Daily Media Links 2/26: Lois Lerner Received $129K in Bonuses, Senators Are Announcing Retirements Earlier. Fund-Raising Plays a Big Role, and more…

In the News

Brennan Center: Do Even the Koch Brothers Deserve Some Privacy? 

By Ciara Torres-Spelliscy
The Protect Marriage case may not resolve the issue in CCP and APF cases since ProtectMarriage is about campaign spending in a ballot initiative and at least from the outside, there does not appear to be an allegation of political spending by either group, which is consistent with CCP’s and APF’s 501(c)(3) tax status, which bars both groups from political interventions.  
But as the Nonprofit Quarterly put it, the CCP and APF cases “raise questions about the importance of nonprofit confidentiality or, most specifically, whether donor confidentiality should be sacrosanct in this day and age of big money manipulating and contorting electoral processes.”
So do the Koch Brothers deserve some privacy?  At least one federal judge thinks so as the APF and CCP cases continue through the litigation process.  Meanwhile, California also has an interest in regulating the charities that are fundraising in their state and regulating while blindfolded will be untenable.  But who will win this particular fight in the long run is really up in the air.  

IRS

Free Beacon: Lois Lerner Received $129K in Bonuses 
By CJ Ciaramella
Former IRS official Lois Lerner received $129,300 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013, records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show.
Over a three-year period, Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt division at the heart of the IRS targeting scandal, received a 25 percent retention bonus—averaging $43,000 a year—on top of her regular salary.
The federal government uses retention bonuses to incentivize valuable employees who are considering retirement or private sector jobs to stay at their agencies.
Former acting IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller recommended Lerner for a $42,000 retention bonus in December 2009, when she first became eligible for retirement.
 
Independent Groups
 
Washington Post: Foreign governments gave millions to foundation while Clinton was at State  
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger
Some of the donations came from countries with complicated diplomatic, military and financial relationships with the U.S. government, including Kuwait, Qatar and Oman.
Other nations that donated included Australia, Norway and the Dominican Republic.
The foundation presents a unique political challenge for Clinton, and one that has already become a cause of concern among Democrats as she prepares to launch an almost-certain second bid for the presidency.
 
National Journal: Inside the PAC Republicans Fear Most
By Scott Bland
Three-quarters of Democratic Senate campaigns, more than half of Democratic House campaigns, and both caucuses’ official campaign committees use ActBlue, a nonprofit vendor, to process their online donations. And the data ActBlue generates in the process has helped form an ever-growing, digital fundraising feedback loop pushing Democrats’ online money-gathering to new heights—and spurring Republican efforts to catch up or be swamped.
Since its inception, ActBlue has offered a hard-to-get service—tried-and-tested online donation pages backed up by reliable infrastructure, one that had all of four minutes of downtime in 2013 and 2014—to candidates up and down the ballot, including plenty who otherwise might not have been able to afford to set up a digital donation service of their own. The donations are “bundled” through ActBlue’s PAC directly to candidates.
Widespread adoption of that service lets ActBlue do two things. First, they continually test and retest their forms on a large scale so they can create products that make people more likely to contribute to candidates. With hundreds of campaigns sending emails to donors all the time, ActBlue’s scale means it can use “A/B” testing (comparing the effectiveness of two versions of the same page) to figure out within hours which form will yield the best return—instead of the months it might take for a single campaign to gather that data. It “gets to statistical significance quickly,” said Erin Hill, ActBlue’s executive director.
 
SCOTUS/Judiciary

Boston Globe: State campaign finance law faces legal challenge  
By David Scharfenberg
A conservative legal group filed a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the state’s century-old ban on corporate contributions to political candidates, and injecting new life into a long-running debate over the influence of special interests in Massachusetts politics.
The Goldwater Institute, a Phoenix-based organization with growing national ambitions, argues that the law infringes on the free-speech rights of businesses and puts corporations at a sharp disadvantage in their political skirmishes with organized labor.
State rules allow unions to donate up to $15,000 to an individual candidate.
“It’s about equality and fairness,” said Jim Manley, a senior attorney with the Goldwater Institute.
 
