Monday, November 20, 2017

Nebraska Regulators Approve Alternative Route for Keystone XL Pipeline


Nebraska Regulators on Monday allowed the Keystone XL Oil pipeline to clear its final major hurdle, granting a Victory to President Trump and Republicans who have for years pressed for the Project. But the Pipeline company will not be allowed to Build along its Preferred Route, the Regulators announced, opening up new Questions about how the Project will Proceed.

Monday’s decision came just four days after another Pipeline operated by the same Company spilled 210,000 Gallons of Oil in neighboring South Dakota, blackening a swath of Rural grassland. Opponents of Keystone XL said that Episode underscored the Risks of Crude Oil Pipelines. But under Nebraska Law, the State Public Service Commission is not allowed to consider Pipeline Safety and Spill Risks when deciding on a Permit.

Nebraska emerged more than seven years ago as an unlikely Center of Opposition to Keystone XL, which would run more than 1,100 Miles from Alberta, Canada, to Southern Nebraska and connect there with existing Pipelines. Permits and Land-Use Easements have long been in place along the Pipeline’s Route through Canada, Montana, and South Dakota, leaving Nebraska as the last Major obstacle to Construction.

Supporters of Keystone XL, including many Labor Unions and Business groups, have called the Pipeline an Economic necessity that would bring more North American Oil to market, Create Jobs and provide a Safer alternative to Transporting Oil by Rail or Truck.

But the number of Jobs will be small, and this Oil would not be sold in the U.S. as it will go to the Tax Free Zone in Texas, then sold to other Countries, and because of the Fee Tax Zone the U.S. will not receive any Export Tax income.

The Opponents in Nebraska, a Bipartisan Coalition of Landowners, Native Americans, and Environmentalists, stalled the Pipeline during Obama’s Presidency by forcing a Route Change and then tying up the Project in Court. They questioned the Project’s Economic Merits and said it posed a grave Threat to their State’s Groundwater and Farmland.

President Obama eventually denied a Border-Crossing Permit in 2015, citing Climate change, but President Trump reversed that Decision this year. Trump was quoted at the time saying that he believed “Nebraska will be good” and that he would call Gov. Pete Ricketts, a fellow Republican who supports the Pipeline. But the Permitting Decision fell not to Ricketts but to the Nebraska Public Service Commission (NPSC), an Elected Panel of Four Republicans and one Democrat that Functions in relative obscurity and Regulates the State’s Pipelines, Electric Lines, and Telecommunications. That Commission considered Arguments at a multiday hearing in Lincoln in August that was preceded by a Large Anti-Pipeline Protest outside the Nebraska Capitol.

An interesting point is the Pipeline could have started in the U.S. without the State Department and the Presidential Approval.

The pipeline Company, TransCanada, said in its written Arguments that the Project was safe and a Potential Economic boon for Nebraska, noting that about 90% of Landowners along the Route had already Signed Easements allowing for Construction. Company Officials said that “if Keystone XL truly impacted the future use of land, it would be expected that a far greater number than 10 percent of landowners would not have agreed” to Easements.

But Lawyers for a group of about 90 Holdout Landowners pleaded against the Permit and Predicted that “the pipeline with its sludge inside” could eventually be Abandoned and “waste in Nebraska’s soil until landowners left with the mess are required to remove it.”

“The rental value of nearby Nebraska real estate will be depressed by the pipeline’s presence,” Lawyers for the Landowners wrote. “It causes long-term operating efficiency losses for farm and ranch operators. The land will be permanently impaired.”

Some have questioned whether there would still be enough Interest among Oil Shippers to support the Pipeline, but TransCanada reiterated its support of the Project in early November. “We anticipate commercial support for the project to be substantially similar to that which existed when we first applied for a Keystone XL pipeline permit,” a Company Statement said.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Lawmakers Say Race-Based Redistricting Imposed on NC Against Its Will


Lawmakers and the Challengers of Maps proposed for Electing North Carolina’s General Assembly Members waited until the 11th hour to respond to Districts suggested by an Unaffiliated Mapmaker. Lawmakers were critical of the Process, saying the Federal Judges who tapped a Stanford University Law Professor to draw Maps for them had done so Prematurely and allowed him to consider Race as he looked at Election Districts in Cumberland, Guilford, Hoke, Mecklenburg, Wake, Bladen, Sampson, and Wayne Counties.

