Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Does a Life of Partisanship Equate to Being Qualified for the EAC?

As you might remember, President Obama’s choice for the Election Assistance Commission, Myrna Perez, withdrew her nomination last week.  In his place, he nominated Matthew Butler.

While Ms. Perez suffered from overtly partisan ideas and beliefs on voter ID, among other things, Mr. Butler’s nomination is not much better. He has been involved in partisan politics, and has no actual election administration experience to draw on.

Mr. Butler was the CEO of Media Matters for America, a progressive organization that is

Dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

As part of his position with MMFA, Butler opined,

We need strong progressive voices advocating for all of our policy priorities.

In that same interview, Butler stated,

Countering all the misinformation that comes out of right wing media is really tough.  That's why the Media Matters team is 86 people covering the news 24-7 and responding to every point we can get to on mediamatters.org.

Overall, Matt Butler does not seem to be a good fit for the Election Assistance Commission, as his experience is largely in partisan politics.  The EAC is supposed to be independent and bipartisan in assisting America in running our elections.  Matt Butler does not seem to be a good fit for such a position.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Larry Lessig: Campaign Finance’s Leona Helmsley

Before Citizens United, before the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, even before Terry McAuliffe was shepherding Democrat donors into the Lincoln Bedroom for sleepovers, there was Leona Helmsley. The brusque New York City hotel maven thrust herself into the spotlight reigning over the 1980s go-go Manhattan real-estate scene. Tagged the ‘Queen of Mean,’ she finally met her downfall on a tax evasion rap. At her trial, one of her servants famously quoted her saying “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

Over two decades later, law professor and campaign finance reformer Larry Lessig has added political advertising disclaimers to the list of legal obligations elites reserve for commoners.

According to a complaint filed by the Center for Competitive Politics, Lessig’s Mayday PAC repeatedly flaunted federal disclosure laws on its broadcast and mailing advertisements.

Mayday PAC’s noncompliance doesn’t appear to be accidental. Reformer elites litter its board including progressive darling Zephyr Teachout, who recently ran for New York governor on a good-government platform. Moreover, the complaint states Mayday PAC switched back and forth between compliant and noncompliant disclaimers suggesting expediency rather than ignorance.

CCP estimates Mayday PAC corralled as much as 10% more air time for substantive content by using noncompliant disclaimers on radio advertisements, saving the group at least $26,500. The rogue disclaimers may have also confused the public about the source of Mayday PACs ads or its possible authorization by the candidates the PAC supported.

<This devil-may-care attitude toward federal disclosure law is even more dispiriting given both Lessig’s and Teachout’s prominent positions with the transparency organization, The Sunlight Foundation. Lessig serves on its Advisory Board and Teachout is a former National Director. The group states, “Our overarching goal is to achieve changes in the law to require real-time, online transparency for all government information, with a special focus on the political money flow and who tries to influence government and how government responds.” One obvious way to cloud transparency in political advertising is to flout FEC regulations by obfuscating disclaimer requirements.

Of course, another possibility also exists. Lessig may now be a reluctant apostate to the transparency cause—channeling less Leona Helmsley than Barak Obama. On numerous issues—e.g. Guantanamo, recess appointments, debt ceiling—candidate Obama found fault with his predecessor. But once in office and faced with the realities of governing, President Obama continued policies he had once pilloried. Lessig, in his role this cycle as political operative, was privy to a different world than his previous forays as academic theorist and Senate Committee pontificator.

One lesson Lessig admitted learning when he finally returned to public view after his midterm shellacking was ‘transparency has its costs.’ He complained one incumbent Mayday PAC tried to unseat pressured some of its donors.

Untoward political pressure on donors is apparently a new experience for Lessig’s patrons. But anyone following Harry Reid’s six-month tirade against wealthy conservative donors, or the pre-FEC exploits of disclosure doyenne Ann Ravel knows how operatives exploit disclosure laws. Last spring, for example, technology executive Brendan Eich was bullied out of his job after activists garishly bandied a six-year old donation he had made to an unpopular cause.

If Lessig has learned a hard lesson in political reality and is no longer a doctrinaire reformer, he should be welcomed to the side of freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility. This includes acknowledging the rules apply equally to everyone, not just the little people. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Reactions to Obama’s Unprecedented Power Grab on Immigration

Last night the President announced Executive Action on illegal immigration.  Below are reactions from a few leaders. 

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt

The President can tell the American people that he is taking this action because of his deep personal convictions about this immigration issue. But if that were true, he would have taken this action as soon as possible, rather than waiting until after the elections, so as to avoid the inevitable backlash from the voters. 

