Daily Media Links 10/26: DOJ closes IRS investigation with no charges, Which kinds of campaign donations lead to more polarized legislatures? You’ll be surprised by the answer., and more…

In the News

Washington Examiner: Progressive activists attempt to silence the business community

Brad Smith & Scott Blackburn

Should businesses engage in political activity to protect jobs, fight unnecessary regulations or reduce costs? Most Americans think so.

Ninety-eight percent of Americans say if they ran a company facing burdensome laws and regulations, they would take some sort of political action.

Even corporate lobbying is supported by large majorities when it is in a business’s best interest. Eighty percent of Americans support lobbying to protect jobs, 72 percent support it to open new markets and 58 percent support it to reduce business costs.

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CNN: DOJ closes IRS investigation with no charges

Evan Perez

There will be no charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner or anyone else at the agency, the Justice Department said in a letter.

The probe found “substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints. But poor management is not a crime,” Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said in the letter.

The IRS scandal exploded in May 2013 when Lerner answered a planted question at an American Bar Association event and apologized for inappropriately scrutinizing some groups applying for a tax exemption. Her response fueled a full-on scandal within hours that shook the Obama administration. Congressional hearings were held within weeks and the interim leader of the IRS was forced from office.

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Investor’s Business Daily: IRS’ Lois Lerner Skates; An Ugly Precedent Is Set

Editorial Board

Is there anyone out there subject to an Internal Revenue Service audit or a multiyear delay in approval for tax-exempt status who won’t be concerned that the process is politically rigged against them?

That’s the message the Justice Department sent when, in a classic Friday night news dump, it decided to not file charges against IRS tax-exempt groups chief Lois Lerner. In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, Justice said that while it found “mismanagement, poor judgment and inertia,” there was no case for a criminal prosecution.

This is absurd. Lerner was caught red-handed targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups, wrote partisan emails to prove it, then engaged in a massive cover-up effort — with a suspiciously crashed server, an oddly missing BlackBerry and plenty of excuses.

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Political Donors

Washington Post: Which kinds of campaign donations lead to more polarized legislatures? You’ll be surprised by the answer.

Michael Barber

By comparing what happens with these limits, I estimated how the state legislature changed when either individuals or interest groups could give them more money. When individuals can give more, the legislature gets more polarized, as lawmakers with more extreme views get elected. But when political action committees (PACs, or interest groups) can give more money, the legislature gets less polarized, as more moderate lawmakers get elected…

Many reformers suggest that the best way to overhaul campaign finance laws is by empowering small individual donors. It’s true that doing so might reduce the influence of interest groups — but such a change may have the unintended consequence of polarizing legislatures still more. And many people are just as concerned about gridlock and polarization as they are about allowing unlimited amounts of money into politics.

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Independent Groups

Wall Street Journal: Some Candidates, Super PACs Draw Closer

Beth Reinhard and Christopher S. Stewart

Republican presidential candidates are largely abandoning the caution of past campaigns in relations with the super PACs backing them, testing legal limits as the independent groups take over more functions from campaigns themselves…

The danger for presidential campaigns is that, as welcome as super PAC support is, the candidates are legally barred from coordinating with the outside groups over how to spend the money. Candidates face the prospect they will be identified with super PAC ads and tactics of which they don’t approve.

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Free Speech

San Francisco Chronicle: Airbnb’s Cancelled Ads Draw Campaign Finance Complaint

Julia Carrie Wong

Airbnb’s passive aggressive ad campaign about the $12 million in hotel tax that its guests contribute to the city’s coffers each year was almost universally reviled, but was it illegal?

That’s the contention of the company’s opponents in the bitter campaign over Proposition F, a ballot initiative that would strictly regulate short term rentals in San Francisco.

Two days after Airbnb launched the ill-fated campaign, only to apologize and cancel it following a swift social media backlash, the short term rental platform’s opponents are alleging that the ads jeered ’round the world were an intentional violation of San Francisco’s strict campaign finance disclosure rules.

Ian Lewis of Unite Here Local 2, the city’s hotel worker union, filed a complaint with the San Francisco Ethics Commission today against Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and No on Prop. F Treasurer Andrew Sinn. In the complaint, Lewis writes, “These advertisements were transparently intended to persuade voters to oppose Proposition F, which is closely identified with AirBnB.”

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Political Parties

More Soft Money Hard Law: The Politics of Party Campaign Finance

Bob Bauer

There is also more to say about the party leaders’ role.  It is a mistake to discount the effects of smart politics and patience. There are various strategies that party leaders and their staffs employ to build the case for a contribution.  The good politician looks for various interests to which he can appeal; he will work around or minimize the obvious differences to locate the grounds of affinity. A prospective donor’s peers within the relevant business or professional community can be mobilized to help make the case. Political leadership “close to home”, at the state and local level, may also have a part to play.

