Daily Media Links 3/27: Public Citizen’s Spin, NY Times: House Oversight Leader Accuses I.R.S. Commissioner of Stonewalling Inquiry, Washington Post: House lawyers say panel can pursue contempt charges against Lois Lerner, and more…


Public Citizen’s Spin

By Joe Trotter

So…what?  The fact alone that people and organizations collectively submitted over 140,000 comments, smashing the previous record for comments on an IRS NPRM, is a clear indication that the status quo is unacceptable and that the IRS needs to hash out problems with the current system.

But while most of us agree that something must be done to reform the current system, the real news lies in the fact that the overwhelming majority of comments opposed the proposed rule at the heart of this rulemaking.  In fact, CCP reviewed every hundredth comment and found that 94.37% of the comments were against the IRS’ proposal.

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NY Times: House Oversight Leader Accuses I.R.S. Commissioner of Stonewalling Inquiry


“Unfortunately, you have been more concerned with managing the political fallout than cooperating with Congress,” the chairman, Darrell Issa of California, a Republican, told the I.R.S. commissioner, John Koskinen, at a committee hearing into accusations that the agency targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny before the last election.

Mr. Issa said that six months ago, the committee subpoenaed all emails sent and received since 2009 by six I.R.S. officials who had knowledge of the agency’s review of Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status, including Lois Lerner, who was in charge of the division that reviewed applications for tax exemption. Mr. Issa said that the committee had received only a small fraction of those emails and that Mr. Koskinen could be held in contempt for noncompliance.

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Washington Post: House lawyers say panel can pursue contempt charges against Lois Lerner


Attorneys for the House of Representatives concluded this week that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has legal standing to pursue contempt charges against former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner. 

The determination, outlined in a 22-page memo from the House’s general counsel’s office to committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), contradicts claims from the panel’s top Democrat, Elijah Cummings (Md.), who has said Republicans effectively killed any chance of contempt proceedings by failing to take the constitutionally required steps required for such efforts. 

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Corporate Governance

Wall Street Journal: The SEC’s Corporate Proxy Rules Need a Rewrite

By Edward S. Knight

Last year, shareholders submitted more than 800 proxy proposals to public companies. About 30% of the proposals fielded by Fortune   250 companies were initiated by a small handful of individual activist investors, according to ProxyMonitor.org, a Manhattan Institute for Policy Research database that tracks proxy proposals.  To address shareholder proposals, companies listed on U.S. exchanges must follow an established process that costs tens of millions of dollars annually. Based on our experience at Nasdaq OMX talking to corporate secretaries at several hundred of our listed companies, it costs a minimum of $50,000 per proposal, which includes staff hours, outside counsel, proxy firm outreach, solicitations and outreach to institutional and retail investors. Companies that exclude even a seemingly irrelevant proposal without following this process risk lawsuits and enforcement proceedings.  

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Koch Zero? Why Democrats are going to have a hard time enraging people about campaign finance.


To be precise, 52 percent of people said they didn’t know who Charles and David Koch were in a new GW Battleground poll conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. If you combine the 52 percent of people who didn’t know their names with the 11 percent of respondents who had no opinion about the duo, you get more than six in 10 Americans who are entirely unmoved/unaffected by the recent focus by Democrats on villainizing the Kochs.  (Among those who did have an opinion on the Kochs, 13 percent had a favorable opinion of the brothers while 25 percent had an unfavorable view.)

We’ve long believed that attacks on two relatively low-profile billionaires isn’t likely to work for Democrats simply because, as this poll shows, people don’t know who the Koch brothers are.  And, beyond their low name identification, the reality is that voters almost never use campaign finance or money in politics as a voting issue.  Yes, in polls people will say there is too much money in politics and that it’s a bad thing. But, time and time again in actual elections they don’t vote on it.  Take 2010 when, in a last-ditch attempt to change the narrative from one focused on President Obama and Obamacare, the White House and its allies insisted that the “dark” money that groups like American Crossroads were putting into the system was going to be a major issue for voters. Um, not so much.

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties


Ralston Report: Reid paid granddaughter for “holiday gifts” to give donors, supporters

By Jon Ralston

The Federal Election Commission has sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s campaign, asking for more information on why he listed an expenditure of more than $11,000 $16,000 in “holiday gifts.”

The gifts, I have learned, were purchased from his granddaughter, Ryan Elisabeth Reid, who is a jewelry vendor in Berkeley, CA. The gifts were later passed on to donors and supporters, a Reid spokeswoman told me.

Reid’s granddaughter is listed only as “Ryan Elisabeth” on the FEC report, which is attached here (see page 166). But her full name is Ryan Elisabeth Reid. 

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LA Times: For Democrats, politicians in handcuffs point to image problems

By Cathleen Decker

The other component—honor—has come sharply into question this week, and not in a good way for the image of Democrats. Handcuffs are almost always a bad sign.

On Wednesday, California state Sen. Leland Yee was arrested as part of a public corruption investigation, the FBI confirmed. No charges were detailed, and Yee was due in court later Wednesday. A Democrat from San Francisco, Yee has been seeking the job of secretary of state, the office that runs California’s elections. 

Yee is the third California Democrat caught in seemingly unrelated criminal scandals this brief year.

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State and Local

Maine –– Kennebec Journal: LePage’s fact-checking proposal hits resistance in Maine

By Steve Mistler

AUGUSTA –– Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to fact-check campaign statements is raising constitutional free-speech concerns from civil libertarians and the state commission that would have to determine the truthfulness of political speech.  

The governor’s proposed bill, sponsored by Sen. Doug Thomas, R-Ripley, would compel the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices to investigate campaign claims if a candidate for statewide office filed a complaint. The bill, which Thomas says is intended to deter false claims, includes no penalties for making them.

“Every year the things we read in campaign materials and hear in radio ads or on TV become more ridiculous, and in some cases untrue,” Thomas said Wednesday at a hearing before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. “Should there be no restraint, no limit, or no consequences for lying?”

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New York –– Capital New York: Skelos doesn’t rule out campaign finance in budget

By Jimmy Vielkind

“Everything’s being discussed,” Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos said after the two-hour session, when he was asked if he could support a budget that included a campaign finance provision that he and his conference have railed against.  

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