Daily Media Links 5/25: IRS Employee Admits He Would Go After, Target, and Try to End Conservative Groups, Donald Trump’s Dysfunctional Super PAC Family, and more…

In the News

New York Post: Taxpayer-funded campaigns have been a disaster in New York

Paul H. Jossey

But even without the most recent blowups, New York City’s small-donor funding program has failed. Abusing the system has become routine. Candidates have collectively funneled millions to family and friends running nonprofits. They have evaded contribution and expenditure limits by laundering through companies, unions and straw donors.

The program has had effects — just not positive ones. It has widened the gulf between incumbents and challengers. And it has left candidates beholden to the whims of bureaucrats who control who’s funded and who’s investigated.

Last election, the CFB dispersed $38.2 million, and 92 percent of primary candidates participated. But it withheld $3.8 million from mayoral candidate John Liu weeks before the primary for alleged reporting irregularities.

The move ended Liu’s campaign and any chance de Blasio would face a runoff. Liu sued but de Blasio won in a landslide, with the support of barely a quarter of registered voters.

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IRS

Washington Free Beacon: IRS Employee Admits He Would Go After, Target, and Try to End Conservative Groups

Ali Meyer

The first caller was a self-identified IRS employee who said he would go after the groups Mitchell represents if their goal was to abolish the IRS.

“I am a lowly clerk at the IRS, looking at your application for tax-free status,” said the caller, Bill, from Elizabeth, New Jersey. “I go to your web page to see the goals of your group and one of the goals of your group is to abolish the IRS.”

“You can bet every dollar you got I’m going to go after you and target you and try and end your group and that’s just the way it is,” the caller said.

“Well, it shouldn’t be that way, actually, and I don’t know anybody who said they would they would get rid of the IRS, but if they did that’s their right, that’s their First Amendment right to do that,” Ms. Mitchell responded. “And a government employee is not supposed to superimpose his beliefs or his judgment or his concern about his job over those of a citizen who has a first amendment right to express that opinion to abolish the IRS or to change the tax code.”

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Independent Groups

Buzzfeed: Donald Trump’s Dysfunctional Super PAC Family

Tarini Parti and Rosie Gray

And the early stumbles seem to be fueling a larger, more confusing universe of outside groups trying to raise money on behalf of Trump, who until recently did not have any campaign or outside fundraising operation. As many as three new outside groups could soon be created by those close to Trump, BuzzFeed News has learned.

“Both of the Trump super PACs have significant issues,” said a GOP operative who regularly talks to major donors deciding which outside groups to give to. “One has had top operatives convicted of felonies and is currently led by a 1980s-era figure with little to show for the last two decades. The other is led by a leader of the poorly run Ben Carson campaign and has a title that sounds weirdly nationalistic.”

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The Hill: GOP super-PAC ‘endorses’ Wasserman Schultz

Lisa Hagen

The super-PAC founded by GOP operative Karl Rove on Tuesday mocked Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s (D-Fla.) leadership as a boon to Republicans and “endorsed” her reelection bid.

American Crossroads said Wasserman Schultz’s management has led to electoral gains for Republicans and more tension among Democrats.

“Congresswoman and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has played a critical role over the past several years in the massive Republican gains we have achieved at the state level, in the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the U.S. Senate,” Crossroads President and CEO Steven Law said in a statement.

“Wasserman Schultz’s leadership has also been a catalyst for the emerging civil war in the Democratic Party this year, ensuring that their nominating process will drag on far longer than that of Republicans,” he added.

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Dangers of Disclosure

Hollywood Reporter: Donald Trump to Fundraise in L.A. as Hollywood Conservatives Fret Over Backing Him

Paul Bond

In fact, several celebrities and wealthy entertainment executives tried, largely unsuccessfully, to wrangle free entrance into Wednesday’s fundraiser — which costs as much as $100,000 per couple — not necessarily to save money, but because buying a ticket means they’d have to publicly disclose their choice for president earlier than they are willing to do so. By contrast, the famous guests at fundraisers for Hillary Clinton and other Democrats oftentimes are leaked to the press both before and after events to generate media coverage.

“This town will get vicious to those who support Trump,” one filmmaker said. “It’s not that Hollywood Republicans are cheap. In the end, they’ll contribute, but they want to wait as long as possible.”

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Donor Privacy

Reuters: Bill to cloak U.S. ‘dark money’ seen as harmful to charity fraud fight

David Morgan

Representative Pete Roskam, an Illinois Republican steering the bill, said his measure is needed to protect 501(c) donors from having their identities leaked by the IRS. Such leaks could expose them to intimidation by political adversaries and infringe on their free-speech rights, he said.

“The IRS is ill-equipped to deal with sensitive data, and there’s a great deal of vulnerability,” Roskam told Reuters. “Confidentiality breached chills First Amendment rights.”

