Daily Media Links 5/30: WWJD about the IRS?, IRS higher-ups requested info on conservative groups, letters show, and more…

In the News
 
The Hill: WWJD about the IRS? 
By Eric Wang
Congress can alleviate the IRS’s miseries by treating all tax-exempt organizations the same under the tax code. Then, the IRS would not have to determine whether entities may participate in politics. Instead of the open-ended “facts and circumstances” test, the law should specify a few discrete activities – such as making contributions to candidates or parties, or sponsoring “independent expenditures” (as defined by campaign finance law) or a PAC’s fundraising costs – that would require an entity to pay taxes on its business and investment income or political expenditures (as is the rule today). Whether such organizations are required to report donors for their political activities should be left to the FEC, which has its own flaws but at least has clearer rules.  
 
Independent Groups
 
LA Times: The real IRS scandal 
By Glenn Hubbard and Tim Kane 
Should you need a license from the government to exercise free speech? The real scandal at the Internal Revenue Service should be seen not as a left-versus-right issue but instead as infringement on the 1st Amendment. The people targeted were political entrepreneurs with unorthodox political voices. More to the point, IRS discrimination was consistent with 40 years of institutionalized hostility by the federal government to such views.  
Elections in a free country are not truly free unless all voices are allowed to enter the marketplace of ideas. That was the principle behind the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which lifted limits on campaign spending by political entrepreneurs organized as nonprofit corporations. It found that such discrimination — originating in a 1972 lawsuit against an independent group that had called for Richard Nixon’s impeachment — was not only wrong but unconstitutional.  
 
ABC News: IRS higher-ups requested info on conservative groups, letters show 
By Lisa Myers, Rich Gardella and Talesha Reynolds
Jay Sekulow, an attorney representing 27 conservative political advocacy organizations that applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status, provided some of the letters to NBC News.  He said the groups’ contacts with the IRS prove that the practices went beyond a few “front line” employees in the Cincinnati office, as the IRS has maintained.  
“We’ve dealt with 15 agents, including tax law specialists — that’s lawyers — from four different offices, including (the) Treasury (Department) in Washington, D.C.,” Sekulow said. “So the idea that this is a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati is not correct.”  
 
Washington Times: Conservative groups sue IRS, demand approval 
By Stephen Dinan
Wednesday’s lawsuit, filed by the American Center for Law and Justice in a federal court in Washington, demands that the IRS be forced to recognize the groups and asks the court to rule that IRS officials violated the groups’ constitutional rights. 
“The IRS and the federal government are not going to get away with this unlawful targeting of conservative groups,” said Jay Sekulow, chief lawyer for ACLJ.   
 
MSNBC: The woman who brought us the IRS scandal 
By Zachary Roth
“I’m not saying Obama sat in the Oval Office and directed [the targeting]. But I am absolutely convinced that people in the [Obama] campaign were well aware of all this,” Mitchell said in an interview Wednesday, singling out David Axelrod, Obama’s former top political adviser. “I think there’s a very good chance that it will lead to people who are very highly placed politically.” 
 

Tax Financing

 
NY Times: Travels of the President Under a Microscope in an Era of Belt Tightening 
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR and PETER BAKER
CHICAGO — Perhaps it is nothing more than an accident of timing that as federal workers brace for a summer filled with unpaid furlough days, their leaders are traveling the nation and globe on trips that exude luxury.  
On Wednesday, President Obama left the White House for two Chicago fund-raisers in the hope of helping Democrats retake the House in next year’s elections. The cost of flying aboard Air Force One to his hometown: $180,000 per hour.  
 

Lobbying and Ethics

 
Wall Street Journal: Jury Finds Reid Fundraiser Guilty 
By Jim Carlton
The jury found Harvey Whittemore, 60 years old, of Reno, guilty of making illegal contributions, of making campaign contributions in the name of someone else and of causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission. U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks late Wednesday declared a mistrial on the fourth charge of lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden declined to comment on whether the government would seek a new trial on that count. “Persons who knowingly violate campaign contribution laws will be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Mr. Bogden said in a statement. “Campaign laws exist to level the playing field. The public deserves to know that these laws are not just ‘on the books.'”
 
State and Local
 
Alabama –– AP: Alabama governor signs 2 school bond issues, campaign finance bill 
The other new law signed by the governor removes the limit on how much corporations can give to political candidates in Alabama. Corporate contributions are now unlimited like individual contributions. The new law, sponsored by Republican Sen. Bryan Taylor of Prattville, also tightens limits on transfers of money between political action committees.