Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Disclosure' Category

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 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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Opinion: ‘Dark Money’ Attempting to Buy Judicial Elections

dark_money_email_imageAn opinion piece by Joan Claybrook in Chicago Business asks whether “dark money” campaign contributions can lead to the Illinois Supreme Court being bought.

Claybrook sites Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd Karmeier as an example of a candidate who has benefited from “dark money.”

“Elected in 2004 in a campaign with record expenditures of dark money in which corporate interests spent almost $5 million to unseat a judge considered to be plaintiff-friendly, Karmeier then cast deciding votes reversing judgments in two controversial cases, Avery v. State Farm and Price v. Philip Morris,” the piece states.

Claybrook also points to the lack of recusal rules and transparency as a way that campaigns are being negatively impacted by non-disclosed money. She ends by saying, “State Supreme Courts must require all litigants to disclose campaign money they contributed directly or through third parties to a judicial election when a case is filed or answered. It’s the only way the people can be assured of an independent judicial system—one of the cornerstones of our democracy.”

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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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Editorials Scrutinize Big Spending in Judicial Elections

I-Am-a-Money-Magnet-the-secret-23316442-500-372Citing Missouri billionaire Rex Sinquefield’s $300,000 donation to a Washington, D.C. group that tried to defeat a local Missouri judge, a St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial asks Sinquefield for more transparency and less deceit.

In an editorial styled as a letter to Sinquefield, the editorial board asks, “Could you please instruct your vast army of political operatives to stop being deceitful about how they spend your money?” It acknowledges that on some issues it agrees philosophically with the activist donor, but “When you — or the people who work for you — secretly funnel money into Washington, D.C., political action committees to hide the source of the funds, it looks really sneaky and underhanded.”

The letter refers to money Sinquefield gave to the Republican State Leadership Committee and its spending that amount and more to defeat Cole County Circuit Judge Pat Joyce, who ultimately won reelection in November (see Gavel Grab). It says “your spokespeople wouldn’t fess up. Neither would the RSLC.” Read more

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