Daily Media Links 5/14: Political Intelligence: The New Oxymoron, IRS Political Probes Draw Heat – Dumb Quote of the Day, and more…

May 14, 2013   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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In the News
Roll Call: Political Intelligence: The New Oxymoron
By CCP Senior Fellow Eric Wang
There used to be a time when “military intelligence” was a prime example of an oxymoron. But as our brave men and women in uniform have prosecuted two major wars over the past decade so valiantly and selflessly, dumping on our military has fallen out of fashion. So what, nowadays, can we cite as the prototype of an oxymoron? May I suggest “political intelligence,” which seems to be the distraction du jour on Capitol Hill. 
“Political intelligence” first became a major issue last year, when Congress was debating the STOCK Act, which was meant to address concerns that members were benefiting from trading in companies that were subject to their jurisdiction. Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, sponsored an amendment that would have imposed registration and reporting requirements on “political intelligence” professionals akin to the requirements for lobbyists. The amendment was watered down to require a Government Accountability Office study on the issue, which the agency issued last month. 
At about the same time the GAO was finalizing its study, “political intelligence” gained renewed attention when publicly traded shares of several major health care firms surged. Stephanie Carlton, until recently a legislative aide to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, is reported to have shared with a financial consulting firm that she was “hopeful” the White House would increase funding for Medicare Advantage. Even though Carlton cautioned that her prediction was the “lowest on [her] optimism score,” the news of a potential windfall for the health insurance industry allegedly sparked the market rally. (The genesis of Carlton’s assessment was a supposed deal whereby Hatch would support a White House nominee in exchange for the president’s support of Medicare Advantage.) Now, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department and Grassley are investigating the matter.
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IRS Political Probes Draw Heat – Dumb Quote of the Day 
The reformers have been warning, ever since Citizens United and SpeechNow, that it was only a matter of time before there was another campaign finance scandal. Prescient? Perhaps. But we don’t think this is quite what they had in mind.  
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Darn those shareholders – don’t they know what’s good for them? 
By Brad Smith
This brings the record of such proposals this year to 0 wins and 26 losses. The reformers say that the SEC should pass rules dictating such corporate behavior, and they argue that shareholders want this done. Contrary to what the reformers say, we’re starting to feel pretty sure that shareholders don’t really want this.  
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Note: For more information go to ProxyFacts.org
Independent Groups
Washington Post: IRS officials in Washington were involved in targeting of conservative groups 
By Juliet Eilperin and Zachary A. Goldfarb
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.  
IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.  
IRS employees in Cincinnati told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.  
The Hill: Ways and Means sets hearing on IRS 
By Peter Schroede   
The House Ways and Means Committee will examine the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party groups at a hearing Friday.  
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Washington Post: IRS targeted groups critical of government, documents from agency probe show
By Juliet Eilperin
The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those that were involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”  
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NY Times: Readers Are Bothered by I.R.S. Coverage
By Margaret Sullivan
I agree that The Times seemed to play down the story originally, placing it inside the paper and emphasizing the second-day angle of the apology rather than the misconduct itself. In Monday’s paper, the headline, as Mr. Greenfield noted, emphasized the Republicans seizing on the issue rather than the widening problem. A Wall Street Journal front-page headline, by contrast, read, “Wider Problems Found at IRS.”  
Many on the right – as noted last week in my blog posts about Benghazi – do not think they can get a fair shake from The Times. This coverage won’t do anything to dispel that belief.  
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Politico: Karl Rove on Bill Kristol attack: ‘inexplicable’  
By Kevin Cirilli
“I do not like these conservative Republican groups putting ads out about Hillary Clinton. What is the point of that? That is just fundraising by American Crossroads and other groups. It’s ridiculous. There’s no campaign going on. Let’s pull the partisanship back,” Kristol said on “Fox News Sunday.”  
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More Soft Money Hard Law: On the IRS’s Current Problems—and the Problem with the Law of Tax-Exempt Politics
By Bob Bauer
Again: none of this is to say that the IRS should not enforce the law, or that in enforcing it, the agency can do as it pleases and distinguish among taxpayers on the basis of political viewpoint. Of course, it must enforce the law, and, yes, selective enforcement shaped by political preferences is indefensible. The larger point, worth considering in isolation from specific cases, is whether the best intentioned, best executed IRS enforcement activity should involve judgments about excessive partisanship, or political “bias,” cobbled together in individual cases out of multiple and general “factors” and necessarily calling on considerable administrative discretion. Under this regulatory framework, the IRS will have trouble “staying out of politics” or persuading all audiences that it has succeeded in that aim. 
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Washington Post: Organizing for Action struggles to move the needle on Obama’s agenda
By Juliet Eilperin
But despite its extensive voter-data files and White House connections, OFA has yet to make much of a mark on the nation’s political landscape. Many of its efforts have been centered in liberal strongholds and Democratic-leaning swing states, with little impact on more conservative areas.  
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Candidates, Politicians and Parties

Washington Times: Pelosi: IRS problem stems from court ruling 
By Stephen Dinan
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Monday that the IRS should be condemned for targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny in the run-up to last year’s elections, but she also blamed the Supreme Court for opening the door to broader political activity. 
In the Citizens United decision, the court ruled 5-4 that corporations have First Amendment political rights and ruled that while they cannot contribute directly to candidates, they can run ads making their own views known.   
Washington Post: President Obama waited 3 days to address the IRS scandal. Why? 
By Chris Cillizza
Then, on Saturday, Carney issued another, slightly more expansive statement. “The President believes that the American people expect and deserve to have the very best public servants with the highest levels of integrity working in government agencies on their behalf,” it read in part. “Based on recent media reports, he is concerned that the conduct of a small number of Internal Revenue Service employees may have fallen short of that standard.”  
Then, silence. Democrats largely avoided saying or doing anything over the weekend — even as the story grew worse for the IRS and people like Maine Sen. Susan Collins, not exactly a partisan bomb-thrower, called the episode “absolutely chilling” on Sunday.  
State and Local
New York –– NY Times: Alarm Bells in Albany 
Critics of public financing routinely charge that the cost to taxpayers is too high and that such a system invites corruption. But New York City’s public finance system has worked because the city’s Campaign Finance Board has been a diligent watchdog, in glaring contrast to the feeble Board of Elections, which oversees state races.  

Joe Trotter

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