U.S House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte:

It’s both perplexing and alarming that President Obama has decided to move forward with executive actions that he once said he didn’t have the constitutional power to take. The President’s decision to recklessly forge ahead with a plan to unilaterally change our immigration laws ignores the will of the American people and flouts the Constitution.

Curt Levy of the Committee for Justice:

Obama's problem is not really with Congress; it is with the American people who elected this Congress.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise

As the House works to put a stop to the president’s constitutional overreach, we will make full use of the many tools we have available to us to do so. The president should abandon this unlawful approach and focus on securing the border, enforcing the laws on the books, and working with us in Congress to fix our broken immigration system.

John Yoo, Emanuel S. Heller Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley: 

So what we have here is a president who is refusing to carry out federal law simply because he disagrees with Congress’s policy choices. That is an exercise of executive power that even the most stalwart defenders of an energetic executive — not to mention the Framers — cannot support.

Dr. John C. Eastman, Henry Salvatori Professor of Law and Community Service, Chapman University:

Tonight the President reached new heights of arrogance and disregard for the Rule of Law.  . . .Our framers wisely built into our Constitution significant powers for Congress to be able to check such abuses. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Victory and Defeat for Open, Fair, and Honest Elections

While Republicans see the administration of elections as a non-partisan process to be performed in accordance with the rule of law, we have long contended that some far left Democrats see election administration as a way to race bait and fear monger in a desperate effort to scare the liberal base into voting.  The leaders in this effort include the Brennan Center which has recently been rebuked on the left by the likes of liberal law Professor Rick Hasen and the New York Times

The Brennan Center’s most visible spokesperson on election issues has been Myrna Perez.  Ms. Perez has made outlandish statements that such activities as cleaning up the voting lists are “vote purging” that  “happens every day”, that 1.2 million people don’t have ID in Texas, and much more. 

For her years of effort of carrying the Democrats water on these issues she was rewarded with a nomination to the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC).   RNLA and others interested in fair and honest elections vehemently and vociferously opposed her nomination

She has been proven factually wrong again and again but that never mattered.  That is until today.  She has withdrawn her nomination to the EAC. 

We hope this is not just a rejection of her but of the organization that gives her a platform, the Brennan Center. 

However, while we won the battle, we have not won the war.   Her replacement, Matt Butler, is even being questioned for partisanship by the left.  Like most liberal “experts” on voting, he has no experience in working in election administration. 

Today was a victory for open, fair and honest elections with the withdrawal of Ms. Perez.  However, the war is not over as President Obama has nominated another person who seemingly has little interest in election administration. There are literally dozens of current and former Democrat election administrators and experts who would be qualified to help lead a commission whose responsibility it is, at least in theory, to “assist” state and local election officials and voters. Is Butler really qualified for such a task? What are his qualifications other than being an activist progressive Democrat?  As Doug Chapin writes:

At this point, it would appear that the Democrats have made the decision to trade a potentially controversial (and therefore problematic) pick for on that is lower-profile, albeit just as partisan.

More on Butler later, however, his nomination at first blush seems to prove why it is time to end the EAC.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Rare Moment of Honesty for the New York Times on Voter ID

The New York Times today in a piece that at least in parts is refreshingly honest (at least by their standards) dispels some of the myths perpetuated by progressive opponents on the impact of photo ID laws. The true believers on the left refuse to accept the true reasons for their crushing defeat. Instead, groups such as the Brennan Center in its most recent piece of propaganda strongly insinuate photo ID laws may have made the difference in favor of Republicans in close midterm elections.

Not so, writes Nate Cohn. Cohn argues that the commonly cited statistics “grossly overstate[] the potential electoral consequences of these laws”. For one, figures from liberal groups “overstate the number of voters who truly lack identification”. Cohn points to two reasons for this:

One, the matching process in comparing state databases with the voter files misses potential matches and leaves out registered voters who have a Driver’s License. For example, once additional matching criteria was utilized in North Carolina’s figures, “the number of unmatched registered voters plummeted from 1.24 million to 318,643.

Two, “the true number of registered voters without photo identification is usually much lower than the statistics … suggest.” The reason for this is because the statistics leave out the various other forms of ID that these laws permit as valid voting IDs such as U.S. Passports and other government issued IDs. The statistics reported by liberal groups such as the Brennan Center greatly inflate the numbers of those without ID as RNLA has explained before. Unfortunately, until now, these statistics have been the only ones reported in the mainstream media.

