Daily Media Links 12/15: A Conservative Nonprofit Corners the IRS, G.O.P. Angst Over 2016 Led to Provision on Funding, and more…

December 15, 2014   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
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In the News

Breitbart: California Attorney General Sued to Stop Disclosure of Conservative Group’s Donor Addresses
By Chriss W. Street
Conservatives were shocked at the demand and suspicious that Attorney General Harris intended to engage in the type of alleged unethical action by IRS manager Lois Lerner, who may have used the IRS to retaliate against Tea Party members. 
Americans for Prosperity complained that they had registered every year in California since 2001 and had never received such a request in the past. But then Harris’s office also demanded that another conservative group called Center for Competitive Politics 501(c)(3) hand over their donor list.
Harris warned the “charitable foundation” this summer that AFP’s registration was “incomplete” for 2011 and 2012 because the group did not include a “Schedule B” list of donor names and addresses. According to a report by the Los Angeles Times, the Attorney General’s spokesman preposterously stated AFP had been out of charitable compliance for over a decade, but did not receive a demand because the “section responsible for enforcement has been chronically underfunded for years.”
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Wall Street Journal: Congress Can Pry Open a Clammed-Up IRS
By Charles Lipson
Now Treasury has clammed up again, trying to keep its contacts with the White House secret and reiterating that it is exempt from disclosure. The administration has offered a bizarre rationale: It would be illegal to turn over documents the IRS shared illegally since it is illegal for the IRS to share the files with anyone, including the court. 
There still is a wide gap between our knowing that there is a cache of “responsive documents” and anyone establishing a direct connection between White House political operatives and the IRS. However revealing the documents may be, they would need to be followed up by interviews and depositions, which may lead to more documents. Only a thorough investigation can accomplish that. 
A politicized Justice Department cannot be trusted to conduct an impartial investigation or to appoint a reliable outside prosecutor. This means that any serious inquiry is up to Congress.
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National Review: A Conservative Nonprofit Corners the IRS
By Andrew Johnson
Several congressional committees have tried their hand at investigating the IRS, but Cause of Action (CoA), a government watchdog group, may be the ones to put the agency in a corner. IRS and Department of Justice officials are looking for ways to get the group off their tail.
“We’ve set up a trap for them,” CoA president Dan Epstein tells National Review Online. “We’re literally outsmarting them.”
For more than a year, CoA has focused on the IRS’s inconsistent application of the Internal Revenue Code’s rule 6103, which states that private taxpayer information must be kept confidential. Through a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applications, CoA methodically requested documents pertinent to the White House’s potential unlawful acquisition of such information. The IRS appears to have moved to stonewall CoA, which has not yet received the documents it requested, and Epstein says that the delays amount to the IRS’s acknowledgment to at least some wrongdoing.
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Politico: Republicans seek to cripple IRS
By Rachel Bade
A top priority? Crippling IRS regulatory actions, from Obamacare’s individual mandate to the looming draft rule that will limit political activities of groups like Crossroads GPS. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services are among the others in the cross hairs.
“We need to push back on the regulatory overreach of this administration across the board, whether that’s the IRS, the EPA or any other agency,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “The power of the purse is the greatest lever of power Congress holds.”
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Campaign Finance 

Wall Street Journal: The Cromnibus Takes a Step to Tame Wild West of Campaign Spending
By John Feehery
Political parties might not be popular at the moment, but they serve a useful role in our democracy. Where billionaires build machines to promote their own narrow interests, political parties have to harmonize those interests into a larger coalition.
Neither the far left nor the far right is particularly comfortable with this move to rebuild the parties. They like the Wild West of campaign spending, because for them, it is far better to promote their ideological manifestos, undiluted by other interests.
But for those of us who want to see the political process function again and who believe in the importance of our party system to make our government work again, this is a smart and long-overdue reform.
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NY Times: G.O.P. Angst Over 2016 Led to Provision on Funding
By Nicholas Confessore
The secret negotiations that led to one of the most significant expansions of campaign contributions in recent years began with what Republican leaders regarded as an urgent problem: How would they pay for their presidential nominating convention in Cleveland in two years?
The talks ended with a bipartisan agreement between Senate Democrats, led by the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, that would allow wealthy donors to begin giving more than $1 million every election cycle to each party’s national committees.
The agreement drew intense criticism from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party-aligned Republicans when details of the new limits began circulating last week. It is now headed for likely passage as a rider in a $1.1 trillion spending bill loaded with provisions sought by banks, food industry lobbyists and other special interests. It continued to draw fierce attacks as lawmakers prepared to vote on a final spending bill, even as Democratic leaders privately defended the addition as a necessary compromise to forestall more aggressive efforts by Republicans next year to whittle away at other campaign funding restrictions.
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Bloomberg: More Money to Political Parties? Good
By Jonathan Bernstein
Ah, something to get the Goo Goos all upset: Congress has slipped a provision into the bill to fund the government that would triple the amount of money campaign donors can give to formal national party organizations.  
Mark me as unimpressed, but marginally pleased.
Supreme Court decisions starting with Buckley v. Valeo way back in 1976 have made it impossible to ban big money from politics. But campaign-finance law and, to some extent, other court decisions have steered big money away from formal party organizations such as the Republican National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
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Washington Post: Are we witnessing the death of campaign finance reform? This guy hopes so.
By Chris Cillizza
Toner: McCain-Feingold is on life support.  Ever since Justice Alito replaced Justice O’Connor on the Supreme Court in 2006, the Court has chipped away at the McCain-Feingold law through a series of decisions invalidating key aspects of the law, including the Citizens United ruling which struck down restrictions on corporate independent expenditures and corporately financed electioneering communications aired in the final weeks before an election.  The last remaining pillar of the McCain-Feingold law was the soft-money ban barring the national political parties from raising and spending funds outside of the federal limits.  While the national political parties will continue to be prohibited from raising and spending corporate contributions, these new campaign finance provisions in the budget bill create the potential for the national parties to raise significantly more money from individuals – perhaps up to $50-$100 million more funds for the 2016 election.  The passage of these provisions also might create momentum for additional legislation to be enacted in the future further relaxing the contribution limits on political parties.
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Politico: The man behind the political cash grab
By Kenneth P. Vogel
A powerful Democratic lawyer helped craft a provision that was slipped into a year-end spending bill allowing political parties to raise huge new pools of cash — including some for legal fees that are likely going to be collected by his own firm.
Marc Elias, a partner at the Seattle-based law firm Perkins Coie, was called in to advise outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s aides on the campaign finance proposal on Tuesday, as they negotiated it with representatives from House Speaker John Boehner’s office, multiple sources confirm.
The provision was then added to a massive $1.1 trillion funding bill hours before it was introduced Tuesday night. The question of who was behind this major campaign finance deal had been the source of intense speculation in Washington over the past few days, but nobody has been willing to take credit for it.
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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Bloomberg: RIP: Obama the Campaign-Finance Reformer
By Annie Linskey
“He did literally nothing in the whole of his administration to address either the way congressional elections are funded or how presidential elections are funded,” said Larry Lessig, a Harvard Law professor whose super-PAC spent $10 million this year trying to elect candidates who support limiting the influence of money in campaigns. “He hasn’t even floated an idea.”
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Scott Blackburn

Scott Blackburn