By Doug Porter
Today’s revelation about Manchester’s misdeeds comes from the Sunlight Foundation, which has scoured campaign finance records nationwide and identified hard money donors who have donated to federal candidates, political parties and political committees in the last election cycle,
“Papa” Doug Manchester made the list of hard money donors of those who appear to have exceeded the legal limit of $70,800 to parties and committees in the 2012 cycle. His donations of $83,426 to committees and $10,000 to candidates all went to Republicans, of course.
I doubt he’s lost any sleep over breaking this ‘little people’s’ law. That’s why he’s got lawyers.
From the Sunlight Foundation Blog:
These contribution levels speak directly to a case that the Supreme Court will hear this fall on whether these aggregate limits are even constitutional. In McCutchen v. Federal Election Commission, the plaintiffs have sued to declare the overall limit – now up to $123,000 for the 2013-2104 cycle – as an unconstitutional restriction on free speech.
One may wonder why donors would still contribute these hard money totals when they could make unlimited contributions to super PACs and “dark money” groups. But contributions to campaigns and parties still have their benefits. They are often the price of attendance at fundraisers, where a donor has the chance to talk directly with candidates and party leaders and raise their particular concerns. Contributions to Super PACs and dark money groups do not facilitate this same direct contact.
Additionally, given the FEC’s tradition of lax enforcement of individual aggregate limits, combined with minimal fines equal only to the size of the violation (though double in the case of a willful violation), it may not be so surprising that a number of wealthy individuals have not paid close detail to adding up their many campaign checks.
Manchester’s media enterprise is also under scrutiny over charges that candidates favored by the publisher received significant discounts for ads during the last election cycle. Republican candidates were charged a fraction of price quoted to Democrats. And the daily newspaper‘contributed’ unprecedented front page editorials.
When it comes to zoning infractions, Manchester’s enterprises have been repeatedly cited for willful violations, including destruction of natural habitat, construction of an equestrian center and horse trails, placement of three new parking lots, and a landing pad for helicopters — all without the necessary permits. And that’s not even counting his properties in Mission Valley.
Issa-isms du Jour
Congressman Darrell Issa has done great job lately of keeping his name in the news. I’ve considered starting a regular column just to keep track of his stunts. But for now, I’ll settle for naming rights on his publicity stunts: hereafter they are to be called Issa-isms. Use of a hyphen is optional.
Incident #1 for today, From Media Matters:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Fox News have come to the same conclusion — describing the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya as an “act of terror” is different, and somehow less accurate, than describing them as a terrorist attack.
On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attacks, Obama delivered a speech in the Rose Garden in which he referred to the attacks as an “act of terror,” saying: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” The following day, Obama twice referred to the attacks as an act of terror, once in Colorado and once in Las Vegas.
During an appearance on Fox News’ America Live, Issa accused Obama of minimizing the attacks by referring to them as an “act of terror,” saying: “An act of terror is different than a terrorist attack. The truth is, this was a terrorist attack.”
On September 13, 2001, former President George W. Bush described the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as an “act of terror.”
Issa-ism #2 comes via The Hill, whereby our dear Congressman could hardly hide his disappointment at having his thunder stolen via the announcement that the House Ways and Means Committee intended to hold hearings on this IRS this Friday.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) on Tuesday blasted President Obama for suggesting the administration could fairly investigate claims the IRS unfairly targeted conservative political groups.
“How dare the administration imply that they’re going to get to the bottom of it,” said Issa in an interview on CBS’s “This Morning.”
Of course, Issa will hold hearings on the IRS. He just needs time to generate some timely ‘leaks’ and outraged press conferences before the House Government Operations Committee gets down to work.
The IRS is an Equal Opportunity Auditor
The outrage being broadcast over the latest Internal Revenue Service misdeeds would be a lot more believable if it extended to the blatantly political acts by that very same agency that occurred during the past administration.
It does stink that various administrations going back decades have used the tax agency as a cudgel against dissenting views. But the claim this latest harassment of the Tea Party types is somehow transcendent or unique is simply without merit. We should almost ask the question:Who hasn’t done it?
“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on MSNBC Monday. “I found only one Republican, [North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones], that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.”
The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.
The church, which said progressive activism was in its “DNA,” hired a powerful Washington lawyer and enlisted the help of Schiff, who met with the commissioner of the IRS twice and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation, saying the IRS audit violated the First Amendment and was unduly targeting a political opponent of the Bush administration. “My client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination,” church attorney Marcus Owens, who is widely considered one of the country’s leading experts on this area of the law, said at the time. In 2007, the IRS closed the case, decreeing that the church violated rules preventing political intervention, but it did not revoke its nonprofit status.
Last year, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of Emerge America, a San Francisco-based group that trains female Democratic candidates. Emerge was too political and too focused on benefiting the Democratic Party, the IRS ruled, to qualify for 501(c)(4) status.
None of the Tea Party groups at the heart of this latest ‘scandal’ had their tax exempt status denied or revoked.
Ultimately our outraged legislators need to take a long hard look in the mirror. By enacting laws so unclear that they invite abuse, they are the enablers. Again from Salon:
… the Senate held a hearing on nonprofits’ political activity. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the then-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the IRS needed better enforcement, but also “legislative changes” to better define the lines between politics and social welfare, since they had not been updated in “a generation.” Unfortunately, neither Congress nor the IRS has defined 501(c)4′s sufficiently to this day, leaving the door open for IRS auditors to make up their own, discriminatory rules.
Those cases mostly involved 501(c)3 organizations, which live in a different section of the tax code for real charities like hospitals and schools. The rules are much stronger and better developed for (c)3′s, in part because they’ve been around longer
The Associated Press Was Spied Upon
The news media is agog with stories about the revelation yesterday that the Justice Department has been digging around in the phone records of the Associated Press. I’m sure they’ll be expressing even more outrage when they find out this government intrusion on freedom of the press is completely legal.
The Justice department investigation appears to have been triggered by a leaked story run last spring by the Associated Press about the war on terrorism in Yemen.
Did you spot that word ‘terrorism’? Sorry about that, AP, you gave up your rights years ago.
Oh, and does anybody remember the Republicans’ reaction to the announcement of an investigation into that leak? From the New York Times:
Republicans accused the administration of deliberately leaking classified information, jeopardizing national security in an effort to make Mr. Obama look tough in an election year — a charge the White House rejected. But some Democrats, too, said the leaking of sensitive information had gotten out of control.
Mr. Holder’s move at the time was sharply criticized by Republicans as not going far enough. They wanted him to appoint an outside special counsel, and a Senate resolution calling for a special counsel was co-sponsored by 29 Republican senators.
On Monday, however, after The A.P. disclosed the seizure of the records, some Republican leaders criticized the administration as going too far. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said: “The First Amendment is first for a reason. If the Obama Administration is going after reporters’ phone records, they better have a damned good explanation.”
On This Day: 1937 – Duke Ellington and his band recorded “Caravan.” 1961 – A bus carrying Freedom Riders was bombed and burned in Alabama. 1973 – Skylab One was launched into orbit around Earth as the first U.S. manned space station.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas toDougPorter@