“He just believes what people tell him”

David Grant speaking of his father Woody

“Nebraska” (2013)

Paul Ryan contends that a posting here misrepresented the Campaign Legal Center's views on the proposed IRS tax-exempt political activity rules.  He denies that, in pressing for fully disclosed 501(c)(4) ad funding, the Center is hoping to diminish the volume of “attack ads.”  His organization’s “whole” and only point, Ryan insists, is information to the voters about who is paying for the ads.  Quelling negative campaign speech is not their concern, only “promotion of transparency.” An able and energetic proponent of reform, Ryan deserves a further explanation of why someone might reach a different conclusion about the various concerns moving the Center on disclosure issues.

Category: Disclosure, IRS

The FEC Offers a Hand—Or Two Hands—to the IRS

February 28, 2014
posted by Bob Bauer

Under the federal campaign finance laws, the FEC and the IRS are directed to “consult and work together” in making their rules “mutually consistent.” 2 U.S.C. § 438(f). The IRS now proposes new 501(c)(4) tax exempt advocacy rules, responding to campaign finance controversies associated with the old ones, and the time has come for it to “consult and work together” with the FEC.  But the FEC Commissioners don’t themselves “work together” very well on these issues and so, splitting along party lines, they have presented two views to the Service. The difference in viewpoint is predictable—Democrats favor disclosure, Republicans are suspicious of it—but the real interest of these submissions lies more in the strategies behind these presentations than in their substance.

Here, then, are summaries of each set of comments, following by a “translation” into more straightforward terms of what rival camps are really trying to say and do.

Is Bill Maher proposing to cross the line from press commentary into campaign activity, or is he merely innovating, as the press is  scrambling everywhere to do, and preparing for a New Wave Editorial?  As Rick Pildes suggests, this question is mooted by Citizens United, which means that HBO and Maher can count on this decision to provide him much of the space he may need for his editorial project. Prior to Citizens United, HBO would have struggled to defend this program; in the wake of the decision, the path is generally clear, depending on how Maher produces the show.
It is disconcerting to discover that Brad Smith is disappointed in an earlier posting here. He holds strong views on political law issues but he expresses them clearly, expertly and with principled consistency: he rightly says that he has maintained an independent position against even the expectations, on some issues, of natural allies in the Republican Party. Now Brad expresses frustration that I misrepresented his tone and argument in an exchange with Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center over the IRS's proposed regulation of 501(c)(4) political activity.
The IRS is now receiving comments on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on (c)(4) activity, and certain of the views so far underscore the choice that the agency faces and does not make in its first set of proposed rules. It is the choice of line, and the “brightness” of that line, distinguishing “candidate-related” from social welfare activity.
Category: Outside Groups