Friday, January 23, 2015

RNLA Quoted in Politifact on Online Voter Registration

RNLA Executive Director Michael Thielen was quoted today in Politifact about online registration, particularly regarding claims that it can help prevent fraud, save money, and is more efficient than paper based registration. RNLA articulated its position on online voter registration in detail in its response to the report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) which can be found here. Thielen's quote in Politifact summarizes RNLA's position nicely, that RNLA supports online registration only under specific conditions: "When designed and implemented properly, online registration can be a more secure, accurate and cost-efficient way of doing voter registration."

It appears that Florida is seriously considering adopting online voter registration and that can be a very good thing if they design the system with proper safeguards to ensure the integrity of the system. It can make registration easier while protecting the syste from fraud. It is imperative Florida lawmakers  review RNLA's conditions for online registration found in its PCEA response to avoid making mistakes. In sum:
[W]hile the RNLA Task Force supports online registration, the system used to undertake online registration must include certain safeguards to protect the integrity of the electoral system. It is imperative that states take steps to design a system that positively determines the identity of online applicants, ensures only eligible voters can utilize such a system, protects against cyber-attacks, leaves the registration determination in the hands of the proper registration official, and ensures the transmission of a valid signature.
Most states have followed these steps but some liberal groups are complaining that the same security measures needed to ensure online voter registration's integrity leave some voters out of the process. These liberal groups ignore the fact that the traditional paper-based registration system available to all eligible voters is not going anywhere. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Conservative and Libertarians on Citizens United After 5 Years

The White House and protesters yesterday went after Citizens United on its fifth anniversary in mostly fact free attacks. As Curt Levey of the Committee for Justice writes in Apocalypse Imagined:
The most memorable moment of [all of President Obama’s] the State of the Union address was the reaction of Justice Samuel Alito to inaccuracies in the President’s remarks about a recent Supreme Court decision.  President Obama is hardly alone in mischaracterizing the January 21 ruling in Citizens United, which struck down as a violation of First Amendment freedom of expression, a federal ban on campaign ads and related communications paid for by corporations and labor unions.  Never has a Supreme Court decision been misconstrued by so many people in so many ways.  Before Congress “corrects” the Court’s ruling, as the President urged, it is crucial that a series of misconceptions about the decision be cleared up. .  . .
Critics’ apocalyptic descriptions of Citizens United – a return “to the robber-baron era of the 19th century” said the New York Times – have focused almost entirely on giant, for-profit corporations, with some mention of labor unions.  Americans are left mostly unaware that the Court’s ruling applies equally to charities, advocacy groups, trade associations, and other non-profit corporations, not to mention small businesses.  In fact, because non-profits are cause-oriented and typically more willing to openly jump into the political fray, they will be most impacted by the decision.
Corporations will have to take explicit ownership of each and every campaign ad they are behind.  Contrary to the widespread impression that corporate dollars will be funneled into candidates’ campaign chests, the total ban on corporate contributions to candidates, political parties, and political action committees remains in place.  Any coordination between corporations and campaigns remains unlawful as well.  And even completely independent corporate expenditures must be publicly disclosed.
The continuing ban on corporate contributions is just one reason why the ubiquitous descriptions of Citizens United as a sea change are greatly exaggerated.  You would never know that billionaires have always been permitted to spend unlimited amounts on independent campaign ads, or that corporate campaign ads masquerading as issue ads – for example, “call candidate Smith and tell him to end his support for killing baby seals” – were already protected by the First Amendment.  In fact, a majority of states already permit unlimited corporate spending for explicit campaign ads in state races.  Seven even allow unlimited corporate contributions to candidates.  Yet there’s no evidence of greater corruption in those states.
Cato’s Illya Shapiro breaks down why President Obama should turn in his law professor card for his attacks on Citizens United:
These laments echo President Obama’s famous statement during his 2010 State of the Union Address: “The Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates of special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”
In that one sentence, the former law professor made four errors that are all too common.
First, Citizens United didn’t reverse a century of law. The president was referring to the Tillman Act of 1907, which banned corporate donations to campaigns. Such donations are still banned. Instead, the decision overturned a 1990 precedent that upheld a ban on independent spending by corporations. That 1990 ruling was the only time the court allowed a restriction on political speech for a reason other than the need to prevent corruption. . . .
Second, the “floodgates” point depends on how you define those terms. In modern times, nearly every election cycle has seen an increase in political spending, but there’s no indication that there’s a significant change in corporate spending. And the rules affecting independent spending by wealthy individuals, who are spending more, haven’t changed at all.
Third, Citizens United said nothing about restrictions on foreign spending in our political campaigns. In 2012, the Supreme Court summarily upheld just such restrictions.
David Keating at the Center for Competitive Politics sums it up this way.
"Five years ago today, the Supreme Court greatly expanded the ability of individuals through corporations and unions to participate in our democratic process." said Center for Competitive Politics President David Keating. "We should all celebrate the fact that the First Amendment protects our right to speak out about politics. The more political speech that is allowed in our democracy, the stronger our democracy becomes, because citizens learn more information about the candidates which in turn allows them to make a more informed decision about who to vote for -- regardless of who spends more."

