Monday, May 22, 2017

Supreme Court Upholds Soft Money Contribution Limits on Donations to Parties; Gorsuch Objects

Today, in Republican Party of Louisiana v. FEC, the Supreme Court summarily affirmed a three-judge court's upholding of the soft money contribution limits on donations to political parties:
The ban stems from the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, which prohibited unlimited and unregulated large contributions to party committees known as soft money. The high court on Monday affirmed without hearing oral arguments a lower court ruling that denied the Louisiana Republican Party’s challenge to soft money bans for state and local parties. 
“I’m disappointed in the decision, but it’s not that big of a surprise,” said Hans A. von Spakovsky, a former Federal Election Commission member who manages the Election Law Reform Initiative at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “It’s now pretty clear that the court is just not going to get into this part of McCain-Feingold and if the parties want these provisions to change, they’re going to have to go to Congress.” 
On Capitol Hill, von Spakovsky’s side will meet intense resistance from Democrats, even as those who favor campaign finance deregulation have a pivotal ally in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who led the legal challenge to the McCain-Feingold law. They also have an ally in White House Counsel Donald McGahn, a former Federal Election Commission member.
Newly confirmed Justice Gorsuch, with Justice Thomas, wanted the Court to hear the case and noted his vote in the order, his first major decision since joining the Court.  Prof. Rick Hasen (with whom we frequently disagree but who is probably correct here) said of Gorsuch:
This also tells us something about Justice Gorsuch. He was not shy at all — not only about being willing to wade into this very controversial area, but about announcing publicly his vote to hear the case (something he did not need to do). It could well be that he will be as conservative as Justice Thomas is in these cases. (Justice Thomas believes all campaign finance laws—including disclosure—should be subject to strict scrutiny and are likely unconstitutional.) I expect that unlike most Justices J. Gorsuch may not begin his first few terms cautiously, and then work his way up to his full Supreme Court voice.  
RNLA member James Bopp led this challenge to the soft money party contribution limits, noting that Citizens United left a "grave inequity" between parties, to which contributions are limited, and independent organizations such as super PACs, which may receive unlimited donations.
While today's opinion was very short, it does give us several interesting takeaways: 1. The principles outlined in Citizens United will only apply to outside organizations, at least for now.  2. Justice Gorsuch will likely be an active member of the Court from the beginning.  3. Justice Gorsuch, as his prior opinions indicated, is inclined to view campaign finance restrictions skeptically as infringing on important constitutional rights.  4. The legal challenges to contribution limits post-Citizens United will likely continue, until the right case and facts come before the Supreme Court to cause it to take up the issue once again or until Congress decides to amend the existing restrictions.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Flashback Friday -- 2009 -- That Time Senator Schumer Was Actually for an Election Integrity Investigation

Democratic Minority Leader, Senator Chuck Schumer, has emerged as one of the most highly partisan leaders in the Senate in a long while. Senator Schumer has also become a leading critic of President Trump's Commission on Election Integrity headed by Vice President Pence.

Senator Schumer decried: 
"President Trump has decided to waste taxpayer dollars chasing a unicorn and perpetuating the dangerous myth that widespread voter fraud exists."

He continued by claiming the Commission was going to be a:
“clear front for constricting the access to vote to poor Americans, older Americans, and — above all — African-Americans and Latinos.”

However, it looks like Senator Schumer's real objection is simply this is a Commission called for by President Trump after he claimed that vote fraud occurred during the 2016 Election.

Let's take a look at what Senator Schumer said in March 2009. According to Politico:
Chuck Schumer’s side won big in 2008, but the New York senator has launched an inquiry into potential voter fraud and disenfranchisement. 
On Wednesday morning, Schumer gaveled to order a hearing on a report estimating that as many as seven million voters were kept from casting ballots in November.

“This report is beyond troubling,” said Schumer, who is chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. “Put together, you get massive disenfranchisement. This is unacceptable and undemocratic.”

While the problems of the infamous 2000 election battle were the result of long lines and hanging chads, an MIT study argues the problems of the 2008 race were the result of voter registration issues. Among the report’s findings are that two million to four million registered voters were discouraged from casting ballots and that as many as nine million additional people tried and failed to register to vote.
As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration in 2009, Schumer was very - and correctly - concerned about election integrity.  However, in 2017, Senator Schumer rather put partisanship ahead of the looking into the extent of vote fraud and overall election integrity.

