Tag Archives: Hans Von Spakovsky

Campaign Finance Reform Doesn’t Kill People, People Kill People

John Bresnahan at Politico:

House Democrats have offered to exempt the National Rifle Association from a sweeping campaign-finance bill, removing a major obstacle in the push to roll back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

The NRA had objected to some of the strict financial disclosure provisions that Democrats have proposed for corporations and politically active nonprofits and that had kept moderate, pro-gun Democrats from backing the legislation.

But if the NRA signs off on the deal, the bill could come to the House floor as early as this week. The NRA said it would not comment until specific legislative language is revealed.

An NRA official also noted that the group would not be supporting the bill but would not actively oppose it if the deal with the Democratic leadership holds up.

The legislation in question is designed to restore more campaign finance rules in the wake of last year’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which removed prohibitions on corporations and unions running TV ads opposing or backing candidates in the run-up to an election.

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

The new legislation, which could come to the floor as early as this week, had been hung up over NRA objections. The compromise would exempt organizations with more than one million members that are active in all 50 states and raise 15% of their funds or less from corporations. In other words, they’re going to regulate all the little guys, but not the NRA or the biggest players. Seems, er, effective.

Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones:

The deal falls short of what campaign finance watchdogs wanted, but would probably be a net gain for Democrats. According to Politico:

The new agreement would exempt organizations that have over one million members, have been in existence for more than 10 years, have members in all 50 states, and raise 15 percent or less of their funds from corporations, from the disclosure requirements.

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The deal with the NRA smoothes the road for the bill’s passage in the House, where pro-gun Democrats had feared pissing off the powerful group. But it would still face hurdles in the senate, where it could face major procedural roadblocks from Republicans.

Aaron Weiner at Washington Independent:

Two weeks ago, we ran a piece on lobbying efforts to derail the DISCLOSE Act, which would roll back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision by forcing companies that finance campaign ads to issue disclosure messages. One of the main opponents of the measure was the National Rifle Association, which naturally didn’t want to tack a “we’re the NRA, and we approve this message” onto every TV spot it funded.

Well, it seems the NRA has gotten its way

John Samples at Cato:

I wonder what principle of campaign finance regulation justifies this exemption? Earlier the authors of DISCLOSE said the American people deserve to know who is trying to influence elections. Now it would seem that voters only need information about relatively small, young, geographically-confined organizations that receive more than 15 percent of their money from corporations.

There is no principle at stake here. The NRA had enough support to stop the DISCLOSE Act. House leaders had to compromise by cutting the NRA a deal, a special exemption from the proposed law. The deal does show, if nothing else, that House Democrats are really worried about new money entering the fall campaign. They are willing to go a long way — even as far as helping the NRA — to make sure other speech funded by businesses and groups is not heard.

Finally, imagine you are a member of a group not exempted from DISCLOSE. You have been treated unequally by Congress.  The courts have said Congress can treat you unequally if they show that this exemption  for the NRA has a rational relationship to an important government purpose.  How does exempting older, bigger, more widespread groups with less than fifteen percent corporate funding help Americans cast an informed vote?  Put another way, if the NRA deserves an exemption, doesn’t everyone?

Erick Erickson at Redstate:

There are few organizations purportedly on the side of freedom that aggravate me more than the National Rifle Association.

In fact, these days I cringe when I see good conservatives with their lifetime member sticker from the NRA on the back of their cars. I support Gun Owners of America, which is a consistent and uncompromising defender of the second amendment, not a weak little girl of an organization protecting itself while throwing everyone else under the bus.

But that’s what the National Rifle Association is doing. You and I are willing to stand together because we know we either stand together or hang separately. The NRA legislative strategy in the past few years has been to hang everybody else so they can be the last man standing — more interested in maintaining the veneer of bipartisanship than actually standing up for the second amendment.


So if you are a small organization that just started up to defend freedom, you are screwed. But if you’ve been collecting a large file of members for decades off the image of Charlton Heston while repeated screwing conservatives, you’ll be safe.

This is just the NRA not wanting competition for itself. If they were really committed to freedom, let alone the second amendment, they should be encouraging more freedom loving, second amendment loving organizations to rise and fight. Instead, they are collaborating with the left to shut out competition.

Remember, the NRA had to be cajoled into opposing Sotomayor.