The leader does all this with the goal of attracting support in ways that do not limit his freedom or flexibility as a party leader in directing the funds.  He has a party to run.  The “outside group” is in business often for the very different purpose of offering just the exclusive ideological satisfaction a donor may be seeking.

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Campaigns and Candidates

Politico: Jeb Bush slashes pay, spending as campaign struggles

Alex Isenstadt and Eli Stokols

Although campaign officials insisted they’re still in strong shape, the cuts — combined with Bush’s stagnant poll numbers — suggest otherwise. According to donors, some of whom called for Bush to rein in its spending, the campaign’s assurances about its organizational and financial advantages had worn thin; and the third-quarter financial report, filed last Thursday, gave further definition to their growing concerns about the state of the campaign.

“These donors are not finding these explanations by the Bush team believable,” said one bundler, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “There’s a lot of frustration that a lot of money’s been spent and it hasn’t moved anything.”

Staff were informed of the changes on a Friday morning conference call with top officials, who said resources would shift heavily to ballot access and voter contact.

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Washington Post: The summer of Donald Trump, in one GIF

Philip Bump

People couldn’t help but throw money at the guy who repeatedly said he didn’t need anyone’s money but his own (and who probably actually doesn’t). If there’s a single image that sums up Trump’s insanely popular summer, it’s that one.

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USA Today: Democratic group sees surge in mobile political donations

Fredreka Schouten

Officials with Democratic online fundraising machine, ActBlue, said this week that mobile users account for more than 31% of the donations it has processed for candidates and committees so far this month. That’s up from 19.9% in October 2013.

Some 1.8 million ActBlue also donors have “express accounts” that store their personal and payment information, allowing them to make political donations with a single click or two.

ActBlue, which has processed more than $141.4 million in contributions to Democratic candidates and groups this year, is at the forefront of the push by campaigns to attract small-dollar contributors. Those donors are crucial to politicians because they can make repeat donations before they hit the $2,700 cap on what an individual can give to a single federal candidate.

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Re/Code: Here Are The Kickstarters That Are Out-Fundraising Presidential Candidates

Noah Kulwin

Though people in the startup world whine a lot about politics and an entrenched class of Washington bureaucrats who hate disruption, the reality is that the two worlds are actually pretty similar. For example, politicians also have to raise a lot of money. And just like in Silicon Valley, the people who give them money often don’t get the returns they wanted.

Kickstarter is perhaps the easiest basis for comparison between politics and the tech industry; in both, millions of dollars are exchanged for concrete-but-possibly-empty promises.

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The States

Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: Scott Walker signs bill limiting Doe probes as records are released

Patrick Marley

The GOP governor signed the measure a day after documents related to the secret probe of his campaign were released that showed investigators initially believed they had overwhelming evidence of violations of campaign finance laws. The documents revealed a key prosecutor for a time had second thoughts after litigation was filed over the investigation, which the state Supreme Court shut down in July.

The new records also showed investigators acquired more than 1 million emails and issued 29 subpoenas. They raised concerns with federal prosecutors and the Internal Revenue Service but drew little interest in their probe.

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Topeka Capital-Journal: Editorial: Lobbyists provide information

Capital-Journal Editorial Board

Providing legislators with information about an issue is a legitimate function, which occurs throughout the year, that can help lawmakers with their deliberations as they craft, refine, amend and vote on bills. At such times, it is good for them to have as much information at hand as possible. And while Kansas’ legislators may be good politicians, that doesn’t mean they know everything about everything.

Given the number of senators (40) and representatives (125) in our Legislature, $500,000 spent throughout the first 10 months of the year doesn’t seem excessive. Granted, the majority of that money probably was spent during the past legislative session, but it is difficult to believe the money actually bought any votes.

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WKBW: New Mexico secretary of state pleads guilty to embezzlement

Associated Press

In a packed Santa Fe District courtroom, Duran pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement charges and four misdemeanors. Sentencing is slated for Dec. 14 and Duran can withdraw her guilty pleas if a judge later imposes prison time.

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Chicago Sun Times: Ruling: Campaign finance limits don’t apply to unions with city contracts

Fran Spielman and Dan Mihalopoulos

Unions representing city employees should not be bound by Chicago’s campaign financing law limiting annual contributions to $1,500 per candidate, the Board of Ethics ruled this week.

In a confidential advisory opinion, the board ruled that a collective bargaining agreement with the city is not the same as an agreement  between the city and a private company for commodities or services rendered.

Therefore, the board concluded that the $1,500 limit on campaign contributions should not apply to labor unions.

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