Category Archives: Politics

The Supreme Court Gutted the Voting Rights Act. What Happened Next in These 8 States Will Not Shock You.

Source: Dana Liebelson, Mother Jones, April 8, 2014

When his court weakened the civil-rights-era law last year, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that “our country has changed.” We crunched the numbers. He was wrong. …. Before the Shelby County v. Holder decision came down on June 25, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required federal review of new voting rules in 15 states, most of them in the South. (In a few of these states, only specific counties or townships were covered.) Chief Justice John Roberts voted to gut the Voting Rights Act on the basis that “our country has changed,” and that blanket federal protection wasn’t needed to stop discrimination. But the country hasn’t changed as much as he may think.

We looked at how many of these 15 states passed or implemented voting restrictions after Section 5 was invalidated, compared to the states that were not covered by the law. (We defined “voting restriction” as passing or implementing a voter ID law, cutting voting hours, purging voter rolls, or ending same-day registration. Advocates criticize these kinds of laws for discriminating against low-income voters, young people, and minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats.) We found that 8 of the 15 states, or 53 percent, passed or implemented voting restrictions since June 25, compared to 3 of 35 states that were not covered under Section 5—or less than 9 percent. Additionally, a number of states not covered by the Voting Rights Act actually expanded voting rights in the same time period…..

McCutcheon Money: The Projected Impact of Striking Aggregate Contribution Limits

Source: Elizabeth Ridlington, Miles Unterreiner, Robert Hiltonsmith, Kurt Walters, Dēmos and United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), Policy Brief, October 4, 2013

From the summary:
…Under current case law, the Supreme Court should uphold aggregate contribution limits as a decades-old protection against corruption, the appearance of corruption, and circumvention of base contribution limits.

But the Roberts Court has been willing to toss precedent aside to gut campaign finance laws in the past. So it’s worth asking, what would be the practical effect if the Court strikes a federal contribution limit for the first time?

“McCutcheon Money”
We project that striking aggregate contribution limits would bring more than $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from elite donors through the 2020 election cycle. Elite donors are defined here as those who gave (or are projected to give) at, over, or within 10% of the aggregate contribution limit….

projected “McCutcheon Money”: giving by elite donors

Today Supreme Court Ruled For Another Flood Of Big Money
Source: United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), Press Release, April 2, 2014

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCutcheon v. FEC to strike down overall, or aggregate, contribution limits to candidates and political committees. U.S. PIRG research found that this ruling could bring $1 billion in additional campaign contributions from fewer than 2,800 elite donors through the 2020 election cycle.

McCutcheon: Another Blow to Democracy
Source: Jesse Wegman, New York Times, Taking Note blog, April 2, 2014

Scalia’s new disaster: Why McCutcheon decision is scarier than Citizens United
Source: David Earley, Salon, April 2, 2014

With landmark decision handed down today, here’s what to know about McCutcheon v. FEC — and its effects …

The Supreme Court Takes Another Step to Advance Money in Politics
Source: Elahe Izadi, National Journal, April 4, 2014
(subscription required)

A Supreme Court ruling Wednesday in the biggest campaign finance case since Citizens United has opened the door even further for unlimited money in politics.

The 1,000 donors most likely to benefit from McCutcheon — and what they are most likely to do
Source: Lee Drutman, Sunlight Foundation, October 2, 2013

…So who are the top 1,000 donors who will be in highest demand? Here are four observations about their behavior in 2012:
– Top 1,000 donors are partisan donors
– Almost 2/3 of the Top 1,000 donors primarily support Republicans
– Top 1,000 donors gave primarily to super PACs in 2012
– More than a third of Top 1,000 donors came from the financial sector…

Politics, Promises, and Partisanship? An Analysis of President Obama’s Economic Stimulus Plan at the Congressional District Level

Source: Richard S. Conley, Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs, Volume 1, Issue 3, December 2013

From the abstract:
This research focuses on President Obama’s signature economic plan adopted in February 2009—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Using data available from, the analysis refines prior efforts to test the thesis that partisanship has played a central role in the distribution of funds across congressional districts by distinguishing between total spending on infrastructure and non-infrastructure programs as of the end of the second quarter of 2010. Further, this research examines not only political and demographic factors relative to the locus of stimulus fund expenditures but also the expected and actual employment impact of ARRA by district. The analysis provides little evidence for the partisan theory of stimulus spending. Rather, the results accentuate the demographic characteristics of the districts that have thus far received stimulus money and putatively benefitted from the most jobs, in some ways counter to what the White House may have intended due to the complexities of fiscal federalism.

Theses toward the development of left labor strategy

Source: Bill Fletcher, Talking Union blog, March 26, 2014

Preface: The following is what used to be termed a “struggle paper,” i.e., a paper presented as an argument for a position. It is not presented as a final position, however. It is, instead, inspired by the content of the February Left Strategies web discussion on the labor movement. This paper does not try to present the ideal tactics or all elements of strategy. It does, however, attempt to identify–for purposes of discussion–issues and concepts for consideration in the development of a full-blown left labor strategy. Feedback is welcomed.