Make no mistake; there is still a lot to disagree with in Cohn’s article, but one has to appreciate the recognition, in the New York Times no less, that a lot of bad information has been circulated by progressives and their sympathetic press regarding the impact of voter ID.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Crist Grasping at Straws to Try and Keep Polls Open

We have seen many different ideas from the Democrats on how to conduct vote fraud. Political chameleon Charlie Crist, who ran unsuccesfully for Governor in Florida as a Democrat, did not disappoint. Crist attempted to keep the polls open in Broward County once he learned he was not doing as well as he hoped, nor as well as he needed to in order to win.

According to the Daily Caller, Crist: [F]iled a motion in the 17th Judicial Circuit to keep the polls open in Democratic-heavy Broward County past the original deadline of 7 P.M. It just so happens that voting in Broward County is reportedly low.

Crist reached deep into his hat to find a “justification” for such a move, stating voters should have a “meaningful opportunity” to vote. There was not much that prevented Broward County voters from their “meaningful opportunity,” as the best the Crist campaign could come up with was:
[D]ue to the failure of the EVID system at the polling place at Croissant Park Elementary School the mechanical equipment failed to function properly and as a result the polling place did not open until approximately 8:45am.
[T]hroughout the county, failure of the EVID system throughout the day has prevented voters from being able to update their address on the day of the election…
[D]ue to the recent redistricting in Florida has caused confusion among Florida voters regarding their appropriate precinct and polling place causing them to present themselves at the improper polling place and poll workers at these polling places failed to provide accurate information regarding the voters’ appropriate polling place; and (4) a number of voters at precinct ZOO4 were issued new voter cards in January improperly listing their polling place as Z055. 
Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes said that no voters were turned away due to any issues. 

The Circuit Judge saw that Crist was grasping at straws in an attempt to fraudulently give himself a political advantage, and potentially, the Florida governor’s seat. The Judge denied the motion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Don’t Buy the Brennan Center’s Propaganda

In the wake of last Tuesday’s disaster for Democrats, the Brennan Center was quick to argue (or at least strongly insinuate) that newly implemented photo ID and ballot integrity laws were to blame for some key Democrat losses. Wendy Weiser, writing for Brennan, wrote about North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, and Virginia and how the “margin of victory came very close to the likely margin of disenfranchisement.” Weiser’s proof consists of anecdotal reports from the volume of calls to the “Election Protection” call center and already discredited cherry-picked statistics. Weiser strongly insinuated that these laws may have made the difference and, as usually what happens with Brennan Center’s propaganda, the argument is now being regurgitated by press outlets such as the The Washington Post, Columbus Dispatch and pundits like Andrew Sullivan. For example, the Post writes that “[v]oter suppression laws are already deciding elections.” Fortunately, at least one national press outlet is pushing back. Francis Berry writing for Bloomberg and who is admittedly against these laws writes:

A day after the election, Wendy Weiser at the Brennan Center for Justice argued that “in several key races, the margin of victory came very close to the likely margin of disenfranchisement.” She cited the Senate race in North Carolina as one example; here’s the gist of her argument: Four years ago, 200,000 ballots were cast during seven days of early voting that the state has since eliminated. The state also ended Election Day registration, which 100,000 North Carolinians took advantage of in 2012, almost one-third of them black. In last week’s election, since Republican Thom Tillis’s margin of victory over Democratic Senator Kay Hagan was about 48,000 votes, Weiser implies that Hagan lost because so many (Democratic) voters were kept away from the polls. 

Weiser’s argument has been picked up by other voting-rights advocates and pundits, but it falls apart upon closer scrutiny. Even with seven fewer days, early voting in North Carolina increased this year compared with 2010 -- by 35 percent.

Statewide turnout also increased from the previous midterm election, to 44.1 percent from 43.7 percent. Even if turnout was lower than it would have been without the new voting law -- something that's impossible to establish -- it was still higher than it had been in four of the five previous midterm elections, going back to 1994.

In addition, based on exit polls and voter turnout data, the overall share of the black vote increased slightly compared with 2010.

Rick Hasen, an expert on election law, says he's skeptical about Weiser’s analysis, and rightly so. When voting-rights advocates fail to include any balancing points in their discussion of the election, they undercut their credibility and give ammunition to Republicans who suspect that they are mostly interested in electing Democrats.

It’s long past time that the press and other supposed objective outlets stop quoting Brennan Center as some neutral academic research institution whose arguments and statistics should be taken at face value without significant scrutiny. They are agenda-driven and in this instance have irresponsibly attempted to cast doubt on the credibility of the election. The truth is these laws haven’t disenfranchised voters nor have they artificially impacted the results of the election. It’s time the press starts doing its job in fact checking rather than parroting Brennan Center’s propaganda.