Daily Media Links 7/17: Justice Department Investigates Lost IRS Emails, WH threatens veto on GOP’s IRS spending bill, and more…


Wall Street Journal: Justice Department Investigates Lost IRS Emails: Testimony by Deputy Attorney General, Scheduled for Thursday, Underscores Potential Seriousness of Missing Information

By John D. McKinnon

The Justice Department is investigating the loss of Internal Revenue Service emails that might shed light on the agency’s treatment of conservative groups.

As part of its criminal probe into the IRS’s treatment of politically active conservative groups, the Justice Department is “investigating the circumstances of the lost emails from [former IRS official Lois Lerner’s] computer,” according to prepared testimony by James Cole, the deputy attorney general. Mr. Cole is set to appear at a hearing scheduled for Thursday before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee. The Wall Street Journal reviewed his prepared testimony on Wednesday.

Ms. Lerner, now retired, headed the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations. Republicans in Congress say she is a central figure in the IRS’s alleged targeting of conservative tea-party groups for lengthy delays and intrusive scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status, starting in early 2010. They also believe she had a hand in encouraging the agency to give unfavorable treatment to other, larger conservative groups. Democrats say that some liberal groups were also scrutinized, and that the overall controversy has been overblown to score political points against the Obama administration.

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The Hill: WH threatens veto on GOP’s IRS spending bill

By Bernie Becker

The White House on Monday threatened to veto a House spending bill that would roll back funding for both the IRS and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In a statement, the Obama administration said it wanted to work with congressional Republicans to fund the government for the upcoming fiscal year, but also raised a number of objections to the House bill scheduled to hit the floor this week.

“The bill impedes implementation of the Affordable Care Act, undermines critical components of Wall Street reform, and fails to provide the resources necessary to provide robust taxpayer services and improve tax enforcement,” said the statement of administration policy.

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The Hill: House votes to block bonuses at the IRS

By Cristina Marcos

The House on Wednesday approved legislation that would prohibit performance bonuses for senior executives at the Internal Revenue Service.

Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) amendment to the fiscal 2015 Financial Services appropriations bill was approved on a 282-138 vote, with one member voting present.

Gosar argued senior officials at the IRS should not be eligible for performance awards in light of the ongoing controversy over the agency’s scrutiny of conservative nonprofits applying for tax-exempt status.

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WSJ (LTE): The Criticism of Comey Is Unfounded

By Ronald T. Hosko

Your July 8 editorial snipe at “independent and intrepid G-Man James Comey” is misguided (“Where’s Jim Comey ?”). Despite raising legitimate questions about what and when the IRS shared information regarding Lois Lerner’s emails with the FBI, you add, “Mr. [Jim] Jordan is asking Mr. Comey to explain what the FBI knew and when, and that’s the least he owes the taxpaying public.” Today, no he doesn’t.

A year ago, Rep. Jordan engaged in wholly inappropriate and disrespectful questioning of former FBI Director Robert Mueller about the case. Mr. Mueller was among the most trusted figures in government, Congress is among the least trusted. Mr. Jordan put on his televised display by demanding details of the investigation. The director appropriately demurred as the case was in its preliminary stages, far from where conclusions could or should have been made. Moreover, the exchange occurred in a forum that has become little more than a vitriolic political stage.

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Amending the First Amendment

Roll Call: Reforms May Fade, but Voter Anger Won’t

By Eliza Newlin Carney

Opponents of big money in politics celebrated some small victories lately: A constitutional amendment to curb campaign spending cleared a key Senate committee and was introduced in the House. And a new “super PAC to end all super PACs” raised $5 million in a matter of weeks.

At first glance, such long-shot causes look inevitably doomed to fail. No one really expects two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states to amend the Constitution in an area as disputed as campaign financing. And numerous super PACs bent on banning unrestricted money have come and gone in recent years, most of them now terminated.

