Daily Media Links 9/12: Curbs on Social Welfare Groups Would Deprive Everyday Citizens of a Voice, Media firm: Let campaigns skip disclosures on mobile ads, and more…

September 12, 2013   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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Independent Groups

 
Bolder Advocacy: Curbs on Social Welfare Groups Would Deprive Everyday Citizens of a Voice 
By Nan Aron
No one involved in the world of nonprofit advocacy would claim that the current system is a model of clarity or coherence. Causing the problem in part is the IRS’s vague definition of the standard for a social-welfare group: It says such organizations must be “primarily” engaged in social welfare but doesn’t say what that means.  
Regrettably, though, lawmakers are responding to the scandal by trying to impose serious limits—or an outright ban—on the advocacy work conducted by social-welfare groups.  
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Democrat of New Mexico, has introduced legislation banning political activity. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, has sued the IRS and the Department of the Treasury, claiming that the “primary purpose” regulations violate what Congress intended; The New York Times last month published an editorial cheering on Mr. Van Hollen’s suit. 
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Disclosure

Politico: Media firm: Let campaigns skip disclosures on mobile ads  
By Byron Tau
A top digital media firm is asking the Federal Election Commission to exempt mobile ads from the traditional disclosure statements that apply to political ads.  
The argument from Revolution Messaging — founded by Obama for America’s 2008 external online director Scott Goodstein — mobile ads and banners for iPhones, Android phones, BlackBerrys and other cellular device simply are too small.  
“Given the physical size constraints of the mobile advertisements and the technology involved, it is not possible to include a disclaimer that complies with the Commission regulations in these advertisements,” Revolution Messaging argues in an advisory opinion request shared with POLITICO.  

CRP: Exclusive: Largest Dark Money Donor Groups Share Funds, Hide Links

By Robert Maguire and Viveca Novak
These wholly-owned sub-units of larger groups have a particular designation under the law: They’re known as “disregarded entities” — meaning their different names and separate identification numbers are disregarded by the IRS for income tax purposes, and they must be reported on the same forms with their parent groups. Officially, they are “disregarded as an entity separate from its owner.” They are almost always single-member LLCs.  

CPPR has given out more than $70 million in grants from its inception in 2009 through the end of 2011. And we don’t yet know — because of lag time in IRS filing schedules — what it spent in 2012, which could have been a big year for the organization. 

Candidates, Politicians, Campaigns, and Parties
 
Washington Post: D.C. executive linked to secret 2008 aid to Hillary Clinton  
By Ann E. Marimow and Philip Rucker
The D.C. businessman at the center of an ongoing city corruption investigation secretly spent more than a half-million dollars on get-out-the-vote efforts for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, according to interviews and court documents filed Wednesday.  
Jeffrey E. Thompson, a former city contractor who allegedly financed a secret campaign for then-mayoral candidate Vincent C. Gray (D) in 2010, financed an independent effort to reach urban voters on behalf of Clinton in Texas and at least three other states during the 2008 Democratic primaries, according to the interviews and documents.  

Roll Call: What Did Jesse Jackson Jr. Do Wrong? 
By C. Simon Davidson
Q. I am a Hill staffer with a question about the jail sentence Jesse Jackson Jr. recently received for campaign finance violations. I didn’t follow his case closely, but, from what I understand about it, the jail sentence struck me as a bit harsh. It’s not like Jackson killed anyone, or even harmed someone.  And as a Hill staffer I know that campaign finance law can be very complicated, and because of that we are always worried about the possibility of inadvertent violations. What exactly did Jackson do that resulted in him going to jail?  
A: On Aug. 14, 2013, at a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., former Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr., once viewed by some as a rising political star, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for federal crimes to which he had pleaded guilty earlier this year. His wife, the mother of his two young children, was also sentenced to prison for a year for her role in the crimes. She had also pleaded guilty.  
So what did Jackson do? Technically, he admitted to conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud and making false statements. In plain speak, he acknowledged defrauding his campaign of approximately $750,000.  

Lobbying and Ethics

BLT: House Panel Questions ‘Disturbing’ Dickstein Email
Before beginning to question the five witnesses, committee chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) paused to criticize a Dickstein employee’s activities prior to the hearing. The employee—who was not identified, except as a female member of the firm’s lobbying group—“made multiple contacts to committee members and specifically asked them not to ask you questions,” Issa said.  
Issa produced a copy of what he termed “a disturbing” email, with the sender’s name blacked out. It read: “If possible, please do not direct questions to Jonathan Silver…He’s a client of my firm. :)”  

State and Local

California –– Sacramento Bee: Three fined for covert lobbying in California 
By Laurel Rosenhall
Democrats Jason Kinney, Rusty Areias and Winston Hickox violated state law when they “crossed over the line which separates policy consultants from lobbyists,” says a proposed settlement that the Fair Political Practices Commission released Monday. The settlement requires all three to register as lobbyists and, along with their firm, pay a combined fine of $40,500.  
It’s just the second time in recent history that the FPPC has prosecuted anyone for failing to register as a lobbyist, the settlement says. But it reveals a practice many Sacramento lobbyists say has become pervasive at the Capitol: “shadow lobbying” by former politicians and high-level staff members who leave government to consult for private industry without disclosing themselves as lobbyists.  
 
California –– CBS: Chris Hansen Ordered To Pay $50,000 For Concealing Donations To STOP Campaign 
By Rob McAllister 
Hansen is settling with the Fair Political Practices Commission as he tried to hide his $100,000 contribution to the local anti-arena group by going through a law firm in southern California. He has apologized.  
State law mandates campaign contribution sources be made public, but Hansen only came forward once pressure was put on the law firm to reveal the donor.  
 
Colorado –– WSJ: Colorado Votes Gun-Control Advocate Out of Office 
By NATHAN KOPPEL  And ASHBY JONES
Tamra Farah, the coordinator of a campaign to recall Mr. Morse, said the results should send a clear message to lawmakers. The “American people will exercise their constitutional and legal right to recall elected officials when they are not doing the job they were sworn to do,” she said.  

Florida –– Tampa Bay Times: Execution rescheduled to accommodate Pam Bondi fundraiser 
By Tom Kludt
There is no graver responsibility and act of state government than an execution.  
In Florida this week, a campaign fundraiser takes precedence.  
Attorney General Pam Bondi persuaded Gov. Rick Scott to postpone an execution scheduled for tonight because it conflicted with her re-election kick-off reception.  
 
Montana –– AP: Court fight continues over Hill’s controversial $500K campaign donation 
Earlier this year, Hill asked the U.S. District Court in Helena to block the commissioner of political practices from acting on a complaint over a $500,000 donation to the Hill campaign. The donation came last October after U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell briefly struck down Montana’s campaign donation limits.  
The donation to Hill from the GOP surpassed the normal cumulative limit of $22,600 that would have applied in such cases.  
 
Virginia –– Politico: Ken Cuccinelli, dogged by scandal, gives to charity  
By James Hohmann
Virginia‘a Republican candidate for governor, Ken Cuccinelli, announced Tuesday that he has donated $18,000 to a Richmond-based charity to offset the value of gifts he accepted from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.  
 
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Joe Trotter