Politics

Barack Obama small Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.JPG* Spitzer may — or make that will — resign today. [CNN; New York Times]
* Obama wins Mississippi, picks up more Texas delegates than Clinton. [CNN]
* Gitmo war-crimes tribunal to hear detainee’s case. [MSNBC]
* Houses passes proposal to create independent ethics panel. [Washington Post]
* Another French trader taken into custody in connection with gigantic trading scandal. [AP]
* Irish appeals court chews up, spits out, libel ruling against restaurant critic. [AFP via Drudge]

Eliot Spitzer Governor Eliot Spitzer prostitute prostitution Above the Law blog.jpgThe scandal surrounding New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who allegedly patronized prostitutes, raises an interesting issue. It surfaced in some of the comments to yesterday’s posts, and it’s raised in the defense of Governor Spitzer offered by his former law professor, Alan Dershowitz, on CNN:

“I don’t think he should face criminal charges for federal charges for the actual sex act itself…. I know nothing about the financial aspects of it. But this is a traditional state misdemeanor case. And, if anything, he should be charged with a class-B misdemeanor, which is a very, very slight offense, because being a john to an adult prostitute who was making $3,000 to $4,000 or $5,000 sounds to me very much like a victimless crime.”

This raises the question: Should prostitution even be a crime?
Of course, some of the outrage over Governor Spitzer’s case relates to potential hypocrisy. As New York Attorney General, he prosecuted prostitution rings, and condemned them in harsh language. But setting aside the hypocrisy issue, should what he’s accused of doing be a criminal offense?
Or should prostitution perhaps be decriminalized? Take our poll:

animated siren gif animated siren gif animated siren gif drudge report.GIFGuess we picked our Lawyer of the Day too soon.
Update (2:30 PM): Press conference scheduled for 2:15 p.m., but Governor Spitzer is running 15 minutes late. “I don’t blame him,” said Ben Smith of the Politico, interviewed just now on CNN.
Update (2:35 PM): Jeffrey Toobin, who was an HLS classmate of Eliot Spitzer, described the news as “a total shock.” He said Spitzer has been “nothing but a straight arrow” for many years.
Update (2:50 PM): Still no press conference. Brooke Masters, author of Spoiling for a Fight: The Rise of Eliot Spitzer, was just interviewed on CNN. She noted that this scandal comes at a bad time for Spitzer politically, in the wake of last year’s scandal involving his misuse of the State Police for political purposes.
Update (3 PM): We’re stepping away for a bit, to give a talk at Stanford Law School. We’ll be back online as soon as we can. Some content will be posted while we’re gone (material prepared ahead of time, not Spitzer updates).
Developing… Check back for updates.
Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring [New York TImes]

Samantha Power.jpgWe updated our original post from this morning about Samantha Power calling Hillary Clinton a “monster,” but it’s a big enough development to cover in a separate post. So here we go.

Professor Power, rumored love interest of Cass Sunstein, resigned from the Obama campaign because of her tawdry remarks about Hillary Clinton in an interview earlier this week. She also apologized publicly:

“With deep regret, I am resigning from my role as an adviser the Obama campaign effective today,” Ms. Power said in a statement released by the campaign. “Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign. And I extend my deepest apologies to Senator Clinton, Senator Obama, and the remarkable team I have worked with over these long 14 months.”

Obama Aide Resigns for Calling Clinton a ‘Monster’ [New York Times]

Power.jpgThat statement was made by Samantha Power, a top foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama and new-ish love interest of Professor Cass Sunstein. Sunstein recently accepted a position at Harvard Law, leaving behind in Chicago his ex, philosopher Martha Nussbaum. Bossman David Lat posted all the gossip about the academic love triangle here.

Power, pictured, let her words slip during an interview in London with The Scotsman yesterday. Other tasty bits from that interview:

“We f**ked up in Ohio,” she admitted.

“You just look at her [Clinton] and think, ‘Ergh’.

Apparently Power was under the impression that her remarks were “off the record,” and therefore couldn’t be attributed to her. The interview was actually totally on the record, and The Scotsman gives an explanation at the bottom of the link.

