Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Disclosure' Category

Campaign Finance Disclosure Legislation Dies in Texas Legislature

iStock_000015670171Small1-1Legislation to require politically active nonprofit groups to disclose their donors was declared dead in the Texas legislature, The Texas Tribune reported.

“The Legislature gets a ‘F’ on ethics reform this session. The bills they passed largely protect the politicians and limit disclosure of information,” said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, a Justice at Stake partner organization.

The Texas Tribune subsequently reported in a different article about Gov. Greg Abbott’s news conference following the conclusion of the legislative session, “Abbott Opposes Curbs on Dark Money.” Read more

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Divided Opinion Over W.Va. Law for Nonpartisan Judicial Elections

West_Virginia_quarter,_reverse_side,_2005A state law making judicial elections in West Virginia nonpartisan will take effect June 8. Opinions of it are mixed, according to a Charleston Gazette article, with a Democratic judge commending it and a leader of the West Virginia Association for Justice panning it.

“We have written on the front of the court house ‘equal justice under law.’ The best thing anyone can do for me is to let me be in a nonpartisan election so I can always have the appearance of that,” said Circuit Judge Phillip Stowers of Putnam County. He is the county’s only elected Democrat.

Tony Majestro, president of the state Association for Justice, said, “Partisan elections aren’t the problem with our judicial elections. The problem is, is that we have, in the past, had large outside contributions that are undisclosed — at least at the time they’re made and at the time of an election.” He added, “Our campaign finance disclosure rules are so full of loopholes they are essentially useless.”

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Commentary: When the Courts Shine Light on ‘Dark Money’

In some cases, the sources of what is called political “dark money” are disclosed because of action in the courts, Ciara Torres-Spelliscy writes in a commentary published at the Brennan Center for Justice website.

Among the examples cited by Torres-Spelliscy are sunlight on two dark money groups that had concealed spending sources for two California ballot initiatives; sources of money for a dark money group that were disclosed after a judge’s order in Montana; and a lawsuit settlement in New York that led a semiconductor company to agree to disclose its political spending.

Torres-Spelliscy’s views are her own. The Brennan Center is a Justice at Stake partner organization.

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Legislation Would Force Montana ‘Dark Money’ Out of Shadows

iStock_000015670171Small1-1Once Gov. Steve Bullock signs the legislation, will there be an end to the flood of “dark money” in Montana elections? That’s what Huffington Post predicts after the Montana legislature finished approving a campaign finance measure this week.

“The Montana legislature passed sweeping campaign finance legislation on Wednesday that will require the disclosure of all donors to any independent group spending money on state-level elections,” Huffington Post reported. 

“Montana elections are about to become the most transparent in the nation, requiring those trying to influence our elections to come out of the dark money shadows,” said Bullock. He is a Democrat. The legislature is dominated by Republicans.  Read more

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‘Dark Money’ Disclosure Bill Killed by Arkansas House Panel

An Arkansas House Committee has rejected legislation to require disclosure of names of individual donors to “dark money” campaign ads, like those aired in a state Supreme Court election in 2014.

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America  aired more than $400,000 in TV advertising that accused candidate Tim Cullen of believing that child pornography is a victimless crime. Cullen, who lost to then-Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne, and his supporters said the ad distorted his views, and FactCheck.org called it “misleading” and “beyond the pale” (see Gavel Grab).

ArkansasOnline said in reporting on the House panel vote this week that critics voiced concerns about safeguarding the privacy of political donors. It said about the LEAA, “It was never clear who donated money to the Virginia group for the Arkansas advertising.” Read more

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New Mexico House Committee Responds to Citizens United

A New Mexico House bill that would “increase disclosure requirements on independent expenditure groups” passed its first committee vote on Tuesday, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

The measure, proposed in response to the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, was approved by the House Safety and Civil Affairs Committee 7-1. It now moves to the Judiciary Committee for more hearings.

A similar bill has been proposed in the New Mexico Senate, but no action has been taken yet.

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Scholar Urges Transparency for High Court’s Orders Docket

When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the issues raised in a condemned man’s appeal even after it had denied a stay and he was executed, the episode begged for disclosure about the court’s reasoning on both orders, an assistant law professor contends.

In a New York Times op-ed, William Baude of the University of Chicago contends that it is time for the court to shed more sunlight on its “secret decisions,” as he calls the court’s orders docket, in order to give lawyers and lower court judges more guidance. He proposes two changes: Read more

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Brownback Makes Second Court Appointment Under New Law

urlKansas Gov. Sam Brownback has announced his nomination of Kathryn Gardner to the state Court of Appeals. She has served as a longtime law clerk to a federal judge, as an assistant attorney general and as a lawyer in private practice.

It was the second time Brownback has nominated a Court of Appeals judge under a new law that eliminated a judicial nominating commission screening process, called merit selection. Before the Republican-dominated legislature dumped that process, Gardner applied for two different openings on the appeals court, the Associated Press reported.  She was not recommended by the commission as a finalist either time.

Brownback called the nominee thoughtful and intelligent. He noted that she writes cowboy poetry and called her a “renaissance woman.” Her nomination must be confirmed by the state Senate. Read more

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JAS: President is On the Money in State of the Union Speech

rtr_barack_obama_sotu_jc_150120_16x9_992Justice at Stake commended President Obama’s remarks, in the State of the Union speech on Tuesday, about the growing problem of  “dark money” in American politics.

“A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, asking them to join in the great mission of building America,” Obama said.

“As the president noted, dark money is infecting our political system,”JAS Executive Director Bert Brandenburg said in a statement.  “It’s part of a wave of special interest spending overtaking our elections  – and the sad truth is that special interests are spending millions of dollars on state judicial elections, too, where dark money has also entered the picture.  This spending is pressuring judges to be accountable to politics, and raising fears that justice is for sale.  Every state that elects judges needs to take steps to insulate its judges from political pressure.” Read more

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Report: Obama May Push to Curb ‘Secret Money’ in Politics

President Obama may announce in his State of the Union address on Tuesday a “major push to rein in the flood of secret money capturing our democracy,” the Daily Beast reported.

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark campaign finance ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Obama “may announce executive action … that would require businesses contracting with the government to disclose political contributions after contracts have been awarded,” the Daily Beast said. Read more

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