National: Super PACs and the Nonprofits That Fund Them | The Daily Beast

Super PACs are the perceived demons of the 2012 campaign, with the law allowing them to raise and spend unlimited amounts of dough. But a shadowy sideshow that’s gone largely unnoticed is the set of nonprofits affiliated with them, which often provide money to the cash cows—and they don’t have to publicly disclose their donors (as super PACs must). “The undisclosed money is far more troubling for the system,” says campaign finance lawyer Kenneth Gross. FreedomWorks for America is a case in point. The group, which has attacked GOP pols it finds insufficiently conservative, is located three blocks north of the Capitol. At the same address, sharing the same suite and even some staff, is the headquarters of the similarly named FreedomWorks Inc., a nonprofit (or 501[c][4] group). In 2011 the super PAC received almost half of its $2.7 million from the nonprofit, a legal transfer that skirts disclosure requirements. Whose cash is it? We aren’t allowed to know. Matt Kibbe, who oversees the activities of both groups, tells Newsweek that “to adhere to what the law stipulates” there is a “firewall” between the two. But even by the loose standards of money in politics these days, the arrangement seems rather cozy.

National: Super PAC challenge: Congress |

The next frontier for super PACs: playing in Senate and House party leadership elections. The formula is simple. Raise $10 million from the jet set or grass-roots followers, spend it on 40 to 50 House districts or 15 Senate races and then call in favors when it’s time to count votes for speaker, floor leader or whip. The model has been built. The money’s out there. And there’s no shortage of ambition in Congress. The question is: Can anyone put it all together?

National: Americans Elect Is Raising Money To Repay Its Millionaire Founders | Buzzfield

A deep-pocketed group hoping to field a third candidate in November has quietly shifted its fundraising focus earlier this month to serve a curious goal, a spokeswoman has acknowledged to BuzzFeed: All money raised by Americans Elect will, for the for-seeable future, be given to the millionaires who created it.

The group made the shift public in a cryptic statement on its website on March 2:

The Board of Directors voted unanimously on 20 February 2012 to ensure that no supporter would cover more than 20% of the Americans Elect budget. In the event that any one supporter exceeds that percentage, there are provisions created to expedite repayments to that supporter.

Americans Elect, whose leaders have said they expect to spend $40 million this year getting on the ballot in 50 states and building a sophisticated platform for a secure online primary, casts the move as one in service of its populist goal of having no donor give more than $10,000. But its immediate effect may make it extremely difficult for the group, which is heavily bankrolled by its chairman, financier and philanthropist Peter Ackerman, to raise any more money at all, and particularly the kind of small, grassroots donations it seeks on its website.

Editorials: GOP War on Voting Targets Swing States | Rolling Stone

On March 7, 1963, civil rights activists were brutally beaten by police in Selma, Alabama, during the infamous “Bloody Sunday” march, for advocating for the right to vote. This week, forty-seven years later, today’s civil rights leaders retraced the march from Selma to Montgomery, protesting what NAACP President Ben Jealous calls “the greatest attack on voting rights since segregation.” Since the 2010 election, Republicans have waged an unprecedented war on voting, with the unspoken but unmistakable goal of preventing millions of mostly Democratic voters, including students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly, from casting ballots in 2012. More than a dozen states, from Texas to Wisconsin and Florida, have passed laws designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process, whether by requiring birth certificates to register to vote, restricting voter registration drives, curtailing early voting, requiring government-issued IDs to cast a ballot, or disenfranchising ex-felons.

Editorials: Impossible dance – Voting Rights Act conflicts with Alaska law and history | Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The Alaska Supreme Court will hear arguments today in the lawsuit concerning the new election districts. There is much with which to sympathize in the petitions filed by both sides in the dispute. Some of the new boundaries are odd, but it was extremely difficult to avoid such oddities. One thing is clear — much of the dispute could have been avoided if Alaska were not subject to the Voting Rights Act, the federal law intended to prevent states from institutionalizing racial discrimination in their election procedures. The petitions before the court today are filled with arguments about whether the Voting Rights Act forced the Alaska Redistricting Board to draw the election boundaries in the fashion it did or, if not, then in some even less rational fashion.

Pennsylvania: Voter ID bill faces final vote | The Times-Tribune

A controversial bill requiring voters to show specific photo identification at the polls starting with elections this year faces a final vote in the House today. The Republican-controlled House Rules Committee voted for the bill Monday along party lines after defeating amendments by Democratic lawmakers to address concerns about senior citizens not bringing proper ID to the polls. The House needs to concur with a Senate-approved voter ID bill so it can be sent it to Gov. Tom Corbett for his expected signing. A foretaste of this legislation’s impact will come during the April 24 primary when local election officials will be required to ask each voter to show proof of identification. On this day, a primary voter lacking such identification will still be allowed to cast a vote.

