The Voting News Daily: Five myths about super PACs, Has Super PAC Cash Corrupted TV Stations?

Editorials: Five myths about super PACs | Trevor Potter/The Washington Post The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United allowed them. Political candidates rely on them. And Stephen Colbert parodies them. But as a former chair of the Federal Election Commission and the lawyer behind Colbert’s super PAC — Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow — I find that…

Oklahoma: Florida had hanging chad; Tulsa has stuck ballots | krmg

Florida had the ‘hanging chad’ now Tulsa has the ‘missing ballots’ and more twists and turns in a state house race. Democrat Dan Arthrell won the House District 71 special election on election night April 3rd by three votes. The results were challenged and during a hand re-count yesterday, Republican Katie Henke won by one vote with her tally remaining the same from election night but Arthrell lost four votes that just disappeared. Even with the questions and missing votes, the Tulsa County Election Board certified Henke as the winner. Then election officials found two missing ballots in a ballot box that were not part of the hand recount.

Editorials: Five myths about super PACs | Trevor Potter/The Washington Post

The Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United allowed them. Political candidates rely on them. And Stephen Colbert parodies them. But as a former chair of the Federal Election Commission and the lawyer behind Colbert’s super PAC — Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow — I find that most people don’t understand the role that these largely unaccountable organizations play in American politics. As the GOP primary race draws to a close, let’s take a look at some common misconceptions about groups powerful enough to evade traditional limits with a single bound.

1. Super PACs are transparent because they are required to report the names of donors.

Under federal law, political action committees must report the names of their donors. And under the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, corporations are permitted to spend money on political speech. So super PACs — allegedly independent political action committees that can collect unlimited cash — regularly disclose corporate contributors. But transparency can be a bit blurry at times. In 2011, the Mitt Romney-linked Restore our Future super PAC reported a $1 million contribution from “W Spann LLC.” Never heard of it? Neither had several enterprising reporters, who learned that its address in New York was the same as that of Bain Capital — Romney’s former firm. After the press demanded to know what Romney was hiding, a former Bain executive came forward to say that the donation was his. He had given it through a shell corporation that his lawyer had created for that purpose. How often does this happen? What if W Spann had been funded by another corporation or a foreign national — one whose lawyers had been a little less obvious when picking an address? Disclosure isn’t the same as transparency.

Editorials: Has Super PAC Cash Corrupted TV Stations? | Jeffrey Rosen/The New Republic

When writing for the 5-4 majority that decided Citizens United, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that caps on corporate campaign contributions were unnecessary because corporations would inevitably be held accountable for the money they spent on advertising. Disclosure requirements, Kennedy suggested, would provide the electorate with full “information about the sources of election-related spending.” But the type of full disclosure that Kennedy envisioned has been harder to achieve than he imagined. As expected, super PACs have been spending vast sums of money on political ads—with the share for television ads expected to rise to some $3 billion this year. But efforts by the government to regulate the transparency of those ads have met bitter resistance—resistance coming not only from corporate donors, but also from the local broadcast networks receiving the bulk of their money. This kind of intransigence from the super PACs is hardly a surprise. What is surprising is the intransigence from public broadcasters. The arguments against transparency offered by the networks show that, having experienced the windfall of advertising dollars that Citizens United unleashed, they have little interest in meeting their legal and ethical responsibility to serve the public interest.

National: Corporations under pressure on political spending | USAToday.com

American companies are discovering the perils of politics as activists and public pension fund officials apply new pressure on corporations to disclose their political spending — or cease it entirely. Companies holding their annual meetings this spring will face a record number of shareholder resolutions demanding companies reveal whether corporate funds have been spent on politics. A coalition that includes Public Citizen, Common Cause and other groups that favor campaign limits has asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require publicly traded companies to disclose campaign spending on their filings to regulators. And in recent days, Wendy’s and several of the nation’s most recognizable companies have dropped their affiliation with the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group linked to the spread of Stand Your Ground laws and state efforts to toughen voter identification rules. The companies’ actions came after a civil rights group, ColorOfChange, spotlighted the firms’ ties to ALEC.

