Daily Media Links 1/30: Holder won’t rule out criminal charges for employees in IRS scandal, Common Cause R.I. should broker super PAC limits for gubernatorial candidates, and more…

Independent Groups

Washington Times: Holder won’t rule out criminal charges for employees in IRS scandal

By Stephen Dinan

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that there is still a chance the government would file criminal charges against Internal Revenue Service employees who targeted tea party groups for special scrutiny, disputing press reports that the criminal probe into the tax agency has already decided the behavior didn’t rise to the level of a crime. 

Mr. Holder defended his department’s investigation into the IRS, saying it’s being run by career employees and is free from political taint — even though one key lawyer involved was a major political donor to President Obama’s campaigns.   

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SCOTUS/Judiciary

More Soft Money Hard Law: Theory and Practice, “Principles” and “Purposes”—and the Uses of the “Anti-Corruption Principle”

By Bob Bauer

The trouble is that campaign finance issues—the ones that are most consequential and divisive—are complex and implicate deep sensitivities about political speech and association.  There is always doubt.  The “principle” Teachout espouses seeks to dilute that doubt, or drain it of significance, by introducing into adjudications a fluid presumption based on a highly controversial claim about the central “purpose” of the Constitution.

This is not an objection to provocative scholarship, and perhaps over time, the search by Lessig,  Teachout and others for a new jurisprudential vision may bear fruit. In the meantime, however, Lessig and Teachout are engaged scholars, active on behalf of reform proposals, in the course of which they advocate for the theories they embrace.  When they argue for these projects, they are making their case for the best policy, but also, and explicitly, supporting that case that appeals to the Anti-Corruption Principle.See, e.g., Adam Smith, PCAF Board Member Zephyr Teachout Submits Testimony to NY Moreland Commission, Public Campaign Action Fund (Sept. 17, 2013),http://www.campaignmoney.org/blog/2013/09/17/pcaf-board-member-zephyr-teachout-submits-testimony-ny-moreland-commission (citing founders’ deep concern about corruption). The members of their audience who are undecided or skeptical could imagine they are being invited to sign onto a regulatory future shaped by an indeterminate conception of constitutional “purpose.” Not too many who had doubts in the first place will find them answered by this theory.

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Wall Street Journal: Obama Delivers Subtle Messages to Justices

By Jess Bravin

Mr. Obama added a comment perhaps inspired by a case now pending before the justices, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which would lift limits on aggregate campaign contributions a single individual can make, which current law caps at about $125,000 over a two-year cycle.

“It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank account, that drives our democracy,” the president said, but again the justices’ reaction was not displayed to television viewers.
Four justices skipped Tuesday’s event. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomashave avoided it for years. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was in California. And Justice Samuel Alito—who visibly mouthed “not so” when President Obama in 2010 criticized the decision called Citizens United, which lifted limits on corporate and political spending—hasn’t been seen in the House chamber since.

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Disclosure

CPI: Do senators fear the Internet?

By Rachel Baye

By Friday, presidential candidates, House candidates, political action committees and super PACs must file their fourth-quarter financial reports with the Federal Election Commission electronically.

Senate campaigns, however, must submit their reports on paper to the secretary of the Senate, where they are scanned and sent to the FEC. The agency then prints the documents, collates them and delivers them to a private contractor to type into an electronic database.

The process costs taxpayers roughly $500,000 a year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. And as a result, it can take weeks or even months for the public to know who is bankrolling senators’ campaigns.

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Elections

Politico: The Case Against Early Voting

By EUGENE KONTOROVICH and JOHN MCGINNIS

Early voting not only limits the set of information available to voters; to the extent that it decreases the importance of debates, it might also systematically help incumbents and quasi-incumbents like vice presidents, who generally have the advantage of having been in the public eye longer.

More fundamentally, early voting changes what it means to vote. It is well known that voters can change their minds — polls always go up and down during a campaign season. A single Election Day creates a focal point that gives solemnity and relevance to the state of popular opinion at a particular moment in time; on a single day, we all have to come down on one side or the other. But if the word “election” comes to mean casting votes over a period of months, it will elide the difference between elections and polls. People will be able to vote when the mood strikes them — after seeing an inflammatory ad, for example. Voting then becomes an incoherent summing of how various individuals feel at a series of moments, not how the nation feels at a particular moment. This weakens civic cohesiveness, and it threatens to substitute raw preferences and momentary opinion for rational deliberation. Of course, those eager to cast early will be the most ideological — but these are precisely the voters who would benefit most from taking in the full back and forth of the campaign.

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Time Warner: Rep. Grimm Apologizes to NY1 Reporter for On-Camera Threat

By Geoff Bennett

After initially saying he did nothing wrong, Republican Rep. Michael Grimm picked up the phone and apologized Wednesday to NY1 Washington bureau reporter Michael Scotto.

“I apologized. I called Michael Scotto. He was very gracious and accepted my apology,” Grimm said. “We’re going to have lunch sometime next week and just make sure this is all behind us.

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Lobbying and Ethics

The Hill: K Street wants less bashing of lobbyists

By Kevin Bogardus

Since winning the White House, Obama has often used his annual high-profile speech to take aim at lobbyists. The president decries their influence and has called for new limits on lobbying in the past, either disclosing K Street’s contact with Congress or restricting their fundraising.

Those working on K Street understand the lobbying profession is an easy target, and Obama’s attacks on them may be motivated more on boosting his popularity than sound policy.

“His poll numbers are low, but the public thinks far less of lobbyists. If he’s desperate to score some points with the public, he will use this opportunity to bash lobbyists,” said Howard Marlowe with Marlowe & Co. and former president of the Association of Government Relations Professionals.

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State and Local

California –– KPBS: Mexican Businessman Tied To Campaign Finance Scandal Hires D.C. Lawyers

By Amita Sharma

Sources say lawyers from Williams & Connolly flew in last week to help in a potential defense of Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.

Three men have been charged with conspiring to funnel $500,000 of Azano’s money into San Diego elections.

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Rhode Island –– Providence Journal: Common Cause R.I. should broker super PAC limits for gubernatorial candidates

By Philip Marcelo

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — On the day he kicked off his campaign for governor, Clay Pell called on the head of a local good-government group to broker a deal between the three Democratic candidates on how to limit outside spending from so-called “super PACs.”

Pell, who has said he will not accept campaign donations from political action committees or state lobbyists, wants John Marion, executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island, to begin the process.

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