Pennsylvania: Corbett says he’ll sign voter-ID bill |

Gov. Corbett said Monday he will sign a bill now on a legislative fast track that would require voters to present photo identification at the polls. The so-called “voter ID” bill could reach Corbett’s desk as early as Tuesday, when the House is to take a final vote on the controversial measure. The Republican-controlled chamber began debating the bill Monday afternoon but delayed the vote a day, citing rules regarding the waiting period for voting on legislation sent over from the Senate. The Senate approved the bill last week after a several hours of debate, during which Democrats argued that it was nothing more than a partisan attempt to suppress their side’s votes in a presidential election year. Asked about that contention yesterday, Corbett responded: “I completely disagree. This is no barrier to voting. You have to have a photo ID to go anywhere.”

Editorials: Voter ID effort is a ruse | Philadelphia Inquirer

Here’s hoping that expected legal challenges of a requirement that Pennsylvania voters show photo identification at the polls will occur before the ink is dry on Gov. Corbett’s signature on legislation racing through Harrisburg. A Wisconsin judge has halted implementation of that state’s voter identification law before its April primary, responding to an NAACP lawsuit that contends voters without driver’s licenses are “disproportionately elderly, indigent, or members of a racial minority.” Likewise, the Republican proposal in Pennsylvania is nothing more than a new form of a poll tax, similar to those imposed to turn away black voters in the old, segregated South. So-called voter-ID rules would hit the old, young, poor, and minority voters the hardest — a slice of the electorate least likely to have government-issued identification of the type required under the measure approved Wednesday by the state Senate. The fact that this group of voters disproportionately leans toward Democratic candidates, particularly in Philadelphia and other urban areas, uncovers the voter-ID proposal for what it is — a blatant bid for a GOP advantage at the polls.

Tennessee: Democratic Party Says Election Commission Should Reveal Names Of Purged Voters |

Announcing its support for the class action lawsuit filed by former congressman Lincoln Davis, naming as defendants Governor Bill Haslam, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Tennessee of Coordinator of Elections Marty Goins, the Hamilton County Democratic Party called on the Hamilton County Election Commission to join the lawsuit, and also to release the names of voters who have been purged from voter rolls since Mr. Goins’ appointment on Feb. 11, 2009. “As of Dec. 1, 2011, approximately 8,000 voters had been purged from the rolls in Hamilton County, just according to the six-month report included in the lawsuit,” said Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith. “That is far more than would be needed to decide an election. We have the right to know who was purged, why, their party affiliation, their gender and their race. If the election commission is truly fair and unbiased, it will join the lawsuit and release this information to the public.”

Texas: Justice Department Blocks Texas Law on Photo ID for Voting |

The Justice Department’s civil rights division on Monday blocked Texas from enforcing a new law requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls, contending that the law would disproportionately suppress turnout among eligible Hispanic voters. The decision, which follows a similar move in December blocking a law in South Carolina, brought the Obama administration deeper into the politically and racially charged fight over a wave of new voting restrictions, enacted largely by Republicans in the name of combating voter fraud.

Texas: Voter ID Law Discriminates Against Latinos, Justice Department Says | Fox News

A controversial law requiring Texas voters to show a photo ID at the polls remains unenforceable because it discriminates against Latinos, the Department of Justice said Monday. In a letter to the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said registered Latino voters are almost twice as likely as non-Latinos not to have a photo identification. Somewhere between 6.3 and 10.8 percent of registered Latino voters in Texas do not have a state-issued photo ID.

Editorials: Texas voter ID law may be headed to the Supreme Court | Rick Hasen/Star Telegram

On Monday, the Justice Department blocked implementation of Texas’ new voter identification law. Texas said the law is a necessary measure to prevent voter fraud. Justice responded that the law is unnecessary and will have a disproportionate impact on Hispanic voters who are less likely to have identification. The issue is heading to federal court, and it could well be the U.S. Supreme Court that weighs in, just months after it intervened in Texas’s redistricting dispute. So who’s right? As I explain in The Fraudulent Fraud Squad sneak preview of my forthcoming book The Voting Wars, Republican claims of a serious problem with voter impersonation are bogus. Many Republican legislators and political operatives support voter ID laws for two purposes: first, to depress Democratic turnout, and second to gin up the Republican base. But Democrats and those on the left sometimes inflate the potential negative effect of voter identification and other laws on voter turnout, especially among poor and minority voters. Just as Republicans use the scare of voter ID laws as a wedge issue to boost Republican turnout, Democrats use the scare of voter suppression to boost Democratic turnout.