In conclusion as Heritage Scholar John Malcolm states in US News:

While Obama and others on the left blame Citizens United for allowing corporations to politically overwhelm small, independent voices, Malcolm waved off those concerns: “The blogosphere is full of concerned citizens … nobody is being silenced. The little guy with a computer has a lot more power to get his message out” than ever before.
Bottom line, he says: Citizens United may have rearranged the trees, but it didn’t alter the landscape. And “the way to get at the truth is more speech, not less speech.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


As part of its celebration of 30 years, RNLA has created a special task force of past Chairs and Presidents.  RNLA has come a long ways since 1985. 

RNLA Board Chairman Randy Evans and President Larry Levy appointed David Norcross, RNLA Chairman from 2009 to 2011, and JC Boggs, RNLA President in 2007 and 2008 as cochairmen of the Special Leadership Advisory Task Force. Together they will offer a vehicle for the extraordinarily talented lawyers who have guided RNLA through the last thirty years to provide focused guidance, and assistance in program development and outreach.

To read more about the task force and the press release click here.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

RNLA Chair Randy Evans on Why the RNC Chair was Re-Elected

RNLA congratulates the newly elected RNC Leadership Team.  Also, RNLA Chair Randy Evans wrote in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Why RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was re-elected.  A few highlights below:
Yet, behind the scenes, Priebus has built a political juggernaut capable of winning elections from county courthouses to statehouses to both houses of the Congress. The distance from where the party began when he took office to where it is today is by all accounts monumental. Now, with a third term to do it, he has set his sights on the ultimate prize for a political party chairman the White House in 2016. . . . 
Every election cycle, Priebus has taken the lessons from the last to build toward the next. When the RNC was so heavily in debt in 2011, he spent the year laser focused on raising money. When Republicans lost the Presidential election in 2012, Priebus ordered a top-to-bottom review. 
In 2014, Priebus not only led a winning team at the ballot box, but he looked beyond the fall elections and focused the RNC on changes to increase Republicans’ chances of winning in the 2016 Presidential election. These changes were not minor tweaks aimed at pacifying unhappy candidates

Friday, January 16, 2015

RNLA Announces New Members to its Board of Governors

The Republican National Lawyers Association has added six members to its prestigious Board of Governors. Please join us in congratulating these top attorneys to RNLA's Board: Jake Curtis, John Fogarty, Eric Lycan, Beverly Weiss Manne, Peter Schalestock, and David Warrington. The press release with biographical information is available here.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

REG 2014-01 Earmarking, Affiliation, Joint Fundraising, Disclosure, and Other Issues (McCutcheon)

RNLA release a detail letter commenting on proposed FEC regulations on speech.  A copy is here.  

"If the Commission implements new disclosure rules it would usurp a Congressional prerogative, ignore the rich history of anonymous political advocacy, and place unnecessary burdens on advocacy groups."  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cautionary Tale: Alabama Woman Pleads Guilty to Absentee Fraud

Yesterday, an Alabama woman plead guilty to eight counts of falsifying absentee ballot applications in a 2013 City Commissioner's race. Janice Lee Hart was one of three individuals charged in the voter fraud scheme that resulted in the re-election of the sitting Dothan, Alabama commissioner Amos Newsome. Newsome's girlfriend was also allegedly involved in orchestrating the effort. 

We know voter fraud, particularly in absentee voting, is very hard to detect without proper safeguards like voter ID and proper voter registration list maintenance so how did officials uncover the scheme? Perhaps it was because the candidate implicated in the fraud won by only 14 votes yet somehow managed to win 119 of 124 of the absentee ballots cast in the race. That obviously raised a few eyebrows and led to an investigation which uncovered the illegal activity. 

This is a cautionary tale to states who look to exclusive vote-by-mail states like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington as the future. It is very difficult to detect absentee voter fraud. In this instance, there simply weren't many ballots cast and the fact that in such a close election the absentee votes were so inexplicably lopsided in favor of one candidate made further investigation a no brainer. How does one detect similar schemes when there are millions of votes cast in a close race? Most of the time it is impossible. In this instance, the criminals were too stupid to realize the fraud would be obvious but that will not always be the case.

While better than nothing, RNLA does not believe that minimal safeguards like comparing a voter's signature on the absentee ballot application materials with that in the voter file is enough to deter and detect fraudsters from trying to sway a close election. And right now there isn't much to deter people from trying. Most states have little to no absentee voting ID requirement beyond the minimum imposed in HAVA and state and local law enforcement resources are not there to properly investigate claims of voter fraud. It is simply not a priority. (And we know Holder's DOJ has obviously shown no interest in going after voter fraud.)

States need to resist the seduction of vote-by-mail.