Does the Supreme Court care more about free speech for the wealthy than about political corruption?
March 25, 2011- Imagine you want to run for office, say for a seat in the state legislature, and you are deciding whether to opt into a voluntary public financing system: accepting a pot of money from the government in exchange for giving up the right to raise funds from private individuals. If you opt in, you would be free from the burdens of fundraising, and the chances of corruption (or the appearance of corruption) would be minimized because you wouldn't be dependent on others to fund your campaign. But there's a danger: What if your opponent, or an outside group, is determined to spend lots of money against you? To deal with this problem, states like Arizona give you additional matching funds, to a point, to make it viable for publicly financed candidates like you to compete.
March 27, 2011- Thursday, ThinkProgress reported that the Ohio House had approved the most restrictive voter id law in the nation — a bill that would exclude 890,000 Ohioans from voting. Earlier this week Texas lawmakers passed a similar bill, and voter id legislation — which would make it significantly more difficult for seniors, students and minorities to vote — is now under consideration in more than 22 states across the country
March 28, 2011- Several years ago Arizona passed a clean elections law that provides state subsidies for candidates who follow certain rules. One provision of the law states that if a subsidized candidate is running against a self-funded candidate, and the self-funded candidate spends more than the subsidized candidate, then the subsidies increase. This is meant to prevent zillionaires from massively outspending everyone else, and needless to say, zillionaires and their allies don't like this much. Over at SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston summarizes the zillionaire side of the argument like this:
March 28, 2011- Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a pair of cases that have campaign finance reformers on edge. McComish v. Bennett and Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC concerns the “triggered matching funds” provision of Arizona’s public financing system. By all accounts, the system is both successful and popular with the state’s voters.
So what is at stake? Simply put, it is the ability of ordinary citizens to run competitive races against better-financed opponents. Under Arizona’s now 13 year-old system, those candidates who decide to opt-in agree to limit total spending and accept only small contributions. In exchange, the state contributes public funding.
March 29, 2011- Political corruption in Arizona in the 1990s was so bad that a sting operation swept up almost 10% of the Legislature in a scheme to open a casino in the state. In one notorious episode, the chairman of the judiciary committee brought a gym bag to a meeting to carry away his $55,000 bribe.
Arizonans got so fed up with politicians on the take that they voted in 1998 to set up a "clean elections" system to try to limit the corrupting influence of money in politics. Like the public financing systems in other states, Arizona's doesn't force anyone to participate. It gives public campaign money to candidates who voluntarily agree to limit private contributions.
Campaign finances should be more regularly reported.
March 28, 2011- Gov. Mark Dayton pledged to release his campaign finance reports more frequently last week as part of his push toward requiring more consistent financial campaign reporting. He has also proposed needed legislation to make political donations more transparent during non-election years.
Minnesota law currently requires financial campaign activity to be reported only during an election year, leaving a 13-month gap between the last reporting period of one election year and the first month of the following election period.
However, candidates spend and receive money during this non-reporting period. It does not make sense to require reporting only half of the time when politicians are spending and receiving money all the time.
March 28, 2011- The Supreme Court today heard its first arguments on campaign finance since last year’s Citizens United decision; the early returns were not encouraging for reform advocates.
In two cases from Arizona, conservative activists are asking the justices to strike down a state law that lets state candidates finance their campaigns with public funds rather than private donations. Common Cause and other reform groups see such “clean elections” laws as critical to heading off political corruption and breaking the hold of corporate and other special interests on our elections.
At Scotusblog.com, a website that covers the court in depth, veteran reporter Lyle Deniston warned that Justice Anthony Kennedy, often considered a swing vote, seemed hostile to the Arizona law. Reuters correspondent James Vicini meanwhile, reported that Justice Antonin Scalia termed the law “very much pro-incumbent.”
March 28, 2011- Organizations associated with prominent Republican strategist Karl Rove plan to spend $120 million to defeat Democrats in the 2012 elections, according to Sen. Barbara Boxer.
A former top aide to President George W. Bush, Rove helped form such groups as American Crossroads and American Crossroads GPS, which spent heavily on negative political attack ads against congressional Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections.
"Take it from me: I know first-hand the extremes Republicans are willing to go to win," Boxer (D-Calif.) says Monday in a fundraising email for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). "They threw everything but the kitchen sink at me in 2010 – and they will have even more money to fund their attacks this time."
March 28, 2011- A few weeks ago, Rick Scott reintroduced Florida to Jim Crow-style voting laws, which essentially disenfranchise a large percentage of African Americans and just so happen to boost Scott's chances at reelection. The law brought back draconian restrictions on felon's voting rights that Florida's two previous governors worked to reform. Because of those reforms, however, Scott may actually need federal approval to make statewide changes in voter registration rules.
Earlier today, the NAACP sent a letter to Scott and his cabinet, saying that in compliance with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the changes must be submitted to the federal government.