But the latest campaign finance push, however impractical or constitutionally suspect, has tapped a well of voter anger that politicians ignore at their peril. Public disgust with Congress, which according to Gallup now enjoys a record-low 7 percent approval rating, may not impact this fall’s midterm elections. But as erstwhile House Majority Leader Eric Cantor discovered in his stunning loss in Virginia’s GOP primary, voter wrath over big money can exact a political price. Cantor’s primary opponent, tea party Republican Dave Brat, had made the majority leader’s cozy Wall Street and special interest ties a central campaign theme. Brat is now trumpeting the $400,000 he’s raised from small donors as evidence that he’s running a “campaign of the people.”

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The Hill: Dems want campaign finance constitutional amendment

By Cameron Joseph

House Democrats are pushing for a constitutional amendment to reverse the effects of the Supreme Court’s decisions deregulating campaign spending.

They will introduce House legislation to change the law, culled from more than a dozen separate Democratic proposals to change the Constitution. The amendment would give Congress and the states the authority to regulate campaign spending in the way they did before the decisions.

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Independent Groups

Free Beacon: Democracy Alliance Bankrolls Dem Super PAC

By Lachlan Markay

Members of a secretive club of wealthy left-wing donors are bankrolling a major Democratic Super PAC backing a likely Hillary Clinton presidential run even as some of the group’s members complain it is too closely tied to the Democratic Party.

More than a third of total contributions this year to American Bridge 21st Century have come from individuals associated with the Democracy Alliance.

The most prominent and deep-pocketed is left-wing billionaire George Soros, who has donated half a million dollars to the group this year. Sixteen Democracy Alliance donors, including Soros, have given American Bridge just shy of $2 million since January.

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Washington Post: The techies are jumping into the super PAC game … to fight super PACs

By Sebastian Payne

Technology entrepreneurs and activists are splashing their cash into politics. Mayday, a “crowd-funded” super PAC founded to “reduce the influence of money in politics,” has filed its campaign returns for the last quarter, with a headline figure of $3.3 million in donations through  the end of June.

As we reported last month, it appears half of Mayday’s money was raised online and the rest was matched by wealthy entrepreneurs. A surge of additional online funding, along with matches from wealthy donors, has brought its total haul to $12 million, the super PAC has said.

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Bloomberg: Koch-Founded Super-PAC Draws $500,000 Donor in First Days

By Annie Linskey

A new super-political action committee connected to David and Charles Koch reported one donation — of $500,000 — in its first two weeks of operation.

Ronald Cameron, chief executive officer of Mountaire Corp., gave the money to Freedom Partners Action Fund Inc., helping the new super-PAC begin its operations, according to James Davis, a spokesman for the committee. Mountaire is a closely held poultry company based in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The Koch brothers, billionaire oil industry executives, started a network of nonprofits that promote small government and aren’t required to disclose their donors. The new super-PAC is mandated to report donations quarterly, the first Koch entity subject to this requirement.

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USA Today: One pro-Hillary super PAC raises no money — by design

By Fredreka Schouten

Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that’s aiming to raise big dollars for a possible Hillary Rodham Clinton presidential campaign, donated heavily to other Democratic groups and raised virtually no money of its own.

Organizers said they collected just $1,845 between April 1 and June 30.

By doing so, the group’s leaders say they have kept a pledge not to compete for donors with other Democratic groups working on November’s midterm elections.

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

The Hill: Dems raise big to save the Senate

By Cameron Joseph and Alexandra Jaffe

Senate Democratic candidates have kept up a torrential fundraising pace, giving several in top races a key advantage as they fight to hold the upper chamber this fall.

But the GOP’s advantage in super-PAC spending forced some incumbents to spend heavily, narrowing their cash edge over their Republican challengers.

Democrats such as Sens. Kay Hagan (N.C.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Mark Warner (Va.), Georgia candidate Michelle Nunn (D) and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) all posted huge numbers.

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Roll Call: Rich Candidates, Poor House Districts

By Emily Cahn

Mo’ money, mo’ problems? That’s the case for a few deep-pocketed House candidates, whose affluence has become a political issue in the districts they seek this November.