The Three Federal Judges presiding over the Case that will determine what Districts North Carolina’s State Senate and House Members come from in the 2018 Elections have yet to Rule on Maps the Lawmakers adopted in August. The Judges, James Wynn of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Catherine Eagles and Thomas Schroeder, both of the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina, Ordered New Lines after the U.S. Supreme Court Affirmed their Ruling last year that found 28 of the State Legislative Districts were longstanding Unconstitutional Racial Gerrymanders.

With North Carolina Elections set for next year, and the Filing Period for Candidates opening in February, the Judges have laid out a Schedule that attempts to have Court Rulings on the New Maps in place to meet the 2018 Election Schedule. To help with the Process, the Judges tapped Nathaniel Persily, a Stanford University Law Professor, to show them how Districts could be Drawn in Eight Counties to alleviate their concerns that some of the Districts might be designed to Weaken the Influence of Black Voters.

Phil Strach, the Raleigh-based Attorney representing Lawmakers, contends the Judges were Premature in Appointing a “Special Master,” Unaffiliated with either Party, as their Mapmaker. “Judges do not issue provisional sentences before a defendant is found guilty,” Strach stated in the Lawmakers’ response to the Mapmaker submitted shortly before the Midlight Deadline Friday. “(J)uries do not make provisional damages awards before adjudicating liability; and courts do not craft provisional remedies before finding a constitutional violation.”

“Those kinds of anticipatory remedial proceedings are alien to our legal system not only because of the presumption of innocence that applies across all legal contexts, but also because of the fundamental unfairness that would result from forcing a defendant to expend resources helping to craft an anticipatory judicial remedy for a wrong that has not even been proven to exist,” Strach added.
Strach also contends that Maps drawn by Persily appear to rely on Racial Data when Republican Leaders have said Thomas Hofeller, their Mapmaker, did not consider Racial Data in the Drawing of the 2017 Lines.

New Election District Maps were adopted in August, almost three months after the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed that Districts used to Elect General Assembly Members in 2012, 2014, and 2016 included 28 Unconstitutional Racial Gerrymanders. The Election Maps packed Black Voters, who often vote Democratic, into Districts where their Candidates already were likely to be successful. By doing that, the Courts found, the overall Influence of Black Voters had been Weakened in North Carolina.

The Maps have helped Republicans in North Carolina, often considered a Swing State in National Elections. Republicans dominate both Chambers of the General Assembly, holding 35 of the 50 Senate Seats and 75 of the 120 House Seats after Rep. Bill Brisson of Dublin recently changed his Party Affiliation from Democrat to Republican. Their numbers allow them to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s Vetoes. It is unclear what impact Persily’s Maps would have on those numbers. The Lines could change before he gets them to the Judges in the next two weeks.

Strach contends the way Persily drew the Districts “imposes race-based redistricting on the state against its will.” He says the Lawmakers should get another chance to Draw the Lines. The Judges, frustrated by the slow pace with which Lawmakers were proceeding to change Election Lines stated: “The State is not entitled to multiple opportunities to remedy its unconstitutional districts.”
In their Order appointing Persily to help with the Mapmaking, the Judges said that some of the Districts in the 2017 Plan “preserve the core shape of the unconstitutional district, divide counties and municipalities along racial lines, and are less compact than their benchmark version. Strach said the judges provided no explanation or evidence to support their “concerns. Nor did the Court explain how the General Assembly’s use of incumbency and political data in drawing its proposed remedial districts ‘embedded, incorporated and perpetuated the impermissible use of race,’ ” Strach said.

The Challengers have argued in Court that just because the Lawmakers have said over and over that Race did not play a role in the Map Drawing, that doesn’t make it so. Some of the Districts in the 2017 Plan looked similar to Districts in the 2011 Maps, they argued. The Judges raised similar concerns amid questions of how the Lawmakers could correct Racial Gerrymanders without checking new Lines against Racial Data. “There is no precedent for authorizing racial sorting as a remedy for ‘correcting’ allegedly racially gerrymandered districts,” Strach stated in his response to Persily’s request for Feedback on his Maps.

The Challengers of the Lawmakers’ Maps offered suggested tweaks to the Districts presented earlier this week by Persily, but overall they said his Maps were a vast improvement to the ones approved by the General Assembly. Allison Riggs, an Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and Edwin Speas, a Raleigh-based Attorney, said in their response to Persily that the Challengers have concluded his Plan “does remedy the constitutional flaws in the legislature’s 2017 enacted plan.”

