National: 22 states join campaign finance fight | Associated Press Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are backing Montana in its fight to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down state laws restricting corporate campaign spending. The states led by New York are asking the high court…
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia are backing Montana in its fight to prevent the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision from being used to strike down state laws restricting corporate campaign spending. The states led by New York are asking the high court to preserve Montana’s state-level regulations on corporate political expenditures, according to a copy of a brief written by New York’s attorney general’s office and obtained by The Associated Press. The brief will be publicly released Monday. The Supreme Court is being asked to reverse a state court’s decision to uphold the Montana law. Virginia-based American Tradition Partnership is asking the nation’s high court to rule without a hearing because the group says the state law conflicts directly with the Citizens United decision that removed the federal ban on corporate campaign spending. The Supreme Court has blocked the Montana law until it can look at the case.
Racial discrimination in voting is “one of the gravest evils that Congress can seek to redress,” Judge David Tatel wrote in a crucial ruling on Friday upholding the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. In extending the law in 2006, Congress did just that, after reviewing racial bias in the nine states and parts of several others that have deep histories of discrimination. These “covered jurisdictions” had long been required by Section 5 of the law to get permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before making any changes to their voting rules. Congress found that discriminatory practices were still persistent and pervasive in those jurisdictions, and that the preclearance requirement remained necessary. In his 2-to-1 majority opinion for the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Judge Tatel explained that Congress’s judgment, supported by a legislative record of more than 15,000 pages and 22 hearings, “deserves judicial deference” because of the weight of the evidence. The ruling upheld a forceful decision by a federal district judge that reached the same conclusion in 2011.
Millions of dollars in outside money began pouring into Congressional contests around the country in April, while spending by presidential “super PACs” dropped off, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission on Sunday and other data. Outside groups, including super PACs and advocacy organizations, have spent at least $7 million on House races and $12.4 million on Senate races since the beginning of April, the first wave in what is expected to be a flood of independent spending this year in the battle for control of Congress. Some groups, like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks for America, which push for lower taxes and reduced government spending, spent heavily in primary races between incumbent Republicans and challengers in Utah and Indiana.
In this presidential election year, shareholders are increasingly curious about the political agendas of public companies. Investors filed more than 100 resolutions this year asking companies to disclose what they spend on political advocacy, according to Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy advisory service. The number of proposals for the first time exceeded shareholder resolutions on energy and environmental issues, which have long attracted significant interest from investors. Shareholders want to know about direct donations to candidates as well as harder-to-track contributions to trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other tax-exempt groups that support certain candidates or political parties. Their targets include influential Illinois companies Boeing Co., Allstate Corp. and Caterpillar Inc. All three companies came out against the proposals.
Has anything changed in the world of campaign finance that might give pause to the five members of the Supreme Court who decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission exactly 28 months ago Monday? Or, to be more precise, has anything changed in the mind of at least one of them? The court faces that question in a flurry of contradictory arguments prompted by a decision by the Montana Supreme Court late last year. In upholding a 100-year-old state law, the Montana justices seemed to be openly defying Citizens United’s holding that the First Amendment grants corporations, and by extension labor unions, the right to spend unlimited amounts of their treasuries to support or oppose candidates.
National: Conservative groups outspending liberal counterparts 4 to 1 on congressional races | The Washington Post
Conservative interest groups have dumped well over $20 million into congressional races so far this year, outspending their liberal opponents 4 to 1 and setting off a growing panic among Democrats struggling to regain the House and hold on to their slim majority in the Senate. The surge suggests that big-spending super PACs and nonprofit groups, which have become dominant players in the presidential race, will also play a pivotal role in House and Senate contests that will determine the balance of power in Washington in 2013. The money could be particularly crucial in races below the national radar that can be easily influenced by infusions of outside spending. One example came this week in Nebraska, where a dark-horse Republican Senate candidate upset two better-funded rivals in the GOP primary thanks in part to a last-minute, $250,000 ad buy by a billionaire-backed super PAC. And in Indiana this month, veteran Sen. Richard G. Lugar was ousted in the GOP primary by challenger Richard Mourdock with the help of millions of dollars in spending by conservative groups. The Club for Growth, which backed a losing candidate in Nebraska, spent more than $2 million to help Mourdock in Indiana.
National: Court upholds key provision of Voting Rights Act; Supreme Court review likely | The Washington Post
A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a signature portion of the Voting Rights Act, setting the stage for consideration by a Supreme Court whose majority is skeptical about the law’s continued viability. On a 2 to 1 vote, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit turned down a challenge to Section 5 of the historic civil rights act, which requires states and localities with a history of discrimination to get federal approval of any changes in their voting laws. First passed in 1965, the act was most recently extended in 2006. Conservative critics have said that despite lopsided votes in both houses and the approval of President George W. Bush, lawmakers did not do enough to justify extending the Section 5 restrictions on nine states, mostly in the South, and parts of seven others. But U.S. Circuit Judge David S. Tatel said the judicial branch had no reason to second-guess Congress in reauthorizing the law.
Pearson Middle School will be the subject of state scrutiny, now that the voting precinct has been chosen as part of a statewide audit. Secretary of State Denise Merrill released the list of precincts to be audited on May 15, the first day of audits. These post-election audits are mandated by state law, and Merrill said the audits are necessary to keep public trust. “Registered Republicans had their say on April 24th about who they want as their 2012 presidential nominee,” said Secretary Merrill in a press release. “Now, it is our duty to audit the machine totals from the Presidential Preference Primary to ensure the accuracy of our optical scanners. We are committed to making sure Connecticut voters have continued confidence that their votes were recorded accurately and that’s why these independent audits are so vital.”
