In the News
Tax Analysts: No Stopping Political Nonprofits Now, Some Say
Paul C. Barton
And those who have long argued the IRS has no business interpreting when a group is involved in political speech and when it isn’t couldn’t be happier. They also celebrate Congress bringing to a halt the agency’s work on new rules on campaign intervention for nonprofits, which began in November 2013.
“Those expressing outrage are many of the same groups that helped create the IRS targeting scandal in the first place,” said David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics. “They put enormous pressure on the agency to ‘do something,’ and that led to disaster.”
He added, “The recent move into political regulation has embroiled the IRS in political fights the Service should avoid.”
The Story of Stupid Campaign Finance Laws: A Tale of Sanders’ Donors
These violations, in relation to Sanders, whose candidacy has been propelled by the passion of hundreds of thousands of small donors, provide a window into how ridiculous our campaign finance regulatory regime, particularly our strict campaign contribution limits, have become. None of these contributions are corrupting; none of these contributions are somehow unfairly influencing Bernie Sanders; these contributions are nothing more than the expression of an individual saying, “Hey, I like Bernie Sanders – I think I’ll donate to help his campaign.”
And yet all of the following campaign contributions are violations of the law. If these actions are illegal, then I submit that the laws are stupid.
Don’t believe me? Let’s check out these campaign finance violators, and consider what nefarious actions they’re up to that supposedly require these laws in the first place.
CBS4 Denver: Court: Colorado GOP’s Creation Of Super PAC Was Legal
James Anderson, Associated Press
A super PAC created by Colorado’s Republican Party to accept unlimited campaign contributions is legal as long as it doesn’t coordinate with the party, a state court said in an opinion released Thursday.
The Colorado Court of Appeals found that nothing in Colorado or federal law prevented the state GOP in 2014 from creating an independent spending committee that isn’t subject to spending limits that apply to political parties.
The committee, then called CORE, supported the 2014 campaigns of state and local Republican candidates. A Denver district court judge declared the arrangement was legal.
Fox News: GOP Gov. Sandoval says not interested in Supreme Court nomination
“Earlier today, I notified the White House that I do not wish to be considered at this time for possible nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States,” Sandoval said in a statement, adding he’s told key Senate leaders the same. “The notion of being considered for a seat on the highest court in the land is beyond humbling and I am incredibly grateful to have been mentioned.”
It remains unclear how serious the White House may have been about considering Sandoval.
The nomination of any Republican to the seat left by the late Justice Antonin Scalia would be seen as an attempt by Obama to break the Senate GOP blockade of any of his choices.
Daily Camera: Rethinking Citizens United
Mark J. Loewenstein
To overrule Citizens United, any constitutional amendment would, in effect, say that Congress may pass no law restricting the freedom of speech, unless the speaker is incorporated. There would have to be a further qualification, I suppose, to preserve the freedom of the press, which is also enshrined in the First Amendment. But that, in turn, raises an interesting question when the “press” in question is part of a much larger conglomerate. Think of a newspaper that is owned by or affiliated with a corporate family (e.g., the L.A. Times). Preserving the freedom of the press for that newspaper would allow it to engage in speech that other corporations could not. Or perhaps we should remove the freedom of the press when we amend the First Amendment, as all newspapers, etc. are just corporations. Why should Fox News be privileged over, say, Planned Parenthood (corporations both) because Fox is in the news business but Planned Parenthood is not? Put simply, if Citizens United is wrong, we are on a dangerous slippery slope.
The Week: How the Republican noise machine created Donald Trump
Which means that Trump’s success is a mainstream media creation, and it’s the mainstream media that deserve the lion’s share of the blame for it.
Except that this is nonsense — the same kind of nonsense that leads critics of Citizens United to attribute quasi-occult powers to super PACs.
Has the mainstream media been helpful to Trump? Absolutely. For one thing, they’ve saved him an enormous amount of money. That’s not nothing. It’s nice to get something for free instead of having to pay for it.
But attention and publicity aren’t support, regardless of who’s picking up the tab…
All that money can do is get a candidate noticed by a large number of people. Then it’s up to the candidate to close the deal — and that depends on reaching an audience receptive to the pitch.
