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What newspapers won’t say about anti-election reform lawyers

Posted Saturday, July 5, 2014

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Raleigh, NC - Much has been written about the attorneys the Governor and the legislative leaders have hired to defend the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA) against lawsuits brought by the NC-NAACP, the ACLU and the U.S. Justice Department. In contrast, to date, there have been no stories spotlighting the army of attorneys involved for the plaintiffs. Many of the attorneys are associated with the groups suing North Carolina, such as the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, League of Women Voters, ACLU, NAACP, Common Cause, and Unifour Onestop Collaborative, not to mention Eric Holder’s Department of Justice.

The landmark election reform legislation was passed and signed into law in 2013, and since then newspapers across the state have run stories that have generally criticized the governor and the Republican legislative leaders for hiring private counsel and often times focus on their attorneys’ contributions to Republican candidates and their fees, all the while ignoring what ideology the attorneys suing the state serve.

That the mainstream press has only seen fit to highlight lawyers from one side of this lawsuit is not surprising, but nevertheless regrettable, since there is so much to learn about this case from the multitude of lawyers engaged in attempting to overturn the election reform law of 2013.

Perhaps the mainstream media has just somehow overlooked the lawyers who have been employed to represent the ultra-liberal, fringe groups that are fighting to stop election reforms that most people describe as simply “common sense.” Or perhaps it’s the sheer number – over 40 lawyers. Compare that to six attorneys hired by the governor and Republican-led legislature. Somehow that disparity hasn’t awoken reporters’ investigative impulses. But just because the mainstream media won’t report the whole story doesn’t mean the people of North Carolina shouldn’t know a little about the people trying to erase the strides taken to bolster the integrity of our elections.

There are 40 attorneys involved for prosecution/plaintiff, 18 of whom have contributed financially to political campaigns, candidates, or causes:

o Cumulatively (since 1995) they have contributed:

  • $429,639 to Democratic, or discernibly liberal, candidates/causes
  • $13,000 to Republicans

o Since 2007, they have contributed:

  • $239,739 to Democratic, or discernibly liberal, candidates/causes
  • $10,000 to Republicans

Fighting for the election reforms are six attorneys, four of whom have contributed financially to political campaigns, candidates, or causes:

o Cumulatively (since 1999) they have contributed:

  • $1,000 to Democrats
  • $75, 134 to Republicans

o Since 2007, they have contributed:

  • $1,000 to Democrats
  • $58,111 to Republicans

Of the more than 40 lawyers representing the groups suing the state, 18 are active political contributors to Democrats. Consider Adam Stein. If the name is familiar, it’s because Adam Stein is father to state Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake). The elder Stein is a big fish in North Carolina progressive politics – at least from a financial perspective. A quick look at websites such as the campaign reporting page of the State Board of Elections or Follow the Money shows that Stein contributes large amounts to Democratic candidates and liberals in general. Cumulatively (since 1995) Stein has contributed more than $425,000 to candidates and political action committees (PACs). It’s worth mentioning Stein is a founding member of a Blueprint NC organization, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation.

Then there’s Edwin M. Speas Jr., who has contributed more than $40,000 since 1995 to both state and national Democratic candidates. Speas is a semi-career government bureaucrat who worked in the State’s Attorney General Office under Robert Morgan, Rufus Edmisten, and Mike Easley. Before returning to private practice, Speas served as General Counsel to Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Another attorney of interest is Anita Earls. Earls is the executive director of the progressive Southern Policy Law Center and was a member of the State Board of Elections from 2009 until 2011, when she resigned to lead the fight against the redistricting maps drawn by the newly elected Republican legislature.

Another lawyer for the plaintiffs, Irving Joyner, is a taxpayer-funded professor at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) School of Law. Joyner has contributed more than $11,000 to progressive Democrats on the state and local level and is probably known best for his work as the NAACP’s designated case monitor for the infamous Duke Lacrosse case/fiasco. During the case, Joyner proved to be a close ally of disgraced Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong. Joyner was one of the lawyers who signed a subpoena issued to the Civitas Institute. On the subpoena, Joyner used his government-issued email address (ijoyner@nccu.edu) as his email of record, using taxpayer resources to sue the state of N.C.

Then there are the myriad of attorneys who represent groups that fight this same fight in every state that seeks to bolster its election laws. Special-interest groups like Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, ACLU and the Advancement Project are sending their representatives to overturn a law that was passed by a duly elected legislature and signed by a Governor who had won his election by more than 10 percentage points.

Penda Hair is one of those lawyers. She is co-director of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization funded by George Soros‘ Open Society Foundation. Hair is the past director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (Washington D.C. office).

These are just a few of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit over voter ID and other election related reforms. They are evidently prominent players on the Left with a long history of partisan politics and in some cases, feeding from the trough of a government bureaucracy. The old, mainstream media chose not to report on the attorneys representing the liberal left; instead they opted to malign the lawyers hired by the Republicans to do the work that the state’s Attorney General should be doing. The Governor and legislative leaders were forced to bypass the AG’s office when Roy Cooper publically criticized VIVA after the bill was passed in both houses and hosted a petition asking the Governor not to sign the bill.

The mainstream media would argue that Republicans were wasting taxpayer money with outside counsel. I would argue that it is the lawyers suing the state who are wasting hardworking North Carolinians’ money. The fact is, part of the Left’s case is based on claims of voter disenfranchisement and much of that claim has already been factually disproved by increased voter turnout in the 2014 primary election.

For that election the early voting period had been shortened by seven days and same day registration (SDR) was eliminated. Nonetheless, compared to the primary in 2010, 91,630 more people voted early at one-stop sites in 2014 and overall turnout, rather than slumping, increased by 147,700 voters, more than a 5 percent increase over 2010. As for the argument that VIVA targeted minority voters, African-American turnout in the primary also increased during early voting and overall – by nearly 2 percentage points. This happened even tough in 2010 there was a contested Democratic U.S. Senate Primary with an African-American candidate. In 2014 there was no similar contest, yet more black voters participated.

Groups suing the state over VIVA won’t get to argue their case until July 2015, but there is a hearing scheduled next week that will entertain motions for a preliminary injunction. Just last month the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina received the Plaintiffs’ Brief in Support of Motion for Preliminary Injunction, which will be heard Monday.

It will be interesting to see what the newspapers say on Tuesday about the lawyers involved in this issue.

 
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