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Wisconsin Law Journal: Liberal Supreme Court justices make sweeping changes to enhance transparency and accountability

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal last week, Executive Director Jay Heck of the non-partisan government accountability group Common Cause noted that Wisconsin ranked as the 47th worst in the nation, according to a Center for American Progress study for judicial ethics recusal rules. The study looked at the strength of recusal rules for judges in every state, ranking each state 1-50. “Even Cook County (in Chicago) has stronger recusal rules for judges, which is a pretty low bar given Chicago’s reputation,” Heck said. “Chicago has always been the thing we don’t want to be. It’s the bar you always want to surpass in terms of politics, ethics and corruption,” Heck added. Citing a Marquette University Law School poll on reduced confidence in Wisconsin’s courts, Heck said, “It’s reasonable to open to the public how a court operates, especially with the low regard noted in Marquette Law School polls. Wisconsin courts used to be highly regarded, but that has dissipated over the years, as big money has inundated elections,” Heck said.

Money & Influence 08.23.2023

Boston Globe: What is ‘red-boxing’ and why is it an issue in R.I.’s congressional race?

John M. Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, said Common Cause and the Campaign Legal Center have been urging the state Board of Elections for at least four years to adopt regulations that would clarify that types of coordination — including red-boxing — violate state campaign finance law. It hasn’t happened. Marion said the current form of red-boxing has emerged since Rhode Island last made major changes in this area of campaign finance law in 2012. “It was hard to imagine then that super PACs and candidates campaigns would be so sophisticated as to have hidden websites and cryptic tweets,” he said. “Sign stealing is maybe as old as baseball, but the sophistication of it has increased over time. Even our Red Sox got caught using an Apple Watch.” Marion said, “The independent spending in elections which was unleashed by the US Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision is supposed to be completely separate from a candidate’s campaign, and when it is coordinated it eviscerates our limits on money in politics.”

NM Political Report: Watchdog groups file brief in congressional gerrymandering case

The brief was filed in state judicial district court by watchdog groups Common Cause New Mexico, Election Reformers Network and the League of Women Voters New Mexico and it supports neither party in the case. The amicus brief seeks to help the court apply the New Mexico Supreme Court’s three-part test that was adapted from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan’s dissenting opinion in the Rucho v. Common Cause case of 2019. “We are gratified that the district court is using the three-part test suggested by Justice Kagan in Rucho v. Common Cause,” Mason Graham, Common Cause New Mexico Policy Director, said in a press release. “It’s a reasonable way to determine if there was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and if the will of the voters was diluted or overturned.”

The Center Square: Gavin Newsom's national Constitutional amendment to limit gun access put on hold

“Doing a convention puts every civil right we have in this country at risk,” said Viki Harrison, Director of Constitutional Conventions and Protecting Dissent Programs for left-of-center watchdog group Common Cause in an interview with The Center Square. “The entire Constitution could be rewritten.” “The amendment process is a lot more in the open,” Harrison said. “You're going through the state legislatures where people can testify. You are going through Congress where people can interact with their legislators and their senators.” 

Money & Influence 08.21.2023

The Oregonian: Oregon labor group launches end run around effort to curb political donations, shed light on dark money

Kate Titus, executive director of good government group Common Cause Oregon, said that Our Oregon’s initiatives are “clearly an effort to try to derail (the proposal for stricter limits) and offer a different alternative.” “I’m pleased that there’s a proactive movement toward campaign finance reform and more players are looking for ways to do this,” said Titus, who gave input on the development of the reform advocates’ proposal but whose organization has yet to endorse any measure for 2024. “Unfortunately, some of the changes that they’ve made … do appear on the surface to be highly problematic.” Titus, with Common Cause, said she looks forward to voters weighing in. “The thing to remember is a loophole for one is a loophole for all,” said Titus. “Letting money rule the day is never going to get us to the type of governing we need, and we should all have a stake in that.”

Money & Influence 08.20.2023

The Hill (Op-Ed): How the Federal Election Commission is undermining the integrity of our elections

Georgia’s elections are all over the headlines this past week after the Trump indictment, but there is one issue key to protecting our votes missing from those headlines: transparency in campaign spending. In Georgia, we believe all voters have a right to know when wealthy special interests are spending big to influence our vote. Unfortunately, the Federal Election Commission, the agency tasked with enforcing federal campaign finance laws, has failed Georgia voters and left us in the dark about an out-of-state group that illegally spent untold sums to try and stop some of us from voting in the 2021 U.S. Senate runoff elections.

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