How Far Should Disclosure Requirements Go?

Posted on Categories Election Law, First AmendmentLeave a comment» on How Far Should Disclosure Requirements Go?

I’ll be appearing tongight on Wisconsin Public Television’s Here and Now, discussing the Government Accountability Board’s new rule requiring groups and persons who spend more that $ 25 on something called “political communications” during a set period preceding an election to register, make certain filings and disclose the source of their funds. Joining me will be Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Continue reading “How Far Should Disclosure Requirements Go?”

Barrett on Redistricting: What Isn’t There

Posted on Categories Election Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Wisconsin Law & Legal SystemLeave a comment» on Barrett on Redistricting: What Isn’t There

Tom Barrett’s proposal for “nonpartisan” redistricting may reduce the degree of “incumbent protection” that takes place in the redrawing of legislative districts, but I think it is more interesting for what it does not do.

There is a movement in the country to have redistricting by commission according to what are generally though to be neutral redistricting principles, i.e., the creation of compact and contiguous districts that, to the extent possible, respect municipal and county boundaries and (perhaps) geographical barriers that seperate one community from another. See. e.g., California’s Voter First Act. These principles restrict discretion in redistricting and, or so the theory goes, minimize the opportunity for political maneuvering. This doesn’t eliminate contention but the establishment of physical requirements reduces the opportunity for gerrymandering to protect incumbents or to maximize the opportunities for the party in power.

That’s not what Barrett wants to do and that’s not surprising. As a general matter, Democratic voters are more concentrated that Republican voters. Contiguous and compact districts will tend to create a smaller number of heavily Democratic districts.  Continue reading “Barrett on Redistricting: What Isn’t There”

Curb Your Enthusiasm

Posted on Categories Election Law, First Amendment, Political Processes & RhetoricLeave a comment» on Curb Your Enthusiasm

I’ve met Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate.  Mike was nice enough to speak to my Election Law clase and was candid, informative and entertaining.  I have to confess that I like the guy.

I appreciate that the boys and girls that do this kind of work (on my side as well) aren’t playing beanbag. As a consultant on my side told me, we can’t play nice when the other guys play nasty. I couldn’t argue with her. It’s a classic game of hawks and doves. To paraphrase Justice Scalia, if one side fights freestyle, the other cannot adhere to the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. Continue reading “Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Are “Clean Election” Schemes Headed to the Supreme Court?

Posted on Categories Constitutional Interpretation, Election Law, First AmendmentLeave a comment» on Are “Clean Election” Schemes Headed to the Supreme Court?

In a recent piece in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, I predicted the “lonely death” of public campaign financing. The point was that public financing schemes that provided what are often called “rescue funds,” i.e., additional public money for candidates who face an opponent (or independent opposition) that has spent more than some triggering amount. So, for example, if I am a publicly financed candidate who is running against an internet billionaire or a well financed independent campaign against me (undoubtedly by some group that is for “the children”), I can get additional public money to match the expenditures against me.

My argument was that these asymetrical financing systems are probably unconstitutional and that, as a result, any public financing system will be dwarfed by self financed candidates, independent expenditures or, increasingly, opposition campaigns whose use of the Internet and bundling is likely to dwarf any politically feasible amount of public financing. Continue reading “Are “Clean Election” Schemes Headed to the Supreme Court?”

What Does Citizens United Mean for the Workplace?

Posted on Categories Election Law, First Amendment, Labor & Employment Law, Legal ScholarshipLeave a comment» on What Does Citizens United Mean for the Workplace?

Few recent Supreme Court decisions have provoked such heated debate as Citizens United v. FEC, which undermined federal restrictions on corporate and union contributions to political campaigns.  Despite all of the discussion of Citizens United, little attention has been paid to the decision’s implications for the workplace.   In a new paper on SSRN, however, Paul Secunda argues that Citizens United may have the effect of lifting some longstanding restrictions on the ability of employers to communicate political messages to their employees.  Paul argues for a statutory response that would prohibit the termination of employees for refusing to attend political meetings at the workplace.

Paul’s paper, entitled “Addressing Political Captive Audience Workplace Meetings in the Post-Citizens United Environment,” appeared in the Yale Law Journal Online here.  The abstract appears after the jump.  Continue reading “What Does Citizens United Mean for the Workplace?”

How Much Difference Does the Small State Advantage in the Electoral College Really Make?

Posted on Categories Election Law, Political Processes & Rhetoric, President & Executive Branch6 Comments on How Much Difference Does the Small State Advantage in the Electoral College Really Make?

EV_map_081104-1400ZOne of the many unusual features of the Electoral College established by Article II, Section 1, of the United States Constitution is the provision that specifies that each state shall have “a Number of Electors equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”

The one obvious consequence of this provision is to enhance the influence of the smaller states in the selection of the president.   Because of this provision, smaller states are disproportionately represented in the Electoral College.  For example, the 12 smallest states today—Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming together account for only 17 (of 435) representatives in the House, or 3.9% of the total.  However, in the Electoral College, thanks to the “Senate bump,” the same states account for 41 electoral votes, or 7.6% of the total of 538.

