In the News
NY Post: A rush to take Shelly‘s ‘reform’ advice
By Scott Blackburn
Failed gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout claims unironically that, “We should take this moment to pursue fundamental reform . . . We need to provide enough public funding for campaigns so that anyone with a broad base of support can run for office, and respond effectively to attacks, without becoming dependent on private patrons.”
By this logic, the only solution that would have stopped Sheldon Silver’s alleged corruption is the exact policy that Silver has advocated for nearly 30 years. Talk about never letting a scandal go to waste.
It gets worse. Last year, Silver helped persuade the governor to shut down the anti-corruption Moreland Commission probe, which might have exposed him.
As the then-speaker put it, “The state has spent a great deal of money to conduct this fishing expedition, and I think that so far the greatest result they have come to, they have recommended what this conference has been saying and passing for the last 25 years — public campaign financing in New York state.”
In retrospect, that’s an eye-opener. Silver apparently believed the best way to hide his own alleged malfeasance was to support public financing. Yet fans of the scheme still push it in response to his arrest.
Ad Spending On Super Bowl Dwarfs “Dark Money” In Elections
Alexandria, VA – Advertising costs for Sunday’s Super Bowl were more than double the amount of so-called “dark money” political spending in the 2014 election cycle, according to a comparison of data by the Center for Competitive Politics.
Groups that want more campaign finance regulations frequently hyped the role of “dark money” in the midterms. But political spending by groups that are not required to report the names and addresses of their supporters to the government amounted to less than $170 million over the two-year election cycle. That’s less than half of the $359 million spent on ads in Sunday’s Super Bowl, according to data from WalletHub.
“For all the claims of secret money ‘flooding’ politics in recent years, what has actually occurred is more like a trickle,” said Center for Competitive Politics President David Keating.
If every penny of “dark money” spent in 2013 and 2014 was redirected towards Super Bowl ads, the money would be gone by halftime.
Bloomberg: IRS Chief: I Don’t Want to Be Seen As Influencing 2016
By Richard Rubin
Rules from the Internal Revenue Service that would limit nonprofit groups’ involvement in politics may not be enforced before the 2016 election, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday.
The tax agency’s first attempt at those rules—released in November 2013—flopped amid criticism from groups across the political spectrum, which complained that limits on pre-election ads and voter guides would constrain free speech. The IRS withdrew that plan in May 2014 and hasn’t offered a new version.
“It’s not clear when we’re going to be able to get to it,” Koskinen told reporters after testifying at the Senate Finance Committee. “My only focus on 2016 is to make sure that whatever we do, it doesn’t look like we’re trying to influence the 2016 election.”
NY Times: Courts Write Decisions That Elude Long View
By Adam Liptak
WASHINGTON — In April, a federal appeals court issued a 40-page decision on a serious subject, ruling that a trial judge had unlawfully increased a prison sentence out of vindictiveness.
The decision was a good example of judicial craft, closely reasoned and carefully written. The judges voted 2 to 1, suggesting that the legal question the decision resolved was a hard one.
But the decision was “unpublished,” as are 88 percent of decisions issued by federal appeals courts. That means it set no precedent. It was a ticket good for only one ride.
Dallas Morning News: Holly and Doug Deason: What do the Koch brothers want? To defend the American dream
By Holly and Doug Deason
What do Charles and David Koch want? What about the hundreds of men and women who joined them at their recent meeting in Southern California? Pundits across the country have asked this question over the past week, including Dallas Morning News editorial board member Rudolph Bush.
We attended that meeting — and we have an answer. We want Washington to do what it hasn’t done for years: work for, not against, the American people.
This is not an easily achievable goal. It requires an impartial government that treats everyone equally. It requires an accountable government that is transparent and respects citizens’ rights. It requires an efficient government that spends taxpayer money prudently and understands what it should — and shouldn’t — do. And it requires a limited government that gives everyone, from Dallas to Detroit, the freedom they need to succeed.
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties
Politico: How Rand Paul bombed at Koch brothers gathering
By Kenneth P. Vogel and Tarini Parti
The Kentucky senator and prospective GOP presidential candidate — whose libertarian politics mesh with those of the billionaire megadonor brothers Charles and David Koch — appeared at the annual winter meeting of the Koch donor network wearing a boxy blue blazer, faded jeans and cowboy boots.
