This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in McCutcheon v. FEC. In McCutcheon, the Court will rule on whether certain campaign finance restrictions violate the First Amendment. ATL’s Joe Patrice offered his thoughts on the oral arguments yesterday. Today, I offer an alternative perspective.
Currently, byzantine election laws restrict the total political contributions that a person can make in a two-year period, as well as the number of candidates a person can contribute the maximum amount to. The plaintiff, Shaun McCutcheon, is a suburban Alabama businessman, the owner and founder of an electrical engineering firm. McCutcheon wanted to contribute $1,776 (a very patriotic sum, indeed) to 27 candidates across the country. Each of those individual contributions in isolation was legal, falling below the $2,600 maximum amount allowed for individual contributions. Yet, had McCutcheon done so, his total contributions would have run afoul of the maximum total allowed, currently $48,600.
Supporting political causes and candidates of your choice is an exercise of your First Amendment rights. Like all constitutional rights, though, it is subject to an overriding compelling governmental interest. In the case of campaign finance restrictions, your speech rights are trumped by the government’s interest in preventing political corruption or the appearance of political corruption.
Here, McCutcheon was expressing his political values, innocently — even laudably — participating in the democratic electoral process as he contributed up to 2600 bucks to individual candidates . . . until he supported one candidate too many. Suddenly, the First Amendment no longer safeguards his political expression. Suddenly, the threat of corruption or the appearance of corruption is so great that democracy just cannot stand if Shaun McCutcheon is allowed to give a penny more to support a candidate who shares his values….
Supreme Court arguments are off and running, and the Supremes wasted no time in getting to the fun stuff. In this instance, it’s McCutcheon v. FEC, the case billed as Citizens United II: Electric Boogaloo. The conservative wing of the Court is expected to side with McCutcheon in its continuing war to make American elections safe for multi-millionaires.
Anyway, the oral argument was marked by the usual humorous sniping amongst the justices and lots of fun exchanges where counsel and the conservative justices worked overtime to subordinate reality to ideology. Up to and including Justice Scalia arguing that $3.5 million isn’t that much money for one individual to spend on an election.
Here are 3 immediate, largely stream-of-consciousness thoughts based on reading the transcript (available at the end of the post) coming out of this oral argument:
* Dr. Shiping Bao, the medical examiner in the Zimmerman trial, claims that Florida state prosecutors were biased against Trayvon Martin and purposely threw the case and now he’s suing. While it’s hard to believe a prosecution could be that bad absent purposeful mismanagement, Bao’s allegations conveniently surfaced right after he was fired. [News One]
* An explanation of what happened in the Colorado recalls last night. Basically, David Kopel argues that it was a victory for the Second Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment. It was also a victory for the idea that “democracy” should be replaced by “scheduling off-elections to minimize the representative sample of the voting populace.” Yay! [The Volokh Conspiracy]
Off-year primary day was yesterday. For political junkies, last night was kind of like the Hall of Fame game that kicks off the NFL preseason and signifies that football is back. For non-junkies, last night was a pointless exhibition.
The big national story from last night was don’t f**k with the NRA. I think we all knew that already, but two Colorado Senators were recalled for passing tough gun legislation in a state with enough mass shootings to be a province in Syria. The always excellent Election Law Blog puts these results in context. Essentially, these votes will give purple state Democrats even more reason to react to the NRA like most people react to an armed mugger: “Please, take my legislative agenda, just don’t hurt me.”
So ends my coverage of mythical places west of the Hudson. Here in New York City, we had a pretty big slate of primaries yesterday. Every primary is a lesson for the politicians, but this election cycle was also a lesson for political prosecutors. Those who seek to rise to power based on their skills at seeking justice for aggrieved citizens can learn a lot from yesterday’s results.
See if you can finish the joke: A black guy, a police commissioner, and Eliot Spitzer walk into a bar…
Ed. note: Above the Law will not be publishing on Monday, September 2, in observance of the Labor Day holiday.
* Municipal election fraud is being alleged in Tuscaloosa after a sorority bribed people with free drinks to get a University of Alabama Law grad elected (defeating the incumbent, another lawyer — and wife of a UA Law professor). The big question here is how f**king terrible is voter turnout in Tuscaloosa that a sorority can rig an election? [AL.com]
* A banned food truck launched a First Amendment suit after officials banned the truck for using an ethnic slur in the name. I haven’t seen a food truck shut down like that since “Steak Me Home Tonight.” [WSJ Law Blog]
* The NFL looks to London. Tax laws are one of many obstacles. [Grantland]
* Even the election law controversies are bigger in Texas. The Department of Justice is currently planning to intervene in one lawsuit and file another against the Lone Star state over its voter identification law and redistricting plans. [National Law Journal]
* Here’s an especially helpful ruling for people who have been living their lives without landlines (so, basically everyone). You can gratefully thank the Third Circuit for allowing you to block those annoying robocalls on your cellphones. [Legal Intelligencer]
* Well, that was quick — a Biglaw pump and dump, if you will. After only a year, David M. Bernick, former general counsel of Philip Morris, is leaving Boies Schiller and will likely be taking a position at Dechert. [DealBook / New York Times]
* “[L]ife got in the way.” Who really needs loyalty in Biglaw these days? More than half of the nearly 500 associates and counsel who made partner in 2013 started their careers at different firms. [Am Law Daily]
* Another one bites the dust. John McGahren, the New Jersey managing partner of Patton Boggs, just resigned from an office he opened himself after some major attorney downsizing. [New Jersey Law Journal]
* “In a community of 98,000 people and 640,000 partners, it isn’t possible to say there will never be wrongdoing.” Comforting. Microsoft is under the microscope of a federal bribery probe. [Corporate Counsel]
* Ronald Motley, a “charismatic master of the courtroom” who founded Motley Rice, RIP. [WSJ Law Blog]
I was on a fast-moving segment on HuffPost Live this afternoon called “Legalese It,” where host Mike Sacks runs through a bunch of overlooked legal items from the past week. Since I was on vacation for half of the week, I learned a lot! For instance, did you know that Michigan had an anti-begging statute on the books from the 1920s that was just struck down so they can put a big “Spare Some Change” sign in Detroit?
