Daily Media Links 6/27: Huffington Post Not Aware that People Communicated Before Email, “Risky Business? Political Spending, Shareholder Approval, and Stock Volatility,” and more…


IRS Scandal: Huffington Post Not Aware that People Communicated Before Email

By Brad Smith

Rep. Darrell Issa has issued a subpoena to the Federal Election Commission for all “communications sent or received from Lois G. Lerner” since January 1, 1986. A bit of overkill? Perhaps, although we can hardly blame the Congressman, given Lerner’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment, misleading statements by top IRS political appointees about what they have and don’t have, and a ranking minority member who is himself hip-deep in the scandal and seems to consider himself lead defense attorney for whomever might have done anything wrong, intentionally or unintentionally.

But even scandal can provide opportunities for levity, and today’s levity comes from the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery. So eager is Bendery to ignore the abuses of power occurring at the IRS and promoted by Senate Democrats that she quickly snarked out, “Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is so determined to get to the bottom of missing emails from former IRS official Lois Lerner that he is demanding copies of her emails dating back to 1986.” She snarks along, noting that the subpoena asks for “all of Lerner’s communications from Jan. 1, 1986, to June 23, 2014. He specifies that this means all emails sent directly to Lerner… .” And she helpfully informs us that 1986 was “a time when Nintendo was in, Lionel Richie was hot and there was no such thing as commercialized Internet or email.”

Apparently Ms. Bendery was so eager to discredit Rep. Issa that she forgot (or maybe she really doesn’t know or remember) that prior to email, people actually did communicate with one another – even in writing. Yes, we sent each other written things on paper called “memos,” and sometimes even “notes” and what were called “letters.” You can look it up. (Well, our regular readers probably don’t need to look it up – the link is provided for Ms. Bendery and her HuffPo readers.) Of course, what the subpoena requests are  not just “emails,” but “communications,” including all “documents,” a phrase including emails but also the afore-mentioned memos, notes, letters, and various other types of communications.

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Corporate Governance

“Risky Business? Political Spending, Shareholder Approval, and Stock Volatility”

By Saumya Prabhat and CCP Academic Advisor David Primo

We utilize a quasi-natural experiment to examine whether disclosure and shareholder approval of political expenditures reduces shareholder risk. In particular, we examine the Neill Committee Report (NCR), which led to the passage of the United Kingdom’s Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) and strengthened disclosure of and required shareholder approval for campaign contributions. Using a differences-in-differences methodology, we find that politically active firms saw an increase in their stock’s volatility along with negative long-term abnormal stock returns upon the release of the NCR. These results present a challenge to arguments for greater shareholder oversight of corporate political activities.

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NY Times: Johnnie M. Walters, 94, Dies; I.R.S. Chief Resisted Nixon’s Pressure


Mr. Walters had not been told of Nixon’s other job requirements, as revealed in a White House conversation recorded on May 13, 1971. “I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he’s told, that every income-tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends,” the president said.

Mr. Walters failed to follow this script — which was unknown to him — when John W. Dean III, the White House counsel, summoned him to his office on Sept. 11, 1972. Mr. Dean handed him the “enemies list” of 200 people, most prominent Democrats, whom he wanted investigated.

“I was shocked,” Mr. Walters said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “John, do you realize what you’re doing?” he remembered saying. “If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.”

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Independent Groups

CPI: Happy birthday, super PAC!

By Marcelo Rochabrun

If you Googled “super PAC” during early 2010, you would have most likely read about Super Pac-Man, the dot-gobbling protagonist of a vintage arcade game.

Today, the term that became shorthand for the comparatively clunky “independent expenditure-only committee” turns 4 years old, having become a main character both in real political battles and fictional political dramas like House of Cards. Even the Federal Election Commission has adopted the term and uses it widely.

Credit a Roll Call reporter for coining “super PAC” as it’s known today.

