Daily Media Links 8/26: Transparency at F.E.C., Campaign Finance and the Cost of Doing Business, and more…


NY Times: Transparency at F.E.C.  
By Donald F. McGahn II
I am not seeking to “sabotage” the Federal Election Commission through “partisan cunning.” Rather, I have proposed an enforcement manual that ensures that F.E.C. commissioners, and not staff members, make the decisions at the commission.
Congress decided this long ago, as the law requires bipartisan commissioner support before an investigation is begun. The reason is clear: to prevent partisan targeting. Unfortunately, staff members propose to centralize decision making in their hands, bypassing the commission.
Wyoming Liberty Group: Campaign Finance and the Cost of Doing Business
By Steve Klein
Often, when political campaigns and other groups violate federal campaign finance law, they enter into agreements like this with the FEC and pay a fine rather than go to court, since it’s far cheaper and gets far less attention.  
This is the irony of ironies in campaign finance law. Senator McCain was one of the lead sponsors on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, also known as McCain-Feingold, more than a decade ago. McCain-Feingold added even more provisions to federal campaign finance law, but the violations by his presidential campaign run afoul of original provisions that date back to the 1970s. Nevertheless, McCain’s stalwart stance on the need for even more campaign finance “reform” in the wake of the Citizens United decision likely will not change with this penalty.
According to the FEC, McCain 2008 “accepted a total of $377,657 in contributions that exceeded the limits” under federal law, and additionally failed either to refund or otherwise legally use the monies within 60 days of receipt. The campaign resolved $301,895 on its own and the remaining $75,762 after the FEC notified the campaign of the violation. In a far more technical violation, McCain 2008 reported the millions of dollars it received from its joint fundraising groups (with names like “McCain Victory 2008,” “McCain Victory Kentucky,” etc.), but “did not correctly report the dates that the joint fundraisers received the contributions.”
CPI: Senate committee to soon vote on FEC nominees 
By Dave Levinthal
The Senate Rules and Administration Committee will soon schedule an early September vote on two Federal Election Commission nominees, two sources close to the nomination process tell the Center for Public Integrity.
Such a vote means the full Senate could consider — and potentially approve — the nominations of Republican Lee E. Goodman, an attorney at law firm LeClairRyan, and Democrat Ann Ravel, chairwoman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, within weeks.

Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: The True Lesson of the IRS Scandal
The government’s abuses are very real, but the scandal’s lessons are not appreciated: The federal regulation of political speech has already gone further than can be justified by existing law, let alone the Constitution.  

Daily Caller: IRS is targeting the American Legion with new set of guidelines  
By Patrick Howley
“On the heels of Americans’ anger over revelations that the IRS intentionally targeted certain groups, it has been brought to my attention that the IRS is now turning their sights toward our nation’s veterans,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said. “The IRS seems to be auditing veteran service organizations by requiring privatemember military service forms.”
“If a post is unable or not willing to turn over this personal information, it’s possible they could face a fine of $1,000 per day,” Moran continued.

Politico: 20-somethings jump into super PACs  
By Andrea Drusch
“That’s why we went with a super PAC,” Ponn added. “It gives us that ability to step outside the party lines.”
It’s a sentiment young super PACs from both parties share: National candidates either don’t align with their views, or they don’t prioritize the issues that matter to them.


Politico: Koch brothers will not buy Tribune papers 
By Dylan Byers
Conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch are no longer considering a bid for the Tribune Company newspapers, representatives from Koch Industries confirmed on Thursday.
The news comes four months after reports that the Koch brothers were exploring a bid to buy the company’s eight regional papers, which include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Sentinel. The Tribune Company announced its intention to sell the papers in December of last year.

State and Local

District of Columbia –– CPI: D.C. mayoral campaign may have violated coordination rules 
By Alan Suderman
A powerful political action committee may have paid for a $15,000 poll at the request of the scandal-plagued campaign of Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, an action that could have violated rules limiting campaign contributions or coordination between candidates and campaigns.
According to emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, among those involved in the back-and-forth discussion about the poll was a former high-level Gray political consultant named top spokesman for the Democratic National Committee last week.

New York –– Gothamist: Unpacking The Debate: Mayoral Candidates Beat Up De Blasio, Support Stoop Drinking
During a combative and highly entertaining 90 minutes last night, the seven Democratic mayoral hopefuls ganged up on each other to prove their mettle at the Official NYC Campaign Finance Board Democratic Mayoral Debate. CIty Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Comptroller Bill Thompson “tagged team” against Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, trying to paint him as an opportunistic flip-flopper riding a wave of phony populism to the top of the polls.
Virginia –– Washington Post: Virginia’s ethics laws create a vacuum 
OVER 18 months ending in June, Timothy D. Hugo of Fairfax, the third-ranking Republican in Virginia’s House of Delegates, charged his campaign committee for almost $30,000 in travel and food expenses — an amount wildly in excess of that charged by other lawmakers. In addition, he racked up $9,400 in cellphone charges, tops in the legislature.
Mr. Hugo insists the charges were legitimate political expenses. He says he runs a “year-round political organization,” even though Virginia’s legislature generally meets for just seven or nine weeks each year and he has faced no serious challenge at the polls since he was elected in 2002.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.