Some attendees commented that Paul’s appearance was “cavalier,” said Frayda Levin, a Paul supporter and major donor who attended the conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage, California. It was organized by Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, the nonprofit hub that oversees the Koch network. “This is an older crowd and much more establishment crowd. They are used to a Romney. They are used to a Jeb Bush,” Levin said.
“Jeans might work for a younger audience,” said another attendee, “but these are old bulls who put on a tie every day to go to the office.”
The sartorial criticisms hint at a potentially more serious challenge for Paul — securing the backing of enough big-money donors to be competitive in a crowded Republican primary that could include prolific fundraisers such as Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.
Wall Street Journal: Club for Growth Has Its Eye on John McCain in 2016
By Rebecca Ballhaus
The leader of a prominent Washington, D.C. fiscal conservative advocacy group on Tuesday warned it would keep an eye on Sen. John McCain, should he run for re-election in 2016, and would consider backing Republicans who challenge him in the primary election.
Club for Growth President David McIntosh said the group would “carefully” watch the race for the Arizona Republican’s seat.
Roll Call: Bundling Campaign Contributions Is Legal, but Carries Risks | A Question of Ethics
By C. Simon Davidson
Q. I read about a recent court case where a lobbyist was sent to jail for arranging for a large group of people to make contributions to the campaign of Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. I had always thought that it was okay for someone to help organize a big group of campaign donors. Isn’t this known as “bundling,” and isn’t it legal?
A. Yes and yes. Bundling is a common practice and is, in fact, legal. But, the case you’re describing involved not merely bundling, but a more nefarious practice.
First, let’s talk about bundling. As you know, a bundler is someone who gathers campaign contributions from people within a particular organization or community and presents them to a campaign. Campaigns value bundlers for their connections and ability to drive large amounts of revenue. Broadly speaking, with some limitations, bundling is legal.
Wall Street Journal: FEC Raises Contribution Caps for 2016
By Rebecca Ballhaus
A ticket to a political party fundraiser could cost as much $100,200 in the 2016 election cycle, following a routine increase in Federal Election Commissioncontribution caps and last year’s Supreme Court ruling striking down the overall limit on individuals’ political contributions.
Under new FEC limits, which are adjusted for inflation in odd-numbered years, individuals can give up to $5,400 to candidates—$2,700 for their primary campaigns, and another $2,700 for the general election—and up to $33,400 per year to national party committees in the 2016 cycle. Previously, the limit was $2,600 to candidates and $32,400 to national party committees per year.
Wisconsin –– Wisconsin Reporter: Following judge’s order killing John Doe, what’s next?
By M.D. Kittle
“The federal court has now benched both the Milwaukee County District attorney’s office and the (Government Accountability Board) on any investigation or prosecution relating to issue advocacy,” said the source, who asked not to be identified because of the ongoing legal challenges. “And Judge Clevert’s order makes it clear that Chapter 11 of the Wisconsin Statutes (on campaign finance) does not authorize the regulation of issue advocacy.”
Clevert’s order speaks directly to Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc. v. Barland and theappeals court ruling on it last May that said portions of Wisconsin’s campaign finance law related to issue advocacy were unconstitutional.
The judge’s declaratory judgment, however, references the probe and bans the GAB from enforcing the illegal statute or criminally investigating individuals using the section of law.
“The final judgment confirms that John Doe never had a legal leg to stand on because speech on the issues is not regulated by Wisconsin law,” a legal expert with knowledge of the case told Wisconsin Reporter Saturday. “And as of today, John Chisholm and the Government Accountability Board are permanently enjoined from targeting citizens for speaking out on the issues.”
Alabama –– AP: Indicted Hubbard has spent nearly $300,000 on legal fees
By Kim Chandler
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has used campaign funds to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees over the last year as he fights felony ethics charges of using his public offices for personal gain.
Campaign records filed in January show that the Auburn Republican spent about $291,000 in legal fees since December 2013. Most of it, $221,475 was spent on the firm of his lead attorney, Birmingham lawyer Mark White. Hubbard also spent $65,135 with the Pell City law firm of Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell.
White said the payments are in compliance with Alabama law and advisory opinions from the attorney general’s office.