The Tuscaloosa News has an editorial today about the recent Supreme Court election in Alabama. The paper was complaining about the election being the most expensive judicial race in the country. For a broader perspective, see the Brennan Centers' report on judicial campaigns. North Carolina recently adopted a system of public financing for judicial elections. See the Justice at Stake site (I don't know how long this story will be on the front page.)
Recounts in Maine and Maryland
The Portland Press Herald reports, Republican drops appeal in Senate race, thus conceding that the Democratic candidate will be sworn in, but may still face a contest to be heard by the Senate. In Maryland, the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that the Democratic House Speaker has conceded to his Republican opponent after a recount showed more votes for the Republican candidate.
American Foreign Service Assn PAC
TheHill.com reports that US diplomats have created a PAC because “If we talked about making a contribution to the member concerned, we could get a hearing.”
The Washington Post and the New York Times report that Judge Henry Kennedy of the federal District Court in DC has issued a temporary restraining order allowing Hawaii Right To Life, Inc., to run issue ads in the two Hawaii special elections being held this week and in early January. HRTL is a "qualified non-profit corporation" under the FEC's current regulations issued to comply with the Supreme Court decision in the FEC v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life case. Despite the headline on the Washington Post article, this is not a remarkable holding at all. The BCRA says that corporations, labor unions, and groups receiving funds from them may not make "electioneering communications." Individuals and other groups may make such communications, but have to disclose their contributions to the FEC. In my paper on the BCRA (page 6), I had suggested that the MCFL case would cause qualified non-profit corporations to be treated like unincorporated groups. What is unclear from the news articles is whether Judge Kennedy exempted HRTL from disclosures as well as allowing it to run the ads.
The Herald-Mail ONLINE reports on a recount in the Hagerstown area. The district uses optical scan ballots. The recount is being done by hand recounting the ballots -- something that is not allowed under Alabama's electronic voting system regulations.
More on the FEC and Salaries for Candidates
Colorado 7th district recount
The recount in the 7th U.S. House district race will most likely begin after Thanksgiving, the Rocky Mountain News reports.
Maine Senate recount
The Bangor Daily News has an AP report that the State Supreme Court has ruled that the governor has no role in determining the winners of the disputed Senate seats. The recount continues at the state police garage, and the Republicans are in court asking that "all the votes be counted" (where have I heard that before). Here is an earlier story about the Attorney General's brief in the Supreme Judicial Court. The SJC opinion is here.
FEC regulations on candidate salaries.
The title says it all: FEC Votes to Let Candidates Pay Themselves Salaries Using Campaign Funds (washingtonpost.com). Note that one commissioner dissented because the regulation will allow the salaries paid to two candidates for the same office to be different: the campaign salary must be the lesser of the salary of the office sought or the salary of the last job the candidate held.
Roll Call reports today that a group called the National Committee for a Responsible Senate has incorporated as a 501c(6) nonprofit. 501c(6) is designed for trade associations. The reason for such a designation is that the NCRS will not have to disclose donors but can publish issue ads.
The Boston Globe Online carried an AP story on Friday with the headline "Watchdog groups say major parties sidestep new campaign finance law." The New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor dutifully denounced the perfidious actions of the political parties for setting up these organizations. Well, duh. What do the goo-goos think the parties were going to do after the FEC explicitly allowed them to set up such groups before the effective date of the BCRA? As I noted earlier, the parties' henchmen could set up such groups after BCRA became effective and they would run exactly the same as they would if set up before BCRA. The important thing under the law is that the party cannot "directly establish, finance, maintain, or control" the other group. The complaint and related statements are here.
Georgia senate contest
The Augusta Chronicle reported on Friday that a Democratic state senator who lost by 270 votes has filed an election contest after discovering that more than 500 voters were incorrectly given ballots from adjoining senate districts. However, the senator claims that he is not trying to overturn the results of the election. Say what?
Michigan AG recount
The Lansing State Journal reported on Friday that the Democratic candidate for Attorney General might ask for a recount. The vote certification is Monday. An unofficial count shows him behind by 5,198, but the Democratic Party has been finding errors in the reported vote totals.
Maine contested ballots
In Maine, the control of the Senate will turn on two contested elections, reports the Bangor Daily News. In one district, the Democrat leads by 9 votes with 63 ballots in dispute. In another district, the Republican appears to have won by 1 vote, but there are 10 ballots in dispute. Gov. Angus King (an independent who is leaving office in January) has asked the Supreme Judicial Court to advise him whether he must certify (next Tuesday) the results as they stand now and then let the Legislature decide the contests. "In the two races mentioned above, the number of disputed ballots are sufficient to change the outcome of the race. ... I seek the advice of the justices for an interpretation of my responsibilities so I may appropriately discharge my obligations under the law to ensure that I certify and summon the appropriate persons to appear in the Legislature," Gov. King wrote. The parties positions are predictable. The Democrats are ahead at the moment (18 seats to 17), so they suggest the governor certify the results and let the legislature resolve the dispute. The Republicans have filed suit in a Superior Court claiming that "without the court's intervention, partisan political chicanery will render the unfair result of putting candidate Hall into office, irreparably harming both candidate Fossel and the public."
Colorado provisional ballots
The Rocky Mountain News reports on the final count of the 2,000 provisional ballots. The Republican Beauprez won by 122. This close vote will trigger an automatic recount.
Colorado provisional ballots
Money Counts in Judge Races
Colorado provisional ballots
This morning's Denver papers have the following stories on the provisional ballot-counting controversy. The best line is the judge's question to the Secretary of State's lawyer: "What you're telling me is voters have to strictly comply with the law, but the public (election) officials have to substantially comply?" Rocky Mountain News: Vote Ruling Possible Today Rocky Mountain News: Legal Eagles Flock to Court Denver Post: 7th District Vote Tally Due Today
Campaign Finance -- nonprofit corp contributions
Corporations (for profit or nonprofit) are forbidden from making campaign contributions or engaging in express advocacy. However, the Supreme Court held some years back that nonprofit corporations set up to carry out political advocacy and not receiving contributions from other corporations could engage in express advocacy. The Supreme Court is now to decide whether the exception extends to such "advocacy corporations" making direct contributions to candidates. See the article in the Washington Post.
More on the Colorado provisional ballots
Denver Post.com - Feeley files ballot lawsuit
Provisional Ballots in Colorado
The Washington Post headline, In Denver Recount, Reaching for a Precedent, incorrectly describes this as a "recount," when it is actually a first count of the provisional ballots. Provisional ballots are those cast by people who are not on the voter list in the precinct. They may cast a provisional ballot, which will be counted only when it is shown that they are eligible.
What city are you?
GOP gives away soft money
Roll Call reports that the Republican congressional committees had enough soft money left at the end of the campaign that they were almost shoveling it out the door. Of course, soft money turns into play money at the end of this year.
Low voter turnout called civil rights problem / Many frozen out, speakers say in S.F.
Low voter turnout called civil rights problem / Many frozen out, speakers say in S.F. at the "Claiming Our Democracy" conference. Speakers talked "about the need for major changes in the nuts and bolts of the nation's political system."
Supreme Court Rejects Campaign Finance Case
Kansas Provisional ballots
The Kansas City Star reports a charge by the Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley (D) that the Republicans plan to object to as many provisional ballots as possible to keep their Attorney General candidate in the lead. The GOP denies the charge. This is something like those alerts that the US government issues from time to time about an imminent terrorist threat. When nothing occurs, the government claims to have scared them off. Hensley may be hoping for the same thing here. And he may have just as much evidence as the US usually does.
McConnell v FEC
While my attention has been on the Alabama Governor's recount, the Washington Post has published a couple of articles on the McConnell case. Nineteen states, DC, and two territories have filed an amicus brief supporting the McCain-Feingold law. See "States Back Campaign Finance Law". The States' brief and several other amicus briefs are here. The briefs filed by the parties in the case were heavily redacted or completely sealed (in the case of the DOJ brief). See "The Thick Black Line of Protection." The briefs for the plaintiffs are here. Those for the intervenor-defendants are here.
National papers pick up Alabama story
Well, it's official now. The Alabama recount is a BIG story. Both the Full New York Times and the Washington Post have their own bylined stories, rather than running the AP wire stories.
The Baltimore Sun reports that a federal court in Baltimore has ordered state voting officials to allow a blind man to cast his ballot using a Braille template he had produced. The new federal election administration law will require that every polling place have at least one voting machine that can be used by the blind or disabled to vote secretly and without assistance. Mr. Poole decided to get a jump on things by creating his own device. Way to go, Poole.
Early voting, late resulsts
The Arizona Republic's story, "Early voting creates waiting game" discusses the delays in election results caused by early voting.
I would have liked Jefferson much better ...
New 527s set up by political parties
Roll Call reports that the National Republican Campaign Committee has given $1 million to the Leadership Forum (the new Republican "non-federal" PAC). The article also reports on the creation of two Democratic groups which will be used to funnel soft money.
Alabama Governor's election
A particularly Republican-leaning county in Alabama announced that Gov. Don Siegelman (D) had 19,070 votes, but after the observers left, the probate judge announced the vote total to 12,736. The county election board met at noon on Wednesday, two days before the state code calls for them to meet, and confirmed these are the correct numbers. See the Alabama Associated Press story at al.com: NewsFlash. I have added a page to my website to cover the legal issues on this story.
Colorado campaign finance reform
A different take on the BCRA
John Samples and Patrick Basham of Cato Institute have an op-ed in yesterday's New York Times, Meet the New Loopholes, predicting that under BCRA, "The person with the most lawyers wins."
New Soft Money Groups
The Washington Post reports on the efforts of the R's and D's to set up new soft money groups to beat the deadline of the BCRA. There is an interesting point made by some lawyers not involved in the new groups, pointing out that the leaders of the Leadership Forum (a GOP group) may have problems in carrying on their lobbying activities because of the restrictions in the BCRA. See Campaign Money Finds New Conduits As Law Takes Effect (washingtonpost.com)
Parties Create Ways to Avoid Soft Money Ban
The New York Times has an article today entitled, Parties Create Ways to Avoid Soft Money Ban. McCain and Larry Noble and Fred Wertheimer make all the usual noises about parties creating loopholes, etc. But if these organizations (both the Dems' and Reps') were set up a week from now -- after BCRA goes into effect -- and the respective national chairmen said nothing about them, what would actually be different?
Georgia election suits already filed and more threatened
The Fulton County Daily Report has a long article on suits already filed in Georgia against various election practices and a county -level redistricting. In addition, the Republicans are already threatening to sue over the state's lateness in sending out absentee ballots. The State missed its own 45-day deadline for having absentee ballots ready to go, but met the 30-day requirement of federal law. 42 USC § 1973ff-1.