super PACs

Leftist hypocrisy on free speech and government surveillance

One truth about politics: when those who have taken up one side of an issue are forced to accept and defend that same issue, should it suit their needs to do so, the acknowledgement of their previous criticism will be generally non-existent.

Take the histrionics surrounding 2010’s Citizens United decision — “Corporations aren’t people! They shouldn’t have First Amendment rights! Elections will be bought and sold by evil dark money special interest groups! Those with the most cash will always win!”

Forgetting for a moment that Barack Obama managed to get re-elected despite the impressive amount of money that was raised to support Mitt Romney via super PACs that were not associated with his actual campaign, this idea that corporations — really just groups of people — shouldn’t retain First Amendment speech rights is proving quite the interesting conundrum for those who both HATED the Citizens United decision but now find themselves DESPISING that National Security Agency’s (NSA) peek under the hood at millions of lines of metadata on American citizens’ phone records.

Because corporations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Google are taking the uncomfortable action of invoking their First Amendment speech rights to file suit, in the case of the former, and in requesting the release of records showing exactly how persistent the government was in insisting that the search giant provide them private information on American citizens.

Michael Turk wrote a terrific blog post detailing a similarly terrific piece on the ACLU v. Clapper case by Wendy Kaminer at The Atlantic at his blog, Kung Fu Quip:

NY Times backs IRS’s anti-political speech rules

The New York Times’ editorial board — packed with purported journalists who make their living under the protections of the First Amendment — is strongly backing the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service’s proposed rules that would limit nonprofit groups from engaging in debates over public policy:

The problem of secret money began in 2010, with the loosening of rules that was prompted in part by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Political operatives like Karl Rove realized that “social welfare” groups were allowed by the tax code to accept unlimited donations that did not have to be disclosed. They could then use that money to run political attack ads. Though the tax code says the groups, known as 501(c)(4)s, could not be engaged primarily in political activity and still keep their tax exemption, that was easy enough to get around by claiming the ads had some kind of civic purpose.

By the 2012 election, these groups were spending $300 million and were often the dominant voice in major races. The Koch brothers, in particular, got around the tax code provision by moving tens of millions among a huge number of nonprofits so that it was almost impossible to determine the purpose of each group, let alone who the donors were.

Proposed IRS tax-exempt guidance undermines free speech

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced the issuance of proposed guidance for organizations seeking tax-exempt status. The guidance is a response to the tax agency’s targeting of conservative and Tea Party organizations, which began in 2010.

The Treasury and IRS proposed guidance defines “candidate-related political activity” and “would amend current regulations by indicating that the promotion of social welfare does not include this type of activity.” The agencies also will require groups engaging in candidate-related activity — including any communications that identify a candidate or party, voter registration and GOTV drives — to disclose contributions.

Via Lachlan Markey of the Free Beacon, some experts, rightly, allege that this is an attempt by the Obama Administration to side-step the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and stifle free speech:

“This is an astonishing—and from this feckless, hyper-partisan administration, unsurprising—effort to curtail the free speech of Americans who come together to better their community,” said campaign finance attorney Dan Backer in an email.

The move was widely seen as a reaction to an ongoing scandal involving IRS treatment of applicants for 501(c)(4) status that were singled out for their perceived affiliations with the Tea Party movement.

Anti-Obama PAC Runs “Obama Phone” Ad in Swing States

As Dave Weigel reports in Slate, a new Super PAC, the Tea Party Victory Fund, chaired by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is running a tough “Obama Phone” ad in swing states.

When I spoke to Mr. Blackwell about the ad, he noted that this is a contiuation of the fight he started to promote inner-city reforms in his book, Rebuilding America, which came out in 2006. Since then, he has taken on the Obama Administration for their opposition to school choice, which gives underprivileged children a chance to escape their environment and live in the American dream.

Right now, its up in the Ohio counties of Lucas, Summit, and Mahoning… and will be expanded to other areas soon.

Are Super PACs Good for Democracy?

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