Archive for the 'Disclosure' Category
A new 50-state analysis the by the National Institute of Money in State Politics finds that lax rules in many states let outside groups sponsor attack political advertising behind a veil of secrecy.
It’s nearly impossible in 30 states to find out how much cash outside groups are pumping into elections, the report said, and 35 states require less disclosure of independent spending than do federal election laws, according to an article by the Center for Public Integrity.
You can see the NIMSP report by clicking here.
Campaign finance doesn’t rank as a hot issue for American voters, but there is nonetheless overwhelming popular support for banning super PACs, the committees that can engage in unlimited fundraising and spending on federal campaigns.
Those findings come from polls cited in a Washington Post blog post. Sixty-nine percent of Americans said in a poll last year that the super Political Action Committees should be prohibited, the article said.
Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have sponsored a bill to require super PACs to identify their sources of money. In elections, voters “deserve to know where the money is coming from and where it’s going,” Wyden said.
At a Hill newspaper blog, Jonathan Backer of the Brennan Center for Justice said such bipartisan efforts suggest an easing in the “rigid partisan stalemate” on campaign finance disclosure. The Republican-controlled Texas state Senate recently approved a similar measure, he wrote. The Brennan Center is a Justice at Stake partner group. Read more
A former Michigan Supreme Court justice with a record for controversy has written a book that likely will spark more debate.
“Judicial Deceit: Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court” by former Justice Elizabeth Weaver and co-author David Schock will be released in mid-May, according to a Traverse City (Mi.) Record-Eagle article.
Justice Weaver is especially critical of “dark money” judicial campaign expenditures that cannot be traced to corporations or individuals.
“Reform the money,” she told the newspaper. “Instant, complete, reporting of all money. No hiding behind groups of Justice for People or People for Justice. Every contribution has to be individual, and it cannot be People for Justice, which is a whole bunch of unknown people. It’s dark money.”
In 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court justices censured the former justice over her actions in an earlier election, when she disclosed a partial transcript she had made from a secretly recorded conference with her fellow justices (see Gavel Grab). During her time on the court, she also served two years as chief justice.
Montana’s state Senate passed 29-21 a bill to bring greater disclosure of the hidden political money that flows through third-party political groups, the Associated Press reported.
“It’s about transparency and accountability. This bill is designed to address dark money that hides behind a curtain of secrecy and works in an environment that, I think, stifles debate,” said Sen. Jim Peterson, the bill sponsor and a Republican.
“People will speak. They will just hires lot of lawyers and lots of consultants to work around this bill,” contended Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich, also a Republican. “You are not going to see all the disclosure you want.”
In a Detroit News op-ed, Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports that nearly $14 million spent on last year’s state Supreme Court election was hidden from public view. It is time for the state to require greater disclosure, he argues.
With $18.6 million spent overall on the election, Robinson writes, “The spending was a record in a Michigan Supreme Court election, and a record for lack of accountability.” A veteran investigator, Robinson dug up the spending totals through his own research in the files of broadcasters and cable systems. His MCFN is a Justice at Stake partner group.
Not only do citizens “have a right to know the source of the political speech they are hearing,” Robinson says in citing Citizens United, but there are additional concerns when it comes to hidden spending on court elections:
“Judges should not be deciding cases involving campaign supporters who have spent extraordinary amounts in support of the judge’s candidacy.”
“If millions of dollars in campaign spending can’t be traced to their source, it is impossible to know where and when such circumstances have occurred, and when a judge legitimately should be asked to stand aside from hearing a case. What you don’t know can hurt you badly, and we don’t know much about the major funders behind Michigan Supreme Court campaigns.”
The undisclosed, so-called “dark money” that flooded this year’s Michigan Supreme Court election poses a grave threat to fair and impartial courts, watchdog Rich Robinson writes in a commentary published by Dome Magazine.
Robinson heads Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a JAS partner group. By his tally, candidates spent $3.4 million in this year’s judicial election, compared to $11 million spent for TV ads by the state political parties and a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The TV ad expenditures, however, were not reported in state disclosure reports. Overall, he says, “undisclosed outspent candidates, 3-1.”
And that is a source of major concern for our courts, Robinson continues:
“This is a big problem. Nobody has the motivation to spend big money in a judicial race like a litigant with a high-stakes case in the appeals pipeline. Imagine being in court opposing the person who financed the campaign of the justice who is going to decide your case. Imagine not knowing it, so you can’t make a legitimate motion for recusal. Dark money undermines the whole premise of judicial impartiality.”
The Center for American Progress recently decried the influence of a flood of corporate spending on elected courts (see Gavel Grab). Now the Center is now making policy recommendations for reform.
In an analysis at the Center’s website, Billy Corriher, associate director of research for Legal Progress at the Center, warns that judicial elections could become overwhelmed unless reforms are undertaken:
“Without effective disclosure laws, the growing tide of unlimited anonymous campaign cash threatens to overwhelm judicial elections. Candidates for state Supreme Courts have shattered fundraising records in recent elections, and more states are seeing special interest money flood judicial elections. Read more
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has reversed a lower court’s ruling that was seen earlier as paving the way for disclosure of identities of secret donors who have funded political advertising called “electioneering communications.”
Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled last winter that the Federal Election Commission had gone too far when it allowed groups that fund these ads to keep their financiers anonymous (see Gavel Grab). “Electioneering communications” are ads that clearly seek to sway voters, even if the ads stop short of specifically calling for a candidate’s election or defeat.
This week, a panel of appeals judges returned the case to Judge Jackson with directions to get further consideration of the matter by the FEC, according to the Associated Press.
“The Court of Appeals’ decision today will keep the American people, for the time being, in the dark about who is attempting to influence their vote with secret money,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said. He brought the lawsuit that led to Judge Jackson’s ruling.
A divided federal appeals court has dismissed claims by a Virginia-based group that an Illinois disclosure law violates the group’s freedom-of-speech rights.
A three-judge panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned down the claims by the Center for Individual Freedom, a significant spender in state judicial elections, and the panel upheld the Illinois disclosure law, according to a Reuters article.
Under the challenged statute, advocacy groups must disclose their donors, even if influencing elections is not the group’s main purpose.
According to Reuters, the Center said it had wanted to air ads in 2010 that dealt with “judicial matters” and “legal reform” issues, involving incumbents seeking re-election.
Judge David Hamilton wrote for the majority that comprehensive disclosure was “especially valuable after Citizens United,” the Supreme Court’s landmark campaign finance ruling in 2010. Judge Hamilton added, ”Amidst this cacophony of political voices — super PACs, corporations, unions, advocacy groups, and individuals, not to mention the parties and candidates themselves — campaign finance data can help busy voters sift through the information and make informed political judgments.”
Of eight candidates for the North Carolina Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals, one is distinguished by his campaign’s not disclosing state-required details about occupations and employers for most of its donors, a progressive blog reported.
The campaign of incumbent Justice Paul Newby “neglected to include the information for most of the 742 contributions he took in at the end of 2011,” said a post at The Progressive Pulse, a blog sponsored by NC Policy Watch.
The other seven candidates have furnished the information for more than 90 percent of their campaign contributors, the blog said. These candidates include Judge Sam Ervin IV, seeking Justice Newby’s seat.
Bob Hall of Democracy NC, a good government watchdog and JAS partner group, said the public is placed at a disadvantage when it doesn’t know the groups that may be contributing to a candidate.
“Everybody else disclosed more than 90 percent out there,” Hall said. “It’s disturbing that a judicial candidate wouldn’t follow the rules, and the intent of the rules.”