In the News
Wall Street Journal: The Speech Regulators Get Mean
The Virginia-based Institute for Justice took up Ms. Farris’s case, arguing that organizations that don’t coordinate with a candidate can’t be subject to campaign-finance restrictions because they don’t raise a corruption problem. This is the law since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. In recall elections, the opposition has no candidate to coordinate with.
The Ninth Circuit agreed in 2012, but by that time the recall campaign was over, having been unable to collect enough signatures thanks in part to the fundraising restrictions. On Thursday, the appeals court reconsidered whether Washington state’s contributions cap can be applied to any recall campaign…
…While conservatives are the regulatory target in these cases, the threat could ensnare all kinds of political groups and their attorneys. That explains why the Center for Competitive Politics and the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington Foundation have joined the Institute for Justice brief. The speech police never rest, so we hope the judges put them in their place.
Buffalo News (LTE): There is no silver bullet to end political corruption
By Luke Wachob
One item on New York’s legislative agenda that’s getting a lot of buzz is the proposal to provide tax dollars to political candidates for their campaigns, as evidenced in the Jan. 31 letter, “Campaign reform is key to fair elections.” Lost in the rosy rhetoric about “civic responsibility,” however, are the facts from states that have already tried these euphemistically named “public financing” schemes.
Arizona and Maine both implemented taxpayer-funded campaigns for all state legislative races in 2000. Fourteen years later, there’s little to show for it. Diversity in their legislatures has not increased, the prominence of lobbyists has not decreased, government spending has grown and a 2010 Government Accountability Office report found no evidence that either program had achieved its stated goals. In the only other state that currently provides significant taxpayer financing to state legislative candidates, Connecticut, my organization’s study found that politicians’ voting behavior was unchanged by participation in the program.
Reuters: Democrats Say Republicans Hammering U.S. IRS for ‘Political Purposes’
“We are concerned … that congressional Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars and continuously using the (IRS) ‘investigations’ for political purposes for the November election,” two U.S. House of Representatives Democrats said in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
U.S. representatives Sander Levin and Elijah Cummings in the letter asked Koskinen to estimate how much time and money the IRS has spent responding to investigators. There are six ongoing investigations of the IRS, Koskinen has said.
Washington Post: Two Democrats call for investigation of IRS watchdog who led targeting probe
By Josh Hicks
Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Matt Cartwright (D-Penn.) on Wednesday filed a complaint with a special watchdog council questioning the independence of Treasury Department inspector general J. Russell George.
The congressmen, both of whom serve as top Democrats on House oversight committees, said George produced a “fundamentally flawed performance audit” that was “incomplete” and “outright misleading.” They also alleged that he held briefings with Republican members of the House Oversight Committee without the knowledge of Democrats on the panel.
Washington Post: WARNING: Super PACs make elections appear more inevitable than they are
By JAIME FULLER
Creating new ways for the peanut gallery to take part in elections has been a long American tradition. We had political bosses, we had Tammany Hall, we had 527s and political committees — the list is extensive.
The Citizens United decision in 2010 allowed one of the most expansive reformations of the political dabbling class’s role in elections. Since then, a vast infrastructure has appeared to facilitate this expensive hobby of the American elite — there are super PAC law firms, super PAC umbrella groups, nonprofits that parse through super PAC documentation, shell companies that hide the money that individuals and organizations spend in super PACs and 501(c)4s — and super PACs have learned many a lesson about what doesn’t work when dumping millions of dollars on an election.
What they haven’t quite figured out is what does work.
National Review Online: High Court at a Crossroads: “Nonpartisans” are trying to reverse Citizens United one investigation at a time.
By Stephen M. Hoersting
Consider the travails of Crossroads GPS, a group that operates independently of candidates and is constituted as a social-welfare organization under section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Federal Election Commission recently cleared Crossroads of crossing into “political committee” status — a finding that saved Crossroads the burden of turning over its entire donor list to the FEC, the public, and its political opponents.
But certain “nonpartisan” campaign “reformers” weren’t prepared to see Crossroads cleared of speech crimes. Last week they appealed the FEC’s decision to a federal district court. Their goal: to make an example of Crossroads GPS that will scare off other groups planning to have a voice in the 2014 midterm elections.
The problem for Crossroads, and the hundreds of groups like it, is not that FEC findings are sometimes appealed; nor is it the fact that political broadsides can take the form of lawsuits. The problem is the unconstitutional nature of the “political committee” charge itself: A group that operates independently of candidates — no matter the group’s “major purpose” — can pose no threat of quid pro quo corruption, the raison d’être of campaign-finance restrictions.
Lobbying and Ethics
Politico: GOP Conference chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers faces possible ethics inquiry
By JOHN BRESNAHAN and JAKE SHERMAN
GOP Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers faces a possible House Ethics Committee investigation over allegations by a former staffer that she improperly mixed campaign and official funds to help win a 2012 House leadership race.
The Office of Congressional Ethics has recommended that the Ethics Committee conduct a full probe into the case. The Ethics Committee announced on Thursday that it will continuing reviewing the allegations until March 23. At that point, ethics will have to appoint a special investigative subcommittee to conduct a full-scale probe, or drop the case and publicly release OCE’s report. OCE originally forwarded its recommendation to the Ethics Committee shortly before the Christmas holiday.
State and Local
Montana –– Billings Gazette: Motl dismisses `dark money’ complaint against ex-legislator
By Mike Denison
HELENA — State Political Practices Commissioner Jon Motl issued another order Thursday related to his ongoing investigation of alleged illegal campaign spending by secretive “dark money” groups — but this time, he dismissed a charge.
Motl found there is “not sufficient evidence” to show that former state Rep. Tom Burnett of Bozeman accepted any illegal campaign donations in 2010 from Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) or its affiliates.