2010 June


OPINION: Secret meetings would erode public trust Wednesday, June 30th, 2010THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/29/10. COLUMBUS — I was disappointed to see that some Columbus City Council members are considering conducting closed-door meetings in the future ( Dispatch article, last Tuesday). Secret meetings, held out of public view, undermine the very foundation of our government and erode public trust in elected officials. If government is to be effective, it must be accountable to the people. When meetings are held in private, watchdogs are unable to effectively guard against corruption. Decisions that are made in closed-door sessions often are tainted by suspicion, which weakens the City Council’s ... read more
Editorial: Election Day savings: Plan to reduce polling places responds to early voting trend Wednesday, June 30th, 2010THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/29/10. COLUMBUS — As more and more Ohioans opt to vote by absentee ballot, the neighborhood polling place could go the way of the milkman. Thus, a consolidation of many of Franklin County’s 865 elections precincts, as proposed in a plan before the county Board of Elections, is inevitable. But hallowed institutions, especially those fundamental to democracy, shouldn’t be cast aside abruptly, so taking some time to vet the plan publicly before implementing it is a reasonable approach.The county Board of Elections voted last week to fold 62 precincts into others that already share ... read more
BLOG: Supreme Court Affirms Ruling on 'Soft Money' Ban Tuesday, June 29th, 2010Adam Liptak, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6/29/10. WASHINGTON DC – The Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed without comment a ruling upholding a ban on so-called soft-money contributions to political parties. Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas voted to hear the case.In March, a special three-judge panel of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the ban, in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, is constitutional. But the panel expressed reservations about whether this aspect of that law, often called McCain-Feingold, could be reconciled with the Supreme Court’s ... read more
Hope and Experience: Election Reform through the Lens of the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project Tuesday, June 29th, 2010AEI-BROOKINGS ELECTION REFORM PROJECT, 6/29/10. WASHINGTON DC — We launched the AEI-Brookings Election Reform Project in June 2005 with the encouragement and financial support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Five years later we bring the project to a close. This final issue of our electronic newsletter gives us an opportunity to reflect on the state of election administration in the United States almost a decade after the extended and controversial vote count in the 2000 presidential election and to suggest how additional changes in technology, election law and administrative practices might further ... read more
'Soft Money' Ban Affirmed by Supreme Court Tuesday, June 29th, 2010Peter Hardin, GAVEL GRAB, 6/29/10. WASHINGTON DC – The Supreme Court has affirmed, with no comment, a lower court ruling that upheld a ban on unlimited contributions to political parties, called “soft money.”The high court issued its order Tuesday, refusing a request by the Republican National Committee to consider ending the ban on unlimited donations by corporations, unions and others to national party committees, according to an Associated Press article.A three-judge panel of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia found the ban constitutional in March. But the panel voiced reservations ... read more
Backers withdraw petitions for Ohio slots vote Tuesday, June 29th, 2010Julie Carr Smyth, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/28/10. COLUMBUS — A challenge to racetrack slot machines was pulled from November’s ballot on Monday, and Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland moved swiftly toward getting the budget-saving gambling devices up and running.The Legislature had approved a plan from Strickland last summer to allow the lottery-run slot machines to raise as much as $933 million to balance the state’s current two-year budget.LetOhioVote argued that the issue should be subject to a referendum of voters, and the state’s high court agreed. That ruling stopped the state from moving forward with the ... read more
Lawmakers urged to get back to work: Pending legislation requires action, activist groups say Tuesday, June 29th, 2010Jim Siegel, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/28/10. COLUMBUS — Aside from the guy dancing in the frog outfit and a video featuring a chorus of bad singing, Statehouse advocates gathered today for a serious message to state lawmakers: Come back to work.Legislators are out of town on a summer break that could last through the November election, if they do not find motivation to come back sooner.The liberal Progress Ohio, Ohio Citizen Action, Common Cause Ohio and the Ohio Coalition for Homelessness and Housing in Ohio held a Statehouse news conference to urge lawmakers to return and get busy on some major legislation that ... read more
Tiberi, Brooks on attack over campaign donors Monday, June 28th, 2010THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/27/10. COLUMBUS — The battle between Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, and Democratic challenger Paula Brooks intensified last week. Republicans started the latest exchange when they questioned nearly $50,000 in campaign contributions to Brooks. The donations came from individuals connected with businesses that were awarded contracts from Brooks and her fellow Franklin County commissioners. The contracts date to 2006, and most were approved unanimously by the threemember board.“Brooks needs to come clean about the strong-arm tactics and threats she’s used to raise money for her ... read more
