case.”  Furthermore, the dissenters could find “no case which a court suspending a state’s executions outside of the court’s authority to act in response to a request for relief in an existing case by the condemned person.”

Later, the Nebraska Supreme Court received the opportunity to decide the constitutionality of electrocution and decided in another case that the electrical chair was unconstitutional.  Currently, there are still 9 states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia) that permit electrocution. The state legislature passed a law allowing for capital punishment by lethal injection, and Moore was resentenced to death by lethal injection.   Moore has a new execution date: June 12, 2012.

On June 20, 1980, Moore was first sentenced to death for the 1979 murders of Omaha taxi drivers Reuel Van Ness, Jr.  and Maynard Helgeland.  Moore confessed that he planned and carried out the murders.  Moore said of the 2007 stay of his execution: “I was confused. Very confused.  I mean, I gave up my appeals.”  Moore then wrote a pamphlet detailing how he committed the killings.  He has not said differently, and he told the Lincoln Journal Star just last June: “I am guilty.”

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has opposed Judge John Gerrard's nomination to be a federal judge on the District of Nebraska.  Sessions has expressed “very serious concern” about Gerrard’s role in authoring the 2007 stay of execution.   Judges should not use their position on the bench to rewrite the law, because that’s not the proper role of the judiciary.

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957 Dead Voters in South Carolina Cast Ballots
Sat, Jan 21 2012 4:48 AM

According to the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in South Carolina, 957 deceased voters appeared to have voted in recent elections.  He said, "This is an alarming number, and clearly necessitates an investigation into potential criminal activity."  The South Carolina Attorney General requested an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division, writing, “No right is more precious than the right to vote and no process is more important in terms of integrity than the election process. Voter fraud cannot be tolerated.”

This news was uncovered by the DMV Director Kevin Schwedo in testimony before a South Carolina House subcommittee.  The DMV analyzed the records of the South Carolina Election Commission, the South Carolina Department of Vital Statistics and the Social Security Administration.  The DMV discovered that more than 239,000 voters who do not have an South Carolina driver’s license or identification card, and about 37,000 of them were dead; 957 of those people could have voted.

You might be one of those that dismisses claims of this type of vote fraud (posthumous voting), but apparently it’s pretty easy to convince election officials that you are a voter they don’t realize is dead, as expose videographer James O’Keefe discovered (and shows in his newest Youtube video).  At the New Hampshire primary (a state that does not have photo voter ID), O’Keefe arranged for a person to claim to be a voter who is actually dead but still on the voter rolls.  Because there was no photo ID confirming that person’s identity, election officials were going to let that person cast a ballot.

Vote fraud in elections can be combated by certain reforms like voter ID.  South Carolina state legislators recognized the threat that fraud poses to the integrity of elections, and that’s why they passed a voter ID law last year and the governor signed it.  But there is opposition to this necessary electoral reform by Obama’s Justice Department, which rejected the voter ID law using its authority under the Voting Rights Act.

As South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said at the signing and continues to say today even after the DOJ rejected the law: “if you can show pictures to buy Sudafed, if you can show a picture to get on an airplane, you should be able to show a picture to make sure we do what is incredibly inherent in our freedoms and that’s the ability to vote.”

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Obomination: DOJ Distorts Data As It Aggressively Scrutinizes Voter ID
Fri, Jan 20 2012 6:29 AM

 

Obama’s Justice Department will go to whatever lengths to distort data in order to pursue their “aggressive” agenda against voter ID.  The Department of Justice is misusing its power where it has authority not to preclear voting statutes if they violate civil rights laws.

The Department of Justice rushed out its letter denying preclearance of the South Carolina voter ID law by relying on statistics on the number of photo IDs that the Department of Motor Vehicles discovered were not accurate.  Furthermore, the decision also fails to discuss all the evidence of vote fraud by limiting its discussion only to voter impersonation.  Other forms of vote fraud (multiple voting, non-resident voting, etc.) can be prevented by voter ID, but there is no discussion of them.

But South Carolina is not the only state where the DOJ is distorting statistics.  Texas is another state which the DOJ has authority to review its state voting laws.  The DOJ requested its own statistics, demonstrating that it seeks to find evidence from the state – no matter how misleading – to drum up support for its political agenda.  The Department of Justice requested data about minority voters’ names.  However, it should be noted that Hispanic surnames don’t necessarily indicate a voter’s race.  Texas complied with the Department of Justice’s request, but noted that the data is not

Keith Ingram, the director of the Texas elections division said, “By requesting Spanish surname data, the DOJ’s request acknowledges that the DPS database does not accurately reflect the number of Hispanic voters in Texas who possess a driver’s license or photo identification card...Nonetheless, in a good faith attempt to satisfy the DOJ’s request, the State has compiled the requested data – despite the State’s reservations about the reliability of that data.”