Voting Blogs: The DISCLOSE Act and the Non-Profit Campaign Finance Loophole | Legislation & Policy Brief Blog

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of comedian Stephen Colbert, the issues around Super PACs and the campaign finance regime in this country have been elevated in the national consciousness. People following campaign finance are aware of the now famous 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which held that corporate and union political speech, in the form of spending on independent and electioneering communications, is protected by the First Amendment. However, there is still considerable misunderstanding about how the system works and why corporate and union donations remain largely undisclosed. This post will attempt to briefly explain the main forces at work in keeping these donations in the shadows and the current most viable legislative fix, the Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2012 recently reintroduced in the House. Super PACs are among the hottest discussion topics this campaign season and are used as shorthand for the problem that ail our campaign finance system, but, in fact, the issues around Super PACs are not quite so simple. Super PACs emerged not directly from the Citizens United decision but from a subsequent DC Circuit court case called SpeechNow v. FEC. In that case, the court held that corporations and unions were permitted to make unlimited donations to support political committees making so-called independent expenditures – political spending not coordinated with a campaign. After that decision the FEC began permitting independent expenditure political action committees (IE-PACs) which were soon dubbed Super PACs.

Voting Blogs: The DISCLOSE Act and the Non-Profit Campaign Finance Loophole | Legislation & Policy Brief Blog

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of comedian Stephen Colbert, the issues around Super PACs and the campaign finance regime in this country have been elevated in the national consciousness. People following campaign finance are aware of the now famous 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), which held that corporate and union political speech, in the form of spending on independent and electioneering communications, is protected by the First Amendment. However, there is still considerable misunderstanding about how the system works and why corporate and union donations remain largely undisclosed. This post will attempt to briefly explain the main forces at work in keeping these donations in the shadows and the current most viable legislative fix, the Disclosure of Information on Spending on Campaigns Leads to Open and Secure Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2012 recently reintroduced in the House. Super PACs are among the hottest discussion topics this campaign season and are used as shorthand for the problem that ail our campaign finance system, but, in fact, the issues around Super PACs are not quite so simple. Super PACs emerged not directly from the Citizens United decision but from a subsequent DC Circuit court case called SpeechNow v. FEC. In that case, the court held that corporations and unions were permitted to make unlimited donations to support political committees making so-called independent expenditures – political spending not coordinated with a campaign. After that decision the FEC began permitting independent expenditure political action committees (IE-PACs) which were soon dubbed Super PACs.

Alaska: Unscanned ballots tallied as problems investigated in Anchorage | Anchorage Daily News

When some Anchorage precincts ran out of ballots on Election Day, frustrated voters were asked to cast substitute ballots. They selected their mayor using ballots printed for faraway precincts. They marked their vote on a controversial gay rights proposal on blue sample ballots or hastily made photocopies. On Thursday, 1,800 of those makeshift ballots were being counted at City Hall even as election officials and city leaders work to untangle just what went wrong April 3. The replacement ballots couldn’t be counted alongside regular ballots the night of the election because they’re incompatible with voting machines, said City Clerk Barbara Gruenstein. “These are the ones that people showed up at their own home precincts … but there was a shortage of ballots,” Gruenstein said. “So they voted a sample ballot that won’t slide through the machine.” The city will release results of the 1,800 “unscannable” votes as soon as they become available, Gruenstein said.

California: Every Vote Counts — Except When the Post Office Is on the Brink | East Bay Express

This afternoon, the National Association of Letter Carriers will be hitting the streets (the streets identified here in a delightful chart) to defend the post office. There’s another nationwide demonstration called Occupy the Post Office organized by Community and Postal Workers United set for April 17. There’s reason to demonstrate. Currently, 223 post office processing centers nationwide are slated to close starting this summer, and 14 of those are in California — including the one in Petaluma, which means all North Bay mail will be headed to the Oakland processing center. Petaluma is 47.5 miles away from Oakland, and not all the Petaluma mail clerks will be financially fit enough to travel the distance. 229 positions will be lost, and mail in the Oakland processing center could pile up. So, that’s a problem. Not just for citizens, or for mail carriers, but for the entire vote-by-mail system. Voters can no longer expect their ballots to arrive overnight once the consolidations take place — or, worse, they’lll expect their ballot to arrive overnight, and then it won’t.

Indiana: Access to Marion County voter database triggers lawsuit | Indianapolis Star

Three Marion County judicial candidates and two candidates for the Indiana House on Thursday sued the Marion County Election Board and the Board of Voter Registration for access to the county’s voter registration database. The complaint, filed in Marion Circuit Court, says the voter registration office unlawfully denied requests to access the database for their campaigns. The plaintiffs are running against their parties’ endorsed candidates in the May 8 primary.

