Latest News: Small Donor Democracy, Electronic Privacy, and more

March 14, 2013

Cuomo Calls for Public Matching Funds in Campaigns

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for a system of a small donor matching funds at a lunch for business and civic leaders Friday. “People get, especially after President Obama’s election, the power of small donors,” Cuomo said. “The nation is watching New York,” added Brennan Center President Michael Waldman in his remarks introducing the governor. Cuomo’s plan is based on New York City’s successful program of multiple matching funds for small donors. The event — sponsored by the Brennan Center, the Committee for Economic Development, and NY LEAD, among others — also featured a panel discussion examining the pernicious role of big money in New York State elections. See video and photos. Read more at The New York Times.

Ninth Circuit Backs Electronic Privacy

In a “watershed” decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals voted 8-3 that border agents must have “reasonable suspicion” to execute extensive searches of electronic devices. The Brennan Center, which served as amicus counsel, praised the decision. “This rule is really designed for electronic border searches and the fundamental difference between your briefcase and your laptop: The idea that you can hold your entire life in your laptop, not your briefcase,” Michael Price told Wired. “That is something the Ninth Circuit is saying is recognized by the Fourth Amendment.” Read more at Politico and The Washington Times.

Supreme Court Set to Hear Second Key Voting Challenge

Monday, the Supreme Court is expected to hear another critical voting rights case, Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council Arizona. The dispute concerns a restrictive Arizona voter registration law, which was behind the rejection of tens of thousands of applicants, in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (also known as the “Motor Voter” law). “Motor Voter” provides a simple, uniform voter registration form, but Arizona opted to include additional requirements in violation of federal law. In an amicus brief, the Brennan Center argues the Constitution’s Elections Clause gives Congress the power to enact measures protecting the right to vote that can override state requirements. Read more here.

The argument comes just weeks after the Court heard a challenge to the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.  Days after the Shelby County hearing, Nicole Austin-Hillery (left, with Rep. John Lewis) joined a congressional delegation in Alabama commemorating “Bloody Sunday, the March 7, 1965 attack on civil rights protesters. She wrote about her experience in The Washington Post.

Brennan Center Fellow Andrew Cohen Calls for Judicial Independence

After the Washington state supreme court overturned a measure requiring a legislative “supermajority” to raise taxes, GOP state lawmakers retaliated, introducing a bill to cut the number of justices from nine to five. In his second column as a Brennan Center fellow, legal commentator Andrew Cohen (right) called the response a threat to judicial independence. “To the justices in Olympia, Washington, the message of the ‘court unpacking plan’ is clear: if you render decisions which are unpopular, or which are at least unpopular along a particular portion of the political spectrum, you may lose your job.” Cohen, who joined the Brennan Center earlier this month as a fellow, will write a weekly column for the website and contribute to its coverage of breaking news.

From the Brennan Center Blog

Rand Paul’s Talking Filibuster Highlights Senate Obstruction – Matthew Menendez

  • While Sen. Rand Paul’s talking filibuster against the nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director was an improvement over the Senate’s usual silent obstructionism, the chamber should also end its hush-hush tactics in blocking judicial nominees.

Did the Supreme Court Take the Next Citizens United? – Jonathan Backer

  • The Court should uphold the cap on aggregate contribution limits in federal elections — one of the last protections against corruption.

Performance Incentive Funding Can End Juvenile Mass Incarceration, Too – Gabriel Solis

  • Although the juvenile incarceration rate is at a 35-year low, the U.S. still confines more juvenile offenders than any industrialized nation.

Read more blog posts here. To have the blog in your RSS feed, click here.


March 14 – To mark Sunshine Week, the Brennan Center hosted a panel in Washington, D.C., discussing classification reform. Panelists included Liza Goitein, Steven Aftergood, Director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, and Nancy Soderberg, Chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board.

March 15 – The Brennan Center, the Culture Project, and the Asian American Writers Workshop present a special performance in New York of the play, “Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto.”

April 4 – At the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Thomas Giovanni will appear at the Black Policy Conference discussing how to reform indigent defense 50 years after the Supreme Court established the right to counsel in Gideon v. Wainwright.

April 9 – Also to mark Gideon’s 50th anniversary, the Brennan Center will co-sponsor a discussion with Thomas Giovanni, Prof. Gloria J. Browne-Marshall of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Karen Houppert, New Press author of “Chasing Gideon,” and Jonathan Gradess, Executive Director of the New York State Defenders Association.

  • Charles Blow of The New York Times cited the Brennan Center in his column about the Shelby County voting rights case. “The Center calls the passage of the Voting Rights Act ‘a reflection of the promise of our Constitution that all Americans would truly have the right to vote without facing discrimination, poll taxes, and other abuses,’ and I wholeheartedly agree with that point of view,” he wrote.
  • The Times also spoke to Myrna PĂ©rez for a story on the three New York City counties overseen by the Voting Rights Act.
  • On MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” Center Fellow Barton Gellman discussed former Vice President Dick Cheney’s comments on the Iraq War in a new documentary. Gellman is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.”
  • In a Huffington Post column, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) called for the passage of the Voter Empowerment Act, which would modernize voter registration, and cited the Brennan Center’s research on restrictive voting laws.
  • With further spending cuts looming, Justice at Stake and the National Center for State Courts released a report identifying new strategies and messages needed to help courts make a stronger case for funding.

To read more Brennan Center In The News, click here.