The NRA refused to oppose the most anti-gun Attorney General nomination in American history.

The NRA supported Dede Scozzafava and it attacked Marco Rubio.

Now the NRA is endorsing the Democrat in Ohio against John Kasich while collaborating with the Democrats on restricting the freedom of speech.

Remember, the NRA also opposed taking the Heller case to the Supreme Court because it was too scared of what might happen.

Gun Owners of America never compromises on the Second Amendment.

The one bit of good news here is that Mitch McConnell is a serious first amendment advocate and while I’ve been open with my criticisms of him, he and I typically stand shoulder to shoulder on this issue and I hope he’ll kill it off in the Senate.

Hans A. von Spakovsky at The Corner:

So, the NRA may end up providing the lobbying grease that allows this noxious and partisan piece of legislation to slide through the House, something that I seriously doubt most of the individual members of the NRA (who are strong believers in the First Amendment as well as the Second) would agree with.

UPDATE: Bill Scher and Matt Lewis at Bloggingheads

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Filed under Guns, Legislation Pending, The Constitution

Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Gun In Your Hand?

Randy James in Time:

He likes to call himself “America’s toughest sheriff” and even used that moniker as the title of his autobiography. It’s a claim few people would challenge — but whether that makes Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff Joe Arpaio an effective law-enforcement officer or, as his critics say, a flagrant human-rights violator remains an open question. The stern law-and-order advocate has declared war on illegal immigration in his sprawling jurisdiction, which includes Phoenix, but now the Federal Government is reining him in. Arpaio, who gained national attention for housing his inmates in tents when jails reached capacity and forcing prisoners to wear pink underwear, said earlier this month that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has revoked his deputies’ authority to arrest people on immigration violations in the field (they can still check immigration status and make arrests in county jails). A final decision by the Department of Homeland Security is expected to be made public on Oct. 14. Though Arpaio’s severe tactics are popular among Arizonans, his deputies have attracted widespread criticism in their pursuit of illegal immigrants for harassment and the racial profiling of Latinos. Just a small fraction of the 33,000 arrests he has overseen have been based on documentation checks in the field, but Arpaio says the program to allow field checks is symbolically important: “This is a crime-deterrent program, too.”

There’s no shortage of opinion on whether Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio has done anything wrong. Almost ignored, however, are the Justice Department lawyers investigating him. Yet their conduct raises serious questions — namely, have their liberal bias and apparently unethical tactics caused fundamental flaws in their investigation?

The Department’s Civil Rights Division is investigating how Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff, treats illegal immigrants when he arrests them. Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security is auditing his participation in a federal program — commonly referred to by its statutory citation, “287(g)” — that allows local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws. Arpaio, whose office is the largest participant in the DHS program, has been accused of improperly launching “crime sweeps in areas around Phoenix with high concentrations of Hispanics” as well as “separating” illegal immigrants from other inmates that he has arrested.

It’s impossible to know at this point whether any of the criticisms of Arpaio have merit. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who wrote the legal guidelines for Arpaio’s crime-suppression operations, insists that that he isn’t “aware of any racial profiling in Arpaio’s crime and immigration sweeps” and notes that Arpaio has simply saturated neighborhoods deemed to be high-crime areas. Regardless, the Justice Department may have a lot more to answer for than Arpaio.

Arizona is on the front lines of the immigration crisis confronting the American Southwest. As thousands of illegal immigrants flood across the border — many engaging in violent and drug-related crimes, choking the local court systems and otherwise imposing heavy economic costs on Arizona communities — Arpaio has been a visible force in local enforcement of federal immigration laws.

Not surprisingly, Arpaio has incurred the wrath of those on the left who oppose immigration enforcement in general, and especially local enforcement of federal immigration laws. Many would like to see the 287(g) program terminated. Unfortunately, the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section (SPL), which initiated the investigation of Maricopa County, appears hell-bent on aiding these groups’ efforts. SPL has a bad track record enforcing poorly defined and constitutionally questionable legal standards, and it has already been accused of unethical conduct in this case.

Several Radley Balko posts at Reason, here, here and here.

Huffington Post:

Joseph Arpaio, the Arizona sheriff known for his brutal tactics to little effect, is at the center of yet another controversy.

