Daily Media Links 12/5: The Bright Line Project, The IRS, and The Question of “Issue Ads,” Democracy Alliance Pledges to Keep Donors Secret, and more…

December 5, 2014   •  By Scott Blackburn   •  
Default Article

In the News

NY Post: The Times’ tall tale of ‘dark money’ 
By Scott Blackburn
Then there’s the mind-boggling statistic that “dark money” paid for 50 percent of all political ads for the midterm elections.
That statistic is utterly false — and the story behind it is a warning of how sloppy journalism stretches a little bit of truth into a heaping pile of fiction.
On Oct. 10, The New York Times examined advertising by “outside” groups in competitive races this election cycle. It found that roughly half those ads were funded by groups that don’t have to disclose their donors to the Federal Election Commission.
Sounds like a lot of ads funded without disclosure. But here’s the catch: The Times analysis excluded 90 percent of the political ads that ran this year.
Outside groups of all kinds only fund 10 percent of political ads, yet those were the only ads included in the Times’ shocking stat.
Read more…
Politico: The money majority 
By Kenneth P. Vogel
For McConnell, though, it’s at least as much about trying to enhance free speech, asserted former Federal Election Commission Chairman Brad Smith, a leading adviser to conservatives on campaign finance issues who’s spoken to McConnell often about the issue. “I think Sen. McConnell very seriously believes in First Amendment rights, but he’s also a good practitioner. And good practitioners will use the tools available to them,” said Smith.
Read more…

More Soft Money Hard Law: The Bright Line Project, The IRS, and The Question of “Issue Ads”
By Bob Bauer
The authors of the Bright Line Project proposal for ferreting out and regulating 501(c)(4) political intervention have given the matter a considerable amount of thought and have submitted to the IRS a detailed proposal. In a number of respects, the approach that they originally announced has changed. Its purpose, however, remains one of offering clarity where now there is very little, much to the frustration of practitioners looking to offer clear guidance to their clients. It is a worthy project and addresses a major problem: no one knows what distinguishes social welfare from electioneering activity, and the consequences of the confusion have been plain for all to see.
At the same time, the proposal has to answer the question of whether it is possible for the Internal Revenue Service to tackle questions like this with a reasonable prospect of general public acceptance and confidence. There is reason to doubt it. For as noted in analysis of an earlier Bright Line Project proposal, and as seems still true in this revised version, the agency would have considerable discretion in deciding whether 501(c) communications have crossed into the restricted political zone. And this task—operating within the political world—is one which tax agency officials are not trained or well suited for, nor expected to be.
Read more…
The Hill: Watchdog: IRS withholding documents on taxpayer data requests 
By David McCabe
A watchdog group says the IRS is withholding documents between the agency and the White House that show inappropriate requests for taxpayer data, according to multiple reports.
Cause of Action, a nonprofit group, filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking for all correspondence between the IRS and White House about requests for tax returns of businesses or individuals.
Read more…
Independent Groups
Washington Post: As Hillary Clinton ponders 2016, Clinton-themed super PACs seek a piece of the action  
By Matea Gold
Along with high-profile outside groups being run by Clinton allies such as Priorities USA Action and Ready for Hillary, there are more than a dozen other Clinton-specific super PACs registered with the Federal Election Commission – including three set up in the past six weeks.
Most have raised paltry sums or have not filed finance reports, but several are pulling in sizable donations and mobilizing supporters in support of — or opposition to — her potential presidential bid. Some have launched slick websites and started selling Clinton-themed merchandise, giving them the trappings of other well-established groups.
Their independent activities could contribute to a chaotic political environment for Clinton, who as a candidate would not be able to coordinate with super PACs working on her behalf.
Read more…

Free Beacon: Democracy Alliance Pledges to Keep Donors Secret 
By Lachlan Markay
The Democracy Alliance says opacity in political funding and the influence of “big money” is corrosive to the democratic process, but the group currently discloses nothing about the hundreds of millions of dollars it steers to leading liberal and Democratic organizations.
It is now discussing steps to increase transparency of its operations, according to internal documents from the organization’s November conference obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. However, it insists it will keep key information from public view.
The Alliance is assuring donors that DA will not reveal their work in steering massive sums to major political groups.
“The Democracy Alliance has assured its Partners from the beginning that their participation will not be made public by us, and our legal structure was designed, among other reasons, to protect that promise,” the group said in briefing materials for its “Partner Forum.”
Read more…
NPR: Senators Try Again To Make Disclosure Process Electronic   
By Peter Overby
Nothing about the United States Senate encourages rapid change. The Senate takes the name of a legislature from ancient Rome. Lawmakers go to work in a building more than 200 years old and many members stay in office for decades. Now however, a few senators are trying for change. It’s a change in how they disclose campaign contributions and spending. For decades senators used paper forms, not computers.  
Read more…

Yahoo: Obama’s attorney general pick wants to throw the book at convicted Hillary Clinton bundler 
By Michael Isikoff
The U.S. attorney nominated by President Barack Obama to be his next attorney general is asking a federal judge to impose a stiff prison term of up to four and a half years on a former Hillary Clinton fundraiser convicted of making more than $180,000 in illegal campaign contributions. 
The request by Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, to reject leniency for wealthy hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal and have him sent to federal prison is the latest example of the tough stance Justice Department prosecutors are taking with those convicted of making so-called conduit contributions — campaign cash that is falsely reported as being made in the name of others.
But the court filing by Lynch’s office this week also comes at a time when she is facing a potentially tough grilling from Republican lawmakers on her nomination to succeed Attorney General Eric Holder. “It won’t hurt for Loretta Lynch to be sending a major Democratic fundraiser to prison right before her confirmation hearing for attorney general,” said Brett Kappel, a Washington campaign-finance lawyer who closely tracks federal election law enforcement. 
Read more…

Scott Blackburn

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap