Daily Media Links 7/22: An Analysis of Public and 955 Organization, Expert, and Public Official Comments on the IRS’s 501(c)(4) Rulemaking, New report finds broad opposition to IRS regulations on political speech, and more…

July 22, 2014   •  By Brennan Mancil   •  
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Overwhelmingly Opposed: An Analysis of Public and 955 Organization, Expert, and Public Official Comments on the IRS’s 501(c)(4) Rulemaking

By Matt Nese and Kelsey Drapkin

In this report, we sampled the record 143,852 public comments by reading and categorizing every 100th comment received by the IRS as either “oppose rulemaking,” “partial support and opposition,” “support rulemaking,” or “neutral/unclear.” We also tracked every comment submitted by an organization, expert, and public official by searching for comments posted with attachments, and categorized these submissions as either “oppose rulemaking,” “oppose portions of rulemaking,” or “support rulemaking.”

An analysis of the comments received by the IRS shows that 87% of public comments sampled wrote to the IRS in opposition to this rulemaking, and 94% of those sampled either oppose or partially oppose the proposal. An analysis of comments from organizations, experts, and public officials found that 97% of these commenters submitted statements to the IRS in varying degrees of opposition to the rulemaking, with 64% of organizations, experts, and public officials firmly in opposition. The comments received by the IRS were not limited to one interest group or political party, but rather were from citizens and organizations of all political persuasions, tax statuses, and geographical locations.

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New report finds broad opposition to IRS regulations on political speech

87 percent of concerned individuals sampled and 97 percent of organizations, nonprofit experts, and public officials oppose to varying degrees IRS regulations limiting the speech rights of societally important social welfare organizations, according to a new report from the Center for Competitive Politics (CCP).

“It is truly remarkable how widespread opposition to this proposal is,” said CCP President, David Keating. “People don’t want the IRS to act as the speech police. Opposition to these IRS regulations may be the only issue that can unite left and right as well as trade groups and trade unions.”

The proposed regulations, which would govern the permissible activities of 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, like the ACLU, American Motorcyclist Association, NAACP, and the NRA, were announced late last November. A legally mandated 90-day public comment period followed. The proposal received a record-setting number of comments, and these submissions were analyzed in the report.

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Daily Caller: Now IRS Reports EVEN MORE Computer Crashes, Doesn’t Know If Emails Still Exist

By Patrick Howley

IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane said in transcribed congressional testimony that more IRS officials experienced computer crashes, bringing the total number of crash victims to “less than 20,” and also said that the agency does not know if the lost emails are still backed up somewhere.

The new round of computer crash victims includes David Fish, who routinely corresponded with Lois Lerner, as well as Lerner subordinate Andy Megosh, Lerner’s technical adviser Justin Lowe, and Cincinnati-based agent Kimberly Kitchens.

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Wall Street Journal: New Information Deepens the Mystery of the Missing IRS Emails

By John D. McKinnon

The mystery of the missing IRS emails has deepened.

An Internal Revenue Service official told congressional investigators in an interview last week that — despite what agency leaders thought previously — some of the missing IRS emails might still exist on backup tapes.

Those tapes were thought to have been recycled several years ago, destroying the data.

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Washington Times: EDITORIAL: The recycled hard-drive coincidence

By The Washington Times

Hanging out with Lois Lerner can be bad for your hard drive’s health. Mrs. Lerner, at the center of an Internal Revenue Service political scandal that sounds ever more jaily, lost her emails in a fortuitous electro-mechanical failure. Now we learn that April J. Sands, a onetime acolyte of Mrs. Lerner at the Federal Election Commission, got into a political scandal of her own, and her hard drive went bust at just the right time, too. Life in Washington is full of coincidences.

By her own telling, Ms. Sands violated the Hatch Act by engaging in partisan political activities while working on the government clock. She was looking at jail time, too, only to be saved by a hard drive “crash” that left prosecutors without enough evidence to pursue serious charges.

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Washington Times: Lois Lerner emails reveal gaping open-records loophole

By Stephen Dinan and S.A. Miller

The Lois G. Lerner emails released this month revealed a potentially huge loophole in federal open-records practices when an IRS tech staffer acknowledged that the agency doesn’t regularly store — and never checks — instant message chats as official government records.

Analysts say there is no question that the Internal Revenue Service and all other federal agencies should be storing chats and even cellphone text messages that may constitute official government documents, but a check by The Washington Times suggests that hardly any agency is doing so.

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Washington Post: 6 questions about the IRS’s missing emails, from IT experts

By Josh Hicks

Did the IRS intentionally lose e-mails to cover up potentially incriminating communications relating to the agency’s targeting controversy, or did the records go missing because of bad technology management?

As for the latter question, few organizations are in a better position to make an assessment of the situation than the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers, which deals with these types of issues on a regular basis.

The group, which runs the only worldwide certification program for IT asset managers, released six questions on Monday that it thinks lawmakers and federal investigators should ask about the missing e-mails of former IRS official Lois Lerner, a central figure in the targeting affair.

