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Presidential Election Roundup

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Once again, here's another installment of our presidential election roundup, with the latest tidbits on the candidates and the law-related issues in the race. 

Obama the Associate. Obama has referenced his background as a civil-rights attorney at various points during the campaign. This L.A. Times story provides more detail on Obama's four years in private practice, noting that during his tenure at a small civil-rights firm, he spent 70 percent of his time handling voting rights, civil rights and employment cases. While Obama is now a superstar, back then he handled grunt cases just like any other junior lawyer -- for example, defending nonprofits in minor matters like a slip and fall or a $336 claim for reimbursement for baby-sitting services. Not surprisingly, "those were not the cases that Obama highlighted" in his first book,
"Dreams From My Father." 

Hillary Uses Hogan for Taxes. Who's the lawyer behind the Clintons' recently released tax returns?  According to American Lawyer, the Clintons have been using Howard Topaz, a New York-based tax partner at Hogan & Hartson to prepare tax returns for the past four tax cycles. That's a fairly significant gig for the firm, given that between 2000 and 2007, the Clintons' tax returns show combined earnings of $109 million, on which they paid $33 million in taxes. Prior to 2004, the Clintons used an accounting firm.

Supreme Court Predictions for the Candidates. Kim Eisler of the Washingtonian is the most recent commentator to take a stab at predicting the candidates' possible Supreme Court picks. For McCain, Eisler identifies former Justice Department Viet Dinh as "an intriguing possibility" because of the Vietnam connection. McCain endured five years of captivity by the North Vietnamese between 1967 and 1973, while Dinh fled Vietnam for the United States in 1978, spending 12 days in a boa with no food or water. As for a Democratic president, Eisler describes former solicitor general Seth Waxman as "the next justice in waiting," while Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan is the "almost certain top choice replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg." Interesting selections, but still -- how unfortunate that even in the 21st century, we still have designated "female" seats on the court. Wouldn't Kagan make an equally suitable replacement for, say, Justice Stevens as she would for Justice Ginsburg?

Hard Growth for Soft-Money Groups. As in the 2004 presidential election, soft money groups are already expected to play a major role in 2008, reports The Boston Globe. Soft money groups -- known as 527 organizations -- came to prominence following campaign finance rules that limit individual donations to candidates to $2,300 per person per election and require candidates to disclosure contributors. By contrast, soft money groups, though prohibited from endorsing or supporting individual candidates, are not limited in fundraising and, thus, are not constrained in political spending. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulates 527 organizations and can assess stiff fines for violation of the rules, such as the prohibition on endorsing individual candidates. But right now, the Federal Election Commission is down to two commissioners from its usual panel of six due to congressional fights over appointments. As a result, some strategists fear that the FEC may not be able to effectively oversee 527 groups during this contentious election cycle.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 8, 2008 at 06:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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