Okay, that’s not why it was struck down, but still. Also it seems that North Carolina is trying to restrict voting to five white guys chosen at random by Reince Priebus and Obama is now in favor of legislative prayer, as if nobody told him he can’t run for a third term.
Looks like I missed a lot, but that didn’t stop me from talking about it on the web. Specifically, I got to talk about how Eric Holder and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott are now friends when it comes to stopping USAIR and American Airlines from combining to own all the railroads on the Monopoly board…
* Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the legal wrangling: Eric Holder’s use of the VRA’s “bail in” provision to circumvent the SCOTUS ruling in Shelby may prove to be trouble. [National Law Journal]
* The Fifth Circuit upheld warrantless cellphone tracking yesterday, noting that it was “not per se unconstitutional.” We suppose that a per se victory for law enforcement is better than nothing. [New York Times]
* The pretty people at Davis Polk are fighting a $1.4 million suit over a headhunter’s fee with some pretty ugly words, alleging that the filing “fails both as a matter of law and common sense.” [Am Law Daily]
* Howard Dean is rather annoyed that he’s had to go on the defensive about his work for McKenna Long & Aldridge after railing against Obamacare. Ideally, he’d just like to scream and shout about it. [TIME]
* The ABA is concerned about Florida A&M, and sent a second warning about the school’s imminent failure to meet accreditation standards. Well, I’ll be damned, the ABA actually cares. [Orlando Sentinel]
* Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett is suing to prevent a clerk from issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. A silly little lawsuit won’t stop this guy from doing what he thinks is right. [Legal Intelligencer]
* This afternoon, O.J. Simpson pleaded with the parole board in Nevada. For now, the Juice is still on ice. [USA Today]
* Four South Korean firms allegedly fixed the price of ramen noodles for over a decade. You mean that s**t can be cheaper? [Courthouse News Service]
* Do you want to make sure the NSA can’t read your email? Join the NSA! [Lowering the Bar]
* Eric Holder is going forward with efforts to halt the new Texas voting requirements pursuant to the bail-in procedure. But how will he ever prove a substantial history of constitutional violations in Texas? [The Volokh Conspiracy]
* The Ninth Circuit has affirmed Judge Dolly Gee’s earlier denial of Fox’s request for a preliminary injunction against Dish Network over its special, ad-skipping DVR. It’s a testament to how much power the networks have thrown around that this is treated like an amazing new technology — I bought an ad-skipping DVR from ReplayTV in 2001. [The Verge]
* Chicagoland preacher facing federal fraud charges announces: “Because of Judge Sharon Coleman’s continual mocking of God’s ecclesiastical order and the sanctity of family/marriage, the wrath of God almighty shall soon visit her home.” Federal authorities were not amused. [Chicago Tribune]
* A NJ state judge declares that Atlantic City casinos can control the weight of its waitresses. Because overweight waitresses are the reason no one goes to Atlantic City anymore. [My Fox NY]
* Ed O’Bannon asks the NCAA to agree in writing not to retaliate against any current athlete that joins his lawsuit against the organization. How sad is it that a non-profit organization committed to helping students needs to be reminded not to retaliate against students? In other news, NCAA Football 14 (affiliate link) came out today. [USA Today]
* More SCOTUS Term analysis. Tom Goldstein, Adam Liptak, and Jess Bravin have been invited to explain to the Heritage Foundation what an awesome term it had. [Heritage]
* The Shelby County decision completely lacks any foundation for the argument that the Voting Rights Act violates the Constitution. Yeah, but besides that… [Lawyers, Guns & Money]
* What is wrong with soccer fans? Referee stabs player and then ends up like Ned Stark. [Legal Juice]
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things have changed recently in Korea – a few of our US and UK client firms are looking, very selectively, for a lateral US associate hire. Until just recently, there was not much hiring like this going on in Korea, since US and UK firms started opening offices there. We have already placed two US associates in Korea in the past month at top firms. Most of the hiring partners we work with in Korea do not actively work with other recruiters.
If you are a Korean fluent US associate in London, New York or another major US market, 2nd to 6th year, at a top 20 firm, with cap markets or M&A focus (or mix), or project finance background, and you are interested in lateraling to Korea to a top US or UK firm, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our head of Asia, Evan Jowers, was just in Korea recently, and Evan and Robert Kinney will be in Korea in a few weeks. We are in the process of helping several firms open new offices in Korea (a number of which are interviewing our partner level candidates) and also helping existing offices there fill openings.
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