The Lawyers who have represented the Challengers in the long-running Redistricting Disputes suggested Changes to Persily’s Districts in Guilford County, where incumbent Lawmakers from both Parties are “Double-Bunked,” or placed in Districts where they would have to compete with each other. The Republican Lawmakers who led the Redistricting Process in the General Assembly stated that one of their criteria was to protect Incumbent Lawmakers.

The Federal Judges said Persily could consider the Addresses of current Legislators in shaping his Lines, but doing so should not play a Greater Role than creating Lines that did away with any Racial Gerrymanders and other Unconstitutional Issues. In Guilford County, Black Democrat Amos Quick would be in the same District as White Republican Jon Hardister, the Challengers pointed out.
Democrat Pricey Harrison, a White Woman who often has the support of Black Voters, would be in a District with White Republican John Blust under Persily’s Draft Plan. Two House Districts in Guilford County would be left with No Incumbents under Persily’s Plans. If those District Lines were changed slightly, the Challengers said, Hardister and Quick could be in Districts where they would not Compete for the same Seat. They also suggest shifts of Lines in Two House Districts in Wake County that would not force Democrats Grier Martin and Cynthia Ball to Run against each other if they were both to seek Re-Election.

Strach used a Legal Argument that Challengers used in protesting Persily’s District Lines, saying the Professor had created Maps that unnecessarily changed Districts in the middle of the decade, violating the State Constitution. Strach contends that the Federal Judges and Persily do not have Jurisdiction to consider the State Constitutional claim. Strach said the process ordered by the Judges and used by Persily “defies precedent, ignores state sovereignty, and imposes race-based redistricting on the state against its will.”

Persily has until Dec. 1st to get his Maps to the Federal Judges. He could hold Public Hearings on his Plans but has not Scheduled any yet.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Blame Supreme Court for Corruption Cases Crumbling


The Trend began in 1999 when a Supreme Court Case called United States v. Sun Diamond Growers of California chipped away at the Government’s Ability to Prosecute Officials for taking what are known as Gratuities, or Minor Gifts, given to them by Businesses or Allies. The Opinion found that Gratuities were Illegal only if the Government could Connect the Gifts to Specific Favors by Officials, establishing a Visible Quid Pro Quo.

In 2010, the Court attacked another Anti-Corruption Tactic, narrowing the Definition of what is known as Honest Services Fraud. The Ruling in this Case came as the Justices Reversed parts of the Criminal Conviction of Jeffrey K. Skilling, the former Enron Chief Executive who had been found Guilty of Charges related to his Company’s Collapse. Although Mr. Skilling was a Private Citizen, the Opinion had a Political Effect, the Newly Limited Fraud Law had frequently been used to go after Politicians who served themselves at their Constituents’ Expense.

But the Court’s most Substantial Opinion on Corruption came last year when it Redefined the very Nature of Political Graft in throwing out the Bribery Conviction of Bob McDonnell, the former Republican Governor of Virginia. A Jury determined that Mr. McDonnell had helped a wealthy businessman by setting him up with influential people in an effort to Promote a Dietary Supplement he was selling. But even though the Businessman had given the Governor several Gifts and Loans, the Court concluded it was not Illegal. It Ruled that Mr. McDonnell’s part of the Arrangement, making introductions and setting up meetings, was not in fact a Betrayal of his Office, or what the Law describes as an “Official Act.”

So today, if you take or agree to, what was previously called, a Bribe but don't complete the request, it's not illegal.


A reproduction of an 1871 Thomas Nast cartoon about a Tammany Hall scandal. Credit: North Wind Picture Archives, via Associated Press

Zephyr Rain Teachout is an American Academic, Political Activist, and former Political Candidate, wrote a book about how Corruption and Quid Pro Quo Bribery was handled through history called ‘Corruption in America’. I was honored to be at the book signing.

The first few American Generations, Teachout reminds us, saw things very differently; for them, Corruption was a “National Fixation.” Drawing on Montesquieu and their understanding of ancient history, the Founders fretted about the countless ways a Republic might be undone from within. “They saw their task this way,” Teachout writes: “How could they create a system that would be most likely to be filled with men of civic virtue but avoid creating temptations that might corrode that virtue?” Their answer was to Build Structural Barriers keeping Public and Personal interests separated, without getting lost in considerations of whether a Forbidden Activity did or did not amount to what our Current Court calls a “Quid Pro Quo.”