Under Obama’s leadership, the nation’s law enforcement agency is unjustly distorting evidence to pursue a politicized agenda against voter ID.  The Department of Justice is failing to live up to its name.

 

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Support for Voter ID Among Secretaries of State
Thu, Jan 19 2012 7:57 AM

 

Current Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler and former Kentucky Secretary Trey Grayson (both RNLA members and speakers at the 2011 National Election Law Seminar) were quoted in a recent NPR piece.   The NPR article, entitled “Secretaries of State at Center of Election Battles,” only mentions three Republican Secretaries of State (from Colorado, Florida and Kentucky).  However, chief state elections officials, no matter what party they may belong to, are charged with ensuring that elections are open, fair and honest.  Voter ID is one method to pursue those goals by preventing vote fraud in elections.

Besides Gessler in Colorado, there are other Secretaries of State who support voter ID. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp recognizes the need for voter ID in states like his own, which has had a photo ID law for years.  According to the Associated Press, Kemp believes “stricter identification requirements enacted by Georgia and other states are needed to deal with attempts to commit voter fraud.”  In Tennessee, Secretary of State Tre Hargett is committed to fairly applying the new state voter ID law and does not believe voter ID discourages turnout saying, “I think that nothing could disenfranchise an eligible voter more than finding out that ineligible voters are voting.”  Then, there’s Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz who supported a new law in his state and said last August, “You have to show an ID before you get on an airplane, you have to show an ID before you open a checking account, and if you like beer you have to show ID before you buy a beer so why not when you vote?”  

But voter ID is not supported only by Secretaries of State who are Republicans.  Rhode Island Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, a Democrat, said, “The perception that identity theft could occur at the polls weakens the public's faith in the fairness of our elections. Voting should be at least as secure as everyday tasks like renting a car or getting a library card that routinely require ID. Photo ID ensures that poll workers can match a face to the name that voters give them when they obtain their ballots at the polls. The simple act of asking for ID protects the rights of every voter.”  Then there’s New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, also a Democrat, who favors photo identification requirements, because, as he explains, “Someone’s going to be less likely to commit voter fraud.”

Voter ID is a common-sense election reform; that’s why so many state legislatures considered it last year and so many Secretaries of State support it.

 

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Montana Supreme Court Rejects Citizens United
Thu, Jan 19 2012 5:01 AM

 On December 30, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the United States Supreme Court’s holding in Citizens United v. FEC, which recognized corporate political speech rights, did not apply in Montana. The court held that a “Montana Exception” exempted compliance with Citizens United because of the state’s supposedly unique political, historical and demographic characteristics. The plaintiffs—consisting of both nonprofit and for-profit corporations—have retained the successful Citizens United attorney and 2009 Republican Lawyer of the Year James Bopp, Jr. for the United States Supreme Court appeal.

 

Although the majority conceded two central premises of Citizens United: (1) corporations have First Amendment protections; and (2) PACs are not a constitutionally permissible alternative to banning independent political expenditures), the majority nonetheless insisted the government had met its burden to uphold the speech-restricting law by cataloging all the criteria that make Montana supposedly particularly susceptible to corruption. These “atypical” characteristics included its history, rural population, abundant natural resources, destination as a transportation corridor and traditionally low campaign costs.

 

The primary dissent rejected the majority’s “Montana Exception” rationale noting Citizens’ broad language: “no sufficient government interest justifies limits on political speech of nonprofit or for profit corporations.” In fact, the dissent demonstrated that Citizens United itself had considered and rejected all of the “unique” criteria on which the majority had relied. Further, the dissent concluded even if all of the factors the majority cited did make Montana particularly susceptible to corporate influence, Citizens United had specifically rejected the state’s chosen remedy of outright banning independent political expenditures. Again, quoting broad language from Citizens United:

 

We must give weight to attempts by [the legislative branch] to seek to dispel either the appearance or the reality of these influences. The remedies enacted by law, however, must comply with the First Amendment; and, it is our law and our tradition that more speech, not less, is the governing rule. An outright ban on corporate political speech during the critical preelection period is not a permissible remedy.

 

Finally, the dissent aptly noted the real possibility Citizens United would be “state lawed” out of existence by incumbent state-level politicians eager to maintain control of the political dialogue by restricting corporate speech rights in state and local elections.

