Citizens United

Democrats Propose Silencing New York Times

Man, journalists can’t catch a break these days. First there’s the National Defense Authorization Act, which could easily turn into a blanket order to throw them in jail if they alarm the public too much. Then there’s the DOJ’s idea of lying to people in FOIA requests (which are usually made by journalists.) And now, Congressional Democrats, led by Representatives Theodore Deutch (FL-19), Peter DeFazio (OR-4), Keith Ellison (MN-5), Alcee Hastings (FL-23), and Jim McDermott (WA-7), are introducing HJR 90. This is a constitutional amendment which would basically ban all newspapers—including the lefty New York Times—and radio and broadcast news from talking about politics. The text reads:

IRS taxing donations to 503(c)(4) organizations

The United States government is bound and determined to control who says what and how when it comes to political campaigns.  After the controversial Citizens United ruling, despite the fact that there are still plenty of headaches involved in groups trying to influence elections, the Internal Revenue Service has decided to flex its muscle in putting a stop to what some feel is undue influence by some parties.

The IRS has decided to start charging tax to people who donate money to 503(c)(4) organizations.  The gift tax, which has been around for a while, actually charges a tax to the person who donates the money.  This is rather unusual because non-profit donations have often been seen as tax deductible in most cases, or at least tax neutral.  From the Wall Street Journal:

The letters are especially odd since the purpose of the gift tax has traditionally been used in coordination with the estate tax, to prevent people from avoiding the tax by divesting their wealth before they die. Contributions to 501(c)(4)s aren’t a routine death tax avoidance mechanism, and the contributions now under scrutiny are a pittance compared to overall gift tax revenues. So, hmmm, what could be the reason to start asserting the provision now, and only against a handful of high-profile political donors?

RS spokesman Michelle Eldridge said in a statement last week that the letters are the idea of career IRS employees, not the White House, and that they are part of a larger investigation of gift tax compliance. Count us skeptical that a new targeted enforcement plan, likely coordinated between at least two of the highly compartmentalized divisions of the IRS, was just cooked up by some career guys.

Liberty Links: Morning Reads for Monday, January 24th

Below is a collection of several links that we didn’t get around to writing about, but still wanted to post for readers to examine. The stories typically range from news about prominent figures in the liberty movement, national politics, the nanny state, foreign policy and free markets.

Liberty Links: Morning Reads for Friday, January 21st

Below is a collection of several links that we didn’t get around to writing about, but still wanted to post for readers to examine. The stories typically range from news about prominent figures in the liberty movement, national politics, the nanny state, foreign policy and free markets.

Democrats already casting blame for mid-terms

The mid-terms aren’t even over yet and Democrats are already blaming their impending defeat on outside groups spending money against them:

With Election Day still a week away, Democrats are previewing what promises to be a main line of argument if Republicans make strong gains in Congress: Conservatives bought their way to power with a flood of spending by outside groups.

These post-mortems, made before the patient is actually dead, have slipped into public statements from top Democrats in recent days. And the argument is being made even more strongly in not-for-attribution comments to reporters from party operatives: A tough-but-manageable political climate turned much more lethal with the infusion of tens of millions of dollars from anonymous donors funding ads for right-leaning independent groups.

The denunciations of outside money by President Barack Obama and others began as a tool to rally the Democratic base before the Nov. 2 election. But in recent days it has morphed gradually into something else: A main talking point to explain—and fend off the recriminations over—what many Washington Democrats assume will be a brutal election night.
Vice President Joe Biden sounded the first notes of the coming it-was-the-money message last week in an interview with Bloomberg’s Al Hunt.

“We will keep control of the Senate for certain, and I believe we’ll keep control of the House,” Biden said before adding that he had been “amazed” at the cash pro-Republican third-party outfits are dropping in campaigns.

“I’ve never seen this before, so the only caveat I’d put in terms of the House is how much impact this $200 billion are going to mean,” he hedged.

DISCLOSE Act appears to be dead

Senate Republicans were able to hold together yesterday to filibuster the DISCLOSE Act, legislation that targets political speech as a response to the Citizens United decision:

The measure, known as the Disclose Act, fell one vote short of the 60 needed to break a GOP filibuster  in the divided Senate, with Republicans uniformly opposed to the bill. The legislation had also been blocked by Senate Republicans during an earlier vote in July.

The 59-39 vote marks a bitter defeat for Democratic leaders and President Obama, who has repeatedly urged Congress to pass the bill in response to a Supreme Court ruling lifting restrictions on corporate and union political spending.

The outcome represents a major victory for Republicans and major business groups, which lobbied hard against a proposal that they said was an attempt by Democrats to silence GOP-leaning business groups.