UPDATE: Power has resigned from the Obama campaign, effective immediately. See here.

‘Hillary Clinton’s a monster’: Obama Aid Blurts out Attack in Scotsman Interview [The Scotsman]

Linda Greenhouse 6 New York Times Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpg* Linda Greenhouse to $300K! [New York Observer via ABA Journal]
* Duties of a law school dean: attend parties, appear at conferences, talk to alums. And don’t forget the herding of cats — aka law professors. [TJ's Double Play]
* Even law review editors screw up sometimes. “Constructive acceptance”? [Concurring Opinions]
* Who’d have thunk it? Sometimes blogging can help people. And stuff. [Legal Blog Watch]
* Ethan Leib dresses up as a giant chicken to teach Contracts, thereby guaranteeing ABA accreditation. [PrawfsBlawg]
* Orin Kerr points out online interviews “with eight of the nine current Supreme Court Justices (all but Souter) about legal writing, advocacy, and the process of deciding cases and writing opinions.” [Volokh Conspiracy]
* Ann Althouse on John McCain and being a “natural-born citizen.” [Althouse]
* Hillary to Russert: You can’t handle the truth! About my tax returns. [TaxProf Blog]

John McCain Senator John McCain Above the Law blog.jpgAlthough many believe he was carried down to earth by a choir of angels, the taxalicious Barack Obama was actually born in Hawaii. So he doesn’t face the same sticky question about presidential eligibility that John McCain confronts. From the New York Times:

The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.

Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.

To address the question, the McCain camp hired the best legal talent money can buy:

But given mounting interest, the campaign recently asked Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general now advising Mr. McCain, to prepare a detailed legal analysis. “I don’t have much doubt about it,” said Mr. Olson, who added, though, that he still needed to finish his research.

So, what do you think? Take our reader poll. We realize you probably haven’t researched the issue. But not having completed his research — i.e., “my recent SCOTUS-clerk associate is still surfing Westlaw” — didn’t stop Ted Olson from having an opinion.
One ATL tipster had this quick take: “SCOTUS seems kinda gray, but going by the Insular Cases…it ain’t lookin’ good. Maybe an open thread for people to comment and discuss?”


McCain’s Canal Zone Birth Prompts Queries About Whether That Rules Him Out [New York Times]
Does John McCain Have a Birthplace Problem? [WSJ Law Blog]

Barack Obama Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.jpg[Ed. note: Yesterday's guest post about how Barack Obama's tax plan might affect Biglaw associates, authored by Ted Frank, generated a record number of comments on ATL: 564 (and counting). It also generated lots of reaction throughout the blogosphere (links collected below). So we thought we'd invite Ted to do a follow-up.]
Here it is. Ted wrote it in response to the following reader email, which makes many of the arguments that surfaced in the 564+ comments. From an Obama defender:

I’m sorry, but you are losing your credibility by posting this false propaganda on Obama. Look at Obama’s website. It clearly states, “Asked About Raising the Cap, Obama said, ‘You Might Have the Equivalent of a Doughnut Hole’–NOT That He Would Completely Remove the Cap.” Obama “has stated in various venues that ‘his inclination… has been for a ‘donut’ where the uncapping would take place above some threshold income level — probably around $200,000 or $250,000′ his economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said in an email. A donut would protect a certain portion of income (e.g., between $100,000 and $200,000) from the payroll tax and could be phased in over decades.”

In addition, that “$34,000 paycut” in the post title is misleading. Even if all your assumptions were correct (which they weren’t), the after tax pay cut under Obama is < $20,000. I love your site, but please correct this ridiculous false article before you lose all credibility.

