Daily Media Links 6/12: Congress Is Not the Answer: How We Really Should Be Investigating the IRS, Charitable ‘matches’ used to entice PAC giving, and more…

Independent Groups
 
Roll Call: Congress Is Not the Answer: How We Really Should Be Investigating the IRS
By Dan Epstein
Congress, in 1999, took away DOJ’s power to demand the D.C. Circuit appoint an independent counsel with prosecutorial power equal to the attorney general when high-ranking officials in the federal government engaged in criminal wrongdoing. However, the attorney general (or acting attorney general, in cases in which the attorney general is recused) is still authorized to appoint a special counsel when a criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted so long as two conditions are met: an investigation or prosecution by a U.S. Attorney’s Office or litigating division of the DOJ would present a conflict of interest, and the public interest requires appointment of counsel independent from the DOJ. We therefore can infer that Holder’s decision to not appoint a special counsel, and instead ask the FBI to investigate the IRS, suggests that Holder believes no “conflict of interest” exists and it’s not in “the public interest” to have any outside scrutiny of the IRS. 
 
CPI: Charitable ‘matches’ used to entice PAC giving 
By Michael Beckel
Federal law prohibits companies from donating directly to political candidates, which is why individual employees must voluntarily fund corporate-sponsored political action committees — and their bosses can’t force them to donate.
Yet one enticement companies are using to attract PAC support is a program that will “match” employees’ donations with contributions to charities of their choosing.
 

Disclosure

 
Witnesseth: The IRS as Microcosm  
By Robert Anderson
I searched the Federal Election Commission database for contributors with the term “lawyer” or “attorney” in thee occupation field. I then sorted the results by government agency (including the many permutations of agency names in the database). This produced a list of 20 federal agencies with at least 20 employees contributing to either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.
The results for the IRS were striking. Of the IRS lawyers who made contributions in the 2012 election, 95% contributed to Obama rather than to Romney. So among IRS lawyers, the ratio of Obama contributors to Romney contributors was not merely 4-to-1 at previously reported, but more like 20-to-1. The ratio of funds to Obama was even more lopsided, with about 32 times as much money going to Obama as to Romney from IRS lawyers.
 
Roll Call: Freshman Senators and Republicans Add Support for Electronic Filing 
By Kent Cooper
Reform Groups today urged Senators to join three freshmen, five Republicans, and twenty-six other Democrats in co-sponsoring a bill that would require electronic filing of campaign finance reports by Senate candidates and committees.  
Freshmen Senators already co-sponsoring the bill include Angus King (I-Maine), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.). Bipartisan support for the bill has come from Republican co-sponsors including Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles “Chuck” Grassley (R-Iowa), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). View full list of co-sponsors.  
 

Candidates, Politicians and Parties

 
Politico: IRS probe: 2 distinct approaches  
By Rachael Bade
But House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, are taking very different approaches to their investigations of the embattled agency.
From his perch, Issa is making waves on Sunday television and releasing loaded snippets of interviews conducted with IRS employees that Democrats say are misleading. Camp, meanwhile, is proceeding with more caution, avoiding political firestorms and working with the top Democrat on his panel to make requests that have turned up millions of documents at the IRS.  
 
Campaigns & Elections: 4 reasons to shun in-kind contributions 
By Erik Nilsson
In-kinds are one of the most common campaign compliance infractions so it’s difficult to understand why campaigns would accept this form of contributions. Just last month, the Federal Election Commission fined former Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) campaign committee $32,000 for accepting an in-kind contribution from the senator’s family that was not properly reported by the campaign. While that was an example of an extraordinary circumstance that is bound never to repeat, the situation also exemplified the need for a better understanding of in-kinds.  
 
State and Local
 
Colorado –– Denver Post Blog: Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler awaits politically important ethics ruling 
By Joey Bunch
On May 23, a week after news broke that he’s considering a run for governor, Gessler paid back $1,278 to cover travel and hotel expenses for the lawyers’ seminar; his campaign funds paid for his stay at the RNC. His lawyer, David Lane, said Gessler’s check was an effort to avoid any appearance of wrongdoing — albeit eight months after Colorado Ethics Watch filed a complaint over it. But Gessler refused to pony up for the return ticket. The anonymous threats were brought on because of his public service, and they forced his wife and young daughter into hiding, as police stepped up patrols near his mother’s home. “I’ll fight that one to the Supreme Court,” Gessler said under oath before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission Friday night at the peak of a tedious 11-hour hearing.   
 
District of Columbia –– Washington Post: Former D.C. Council member Brown pleads guilty to bribe charge 
By Ann E. Marimow and Mike DeBonis
He accepted $100 bills stuffed into a duffel bag alongside a Washington Nationals baseball cap. Another wad of cash came inside a Redskins coffee mug.
And detailed in Michael A. Brown’s guilty plea on bribery charges Monday was another revelation: evidence that the former D.C. Council member is cooperating with a broader investigation into a D.C. businessman connected to the secret financing of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 campaign.
 
New York –– Huffington Post: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Introduces Campaign Finance Reform Bill 
By Paul Blumenthal
With only one week left in the legislative session, Cuomo’s re-entrance into the debate is viewed by supporters as the final piece to the puzzle to help jump-start a stalled reform process in the state’s Senate. The governor previously backed reform in his State of the State speeches, and the new bill pushes him to the forefront of a massive coalition in support of campaign finance reform in the state.  

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