Group advises scuttling limits on campaigns: Proposal could cause divisions for council Monday, June 28th, 2010Stephanie Warsmith, AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/27/10. AKRON — In 1998, 63 percent of Akron voters approved a charter change adopting some of the most restrictive campaign-finance limits in the country.Now, the group reviewing the city’s charter thinks these limits should be stripped.The Charter Review Commission, which is finishing its once-a-decade review, is recommending the charter’s campaign-finance section be replaced with a directive that council pass a new campaign-finance ordinance.Council would have 90 days to adopt the ordinance and would be required to review it every two years with a public hearing. ... read more
Editorial: Who Approved These Ads? Monday, June 28th, 2010THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6/25/10. When the Supreme Court cavalierly threw aside decades of controls to let corporations and unions flood federal elections with unlimited campaign funds, the alternative the court suggested was a mandatory dose of transparency. Let voters know who is really behind the new wave of spending was the court’s prescription.The House took the court at its word Thursday and approved disclosure requirements to have deep-pocket spenders identify themselves on their ads, the same as candidates do, and not hide behind propaganda front groups. It is absolutely essential that the Senate quickly follow ... read more
Political Gerrymandering: (Part 5) The Ohio Redistricting Competitionby Professor Will Huhn on June 26, 2010in Constitutional Law,Equal Protection,Freedom of Speech,Wilson HuhnIn 2009 the Ohio Secretary of State's office under Jennifer Brunner helped to host a public competition to draw fair, nonpartisan congressional legislative districts for the State of Ohio. The results were remarkable.There was no cost to entering the competition, and competitors were offered free training and software. To qualify, plans had to have roughly equal population in each district, all election districts had to be contiguous (single units), and there had to be ... read more
House Approves the DISCLOSE Act - A Critical First Step in Addressing Unlimited Corporate Money in PoliticsStatement of Craig Holman, Government Affairs Lobbyist, Public CitizenToday, the U.S. House of Representatives took the first bold step in repairing some of the damage caused by the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Public Citizen applauds the passage of the DISCLOSE Act (H.R. 5175) by a 219 to 206 vote. Two Republican members of Congress - Reps. Michael Castle (Del.) and Anh "Joseph" Cao (La.) - stood firm on their principles of promoting transparency in elections ... read more
House votes for campaign donation disclosure bill WASHINGTON -- The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday that would impose strict campaign donation disclosure requirements on unions and corporations, despite Republican opposition and objections from liberal Democrats who were upset by some of the disclosure exemptions.By a vote of 219-206, lawmakers approved the Disclose Act, intended to partially fill a void created when the Supreme Court overturned some campaign spending rules in January. The bill now goes to the Senate. All Ohio members of Congress voted along party lines except for Warrensville Heights Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge, ... read more
Bill places limits on contractor spendingBy Robert Brodsky rbrodsky@govexec.com June 25, 2010The House on Thursday passed far-reaching campaign reform legislation that would prevent many government contractors and other recipients of federal funds from spending freely on election-year advertisements.In a politically charged vote, the chamber passed the 2010 Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act by a vote of 219-206. All but two Republicans opposed the bill, while 36 Democrats voted against it.The legislation would affect government contractors holding at least one $10 million award, recipients of bailout ... read more
If you're saying it, the public deserves to know who's paying for it (Rep. John Boccieri)By Rep. John Boccieri (D-Ohio) - 06/25/10 11:11 AM ETPeople in our district and across our great nation want officials in office who are responsible to them, not the special interest groups who already have too much influence in the electoral process.However, today, all organizations — including for-profits and non-profits, corporations and unions alike — are free to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence our elections, thanks to a recent Supreme Court ruling.This regressive Supreme Court decision hands the keys of our elections over to ... read more
Supreme Court on R-71: Names on petitions can be made publicPublic disclosure case attracted national attentionBy CHRIS GRYGIELSEATTLEPI.COM STAFFThe Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the names of people who signed petitions in an attempt to overturn a new gay rights law in Washington could be made public, a victory for state officials who said the case was a test of open government laws.Justices ruled 8-1 in a case called Doe V. Reed. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented. They heard oral arguments in Washington, D.C., April 28.The ruling dealt broadly with claims by foes of the new gay rights law that disclosing their names would violate their ... read more
House Passes Campaign Disclosure Bill Corporate CEOs would have to appear in campaign ads they fund, under a political disclosure bill the House just passed by a narrow margin.Democrats, hoping to rein in special-interest spending before November's midterm elections, pushed the measure, which would impose broad new disclosure rules on political spending.The bill, approved by a 219-206 vote, was opposed by Republicans who cast it as violating free-speech protections and filled with exemptions for powerful groups, such as the National Rifle Association and labor unions. The measure was crafted by Democrats "to help their friends, while silencing ... read more
Chief-justice candidates face campaign complaintsThursday, June 24, 2010 02:53 AMBy James NashTHE COLUMBUS DISPATCH The Ohio Supreme Court chief justice and his opponent in the November election now are both the targets of disciplinary complaints alleging that they violated judicial-ethics rules in their campaigns for office.Chief Justice Eric Brown, whom Gov. Ted Strickland appointed in April, is accused of personally soliciting money for his campaign in violation of a judicial-conduct rule.Justice Maureen O'Connor, a Republican challenging Brown in the race for chief justice, is accused of endorsing another judicial candidate despite a rule ... read more
Elections board delays consolidation of some polling placesThursday, June 24, 2010 02:53 AMBy Barbara CarmenTHE COLUMBUS DISPATCH The Franklin County Board of Elections agreed yesterday to combine precincts that already are in the same building. But the four-person board deadlocked along party lines about whether to close other voting spots to consolidate more polling places.That means Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner will decide the question. The consolidations are designed to save money at a time when fewer people are waiting to go to the polls on Election Day."Early voting has been increasingly popular," said Ben Piscitelli, ... read more
Elections board can't agree on cutting polling placesWednesday, June 23, 2010 11:32 AMUpdated: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 04:23 PMBy Barbara CarmenTHE COLUMBUS DISPATCH  The Franklin County Board of Elections today agreed to combine precincts that already were located in the same building, but the four-person board deadlocked along party lines about whether to close some voting spots to consolidate the number of polling places.That means Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner will decide that question. Both moves are designed to save money and to reflect that the demand on Election Day has fallen in recent years."Early voting has been increasingly ... read more
The Fear FactorWhat happens to democracy when everyone's too scared to show up?By Dahlia LithwickPosted Saturday, June 19, 2010, at 8:00 AM ETFear kept some opponents of gay rights from testifying in the Prop 8 case.Fear kept some opponents of gay rights from testifying in the Prop 8 caseOne of the hottest new trends in litigation is fear. Witnesses in an important gay-rights case claimed they were too afraid to testify because they would be subject to reprisals for their unpopular views. Plaintiffs in another case claimed they're afraid for their very lives if their names are disclosed publicly. Contributors to political campaigns want to shield ... read more
What Does an Election Cost?By John Wonderlich on 06/22/10 @ 4:28 pmSunlight feels strongly that Congress needs to respond to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and require disclosure for newly allowed political spending from corporations and unions.The scale of the new money that could now flow, unfollowed, into our politics can be hard to fathom.That’s why I’ve made the following chart, to create a sense of scale.BP’s profits in the first quarter of 2010 were about $6 Billion.According to the Center for Responsive Politics, The entire 2008 federal election, including “all dollars spent by presidential candidates, ... read more
Ignore the Noise; Focus on the RealityThe following opinion piece appeared on National Journal's Under the Influence Experts Blog on June 19, 2010.With all the kerfuffle around the DISCLOSE Act, it is important to remember why this measure is necessary in the first place. 8 in 10 Americans disapproved of the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC which opened up virtually bottomless corporate and union treasury funds for spending on political advertising. Much of the new influx of money is expected to be laundered through shady groups with patriotic names or even trade associations. The goal for many campaign finance reform opponents is complete ... read more
Study: Merit-Selected Judges are Disciplined LessPeter Hardin June 18th, 2010 | Category: JAS Partner News,Merit SelectionA new study by the American Judicature Society looks at discipline rates for judges placed on the bench through merit selection, as opposed to contested elections, and finds the former are disciplined at lower rates.In addition, the AJS study finds that the judges selected by merit methods get the most lenient sanctions if they are disciplined, and are less likely to be unseated.In discussion of the pros and cons of different methods of picking state judges, proponents of merit selection often have contended that their preferred ... read more
Redistricting reform pushed ahead of CensusBy Edith HonanNEW YORK | Mon Jun 14, 2010 8:01am EDTNEW YORK (Reuters) - A practice in many U.S. states of allowing legislatures to redraw voting district lines to keep pace with population shifts allows politicians to hold onto power artificially, government watchdog groups say.Bills have been introduced in several such states to create independent commissions to oversee redistricting instead, beginning in 2011 after the once-a-decade U.S. census count."American democracy has an incumbent-protection plan," said New York Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, the sponsor of such a bill. "The redistricting ... read more
The End of Public Financing?By Mimi Murray Digby Marziani – 06/09/10On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued an order that can only be described as irresponsible. About two months from the primary election and five months from the general, the Court blocked the state of Arizona from providing its publicly-funded candidates with so-called trigger funds – additional public grants triggered by the high spending of nonparticipating opponents or hostile third parties. The Court, ruling on an emergency motion, offered no explanation with its three-sentence order. And, the Court breaks for the summer in two weeks, so there is virtually ... read more
