By JOHN D. MCKINNON and DIONNE SEARCEYAt the same time the Internal Revenue Service was targeting tea-party groups, the tax agency took the unusual step of trying to impose gift taxes on donors to a prominent conservative advocacy group formed in 2007 to build support for President George W. Bush’s Iraq troop surge.The probe of the group, Freedom’s Watch, began in the unit led by Lois Lerner, the IRS official already under scrutiny for her role in the more recent targeting of conservative groups.
By Patrick HowleyFormer Internal Revenue Service commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, a frequent White House guest during the period when the IRS was targeting conservative nonprofits, is married to the senior program advisor for Public Campaign, an “organization dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics.”
By Connor SimpsonRep. Darrell Issa made some bold accusations during his exclusive appearance on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning. Namely, Issa said an IRS employee testified under oath the Cincinnati office at the center of the Tea Party scrutiny scandal received that direction from Washington. He also called White House press secretary Jay Carney a lair. “Their paid liar, their spokesperson, the picture behind, he’s still making up things about what happened and calling this a local rogue,” said Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee. (Carney was pictured behind Issa on set.) “The reason the Lois Lerner tried to take the fifth is not because there is a rogue in Cincinnati, it’s because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we’re getting to proving it,” he added.
By Michael BaroneThere has been a similar phenomenon in the efforts over the years to limit the influence of money in electoral politics. Going back more than 100 years, Congress and state legislatures have tried to build dams to stop vast rivers of money flowing downstream into campaigns. The result is that slowly moving rivulets are steered into other channels, then rush in vast torrents down slopes into supposedly forbidden landscape.To switch from watery metaphor to legal analysis, there is an inevitable tension between campaign-finance limitations and the First Amendment. Supreme Court justices may try to limit its protections to student armbands, nude dancing, and flag burning, but its real purpose is to protect political speech — which costs money.
Candidates, Politicians and Parties
By Alex PappasA liberal activist in Kentucky acknowledged Friday that he could soon find himself indicted on federal charges of illegally secretly recording a campaign strategy session of Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell.The activist, Curtis Morrison, admitted his role on the liberal website Salon in a piece headlined “Why I secretly recorded Mitch McConnell.” In the piece, Morrison says his attorney informed him a grand jury is hearing evidence about his recording.
Lobbying and Ethics
By Juliet Eilperin and Tom HamburgerThe decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline is a political headache for President Obama. But to five of his former aides, it represents a business opportunity.Four of them — Bill Burton, Stephanie Cutter, Jim Papa and Paul Tewes — work as consultants for opponents of the project, which would carry heavy crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. Another, former White House communications director Anita Dunn, counts the project’s sponsor, TransCanada,among the clients of her communications firm.
By EDWARD WYATT“Anybody who has worked in this town approaches days or missions like a campaign,” Ms. Molinari said in a recent interview. “So sometimes you’re on defense and sometimes you’re on offense.”Since that night in April 2012, Ms. Molinari has vowed never again to let Washington surprise Google. A brassy, well-connected New York Republican who served seven years in the House, Ms. Molinari is paid handsomely to broaden the tech giant’s support beyond Silicon Valley Democrats and to lavish money and attention on selected Republicans. (Google employees gave 90 percent of their political donations to President Obama last year.)
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A northern Virginia businessman was sentenced Friday to more than two years in prison for illegally funneling nearly $200,000 to Hillary Clinton’s political campaigns in 2006 and 2008.William Danielczyk, 51, of Oakton pleaded guilty in February to violating campaign-finance laws by reimbursing employees of his company, Galen Capital, and others who were recruited to attend fundraisers and make contributions Clinton’s Senate and presidential campaigns.
By Alex GauthierFollowing a series of votes Wednesday and earlier this week, Senate bills 2, 3, 27, and 52 are on their way out of the California Senate and into the Assembly. Each measure would amend the Political Reform Act of 1974 in different ways.
EditorialTHE D.C. COUNCIL steered clear of campaign finance reform when it overhauled ethicslaws in 2011. It promised not to ignore the matter but said complex issues were involved that required careful study. Well, another election season is underway and the loophole that allows well-heeled contributors to skirt campaign limits still exists, as do other problems that feed the District’s pay-to-play culture.The compelling need for campaign finance reform was underscored by a recentinvestigation by WAMU-FM that examined the relationship between campaign donations and real estate subsidies. Reporters Julie Patel and Patrick Madden found that the 10 developers who donated the most campaign cash received a third of public subsidies over the last decade; 12 developers donated the most campaign cash the year their subsidy was approved. D.C. law caps campaign contributions at $500 for most council races and $2,000 for mayoral campaigns, but companies use limited liability firms and other affiliates to bundle multiple contributions, in a mockery of the legal limits.