Teachout admonishes, because the Founders’ understanding of Corruption has been methodically Taken Apart by a Supreme Court that cynically pretends to Worship the Founders’ every word. “We could lose our democracy in the process,” Teachout warns, a bit of hyperbole that maybe it’s time to start taking seriously.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Senator Grassley Rips Up Blue Slip for Pair of Trump Court Picks


Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley is Burning the Blue Slip for some Judicial Nominees.

The Iowa Republican announced Thursday that he is going ahead with a Confirmation hearing for a Nominee to the powerful Appellate Courts despite the Objections of a Democrat who had been Blocking the Nomination for Months. The move will likely Escalate the Judicial Wars in the Senate.

Grassley says he has Scheduled Hearings for David Stras, a Nominee to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), Stras’ Home State Senator, said earlier this year that he would not Return the so-called Blue Slip for Stras because of his Conservative Ideology.

“The Democrats seriously regret that they abolished the filibuster, as I warned them they would,” Grassley said in his Floor Speech. “But they can’t expect to use the blue slip courtesy in its place. That’s not what the blue slip is meant for.”

The Blue Slip asks whether a Senator Approves or Disapproves of a Nominee from their State.

Grassley also will announce that he will hold a Hearing for Kyle Duncan, picked by President Trump to serve on the 5th Circuit. His Home State Senator, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA), has returned a Blue Slip, but he noted that he was Undecided on the Nomination as he submitted the Paper.

The Blue Slip process is a Century-old Senate Tradition that says the Judiciary Committee doesn’t hold a Confirmation Hearing for potential Judges without Approval from the Candidate’s Home State Senators. Senators return an actual Blue Slip to the Committee.
It is also one of the Democrats’ last Major Leverage Points over Trump’s Judicial Nominees, after they Voted to Kill the Filibuster for most Nominations four years ago. The Republicans Abolished the 60-Vote Threshold for Filibusters on Supreme Court Picks earlier this year.

At least Four Democrats have not Returned Blue Slips for Trump’s Circuit Nominees: Senators Franken, Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

Previous Committee Chairs have rigidly adhered to the Blue-Slip Rule for District Court Nominees, whose Courts span just a Single State. But they have been more flexible for the more influential and powerful Circuit Courts. “I’ll add that I’m less likely to proceed on a district court nominee who does not have two positive blue slips from home-state senators,” Grassley said. “But circuit courts cover multiple states. There’s less reason to defer to the views of a single state’s senator for such nominees.”

In his Speech Thursday, Grassley noted that just Two out of 18 previous Chairmen allowed One Senator “to wield veto power over a nominee”, including former Vice President Joe Biden, a former Judiciary Committee Chairman himself.

But Democrats pointed out that Grassley, as Chairman during the final two years of Barack Obama's Presidency, Declined to hold Hearings for Nine of Obama's Judicial Picks because of the Blue Slip Policy. Four were to the Appellate Courts, while Five were District Court Nominees.

“Chairman Grassley’s decision do away with a 100-year old Senate tradition just 10 months into the Trump administration couldn’t be more troubling," said California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. “The lengths to which Republicans are going to jam extremely conservative and controversial nominees through the Senate is unprecedented."

Grassley also argued that the Blue Slip is “not meant to signify the senator’s ultimate support or opposition to the nominee," but merely whether the Person should Receive a Hearing. “Some of my Democratic colleagues and left-wing outside groups mistakenly assert that the blue slip affords a home-state senator veto power over a nominee,” Grassley said. “That is not true.”

Ideology isn’t the Sole Reason why some Democratic Senators have tried to Obstruct a handful of Trump Judicial Nominees. For example, Wyden and Merkley said the White House went against Oregon’s Standard Tradition of using a Bipartisan Nominating Commission to come up with potential Candidates. “I won’t allow the White House to just steamroll home-state senators,” Grassley said. “But, as I’ve said all along, I won’t allow the blue slip process to be abused. I won’t allow senators to prevent a Committee hearing for political or ideological reasons.”

The Hearing will be held Nov. 29th. Grassley says both Duncan and Stras “appear to be well-qualified” and Deserve to be considered by his Committee. The move immediately Infuriated Liberal Advocacy Groups focused on the Judiciary.

“Senators from both parties have used the blue slip process to demand meaningful consultation when it comes to choosing nominees for their own states," said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President for People For the American Way. "And Republicans used blue slips for years to block President Obama’s nominees for the flimsiest reasons. Simply put, this was a test of Charles Grassley’s moral character. He failed.”