Arpaio is under investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for alleged illegal profiling in his immigration crackdowns. The federal government recently took away some of his power to enforce immigration laws — Arpaio cited a non-existent law to claim he could keep arresting illegal immigrants on the street anyway.

Now, Telemundo 52 is reporting on the case of a woman named Alma Minerva Chacon, who says she was detained while nine months pregnant and forced to give birth while shackled to a bed. Chacon said she was not allowed to hold her baby and was told that if no one came to pick up the child within 72 hours, the baby would be turned over to state custody.

Matthew DeLong at The Washington Independent:

Here are some stark — if not entirely surprising — numbers from the latest Rasmussen Reports poll of the 2010 Arizona gubernatorial race. Out of four potential Republican contenders, anti-illegal immigration crusader and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is the only one who leads the likely Democratic front-runner Terry Goddard, the state’s popular attorney general, in a head-to-head match-up.

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Arizona voters finds Arpaio, famed for his crackdowns on illegal immigrants, leading Goddard, the state’s current attorney general, by 12 points – 51% to 39%. Seven percent (7%) prefer some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided.

According to the survey, Goddard leads Republican Gov. Jan Brewer by a comfortable nine-point margin, and Goddard is virtually tied with State Treasurer Dean Martin. Brewer is the only one of the possible candidates who is officially in the race.

With numbers like this, could Arpaio be enticed to run for governor? And could he win?

Radley Balko:

It’s gotten so surreal out in Arizona, I’m a little lost in the details. But as I understand it, here’s what’s happened since our last update:

  • Judge Lisa Flores says the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department hast stopped bringing inmates into her court for hearings.
  • Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas filed a bizarre federal lawsuit alleging a wide-ranging conspiracy among the county’s judges and supervisors against Arpaio, Thomas, and Arpaio’s department.
  • Thomas indicted two Maricopa County supervisors on corruption charges.
  • Then it gets weird. Yesterday, Arpaio and Thomas criminally charged Judge Donahoe (the judge who held Arpaio’s document-swiping deputy in contempt) on bribery charges. Except there was apparently never any actual bribe. They didn’t like how Donahoe had ruled on some motions related to Arpaio’s investigation into the construction of a new tower for the county courthouse. Apparently, Donahoe’s “bribe” was merely his employment with the court system that benefits from the tower. Oh, and he’s also retiring soon.
  • Bonus: The indictment documents Thomas released to the press apparently “mistakenly” included Donahoe’s home address.
  • Conor Friedersdorf at Sully’s place:

    If any public official in America deserves the contempt of all citizens, it is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County lawman who has forced innocent men to march down the street in pink underwear, reportedly forced a Latina woman to give birth while shackled to a bed, and is now trumping up bribery charges against a local judge. That Arizonans repeatedly elect this man is a mark against their polity.

    The Los Angeles Times reports:

    He recently filed a racketeering lawsuit against the entire Maricopa County power structure. On Thursday night, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an emergency order forbidding the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office from searching the home or chambers of a Superior Court judge who was named in the racketeering case.

    Last year, when Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called for a federal investigation of Arpaio’s immigration enforcement, the Sheriff’s Office demanded to see Gordon’s e-mails, phone logs and appointment calendars.

    When the police chief in one suburb complained about the sweeps, Arpaio’s deputies raided that town’s City Hall.

    A local television station, KPHO, in a 10-minute-long segment last month, documented two dozen instances of the sheriff launching investigations of critics, none of which led to convictions.

    The most notorious case involves county Supervisor Don Stapley, a Republican who has sometimes disagreed with Arpaio’s immigration tactics. Last December, deputies arrested Stapley on charges of failing to disclose business interests properly on his statement of economic interest.

    Stapley’s alarmed supervisor colleagues had their offices swept for listening devices. Arpaio contended the search was illegal and sent investigators to the homes of dozens of county staffers to grill them about the sweep.

    And see the tireless Radley Balko here for another example of this man’s penchant for obstinate lawlessness.

    Given all that, can a reader from Arizona please explain this to me: “PHOENIX — The most popular choice for governor among Republicans is someone who isn’t running now — and may not run at all: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.” There is no instance I know of in America where the grassroots of the Republican Party could do more damage to liberty than to elect this man governor.