Mississippi: Voter ID law not yet fully funded – Is Mississippi hurting its own case as it seeks federal approval for a voter ID law? | necn.com
A bill signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant would require every voter to show a driver’s license or other photo identification before casting a ballot. It also promises the state will provide a free photo ID card to any voter who needs one. But, for the fiscal year that begins July 1, legislators set aside no money to make the cards. Will the feds see the lack of up-front cash as a lack of commitment? It’s an important question, because Mississippi officials are relying heavily on the promise of free IDs as they try to persuade federal officials that the ID requirement won’t diminish minorities’ voting power. Because of Mississippi’s history of racial discrimination, it is required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act to get federal approval for any changes in election laws or procedures. Opponents of voter ID compare it to poll taxes that were used for decades to suppress black citizens’ constitutional right to vote. To get past that comparison, supporters say that if ID cards are provided for free, it’s not possible to liken the ID mandate to a poll tax. No out-of-pocket expenses, no problem — so the logic goes.
Miami knows plenty about corrupting elections. We did a fine job of it in 1997. Maybe those leading the state’s bungled crusade to “protect the integrity of Florida elections” should have asked the experts. The Florida Division of Elections seems to harbor some paranoid notion that hordes of illegal immigrants have been descending on the polls and subverting the electoral process. It’s a peculiar premise, given that Florida’s sure-enough legal citizens hardly bother. In January, 87 percent of Miami-Dade’s voters ignored the charter-reform election. Perhaps we should encourage illegal immigrants to vote just to lend our government some semblance of a participatory democracy. Unhappily, illegal immigrants seem even more apathetic than the legal electorate. The state did manage to conjure up a list of potentially illicit voters by comparing voter registration lists against citizenship information compiled by Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Anyone ever subjected to the whims of the DHSMV office can guess how well that little experiment worked out.
Although some Atlantic Beach officials have said there will be no special election on Tuesday, Gov. Nikki Haley’s order for the vote still stands, and Horry County and state elections officials are going forward with their plans. The election became necessary after the the Nov. 1 results were challenged and then declared void by the town’s election commission. But when the election commission didn’t set a date for a new election, the governor stepped in and issued the order in March.
A governing party official appeared headed for a first-round win in the Dominican Republic’s presidential election as supporters of his opponent complained of rampant vote-buying and other forms of fraud. Danilo Medina of the current president’s Dominican Liberation Party led with 51 percent of the vote with 75 percent of ballots counted. His main rival, former President Hipolito Mejia of Dominican Revolutionary Party had nearly 47 percent. The winner needed more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff. Reinaldo Pared Perez, the secretary general of the Dominican Liberation Party, told jubilant supporters that Medina had won but they were still awaiting official confirmation from the Electoral Commission. Mejia’s representative on the Electoral Commission accused the ruling party of fraud, saying the former president should have received many more votes than what was being reflected in the results. “We all know what party the director of the Electoral Commission belongs to,” he said at a news conference.
A governing party official appeared to have scored a first-round win in the Dominican Republic’s presidential election but supporters of his main opponent complained of vote-buying and other forms of fraud and said they would challenge the results. Danilo Medina of the current president’s Dominican Liberation Party received just over 51 percent of Sunday’s vote with 83 percent of the ballots counted, according to the Caribbean country’s Electoral Commission. His main rival, former President Hipolito Mejia of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, had nearly 47 percent. The winner needed more than 50 percent to avoid a runoff. Medina said he was confident he would win, but that the Electoral Commission would keep scrutinizing ballots through the night. He thanked a crowd of supporters and sent them home. “We will celebrate in a big way tomorrow,” he said.
Conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari has accused the Revolutionary Guards Corps of “meddling” in the country’s 2012 parliamentary elections. Addressing fellow parliamentarians on Sunday, Motahari said the IRGC’s role in the 2 March elections was a “point of weakness” for the elite fighting force. He argued that the IRGC’s involvement in the vote had had a “damaging” impact on the IRGC, as well as the Islamic Republic itself. “The IRGC’s interference in many of the polling stations was evident and many of the candidates—both those who were elected and those who weren’t—confirm this reality.” The MP stated that during the election process, the IRGC “seriously backed” candidates it wished to see in parliament. “The IRGC’s interference in the elections was damaging to itself, and a danger to the revolution and the Islamic system.” While serving as MP in the eighth Majlis, Ali Motahari, the son of the late Ayatollah Motahari, one of the Islamic Republic’s principal theoreticians and founders, also led the initiative to question Ahmadinejad, albeit unsuccessfully.
Nationalist candidate Tomislav Nikolic has won the Serbian presidency, which could hamper his country’s bid to join the European Union. His supporters took to the streets of Belgrade and the Serb-controlled north of Kosovo to celebrate his win. The Center for Free Elections and Democracy, an independent polling group, said the leader of the Serbian Progressive Party won 49.4 per cent of the vote, while pro-European Union incumbent Boris Tadic received 47.4 per cent in Sunday elections. The results are expected to be officially confirmed later on Monday. Meanwhile, in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Sunday night, Nikolic supporters waved Serbian flags and chanted slogans against Tadic. “Serbia will not stray from its European road,” Nikolic insisted Sunday. “This day is a crossroad for Serbia.” Tadic conceded defeat, saying, “I wish Nikolic the best of luck.”