Daily Media Links 3/9: Corruption case against Sen. Robert Menendez could be tough to make. Asking Megadonors for Just a Million, and more…

March 9, 2015   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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In the News

Salt Lake Tribune: Letter: Campaign limits do not reduce corruption 
By Scott Blackburn
There is no correlation between contribution limits and less corruption, good government, or trust in government across the 50 states. There are six states with no contribution limits at all (your article mistakenly cited only four, but there are six — Alabama, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon, Utah and Virginia). Those states compose four of the top 10 best governed states and three of the top 10 least corrupt states.  
If you consider also the additional six states that impose limits on only corporate and union giving, the data are even more convincing. The notion that individual contribution limits to candidates either prevent corruption or encourage good government may be intuitive, but it is simply not supported by the facts.  
 
Senator Menendez Roundup 

NY Times: Menendez Is to Face Corruption Charges, U.S. Official Says 
By Kate Zernike and Matt Apuzzo
The Justice Department is preparing to file corruption charges against Senator Robert Menendez, a scrappy 61-year-old veteran of New Jersey politics, after a two-year investigation into allegations that he accepted gifts and lavish vacations in exchange for political favors for a longtime friend and political benefactor.
A law enforcement official said on Friday that the charges would be filed within a month against Mr. Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, who rose from a childhood in the tenements to become the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is now the highest-ranking Latino Democrat in Congress.
With the senator aggressively raising money for a legal-defense fund for more than a year now, charges against him had long been anticipated. But even in New Jersey, a state with a long history of political corruption, the case is jarring.
Wall Street Journal: The Menendez Charges: The timing has produced skepticism on the right and left.
Editorial
The partisan default in cases of alleged political corruption is for everyone of the opposite party or philosophy to pile on. So it speaks volumes about the lost credibility of President Obama ’s Justice Department that last week’s leaks to the media that federal charges are being prepared against Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has produced skepticism across the ideological divide. 
It’s impossible to judge the charges without a formal indictment, and Mr. Menendez is from New Jersey, which rivals Chicago as a laugh line about political corruption. The stories say Mr. Menendez will be charged with using his office to aid a friend and donor, Florida eye-doctor Salomon Melgen, with federal business. Mr. Menendez responded by saying, “I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law.”
The skepticism results from the politicized nature of Eric Holder ’s Justice Department as well as previous abuses in its Public Integrity Section. Recall the indictment of the late Senator Ted Stevens in the middle of his re-election campaign in 2008. His conviction was set aside after a judge found the prosecution had withheld “significant” exculpatory evidence.
Wall Street Journal: Menendez Is Poised for a Fight 
By Heather Haddon and  Josh Dawsey
Sen. Bob Menendez has weathered rumors and a previous investigation, and allies say he is confident he will prevail in the latest probe he is facing. 
So after news broke Friday that federal investigators were readying criminal charges against the powerful New Jersey Democrat, no one was ready to detail a post-Menendez era. 
State Democrats warned that any speculation about possible successors for the battle-tested senator was premature. 
 
Washington Post: Corruption case against Sen. Robert Menendez could be tough to make  
By Mike DeBonis
If federal prosecutors pursue corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez, they will face a difficult — but not impossible — task in making their case.
Members of Congress accused of trading their official actions for personal gifts or campaign donations, as prosecutors are suggesting Menendez (D-N.J.) may have done, can rely on several legal defenses to stave off a conviction, experts say.
A federal official said Friday that charges are expected to be filed against Menendez, whose relationship with donor Salomon Melgen has been under scrutiny for more than two years.
 
Washington Post: Timeline: The investigations into Sen. Robert Menendez  
By Mike DeBonis
Friday’s revelations of impending federal corruption charges against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) are the culmination of more than two years of questions about the senator’s relationship with a key campaign donor.  
 
Tax Financing

NY Times: Asking Megadonors for Just a Million 
Editorial
Sadly, the money bingeing by both parties coincides in Congress with a Republican proposal to repeal the presidential public financing system. This was a historic safeguard passed after Watergate that served the nation well for 25 years, until major candidates started opting out because of the system’s frozen subsidies. It contained the costs of presidential politics and held back the tide of plutocratic politicking now threatening elections.
The public financing system should be repaired, not interred, but the money frenzy sparked by the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision in 2010 has lawmakers yielding to rich donors.
One cause for hope is the Justice Department’s vow to take a tougher approach to campaign laws now systematically violated by politicians and fund-raisers who know they have nothing to fear from the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission. The department won a rare campaign law conviction last month, of a Virginia Republican operative for colluding with a supposedly independent political action committee. “We strongly encourage party or campaign insiders to come forward,” a Justice Department spokesman said as the political season moved forward at the steepest price yet in American history.
 
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Lexington Herald Leader: At Rand Paul’s request, Republican committee gives green light to caucus 
By Sam Youngman
BOWLING GREEN — It looks increasingly like Kentucky Republicans will have a presidential caucus next year, when it seems just as likely that a Kentucky Republican will be running for president.
While most of the state was focused on the Kentucky Wildcats’ quest for a perfect season Saturday, about 50 members of the Republican Party of Kentucky’s executive committee met behind closed doors for about two hours, listening to Paul and his staff make their case for a presidential caucus.
In the days and weeks since Paul formally asked the committee to approve a caucus, which would help Paul clear at least some hurdles to running for both his U.S. Senate seat and the presidency next year, a number of Republicans expressed concern about moving to a caucus, raising questions about costs and participation.
 
Reuters:  With a nod and a wink, Republicans build 2016 campaign machines 
By Emily Flitter
Asked last week about his agenda if elected, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker began: “Should I choose to be a candidate…”
Then he added with a grin: “My lawyers love it when I say that.”
Like the other would-be Republican candidates who took the stage over three days in Washington at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Wisconsin governor studiously avoided mentioning any plans for the 2016 presidential election.
 
Politico: Hillary in Nixon’s shadow  
By Todd S. Purdum
“In some ways, this is no different,” he added. “But Nixon’s motivation was to record history, frankly. Her motivation was to control history. It’s obvious that she was wary of having her fate in the hands of other people, and it just underscores the secretiveness that she’s had for years, and how wary she is, looking over her shoulder.”
There is, of course, a bitter paradox in the fact that Clinton, as a young staffer on the House Judiciary Committee, actually worked on Nixon’s impeachment. Yet to Clinton’s critics, comparisons between the two flow — easily. Rep. Pete Roskam (R-Ill.), a member of the select committee on Benghazi, issued a statement declaring, “The last time we saw a high government official seeking to edit their responses was President Nixon,” adding – with dubious historical accuracy – “and at least then he enjoyed the benefit of executive privilege.”
To be fair, Clinton’s motives remain unclear. Her only comment about the matter so far has been a Tweet saying she wants the State Department to release the emails. But it’s worth noting that the laws and rules governing the permanent retention of executive branch records were put in place 40 years ago precisely because Nixon tried to take his with him, then waged a decades-long battle over who owned his papers.
 
State and Local

New York –– NY Times: A Secret Indictment Over Errors That Have Rarely Been Crimes 
By Jim Dwyer
She has been secretly indicted by a grand jury run by a special prosecutor who was secretly selected to investigate campaign finance filings from 2009, according to her lawyer, Charles A. Ross.
Two other people, David Jones and David Thomas, have already been publicly charged by the special prosecutor, Roger Bennet Adler. Ms. Goodman, whose name is blacked out in the indictment, will join them at arraignment. She is basically accused of purposely submitting erroneous paperwork to the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
For all parties, this is a matter that could have been an episode of “The Twilight Zone,” full of weirdness: what appears to be a first-of-its-kind case brought over errors that happen in many, many campaigns across the city. Normally, these errors are caught by the Campaign Finance Board, which audits political spending. The paperwork is then refiled with the proper information.

Scott Blackburn

https://www.ifs.org/author/sblackburn/

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