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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UN Climate Talks in Germany Highlights




Oil Change International, founded in 2005, is a Research, Communication, and Advocacy organization focused on exposing the true costs of Fossil Fuels, Combating Global Warming, and facilitating the coming Transition towards Clean Energy. They want to Expose and Counter the Influence of Fossil Fuel Money in Politics, work toward a Separation of Oil and State, and follow the Money Flows to and from the Industry

Tackling Fossil Fuels has not always been a large part of these UN Climate Conferences. In fact, the Paris Agreement itself doesn’t even mention the words “Fossil Fuels” a single time. But the Team has worked hard for years, doing their best to support those on the Front-Lines of the Climate Fight and thrust the Collective need to embark swiftly on a Managed Decline of the Fossil Fuel Industry into the Center of the Debate. And it’s Working.

They have long been among the few Voices calling out Fossil Fuels at the Climate Negotiations. Now they are part of a Growing Global chorus standing up against the Industry and making it clear that Climate Leadership means keeping Fossil Fuels in the Ground.

Here’s just a sample of what they did at the Negotiations:

- Met with Governments from around the world about leaving Fossil Fuels in the Ground, and Re-Launched the Lofoten Declaration with hundreds of Signatories from around the World including the former President of Kiribati.

- Released a New Report on why Germany must Phase-Out Coal with a just Transition in the Next Ten Years, and End its Fossil Fuel Finance.

- Released a New Briefing showing how Gas is NOT a Bridge Fuel, and why the International Energy Agency’s Projections for a Gas-filled Future are Wrong and Dangerous.

- Had a Stop Funding Fossils Day of Action, reaching Millions and pushing the World Bank to Stop Financing Exploration for New Fossil Fuels.

Their Work at the UN Negotiations is critical in influencing the Global Debate on Climate Action. They're putting out Cutting-Edge Analysis to make the Case that it's time to Stop using Public Resources to Prop-Up the Fossil Fuel Industry, and that it's imperative we keep Fossil Fuels in the Ground. People around the world are taking Notice.

CLICK HERE for more information about Oil Change International.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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Saturday, November 18, 2017

SD Possible 2018 Ballot Initiatives


South Dakota Voter could have a these proposed Initiatives on 2018 Election Day.

Initiative groups hoping to go before Voters in 2018 faced a crucial Deadline, Nov. 6th, to turn in Signatures to the Secretary of State. Initiated measures need nearly 14,000 Valid Signatures, while Constitutional Amendments require almost 28,000 Valid Names.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’ Office conducts a Random Sampling of Signatures to determine Validity. Krebs said she hopes to review all submitted Measures and finish within Four months.

Here’s a look at some of the Initiatives Submitted to go before Voters:

OUT OF OUR STATE POLITICAL CONTRIBUTIONS

House Speaker Mark Mickelson turned in slightly more than 18,000 Signatures for an Initiative that would Ban Out-of-State Political Contributions for Ballot questions. The move comes after Out-of-State Donors pumped over $10 Million into Campaigns for or against South Dakota questions during the 2016 Election Cycle. A similar Bill capping Out-of-State Contributions Failed in the Legislature this year, and Experts have said such Measures are unlikely to survive a Legal Challenge.

INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING

Supporters of a Constitutional Amendment that would take Control of Redistricting from South Dakota Legislators and give it to an Independent Commission turned in more than 34,000 Signatures. The Commission would consist of Nine People with no more than Three from any one Political Party. It mirrors a Constitutional Amendment that South Dakota Voters Rejected last year.

TOP-TWO PRIMARIES

The Constitutional Amendment would move South Dakota to a Top-Two system for many Races. Supporters turned in more than 37,000 Signatures for the plan, which would have the Top-Two finishers in a Primary advance to the General Election regardless of Party. It would apply to Primaries for County Offices, Legislature, Governor, and U.S. House and Senate. The 2018 Push comes after a similar Amendment Failed at the Polls last year.

VOTING AT HOME

Supporters of a proposed Ballot Measure that would allow South Dakota Counties to switch to Elections conducted entirely by Mail Ballot handed over nearly 20,000 Signatures. Under the Proposal, Voting Yes, would Dispense with Polling Places, and require Primary, Special, and General Elections to be conducted via Mail Ballot.

