While Democrats everywhere mourned election-night, Ellen Weintraub’s despair was more personal. Donald Trump’s upset likely meant her 14-year career as a Federal Election Commissioner would involuntarily end.
Paul H. Jossey | All Articles
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Paul H. Jossey
Paul H. Jossey is a lawyer living in Alexandria, Virginia. His policy interests include environmental and First Amendment issues.
The first professional football game I remember was a classic. On January 2, 1982, the San Diego Chargers led by Dan Fouts and his “Air Coryell” passing attack met the Miami Dolphins and their “Killer Bees” defense. The epic lasted nearly five full periods, produced an iconic sports photo, and left at least one little boy sobbing.
The roughly 40-member House Freedom Caucus (HFC) prides itself on dedication to principle. From the budget, to the debt ceiling, to the fight over the Export-Import Bank, HFC members claim to stand apart, thwarting cronyism and the political games of official Washington. But in the fight over the year-end, must-pass Omnibus spending bill, the roles are reversed. The HFC that so often fights to limit government intrusion now seeks to entrench a certain kind of political speech cronyism.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is corrupt and he wants everyone to know it. The Ocean State senator so declared recently in The Nation magazine. According to Mr. Whitehouse, despite warnings by conscientious lawmakers like him, the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling flung open the corporate-corruption door. And now he and his 99 feeble-minded colleagues simply can’t be trusted when greenbacks start flying to independently support or oppose them. Presumably — for the booty of some slick adverts supporting his next election — “Big Oil” can depend on Senator Whitehouse to ignore his party, ideology, and constituents the next time it wants a government goodie.
“I’m speechless,” exhorted Federal Election Commissioner Ellen Weintraub at last Thursday’s public meeting. Umbrage-laden retorts have come to define public pronouncements by Ms. Weintraub and fellow Democrat Commissioner Ann Ravel. Weintraub was responding to Republican Commissioner Lee E. Goodman’s concern that resolving enforcement complaints by hard deadlines would disproportionately harm conservative groups — currently 49 of the 65 docketed actions. But her rebuke could have easily sourced to any number of current commission imbroglios, such as political committee status, internet speech regulation, or the number and amount of enforcement fines.
When the curtain dropped on the 2014 midterms, Democrats weren’t the only ones needing to regroup. Larry Lessig and Mark McKinnon, cofounders of Mayday PAC, had just blown $10 million trying to elect campaign finance reformers. Their postmortem revealed an inconvenient truth: partisanship matters in politics.
Crafty congressional negotiators inserted deep into the ‘Crominubus’ a campaign finance rider designed to strengthen the political parties. The measure expanded the number of national party accounts and raised the biennial maximum contribution to over $1.5 million. Campaign finance reformers reacted with predictable hyperbole. Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer declared it “the most destructive and corrupting campaign finance provisions ever enacted by Congress.”
No one ever accused Larry Lessig — cofounder and face of Mayday PAC — of media shyness. Last winter the relentless self-promoter walked across New Hampshire to draw attention to campaign finance reform. But the self-appointed corruption slayer who told his followers to “embrace the irony” of raising tons of political money to rid politics of money wasn’t taking media inquiries two days after his experiment failed spectacularly. Even his public relations flacks were reduced to worn pablum after the PAC spent 97 percent of its money on losing candidates.
As the New Hampshire senate race continues to tighten, outside groups seeking to influence the outcome are getting more creative. One group “tracked” Republican Scott Brown down a river via kayak. Another described Brown as a “lobbyist” — technically untrue — and is now gleefully encouraging his camp to sue.
Christmas, or more precisely the Grinch, came early for Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) and the cottage industry of public interest groups and academic “reformers” urging the Securities and Exchange Commission to require disclosure of corporate political spending. This collection of nonprofits, mostly, subsists off of bemoaning the supposed corrupting influence of money (or worse, corporate money) in politics and it's having to regroup after the Commission recently shelved a well-publicized rulemaking petition by a cadre of reformist law professors.
“We have never made good on our promises.”
-- Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, May 1939
Climatologist and former University of Virginia researcher Dr. Michael Mann has returned to Virginia, and he has a message for the commonwealth’s residents: vote for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, he just looovess science. And Mann should know, after all he’s a scientist!
Something is bothering progressive Washington Post columnist and chief Citizens United v. FEC loather E.J. Dionne. On one hand, he’s profoundly happy to see New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spend $12 million advocating gun-control legislation. On the other, well, there’s Citizens United, which he detests. In the end, Dionne concludes he’s not a hypocrite, but his assertions are rife with inconsistent and fallacious logic. And for all his introspection, Dionne ignores the simplest way to remove the danger of “big money” in politics and still maintain the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution: attenuate government involvement in our lives.
Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), unhappy with recent increases in political spending, have proposed sweeping new regulations to the federal campaign-finance system. The duo casts its prescription as an altruistic elixir designed to spare Americans from the anguish of too much political speech.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the blockbuster racial-preferences case Fisher v. The University of Texas on Wednesday. But before the gavel pounded, the deans of Harvard and Yale law schools had already rendered a verdict. The duo took to the op-ed pages on Sunday to voice dismay that the Court may do something unthinkable to ivory tower legal elites — interpret the Constitution as written.
Pop Quiz. Which state has the most African-American elected officials? Mississippi. In fact the Magnolia State and its Southern brethren lead the country in many categories of black voting prowess and electoral power. For instance, when the Census Bureau compared racial disparities in voting registration and turnout, the top 10 --- i.e., the states where differences were the smallest --- included Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, with Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas not far behind. In fact, black voters in Mississippi and Alabama actually turn out in higher percentages than their white counterparts. The only outlier is Virginia, ranking 44th in registration and 45th in turnout. Which state ranked last in both categories? Massachusetts.
District of Columbia Circuit Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown raised eyebrows recently with a concurring opinion in an otherwise mundane economic-regulation case. Here is the passage that got keyboards tapping:
“War,” as political metaphor, is most often a tasteless accessory that demeans the term to those who have actually experienced it (“war on poverty,” “war on drugs”). But to the extent it connotes a full-fledged attempt to subjugate a group of people by depriving them of their rights, the term may appropriately describe the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) posture toward landowners.
Recently the Virginia Supreme Court put the kibosh on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s quest for information relating to former University of Virginia (UVA) climate scientist Michael Mann. Mr. Cuccinelli sought this information under Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act after questionable comments by Dr. Mann surfaced in what became known as “Climategate.”