 

One such politician is Montana’s Democrat Attorney General, Steve Bullock, who personally represented the state in defending the challenged law and who is now running for governor. Mr. Bullock convinced the court to adopt his “Montana Exception” legal theory; the United States Supreme Court may not agree. He was correct on one aspect of the state’s “uniqueness,” however; while twenty-four states had laws affected by the Citizens’ decision, nine have repealed or suspended them, only one—Montana—has defended it. The United States Supreme Court may soon decide Montana is also unique in being the state that unwittingly strengthened First Amendment protections for corporate speech, by refusing to heed the Citizens United holding.

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GOP Field Critical of DOJ Decision to Block South Carolina Voter ID
Wed, Jan 18 2012 5:05 AM

The South Carolina Attorney General is suing the Department of Justice for denying preclearance of the state voter ID law.  As the Republican presidential candidates are gearing up for Saturday’s primary in the Palmetto State, they have been vocal on this topic.  The GOP field supports voter ID laws like South Carolina’s and has been critical of Eric Holder’s Justice Department decision to reject the voter ID law. 

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted last week, “Requiring ID to vote is common sense defense against fraud. SC is right to challenge Obama DOJ” and wrote a longer defense of voter ID laws in The Daily Caller.  Gingrich wrote, “Instead of standing in the way of good government, the Obama administration should applaud efforts to bring integrity to South Carolina elections and elections in all states, especially as we enter 2012 and what will perhaps be a contentious election year.” 

Governor Rick Perry said, “Each of our states are under assault right now by this administration. We may be under assault - South Carolina, they're actually at war with you” in a public forum in Charleston.  He added“I’m saying the state of Texas is under assault by the federal government. I’m saying also that South Carolina is at war with this federal government, and with this administration.”

Former Governor Mitt Romney said, “I find it extraordinary that Eric Holder is one more time making a very serious error.  The idea that people should not able to be identified when they vote so we know that they are not voting multiple times.  And that’s the purpose here of course.   We don’t want people voting multiple times. And you can get a photo ID free from your state and get it at the time you register to vote… There are ways that we can do this that would protect our voting system.”

When asked about the South Carolina voter ID law, former Senator Rick Santorum called voter ID laws “common-sense, anti-fraud measures” and noted the common uses of photo identification: “You need photo ID to buy a drink; you need photo ID to get on an airplane. You need photo ID to buy cigarettes."

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A Tale of Two Kings: One for Equality; One for Supremacy
Tue, Jan 17 2012 5:07 AM

Eric Holder, the attorney general, spoke yesterday at a rally on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  It was a missed opportunity, a chance to reverse course and declare that Justice Department he leads is truly committed to the principles of the African-American leader whose values were celebrated on that day.  But instead the 82nd attorney general has failed to remember a key principle on the 83rd birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During Holder’s tenure, the Justice Department made the politically motivated decision to drop a case of intimidation of voters in Philadelphia.  Dressed in a black military-style uniform, Black Panther leader King Samir Shabazz brandished a club and identified himself as “security” to potential voters.  Observers heard yells from the Black Panthers like "You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker!"  Former civil rights lawyer Bartle Bull called it "the most blatant form of voter intimidation I’ve ever seen."  The Justice Department originally won a default judgment in a lawsuit against Shabazz, but then suddenly decided to dismiss the case.

What would Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. think about all this?  Let’s look at what he said over forty years ago that still holds meaning today.  In his “Our God Is Marching On” speech, Dr. King declared that “a new idea, more powerful than guns or clubs was born”: “a society of justice where none would prey upon the weakness of others.” 

In the famous “I Have A Dream” speech, Dr. King said:

We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

In his “Give Us a Ballot” speech, Dr. King echoed these principles by saying:

We must not seek to use our emerging freedom and our growing power to do the same thing to the white minority that has been done to us for so many centuries. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man. We must not become victimized with a philosophy of black supremacy. God is not interested merely in freeing black men and brown men and yellow men, but God is interested in freeing the whole human race. We must work with determination to create a society, not where black men are superior and other men are inferior and vice versa, but a society in which all men will live together as brothers, and respect the dignity and worth of human personality.

Dr. King hoped for a society where all races were treated equal and acted with brotherly love, not where one race dominated over the other through intimidation and threats of violence.  He had a dream, a dream which the Department of Justice should be pursuing.

Eric Holder said yesterday, “I have the privilege – and the solemn duty – of enforcing many of the civil rights laws and reforms that Dr. King fought to ensure.   For our nation’s Department of Justice, and for our government and law enforcement partners across the country, this is among our highest priorities.”  This is what the attorney general says, but what does he end up doing?  Ultimately, which King is Eric Holder more influenced by:  the one who stands for suppression, or the one who stands for equality?

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Republican Lawyers Who Lived Out MLK’s Dream
Mon, Jan 16 2012 5:24 AM

Today as we celebrate the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., let us also remember three inspirational individuals who carried Dr. King’s torch to fight for equality and against discrimination on the basis of race:  James Weldon Johnson, Everett McKinley Dirksen and Art Fletcher.