And now, without further ado, Ted Frank.
* * * * * * * * * *
First, as I show in the spreadsheet, a $20,000 tax increase is the equivalent of a $34,000 before-tax paycut for a New York City resident, which would have the same after-tax effect. The $34,000 figure is accurate: that’s just math. The Obama tax plan would have the same effect on a NYC fifth-year associate being paid market as a $34,000 paycut.
Obama has never said he will have a doughnut-hole, only that his SS tax could include a doughnut-hole. When Hillary Clinton attacked Obama at the November 15 Nevada debate for wanting to eliminate the cap, Obama didn’t say that the attack was incorrect; he defended the policy because eliminating the cap would only affect what he called the “upper class.” The press has accurately reported that Obama has also proposed eliminating the cap; even Obama’s own website links to a thinktank’s analysis of the benefits of a cap elimination.
It would be really easy for Obama to promise to include a “doughnut-hole” or to not eliminate the SS-tax cap. He certainly hasn’t been afraid to promise drastically expensive programs of new spending or even tax giveaways to large swaths of the population who aren’t paying much tax now.
But when it comes to Social Security, Obama is suddenly vague; when he does discuss details, it is to cite examples (e.g., Warren Buffett) that could not be accomplished without eliminating the cap entirely. And the only reason a politician acts that way is because he supports the more drastic, politically unpopular plan, but doesn’t want to get tagged with it before the election, and will say after the election “I only said I would ‘consider’ a doughnut-hole.”
How Barack Obama’s Tax Plan Will Affect You [Microsoft Excel file]
Additional discussion and links, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “NY to… 147K? More About Barack Obama’s Tax Plan
(Or: Time to make the donuts?)”

Barack Obama Senator Barack Hussein Obama Above the Law blog.jpg[Ed. note: Today we bring you some "news you can use": a practical look at how political choices might affect your personal finances. This post is by Ted Frank, who blogs at Overlawyered.com and PointofLaw.com, and who has guest edited ATL in the past. Take it away, Ted.]
BigLaw lawyers love Obama. If one searches by law firm various databases on-line for campaign contributions, one sees an overwhelming sea of blue, and most of it to Obama.
But how will Obama affect BigLaw wallets? On Above the Law, we regularly see commenters threaten to abandon law firms for falling $5,000/year short of market. I therefore thought it worthwhile to examine the effects of Obama’s tax and spending plans on take-home pay.
We all know that Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts. That is a 3% bump across the board to the bad old days when associates faced a marginal federal tax rate of 36%.
But the real hidden tax is that Obama plans to end the social-security tax cap. Right now, you may notice, sometime during the summer or early fall, your take-home pay suddenly goes up because they stop deducting FICA. Current law caps social security taxes: in 2008, the cap is at $102,000. Obama proposes to abolish this. That mid-summer bump will be no more: add about several thousand dollars to your annual tax bill.
But social-security taxes are not only on employees. The government also charges 6.2% to employers that you never see on your W-2s. But rest assured the partners see this, and will notice that the expense of keeping an associate has risen several thousand dollars a year when FICA taxes double and triple. Will they swallow that additional expense, or take it out of your bonus?
Find out, after the jump (or click here).

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Obama, BigLaw, and Taxes
(Or: Obama = $34,000 Paycut)”

Draft Lessig Change Congress Professor Lawrence Lessig Larry Lessig Above the Law blog.jpgThe stereotypical law professor might be viewed as too disengaged from the “real world” to be a good politician. But as Barack Obama shows, it’s quite possible to move from legal academia into political life.
Now another prominent young law prof — who, by the way, is an outspoken Obama supporter — is contemplating Congress. From a Stanford Law School source:

Larry Lessig is considering a congressional run to replace Tom Lantos. Seems to have sparked a lot of energy and attention here on campus and in the Silicon Valley the last day or two.

No discussion yet about what happens to his Con Law class if he decides to run.

As Professor Lessig recently told the WSJ Law Blog, he wants to change the political process, primarily by reducing the influence of money and lobbyists on policy decisions. And what better way to reform the system than from within?
If you’re interested in expressing support for Professor Lessig, check out the links collected below. The Draft Lessig Facebook group already has over 3,000 members — but surely they’d welcome more.
Lessig ’08 [official website]
Draft Lessig – Change Congress
Draft Lessig for Congress [Facebook]
Law Blog Q&A With Lawrence Lessig [WSJ Law Blog]

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