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Article: Secretive Political Groups Flourish After ‘Citizens United’

iStock_000015670171Small1“At least four mysterious groups targeted candidates for state judicial races,” the Center for Public Integrity reports in a broader article about secretive nonprofit groups that played in the 2014 elections and flourished.

“Such secretive spending is especially concerning within the judicial community because donors could come before a judge whom their dollars helped elect,” CPI notes.

Its article mentions Law Enforcement Alliance of America spending on TV advertising critical of attorney Tim Cullen, who was defeated by Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne (see Gavel Grab) in an Arkansas Supreme Court contest, and support by a group called American Freedom Builders for the successful re-election bid of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judi French.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010 was followed by a wave of so-called “social welfare” nonprofit groups spending in elections, and these groups are not required to disclose their donors, the article says.

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Senate Closer to Debating Measure to Reverse 'Citizens United'

The Senate voted on Monday to proceed to debate a proposed constitutional amendment that would reverse the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United ruling. A Republican filibuster is expected soon, and the proposal is not likely to pass the Senate this session, Huffington Post reported.

While the proposal has almost universal support of Democrats and opposition from Republicans, a majority of Americans from both parties “support the rationale offered by amendment proponents as a reason to amend the Constitution,” according to a separate Huffington Post article. Read more

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California Citizens United Ballot Initiative on Hold

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court issued a ruling halting action on a state ballot initiative that would have asked California voters’ opinions regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. (2010), the Los Angeles Times reports.

The provision, which would have had no binding legal effect, was contested because it would “not change state law.”

The ballot initiative is now on hold pending court review. Both sides agree that this decision means that the question will not appear on this year’s ballot.

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JAS to Senate: Consider Impact on Courts of 'Citizens United'

Cash-gavel-soldPublic trust in fair and impartial courts “is undermined when special interest groups pour large sums of money into judicial elections,” Justice at Stake wrote leaders of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

The JAS letter was accepted as part of the record for the committee’s hearing on a constitutional amendment in response to Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance and money in politics. The letter said the impact of Citizens United on state judicial elections was an “often overlooked area” that JAS wanted to spotlight.

“Over the past ten years, we have witnessed judicial elections become increasingly expensive and alarmingly politicized,” JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg wrote in the letter. “Millions of dollars have been poured into judicial elections, mostly for state high courts, but increasingly for state appellate and trial courts as well.” Read more

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Wisconsin Communities Join National Call to Overturn Citizens United

Numerous Wisconsin communities, including Gov. Scott Walker’s hometown and other Republican strongholds, have passed referendums opposing Citizens United.

The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch reports that 41 Wisconsin communities have called for a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and related cases that opened the floodgates to unlimited election spending.

“It puts good people in both parties in a difficult situation. I always thought that businesses did not have a significant voice and that their voices should be heard in the public square,” retiring Republican State Senator Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center) said during a recent public forum. “Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think businesses would buy the public square.”

Nationwide, 16 states and over 500 municipalities have passed resolutions urging Congress to amend the constitution to limit money’s influence over politics.

Wednesday’s McCutcheon v. FEC ruling will allow more money into politics, enabling a small number of super-rich donors to give as much as $3.6 million to candidates and parties in a single election cycle.

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JAS: Citizens United Anniversary 'One to Regret'

On Tuesday’s fourth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United campaign finance ruling, JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said the decision had “poured gasoline on the already burning fire of judicial election spending, further eroding public confidence in our courts.”

“In the first full election cycle since Citizens United, independent spending by special interest groups in judicial races surged by more than 50 percent over the previous record,” he said in a statement. “The deluge of special interest and political campaign cash signals a race to the bottom in judicial elections, and they are becoming barely distinguishable from mudslinging political contests for executive or legislative offices.

“Given Citizens United and subsequent court rulings, we’re on our way to creating a Wild West for elections generally. In judicial elections, this trend is of paramount concern because a relatively modest amount of money can tip the scales of justice.”

Justice at Stake called the anniversary one to regret. Its statement advocated an array of reforms in the wake of Citizens United.

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O'Connor Laments 'Problems Raised by Citizens United'

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor discussed  in remarks on Wednesday her deep concerns over the challenges caused by Citizens United, the court’s blockbuster campaign finance ruling in 2010.

“Citizens United produced a decision that, over the years, is going to cause lots of issues for the public to resolve,’’ she told an audience at Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island, according to the Associated Press.

‘‘I think it may have caused more problems than answers given,’’ she said. ‘‘I don’t know what we’re going to do with the problems raised by Citizens United.’’ Justice O’Connor retired well before the court’s 2010 ruling, which struck down key restrictions and allowed unlimited independent spending by unions and corporations to influence the election of federal candidates.

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Obama Renews Criticism of Citizens United Ruling Amid Shutdown

President Obama, in the midst of a partial government shutdown, has repeated his criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It “contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now,” in his opinion, he said.

Huffington Post reported the following remarks by the president about the blockbuster ruling that cleared the way for unlimited independent spending by corporations and unions to influence the election of federal candidates:

“I continue to believe that Citizens United contributed to some of the problems we’re having in Washington right now.”

“You have some ideological extremist who has a big bankroll, and they can entirely skew our politics. And there are a whole bunch of members of Congress right now who privately will tell you, ‘I know our Read more

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JAS to Participate in Panel on Citizens United, Effect on Courts

Justice at Stake will participate on Monday, Feb. 11, in a panel discussion about the effect of Citizens United on state judicial elections.

Bert Brandenburg, JAS executive director, will be one of four panelists at the forum sponsored by the American Constitution Society’s chapter of the University of Toledo College of Law and the Federalist Society. The event will be held at the law school and is open to the public.

Also participating on the panel will be Bradley Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission; Jeff Gamso, a criminal defense attorney with Gamso, Helmick and Hoolahan and former legal director of the Ohio ACLU; and Rick Kerger, a founder of the law firm now known as Kerger & Hartman LLC.

For recent Gavel Grab posts related to Citizens United, click here.

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Scholars: Post-Citizens United, a Threat to Impartial Courts

There’s more evidence interpreted by scholars as suggesting “significant threats to the legitimacy of elected state courts” since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Election Law blog has an abstract of a draft paper by James L. Gibson of Washington University and Gregory Caldeira of Ohio State University entitled, “Judicial Impartiality, Campaign Contributions, and Recusals: Results from a National Survey.” Here is the abstract:

“Legal scholars have of late become quite worried about how citizens form their impressions of the fairness of courts. This concern reflects the changing environments of courts, especially elected state courts, and what might generally be termed the politicization of the judiciary. The purpose of this article is to assess the effectiveness of judicial recusals at rehabilitating a court/judge tainted by perceived conflicts of interest associated with campaign activities by litigants. Read more

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