Kochs
 
Bloomberg: Local TV’s Best Friend? The Kochs  
By Justin Fox
The Koch brothers are planning to spend $889 million on the 2016 political campaign. There are those who see this as a terrible subversion of democracy. There are others, among them Bloomberg View’s Jonathan Bernstein, who see it as a big waste of Charles and David Koch’s money.
Then there are the owners of local television stations, who can be forgiven if they see the partisan zeal of the Kochs and other politically engaged billionaires as a great gift from heaven, or at least from the U.S. Supreme Court. That’s because, despite the rise of new digital organizing techniques and the persistence of old-style phone banks and door-to-door efforts, political spending in this country mainly means one thing — buying airtime on local TV.
 
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

NY Times: Senators Are Announcing Retirements Earlier. Fund-Raising Plays a Big Role. 
By Derek Willis
Why are politicians bowing out so much earlier? Would it surprise you if I told you it was related to money? The price of discouraging challengers and deterring speculation is near-constant fund-raising. Lawmakers elected last November immediately needed to begin raising money, even though the next election is six years off. A Senate candidate in a competitive race needs to raise more than $10 million. Increasingly, Mr. Karol argues, senators considering retirement are reluctant to keep up that pace.  
 
Ethics
 
Free Beacon: Watchdog Accuses Harry Reid of Ethics Violations  
By Lachlan Markay
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) illegally used official Senate resources for political purposes, according to an ethics complaint filed this week.
A reported meeting between Reid and his caucus in which the Nevada Democrat promoted his 2016 reelection campaign violated Senate ethics rules, the complaint alleges.
“Senator Reid’s actions appear to make a mockery of both the Senate Ethics Rules and federal law,” the complaint states. “He reportedly announced his reelection campaign from the confines of an official Senate meeting room located mere steps from the Senate floor.”
 
State and Local

Hawaii –– Associated Press: Hawaii bill would make super PACs disclose source of funding   
By Cathy Bussewitz  
The proposal would make a super PAC reveal whether its contributors and recipients are also required to disclose campaign spending information. If so, the super PAC would then have to provide access to that information.
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill Wednesday. No one testified against the measure.
Supports of the bill say Hawaii’s disclosure requirements for super PACs are inadequate, and that it’s difficult for voters to find out the sources and recipients of the money being spent.
 
New York –– NY Post: Erasing e-mails proves Cuomo’s vow of transparency is a sham  
By Bob McManus
Gov. Cuomo is conducting an early spring cleaning of Albany’s e-mails — all of them, right down to cyber bedrock.
But is this a big deal? If you can’t trust Uncle Andrew, who can you trust?
Never mind that US Attorney Preet Bharara — fresh from taking down Sheldon Silver — seems to be breathing right down the gubernatorial neck. “Stay tuned,” the prosecutor warned — with both eyes fixed firmly on Andrew.
 
New Mexico –– The New Mexican: Group urging more lobbyist disclosure leads in spending 
By Steve Terrell 
SANTA FE >> The lobbyist spending report showing the highest amount of expenses so far in the 2015 legislative session is from a group that is pushing for more lobbyist disclosure requirements.
Although most of the lobbyist reports filed during the session reflect spending for parties, dinners and gifts, lobbyists also are required to report money spent on advertising during a session.
Viki Harrison, executive director of Common Cause New Mexico, last week reported spending a total of $79,149. Of that, $74,050 went to Adelstein Liston, an ad agency based in Chicago and Washington, D.C., for print and online ads urging support for certain bills relating to lobbyists and ethics issues. Another $5,099 went to a company called Stones’ Phones for a telephone campaign to get support for a disclosure bill.
 
West Virginia –– Charleston Daily Mail: Bill to remove political contribution limits sent to subcommittee  
By Joel Ebert 
Introduced Monday, Senate Bill 541would make significant changes to the state’s campaign contributions laws and reporting methods.
In addition to eliminating the current $1,000 cap a person or committee can donate to political candidates, the bill also would remove the current prohibition on corporate contributions to political campaigns. It also eliminates restrictions on political action committee’s donations to other PACs. 
The bill also allows money to be transferred from one committee to another for the purposes of retiring debt. 

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