Conservatives take on the NRA over deal on disclosure billConservative groups are waging an 11th-hour campaign against the DISCLOSE Act, a bill written to amend campaign-finance law in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.The bill makes the changes that Democrats want, and for that reason it was moribund for weeks. But conservatives blame the National Rifle Association for cutting a deal and crafting language that exempts it from the bill's disclosure requirements.The most visible critic of the deal is Myron Ebell, director of Freedom Action and a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who is encouraging conservatives ... read more
Council debates campaign finance language6/17/2010 - West Side Leader By Stephanie KistDOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron City Council members debated June 14 an ordinance meant to clarify campaign finance language in the city Code of Ordinances.Changes to the language would mostly be housekeeping details meant to bring the city’s code in line with state law, said Law Director Cheri Cunningham. However, a provision would permit municipal candidates to raise funds above and beyond the city’s campaign contribution limitation if those funds would be used for “purposes permitted under the Ohio Revised Code other than to influence ... read more
Loopholes Grow in Bill to Offset Ruling on CampaignsBy CARL HULSEPublished: June 17, 2010WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are pushing hard for legislation to rein in the power of special interests by requiring more disclosure of their roles in paying for campaign advertising — but as they struggle to find the votes they need to pass it they are carving out loopholes for, yes, special interests.In a deal that left even architects of the legislation squirming with unease, authors of a bill intended to counter a Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations and unions to pour money directly into campaign commercials provided an exception ... read more
Will the DISCLOSE Act Be Signed Into Law This Year?The following opinion piece appeared on The Hill's Congress Blog on June 17, 2010 in response to The Big Question: Will the DISCLOSE Act Be Signed Into Law This Year? Should It Be?The DISCLOSE Act most certainly should be signed into law this year and there are encouraging signs that it will be.Despite the recent hubbub made by special interests from across the political spectrum over the “NRA fix”, the bill remains a strong and necessary piece of legislation that will require accurate and timely disclosure of the big money being spent to influence elections. There’s no denying ... read more
U.S. House Poised to Vote on Disclosure BillPeter Hardin June 17th, 2010 The House of Representatives is preparing to vote Friday on a controversial bill drafted by Democratic leaders to soften the impact of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.Democrats will “force” a floor vote Friday despite intense opposition by Republicans and business groups, according to a Politico article. In addition, a proposed exemption in the disclosure bill for the National Rifle Association (see Gavel Grab post) has irked some liberal-leaning groups to the point they have voiced opposition.A Washington Post blog reported on a letter in which ... read more
Joe Hallett commentary: Redistricting reform falls victim again to dreams of powerSunday, June 13, 2010 02:57 AMBy Joe HallettThe Columbus DispatchPolitics is the enemy of common sense.Year after year, as mendacious lawmakers come and go, the single reform that overnight would make our government better and we, the governed, better off, is forsaken at the alter of power.To what end? Nothing really changes. One set of partisans reign until voters get fed up and elect an opposite set of partisans until they, too, become insufferable. The Statehouse's well-heeled lobbyists perpetuate the broken system by plying it with money, bending legislators ... read more
Editorial: Husted isn’t out of ideas or leverageBy the Dayton Daily News | Monday, June 14, 2010, 05:15 PMSen. Jon Husted gets a lot of credit for not giving up on the idea that voters should get to pick their politicians, not the other way around.Right now, every 10 years, one or the other major political party draws maps creating legislative districts. The party with the most members on a five-member map-drawing commission tries to concentrate voters in ways to ensure that its side will control the legislature.If you put enough Democratic voters, for instance, in a district, a Democrat will almost invariably win; ditto for Republicans. ... read more
NRA Exemption Added to Disclosure Bill in CongressPeter Hardin June 16th, 2010 A political compromise would exempt the National Rifle Association from legislation in Congress requiring corporations to identify themselves in political ads they pay for, and to disclose their expenditures to shareholders and the public.The proposed carve-out for the NRA led the U.S. Public Interest Research Group to withdraw support for the bill, which was moving closer to consideration in the full House of Representatives. Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, staked out opposition to the bill, the Associated Press reported.Other reform groups, including ... read more
Friends of politics as usual - Why the Statehouse killed electoral reformBy Steve HoffmanBeacon Journal editorial writerPublished on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010As the legislature rushed toward its summer break last week, it sounded as if significant support was building for much-needed tuneups to the state's electoral machinery. In the end, repairs were left undone.To be sure, efforts to find last-minute compromises on detailed matters are often doomed to failure. The main sponsors of bills and the leaders of the committees assigned to handle them may be well-versed in the details. But as deadlines loom, they lack the time to inform their colleagues ... read more