To be clear, at least "some" vote fraud did occur during the 2016 Election. To categorically deny the problem is to fully ignore a serious problem, a real threat to our elections and our democracy. While the full extent of this problem is currently unknown, the RNLA has documented those cases that have been published on our Vote Fraud News page

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Establishment Democrats Have Different First Amendment with More Speech Rights

RNLA Executive Director Michael Thielen wrote today about how establishment Democrats have different standards for free speech for Democrats and liberals and for others (including Democrats who stray from the party line):
Representative Val Demings may be the first Democrat to admit to how the left views the First Amendment. The Florida Congresswoman replied to a critical comment by saying, “My First Amendment Right is different from yours.” Any honest political observer has to admit that this is a salvo in the war the left and Democrats are currently waging on free speech. They try their best to silence any speech that does not fit their dogma, and Demings, intentionally or not, just revealed the game plan. 
Whether it comes in the form of campuses silencing speakers who “offend” their student snowflakes or via government officials regulating elections, efforts to stop or limit opposing viewpoints should be deeply troubling to all.  Most troubling are the movements being led by Democrat lawyers and liberal law professors, the very people who traditionally have been defenders of the First Amendment. . . . The left continues to double down and stop opposing speech even among its own members.  Consider the liberal outcry against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.  Yes, Democrats oppose integrity in the electoral system, apparently. 
Marc Elias, Hillary’s lawyer and now the lawyer of choice in Democrat fights against free speech, leveled a warning to any Democrat who serves on a commission to study vote fraud and how to make elections better. He said: “No Democrat should serve on Trump’s new voter suppression commission. Period.” Similarly, Bob Bauer, President Obama’s lawyer and Elias’ current colleague, said: “[E]lection administration experts should keep their distance” from the commission. Professor Rick Hasen, promoter of liberal talking points, wrote on his Election Law Blog “Not sure what Democrat or election professional would be on a commission” with Secretary of State Kris Kobach or former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.  Hasen’s probably correct: it’s safe to assume few Democrats are courageous enough to cross Elias. . . . 
One wonders if the establishment left fears free speech in our electoral process so much because in a free debate, they will lose. And let’s not forget that Democrats, including Elias, are privately very concerned about ineligible voters, but only when their favored candidates’ victories are at stake. . . . Of course, that sort of intellectual discussion and competition is what establishment Democrats fear most.  Dissent is not allowed among today’s establishment Democrats, which may be why they rigged the primary to defeat Sanders and continue to fight every effort to protect the right to speak freely regardless of political party or ideology.
Liberal lawyers like Floyd Abrams and Alan Dershowitz have historically been some of the staunchest defenders of free speech, but there's a disturbing trend among Democrats and liberals to suppress free discussion and expression under the banners of (ironically) "democracy" and "tolerance."  It's even more disturbing that this anti-speech crusade extends to political speech and elections, where free speech rights are--and should be--most protected. You can read the whole article, published today, by clicking here

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Democrats Oppose a Qualified Woman (Rachel Brand) Because of President Trump and She is Conservative

Among many other topics, the Senate today debated the nomination of Rachel Brand to be Associate Attorney General, the third position in the Department of Justice.  Leader McConnell spoke of her sterling credentials:
Rachel Brand's impressive background includes experience clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and she has already been confirmed by the Senate twice before.  She is extraordinarily talented, as Chairman Grassley noted at her hearing, and dedicated to the full and evenhanded enforcement of our laws. Ms. Brand also has the support of a bipartisan group of former senior officials at the Justice Department, including Jamie Gorlich and Seth Waxman, who in a recent letter on her behalf cited her stellar reputation for integrity, legal skills, and respect for the law.  As they pointed out, Ms. Brand's extensive private and public sector experience would serve her well as the Associate Attorney General, and they also noted she would be a trusted leader in the Department.  
It's responsible for the oversight of the Civil Division, the Civil Rights Division, the Office on Violence Against Women, and many other important components of the Department of Justice. I think no matter what political party you happen to be in or whatever your political persuasion, we can all agree that right now it is particularly important not only to have a Department of Justice that is fully staffed, but to have it fully staffed with extraordinarily qualified people that every American can look at and go wow, is she qualified. . . . I fully support Mrs. Brand's nomination.  I sit on the Judiciary Committee, the committee of the Senate that vetted her.  She's highly respected. She's whip smart, she's well-qualified, and she is fully prepared to hit the ground running, and that is exactly what we need.
Yet, despite her credentials and how uncontroversial she should be, Democrats have obstructed and delayed her nomination, far more than similarly qualified and uncontroversial Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  Why?  Because she is a strong, conservative woman nominated by President Trump, and Democrats are determined to attack and oppose President Trump to gain political points with their extreme liberal base in whatever way possible.  And Democrats particularly cannot allow a woman (or a minority in other cases - see Judge Thapar) who is a Republican to hold high office, as it disrupts their narrative of Republicans being anti-woman, anti-minority, etc.  