You can view the roll call vote here, but there are no surprises. It was a party line vote. Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of Senate Democrats, voted for the bill, which means that the DISCLOSE Act is ostensibly dead. A “nay” vote by the majority leader would have allowed him the right to bring it up at another time.

DISCLOSE Act coming up for a vote this afternoon

Today at 2:15pm, the United States Senate will, for the second time, vote on the DISCLOSE Act. In July, Republicans successfully filibustered the DISCLOSE Act, legislation aimed at curbing political speech in response to the Citizens United decision, from coming to the floor for limited debate and final passage this afternoon by a vote of 57 to 41 (60 votes are needed to move toward a vote for final passage).

Democrats hoped that an adjustment to the bill, which was to change the date the bill would go into law to the beginning of next year, preventing it from affecting the mid-term elections, would lure Republican support.

As Politico reports, it seems all but certain that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) doesn’t have the votes, but is using the DISCLOSE Act to stall for time until the weekend:

When the defense authorization bill failed to clear cloture Tuesday, Democrats needed a measure to fill floor time before the weekend, and the DISCLOSE Act was one of the few measures in their legislative arsenal that was quickly available.

Having failed cloture once, the campaign bill only requires a less strict “motion to recommit” from Reid to call another cloture vote. New legislation likely would need 30 hours after being filed, 30 hours the Senate doesn’t have.

So even if Democrats know they’re likely short of votes Thursday, the alternative was practically nothing.

Institute for Justice slams for hypocrisy

The folks over at the Institute for Justice are calling out for their hypocrisy in its protests of Target. In case you haven’t heard, the retailer is under fire for giving donations to Tom Emmer, a Republican that is opposes gay rights.’s premise is that a corporation shouldn’t be giving money to a candidate, playing off of the populist, anti-political speech sentiment that was a result of the Citizens United decision. The Institute for Justice calls the anti-liberty PAC out:

As we’ve noted, Target has drawn heavy fire for its donation to an organization that’s speaking out in support of Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who opposes gay marriage. One of the latest examples of this criticism is a humorous viral video featuring a flash mob that performs a song called “Target Ain’t People”—set to the tune of Depeche Mode’s hit song “People are People”—in the middle of a Target store as employees and customers look on with varying degrees of bemusement.

The Next Regulation? Your Tweets

Out in California, the Fair Political Practices Commission is looking at regulating new platforms for political speech, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, even text messaging:

It’s become necessary as politicians in California and elsewhere announce their candidacies and major campaign policies through Twitter, YouTube and a host of social networking sites, said FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur.

He said California’s 36-year-old Political Reform Act needs rewriting to keep up with the times.

“Our goal here is to meet the new challenges of 21st Century technology,” Schnur said. “There’s no way that the authors of the act could have anticipated that these of types of communicating a campaign message would ever exist.”

Over at the Institute for Justice, Paul Sherman writes:

To paraphrase Chief Justice John Roberts, this is why we don’t leave our free speech rights in the hands of FPPC bureaucrats.  To bureaucrats like those at the FPPC, the Federal Election Commission or their analogues, there seems to be no need to show any evidence that Twitter, Facebook or text messages actually pose any threat to the public.  It is enough that they these new forms of low-cost media aren’t currently regulated, but could be.  Their primary concern, apparently, is that the regulation of political speech be as comprehensive as possible.

Democrats’ hypocrisy on corporate influence in politics

Despite the fact that Democrats are pushing the DISCLOSE Act, which was successfully filibustered by Republicans yesterday, Tim Carney writes that they Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) doesn’t have a problem with a corporate influence in politics as long as it runs through Washington, DC:

In January, when the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case that Congress shall, in fact, make no law abridging the freedom of speech, Schumer warned, “This opens the floodgates and allows special interest money to overflow our elections and undermine our democracy.” Schumer, as the top recipient of money from Wall Street, real estate, and the insurance industry, knows about being awash in special-interest money.

So is he just blowing smoke? Not exactly. Citizens United overturned a federal ban on organizations using money to praise or critique politicians just before Election Day. In other words, businesses, unions and activist groups are now as free to talk about Chuck Schumer’s proposals as Chuck Schumer or the New York Times are. This is no good for Schumer, not only because it makes it easier for criticism of him to reach Americans’ tender ears, but also because it allows groups and businesses to go over his head, so to speak.
The most telling episode was probably Chuck Schumer’s hedge-fund racket. Once Democrats took over Congress in 2007, Schumer told fund managers to start playing ball. The industry multiplied its lobby spending by six, hired a former congressman to head its trade association, and — of course — ramped up giving to Schumer and other Senate Democrats. Then the hedge funds hired Schumer’s banking staffer, Carmencita Whonder, as a lobbyist. She’s now a leading fundraiser for Schumer.

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