Daily Media Links 2/28: The Foundry: 8 Election Experts Slam IRS for Interfering with Campaign Finance, Powerline: The IRS Scandals: At the King’s Behest, The Non Profit Times: Congress Gets Nearly 100K Comments On Advocacy Rules, and more…

February 28, 2014   •  By Kelsey Drapkin   •  
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In the News

The Foundry: 8 Election Experts Slam IRS for Interfering with Campaign Finance

By Ken McIntyre

The former FEC commissioners signed a letter filed this afternoon as a public comment on the IRS’s proposed new rules on so-called “candidate-related political activity” by nonprofit advocacy organizations qualified as tax-exempt under federal law. Midnight is the deadline for public comment on the proposed rules, which critics say the IRS developed secretly and announced at Thanksgiving to silence some free speech – seven months after the IRStargeting scandal broke.

Signing the letter to the IRS were Lee Ann Elliott, Thomas J. Josefiak, David M. Mason, Don McGahn, Bradley A. Smith, Michael E. Toner, Hans A. von Spakovsky and Darryl Wold.  McGahn, the most recent member of the FEC, stepped down last year.

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Powerline: The IRS Scandals: At the King’s Behest

By Scott Johnson

Brad Smith and his colleagues at the Center for Competitive Politics have compiled an invaluable, heavily footnoted document setting forth the efforts by the regulatory agencies to police political speech at the behest Barack Obama and the Democratic Party: “The IRS harassment scandal: A timeline of ‘reform.’” In a Wall Street Journal column that cuts to the chase — you won’t read anything more important this week — Smith takes us through “the dots the media refuse to connect” from the timeline

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The Non Profit Times: Congress Gets Nearly 100K Comments On Advocacy Rules 

By Mark Hrywn

“Regulations attempt to cover charitable events such as informational conferences and galas, which are key to education the public about public policy. If a candidate shows up at an event, a 501(c)(4) would reasonably fear that its event may be counted a political activity,” said Allen Dickerson, legal director, Center for Competitive Politics. Proposed regulations could classify the vast amount of issue advocacy as political activity and do very little to tamp down on the phenomenon that caused them to be proposed.  

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Radio America: Democrats Pushing IRS to Probe Conservatives

Former FEC Chairman Bradley A. Smith is now chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, which filed comments criticizing the proposed rules. Smith said the IRS is using the veneer of clarity to make life difficult for political activists.

“Essentially, the IRS wants to change and vastly expand the definition of what qualifies as political activity, to include things like nonpartisan voter registration or talking about issues. 501 (c)4 (status) limits groups that are engaged in candidate races. They want it to include talk about the budget or offshore oil drilling or green energy or whatever it might be,” Smith said.

“By expanding greatly the definition of political activity, that will bring a number of groups out of (c)4 and into political committee status, where they have much more reporting burdens, and they have to publicly disclose who their donors are, which the Supreme Court has normally said groups don’t have to do.”

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Wall Street Journal: IRS Unpopularity Contest


This week the IRS was the place to be in Washington, but not because it was suddenly popular. Thursday was tax agency’s deadline for comment on its proposal to clip the free speech rights of 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups, and much of America was screaming its disapproval. By the time the comment period closed, the rule had generated more than 100,000 individual responses from across the political spectrum, more than 10 times as many as the regulatory runner-up.  

Notable among the comments is one filed by eight former FEC commissioners, including Journal contributors Bradley Smith and Hans von Spakovsky, who note that the rule would usurp the campaign-finance regulation created by Congress and handled by the Federal Election Commission. The shift would “needlessly embroil the IRS in an area in which the Service lacks both the professional expertise and the structure and safeguards” to give voters confidence that the regulators aren’t targeting them selectively, they write.  

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Wall Street Journal: Strassel: All the President’s IRS Agents 

By Kim Strassel

Few presidents understand the power of speech better than Barack Obama, and even fewer the power of denying it to others. That’s the context for understanding the White House’s unprecedented co-option of the Internal Revenue Service to implement a political campaign to shut up its critics and its opponents.  

