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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2014

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Laws requiring campaign donation disclosure can reinforce conformist pressures, notes my colleague Ilya Shapiro on the episode of the tech CEO who stepped down after an outcry over his donation to California’s Prop 8 campaign a few years ago. [Forbes] On the wider significance of the episode (not mostly one of law or regulation, since the government did not and in my view should not get involved either way), I recommend Conor Friedersdorf’s careful analysis in the Atlantic.

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Bruce Braley stumbles

by Walter Olson on March 26, 2014

Rep. Bruce Braley, a former head of the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association, has since his election been perhaps the most diligent advocate of Litigation Lobby interests in the House of Representatives. He had also been considered the front-runner for the Senate seat of departing Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, until a covert video leaked out of Braley apparently fund-raising at a trial lawyer gathering in Texas [Des Moines Register]:

To put this in stark contrast, if you help me win this race, you may have someone with your background, your experience, your voice, someone’s who’s been literally fighting tort reform for 30 years in a visible and public way on the Senate Judiciary Committee or you might have a farmer from Iowa who never went to law school, never practiced law, serving as the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Because if Democrats lose the majority, Chuck Grassley will be the next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Almost nothing about the remarks — including the slighting tone toward Grassley, senior senator and a popular figure in the state — is likely to increase Braley’s appeal to Iowa voters. Dan McLaughlin writes:

As a lawyer myself, I like the idea that we should have some lawyers on the Senate Judiciary Committee and on its staff, but the whole point of democracy is that the common man gets a say in how he is governed, not just the experts. Relatedly, Braley’s stress on “your background, your experience, your voice” just emphasizes how he sees the voice and interests of trial lawyers as one that will be very different from that of farmers. …

he manages to sneak in the fact that he’s been a longstanding opponent of tort reform, and doesn’t even bother to come up with some focus-group-tested euphemism for reform. He’s bluntly telling the trial lawyers in the audience that he’s for their interests – not like those Iowa farmers.

A Grassley spokeswoman said that if it was somehow improper for a non-lawyer to lead a committee on legal matters, “a trial lawyer shouldn’t be involved in policy making about agriculture, or energy, or health care.” Per the Washington Post, “Over the course of his legislative career, Braley has raised $3.5 million from lawyers and law firms.”

And Twitter was kind of brutal:

More: James Taranto, WSJ (“So God made a lawyer”). And here’s a flashback clip where Braley badgers well-known health policy expert Sally Pipes over whether she has an advanced degree.

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Texas: a ploy fails

by Walter Olson on March 5, 2014

“Flush with trial lawyer cash, the PAC’s public face is ‘Texans 4 Justice,’ which portrays itself as a conservative grassroots group.” It didn’t work: Texas GOP primary voters yesterday returned incumbent Supreme Court justices. [Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle, earlier]

Related: Plaintiff’s lawyer Steve Mostyn, “omnipresent” in Austin, and his involvement with “Conservative Voters of Texas” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2014

  • John Lott Jr. argues in new book that judicial-nominations system is broken; responses from Michael Teter, Clint Bolick, John McGinnis [Cato Unbound]
  • “Weaponized IRS” meets Administration’s political needs at cost of future public trust [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today]
  • “For some time, however, cause lawyers have moved in and out of government, thus complicating the traditional picture of lawyer-state opposition.” [Douglas Nejaime, "Cause Lawyers Inside the State," SSRN via Legal Ethics Forum]
  • Gun rights: public opinion has changed over the decades in a big way [Bryan Caplan, Steven Greenhut]
  • “Mostyn Law Firm donates $1 million to help Wendy Davis in Texas governor’s race” [Washington Examiner, New Republic] Plaintiff’s bar supporting GOP primary challenges to Texas Supreme Court incumbents Phil Johnson, Jeff Brown, and Chief Justice Nathan Hecht [TLR] More: Legal NewsLine (Mark Lanier Law Firm largely funding challengers)
  • Nassau’s Kathleen Rice: “Anti-Corruption Panel Co-Chair Receives Big Donations From Sheldon Silver’s Law Firm” [Ken Lovett, NYDN]
  • Rule of thumb: a political party leans libertarian in proportion to the number of years since it last held the White House [Orin Kerr]
  • Dept. of Justice indicts a prominent Obama critic on campaign finance charge [Ira Stoll; more above]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on December 11, 2013