Wisconsin: Judge rules voter ID law unconstitutional | JSOnline

A Dane County judge struck down the state’s new voter ID law on Monday – the second judge in a week to block the requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls. “A government that undermines the very foundation of its existence – the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote – imperils its legitimacy as a government by the people, for the people, and especially of the people,” Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote. “It sows the seeds for its own demise as a democratic institution. This is precisely what 2011 Wisconsin Act 23 does with its photo ID mandates.” Niess’ eight-page ruling goes further than the one issued by another judge last week because it permanently invalidates the law for violating the state constitution. Tuesday’s order by Dane County Judge David Flanagan halted the law for the April 3 presidential primary and local elections, but not beyond that. Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen promised to quickly appeal the decision.

Wisconsin: Voter ID Law Ruled Unconstitutional | Huffington Post

A Wisconsin judge declared a state law requiring people to show photo ID in order to be allowed to vote unconstitutional on Monday, issuing a permanent injunction blocking the state from implementing the measure. “Without question, where it exists, voter fraud corrupts elections and undermines our form of government,” wrote Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess in his decision. “The legislature and governor may certainly take aggressive action to prevent its occurrence. But voter fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression. Indeed, they are two heads on the monster.”

China: Hong Kong’s Scandalous Election Too Much For China | WSJ

With less than two weeks to go, Hong Kong is gripped by an unusually colorful brawl for its top political job – but if you lived just across the border, you might not know it. Though Beijing finds both the city’s two frontrunners acceptable, it doesn’t like the unfolding battle of campaign smears, scandals and public criticism, and appears to be silencing reports on the mainland. Media outlets should refrain from “reporting, hyping or discussing” Hong Kong’s Chief Executive election, China’s Central Propaganda Department said last week during the National People’s Congress according to a directive posted (in Chinese) on University of California, Berkeley-based blog China Digital Times. Anything that needs reporting, the directive declared, “must be approved by the Office of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs.”

El Salvador: Right-wing party holds slim lead in El Salvador polls | The West Australian

A right-wing opposition party on Monday led by a slim margin in El Salvador’s general election in which the leftist government of President Mauricio Funes faced a key test of its popularity. With more than 89 percent of precincts reporting, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) was ahead with slightly over 39.7 percent of the vote. It was closely followed by the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) with 36.8 percent. A conservative coalition named GANA led by ex-president Elias Antonio Saca, a congressional ally of the FMLN, was a distant third with just 9.4 percent of the ballot. Six smaller parties also fielded candidates.

Editorials: Iran’s Parliamentary Vote: The Beginning of the End of Ahmadinejad | Angie Ahmadi/Huffington Post

Last Friday, Iran held its first elections since the controversial 2009 presidential contest, after which millions of voters poured into streets of Tehran. Unrest following the announced re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad culminated in mass detention, torture and the death of many protesters. It also led to the near-elimination of pro-reform political forces in the Islamic Republic. For this very reason, the parliamentary vote last week should be viewed as an unrepresentative sham — nothing more than a selection process amongst the ruling conservative elite. As the dispute between Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad runs deeper, this election is widely interpreted as a battle between these two political heavyweights. With the ballot boxes now counted, the outcome categorically declares Khamenei as the winner — as was broadly anticipated. But placing Iran’s future policy trajectory in its proper context requires caution against reaching hasty conclusions. The results clearly show that candidates openly associated with Ahmadinejad and his chief of staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie failed to enter the parliament. However, the Islamic Revolution Durability Front, backed by ultra-conservative Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi and fairly close to Ahmadinejad, performed relatively well, thereby lessening the possibility of a solid opposition to the president emerging in the new parliament.

Slovakia: Left emerges triumphant from the ashes of the right |

There was a startling life-imitates-politics moment during Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Slovakia, when the Krásna Hôrka castle, a national monument, burned to a smoking ruin. With the centre-right government also in flames, social networks quivered with a horrified question: how bad could this get? For the right wing – historically bad. For the first time in its 18-year history, Slovakia will be ruled by a single party, the social-democratic Smer (Direction) led by lawyer Robert Fico. With 44% of the vote, Fico captured 83 of 150 seats, and is now picking ministers ahead of a swift transfer of power. As impressive as the left’s victory was, Fico arguably had little to do with it. Last autumn, the four government parties quarrelled over the euro bailout scheme, and then petulantly refused to make up. The result was early elections, less than two years after the coalition took office, and an electorate fed up with such arrant folly. In rural countries, let it be said, rightwing governments should consider themselves lucky.

El Salvador: No Official Results in El Salvador Elections | Prensa Latina

The Salvadorian people on Thursday still awaited the official results of Sunday”s elections, but they have witnessed several allegations of irregularities that have followed the voting. The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) has not so far issued detailed reports about the development of the process, which was delayed in its beginning and it is expected to end on Friday or Saturday. Vote counting is taking place at an exclusive hotel in San Salvador, and according to press reports, the contract will expire on Friday, forcing to move the process to the TSE building if it takes longer. The police have reinforced security in the hotel, in face of the arrival until Wednesday of many candidates to mayors, generally accompanied by followers, to present allegations of irregularities.