IRS officials declined to comment…

Backers of the Roskam bill say Schedule B is not widely used in fraud inquiries. “I don’t know of one case where a fraud was proven by the IRS having had the Schedule B,” said David Bossie, president of the conservative group Citizens United.

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Influence

Washington Examiner: White House hosting secret Cuba meeting with business group

Susan Crabtree

The meeting also wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the website of Business Forward, a nonprofit group with close ties to the White House that helped organize the gathering, according to sources familiar with the meeting…

Business Forward is a group that charges major companies such as AT&T, Hilton Worldwide, Microsoft, Visa and WalMart, among others, $50,000 in annual membership fees for special access to Obama administration officials, according to a report in Politico.

The organization doesn’t consider the access it provides as lobbying, according to Jim Doyle, a veteran Democratic operative and founder of Business Forward. Doyle says the bulk of its work is organizing “briefings.”

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Candidates and Campaigns

Politico: Clinton allies dig in for scorched-earth ad campaign

Gabriel Debenedetti

Accustomed to seeing images of Trump plaster television screens, Democrats are preparing for a scorched-earth general election in which they increasingly believe they’ll have to carpet-bomb the presumptive GOP nominee over the swing state airwaves to combat his singular ability to get in front of a camera.

While the efficacy of television ads in elections has come under question as more refined and cost-efficient methods of reaching voters have surfaced in recent years, strategists close to the pro-Clinton effort believe the real estate tycoon’s mastery of so-called earned media presents a new kind of challenge — one that demands meeting him where he lives, before anything else.

Such a campaign will be enormously expensive: The likelihood that Trump will maintain his singular hold on TV programming in the coming months has convinced Democrats — who were especially frustrated by two days of wall-to-wall coverage of his visit to Washington earlier this month, complete with live video of his parked plane — that they’ll need to outspend him.

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The States

Billings Gazette: Motl misuses power in prosecuting Wittich cammpaign finance case

Ed Argenbright

The real reason for this corruption smear is simple: Motl’s office was defending the state in a federal lawsuit to strike down Montana campaign contribution limits, and he stated publicly a finding of corruption would help his defense. Notably, Motl’s best “evidence of corruption” by conservative legislators was just roundly rejected this week by U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell. Nonetheless, Wittich’s reputation is now collateral damage.

When I served as commissioner of political practices, it was clear to me that many candidates were confused by the language of statutes and rules governing their campaign activities. My staff and I made it our mission to work to ensure they understood the rules. Sure, there were instances where a few bad apples intentionally tried to game the system. In these cases, our investigations, decisions and subsequent fines were issued with an even, non-partisan hand.

I hope state District Judge Ray Dayton keeps all of this in mind when, on June 17, he decides not only Wittich’s fate, but ultimately whether or not the office of the commissioner should be able to continue to be used as a political weapon against hard-working legislators that try to do right for the people of Montana.

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Missoulian: Judge makes no decision on campaign contributions

Associated Press

U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell peppered Montana Department of Justice lawyers with questions during a hearing Tuesday, but he did not make an immediate ruling.

Last week, Lovell ruled for the second time in four years that Montana’s campaign contribution limits are unconstitutional.

As a result, state officials reinstated contribution rules in place prior to the initiative. That means higher contribution limits for individuals and political action committees, but it also means political parties can contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.

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Huffington Post: These States Are Stepping Up To Reform Money In Politics In 2016

Paul Blumenthal

The next front in the battle for campaign finance and lobbying reforms will likely be on the ballot in Washington state and South Dakota in November. Activists there have either succeeded or are well on their way to securing ballot positions for omnibus reform initiatives to change the states’ campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws.

The two ballot initiatives mark the continuation of a strategy pursued by national reform groups like Represent.Us, the principal mover behind the Washington and South Dakota initiatives.

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CBS New York: Cuomo Seeks To Close Campaign Finance Loophole In Fight Against Corruption

David Klepper, Associated Press

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday unveiled a new proposal to close a campaign finance loophole linked to Albany’s culture of corruption.

The governor naming the legislation one of his top priorities as lawmakers entered the final days of their session.

Passing a comprehensive plan to address the rise in heroin and opioid abuse is another goal, the Democratic leader said. Lawmakers expect to adjourn next month.

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WXXI: Ethics Reform Hopes Fade in Albany

Karen DeWitt

A new coalition of unions, progressive leaning groups and reform advocates has formed to demand a clean up. But even they admit their chances are slim for significant changes before the session ends.

“This coalition is not just a last ditch, they’re never going to do anything let’s have a press conference kind of coalition,” said Mike Kink, with the group Strong Economy for All. “It really is a call to arms, a call to action.”

The groups say they are looking ahead to the November elections and key races in the State Senate, where some members oppose reforms, including the public financing of campaigns.

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