November 11, 2007

Changing the way U.S. Senate campaigns are paid for

Posted in Barack Obama, Elections, Fair Elections Now Act, politics, Russ Feingold tagged , , , at 3:49 am by bluebanshee

In a rare candid moment a U.S. Senator told a group of constituents that he wished he could spend more time on legislative matters — he felt he had to spend way too much time doing fundraising. So instead of being able to devote his attention to the job the voters had sent him to Washington to do, he had to allocate a significant chunk of time to dialing for dollars or attending fundraising events. This Senator said he would favor public financing of campaigns — so he could spend more time on lawmaking and less on seeking cash for the next campaign.

The good news is that Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has introduced S. 1285, a bill that looks like the dream bill for senators like the one described above who want to change the way Senate campaigns are financed. The Fair Elections Now Act is supported by a consortium made up of Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, Democracy Matters, the Public Campaign, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG.

While this seems to be a novel approach for U.S. Senate candidates, publicly financing of campaigns has been successfully deployed on the state level in Arizona and Maine and in municipalities like Portland, Oregon (where the catchy phrase “voter owned elections” is used to describe it). Read the rest of this entry »

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November 4, 2007

Is Hans down?

Posted in Barack Obama, DOJ, FEC, Russ Feingold, Von Spakovsky, voting, Voting Rights tagged , , , , , , at 6:09 pm by bluebanshee

There was an interesting post on Firedoglake  (one of my favorite sites) this week about the pending nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the  Federal Elections Commission (FEC).    Christy Hardin Smith is speculating that this nomination may be in more trouble than has been publicly known.

For those who haven’t been following the career of Hans,  here is the eloquent condemnation by the marvelous Christy at   http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/10/28/hans-down/#more-12542

Try von Spakovsky sockpuppeting an article about voter suppression in violation of DOJ rules while he was still an employee there ostensibly working on civil rights issues.  Or how about participating in an effort to disenfranchise elderly Native American voters in Arizona on a technicality rather than working to find a way to support their right to vote.  Or the entire gaming the system for The Math scheme at the DOJ.  Or that a number of his subordinates at the DOJ wrote in to the Senate to say that von Spakovsky has neither the ethical underpinnings nor the commitment to voting integrity that should not be gamed for political purposes to be anywhere near the FEC.  And there is so much more:  see Digby and Adam at ePluribusMedia, for starters.

Christy was responding to ominous Washington Post musings suggesting that the end of the sky was falling  (or something equally dire) if the four nominees for the FEC (including the infamous voter suppression specialist von Spakovsky) were not immediately confirmed.  Why, the FEC would be unable to function with only the two current members … it would be short-staffed (gasp of shock).  So the Senate should rush right out and confirm the whole bunch  — whadya waiting for, folks — hurry, scurry — get it done.

This ignores what Christy rightly calls

the odor of political gaming of voter’s rights that eminates from von Spakovsky’s long record of partisan action

Hans von Spakovsky should not be given a six year appointment to any agency having anything to do with elections, including the FEC.

“This is the first nomination that the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has ever opposed,” said Wade Henderson, the group’s president. He said he thinks that von Spakovsky would “use his role at the FEC to make it more difficult for voters to exercise their franchise.”…

Because of concerns about von Spakovsky’s track record on voter suppression, Senators Feingold and Obama have both placed holds on the nominations of the block of four current nominees.  Because of a “deal” the four nominations (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans) are set to be voted on as a  block rather than individually.   This “all or nothing” approach would prevent von Spakovsky from getting an up-or-down vote on his own (de)merits.

The block should be busted and each nominee should get a vote on their own record.  Then there would be accountability.  Then the U.S. Senate would be exercising their true “advise and consent” function under the Constitution.  Hans von Spakovsky should be denied a free pass and be voted down based on his record.