Social capital, ideology, and health in the United States

Source: Mitchel N. Herian, Louis Tay, Joseph A. Hamm, Ed Diener
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Research from across disciplines has demonstrated that social and political contextual factors at the national and subnational levels can impact the health and health behavior risks of individuals. This paper examines the impact of state-level social capital and ideology on individual-level health outcomes in the U.S. Leveraging the variation that exists across states in the U.S., the results reveal that individuals report better health in states with higher levels of governmental liberalism and in states with higher levels of social capital. Critically, however, the effect of social capital was moderated by liberalism such that social capital was a stronger predictor of health in states with low levels of liberalism. We interpret this finding to mean that social capital within a political unit—as indicated by measures of interpersonal trust—can serve as a substitute for the beneficial impacts that might result from an active governmental structure.

• Higher levels of health are reported in states with high levels of social capital.
• High levels of liberalism at the state level are associated with reports of better health.
• Social capital has the greatest positive impact upon the health of individuals in states with low levels of liberalism.
Is Liberalism Good for Your Health?
Source: Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, 25, 2014

A new study finds that politically liberal states tend to have healthier populations.

Forces of Divergence – Is surging inequality endemic to capitalism?

Source: John Cassidy, New Yorker, March 31, 2014

….What are the “forces of divergence” that produce enormous riches for some and leave the majority scrabbling to make a decent living? Piketty is clear that there are different factors behind stagnation in the middle and riches at the top. But, during periods of modest economic growth, such as the one that many advanced economies have experienced in recent decades, income tends to shift from labor to capital. Because of enmeshed economic, social, and political pressures, Piketty fears “levels of inequality never before seen.”

To back up his arguments, he provides a trove of data. He and Saez pioneered the construction of simple charts showing the shares of over-all income received by the richest ten per cent, the richest one per cent, and, even, the richest 0.1 per cent. When the data are presented in this way, Piketty notes, it is easy for people to “grasp their position in the contemporary hierarchy (always a useful exercise, particularly when one belongs to the upper centiles of the distribution and tends to forget it, as is often the case with economists).” Anybody who reads the newspaper will be aware that, in the United States, the “one per cent” is taking an ever-larger slice of the economic pie. But did you know that the share of the top income percentile is bigger than it was in South Africa in the nineteen-sixties and about the same as it is in Colombia, another deeply divided society, today? In terms of income generated by work, the level of inequality in the United States is “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world,” Piketty writes…..

….In the United States, the story was less dramatic but broadly similar. The Great Depression wiped out a lot of dynastic wealth, and it also led to a policy revolution. During the nineteen-thirties and forties, Piketty reminds us, Roosevelt raised the top rate of income tax to more than ninety per cent and the tax on large estates to more than seventy per cent. The federal government set minimum wages in many industries, and it encouraged the growth of trade unions. In the decades after the war, it spent heavily on infrastructure, such as interstate highways, which boosted G.D.P. growth. Fearful of spurring public outrage, firms kept the pay of their senior executives in check. Inequality started to rise again only when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan led a conservative counter-revolution that slashed tax rates on the rich, decimated the unions, and sought to restrain the growth of government expenditures. Politics and income distribution are two sides of the same coin…..

Detaining Democracy? Criminal Justice and American Civic Life

Source: Edited by: Christopher Wildeman, Jacob S. Hacker and Vesla M. Weaver, ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, January 2014
(subscription required)

From the extract:
“We Mail Books to Prison.” So reads the sign adorning the window of a bookshop tucked away in a struggling corner of Trenton, New Jersey. It communicates the obvious—an available service—but also something less innocuous: many of the shop’s customers have loved ones in prison. It communicates something else, too: the effects of prison are not as distant from this troubled neighborhood as the prison itself might be. Following the opposite course of the books, the effects of incarceration feed back into the communities from which prisoners come and to which most of them will return. In a nation where the capacity to punish and surveil has witnessed stunning expansion over the last generation, “We Mail Books to Prison” is a reminder that the state’s role as arbiter and enforcer of criminal law now represents one of the most powerful influences on the social and civic fabric of communities across the nation, affecting everything from the socialization of children to the political participation of residents.

We live in the midst of what may be the most visible and transformative government intervention since the 1960s. The number of prisoners has multiplied fivefold in just 35 years. At the same time, other types of criminal justice contact—from the use of misdemeanor charges (Natapoff 2012) to stop-and-frisks (to brief detentions based on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity rather than probable cause)—have dramatically increased as well (Fagan et al. 2010). In the words of historian William Novak, “The power of the U.S. government to regulate, study, order, discipline, and punish its citizens . . . has never been greater” (2008, 760).

This power has not been felt equally by all Americans. For most, it is virtually invisible. For men of color—especially those who reside in the poorest neighborhoods—and for the people close to ….