New Hampshire: Push poll law scrutinized by skeptical FEC | NEWS06

New Hampshire’s controversial push poll law may be on shaky legal ground when it comes to candidates for federal offices. A member of the Federal Election Commission said Thursday the state cannot force federal candidates to identify themselves to voters when they conduct polling calls calls against their opponents. The Federal Election Campaign Act, which requires no such disclaimer on polling calls, “clearly preempts” the state push poll law for federal elections, Commissioner Donald McGahn said during a meeting of the six-member Federal Election Commission. “This isn’t about federalism,” said McGahn. “It’s different. It’s about federal elections, and the Constitution makes clear that the House and Senate are the judge of their elections and they are the ones who can pass laws.”

Ohio: Election-law changes opposed by League of Women Voters, Common Cause and others | Youngstown News

Election advocates urged lawmakers Thursday to refrain from passing any more changes to the state’s election laws, saying their actions to date already have caused too much confusion among voters. The League of Women Voters of Ohio, Common Cause Ohio and other groups want the Republicans who control the Ohio Senate and House to stop a pre-emptive repeal effort on House Bill 194, the controversial GOP-backed election-reform package that is the subject of a November referendum. And they want the Legislature to leave laws as-is until after the presidential election. “Enough already,” said Carrie Davis, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “In the last 12 months, the Legislature has considered but not passed a bill on voter ID. They passed a comprehensive voting bill, HB 194. Two weeks later, they went back and fixed things that they missed and mistakes they had made. … There was then a referendum effort on HB 194 to stop it from going into effect. And now, they are planning to pass a repeal of HB 194. … We’ve been told … that they plan to introduce and pass yet another election bill before they adjourn for the summer. All of this in 12 months. It’s too much.”

Oklahoma: Tulsa County Judge Could Decide Who Wins Oklahoma House Seat | KOTV.com

A hearing will resume next week in a Tulsa County courtroom over the outcome of a special election for state House District 71 seat. Democrat Dan Arthrell and Republican Katie Henke are seeking to replace former state Representative Dan Sullivan. In that special election April 3, 2012, Arthrell won by three votes. Henke asked for a recount and on Wednesday, the Tulsa County Election Board certified Henke as the winner by one vote. After the board certified the election, two uncounted ballots for Arthrell were found inside a ballot box. The election board believes the two ballots were caught somehow, maybe on the edge of the drop box underneath the voting machine.

US Virgin Islands: Senate committee endorses paper ballots | Virgin Islands Daily News

The Senate Government Operations, Energy and Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday voted to forward three elections bills to the Rules Committee and tabled two others. The bills that moved out of committee were: a bill allowing paper ballots under the elections laws of the territory, a bill pushing up the date for primary elections so the territory would be in compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, and a bill changing the way senators are elected to a combination of island seats and at-large seats. Senators said they plan to amend all of the forwarded bills while they are in the Rules Committee. The bill about paper ballots, sponsored by Sen. Neville James and co-sponsored by Sen. Celestino White Sr., would allow voters to choose whether they wanted to vote by machine or by paper ballot. As written, it also requires that all paper ballots be counted after the closing of the polls, at the same time that electronic ballots are counted on election night.

Wisconsin: Democrats want faux candidates out of recall election | Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune

Democrats asked state elections officials on Thursday to block six Republicans trying to run as Democrats from the ballots for this spring’s recall elections. Democratic Party of Wisconsin attorney Jeremy Levinson filed Thursday’s complaint against the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the six people it recruited to run as fake Democrats, or so-called “protest candidates.” The complaint, filed with the state Government Accountability Board, said the GOP and fake Democrats — Gladys Huber, Isaac Weix, Gary Ellerman, Tamra Varebrook, James Engel and James Buckley — gave false information on documents submitted to elections officials. “The respondents falsified information on these documents, asserting that the six phony primary candidates were ‘affiliated’ with and ‘represent’ the Democratic Party,” the complaint reads.