James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson was a man of firsts.  He was the first African-American admitted to Florida bar exam, was the first African-American professor at Fisk University and created the first African-American newspaper.  He was active in the party as treasurer of the so-called “Colored Republican Club” and served in Theodore Roosevelt’s presidential campaign.  He was the leader of the NAACP, wrote the famous anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and was a U.S. ambassador.

Everett McKinley Dirksen

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is known for saying on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  Color of one’s skin did not matter to Everett McKinley Dirksen either.  After being instrumental in pushing forward the Civil Rights Act, Dirksen said, "I am involved in mankind, and whatever the skin, we are all included in mankind."    After receiving his degree from the University of Minnesota College of Law at Minneapolis, he served as a Senator from January 3, 1951 until he died on September 7, 1969.  He held important roles in the party as the Republican whip and minority leader.  Those who work in Congress might recognize his last name, for it is the namesake of a Senate office building.

Art Fletcher

Fletcher was the person responsible for the slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”  And he lived out that slogan:  after receiving undergraduate degrees from Washburn University, and a law degree from Chicago La Salle Extension University, he used his mind in a highly successful career after that.  He was a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights which he chaired from 1990 to 1993, was former assistant Secretary of Labor, and served as an advisor to Presidents Nixon, Ford and George H. W. Bush, and was chairman of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.  His slogan, of course, is the motto of the United Negro College Fund, which he founded.

 Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

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Obomination: DOJ Puts Politics Above the Law
Fri, Jan 13 2012 5:26 AM

 

Last Friday’s Obomination was Obama’s decision to make four illegal recess appointments last week.  This week, the Obomination is his Justice Department’s poorly written after-the-fact rationalization for those appointments.  Obama and his administration believe the law should be followed only when it suits their political agenda.

Senator Grassley, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, called Obama’s recess appointments a “blatant attempt to circumvent the Senate and the Constitution.”  The DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinion makes the assertion that “the President could properly conclude that the body is not available to provide advice and consent for a sufficient period to support the use of his recess appointment power.”  In other words, the President decides when the Senate can exercise their constitutional powers?   The Senate has always had the power to decide when it is in session.  To claim otherwise is to make a radical assertion of executive branch power over the legislative branch.

According to Senator Grassley, the opinion “relies on no Supreme Court decision and many conclusions are unsupported in law or the Constitution… [a]nd it flies in the face of more than 90 years of historical practice.”  Reagan’s attorney general and Justice Department attorneys in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations have already explained how Obama’s actions were unconstitutional.  Senator Grassley also points out that this is “a claim of presidential power that the [George W.] Bush Administration refused to make.”  Even former OLC attorney John Yoo, known for his support of a strong presidential power when it comes to national security, would stop short of advising that the president assert this expansive executive authority.

Senator Grassley notes that “its conclusion is at odds with… the administration’s own previous statements.”  In oral argument before the United States Supreme Court, Obama’s Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal said that the Senate “recess has to be longer than 3 days.”  Obama’s DOJ wants to have it both ways: the Office of the Solicitor General can say one thing but the OLC can say something else. 

The opinion is dated January 6, two days after the appointments were made.  Supposedly, the written document “memorializes” verbal advice given to White House counsel.  The opinion came out yesterday, January 12, which means that the Justice Department hesitated on whether to release this opinion for almost a week, and for good reason.  The opinion they made public has been dismissed by a former OLC attorney for making “demonstrably false” claims and being “frankly, embarrassing.”  Apparently, if Obama calls up the OLC, he can get legal advice letting him do just about anything… even if the Constitution stands in his way.  And then some days later when he calls back for more help, the OLC will write opinions twisting the law in every way they can to rationalize it after the fact.

Those on the left seem to only raise constitutional arguments when it suits their political ends.  Rep. Ted Kennedy (D) filed a brief asserting than a recess less than ten days was not sufficient time to give a recess appointment.  The Kennedy brief was filed in opposition of the nomination of a federal judge by a President George W. Bush.  But the law is not the law just when there is a Republican president in the Oval Office.  Democrats should uphold the law at all times, not just at politically convenient occasions.

Obama’s behavior is sadly just par for the course.  The 44th President has repeatedly sought to circumvent legislative branch power.  Senator Grassley said, “Taken together with a laundry list of other assertions of the power to act without Congress, this is clearly an escalation in a pattern of contempt for the elected representatives of the American people.”  

Not only does Obama show contempt for the Senate, but his actions really show contempt for the rule of law.  Now that’s an Obomination.

 

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