Political scofflaws hold out on finesMonday, June 14, 2010 02:52 AMBy James NashTHE COLUMBUS DISPATCH In the year since the state announced a crackdown on political candidates who together owed more than $30 million in unpaid fines, state officials recovered less than $15,000 and the amount of unpaid debt actually grew.Former candidates and election committees now owe the state$33.2 million in unpaid fines for violations such as tardy filings of campaign-finance statements, knowingly making false statements in advertisements, misuse of campaign funds and disguising the source of campaign contributions.Last May, when the Ohio Elections Commission ... read more
NAACP LDF Releases Report Concerning Redistricting Reform MeasuresJune 14, 2010 Click here to read the report ... read more
Online voting pilot program sees high participation rateEighty-two percent of online ballots requested by West Virginia military and overseas voters were filled out and returned for the May primary elections, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant told state lawmakers Wednesday.By Staff reportsThe Charleston GazetteCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Eighty-two percent of online ballots requested by West Virginia military and overseas voters were filled out and returned for the May primary elections, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant told state lawmakers Wednesday.That's compared to a statewide voter turnout of 23 percent, according to a news release.As part of ... read more
Elections Called a ‘Gosh-Awful’ Route to Fair CourtsPeter Hardin June 10th, 2010A plainspoken and blunt editorial in The Birmingham News deplores the “already outrageous” million-dollar-plus spending in this year’s Alabama Supreme Court campaigns and urges that elections be scrapped in favor of merit selection.The merit appeal comes from a major newspaper in the state that led the nation in the past decade for big spending on Supreme Court elections. A news article in the same newspaper, relying on Justice at Stake data, pointed out Alabama’s distinction earlier in the week.Here is the heart of the editorial ... read more
Opposition may derail campaign disclosure bill Saturday, June 12th, 2010Dan Eggen, WASHINGTON POST, 6/9/10. WASHINGTON DC – Campaign disclosure legislation strongly backed by President Obama and Democratic leaders has run into serious obstacles in the House, where lawmakers are scrambling to mollify the National Rifle Association, the AFL-CIO and other groups that say the bill is too burdensome and could force them to publicly identify small donors.Opposition from those strange bedfellows is further complicating the chance of passage this year for the “Disclose Act,” which would impose broad new disclosure requirements on corporations, unions and nonprofit groups that spend ... read more
FEC Strikes another blow to fair elections Saturday, June 12th, 2010Joe Newman, PUBLIC CITIZEN, 6/11/10. WASHINGTON DC – For those of you keeping score at home, it’s now Citizens United 2, Democracy 0. The Federal Election Commission voted 4-1 Thursday to give Citizens United, the conservative advocacy group based in Virginia, an exemption to campaign finance requirements. If you remember, in January, Citizens United won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that gave corporations the right to spend an unlimited amount of money to influence our elections. However, that court victory came with an *asterisk. Citizens United, and other corporations, could spend the dough but they ... read more
Court Puts Hold on Arizona's Campaign Fund Saturday, June 12th, 2010Adam Liptak, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6/8/10. WASHINGTON DC — The Supreme Court on Tuesday barred officials in Arizona from providing matching funds to candidates for state office who accept public financing, a program meant to help them keep pace with the unlimited spending of candidates who don’t take public financing.In an unsigned order without noted dissents, the justices reinstated a trial court injunction that had been stayed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco.The Supreme Court’s own stay will probably remain in effect through both the primary in August and ... read more
Greene County opposes rule on campaign contributions by contractors: The county has sued Ohio Secretary of State Brunner’s office over ‘pay to play’ campaign finance reform rules Thursday, June 10th, 2010Mark Gokavi, SPRINGFIELD NEWS-SUN, 6/9/10. XENIA — Greene County is taking Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to court, even though both sides agree about the law regarding campaign financing reform. The civil suit, filed last week in Greene County Common Pleas Court, seeks to strike down revisions to Ohio’s “pay to play” laws limiting the awarding of public contracts worth $10,000 or more to political contributors. The legislation sought to eliminate contractors who contributed $1,000 or more (in most cases) to a campaign from being paid back through government contracts, according to Thomas ... read more
Top 10 Lobby Firms Take Financial Reform to the Bank: Clark Lytle & Geduldig Leads with 20 Clients Wednesday, June 9, 2010Joe Eaton and M.B. Pell, CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY, 6/8/10. WASHINGTON DC – Just 10 Washington lobbying firms represented more than 130 key clients in the financial regulatory reform debate that is entering a crucial phase on Capitol Hill.While some are household names and others are boutique firms, almost all employ representatives with close ties to Capitol Hill, according to an analysis of lobbying disclosure forms by the Center for Public Integrity. The exact dollar amount the top 10 lobby firms made from the financial reform issue remains unclear because they are not required to itemize spending by issue. But ... read more