  • “Who’s Afraid of Political Speech?” (spoiler: incumbents) [Roger Pilon, Cato] “None of this was perceived as a major problem so long as the 501(c)(4) category was dominated by the political left” [Brad Smith, WSJ]
  • Texas trial lawyers not all of one mind over extent of political involvements [Texas Tribune, Southeast Texas Record]
  • Sen. Mark Pryor, a key architect of the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad CPSIA law, faces tough re-election race in Arkansas [Politico]
  • RNC asked to take stand for Americans overseas hurt by FATCA tax law [McClatchy]
  • Richard Epstein recalls Chris Christie’s unlovely tactics as a prosecutor [Ira Stoll, Future of Capitalism]
  • That time Texas politico Wendy Davis sued the Fort Worth paper over its coverage of her campaign [Andrew Stiles, NRO]
  • “Low political knowledge levels mainly due to lack of demand for info, not lack of supply” [Ilya Somin, Jack Shafer]
  • SEC backs off plan to expose companies to harassment over outlays to politically oriented nonprofits, and NYT (thinking only of shareholders’ welfare of course) is sad about that [Marc Hodak, David Silvers/CEI, NYT] Sen. Warren seems to enjoy new capacity to use position, Durbin-like, to punish political foes [David Henderson]

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A secret special prosecutor wielding “kitchen-sink” subpoenas takes aim at persons and groups who supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in his recent showdown with public employee unions. “The probe began in the office of Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, though no one will publicly claim credit for appointing Mr. Schmitz, the special prosecutor. The investigation is taking place under Wisconsin’s John Doe law, which bars a subpoena’s targets from disclosing its contents to anyone but his attorneys. … [Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O'Keefe] adds that at least three of the targets had their homes raided at dawn, with law-enforcement officers turning over belongings to seize computers and files.” [WSJ "Review and Outlook"]

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Why isn’t there greater revulsion when political mobs assail the personal residences of officials they disagree with? And who will be next? [Mark Krikorian; earlier here, etc.] (& welcome Instapundit readers)

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Friends of liberty? Not exactly:

Sen. Lindsey Graham would propose censoring Americans’ “snail” mail if he thought it would help protect national security, the South Carolina Republican said Tuesday. But for now, he says he doesn’t think it’s necessary.

“For now.” Nice. And Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) wants to prosecute reporters who publish leaked material. Meanwhile, say what you will about Glenn Greenwald, he’s willing to call out by name some “principle-free, hackish, and opportunistic” media lefties whose views on surveillance and civil liberties have proved malleable.

P.S., a reminder: Rep. Peter King made his name as an apologist for unspeakable IRA terrorism [Riggs]

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Apple on the skewer

by Walter Olson on May 27, 2013

“Apple doesn’t have a political action committee to fund incumbents’ re-elections. Apple doesn’t hire many congressional staff or any former congressmen as lobbyists. Apple mostly minds its own business — and how does that help the political class?” [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]

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My new article at The Blaze, based (among other things) on a precinct analysis of the election results last month in Prince George’s County, Maryland: “the black precincts in P.G. with the strongest inclination toward social conservatism… gave Republican candidates a vote percentage more often associated with Libertarian candidates and rounding errors.” Although some Republicans have been keeping the runways clear and waving at every dot on the horizon for 20 years or more, the planes still aren’t landing (& welcome David Frum/Daily Beast readers).

