Daily Media Links 9/4: Looming fiscal fights threaten IRS probes, Big Labor, big spender, and more…

September 4, 2013   •  By Joe Trotter   •  
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Independent Groups

The Hill: Looming fiscal fights threaten IRS probes 
By Bernie Becke   
But Republicans have also made the IRS investigation a key part of their recent political message, at a time when the agency is trying to implement the Democratic healthcare law that conservatives are itching to defund. The controversy has also helped revive a Tea Party movement that had been flagging in recent months.
With all that in mind, GOP aides stress that the congressional investigation into the IRS will be moving full speed ahead, even as a potential debt default takes up much of the oxygen in the halls of Congress.
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USA Today: Big Labor, big spender
By Mark Mix
$1.7 billion. That’s how much labor unions spent on the 2011-2012 election cycle, according to a new analysis from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research that tallies Federal Election Commission, IRS and state campaign finance reports and self-reported union disclosure forms from the Department of Labor.
To put that in context: If Big Labor was running as a presidential candidate, he or she would have outspent the Obama campaign (the most expensive in history) more than two to one. In fact, the unions’ $1.7 billion political blitz is roughly equal to the combined spending of the Obama and Romney campaigns ($1.17 billion) and both national parties($678 million) for the 2012 elections.
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Roll Call: Labor Union PACs Give $12.6 Million in Political Contributions in 2013 
By Kent Cooper
Labor union federal political activity continues strong in 2013 with PAC contributions to candidates, donations to super PACs and lobbying activity.  
Labor union federal political action committees have given out more than $12.6 million to candidates so far in 2013, with 87 percent (or $10.5 million) of the contributions going to Democrats. In the full 24-month 2011-2012 cycle, labor union PACs gave candidates $60.7 million, with 90 percent (or $54.6 million) going to Democrats.  
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More Soft Money Hard Law: Reflections on Stanley Fish (on Campaign Finance)

By Bob Bauer
In his recently published criticism of Stanley Fish, Russell Jacoby returns to Fish’s position (in Jacoby’s words) that “there are no abstract principles outside of society and history.” “Making It,” The New Republic (September 2, 2013 at 36). This position, Jacoby reminds the reader, accounts for Fish’s insistence “that there’s no such thing as free speech”—that speech has no worth independent of context and any value it is assigned is the outcome of a political struggle. See, e.g. Stanley Fish, There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech (1994) at 102. (“Free speech is not independent value but a political prize….”) 

Lobbying and EthicsNational Review: Another BP Lobbyist Is Paying Mary Landrieu’s Husband

By Jonathan Strong
Jason Schendle, a BP lobbyist and former Landrieu staffer, also used Frank Snellings, Landrieu’s husband, to purchase a $687,500 Capitol Hill townhouse in March. Landrieu’s office did not disclose how much Schendle paid Snellings, but based on industry practices it was likely around $20,000.  

State and LocalDistrict of Columbia –– Washington Post: D.C. ethics czar issues guidance for officials about exerting influence for constituents

By Mike DeBonis
The District’s elected officials have a fresh reason to think twice before picking up the phone on behalf of their constituents after the city’s ethics czar this week issued new guidance on the proper exertion of political influence.
The advisory opinion from Darrin P. Sobin, director of government ethics for the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability, offers unprecedented detail on what it means to be an upstanding elected official in a city that has undergone a spate of significant ethical strife.
Virginia –– Roanoke Times: Where’s the beef in lobbyist disclosures? 
But let’s get real. They were munching on filet mignon or some other choice cut of Angus. The total bill for three came to $426, according to the Virginia Public Access Project. That’s $142 per person for those who don’t have a calculator handy. According to state law, the identities of the diners is required if the tab reaches $50 per person. But the lobbyist split the bill among six clients: Virginia Uranium, Appalachian Power Co., Virginia Credit Union League, Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield and Genentech.  
It’s cheating, but it’s not illegal under Virginia’s squishy ethics laws. Seventy percent of entertainment expenses reported by lobbyists did not identify the recipients, according to The Virginian-Pilot.  
Virginia –– Washington Post: Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell sacrifices wife Maureen McDonnell in gifts scandal 
By Robert McCartney
It’s painful to watch the governor’s legal team systematically tear down the reputation for good judgment of the woman whom he’s previously portrayed as his beloved partner in a storybook romance.
Such lack of chivalry hardly squares with the governor’s long-standing image as a squeaky-clean, religious family man.
“He looks like a coward. It looks like he’s hiding behind a really thin excuse and blaming his wife,” said Andrew G. McBride, a former Justice Department official and federal prosecutor in Virginia.

Joe Trotter

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