Short of the lines: State lawmakers are close to an improved plan for redistricting. They have until Aug. 4 to finish this essential job Wednesday, June 9th, 2010EDITORIAL, AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/6/10. COLUMBUS – Marathon sessions ground to a halt Friday without agreement between the Ohio House and Senate on a plan to blunt the raw politics that influences the redrawing of legislative and congressional districts every 10 years. Without change, the risk is yet another decade when legislators who move toward the center, seeking compromise, find themselves at risk in skewed districts. The hyper-partisan line drawing makes more difficult acting on complex issues and moving the state forward. Read More ... read more
Gerald McFaul has few options for his campaign fund; Prosecutor Bill Mason under review for returning money to donors Wednesday, June 9th, 2010Mark Puente, CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER, 6/9/10. One thing is certain: McFaul cannot return the money to campaign donors. Prosecutor Bill Mason did just that late last year after coming under intense criticism for accepting donations from employees while pushing for campaign and government reform. His actions are under review and may result in a hefty fine. Ohio law states that officeholders can only donate the money to political parties, politicians or charities – even charities they establish and run themselves. Read More  ... read more
Who Bankrolls Congress? The Big Money Behind Top Lawmakers Wednesday, June 9th, 2010Josh Israel and Aaron Mehta, THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY, 6/7/10. WASHINGTON DC — California Assembly Speaker Jesse M. Unruh once famously said of moneyed political interests: “If you can’t take their money, drink their booze, eat their food, screw their women, and vote against them, you don’t belong here.” In other words, giving cash to politicians is no guarantee they’ll carry your water. But campaign contributions to elected officials don’t hurt either. The links between money and votes is an endlessly debated subject in official Washington. Cynics say campaign cash often ... read more
OP ED: Election defeat: Lawmakers fumble at the chance to improve the way Ohio votes Wednesday, June 9th, 2010AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/9/10. COLUMUBUS — After votes were tallied in 2008, much effort was aimed at finding ways to improve Ohio elections. Jennifer Brunner, the secretary of state, pulled together panel discussions. The House and Senate passed bills addressing significant problems. In the final weeks before the legislature recessed for the summer, discussions continued, with room for compromise in time for balloting this fall. Read More  ... read more
Redistricting legislation fails to pass Tuesday, June 8th, 2010ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/7/10. COLUMBUS — Lawmakers have failed to pass a plan to create a bipartisan board to draw Ohio’s future legislative and congressional districts. The General Assembly was unable to overcome differences in proposed bills updating how Ohio draws its political maps in a rush to finish business overnight Thursday. GOP State Sen. Jon Husted, the top proponent of redistricting, pledged to keep working on an agreement before the August deadline to place it on the November ballot. Husted’s bill would take the power of drawing legislative districts away from whichever party controls the state ... read more
OPINION: We need transparency in campaign spending Tuesday, June 8th, 2010John Carey, TIMES GAZETTE, 6/7/10. Ohio Senate, COLUMBUS — For decades, the federal government and many states, including Ohio, have rightly placed restrictions on corporate and union spending in candidate elections. However, a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court essentially struck down these long-standing laws, and if steps are not taken soon to address the ruling, the upcoming General Election in November and future political contests in our state and other parts of the country could be heavily influenced by unlimited, undisclosed campaign contributions. On Jan. 21, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ... read more
Lawmakers whiff on redistricting reform; will they try again? Sunday, June 6th, 2010William Hershey, DAYTON DAILY NEWS, 6/5/10. COLUMBUS — Whew, that was a close one. Ohio lawmakers came to their senses just in time. Bleary-eyed, they scooted out of town for the summer early Friday morning without putting voters’ interests above their own. They whiffed on a chance to put an issue on the Nov. 2 ballot to abolish the winner-take-all, politically charged system of drawing state legislative districts and replacing it with something fair, competitive and that just might provide better, more responsive government. Read More ... read more
Ohio Legislature About to Recess, Still Doesn’t Pass Ballot Access Bill Saturday, June 5th, 2010Richard Winger, BALLOT ACCESS NEWS, 6/4/10. COLUMBUS — The Ohio legislature is about to go on recess, probably for several months. The legislature still hasn’t passed any bill to replace the old, unconstitutional ballot access law. The decision striking down the old law was in September 2006, so it will have been almost four years that Ohio has been without a valid law.Ballot access improvements are contained in HB 260 and SB 8, which are very lengthy bills that deal with many election law issues. Those bills are hundreds of pages long, and many people have worked very hard to write those bills, but the consensus ... read more
Judicial election reform proponents vow to continue fight: Legislative effort made unprecedented progress this year Friday, June 4th, 2010Michelle Lore, FINANCE & COMMERCE, 5/28/10. Former Gov. Al Quie, who has become the face of judicial election reform in Minnesota, recently delivered a keynote address at a bar function in which he cited the oft-quoted Winston Churchill line: “Never, never, never, never give up.”The 2010 legislative session was both heartening and frustrating for those who, like Quie, advocate switching to a retention-election system of electing judges in Minnesota. A proposed ballot question asking voters to make the change got further than it ever has before in the Legislature, only to be derailed shortly before the end ... read more