Wealth is commonplace in Congress, where one-third of the members are worth more than $1 million. But this cycle, at least four candidates running in competitive House districts boast a personal net worth in excess of $8 million, according to financial disclosure forms. And in the final months of the midterms, their opponents have found ways to use their means against them.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same playbook that sunk Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Last cycle, Democrats successfully used Romney’s estimated $250 million net worth — along with his career as a venture capitalist — to convince middle-class voters he didn’t have their best interests at heart. Hillary Rodham Clinton, considering a second presidential bid, has also taken heat recently for talking about financial struggles, despite the hefty speaking fees she earns and her relatively newfound riches.

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Politico: Va. Democratic super PAC: Obama ‘could hurt’ Warner

By James Hohmann

A Democratic super PAC focused on reelecting Mark Warner has been making the case to donors that Virginia’s sleepy Senate race could become very competitive — private messaging at odds with public posturing from national Democrats, who argue that the contest should not be on the map and that Warner is safe.

Talking points provided to a potential donor, obtained by POLITICO, are eerily similar to the pitch that Republican candidate Ed Gillespie is making to his own donors.

Virginia Progress PAC, which has since changed its name to the End Gridlock Committee, said in a document distributed last month that it already has $2 million in cash and fundraising commitments and aims to raise another $500,000.

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Roll Call: Who Has Time for Legislating Anyway? | K Street Files

By Kate Ackley

Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services panel, was in a rush to recess a lengthy markup so he and the other lawmakers could make it across the street to the Capitol for evening floor votes.

But Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., pleaded for a few seconds to squeeze in his comments before the gavel.

Even though Hensarling reconvened the markup just after those votes, Scott had somewhere else to be. “Thank you, because I have a fundraiser I’ve got to get to right after,” Scott said in a moment of candor that sent the room into surprised laughter.

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Lobbying and Ethics

Free Beacon: Recordings Reveal Former Labor Secretary Violated Hatch Act

By Bill McMorris

A former top Obama appointee solicited donations for the president’s reelection campaign on the job, according to audio recordings released by the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.

Former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis allegedly violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits political activity on government time, when she invited an unnamed person to a fundraiser for President Obama’s super PAC.

“Hi—this is Hilda Solis calling, um, just calling you off-the-record here—Wanted to ask you if you could, um, help us get folks organized to come to a fundraiser that we’re doing for Organizing for America for Obama campaign on Friday at La Fonda at 6 P.M.,” she says in the voicemail obtained by the committee.

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The Hill: Bipartisan bill would require mandatory ethics training for lawmakers

By Cristina Marcos

Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Scott Rigell (R-Va.) have introduced legislation that would require all members of the House and Senate to take ethics training.

Congress passed a law in 2007 that required mandatory ethics training for all senators and their staffs, as well as House staffers, every year. It did not apply to House members, however.

Cicilline said requiring lawmakers in both chambers of Congress to undergo ethics training would help boost the public’s perception of the institution.

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NY Times: Data Delayed Is Democracy Denied


Ascertaining that contributions are characterized correctly — Did the funds come from individuals? Did they flow through another organization? Are the donors and recipients identified correctly? — has been a basic responsibility of the F.E.C. almost since its inception, along with tasks like making sure the data reflect amended filings and avoid duplication of records. This processing isn’t particularly high-tech, but it has to be done right, and quickly.

For years, the F.E.C. has said in its strategic planning documents that it would complete 95 percent of its processing within 30 days of a filing deadline.

So when we downloaded the F.E.C. files on May 21, we believed that virtually all reports from 2014 House candidates submitted by April 15 would be included. We were shocked to find, however, that information for 347 of the 703 active House candidates for the first quarter of the year was missing.

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State and Local

New York – City Ethics: The Problems with a Mayoral Booster Organization

By Robert Wechsler

Is it appropriate for a mayor — especially a mayor in a city with strict gift rules and a public campaign financing program that has strict campaign contribution limits — to work with an organization that lobbies the state on behalf of his policies and sponsors ads and materials that support his views and, especially, celebrate his successes?

This is the situation in New York City, where Bill de Blasio, in his first year in office, is being celebrated by an entity called Campaign for One New York (CONY), which announced yesterday its expenditures and contributors (in keeping with de Blasio’s support of transparency, it went well beyond the requirement of disclosing contributors of over $5,000).

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