Daily Media Links 3/30: Taking On Citizens United, IRS Needs to Further Improve Controls over Financial and Taxpayer Data, and more…

March 30, 2016   •  By Brian Walsh   •  
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In the News

Free Speech Under Fire: The Future of the First Amendment – Money and Speech

Brooklyn Law School

A discussion featuring Professor Bradley Smith, Professor Richard Hasen, Professor Sabeel Rahman and Dean Nicholas Allard, moderated by Professor Joel Gora


Citizens United

New York Times: Taking On Citizens United

Ellen L. Weintraub

You cannot have a right collectively that you do not have individually. Individual foreigners are barred from spending to sway elections; it defies logic to allow groups of foreigners, or foreigners in combination with American citizens, to fund political spending through corporations. If that were true, foreigners could easily evade the restriction by simply setting up shell corporations through which to funnel their contributions.

Arguably, then, for a corporation to make political contributions or expenditures legally, it may not have any shareholders who are foreigners or federal contractors. Corporations with easily identifiable shareholders could meet this standard, but most publicly traded corporations probably could not.

This may sound like an extreme result, but it underscores how urgently policy makers need to examine these issues with an eye toward drawing acceptable lines.

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Government Accountability Office: IRS Needs to Further Improve Controls over Financial and Taxpayer Data

Until IRS takes additional steps to (1) address unresolved and newly identified control deficiencies and (2) effectively implement elements of its information security program, including, among other things, updating policies, test and evaluation procedures, and remedial action procedures, its financial and taxpayer data will remain unnecessarily vulnerable to inappropriate and undetected use, modification, or disclosure. These shortcomings were the basis for GAO’s determination that IRS had a significant deficiency in internal control over financial reporting systems for fiscal year 2015.

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Full Report…

Washington Times: IRS still vulnerable to hackers: GAO

Stephen Dinan

And while the IRS had guidelines on maintaining and updating security procedures, the agency sometimes didn’t follow its own procedures, GAO investigators said.

“These deficiencies are the basis of our determination that IRS had a significant deficiency in internal control over financial reporting in its information security in fiscal year 2015,” investigators concluded in their public report.

The GAO produced another restricted version of the report, which detailed 43 specific recommendations. That report isn’t public because investigators didn’t want to publicly detail the vulnerabilities they found.

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Washington Post: Weak IRS controls leave taxpayer data vulnerable, report says

Joe Davidson

In response, Koskinen said, “IRS is committed to improving its financial management, internal controls, information technology security posture, and the overall effectiveness of information system controls.”

He closed a letter to the GAO by saying that “the security and privacy of all taxpayer information is of utmost importance to us, and the integrity of our financial systems continues to be sound.”

Taxpayers hope he’s right, because as the GAO said, maintaining the public’s trust is “especially important for government agencies such as IRS.”

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Independent Groups

CNN: Cruz forces unload on Kasich in Wisconsin

Theodore Schleifer

Ted Cruz’s supporters, more irritated than ever by John Kasich’s insistence on staying in the Republican race, are launching their first strikes on the Ohio governor.

Cruz’s main super PAC on Tuesday began a $500,000 television, radio and digital buy in Wisconsin attacking Kasich as a “liberal governor,” the group said.

It could be a new phase in the Kasich-Cruz relationship: Cruz’s official campaign for weeks has declined to attack Kasich’s record in paid media, and the campaign’s opposition research book on him has been slow to open.

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The Blaze: Despite Reports, George Soros Never Spent Money on John Kasich — But…

Fred Lucas

Still, numerous conservative news sites have pointed to campaign finance watchdog Center for Responsive Politics, which lists the Soros Fund Management company as a prominent supporter of the of Kasich super PAC New Day for America, with $200,000 in donations. In some cases, the news accounts presented Soros as backing Kasich to cause mayhem in the Republican presidential primary — to either draw votes from front-runner Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

However, the firm Soros Fund Management did not give money to the Kasich super PAC. Rather, a one-time top-ranking executive, Scott Bessent, made two separate $100,000 donations to New Day — one on Oct. 21 and second on Dec. 8, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

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Political Parties

More Soft Money Hard Law: Parties, Independence and the State of Anti-Corruption Jurisprudence

Bob Bauer

So assume that this rickety constitutional structure with its complex and sometimes mystifying logic distinguishing between the parties and other groups survives for a while longer.  A fair question is whether it is wise to stick with it, even if it can be kept in place and its defense litigated for years to come.

Anti-corruption jurisprudence cannot carry the weight placed on it in a case like this, where it is used to support these sorts of limit on independent state and local party activity.  This is where the political equality proponents of regulation have the upper hand: agree or disagree with it, their position is clearer, more coherent.

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CNN: Jonathan Soros to Charles Koch: You’re wrong on government’s role

Jonathan Soros

I was thrilled to see you diagnose the cronyism and corruption of our government as a principal motivation of yours. For too long, too many Republicans have been unwilling to acknowledge that the power of moneyed interests is a cause for concern. Democrats, for their part, have been too quick to point their fingers only at you and other mega-donors, while unwilling to address the heart of the problem: the much smaller sums used by lobbyists and special interests to buy influence with incumbents of both parties.

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The States

Arizona Daily Star: Bill overhauling campaign finance laws heads to Arizona governor

Howard Fischer

The state House gave final approval Tuesday to a major overhaul of campaign finance laws, including allowing individuals to spend unlimited amounts of money to help raise funds for candidates they support without having to disclose it to the public.

On a 31-27 vote largely along party lines, lawmakers agreed to scrap the $100 cap on what people can spend in tickets, food and liquor for fundraisers for candidates.

SB 1516 also eliminates existing law that requires groups spending money to influence elections to register first with the state. Those groups also could refuse to disclose donors if they have registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a “social welfare” organization.

Read more…

Albany Times Union: Not another rush job

Editorial Board

Except it isn’t working, not as it should. Not when budgets and all their details are negotiated secretly by three men and then rushed to a vote before the very people voting on them, and the very citizens who have to live with the consequences — and pay for them — have had a chance to digest the legislation.

Who knows, they might have a better idea.

They might say, wait a second, where’s the ethics legislation you all but promised after a year of stunning corruption trials that left both the Senate’s and Assembly’s top leaders convicted? How can you possibly not have changed even one thing in the state’s ethics or campaign finance rules?

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Jackson Free Press: Campaign-finance Reform Scaled Back, Will Be Studied Instead

Arielle Dreher

The momentum to bring campaign-finance reform to Mississippi slowed this week, turning into a study to consider whether the reform is needed after the House of Representatives amended a bill to require candidates to itemize credit-card details…

The House voted to pass its version of Senate Bill 2374 by a vote of 94-23. The bill heads back to the Senate, which can reject or accept the new section that includes the study committee.

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Billings Gazette: Illegal coordination alleged in Rep. Wittich’s political corruption trial

James DeHaven

A former staffer for an anti-union nonprofit told a jury on Tuesday a Bozeman lawmaker illegally coordinated with that group during his 2010 campaign.

Day two of a high-profile campaign finance trial against state Rep. Art Wittich picked up where the first left off — with political consultant and former National Right to Work staffer Sarah Arnold, who told jurors Wittich “had to have known” about the value of handwritten letters, staff time, voter data and other campaign services she and the group provided the Republican legislator.

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Brian Walsh

Brian is a Research Fellow at the Center for Competitive Politics.https://www.ifs.org/author/bwalsh/

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