It should not be surprising. After all, it is an established liberal campaign tactic; if you can’t beat ’em, intimidate ’em. That tactic is in the news again. Democrats facing strong opposition this year, are turning to the IRS to tyrannize opposition groups.
By Alexander Bolton – 02/13/14 06:00 AM EST
Senate Democrats facing tough elections this year want the Internal Revenue Service to play a more aggressive role in regulating outside groups expected to spend millions of dollars on their races.
In the wake of the IRS targeting scandal, the Democrats are publicly prodding the agency instead of lobbying them directly. They are also careful to say the IRS should treat conservative and liberal groups equally, but they’re concerned about an impending tidal wave of attack ads funded by GOP-allied organizations. Much of the funding for those groups is secret, in contrast to the donations lawmakers collect, which must be reported publicly.
One of the most powerful groups is Americans for Prosperity, funded by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. It has already spent close to $30 million on ads attacking Democrats this election cycle.
“If they’re claiming the tax relief, the tax benefit to be a nonprofit for social relief or social justice, then that’s what they should be doing,” said Sen. Mark Begich (D), who faces a competitive race in Alaska. “If it’s to give them cover so they can do political activity, that’s abusing the tax code. And either side.”
Asked if the IRS should play a more active role policing political advocacy by groups that claim to be focused on social welfare, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) responded, “Absolutely.”
“Both on the left and the right,” she said. “As taxpayers, we should not be providing a write-off to groups to do political activity, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
She called the glut of political spending by self-described social welfare groups that qualify under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code “outrageous.”
Shaheen is in a good position now but could find herself embroiled in a tight campaign if former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) challenges her.
Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, said the IRS has jurisdiction over 501(c)(4) groups, as well as charities, which fall under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code and sometimes engage in quasi-political activity.
“That whole 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4) [issue], those are IRS numbers. It is inherently an internal revenue matter,” he said. “There are two things you don’t want in political money, in the fundraising world and expenditure world. You don’t want secret money, and you don’t want unlimited money, and that’s what we have now.”
This month, Americans for Prosperity launched a three-week advertising campaign targeting Pryor. The group has also targeted Shaheen and Sen. Kay Hagan (N.C.), another vulnerable Democratic incumbent.
Last month, Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire launched a television ad criticizing Shaheen for her 2009 and 2010 votes for the Affordable Care Act. It highlighted the plight of New Hampshire residents who have to travel hours to find healthcare in hospitals covered by the state’s insurance exchange.
Last week, the group announced a $1.4 million TV campaign against Hagan.
On Wednesday, it unveiled an ad hitting Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), another endangered incumbent, for voting for ObamaCare.
A spokesman for Americans for Prosperity estimated the three-week advertising campaign would cost $750,000.
Robert Maguire, the political nonprofit investigator at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks spending by outside groups, said Americans for Prosperity has spent far more money than any other 501(c)(4) group this election cycle.
In the last election cycle, Crossroads GPS, a group founded by GOP super-strategist Karl Rove, spent the most political money of any social-welfare group, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which estimated the total at $71 million. The group has remained relatively quiet this cycle.
The law states that 501(c)(4) groups must be operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare, but the IRS has traditionally adopted a more lenient standard, said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center.
The IRS says social-welfare activity must be the primary activity of such groups. It gives them broad leeway by not classifying voter registration drives and even ads that criticize candidates as political activity.
Under new proposed regulations by the Treasury Department, the IRS would define voter registration, distributing voter guides and running ads that mention candidates as political activities.
It also proposed setting a bright-line limit for what percentage of groups’ activity would be allowed to fall into the category of candidate-related political activity.
If enacted, the regulations would, in effect, limit how much outside groups, such as Americans for Prosperity or League of Conservation Voters, could spend as a percentage of their budgets on the Senate races.
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, called for the IRS to curb political spending by outside groups during a major speech on how to blunt the impact of conservative donors such as the Koch brothers.
“The Tea Party elites gained extraordinary influence by being able to funnel millions of dollars into campaigns with ads that distort the truth and attack government,” he said in remarks at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
“There are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies — we must redouble those efforts immediately,” he added.
Democrats, however, know they must tread carefully while pushing the IRS to act. Revelations that the tax agency had targeted conservative groups swelled into a major controversy last year. Congressional Republicans have grilled the Obama administration on why there have been no indictments nine months after the IRS news broke.
By SYDNEY EMBER
COMCAST SWOOPS IN TO ACQUIRE TIME WARNER CABLE | Time Warner Cable has been dodging a takeover for months, but it finally accepted another suitor with a sweeter offer. Comcast on Thursday announced an agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable in an all-stock deal valued at about $45.2 billion. The merger will unite the biggest and second-biggest cable television operators in the country, David Gelles writes in DealBook. Under the terms of the deal, Time Warner Cable shareholders will receive $158.82 a share based on Comcast’s closing price on Wednesday.
The merger is likely to bring to an end a protracted takeover battle that Charter Communications has been waging for Time Warner Cable, leaving Charter Communications to wonder what might have been. As for Comcast, the Time Warner Cable deal would be its second big act to radically reshape the media landscape in the United States — the company completed its acquisition of NBC Universal less than a year ago. But despite combining the country’s two largest cable operators, a merger will probably have little effect on consumers. Nevertheless, the combination of the two cable operators is certain to attract antitrust scrutiny by regulators.
Mr. Gelles writes: “For Time Warner Cable, the deal provides a neat solution to its problems. It will receive just about the $160-a-share price it said was its true value, and possibly more. It will no longer have to slog ahead with a turnaround plan being run by a new chief executive, Rob Marcus. And it will allow it to become part of the company that is already the dominant force in cable television services.”
The column continues with a review by the Wall Street Journal of T-W’s woes and the negotiations leading up to the proposed merger.
Erick Erickson has a column today in RedState and mirrors what I’ve been preaching since 2008 when I started this blog…”Primaries Matter!!”
Erick Erickson (Diary) |
The House and Senate Republicans have handed Barack Obama a blank check to raise the national debt as much as he wants.
Throughout last year, Republicans said conservatives should fight on the debt ceiling, not the continuing resolution. They said they should filibuster the debt ceiling, not the continuing resolution. They said they should shut down the government over the debt ceiling, not the continuing resolution.
After conservatives balked at their lies and the Democrats shut down the government, Republican leaders scrambled as fast as possible to throw conservatives under the bus and reopen the government. Still, they said, the debt ceiling fight was coming up and they’d hold the Democrats accountable.
Just two weeks ago, Senator Mitch McConnell claimed the GOP would refuse a clean debt ceiling increase and demand cuts and reform.
But this week the GOP caved across the board. They gave the President the right to raise the debt as much as he wants until March of 2015 — as much as he wants. Republicans have abdicated their own responsibility for restraining the size of the federal government.
Primaries matter. Mitch McConnell was the deciding vote in the Senate to move forward. John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and House GOP leaders structured this deal in the House. Primaries matter. Until you defeat these guys, you will do nothing to change Washington.
If they are going to give Barack Obama a blank check, we should cancel their paychecks at the ballot box.