Recusal Causes Reversal of Climate Change Ruling Friday, June 4th, 2010Peter Hardin, GAVEL GRAB, 6/3/10. Because eight judges of a 16-member federal appeals court now have disqualified themselves, the remaining appeals judges have thrown out a landmark environmental ruling by a three-judge panel. The panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2009 that plaintiffs could go ahead with a lawsuit against utilities, chemical companies and the oil industry over damages that global warming caused, a New York Times article reported. After seven judges on the appeals court recused themselves, the remaining nine voted for the full court to consider the case, effectively vacating the panel’s ... read more
Court Issues Injunction Against FEC in SpeechNow.org Case Friday, June 4th, 2010Marcia Coyle, BLOG OF LEGAL TIMES, 6/2/10. WASHINGTON DC — The federal district court in Washington yesterday issued an injunction barring the Federal Election Commission from enforcing contribution limits against SpeechNow.org and its donors. The injunction, opposed by the FEC, reinforces a March 26 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission. The en banc court unanimously struck down a ceiling on contributions to independent political groups that want to spend money directly to support or oppose candidates in federal elections. Read More ... read more
Campaign Finance Bill In Final Negotiations Friday, June 4th, 2010Reid Wilson, NATIONAL JOURNAL, 6/2/10. WASHINGTON DC – Final sticking points over a measure to curb some campaign spending and promote more robust disclosure are being negotiated with key stakeholder groups as sponsors hope to see the bill hit the House floor next week, after making it through the House Rules Committee. Read More ... read more
Ads’ sponsor won’t reveal funding source Friday, June 4th, 2010Bob Warner, PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/28/10. WASHINGTON DC – Former U. S. Sen. Norman Coleman, chief executive of a Republican-oriented “action network” that hopes to pour $25 million into this year’s congressional campaigns, said yesterday that the group does not intend to disclose its funding sources. Reached by telephone at the Washington headquarters of the group, the American Action Network, Coleman said that federal law doesn’t require public disclosure of its contributors and the organization doesn’t intend to disclose anything more. Read More  ... read more
Redistricting reform stalls in legislature: Tax incentives for clean energy fare better in marathon session Friday, June 4th, 2010Jim Siegel, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/4/10. COLUMBUS — The spotted salamander and tax incentives for clean-energy projects were on their way to surviving a marathon day at the Statehouse yesterday, but a plan to change the way Ohio draws legislative districts did not. State lawmakers, scrambling to deal largely with issues that have lingered for months, worked late into the night trying to clear the decks before heading into a summer break that could last through the November election. Read More ... read more
A Public Access Response to Failure Friday, June 4th, 2010John Wonderlich, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION, 6/3/10. WASHINGTON DC — Powerlessness in the face of disaster is dispiriting. Powerlessness in the face of regulatory failure is fixable. Despite our widespread ability to communicate online; to see, as a society, to the murky bottom of the Gulf in real time, we’re still in a suspended state of irrelevance to this slow motion disaster — transfixed and dazed, as Micah Sifry points out. Read More ... read more
Voting equipment maker Diebold settles accounting fraud charges for $25 million Thursday, June 3rd, 2010Zachary A. Goldfarb, WASHINGTON POST, 6/3/10. WASHINGTON DC — Diebold, the maker of electronic voting equipment that has links to alleged voting irregularities in the 2004 presidential election, agreed Wednesday to pay $25 million to settle accounting fraud charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Former Diebold chief executive Walden O’Dell, who stirred protest when he promised to deliver Ohio to President George W. Bush in 2004, agreed under the settlement to give the company back $470,000 in cash bonuses, $1 million in stock and 85,000 stock options for compensation related to the fraud. ... read more
Rep. Marcia Fudge drafts bill to restrict ethics office that investigated her top aide Sabrina Eaton, THE PLAIN DEALER, 6/2/10. WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge has introduced legislation that would weaken a congressional ethics office that found her top aide improperly helped Congressional Black Caucus members take a free Caribbean trip that was funded by corporations.The Plain DealerU.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge.The Warrensville Heights Democrat introduced legislation Friday to restrict disclosure of investigations by the Office of Congressional Ethics and require it to have a sworn complaint from a citizen with personal knowledge of alleged wrongdoing before initiating a probe.“The Office of Congressional Ethics ... read more
Deadline coming for Husted redistricting proposal: Husted trying to get agreement on ballot proposal before summer break. Thursday, June 3, 2010William Hershey, DAYTON DAILY NEWS, 6/2/10. COLUMBUS — Sen. Jon Husted, R-Kettering, on Wednesday, June 2, continued to work against the clock to find agreement on a ballot proposal to replace Ohio’s politically-charged system for drawing state legislative districts with a fairer, more competitive plan. Today is expected to be the deadline because lawmakers plan to recess for the summer and won’t return before Aug. 4, the deadline for the legislature to put proposed constitutional amendments on the Nov. 2 ballot. At a Wednesday meeting of the Senate Rules Committee, Husted said he needed one more day to ... read more