Senator Blumenthal admitted today that the opposition is not about Rachel Brand but about opposing President Trump and preventing the confirmation of Republicans to positions in the Department of Justice:

I will oppose this nomination, and I will oppose all nominations for the Department of Justice until public trust and confidence in the rule of law is restored and sustained by the appointment of an independent special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in our last election and potential links to the Trump campaign and Trump associates.  
. . .  
But I also have disagreements with Rachel Brand.  I respect her record of public service.  I believe she is simply not the right person to serve as Associate Attorney General because of her long-standing apparently deeply held philosophy on the use and proper application of government power.  When the government engages in actions that threaten the privacy rights of innocent Americans, Miss Brand has advocated nonaction.  I believe that the United States must protect the privacy of her citizens.  And that fact is only one among many that cause me to disagree with her, but the failure to nominate and appoint an independent special prosecutor will lead me to oppose all of the nominations that are set forth by this administration, including anyone nominated for the F.B.I.  And I think it should now be clear if it was not before that such an independent prosecutor is necessary.
Setting aside the ridiculousness of the Democrats' demands for an independent special prosecutor, Sen. Blumenthal's opposition boils down to, in order: 1. Trump, 2. Russia, and 3. Ms. Brand has the audacity to be a conservative and Republican.

The Senate finally voted for cloture on the Brand nomination, with only 51 votes in favor of cloture.  Can you imagine the outrage if Republicans had delayed, obstructed, opposed, and voted against a woman nominated for a high position by a Democratic President?  Especially if for no other reason than pure politics.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Important Work by Don McGahn as White House Counsel

Today, Politico profiled 2017 Ed Meese Award winner Don McGahn's important work as White House Counsel to President Trump:
McGahn’s . . . office of roughly 26 attorneys provides the administration with the intellectual underpinning for its most significant decisions, including the military strikes in Syria, the legality of the travel bans and immigration executive orders, the vetting of political appointees and the policing of conflicts of interest. . . . 
McGahn's friends and fellow lawyers say he’s well-equipped to play a leading role as a trusted legal and political adviser. 
“McGahn is involved in everything. I am not exaggerating,” said longtime friend Randy Evans, [former] chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association. “When you prove to be a reliable voice, who not only gives good legal answers but also good political ones, that is increasingly what happens. You get called on more and more.” . . .  
On hiring, McGahn must approve every lawyer within each agency’s general counsel’s office, down to the most junior member. . . . Outside the executive branch, McGahn is moving to radically reshape the entire judicial system by hand selecting over 100 judges to fill lower court vacancies. . . . McGahn also shepherded Neil Gorsuch through the Supreme Court confirmation process, one of the longest-lasting policy moves a president can make and one of the few highlights of Trump’s first 100 days in office. . . . He’s also taken a leading role in pushing the administration’s efforts to examine and trim back the federal government’s broad array of regulations, according to Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, who took a leave to advise Trump on the Supreme Court and worked closely with McGahn on the confirmation fight. “Every White House counsel has enormous influence, and Don McGahn is no exception to that,” Leo said.
Thank you, Don McGahn, for your important work serving President Trump and the country as White House Counsel.  You can watch Mr. McGahn's remarks from the 2017 National Policy Conference upon receiving the Ed Meese Award here (beginning at 35:25).

