Daily Media Links 6/7: IRS targeted liberal groups during Bush years, says Jim McDermott, Campaign public financing takes away free speech

June 7, 2013   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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In the News
 
Politifact: IRS targeted liberal groups during Bush years, says Jim McDermott
David Keating, president of the conservative leaning group, Center for Competitive Politics, sees nothing similar between what happened under Bush and what happened under Obama.
“I just don’t’ see this as being in the same league,” Keating said. The key difference is the global impact of the IRS screening. “What the IRS did with the tea party groups is they set them aside and every single one got special scrutiny because of the philosophy of the organization.”
In contrast, Keating said, there is no evidence that the IRS under Bush targeted all environmental groups or all progressive churches.
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Fay Observer: Campaign public financing takes away free speech
By Francis De Luca
Advocates of taxpayer financing also tout our state’s “clean” judicial campaigns as evidence of success. Yet the 2006 campaign showed that the “welfare for politicians” scheme doesn’t just waste taxpayer dollars and lead to greater incumbent protection; it fails to address any real or perceived corruption. Research by the Center for Competitive Politics has found no link between campaign contribution limits and corruption. To see this in action you have to look no further than Virginia. It has no limits on contributions and even allows corporate contributions directly to candidates. Compared to North Carolina, Virginia is squeaky clean!  
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Independent Groups
 
Wall Street Journal: IRS Staff Cite Washington Link 
By JOHN D. MCKINNON and DIONNE SEARCEY
Two Internal Revenue Service employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office told congressional investigators that IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of tea-party groups that began in 2010.
Transcripts of the interviews, viewed Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal, appear to contradict earlier statements by top IRS officials, who have blamed lower-level workers in Cincinnati.
Elizabeth Hofacre said her office in Cincinnati sought help from IRS officials in the Washington unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations after she started getting the tea-party cases in April 2010. Ms. Hofacre said Carter Hull, an IRS lawyer in Washington, closely oversaw her work and suggested some of the questions asked applicants.
“I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” she said, according to the transcripts.
 
Wall Street Journal: The IRS Can’t Plead Incompetence 
By Peggy Noonan
In March 2012, the organization, which argues the case for traditional marriage, found out its confidential tax information had been obtained by the Human Rights Campaign, one of its primary opponents in the marriage debate. The HRC put the leaked information on its website—including the names of NOM donors. NOM not only has the legal right to keep its donors’ names private, it has to, because when contributors’ names have been revealed in the past they have been harassed, boycotted and threatened. This is a free speech right, one the Supreme Court upheld in 1958 after the state of Alabama tried to compel the NAACP to surrender its membership list.
The NOM did a computer forensic investigation and determined that its leaked IRS information had come from within the IRS itself. If it was leaked by a worker or workers within the IRS it would be a federal crime, with penalties including up to five years in prison.
In April 2012, the NOM asked the IRS for an investigation. The inspector general’s office gave them a complaint number. Soon they were in touch. Even though the leaked document bore internal IRS markings, the inspector general decided that maybe the document came from within the NOM. The NOM demonstrated that was not true.
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Wall Street Journal: What Enron and the IRS Have in Common 
By Steven Law
What does Enron’s collapse have to tell us about the shocking revelations of IRS political targeting? 
 Plenty. IRS senior managers like acting Commissioner Steven Miller insist that the illicit behavior was the work of a handful of rogue employees. The trouble is that even though we are starting to learn who those employees are and who supervised them, we still don’t know what orders they were acting on, why no one stopped them and why they thought it was appropriate to selectively harass private citizens on the basis of their using such dangerous labels as “Tea Party,” “liberty” and “patriot.”
These IRS employees believed that they had implicit consent to ideologically profile nonprofit advocacy groups. Where did that come from? Lois Lerner—the IRS official who headed the division overseeing tax-exempt groups and who is now on administrative leave—certainly didn’t elucidate matters when she exercised her right against self-incrimination rather than testify before Congress on May 22.  
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Washington Post: Clarifying common misconceptions about the IRS targeting campaign  
By Josh Hicks
Democrats and IRS officials have made this point several times during recent congressional hearings.
The IRS at one point issued a statement saying the public should “understand that the group of centralized cases included organizations of all political views.” The agency’s former commissioner, Steven Miller, later pointed out that only 70 of the 300 groups in question claimed tea party affiliation.
These assertions are true but misleading, as they suggest the IRS’ search criteria were neutral. The problem is that none of the filtering terms were expressly aimed at singling out politically active progressive or liberal groups.
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Lobbying and Ethics

 
USA Today: Rep. Gutierrez pays Chicago lobbyist with tax dollars 
By Paul Singer
Lobbyist Doug Scofield, Gutierrez’s former chief of staff, can train staff, review and help draft news releases, and help “publicize programs and activities” of the congressman, among other things. He can do all that and still not be counted as a member of Gutierrez’s official staff. Instead, Scofield is paid as a contractor providing “training” under a contract approved by the Committee on House Administration.  
 
Covington & Burling: FEC General Counsel Herman Returns to Covington
At the FEC, Mr. Herman was responsible for managing some 100 lawyers in the Office of General Counsel’s four divisions. He led a major restructuring of the office that resulted in improved efficiency and work quality. He also recruited top talent, including a senior trial lawyer from the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Division to head up the FEC’s Enforcement Division and a partner from a major law firm to serve as Deputy General Counsel.   
“I enjoyed working at the FEC during an important juncture in the nation’s election cycle, but I look forward to returning to Covington, a truly unique and wonderful law firm,” Mr. Herman said.  
 
State and Local
 
New York –– NY Times: Activists’ Stunt Livens Up a Routine Senate Session 
By JESSE MCKINLEY 
But there was something to grab the eye. Shortly after the beginning of proceedings, about 15 protesters who had posed as guests sitting in the upstairs gallery suddenly tossed hundreds of fake $100 bills onto the chamber’s floor below, a prank meant to call attention to the issue of campaign finance reform.  
The protesters made it through a couple of rounds of chants –- “What do we want? Fair elections!” –- before being asked to leave by the chamber’s security guards.  
 
Wisconsin –– Journal Sentinel: Assembly Republicans considered 100% increase in donation limits 
By Daniel Bice
Records show Assembly Republicans were seriously considering a proposal to boost the maximum amount a donor can give to a state or local political candidate by 100% and then to adjust the limit after that based on inflation.  
That means individuals could give as much as $20,000 per election cycle to anyone running for statewide office.  
 
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Joe Trotter

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