Dangers of Disclosure
Courthouse News Service: Koch Ally Says He Received Death Threats
A multimillionaire libertarian businessman testified Wednesday that he received death threats because of his involvement in the Koch brothers’ charitable foundation and that his detractors falsely painted him as a climate denier and racist.
Art Pope, of North Carolina, took the stand during morning testimony in U.S. District Judge Manuel Real’s courtroom, as Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity Foundation seeks to persuade the court that California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ demand that it disclose donor names is unconstitutional.
…He said he’d received death threats and had considered quitting the foundation because he was worried about his family’s safety and the adverse effect of protests outside his North Carolina stores.
A blogger on the progressive website BlueNC wrote that he was “thinking assassination” in a post about Pope showed to the court.
Candidates and Campaigns
Atlantic: Does Ben Carson Suspect His Campaign Was a Scam?
David A. Graham
For months, reporters and political operatives (including me) have been pointing out that Ben Carson’s campaign bears many of the hallmarks of a political scam operation. Now Carson seems to agree. On CNN on Tuesday, Carson discussed his year-end staff shake-up:
“We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances,” a laughing Carson told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “CNN Newsroom,” adding, “or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.”
It’s a remarkable statement—especially because he’s so blithe about it.
Roll Call: Candidates Decry Political Money, but Change Is Unlikely
As much as the presidential candidates talk about the perils of political money, it might seem like a campaign finance overhaul on Capitol Hill is imminent. It’s not.
White House hopefuls from both sides of the aisle have been busy blasting the influence of billionaires and millionaires in the election system (while collecting their cash), but measures to restructure campaign laws remain stalled in Congress.
And even as the rhetoric against big money continues, most of the candidates have offered slim specifics about how they might update a system in which they are so vested.
Gifts and Dec.com: Bernie Sanders Action Figure Breaks Kickstarter Goal
The Kickstarter campaign to launch the action figure, based on the U.S. Democratic candidate, surpassed its original goal of $15,000 by more than $20,000. Additionally, $1 from every Sanders figure sold will go towards the candidate’s presidential campaign.
President Obama and other Democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton, have also been created in action figure form by the Brooklyn, NY-based toy studio. Clinton has also benefited from the $1 towards her presidential campaign with the sale of each action figure in her likeness.
“We’re hoping our $1 per toy model can serve as an innovative, accessible model for grass-roots campaign finance reform,” said FCTRY in a statement. “By donating a fixed portion of each sale to a political campaign our customers support, we can democratize campaign finance and make participation much more accessible to the average person.”
Wisconsin Watchdog: First John Doe documents released from lawsuit show GAB’s partisan motives
Waukesha County Judge Lee Dreyfus Jr. has issued an order unsealing “the vast majority of the parties’ filings” in a taxpayer lawsuit brought against the GAB by conservative activist Eric O’Keefe and the Wisconsin Club for Growth.
The first round of documents were being released Thursday, although some records that could prove particularly embarrassing to the GAB will have to wait. The agency has 30 days to decide whether it wants to appeal their release…
Wisconsin Watchdog has viewed a number of records – emails between GAB staff and prosecutors – that drive home the club’s contention that the accountability board was in on the political probe since the beginning. Many of the documents have been made public in the past.
But several of the emails offer a glimpse into the minds of the GAB staff members, who, as has been shown, brought their biases and partisan perspectives into a secret investigation lodged against conservative groups and the campaign of Gov. Scott Walker.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle: We need transparent campaign finance reporting
The increase in out-of-state donations is just one troubling trend in campaign finance. Another is the rapid growth in spending by so-called super PACs. These groups masquerade as social advocacy groups but spend nearly all their money smearing candidates they oppose with attacks ads. And these groups are exempt from many political donor reporting requirements, allowing the wealthy to influence elections anonymously.
These trends are unlikely to change and they threaten to hijack the Montana electoral process.
Colorado Independent: Watchdog or bully? How a $10,000 fine led to a GOP blowup
A judge in Denver has fined Colorado’s Republican Party Committee $10,000 for failing to follow guidelines related to disclosing donors.
But behind the fine is a bitter backstory that involves turnover at the state GOP, a fight between new Party leadership and a campaign finance activist, and even the threat of a subpoena to this reporter.