In the News
Trading Secrets: Court Affirms California Attorney General’s Demand for Confidential Donor List
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
The recent Center for Competitive Politics decision exemplifies what we expect to be a growing trend by state Attorneys General to demand sensitive donor information from charities operating or soliciting in those states. Charities should continue to heed the Schedule B instructions and not include Schedule B in filings with states that do not require it, as those states may inadvertently disclose the charity’s donor information to the public.
New York Times: Who Will Watch the Charities?
This lax oversight is out of step with the times and is an invitation to corruption. It also makes it hard to answer the simplest questions about charitable giving, such as what society is getting for the $40 billion in tax breaks that donors receive annually. Were the millions that have gone to the Clinton Foundation, instead of the Internal Revenue Service, well spent? We have no way of knowing.
A look at the Clinton Foundation’s fund-raising has also opened a window on another big problem with modern philanthropy: how inextricably entwined it has become with politics and ideology. While the Clinton Foundation is at least focused on aiding the world’s poor, so-called charitable contributions go to think tanks and advocacy shops that engage in de facto partisan warfare. Donors can get the same tax break for bankrolling a libertarian push to abolish food stamps as they do for giving to a food pantry.
St. Louis Times-Dispatch: Dark money and airborne civil disobedience
The Editorial Board
Dark money is undermining American democracy, so people might as well be able to look it up. The problem is getting them to care that a small number of anonymous rich people are controlling the government. Bloomberg recently reported that “spending by candidates, parties and outside groups and individuals” in the run-up to the 2016 election “may approach $10 billion.”
Doug Hughes, a Florida mailman, is so angry about dark money that he wrote 535 protest letters, one for each member of Congress. He chose to deliver them personally by landing his ultralight gyrocopter on the grounds of the Capitol on April 15. For his efforts, he could face up to nine years in prison.
We admire his passion, if not his methods. Dark money (you could look it up) is a far bigger threat to America than gyrocopters.
Huffington Post: The Central Challenge We Face
Clarence B. Jones
Voting rights “super Pacs” should be created for the express purpose of underwriting a massive, 24/7 registration of eligible voters and the planning of an election day strategy that will facilitate getting eligible voters to the polls. This should be done for intra-State elections as well as Congressional and Presidential elections…
Registration and actual voting by persons eligible to vote are more powerful than any Super Pac financially funded by the Koch brothers. The massive exercise of our voting rights can ultimately provide the political power than can successfully affect the various pending programs now, and those, which will be, debated ad nausem by both Democratic and Republican party candidates
Sacramento Bee: The coming revolution in campaign communication
The poster child for obscene levels of spending on TV ads by corporations, rich people and Super PACs, Citizens United was actually about an on-demand movie (“Hillary: The Movie”) that viewers could download at their leisure. That style of communication with a non-captive audience, which was the exception in 2010, will soon become the rule in the age of Internet campaigning.
If there is to be regulation in this new environment, it will come not from government but from the platforms used for campaign communication. Firms, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google/YouTube, do not confront the constitutional or political obstacles that hinder government campaign reform. Their terms of service, regarding deception, incitement, harassment, privacy and obscenity, for example, are ones that would violate the First Amendment if the government mandated them.
Reuters: When the Supreme Court is this wrong, it’s time to overrule them
Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jeff Clements
Surveys show that a large majority of American citizens across the political spectrum oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that opened the door to unlimited political spending by global corporations and powerful unions. Yet when asked about the prospect of passing a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision, too many people argue that it would be “too hard,” even “impossible.”
This argument lacks historical perspective. Every step on the path to fulfill the promise of the American Revolution was “too hard,” but Americans did it anyway. Hard, yes; yet constitutional amendments have come in waves during times of challenge — and Supreme Court obstinacy — much like our own.
Washington Post: Counter plutocracy with public financing
For that to happen, the [Montgomery] county council must approve sufficient and timely appropriations to the Public Election Fund so that candidates will choose to participate from the start, including in any special elections before 2018 to fill vacancies. Based on the results of a 2014 study, Common Cause Maryland, the state chapter of the national organization that has been a driving force behind every major campaign finance reform since the Watergate scandal, recommends that the council appropriate $2 million each year to provide sufficient public funding for the 2018 elections.
Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties
USA Today: PACs promote Sanders, whether he likes it or not
“I have not sanctioned any super PAC,” Sanders, an independent, said in an interview. “A major problem of our campaign finance system is that anybody can start a super PAC on behalf of anybody and can say anything. And this is what makes our current campaign finance situation totally absurd.”… Sanders said there’s a distinction between such small-scale efforts and super PACs that raise huge sums in support of top-tier candidates.
“They’ll have more influence on their campaign than the candidate actually will,” he said. “That is totally crazy.”
Another concern: Super PACs formed solely to make money for their organizers, he said.
“Or, they can be saying really dumb things, supposedly in the name of the candidate,” Sanders said. “And that’s pretty dangerous.”
Washington Post: The ridiculous non-candidate charade
It might look like a duck and quack like a duck. But until it formally announces that it is a duck, don’t even think about calling it a duck, let alone holding it to any duck-related rules and regulations.
Such is the ridiculous state of our presidential non-campaign campaigns.
Politico: Dick Morris says heck no to changing name of ‘Just Say No To Hillary’ PAC
Adam B. Lerner
In a letter filed to the Federal Election Commission on Monday, the PAC’s counsel, Cleta Mitchell, said that the group is allowed to use a declared candidate’s name in its title because the PAC “clearly and unambiguously shows opposition to the candidate by including” Clinton’s name.
Mitchell’s letter came in response to an April 28 notice from the FEC saying that, since Morris’ PAC isn’t authorized by the candidate, it would need to either change its name or “provide further clarification regarding” the committee’s “nature.”
Bozeman Daily Chronicle: Billings attorneys take over Wittich political practices case
Internal WTP documents, obtained from Colorado and held by the commissioner, show illegal coordination between the corporation and several Republican candidates, Motl said.
Based on those documents and other information, Motl has issued decisions against nine Republicans, including Wittich. Several have negotiated settlements with the commissioner. Wittich has requested a trial by jury. It is scheduled to begin Feb. 22, 2016. Montana courts have the authority to remove a politician from office.
Washington Post: Challenger to Va. House speaker gets boost from conservative group
A Pittsburgh-based political action committee paid for mailers on behalf of Susan Stimpson in her quest to deny William J. Howell a 15th term representing a Fredericksburg-area district south of Washington.