Would the history of American presidential elections have been different, had this non-democratic element not been added to the Electoral College formula in 1787?  What if Electoral votes were calculated only on the basis of the number of representatives in the House of Representatives?  Have some presidential candidates been elected only because they captured the electoral votes of a disproportionate number of small states? Continue reading “How Much Difference Does the Small State Advantage in the Electoral College Really Make?”

Federalism, Free Markets, and Free Speech

Posted on Categories Business Regulation, Constitutional Interpretation, Corporate Law, Election Law, Federalism, First Amendment, Judges & Judicial Process, Legal History, U.S. Supreme Court11 Comments on Federalism, Free Markets, and Free Speech

2not even-handed justiceThe Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC strikes down as unconstitutional a federal law that prohibits corporations and unions from using general treasury funds to make independent expenditures that expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates for office.  The majority opinion, written by Justice Kennedy, ignores hundreds of years of Supreme Court history in interpreting the subjects of federalism, free markets, and free speech.  In its place, Justice Kennedy presents a textualist interpretation of the First Amendment that is divorced from any history or context.  Justice Kennedy engages in the sort of “faux originalism” (syn. “fake,” “artificial,” “false”) that has been criticized by Judge Richard Posner.  Kennedy places a historical glaze on his own personal values and policy preferences, and calls the result the “original understanding” of the First Amendment.

As such, Citizens United v. FEC stands with District of Columbia v. Heller, the Second Amendment case decided in 2008, as an example of the Justices slapping the “originalist” label on a profoundly un-originalist interpretation of the Bill of Rights.  It is appropriate to view the two cases together.  Both are exercises in raw political power employed in order to accomplish conservative objectives.  Both ignore hundreds of years of understanding about the meaning of the relevant constitutional provisions, in favor of a meaning derived by taking the words of the Amendment out of context.  And both embrace interpretations of the constitutional Amendment at issue that are inconsistent with the meaning ascribed to that same language by the intellectual father of originalism, Robert Bork.  In the same way that modern scholars deride the “Lochner era” as a misguided period in American Constitutional Law, I believe that future scholars and judges will recognize and reject the intellectual dishonesty of the “Heller era.” Continue reading “Federalism, Free Markets, and Free Speech”

A Different Way to Run the Electoral College

Posted on Categories Election Law, Federal Law & Legal System, Legal History, Political Processes & Rhetoric15 Comments on A Different Way to Run the Electoral College

800px-Simple2008PresElections-USA-statesIn an earlier posting, Rick Esenberg expressed his opposition to recent George Soros-sponsored efforts to devise a plan to circumvent the operation of the Constitution’s venerable Electoral College.

The “problems” with the Electoral College are well-known.  Its “winner-take-all” feature supposedly distorts the electoral process, and on four occasions (1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000), it has chosen a president who received fewer popular votes than one of his opponents.

Debates over the future of the Electoral College often assume that there are only two options:  scrap the institution altogether or else accept that it will continue to operate as it has in the past.  Scraping the Electoral College is usually assumed to require a constitutional amendment, although the Soros plan would actually leave the Constitution unchanged but seek to bind electors to cast their votes for the candidate with the largest national popular vote regardless of the results in their particular state.

There is an alternative, however, that would make the results of the Electoral College more democratic but would leave the Constitution unchanged. Continue reading “A Different Way to Run the Electoral College”

Some Thoughts on Redistricting

Posted on Categories Election LawLeave a comment» on Some Thoughts on Redistricting

GERRYMANDERAs we head into the fall election cycle, one of the most important consequences of state legislative and gubernatorial races will be the impact on redistricting in 2011.

Current doctrine requires that legislative districts be equal in size and racial gerrymanders are subject to constitutional and statutory challenge. But partisan gerrymanders are almost impossible to challenge. In a case called Vieth v. Jubelirer, a four justice plurality held that allegations of a partisan gerrymander are nonjusticiable. Justice Kennedy was unwilling to say so, but conceded that he could not yet conceive of a judicially manageable standard. (Perhaps, one day, one will emerge.) While I think that Article IV, sec. 4 of the state constitution may provide a bit more room for a challenge to partisan gerrymanders of the state legislature, I wouldn’t bet the 401(k) on it.

As James Troupis, a Madison lawyer and national expert on redistricting, recently told my Election Law class, partisans can work gerrymandering wonder by “cracking,” “stacking” and “packing” voters. I shared with the class this example of a gerrymander that would create seven majority Democratic districts in Wisconsin and make reelection a very difficult prospect for Congressman Paul Ryan. Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Redistricting”