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Politics Digest

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SUPREME COURT

McConnell vs. McCain On Campaign Finance

The Supreme Court on Monday allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to intervene in next month's hearing on the constitutionality of campaign finance restrictions, meaning that he and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will be on opposite sides.

The court is considering whether to overturn its previous decisions that restrict unions and corporations from using their general treasuries to influence election campaigns. At stake is a key portion of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, more commonly known as McCain-Feingold.

The court found the law constitutional in a 2003 decision known as McConnell v. FEC, and the Kentucky senator's attorney, noted First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, told the court that McConnell should be included in the arguments over whether to reverse that decision.

The Sept. 9 hearing is in Citizens United v. FEC, in which the conservative interest group challenged the law's restrictions on how it presents and advertises "Hillary: The Movie," its critical look at Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The all-star lineup in the case, now expanded to an 80-minute hearing, includes new Solicitor General Elena Kagan, arguing her first case before the court; former solicitor general Seth Waxman, arguing for McCain and other members of Congress; Abrams, representing McConnell; and former solicitor general Theodore Olson, arguing for Citizens United.

-- Robert Barnes

WISCONSIN

Governor Won't Run For a Third Term

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) said he will not seek reelection next year, paving the way for a wide-open race in the politically divided state.

Elected in 2002, Doyle is in his second four-year term and could have sought a third, as Wisconsin has no term limits. But Doyle said he thinks governors should serve only two terms, because such turnover "keeps the political world from becoming stagnant."

Doyle has been rumored as a candidate for a job in the Obama administration, but he said Monday that "I fully intend" to serve until his term expires in January 2011.

"I know I will regret the decision many times over the coming year. But I am not going to go Brett Favre on you," Doyle said, referencing the former Green Bay Packers quarterback who has repeatedly vacillated about his retirement.

Like many governors, Doyle has had to steer his state through the challenges of a weak economy and rising unemployment. He signed a controversial budget in June that raises taxes and fees while still leaving Wisconsin with a deficit of more than $2 billion.

Against such a backdrop, recent poll numbers suggested that Doyle could face a difficult contest.

"Things are looking better for [Republicans] now after four or five years of things looking worse and worse for them," said Charles Franklin, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

"Obviously, Wisconsin has been close in the past, but we've had a lot of electoral success there," countered Democratic Governors Association spokeswoman Emily DeRose. "We're pretty proud of the field of candidates on our side."

-- Ben Pershing

TEXAS

Hutchison Attacks Perry Administration

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) announced her run for Texas governor with a sharp blast at Gov. Rick Perry (R), saying he has overstayed his welcome with an administration marked by arrogance and "tragic" mistakes.

Hutchison also proposed limiting governors to two four-year terms. She called Perry a "dedicated public servant" but otherwise laid into him. Perry, in office since 2000, is Texas's longest-serving governor.

Perry took over the remainder of George W. Bush's second term and has been elected to two four-year terms since. If he is reelected in 2010 and completes his term, Perry will have held the job for 14 years.

"We can't afford 14 years of one person appointing every state board, agency and commission," Hutchison said. "It invites patronage. It tempts cronyism. And it has to stop, now."

-- Associated Press

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