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Politico: IRS official: Lois Lerner email trail may not be cold

By Rachael Bade

A top IRS official is now uncertain about whether backup tapes of the lost Lois Lerner emails may exist, according to testimony released by Republicans — a potentially significant plot twist in the controversy that has shaken the IRS in recent weeks.

IRS deputy associate chief counsel Thomas Kane, who oversees the tax-collecting agency’s document production to Congress, told the House Oversight Committee in private testimony that he’s now unsure if the correspondence is backed up somewhere else.

“I don’t know if there is a backup tape with information on it or there isn’t,” he told investigators Thursday, according to a partial transcript released by Oversight Republicans on Monday.

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Center for Responsive Politics: This 2,143-Page IRS Document Could Be Yours for Just $428.60 (Plus Shipping)

By Robert Maguire

Forget that new 64GB iPhone 5s (about $399, plus tax) or cancel your next 54 months of Netflix (about $431 at current rates) or forgo gas for a couple of months, and you too could have all 2,143 pages of official correspondence between the IRS and American Bridge – a volume that documents American Bridge’s inspiring journey from self-declared 501(c)(4) social welfare organization to IRS-recognized 501(c)(4) social welfare organization!

But, wait, there’s more!

For a limited time, the application materials come in two complimentary accordion folders for easy portage to the beach, the pool, or your neighborhood BBQ. That’s right, thousands of double-sided pages of IRS application materials all stored in two tasteful accordion folders for less than $500!

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Independent Groups

More Soft Money Hard Law: Taking Issue with the Reform Establishment over Progressive Politics and Coordinated Issue Advertising: A Reply to Larry Noble

By Bob Bauer

Let’s first repay the compliment: Larry Noble is knowledgeable and experienced, and he has devoted earnestly and out of genuine conviction the better part of his professional life to the cause of campaign finance reform.  He has worked and occupied senior positions at Americans for Campaign Reform, the Center for Responsive Politics, and the Federal Election Commission, and he is now at the Campaign Legal Center.

Larry now takes exception to this posting questioning whether campaign finance regulation in its current form, and in particular the rules restricting “coordination,” have served progressive political interests.  He lodges his objection energetically and, in this one reply, exhibits the reform establishment’s defensive argumentative strategies, misconceived legal positions, and failure to appreciate the requirements of effective political practice, all of which have contributed to its present troubles.

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Huffington Post: A Personal Super PAC Is The Latest Weapon For This Year’s Senate Candidate

By Paul Blumenthal

These personalized super PACs had entered the presidential contest in a big way in 2012, as groups emerged to back President Barack Obama, GOP nominee Mitt Romney and practically every other Republican candidate running in the primaries. The groups also appeared in some Senate and House races that year — but it was nothing like their prevalence today.

The personalized super PAC has become the hot new weapon in 2014’s heavily contested Senate races and crucial in some House primary contests. With four months to go until the election, the amount of money raised by these groups is already closing in on the total they spent in the 2012 congressional races.

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Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties

Washington Post: Want to reduce polarization? Give parties more money.

By Ray LaRaja and Brian Schaffner

In a recently released Brookings Institution report, Tom Mann and Anthony Corrado aim to set the record straight about the impact of campaign finance reform on political parties. First, they say that reforms — notably the McCain-Feingold Act’s ban on soft money — have not weakened the parties. Second, they brush aside arguments that making campaign finance laws more party-friendly would reduce ideological polarization between the two sides.

Our new research suggests that they could be wrong.  In our forthcoming book, we show that campaign finance laws that empower parties do lead to less polarization. Party organizations do, in fact, behave differently than other partisan groups by mediating ideological sources of money and funneling it to moderate candidates. It may seem counterintuitive to fight polarization by empowering parties, but states with “party-centered” campaign finance laws tend to be less polarized than states that constrain how the parties can support candidates.

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Ralston Reports: Adelson lieutenant: “We are not spending $100 million on Senate races”

By Jon Ralston

Responding to a report from CNN’s John King that Sheldon Adelson may spend $100 million to help the GOP take the U.S. Senate, the Las Vegas Sands chairman’s top political aide flatly denied it.

“We are not spending $100 million on Senate races,” Andy Abboud told me Monday. “We do not have a budget.”

But Abboud all but confirmed King’s story about GOP consultants and others meeting with Adelson, expressing anger that anyone would be talking out of school.

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NY Times: Campaign Finance Reports A View From the Federal Election Commission

By Lee Goodman and Ann Ravel

“Data Delayed Is Democracy Denied,” by Robert Biersack (Op-Ed, July 17), suggests that the Federal Election Commission is remiss in its obligation to put campaign finance reports on the public record in a timely way. But electronically filed reports are accessible to the public immediately, and reports filed on paper are posted on our website within 48 hours of receipt by the agency. And the data included in those reports is immediately available for public review.

As an added service, the commission processes this data to make it more accessible and useful for research. Although recently there were delays in completing that task, the commission has since eliminated the backlog and has taken steps to prevent future delays.

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Brennan Mancil


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