Discussion of the IRS’ mishandling of the tax exempt applications process might include a fundamental question: what role do we want to assign the IRS in approving tax-exemptions for groups engaged in one form or another of political, legislative or policy activity? And to keep the discussion still simpler, stripped of an additional complicating factor, the focus might be mostly on 501(c)(4) “social welfare organizations,” which, unlike their (c)(3) kin, do not offer donors a tax deduction and raise the additional issue of tax subsidies.
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Richard Briffault is unfailingly astute in his observations about the campaign finance laws and lucid in expressing them. In the days not too long ago when worries gathered around “527”s, he wrote an insightful essay on that subject. Now, with Super PACs on the minds of campaign finance analysts, he has turned attention to them. His subject is the Super PAC dedicated to the election of a single candidate and run, often with the candidate’s public approval, by former staff and associates. He proposes that the “coordination” standard be re-defined to capture these cases of “disguised contributions” and bring them within limits. These are not independent committees, he argues, but candidate committees in all but the name.