Pildes: Where Should Election Reformers Target Their Efforts? Thursday, June 3rd, 2010Rick Pildes, ELECTION LAW BLOG, 6/32/10. LOS ANGELES — Here is one suggestion: the reform community and supportive foundations should select a single state to focus on as a focal point for election-reform efforts. This will require overcoming the all too common tendency to focus on the national level. There are both positive and negative reasons for the desirability of focusing efforts at the state level. On the positive side, most of the nuts and bolts of election administration take place at the state level. Given risk aversion, reforms are only likely to be adopted at the national level once they have been tested ... read more
Ohio redistricting plan discussed: Senate considers House plan; voters have ultimate voice on changes Thursday, June 3rd, 2010Justin McIntosh, MARIETTA TIMES, 6/2/10. MARIETTA, OH – The Ohio Senate this week is considering a measure recently passed in the House that would change the way the state’s legislative districts are drawn every 10 years. The Senate passed its own version of a redistricting plan last year. If a compromise version can pass both chambers by Aug. 4, a constitutional amendment will appear on the November ballot. Voters must approve any change in the redistricting process since it’s a change to the state’s constitution. Read More ... read more
Ballot issues can influence races: Depending on the topic, issues can lure certain voters to the polls Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010Mark Niquette and Alan Johnson, THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 6/1/10. COLUMBUS – Depending on the efforts by groups scrambling to collect petition signatures, Ohio voters could face up to five statewide ballot issues in the fall that also could affect the outcome of races for governor and other offices. So far, the only issue certified for the Nov. 2 ballot is a referendum on whether to add video slot machines at the state’s seven horse tracks, a proposal approved in the two-year budget but not implemented last year. But three groups seeking proposed Ohio constitutional amendments each face a June 30 deadline to ... read more
Political ads are tough sell for image-conscious corporations Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010Carol D. Leonnig, WASHINGTON POST, 6/1/10. WASHINGTON DC — All over the country, corporate CEOs and trade groups are asking their lawyers the same question: How can we get our companies involved in this political election season without leaving tracks?After a landmark Supreme Court ruling this year freed executives to spend unlimited corporate cash on campaigns, some predicted that businesses would flood television airwaves with pro-industry political ads — but that just hasn’t happened yet. Image-sensitive corporations are still trying to make sure that, if they jump into 2010 politicking, they do so ... read more
Intoxicated on fundraising Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010Ruth Marcus, WASHINGTON POST, 6/2/10. WASHINGTON DC — “You don’t have to drink. You just have to pay.” Has there ever been a better summary of how Washington works — and the need for campaign finance reform — than this line from a 2007 e-mail?The context: An executive at Innovative Concepts, a small defense contractor, was balking at going to a wine-tasting fundraiser for Rep. Jim Moran. The Virginia Democrat sits on the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls defense spending — and the executive’s boss made clear that attendance had nothing to do with the quality ... read more
OP ED: At the finish line A burst of bipartisanship, and Ohio would draw improved districts Tuesday, June 1st, 2010AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 5/28/10. COLUMBUS — There is still time, barely, to fix the ways legislative and congressional districts are drawn in Ohio, highly partisan processes that happen once a decade, following each census. If lawmakers act quickly, they can meet an Aug. 4 deadline for placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. Voter approval would put new rules in place for the next round of adjustments. On Thursday, the House took the encouraging step of passing a long-stalled bill by state Rep. Tom Letson. The Warren Democrat’s plan would affect only the redrawing of legislative districts and ... read more
New law makes school boards hurry: Filing dates for tax issues pushed up by two weeks Tuesday, June 1st, 2010Michael D. Clark, CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/30/10. As if the tax funding of Ohio public schools didn’t already come with enough pressure, now a new federal law has added a time crunch. Read More ... read more
Editorial: House right on redistricting — for now Tuesday, June 1st, 2010DAYTON DAILY NEWS, 5/29/30. COLUMBUS — The long, frustrating effort to reform the way the Ohio draws legislative districts showed remarkable signs of life last week. The Ohio House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 69-28, for a strong plan. Reform is necessary because political parties can stack the deck in ways that all but prevent lawmakers from having to compete for their jobs. Some districts are drawn so they’re always won by Republicans, no matter what; others are drawn so they’re safe for Democrats. Sixty votes were needed to approve putting the plan on the November ballot. A different reform ... read more
New records show some lobbyists are top fundraisers for political candidates Tuesday, June 1st, 2010Dan Eggen, WASHINGTON POST, 5/31/10. WASHINGTON DC – For more than a decade, Brian L. Wolff was the quintessential Washington insider, serving as one of Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s closest aides as she rose through the House and helping to raise millions as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But the fundraising didn’t stop once he left the DCCC. As a top lobbyist at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents major power companies in the climate debate, Wolff has bundled together more than $600,000 in contributions for the DCCC within the past year — and he hopes to raise $2 million ... read more