Daily Media Links 12/17: Spending bill bars IRS and others from forcing political disclosure, Jeb Bush’s TV Ad Campaign Is Becoming a Historic Profile in Futility, and more…

In the News

Washington Free Beacon: Free Speech Groups Hail First Amendment Wins in Congressional Deal

Lachlan Markay

David Keating, president of the Center for Competitive Politics, joked that the provision could be dubbed “the Lois Lerner Memorial Act of 2015.”

“I think the investigators were really frustrated that they didn’t get [Lerner’s] emails,” Keating said in an interview. “It also raises security issues. The tax laws have a lot of provisions guaranteeing privacy and confidentiality of tax information. If IRS employees are using their Hotmail accounts or something, that’s not exactly secure.”

Additionally, the omnibus would also bar forced political spending disclosure efforts by way of executive or administrative action…

 “Such an order would be bad for free speech and bad for taxpayers,” Keating said of the regulations. “It would allow an administration to readily compile a friends and enemies list, which is bad government policy.

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Daily Signal: Campaign Finance Measure Opposed by Conservatives Kept Out of Spending Deal

Melissa Quinn

“It was strongly pro-First Amendment, and so we’d like to see more free speech, and the campaign finance law provided for it,” he said in an interview with The Daily Signal of McConnell’s measure. Keating continued:

“I’m optimistic that it’s going to pass in the near future. To my mind, it’s not a matter of if, but when it will. … [Super-PACs] are putting a lot of pressure on the political parties because they’re not allowed to speak as independent groups. Members of Congress can do something about that by changing the law. I think it’ll happen; it’s just a question of when.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed published earlier this month, Keating and Smith criticized the Freedom Caucus for its opposition to the measure and said the lawmakers in the group were objecting to “political free speech.”

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The Blaze: New IRS Rule a Gift to Hackers and Ruthless Politicians

Mario Diaz

Free speech is very clearly an issue here. Similar attempts to muzzle and restrict political involvement are growing around the country. Just recently, Concerned Women of America submitted a brief to the Supreme Court asking the justices to address similar issues in a California case (Center for Competitive Politics v. Harris) where Attorney General Kamala Harris demanded donor names and addresses from charitable organizations.

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Comments to IRS on Nonprofit Donor SSN Reporting

Eric Wang

For the following reasons, CCP urges the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) to abandon its proposal for certain tax-exempt organizations to collect and report to the Service their donors’ personal details, including Social Security numbers, in lieu of the “contemporaneous written acknowledgement” requirement:

    The NPRM’s alternative for documenting tax-deductible donations is more burdensome and intrusive than the current requirement for contemporaneous written acknowledgements, and there is no reason why any donor or exempt organization would elect this option;

    The NPRM’s requirement for exempt organizations to obtain and report donors’ Social Security numbers is unnecessary;

    It is questionable whether the Service will be able to properly safeguard donors’ Social Security numbers on these information returns.

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USA Today: Spending bill bars IRS and others from forcing political disclosure

Fredreka Schouten

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday the IRS measure was needed to curb abuses by the agency, which has been in congressional cross-hairs for more than two years. In 2013, IRS official Lois Lerner admitted that tax officials had subjected Tea Party groups to additional scrutiny during the 2012 election, sparking conservative outcry around the country and several investigations on Capitol Hill.

“We have found that the IRS meddles in the political affairs of people,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday. “They turned the IRS into a political weapon in 2012, and we are not going to let them turn the IRS into a political weapon again.”

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National Law Review: Congressional Spending Bill Shuts Down Key Goals of Campaign Finance Reform Community

Zachary Parks

Most significantly, the bill would bar the SEC from using appropriated funds “to finalize, issue, or implement any rule, regulation, or order regarding the disclosure of political contributions, contributions to tax exempt organizations, or dues paid to trade associations.”  An SEC rulemaking forcing public companies to disclose information about their political activities has long been a dream of the reform community.  Law professors, labor organizations, and others have organized campaigns resulting in hundreds of thousands of comments encouraging the SEC to act.  At one point a few years ago, the SEC put a potential “corporate political disclosure” rulemaking on its “Unified Agenda,” but never acted.  While the SEC has lately shown little appetite to engage in rulemaking in this area, some Members of Congress have increasingly pressured it to do so.  Today’s spending bill, if adopted, prevents the SEC from moving forward with any such rulemaking for the next fiscal year.

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The Hill: McConnell fails to push through campaign spending measure

Jonathan Swan

Seeking to bring power back to Republican Party leadership, McConnell tried to insert a rider into the $1.1 trillion omnibus that would have removed limits on coordinated spending, but after rising opposition from Democrats, some Republicans and campaign finance reformers, the rider dropped out of the final bill…

Republicans, however, did manage to secure a couple of victories…

GOP leadership squeezed in riders that will block the IRS from using new regulations to stop “dark money” groups — nonprofits organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code — from using their social welfare status to run political advertisements without disclosing their donors.

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New York Times: Spending Bill to Block Limits on Outside Political Groups

Carl Hulse

But to the dismay of campaign watchdogs, the 2,000-page omnibus spending measure would block other significant efforts to force more disclosure of contributors and to limit increasing political activity by nonprofit organizations.

The budget bill would prevent the Internal Revenue Service, a top target of Republican critics, from moving ahead on new rules that could curb the activities of nonprofit advocacy groups that have become much more active in elections and that do not have to disclose the names of their donors. It would also prohibit the Securities and Exchange Commission from instituting new rules requiring corporations to disclose their campaign activity to investors — a change the S.E.C. seemed cool to despite pressure from would-be reformers.