    E.D. Kain at The League:

    Hey now.  ”Arizonans” don’t repeatedly elect Sheriff Joe into office – the citizens of Maricopa County do.  The rest of us have nothing to do with it. Careful with that big paint brush, Conor, someone could lose an eye….

    UPDATE: Zachary Roth at TPM

    UPDATE #2: Washington Times

    Hans Von Spakovsky at The Corner

    Will at The League

    UPDATE #3: James Joyner

    UPDATE #4: Julian Sanchez

    UPDATE #5: Zachary Roth at TPM

    UPDATE #6: Alex Pareene at Gawker

    UPDATE #7: Jerry Markon and Stephanie McCrummen at WaPo

    UPDATE #8: David Ingram at the Blog of Legal Times


    Filed under Crime, Immigration, Political Figures

    The Beard Was A Scandal In And Of Itself


    New Mexico Independent’s Heath Haussamen:

    Gov. Bill Richardson and “former high-ranking members of his administration” won’t be charged following the federal investigation into allegations of pay-to-play in his administration, the Associated Press is reporting today.

    “It’s over. There’s nothing. It was killed in Washington,” the AP quoted “a person familiar with the investigation, who asked not to be identified because federal officials had not disclosed results of the probe.

    The decision to kill the case was made by “top Justice Department officials,” that person told the news service.

    Richardson’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the AP report. The governor, who is in Cuba on a trade mission, has said all along that he and his administration did nothing improper.

    Since sometime in mid 2008, federal investigators had been probing allegations that CDR Financial Products received a state investment contract that paid almost $1.5 million in exchange for $110,000 in contributions to two Richardson political committees and his 2006 gubernatorial reelection campaign. CDR was paid to advise the NMFA on interest-rate swaps and restructuring escrow funds for $1.6 billion in bonds related to the transportation project dubbed GRIP, or Governor Richardson’s Investment Partnership.

    Michelle Malkin:

    Well, well, well. Another Obama ally off the hook. Last month, it was Chris Dodd who escaped accountability for his Countrywide sweetheart home loan deals. This week, it’s failed Commerce Secretary nominee Bill Richardson. The decision to drop federal corruption charges against Richardson was made by…top officials in crime-coddling Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Injustice.

    Meredith Jessup at Townhall

    Ed Morrissey:

    Apparently, the Obama administration and the Holder DoJ condone this activity, while pursuing the people who keep America safe from attack.  It’s an interesting set of priorities, and unfortunately not much of a surprise.

    So when do we get to hear protestations from House and Senate Democrats over the politicization of the DoJ? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

    Don Suber:

    Maybe there was nothing to it. Dry hole. Dead end.

    And maybe unicorns will give us free health care.


    Dan Riehl

    UPDATE: Andy McCarthy at The Corner

    Scott Johnson at Powerline

    Zachary Roth at TPM

    UPDATE #2: Hans Von Spakovsky at The Corner

    Jennifer Rubin at Commentary

    Leave a comment

    Filed under Political Figures

    Why Don’t Any Of These Sixties Revivals Include A Beatles Reunion? Oh. Yeah.


    Jerry Seper in the Washington Times:

    Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, the No. 3 official in the Obama Justice Department, was consulted and ultimately approved a decision in May to reverse course and drop a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party of intimidating voters in Philadelphia during November’s election, according to interviews.

    The department’s career lawyers in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division who pursued the complaint for five months had recommended that Justice seek sanctions against the party and three of its members after the government had already won a default judgment in federal court against the men.

    […] At issue was what, if any, punishment to seek against the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (NBPP) and three of its members accused in a Jan. 7 civil complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

    Two NBPP members, wearing black berets, black combat boots, black dress shirts and black jackets with military-style markings, were charged in a civil complaint with intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place, including brandishing a 2-foot-long nightstick and issuing racial threats and racial insults. Authorities said a third NBPP member “managed, directed and endorsed the behavior.

    A post and an article by Hans A. von Spakovsky at NRO, here and here.

    The Southern Poverty Law Center says that the New Black Panther Party is a hate group, similar to the Ku Klux Klan. Whether that is so or not, two of the officers of the NBPP were caught red-handed, one brandishing a weapon, threatening white voters at the polls. One complaining witness, Bartle Bull (a former Robert Kennedy campaign staffer and civil-rights lawyer) said “it would qualify as the most blatant form of voter intimidation” he had ever encountered.