Perhaps the biggest fiction of this past year was that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups has been confronted, addressed and fixed. The opposite is true. The White House has used the scandal as an excuse to expand and formalize the abuse.  

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Washington Post: Who voted for the bill to stop IRS targeting of political groups? 


In a sign of the political attacks they may yet still face, the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement shortly after the vote targeting other vulnerable Democrats who voted against the measure.  The NRCC said those Democrats voted “in a simply inexplicable fashion” and that “No one should have to worry about the government targeting Americans for their political beliefs.” 

So as today’s vote demonstrated, Republicans can and will show remarkable unity on bills designed to curtail the size and scope of the Obama administration. And dozens of Democrats might join them in hopes of keeping their jobs this November. 

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Politico: GOP revives focus on Lois Lerner  


Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has recalled Lerner — the former head of the tax-exempt division — to Capitol Hill for another hearing next Wednesday. Lerner became the face of the nine-month-old IRS scandal when she admitted the agency singled out conservative groups for additional scrutiny when applying for tax exemptions. 

Lerner’s attorney, William Taylor III of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, is imploring the panel to reconsider having his client testify publicly because Lerner fears for her life and has received numerous death threats. Taylor said the FBI looked into at least one of the death threats against Lerner.

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Washington Post: IRS plan to curb politically active nonprofits draws thousands of comments 


A controversial proposed IRS regulation that seeks to define political activity for nonprofit social welfare organizations drew more than 122,000 comments before Thursday night’s deadline, a gargantuan sum that underscores difficult task now facing the Treasury Department. 

The proposed rule, which attempts to lay down clear lines to show when a 501(c)(4) group veers away from its core social welfare functions, has been roundly criticized by groups across the political spectrum as overbroad, unworkable and a threat to free speech. 

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ELB: Republican FEC Commissioners: IRS Should Defer to the FEC

Comments from Commissioners Goodman, Hunter, and Petersen.  

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Wall Street Journal: Unprecedented Video Captures High Court Chamber Protest Footage

By Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin  

The Supreme Court was subject to an unprecedented security breach when a spectator sneaked a video camera into Wednesday’s proceedings and filmed a protester who disrupted an oral argument.  

The clandestine footage, posted on YouTube, is the first known video footage of a Supreme Court proceeding to be made public. It isn’t clear what type of device was used to make the recording.

The video appears to contain footage from two different Supreme Court oral arguments—a campaign finance case from October 2013 and an argument from Wednesday in which a spectator in the court’s gallery stood up and urged the justices to overturn their 2010 decision in Citizens United. That case struck down decades-old limits on political spending by corporations and unions.

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CPI: Zombie super PACs face termination 

By Dave Levinthal

A legion of zombie super PACs — they exist on paper but barely engage in politics, if at all — face “administrative termination” by federal regulators for failing to file mandatory financial disclosures, top Federal Election Commission officials today told the Center for Public Integrity.

Such action could affect dozens, even hundreds, of federally registered super PACs found to be delinquent with their reporting.

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State and Local

Maryland –– Baltimore Sun: Judge dismisses lawsuit over campaign fundraising during session

By Pamela Wood

In Maryland, members of the legislature and elected officials who hold statewide office are barred from raising campaign money during the 90-day session.

But there is no such prohibition against local elected officials such as Ulman, who is Howard County executive.

Both Gansler and his running mate, Del. Jolene Ivey, are covered by the fundraising ban during the session, putting them at a potential disadvantage had their rivals been able to raise money.

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West Virginia –– WV Metro News: Campaign finance bill dies in the House 

However, business groups and West Virginia broadcasters opposed the bill, arguing it made campaign finance rules too complicated and that it was unconstitutional. The opponents picked up more support when West Virginians for Life called on lawmakers to vote against the bill.  

Michele Crist of the West Virginia Broadcasters Association said if the bill passed it would have made the fourth time the Legislature has passed unconstitutional restrictions on campaign finance laws.  

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Kelsey Drapkin


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