Reform revival, Clean Election, judicial fumble
Jul. 1, 2007
From the political notebook:
After the Senate failed to get the votes for cloture, the conventional wisdom is
that immigration reform is off the table until after the 2008 presidential
In reviewing the political landscape, I'm not so sure.
It is very much in the Democrats best interest to get this issue resolved while
President Bush is still in office to sign it. If immigration reform is enacted
by a Democratic Congress and president, it will be the Democrats'
amnesty bill. Bush gives the effort a bipartisan tint even if there are few
Republicans in Congress who go along.
If Democrats do virtually all the heavy lifting in Congress, however, the
product will look much different than the bill the Senate just jettisoned.
In fact, it will probably look a lot like the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform
that passed the Senate last year with 62 votes, including 23 Republicans.
McCain-Kennedy included a much more relaxed path to citizenship for current
illegal immigrants, and gave a similar path to future guest workers. It didn't
restrict chain-migration and had a much less strenuous work verification
requirement. Nevertheless, Bush would undoubtedly sign it.
Grassroots conservatives are congratulating themselves for having killed the
Senate immigration compromise. I suspect, however, they have just paved the way
for a much more liberal immigration reform - probably after 2008, but perhaps
The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last week about issue advocacy should boost
the legal challenge to Arizona's Clean Elections law by the Institute for
Justice. The case is pending review by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The challenge was declared moot because the election in question had come and
gone. In the Wisconsin Right to Life case, however, the high court rejected a
similar claim, on the grounds that free speech was a core right and similar
circumstances were very likely to arise repeatedly.
The high court finding that there is a free speech right to publish issue ads
paid from unregulated funds before elections should also bolster one of the
lawsuit's claims. Clean Elections provides matching funds to publicly-financed
candidates for independent campaigns run against them. Any mass communication
that names a candidate within 16 weeks of the general election is automatically
deemed to be electioneering, subject to the matching fund provision. That
unquestionably has a chilling effect on the kind of issue advocacy the Supreme
Court just said is free speech that cannot be regulated.
• A federal judge, Raner Collins, had ordered the Arizona Legislature to address
English-learner funding before adjourning. The Legislature had asked the judge
to stay his order while it was being appealed.
Last week, Collins refused. The public interest lawyer pushing the case, Tim
Hogan, says he will ask the judge to hold the Legislature in contempt and impose
sanctions. In reality, it is the judge who is acting contemptibly.
There's a good faith legal dispute going on. The Legislature and Superintendent
of Public Instruction Tom Horne do not believe that the state is in violation of
a federal law requiring equal access to education regardless of language
Granting the stay would have been the judicious decision, particularly given
what happened to Collins' last order. He fined the state, but the Ninth Circuit
Court of Appeals vacated the order and the fines, expressing great skepticism
about the underlying case in oral arguments. Now, we have the legal spectacle of
Hogan seeking sanctions at the trial level while the Legislature and Horne seek
a stay at the appellate level.
Hopefully the appeals court will grant the stay Collins should have.
Congressman Jeff Flake, intrepid earmark hunter, finally bagged one.
In addition to pushing for procedural reforms making earmarks (congressional
funding for pet local projects) more transparent, Flake has been challenging
some of them on the floor. He's been spectacularly, and unsurprisingly,
unsuccessful. Last year, he was 0 for 39.
Last week, however, the House went along with his motion to strike funding for
the Perfect Christmas Tree project in Mitchell County, N.C., from the Financial
Services appropriations bill. The program subsidizes artisans who craft
Christmas ornaments and other holiday decorations.
Exactly why Flake finally found success was a bit of a mystery.
Politico.com speculated that Democrats went along because the sponsor of the
earmark was another conservative whom they find obnoxious. But if the
obnoxiousness of the sponsor were the criterion, surely Flake would have a much
higher kill ratio.
Perhaps it's part of the liberal plot to abolish Christmas.
Reach Robb at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8472. His column
appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Read his blog at robbblog.azcentral.com.