Washington Post:

She was convicted in June of stealing $800 from the Maryland General Assembly to pay an employee of her private law firm. But on Tuesday… [Tiffany] Alston’s attorneys said that the Prince George’s County Democrat is prepared to sue, if necessary, to continue serving in the House of Delegates. …

How she intends to do that is unclear. Her sentencing last month on a charge of misconduct in office triggered her “permanent” removal from the House under the state constitution, according to a lawyer for the General Assembly.

Alston’s attorneys disputed that interpretation after Tuesday’s court hearing, in which an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge agreed to modify Alston’s one-year suspended jail sentence to probation before judgment, essentially striking her conviction.

Update: Curiouser and curiouser, with revelations about potential Alston replacement Greg Hall.

A Facebook observation

by Walter Olson on November 3, 2012

Many politically active people “like” candidates and causes to which they are in fact ardently opposed, since following the opposition’s Facebook stream can be a smart way to keep tabs on what it’s doing. But as a result Facebook keeps feeding us sponsored posts — often very misleading ones — that follow the formula “[my friend] likes [candidate/cause X]“.

By the way, if you’re on Facebook, you really should be liking Overlawyered, here. That’s true even if you can’t stand the site and just want to keep tabs on its nefarious ways.

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The retention campaign for liberal Florida Supreme Court Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente, and Peggy Quince is “outspending the opposition 20-to-1,” fueled by large donations from plaintiff’s injury law firms that practice before the court, such as the law firms of Wayne Hogan, Tom Edwards, and Fred Levin, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, Grossman Roth, and Pajcic & Pajcic — not to mention defense lawyers. [Orlando Sentinel]

P.S. And from which side do you think the left-leaning Justice at Stake detects a threat to judicial independence? Right. You guessed it. See also ABA Journal [proposals to cut state bar out of judicial nomination process classed among "legislative attacks" on independent judiciary. Meanwhile, no quantity of vitriolic and demagogic attacks on jurists over such decisions as Citizens United or Concepcion ever seem to get classed as menacing judicial independence].

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…it’ll probably be the first time a lot of folks grasp one of the solid advantages of the Electoral College over a national popular vote system. (Background on the approaching Hurricane Sandy: “And with some trees still leafy and the potential for snow, power outages could last to Election Day, some meteorologists fear.”)

More: Derek Muller reviews Tara Ross, “Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College” [Law and Liberty]

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At Prawfsblawg, Paul Horwitz, Rick Garnett and others have a discussion of claims (typified here and here) that it’s oppressive not to let churches electioneer with tax-deductible funds. Other views: Religion News Service/HuffPo, Bloomberg editorial, Stephen Colbert via TaxProf (to an IRS-defying pastor: “Other people have to use after-tax money for their political speech, but you guys get to use pre-tax money for political speech.”) Or is the better answer to liberate both secular and religious 501(c)(3)s to express election views, with the possible result of enabling political donors generally to take a tax deduction on money spent to promote their preferred candidates and causes?

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 6, 2012

  • Visual representation of debate result (courtesy Chris Fountain) “Obama should have spent more time in court” [David Frum] “Can you imagine the rewards points we earned by paying for wars with the national credit card?” [@BCAppelbaum via @TPCarney]
  • Correcting the tax side of the debate: factory relocation, oil deductions, corporate jets [Daniel Mitchell, Cato-at-Liberty]
  • Race heats up for three Florida justices [Insurance Journal, earlier] Unions campaign for incumbent justices even as court deliberates on pension lawsuit [Sunshine State News]
  • Maybe Rep. Todd Akin isn’t the most unscientific member of the House Science Committee after all [TPM]
  • Yes, the HHS welfare work waiver is a real issue [WSJ editorial]
  • “Whistle-Blower Lawyers Throw Support Behind Obama” [NYT via FedSoc]
  • Michael Greve doesn’t hold back, tells us what he really thinks of Mme. Warren [Law and Liberty]

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