Articles include:
Incarceration and Social Inequality: Challenges and Directions for Future Research
by Kristin Turney

Mass Imprisonment and Trust in the Law
by Christopher Muller and Daniel Schrage

How the Criminal Justice System Educates Citizens
by Benjamin Justice and Tracey L. Meares

Detention, Democracy, and Inequality in a Divided Society

by Glenn C. Loury

Do Voting Rights Notification Laws Increase Ex-Felon Turnout?
by Marc Meredith and Michael Morse

Locked In? Conservative Reform and the Future of Mass Incarceration
by David Dagan and Steven M. Teles

Incarceration, Inequality, and Imagining Alternatives
by Bruce Western

Mass Incarceration and American Democracy
Source: Scholars Strategy Network, Scholar Spotlight, 2014

The Speech and Association Rights of Employees: Implications of Knox v. SEIU, Local 1000 and Harris v. Quinn

Source: Catherine Fisk, Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Irvine School of Law, Research Paper No. 2014-13, February 12, 2014

From the abstract:
In 2012, the Supreme Court held in Knox v. SEIU, Local 1000 that a union representing government employees may assess money from the employees whom it represents to support political activity only if those employees first opt in to supporting political expenditures. In reaching this holding, the Court reasoned that public sector employees have a First Amendment right to refuse to contribute money to support the political speech of their union and that protection of that First Amendment right requires states to allow such assessments only if the employees first opt to make a financial contribution. Knox is the latest in a long series of Supreme Court cases delineating when a union selected as the exclusive bargaining representative by the majority of employees in a workplace violates the First Amendment rights of dissenting employees by acting on behalf of the majority. The Court’s next case in this line, Harris v. Quinn, which was argued in January and will be decided later this year, presents the question whether home care workers who are state employees have a First Amendment right to refuse to pay the union anything for the services the union is statutorily obligated to provide them. The petitioners in Harris invite the Court to overrule decades of precedent and hold that the First Amendment prohibits a union representing government employees from collecting dues or fees from dissenting employees. In colloquial terms, the petitioners in Harris seek to have the Supreme Court declare that, as a matter of the First Amendment, all government employment must be on a “right-to-work” basis. The petitioners in Harris argued that bargaining on behalf of employees is petitioning the government and “political in nature” even when it addresses wages, and it violates the First Amendment to require dissenting employees to support the union’s bargaining. As the Justices recognized at oral argument, the logical extension of the petitioners’ argument is that the First Amendment invalidates any statute allowing employees to bargain collectively on the basis of exclusive representation. While the petitioners noted that the Harris case itself did not require the Court to consider whether empowering a union to be the exclusive representative of employees for purposes of negotiating wages and working conditions necessarily involves compelled speech with respect to those employees who disagree with the majority representative’s positions, their brief invited the Court to find collective bargaining on the basis of exclusive representation to be unconstitutional. This article analyzes Harris, Knox, and other leading Court cases to assess union representation and the First Amendment, contradictions in applied standards of associational speech, and the future of public sector collective bargaining.

Congressional Officials Grant Access Due To Campaign Contributions: A Randomized Field Experiment

Source: Joshua L. Kalla – Yale and David E. Broockman – University of California, Berkeley, 2014

Concern that lawmakers grant preferential treatment to individuals because they have contributed to political campaigns has long occupied jurists, scholars, and the public. However, the effect s of campaign contributions on legislators’ behavior have proven notoriously difficult to assess. We report the first randomized field experiment on the topic. In the experiment, a political organization attempted to schedule meetings between 191 Members of Congress and their constituents who had contributed to political campaigns. However, the organization randomly assigned whether it informed legislators’ offices that individuals who would attend the meetings were contributors. Congressional offices made considerably more senior officials available for meetings when offices were informed the attendees were donors, with senior officials attending such meetings more than three times as often. Influential policymakers thus appear to make themselves much more accessible to individuals because they have contributed to campaigns, even in the absence of quid pro quo arrangements. These findings have significant implications for ongoing legal and legislative de bates. The hypothesis that individuals can command greater attention from influential policymakers by contributing to campaigns has been among the most contested explanations for how financial resources translate into political power. The simple but revealing experiment presented here elevates this hypothesis from extensively contested to scientifically supported.

Waging a successful library funding campaign: a case study

Source: Brent S. Roberts, Cheryl L. Hoover, Library Management, Vol. 35 no. 3, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Purpose – To identify common arguments and points of resistance to library development projects, and to outline effective political and communication strategies, which can be used by library administrators and supporters when pursuing funding campaigns.

Design/methodology/approach – This study analyzed media messages from local newspaper and radio stations, including open comments posted in online discussion threads, over a one-year period. Interviews were also conducted with the library’s director and foundation development officer.

Findings – Analysis of media coverage drew out primary points of resistance, while the interviews provided strategies utilized to counteract anti-library rhetoric.

Research limitations/implications – Further comparison with other library funding campaigns is needed. Particular areas to be studied include the relationship between the tone of online discussion forum posts and actual voting results; also, the impact of strongly opinionated posters on other participants.

Practical implications – Library administrators seeking public support should strongly consider the following points which contributed to the success of the campaign analyzed in this article: –The need to understand common public responses and points of resistance to proposed library projects. –The importance of a supportive city council. –The need to reduce uncertainty about potential physical locations. –Understanding the distinction between political vs. marketing campaigns. –Identifying potential supporters, regardless of whether they were library users….