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Politico Magazine: Checks and Imbalances

Is our society rigged? That’s what a growing number of Americans believe, and reams of statistics indicate: Economic and political power is now concentrated in fewer hands than ever before, while the middle class wastes away. The 1 percent has never had it so good, but can it last? Nick Hanauer, a Seattle megamillionaire who owns six homes and a yacht, warns his fellow plutocrats here that “the pitchforks are coming,” and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who was writing about inequality long before it was cool, calls for a radical rethinking of the U.S. political system. Even Karl Rove, in his way, understands this new American oligarchy better than anyone—because he’s trying to take its cash, as Ken Vogel documents in his revelatory profile of the Bush campaign guru who has reinvented himself as the money man of this new age of deep pockets and shallow democracy.

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Politico: The staggering price of crushing the tea party

By Alexander Burns

National Republican leaders are toasting primary season as a smashing success over activist conservatives that has put the hard right on the ropes and given the Washington GOP the slate of candidates it wanted for 2014.

Those victories, however, have come at a staggering cost — and Republicans are painfully aware of the price of putting down an intraparty insurrection.

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Tech Crunch: Silicon Valley Moguls Push For Campaign Finance Reform

By Cat Zakrzewski

When it comes to big money in politics, a group of tech magnates is fighting fire with fire — or super PAC with super PAC — according to a report from Reuters.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman have joined forces with the super PAC MayDay, which aims to reduce the influence of money in politics.

The super PAC, which was founded by Harvard professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig, has raised more than $1.2 million through crowdsourced funding, according to the MayDay website. The committee hopes to raise $5 million by the Fourth of July and $12 million by the 2014 midterm elections.

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Boston Globe: New super PAC aims to promote independent candidates

By Joshua Miller

Another day, another Massachusetts political action committee that can raise unlimited amounts of money — from people, labor unions, and corporations — and spend it to influence elections.

A local attorney has filed paperwork to organize a new super PAC focused on boosting independent candidates.

The group is aimed at promoting “the election of independent candidates to public offices in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” and providing “the voters of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with alternatives to the candidates running for election to public office as Democrats or Republicans,” according to the Tuesday filing with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

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State and Local

Wisconsin – Wisconsin State Journal: Scott Walker not a target, John Doe special prosecutor says

By Mary Spicuzza

Gov. Scott Walker has not been a target of the John Doe investigation into alleged illegal campaign finance coordination, an attorney for the special prosecutor overseeing the probe said Thursday.

Randall Crocker, the lawyer for special prosecutor Francis Schmitz, noted the investigation has been halted, saying, “At the time the investigation was halted, Governor Walker was not a target of the investigation. At no time has he been served with a subpoena.”

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Wisconsin – La Crosse Tribune: Campaign finance now an issue in governor’s race


The race for Wisconsin governor has a new issue: campaign finance.

The issue surged to the forefront Thursday when Republican Gov. Scott Walker was accused of conducting a “criminal scheme” to evade campaign finance regulations. Democrats will pounce on the “scandal,” but it’s actually a public policy dispute — and one that has enormous consequences for the future of American democracy. Walker could be the battering ram that obliterates what’s left of campaign finance law and opens the gates to political campaigns funded predominantly by unlimited and undisclosed donations.

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Ohio – Cleveland.com: Federal prosecutors say Ben Suarez tried to buy influence from Josh Mandel, Jim Renacci

By Jen Steer

Federal prosecutors delivered closing arguments in the case of a North Canton businessman accused of violating campaign finance laws.

Assistant U.S. attorney Rebecca Lutzko told the jury 72-year-old Ben Suarez tried to buy political influence to save his company from a lawsuit.

“The evidence shows the defendant in this case had a problem, a big problem,” Lutzko said.

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Massachusetts – AP: Massachusetts House passes PAC disclosure bill

The Massachusetts House overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday that supporters say would shine a light on donors to super PACs.

The bill would also double the amount an individual could donate to a candidate in a calendar year from $500 to $1,000. The $500 limit was put in place 20 years ago.

Under the legislation, which passed on a 143-4 vote, super PACs would be required to disclose their contributors within seven days of running an ad.

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