Wisconsin: The Real Loser Of The Scott Walker Recall? The State Of Wisconsin | Richard L. Hasen/The New Republic

On June 5, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to decide whether to recall controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker and hislieutenant governor, Rebecca KleefischThe current pollingshows a close race. But while it’s not yet clear whether Walker will survive the vote, it’s increasingly safe to declare one winner and one loser from the recall election. The winner is the national Democratic Party, which is already reaping benefits. The loser is the cause of civility in the state of Wisconsin. Democrats may not succeed in removing Walker from office, which would be only the third removal of a U.S. governor ever (following a North Dakota governor in 1921 and California’s Gray Davis in 2003). But the recall vote will likely improve the Democrats’ general election prospects. The June election will be a practice run for get-out-the-vote and other organizing efforts in November. That provides an opportunity to both parties to make sure voters are registered to vote–but it’s Democrats who stand to disproportionately benefit, as they usually have a harder time with voter registration, for various demographic reasons (ie: their voters’ incomes are lower; they move homes more frequently.)

East Timor: Ex-guerrillas face off in East Timor run-off election | Asia One

East Timor’s second presidential election as a free nation will see two ex-guerrillas compete in a run-off vote on Monday, after the Nobel Prize-winning incumbent was knocked out in the first round. Either Francisco Guterres “Lu Olo” or Taur Matan Ruak, both heroes of the nation’s 24-year war against Indonesian occupation, will replace Jose Ramos-Horta, who trailed in third place in a vote seen as a key test for the young democracy. While the presidency is largely ceremonial, it enjoyed a high profile under Ramos-Horta, and the election is the first in a series of landmark events for the half-island nation of 1.1 million people. In May, East Timor will celebrate 10 years of independence, which came after three years of UN administration. Then, in July, voters will choose a new government in a general election. At the end of the year the impoverished and chronically unstable nation bids goodbye to UN forces stationed in the country since 1999.

Editorials: French elections: how will London vote? | The Guardian

Sitting in a pub in Bethnal Green and nursing a mug of beer, Vincent Drapeau is hard pushed to think of what he misses about his home country. “The price of wine in supermarkets,” he says. “The baguettes in the bakery every morning. The diversity of landscapes.” He runs out. There is no more. He is at home here, in a quirky corner of the capital better known for its greasy spoons and street-art than its pâtisseries and pavement cafes. “East London leads London and London leads Europe, and maybe the world!” he declares, chuckling. Even he seems a little taken aback by the zeal of his anglophilia. The 25-year-old is just one of an estimated 300,000-400,000 French people who have crossed the Channel to live in Britain and are now scattered all over the country and, predominantly, in London. He is far from being, however, a member of the fabled South Kensington set, the close-knit community of expatriates based in and around the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, the Institut Français and the “Frog Alley” of Bute Street. For decades, the prominence of the enclave has caused it to become the symbol of the French community in Britain – much to the irritation of those who want no part of it. One woman, who lives in Kent, describes the south-west London district as an inward-looking “ghetto”- albeit one of wealth and privilege.

Guinea-Bissau: Coup Removes Presidential Front-Runner | NYTimes.com

A grimly familiar sequence of gunfire in the capital, military communiqués on the radio and the arrest of government officials is repeating itself in the small coastal state of Guinea-Bissau — apparently the latest West African nation to succumb to a coup d’état. A second round of voting in presidential elections was scheduled to take place later this month, but on Friday, the heavy favorite, Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr., was in army custody along with other senior officials. The military, which has dominated politics in the country ever since it fought its way to independence from Portugal in 1974, announced it did not intend to stay in power and called a meeting of political parties late Friday. But military officials did not say what their plans were for the nation of 1.6 million people, which is heavily dependent on aid and considered a major transit hub for Latin American drugs. Once again, in a country long accustomed to coups, the trigger was apparently the army’s perception that its prerogatives were threatened, diplomats said.

Iraq: Electoral commission head arrested for graft, sent to jail | Oman Tribune

A judge from Iraq’s anti-corruption watchdog has ordered the head of the nation’s electoral commission and another member of the panel to be jailed until Sunday, a fellow commission member said. Faraj Al Haidari, the head of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and member Karim Al Tamimi are jailed “until Sunday due to a decision taken by a judge from the integrity commission,” a member of IHEC said on Friday on condition of anonymity. The judge could also order an extension of their custody. Asked about the matter, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki’s spokesman Ali Mussawi said only that “it is a judicial issue related to the integrity commission and the judiciary.”