Controversy is swirling around a number of websites that have been set up by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in recent months. The websites have URLs and headlines that imply support for named Democratic candidates for Congress. The websites also have prominent “donate” buttons. But in less prominent text, the websites indicate opposition to the named candidates and any contributions made via the websites actually go to the NRCC.
The Los Angeles Times has counted 18 such websites so far, with URLs such as AnnKirkpatrick.com, SinemaForCongress.com and RonBarber2014.com. Ann Kirkpatrick, Kyrsten Sinema and Ron Barber are all Democratic Members of Congress running for reelection this year. The headlines at the top of these pages read “KIRKPATRICK FOR CONGRESS,” “Kyrsten Sinema for CONGRESS” and “Ron Barber CONGRESS,” respectively. Time has described these websites as “clearly designed to trick the viewer—at least at first—into thinking they’re on a legitimate campaign website.” But these websites aren’t merely part of the underhanded games that typically accompany political campaigns. They also violate federal law.
For decades, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the administrative agency charged with enforcing federal campaign finance laws, has been concerned with efforts by noncandidate political committees (such as party committees like the NRCC and its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) to trick people. Since the late 1970s, federal law, 2 U.S.C. § 432(e)(4), has prohibited any noncandidate political committee from “includ[ing] the name of any candidate in its name.” Initially, the FEC interpreted this statutory prohibition as applying only to the official name a committee registered with the FEC. For example, those who set up independent committees to support Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign were prohibited from using Reagan’s name in their official committee name. Instead, they registered committees with the FEC using names such as “Americans for Change” and “Americans for an Effective Presidency.”
Last week, nearly 60 years after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc’s (LDF) client, Autherine Lucy, sought to become the first Black student to integrate the University of Alabama, LDF and cooperating Louisiana attorney Ronald L. Wilson filed a federal lawsuit to empower Black voters in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana to elect their candidates of choice for the 32nd Judicial District Court for the first time in the Parish’s history.
The lawsuit, Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP et al. v. Jindal et al., filed on behalf of the Terrebonne Parish Branch NAACP and several Black voters in Terrebonne, challenges the Parish’s at-large method of electing judges for this state court as a violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
For nearly two centuries, Terrebonne Parish has used at-large voting to maintain a racially segregated 32nd Judicial District Court. That system for electing judges has guaranteed that Black voters, in spite of having tried in election after election, cannot elect their judges of choice for this court. As a result, a Black candidate has never been elected as a judge on the 32nd Judicial District Court. Meanwhile, a sitting judge on this parish court has been suspended for wearing blackface, an orange prison jumpsuit, handcuffs, and an afro wig to a Halloween party as part of his offensive parody of a Black prison inmate.
This lawsuit seeks to bring greater inclusion and democratic legitimacy to Terrebonne Parish’s political process through district-based voting. For too long, at-large voting, in combination with racial bloc voting, has functioned as a structural wall of exclusion to this parish court. Although Black voters comprise nearly 20 percent of the Parish’s voting-age population, and consistently vote together in parish-wide elections, the at-large electoral method dilutes their cohesive vote for their preferred candidates of choice.
The U.S. Department of Justice announced an expanding federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Human Rights Campaign reports on the policy change that has Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. calling for the DOJ “to ensure that same-sex marriages receive the same privileges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriages.”
Writing for Balkinization,Gerard N. Magliocca anticipates a lengthy opinion from the Supreme Court in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Magliocca explains why the justices should make it brief.
Reporting for The Washington Post, Brian Fung explores why it is likely that net neutrality will not reach our nation’s highest court.
In “Slavery, By the Numbers,” Henry Louis Gates, Jr. provides readers of The Root with “28 statistics every American should know this Black History Month.”
Fernando A. Bohorquez, Jr., long-time Chair of the ACS New York Lawyer Chapter, was nominated this week by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve as a member of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board. If confirmed by the New York City Counsel, Bohorquez would serve a six-year term on the Board, which is the ethics board for New York City and is charged with interpreting and enforcing the city’s: Conflicts of Interest Law, Annual Disclosure Law and Lobbyist Gift Law.
A partner in the New York office of BakerHostetler, Bohorquez (pictured) has led the New York Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society for years. During that time, he has been critical in the development of numerous educational activities that have helped the American Constitution Society grow its nationwide network of lawyers, law students, scholars, judges, policymakers and other concerned individuals. As an example, in October 2012, Bohorquez moderated an event in which two newly appointed federal district court judges, The Honorable Alison J. Nathan and The Honorable Edgardo Ramos, discussed their path to the federal bench.
Mayor de Blasio said of Bohorquez and fellow Board nominee Richard Briffault, “[t]hey are committed to fairness and to protecting the people of this city. I have no doubt they will ensure this government lives up to the highest standards.”
On February 5, President Obama announced five judicial nominees. They were:
Cheryl Ann Krause to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit,
Judy Beth Bloom to the Southern District of Florida,
Paul G. Byron to the Middle District of Florida,
Darrin P. Gayles to the Southern District of Florida, and
Carlos Eduardo Mendoza to the Middle District of Florida.
If confirmed, Darrin Gayles would be the first openly gay African American man to serve as a federal judge. The White House released a new report, “This is the First Time Our Judicial Pool Has Been This Diverse,” highlighting the administration’s work to diversify the federal bench.
Despite the push to highlight the administration’s diverse judicial nominees, senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus on Wednesday to discuss ongoing concerns over the lack of diverse nominees for Georgia courts. Earlier in the week, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced his agreement with the CBC’s concerns.
On February 6, three judicial nominees were voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and reported to the full Senate after being held over the week before. They join 29 other nominees for a total of 32 judicial nominees waiting for action on the Senate floor. The nominees reported out of Committee were:
Indira Talwani, District of Massachusetts,
James D. Peterson, Western District of Wisconsin, and
Nancy J. Rosenstengel, Southern District of Illinois.