Monday, May 15, 2017

Authors of "Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign" to Speak at RNLA Luncheon on Friday in Washington, D.C.



This Friday, May 19, the RNLA will be hosting a luncheon in Washington, D.C., featuring Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, authors of the bestselling book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign.  

According to a National Review article reviewing the book, Shattered is "absolutely gripping reading, chock full of juicy, revelatory reporting about the Democratic nominee’s campaign that you really wish you had read during the actual campaign."

Allen and Parnes, through access from insiders on the Clinton campaign, explain missed opportunities on the campaign trail and other political misfires that turned from what looked like a winnable race, to a devastating loss.  They even explain how Team Clinton's public appearance was extremely different behind the scenes, stating:
Over the course of a year and a half, in interviews with more than one hundred subjects, we started to piece together a picture that was starkly at odds with the narrative the campaign and the media were portraying publicly.  Hillary’s campaign was so spirit-crushing that her aides eventually shorthanded the feeling of impending doom with a simple mantra: We’re not allowed to have nice things.
Of course, the media failed to mention the infighting of the campaign, which is one of the reasons why America seemed so stunned that President Trump overwhelmingly won on Election night.  The RNLA looks forward to hearing first-hand from Allen and Parnes how and why Clinton lost, and other insights from their book Shattered.

To purchase a ticket for Friday's noon luncheon at Tony Cheng's Mongolian Restaurant, click here.  To purchase a table, please email Deputy Director Brittany Walker at walker@republicanlawyer.net.  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Reactions to Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity: Part 1

This post is the first in a series, highlighting the left's odd reactions to President Trump's announcement yesterday, as part of the broader and pervasive effort to resist Trump.  Today, we focus on prominent Democrat elected officials.

Here is what the commission, the recommendations of which will have no binding authority, has been charged with studying:
The Commission shall, consistent with applicable law, study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections.  The Commission shall be solely advisory and shall submit a report to the President that identifies the following: 
(a)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people's confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections; 
(b)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that undermine the American people's confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections; and 
(c)  those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting. 
But apparently, studying what increases and decreases public confidence in election results and where there are vulnerabilities in the system is deeply offensive to Democrats, who see any effort to improve the integrity of election results as "voter suppression":
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan GrimesWhile cloaked as an effort to protect the integrity of our elections, President Trump's voter fraud commission will be anything but. The cloak hiding its real mission is thin; indeed, it will no doubt serve as a tool to further real and serious Republican attacks on American voting rights and leave eligible voters disenfranchised.
Vermont Senator Patrick LeahyThis misbegotten Commission sadly is yet another malicious effort to undermine the voting rights of millions of Americans across the country.  The integrity of our elections is a foundational issue, but any commission led by an extremist like Kris Kobach – a ‘birther’ whose attempts to restrict voting rights have repeatedly been struck down in federal court – has zero credibility.  
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth WarrenToday [Trump] signed an order launching a "Vote Fraud Commission," but it really should be called a "Vote Intimidation Commission." [Trump] picked Kris Kobach – architect of some of the most racist & anti-voter state laws – to lead this new conspiracy crusade. The GOP spent [years] gutting voting rights & suppressing black & Latino votes. We can’t allow [Trump] to turn the clocks back more. 
Democratic Minority Leader Nancy PelosiThe President’s ‘Election Integrity’ Commission is purpose-built to encourage and enable voter suppression. . . . The President’s ‘Election Integrity’ Commission is clearly intended to accelerate the vile voter suppression efforts in states across the nation.The integrity of our elections has been undermined because of the disenfranchisement of American citizens, not the bigoted delusions of widespread voter fraud.  If President Trump cannot believe that the majority of Americans voted against him, he should review his own conduct instead of trying to steal the vote from millions of citizens.
According to Democrats, the only threats to the integrity of our elections we should be concerned about are Republicans, Russian hacking (though we should be more concerned about Obama administration hacking), and Republican efforts to protect the integrity of our elections.  I wish that were sarcasm, but according to Democrats' statements yesterday, that is what they actually believe.  Unfortunately for Democrats, the evidence of vote fraud and its effect on elections, and public confidence in election results, already exists, and the commission will likely uncover more.