    As a former DOJ alumnus, I have never, ever heard of the Division refusing to take a default judgment, especially in a situation where the defendants are basically admitting they violated the law. The facts indicting the DOJ seem damning, and no good explanation seems possible. Indeed, it raises a serious question whether straightforward but pernicious racial-identity politics are at play, the same kind driving the president’s Supreme Court nomination. Do the same people who excuse Sonia Sotomayor’s racist speeches allow Holder and Co. to dismiss racist intimidation by the New Black Panther Party? Should application of the civil-rights laws (by Sotomayor in the Ricci case and the DOJ in the NBPP case) really  turn on the sympathies the officials have for different racial litigants? Should racist minority members get a pass when whites would not? Does the Left believe that only white supremacists (or Republicans) can engage in racism or intimidation of voters? Do the prohibitions in federal voting-rights laws not apply to radical organizations with Marxist orientations?

    Two posts by Andy McCarthy at NRO, here and here.

    The Obama political appointees overruled experienced line prosecutors, experienced civil-rights division supervisors, and the Justice Department’s appellate division. Not that the Justice Department under AG Holder is politicized or anything.

    The decision has Congressman Frank Wolf (R., Va.) asking, “If showing a weapon, making threatening statements and wearing paramilitary uniforms in front of polling station doors does not constitute voter intimidation, at what threshold of activity would these laws be enforceable?”

    Good question. Looks like Obama’s stewards decided the Bush DOJ “acted stupidly” in enforcing the civil-rights laws.

    Michelle Malkin

    Erick Erickson at Redstate:

    Mr. Perrelli was a Janet Reno flunky when Clinton was in the White House and, naturally, a Barack Obama donor.

    John Hinderaker at Powerline:

    DOJ’s decision to dismiss the case has been mysterious, in part, because it came after the defendants had defaulted. So the case had been won, and Justice decided to give it away.

    Republicans in Congress have tried to find out who decided to let the Panthers off, and why, but they have been stonewalled by the Justice Department and the Obama administration. The Washington Times has been investigating, however, and reports that the decision to drop the case was approved by Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli. Perrilli is a Democratic Party activist who raised $500,000 for President Obama’s campaign and was rewarded with the number three spot in the Department of Justice.

    UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff at Powerline

    UPDATE #2: David Weigel in the Washington Independent

    Ed Morrissey

    UPDATE #3: Investigation of the DOJ

    Jerry Seper at Washington Times

    Michelle Malkin

    UPDATE #4: Washington Times editorial

    David Weigel at Washington Independent

    UPDATE #5: David Freddoso at Washington Examiner

    Jerry Seper at Washington Times

    UPDATE #6: Washington Times editorial

    Michelle Malkin

    Jennifer Rubin at Commentary

    UPDATE #7: David Weigel

    UPDATE #8: J. Christian Adams in The Washington Times

    UPDATE #9: Fox News

    UPDATE #10: John Fund at WSJ

    UPDATE #11: Adam Serwer at The American Prospect

    UPDATE #12: More Serwer

    John Hinderaker at Powerline


    Filed under Crime, Political Figures

    Sonia Sotomayor Beyond Thunderdome

    Sotomayor Supreme Court

    Various blogs on the first day of hearings.

    Huffington Post has live television from Senate Democrats Live

    SCOTUSblog has a liveblog

    Chris Good with some opening blog items:

    Sotomayor: “If I introduced everyone who was familylike, we’d be here all morning.”

    Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) tells her to introduce whomever she wants; the record will be kept open for later additions. Sotomayor then introduces her immediate family, points to “god children and dear friends” in the rest of the row.

    Michelle Malkin

    Ramesh Ponnuru at WaPo, taking your questions.

    Andrew Pincus, lawyer, livblogging at TPM

    UPDATE: Ed Morrissey

    UPDATE: Two from the left, two from the right.

    Matthew Yglesias

    Wouldn’t it be kind of great if the Senate GOP somehow did manage to trick Sotomayor into delivering a bitter tirade against whitey: “I took one look at Frank Rizzo’s pale, pale skin and unaccented speech and knew I would do whatever it takes to keep him down—that’s empathy in action!”

    And just think of the gloating posts on the Corner.

