By Eric WangBefore challenging the Colorado law, Citizens United first approached state regulators to see whether it too could avail itself of the media exemption. But officials rebuffed its request, pointing to the state’s antiquated laws, which only exempt newspapers, magazines, “other periodical[s],” and “broadcast facilit[ies]” from the disclaimer and reporting requirements, thus excluding more recent forms of media, such as internet streaming and even DVDs, which have only been around for twenty years. Moreover, while Citizens United intends to license its films to certain broadcast outlets, it also could not qualify as a broadcaster because it did not own the broadcast facilities.The Colorado officials cannot be faulted, however, for their unfortunate application of the state’s inherently discriminatory laws. Working with the media exemption is like wrestling with a pig; even when the doctrine is used to reach the right results, it is impossible to walk away with clean hands.For example, when the Federal Election Commission granted the media exemption to Citizens United in 2010 under the federal law, the agency was forced to distinguish its contrary decision six years earlier. While Citizens United had only produced two documentaries in 2004, the FEC explained, “the volume and frequency of [its] film production have [since] increased substantially.” The agency then proceeded to deny, disingenuously, that it was effectively “impos[ing] a requirement that an entity seeking to avail itself of the press exemption first demonstrate that it has a track record of engaging in media activities” because, otherwise, the FEC would have needed to acknowledge that the law discriminates against newcomers.
By Eliana JohnsonThere’s nothing scandalous about the IRS discarding the BlackBerry of disgraced official Lois Lerner, says an agency IT official.He tells me that “personal folders” — that is, emails moved from the IRS server to the hard drive of a user’s computer — are rarely synchronized with BlackBerry devices. It is the emails in the personal folders that the agency claims were lost forever when Lerner’s hard drive crashed in June 2011. The rest of her files were, of course, backed up on the server.
EditorialSo what to do with an an ethics lawyer with ethical problems? Given the law and regulations, it’s effectively impossible to fire someone who goes astray like Takisha McGee. So the IRS did the next best thing in the IRS book. The agency sent her to Orlando, Fla., the home of Mickey Mouse, to give a lecture titled (and we’re definitely not making this up) “When Your License to Practice Before the IRS is on the Line.” But who can deny that she is in a place to know what she’s talking about?As our Jim McElhatton reported, the wheels of justice turn slowly, and the fate of Ms. McGee’s license to practice has yet to be fully determined. Given all the legal trouble at the IRS resulting from the agency’s unlawful targeting of Tea Party groups, John Koskinen, the commissioner of the IRS, should consider paying closer attention to what’s going on in the ethics office. He might consider staffing it with lawyers who aren’t under suspicion for violating ethics.
By Phil MattinglyGardner’s race illustrates how the system works. Within weeks of his declaring his Senate run, Americans for Prosperity, backed by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, told the Washington Post it would spend $970,000 on three weeks of television, radio, and online ads attacking incumbent Democratic Senator Mark Udall. That news was a signal that Gardner, who was unopposed in the primary, could hang back and focus on raising money—even as Democratic groups began running their own ads attacking him.Then, the day after the Americans for Prosperity ads ended, another Koch-backed group, Freedom Partners, stepped in with three more weeks of commercials. In the first week of May, the political spending arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced it would put up another $1.1 million for a third wave of pro-Gardner ads, including some in Spanish.
By Chris CillizzaBy the end of the 2010 midterms, more than $130 million had been spent on elections by groups that don’t disclose their donors. So, if $6.6 million: $130 million then $50 million: ????. “If the rate of spending from previous cycles continues, the totals could reach upwards of $730 million or — if the rate seen in the last midterm holds — edge close to $1 billion,” writes CRP’s Robert Maguire.
By Joseph GerthThe company owned by Jerry Lundergan that is leasing a tour bus to the U.S. Senate campaign of his daughter, Alison Lundergan Grimes, does not appear to have the proper permits required to operate the charter bus.Grimes’ campaign tour bus has come under scrutiny in the last two weeks since Politico ran a story suggesting that the campaign paid less than the market rate to charter the bus, which if true would violate federal campaign finance law.The revelation that the bus itself could be operating outside the law keeps alive a story that has some focused more on Grimes’ mode of transportation than on the issues upon which she has been attacking Sen. Mitch McConnell in her bid to unseat him.
By Matea GoldThe federal probe that resulted in a guilty plea this week by a former Iowa state senator who was secretly paid to endorse two Republican presidential candidates in the 2012 campaign is ongoing — and could implicate the political operatives who were involved in routing payments to him, according to people familiar with the case.Kent Sorenson, a one-time tea party star and Iowa legislator, caused a stir in late 2011 when he dramatically dropped his endorsement of Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota to back former Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.