GOVERNMENT ETHICS IN EARLY

Ahead of other Campaigns, Supporters of a proposed Government Ethics Constitutional Amendment last month turned in more than 50,000 Signatures for their Measure. The Amendment would tighten Campaign Finance and Lobbying Restrictions, create an Independent Ethics Commission, and require that Laws changing the Ballot Question process Pass a Public Vote, among other Provisions. The Proposal would Replace a Voter-imposed Ethics Overhaul that South Dakota Lawmakers Repealed this year.

DIDN’T MAKE IT

A Proposed Measures approved for Circulation won’t appear on the Ballot: It would have made it Harder for the Legislature to Tamper with Voter Initiatives.









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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NY Should Ban Candidates from Soliciting Campaign Money


Jerry H. Goldfeder is Special Counsel at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP, specializing in Election and Campaign Finance Law, Public Integrity Investigations, and Regulatory compliance. Prior to joining Stroock, he served as Special Counsel to former New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. He has practiced Law in Manhattan, and represented Elected Officials and Candidates for Public Office for over thirty years—from Local Office to President of the United States. He serves as Chair of the Election Law and Government Affairs Committee of the General Practice Committee of the New York State Bar Association; he recently completed a three-year tenure as Chair of the Election Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.

He thinks we should Ban Candidates from Soliciting Campaign Money. The Public has a right to know if Campaign Contributions influence their Elected Officials’ Decisions.

It is a tricky issue. After all, how can anyone gauge what factors tug at a Public Official when they are Casting a Vote or supporting a Policy? All candidates for Public Office, from City Council to President of the United States, must raise Money to Run an effective Campaign, and every Elected Official has authority or Influence over decisions that impact their Constituents and Contributors included. Mayoral Candidates routinely accept Donations from those with Business before City Agencies. Governors and Legislators also take Contributions from so-called Special Interests. And District Attorneys are routinely Supported by the Legal Community. So there is always going to be a Skeptic, fairly or not, who tries to Connect the Dots between the Contribution and the Decision.

The usual Reform Proposals, Lower Contribution Limits or even Public Matching funds of Private Donations, do not address the Heart of the Problem. Short of Total Funding of Campaigns by Public Funds, there seems to be only one Solution, an outright Ban on Candidates directly asking for Contributions and learning Contributors’ Identities. Only if there is a complete Firewall between Candidates and Donors can the Public be certain that Campaign $ Signs are not dancing in the Elected Official’s Head.

This Proposal is not as Out-of-the-Box as it might seem. In New York, we already Ban certain Candidates from asking for Campaign Donations.

- State Court Rules Prohibit Judicial Candidates from asking for Political Contributions. NY Ct. Rules §100.5(A)(5). This Ban is fairly common throughout the Country, and the U.S. Supreme Court has given its Approval. Judges, after all, are expected to be as objective as Humanly possible. A Violation can lead to a range of Sanctions, including Removal from the Bench.

- Police who run for Office are Barred from soliciting or Receiving Contributions, and a Violation is actually a Crime. NY Elec. Law §17-110. This Ban is over a hundred years old, from the days when the Local Police Commissioner and his Minions acted as Tammany Hall accomplices in getting Out the Vote and Stifling Opposition. Life has changed dramatically, but the Law is still on the Books.

In both examples, Campaign Committees of Friends and Colleagues step up to the plate. The Candidates, however, are kept in the Dark.

Judicial Candidates face this Issue in New York with little Practical Effect because, for good or bad, many of their Races are relatively Uncontested. And few Police actually Run for Office, so the Law’s impact is hard to gauge. One notable example just occurred, however. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini, who Goldfeder represented during his Campaign, just Ran and Won for Suffolk County District Attorney. Sini was barred from asking anyone for Money. Yet, his Campaign Committee raised $1.5 Million. To be sure, without the Candidate’s Direct Involvement it was not easy. But the Firewall did not Prevent his Campaign from getting the job done without Him. As a result, there are no Suspicious dots to connect between Donors and the New District Attorney.

An Across-the-Board Ban on Candidate Solicitation would allow them to Focus on the Issues, liberating them from the arduous task of Dialing for Dollars. More importantly, it would Free Elected Officials from even considering a Donor’s Concerns. And Voters would have a much Higher Comfort Level in knowing their Public Officials were making Decisions wholly on the Merits.

State or Local Officials should Favor this Ban. It would make their Lives a lot easier and Protect their Reputations. Short of that, Candidates can simply decide to Voluntarily Opt-Out of the Fundraising grind. This Reform would Boost the Public’s Confidence in our Elected Officials, and that certainly would be welcome news.

What do you think of this type of Ban?









NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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