    Update: Er… that should be Frank Ricci.

    Kevin Drum

    Etc. etc.  Jesus.  The Senate would be a much better place if senators weren’t allowed to speak.  Is there really any reason at all for an entire day of inane opening statements from these people?

    Hans Von Spakovsky at NRO

    Listening to Sonia Sotomayor’s opening statement at her confirmation hearing today, I was struck by two of her assertions. First, her claim that she believes in “fidelity to the law” and that “the task of a judge is not to make the law — it is to apply the law” is quite a change from her previous speeches and articles. It reminds me of the famous statement by the former editor of the Saturday Evening Post who once famously said that “when a politician changes his position, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether he has seen the light or felt the heat.” Given the consistency of Sotomayor’s contrary views on this particularly issue throughout her career, it seems more likely that she has felt the heat rather than seen the light. The fact that she felt the need to address this in her opening statement shows that she feels vulnerable on this issue.

    Paul Mirengoff

    The real question is this: if Sotomayor’s practice is to “strengthen both the rule of law and faith in the impartiality of our justice system” by carefully addressing the “arguments and concerns” of the parties, why did she depart so fundamentally from this practice in the Ricci case?

    Leave a comment

    Filed under Political Figures, Supreme Court

    FEC, Easy As 1,2,3


    Federal Election Commission posts. I know, exciting!

    Pete Martin and Zachary Roth in TPM have a long story about the FEC:

    Election-law experts, supporters of campaign-finance regulations, and even some members of the commission itself are expressing growing concern about a string of cases in which the three Republicans on the commission — led by Tom DeLay’s former ethics lawyer — have voted as a block against enforcement, preventing the commission from carrying out its basic regulatory function. As the normally mild-mannered Washington Post editorial board wrote recently: “The three Republican appointees are turning the commission into The Little Agency That Wouldn’t: wouldn’t launch investigations, wouldn’t bring cases, wouldn’t even accept settlements that the staff had already negotiated.”

    Craig Holman of Public Citizen told TPMmuckraker the commission is currently “defunct.” (The FEC’s press office declined to make any of the commissioners available for interviews.)

    FEC watchers say the commission’s three Republicans — Donald McGahn, Matthew Petersen, and Caroline Hunter, each nominated by President Bush — are acting out of philosophical opposition to the very idea of regulating campaign money. “It’s the Republican caucus that actually believes there shouldn’t be campaign-finance regulation,” said Holman. “It is ideological. They are ideologically opposed to the purpose of the Federal Election Commission.”

    Matthew Yglesias on the above story and also on Citizens United v. FEC. Matt Y links to Ian Millhiser at The Wonk Room:

    This Term, however, the Court announced that it will leave one case, a campaign finance case called Citizens United v. FEC, undecided.  Moreover, in a brief order explaining why this decision will be delayed, the Court ordered the parties to brief whether a landmark precedent limiting the influence of corporate money in politics should be overruled.

    Nineteen years ago, in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Court upheld a ban on independent political expenditures–so-called “soft money” contributions–by corporate donors.  As the Court explained in Austin, “the unique state-conferred corporate structure that facilitates the amassing of large treasuries warrants the limit on independent expenditures.”  Corporations are designed to amass massive amounts of money, and they can use their enormous wealth to drown out individual voices, all while spending only a fraction of their treasuries.

    Should the Court toss out Austin, it could be the end of any meaningful restrictions on campaign finance.  In most states, all that is necessary to form a new corporation is to file the right paperwork in the appropriate government office.  Moreover, nothing prevents one corporation from owning another corporation.  Without Austin, even a cap on overall contributions becomes meaningless, because corporate donors can simply create a series of shell-corporations for the purpose of evading such caps.

    Ed Morrissey:

    The Supreme Court has danced around the BCRA’s onerous restrictions on political speech for years.  Roberts himself tiptoed around the question, as did Samuel Alito, in Austin, although Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia all wrote that they believed these restrictions in the BCRA to be unconstitutional. Ted Olson, representing Citizens United, asked the court to overturn Austin and the previous ruling that the BCRA was constitutional, but observers believed Roberts would tiptoe around it again.

