Daily Media Links 5/28: ‘Dark Money’ and Anonymous Speech Are Awesome, Unless You Want Political Thugs Jumping on Your Head, Two years later, IRS remains reckless and corrupt, and more…

In the News

Wall Street Journal: Get the IRS Out of the Speech-Police Business

Scott Blackburn

Some agency defenders have claimed that nothing was amiss in the IRS harassing hundreds of conservative and tea party groups. Since the agency also went after a few liberal groups, what’s the problem? The problem is that Americans deserve better than equal harassment under the law.

The job of the IRS should be to collect taxes, fairly and efficiently. Since the income tax was enacted in 1913, however, the IRS has appropriated to itself—sometimes on its own, sometimes with congressional blessing—the right to make political judgments about groups of citizens. That is the central failure revealed by this scandal.

The solution is to get the agency out of the business of policing political speech. To do so, the first step is to understand the situation today”

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Free Speech

Reason: ‘Dark Money’ and Anonymous Speech Are Awesome, Unless You Want Political Thugs Jumping on Your Head

J.D. Tucille

But people taking on those officials face a different situation, illustrated in the starkest way by Joe Arpaio. If attracting a politician’s attention has a history of drawing surveillance, police raids, and phony criminal charges, there’s a certain disincentive to lending identifiable support to opposition efforts.

Retaliation isn’t always so crude, of course. Usually, it occurs in more subtle ways as politicians manipulate the tendrils of our intrusive modern state. Publicly speak out, and you can suddenly suffer refusals of permits, surprise inspections, and tax difficulties. Try to prove there’s a connection.

And it’s not just a problem for localities. The Internal Revenue Service, which has featured in news headlines recently for targeted scrutiny of conservative non-profit organizations, has a history of service as a political weapon.

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NPR: How Politics Is Shaping Language: ‘Dark Money’ Added To Dictionary

Danielle Kurtzleben

“Money contributed to nonprofit organizations that is used to fund political campaigns without disclosure of the donors’ identities,” as Merriam-Webster defines it

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The Hill: Two years later, IRS remains reckless and corrupt

Akash Chougule

Perhaps the inability to focus on its core responsibilities is what resulted in the IRS sending the wrong tax forms to 800,000 Obamacare enrollees this year, and $5.6 billion in potentially bogus education tax credits going back to 2012. Because of the Obamacare gaffe, nearly a million people will have to wait longer to get their tax refunds this year. In regards to the 3.6 million people who received faulty education tax credits in 2012, the Treasury Inspector General for tax administration told Fox News, “The IRS still does not have effective processes to identify erroneous claims for education credits.”

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New York Times: Congress Wants to Know How Thieves Stole Tax Info From IRS

The Associated Press

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch has requested a confidential briefing by IRS officials by the end of next week.

“It is critical that this committee fully understand what took place, what information was at risk, how this may affect tax administration, and what appropriate legislative responses may be needed to reduce the risk of this occurring again,” Hatch said Wednesday in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

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Wall Street Journal: Five Questions About the IRS Data Breach

Karen Damato

How did cyberthieves get access to tax-return data?

The criminals used stolen Social Security numbers and other personal data to log into the agency’s online Get Transcript service and view prior-year tax-return information, the agency said.

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Philadelphia Inquirer: Campaign-finance double talk

Dana Milbank

Clinton also, as reported by my Washington Post colleagues Matea Gold and Anne Gearan, put in a plug with the fund-raisers (all of whom had hauled in at least $27,000 for her) for a constitutional amendment overturning the ruling, which allows unlimited spending by super PACs.

Nice sentiments, but the fact that she was unveiling her Citizens United litmus test with party fat cats at an exclusive soiree (four days later, she mentioned it to voters in Iowa) tells you all you need to know about Clinton’s awkward – and often hypocritical – relationship with campaign-finance reform.

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Miami Herald: Watchdog groups want Justice Department to investigate Jeb Bush fundraising

Lesley Clark

In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center say there are “powerful grounds” to believe that Bush and his fundraising arm are violating federal contribution limits and prohibitions on soft money. They charge that Bush and the fundraising group is “engaged in a scheme to allow unlimited contributions to be spent directly on behalf of the Bush campaign and thereby violate the candidate contribution limits enacted to prevent corruption and the appearance of corruption.”

The complaint is the second the groups have filed against the former Florida governor, who has not formally entered the race but is raising tens of millions of dollars at fundraisers across the country. A spokeswoman for Bush said he and his allies are “fully complying with the law in all activities Governor Bush is engaging in on the political front, and will continue to do so.”

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The States

Arizona Republic: Getting rid of Arpaio may require a dark money campaign

Robert Robb

If Arpaio is to be defeated, the business community probably has to conclude that he’s enough of a damaging menace to warrant funding an independent campaign in that range. But the money isn’t the only hurdle.

With Arpaio, there’s a risk of criminal investigations and bogus criminal charges if you oppose him. That’s part of what makes him a damaging menace. So, any such independent campaign would likely have to be by a dark-money group that didn’t disclose its contributors.

It would be fascinating to watch the dark-money scolds react to a dark-money campaign to defeat Arpaio while protecting donors against his documented retaliatory proclivities

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Texas Tribune: House Passes Ethics Bill, Senate Showdown Likely

Jay Root

State Sen. Van Taylor, a Plano Republican who has carried ethics reform in his chamber, quickly issued a statement expressing “astonishment for the elimination of meaningful ethics reform” in the House version of the bill.

“Some in the House apparently don’t think elected officials are the problem and instead muddled the bill with a litany of bizarre measures that point the finger at everyone besides themselves, including a page from Hillary Clinton’s playbook to launch an assault on the First Amendment,” Taylor’s statement said. “This is one of those head shaking moments that rightfully raise doubts in the minds of our constituents as to the Legislature’s resolve to serve the people above all else.”

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The Missoulian: Court reverses ruling on Montana campaign contribution limits

Matt Volz

States may cap political donors’ campaign contributions only if they can show that those limits are preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling by a three-judge panel from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a Montana case could make it more difficult for states to defend their restrictions on the amount of money that individual donors give candidates in state elections.

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Los Angeles Times: Montana’s rule on campaign contribution limits is headed back to court

Maura Dolan

In sending the case back to the district judge, 9th Circuit Judge Carlos Bea, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, said the lower court should identify what “important state interest” was at stake and determine whether the limits were lower than necessary to prevent quid pro quo corruption or its appearance.

The panel said limits may be upheld if the evidence shows they promote an important state interest, are narrowly focused on that interest, leave contributors free to affiliate with a candidate and allow candidates enough resources to wage effective campaigns.

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