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Independent Groups

New York Magazine: Jeb Bush’s TV Ad Campaign Is Becoming a Historic Profile in Futility

Ed Kilgore

Up until now, Bush’s allies have outspent the entire remainder of the field in paid media, with $35 million already gone. Nearly half of that is in New Hampshire, where Bush is currently in sixth place according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages, with about one-fourth the level of support of front-runner Donald Trump, who has spent almost nothing on ads. But the worst could be yet to come: According to Murray, Right to Rise also has another $28 million in ads in the pipeline. Unless Team Bush has already executed some big strategic pivot without anyone knowing about it, you have to figure they are for the moment almost literally doubling down on positive ads touting Bush’s fine conservative record in Florida, at a time when GOP voters have decided they really don’t like governors.

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The Atlantic: Bernie Sanders’s Super PACs

Clare Foran

Take National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the U.S. The group endorsed Sanders for president back in August. Its political arm—National Nurses United for Patient Protection—has so far spent more than $550,000 in support of Bernie Sanders, including doling out money for print and digital advertising. The group qualifies as a super PAC, according to the Federal Election Commission. Union organizers, however, reject that name.

“It’s not a super PAC, super PACs are corrupt,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, said. “They’re a way for the billionaires to influence the political process and spend unlimited money. This is nurses who want to get our support for Bernie out there. That’s way different than the Koch brothers. This isn’t big money. I think people understand the difference.”

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Las Vegas Review-Journal: Adelson son-in-law orchestrated family’s purchase of Las Vegas Review-Journal

James DeHaven, Howard Stutz and Jennifer Robison

The son-in-law of billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson arranged the $140 million purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Adelson’s behalf, sources confirmed Wednesday.

Patrick Dumont, who is listed on the website of Las Vegas Sands Corp. as the company’s senior vice president of finance and strategy, put together the deal at the behest of his father-in-law, the chairman and CEO of the casino operator.

Dumont, a 41-year-old from New York, in 2009 married Sivan Ochshorn, a daughter of Adelson’s wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, from a prior marriage. Sivan Ochshorn Dumont runs the Israel Hayom, which is owned by the casino mogul.

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Washington Post: Gyrocopter pilot who landed at Capitol hopes to return — as a Congressman

Spencer S. Hsu

Douglas Hughes, 62, of Ruskin, Fla., is asking a court for permission to travel to campaign on curbing the influence of money in politics, a job that would include meeting voters, making speeches and soliciting endorsements, his lawyer said. Hughes’s bid might also test whether felons can run for Congress in Florida.

Hughes faces sentencing April 13 after pleading guilty to one felony count of flying without a license aboard his low-power gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Pa., to the District…

Reached by phone, Hughes said he intends to move to southern Florida and run as a Democrat but declined to say where or when he would launch an election bid.

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Candidates and Campaigns

Los Angeles Times: Here’s how you spend $600,000 on 19 consultants in a Senate race

Phil Willon

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris spent more than $600,000 on 19 political and fundraising consultants between January and the end of September – close to three times the amount spent combined by her Democratic rival and the three top Republicans in the race.

The outside consultants who have worked on the Harris campaign over the last year include some of the most successful political advisors and campaign fundraisers in California and across the nation, including aides who worked for Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

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Wall Street Journal: Clinton Is Already Vowing to Overreach

Karl Rove

The same goes for campaign-finance legislation, which Mrs. Clinton says she will champion. But if Congress doesn’t pass it, she will “sign an executive order requiring federal government contractors” to “publicly disclose significant political spending.” She will direct the Securities and Exchange Commission to pass a rule “requiring publicly traded companies to disclose political spending to shareholders.” Neither action is authorized by existing law.

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The States

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Scott Walker signs bills on splitting GAB, campaign finance

Patrick Marley and Jason Stein

Walker, who did not hold a press event to sign the legislation, used his partial veto powers to tweak the measure. As written, the legislation would have required lawmakers from each party to provide him with a list of up to three former judges and up to three former clerks to appoint to the commissions.

The governor modified that to require them to provide him with three nominees for each category, rather than up to three, giving him more options.

In his veto message, Walker wrote that the new law as a whole will “ensure transparency and accountability of the oversight of elections, ethics, lobbying and campaign finance laws for the people of the state of Wisconsin.”

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Wisconsin Watchdog: ‘Good government’ group that celebrated Lois Lerner mourns for GAB

M.D. Kittle

Staff members of the embattled GAB, including director Kevin Kennedy, attended the four-day event. Kennedy is a 2008 recipient of the COGEL Outstanding Service Award. His friend Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service agent accused of leading the division that targeted conservative nonprofit groups, won the COGEL Award that same year.

There was plenty of mourning at this year’s conference for the agency that regulates campaign finance, elections, ethics and lobbying laws in Wisconsin, an agency on the verge of extinction. Organizers needed only lit candles and a few hymns to complete the funeral service for the GAB.

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Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin: NY judge hears suit to close campaign finance loophole

Michael Virtanen, Associated Press

Lawyers for New York University’s Brennan Center, three state legislators and others urged a state judge on Wednesday to close the state’s campaign finance loophole that lets wealthy individuals use limited liability companies to give millions of dollars to candidates.

“It’s caused so much corruption in Albany,” attorney Elizabeth Saylor told Justice Lisa Fisher.

The loophole was central in recent trials of former Senate Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the $4.3 million in campaign donations made over two years by LLCs controlled by developer Glenwood Management, she said.

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