    Apparently, Roberts has had a change of heart.  The delay allows both sides to prepare extensive written and oral arguments on the broader questions of constitutionality of the BCRA’s speech restrictions and the effects of striking them down.  It does not affect the limitations on campaign contributions — or at least not yet.

    Hans Von Spakovsky at NRO:

    Hopefully, this means the Supreme Court recognizes that its prior rulings upholding these limits on political speech and expression may have been wrongly decided and should be reconsidered. The electioneering communications provision represents one of the most severe restrictions on free speech since the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. It puts government bureaucrats (and I speak from experience as a former commissioner on the FEC) in the terrible position of making judgments on political and issue advertising to decide what is prohibited and what is not — the Supreme Court should strike down this travesty of a law as a basic violation of the First Amendment.

    Anthony Dick in NRO

    UPDATE: E.J. Dionne in TNR

    UPDATE #2: Lots of posts I missed on this. Here’s one

    John Vecchione at New Majority

    1 Comment

    Filed under Elections, Supreme Court

    Well, One Sees Why The Right Doesn’t Want Tim Robbins To Vote


    Right-wing bloggers are looking at Sonia Sotomayor’s record.

    Cahnman at The Next Right:

    This is devestating.  In 2006, Sotomayor dissented on this case, arguing that because Latinos and Blacks make up a disproportionate portion of the prison population (because they commit a disproportionate amount of the crime) they are covered under the Voting Rights Act.  This argument is patentedly absurd on it’s face, not to mention it’s sheer nuttieness.

    Anyone who thinks felons are covered under the Voting Rights Act has NO BUSINESS on the Supreme Court.  The last thing we need are politicians pandering to felons.

    Hans Von Spakovsky at Heritage’s Foundry Blog

    The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution specifically recognizes the rights of states to abridge the right to vote “for participation in rebellion, or other crime.” As the Second Circuit recognized in 2006 in Hayden v. Pataki, 449 F.3d 305 (2d Cir. 2006), when it upheld New York’s law prohibiting incarcerated felons from voting, there were specific statements in the House and Senate Judiciary Committee Reports and on the Senate floor explicitly excluding felon disenfranchisement laws from provisions of the Voting Rights Act. In fact, this was so clearly the case that there were several unsuccessful attempts in the 1970’s by some in Congress to amend the VRA to have it apply to such state laws.

    Yet in a dissenting opinion in Hayden, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, disagreed. She thought that the majority’s extensive look into the history of the Voting Rights Act, the legislative comments, and the felon disenfranchisement rights of states as outlined in the Fourteenth Amendment were a waste of time. Since the Voting Rights Act “applies to all voting qualifications” and the New York statute “disqualifies a group of people from voting,” that should “constitute the entirety of [the court’s] analysis.” Sotomayor then makes the duplicitous claim that she is just upholding the statute, saying that “even if Congress had doubts about the wisdom of subjecting felon disenfranchisement laws to the results test of §2 [of the Voting Rights Act], I trust that Congress would prefer to make any needed changes itself, rather than have courts do so for it.” Far from this modest result, she was actually proposing that the courts alter the statute by applying it to state laws to which Congress never intended the law to apply, and for good reason.

    Washington Times Editorial

    On the broader issue, Patrick Appel in the Atlantic,

    According to a 2004 study, former prisoners who vote are half as likely to reoffend. If suffrage constitutes even a small nudge toward the straight and narrow, why shouldn’t we grant prisoners the right to vote? As things now stand, criminal-voting laws vary widely by state: in some, a first-time drug offender will be denied the right to vote for life; in others, murderers can vote while behind bars. But overall, America’s position on voting rights, particularly with regard to former criminals, is the most punitive of any developed nation.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    I actually understand private enterprise looking into criminal records, before they hire–the primary motive their is profit. It’s not a logic I like. But it’s a kind of logic. But for the public, disenfranchisimg felons really makes little sense. Either we want these people to be functioning parts of society, or we don’t. Setting them free, and then barring them from the basic responsibilities of citizen life seems at odds.

    Matt Y:

    Unfortunately, the crime control discussion in the United States tends to be heavily focused on people’s emotional sense of outrage, on nobody wanting to be seen as an advocate for criminals, and on a certain amount of denial that this is even an important issue. But it is an important issue—high crime rates are really damaging—and we have a strong interest in using punishments that work, and eschewing punishments that don’t.

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