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Tilting at Windmills

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March 9, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ON SANTORUM....Is the Heritage Foundation illegally providing fundraising assistance for a political candidate? Mark Kleiman and Steve Teles say "maybe." Perhaps some real reporter will check this out.

Kevin Drum 11:18 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (16)

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Is the Heritage Foundation illegally providing fundraising assistance for a political candidate?

Oh come on, that would never happen. Conservatives respect the law...

Posted by: craigie on March 9, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Hey - hey! Once they amend the consitution it won't be illegal or unconstitutional.

Posted by: Tripp on March 9, 2006 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, a presidential finding could make the whole thing AOK, ex post facto, doncha know..

Posted by: Mr. Bill on March 9, 2006 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

Why do conservative candidates even need "assistance"? Aren't their positions the naturally correct ones, which the vast majority of the electorate completely agree with? Aren't their opponents "out of touch", representing an "elite fringe"? Don't they have Diebold to help them if they accidentally say "Social Security Phase-Out" instead of "reform"?

Honestly, I'm so confused...

Posted by: craigie on March 9, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

Most liberal groups have both a 501(c)3 and an affiliated (c)4, the latter of which can do lobbying and even some electoral work, although that cannot be its "Primary purpose." Deductions to the (c)4 are not tax-deductible. If Heritage had a (c)4, it could probably host the Santorum/lobbyist meeting, IF that wasn't the main thing it did.

But I believe Heritage has never had a (c)4. There's no mention of it onpolitical activity. It would be easy enough to find it's "contribute to Heritage" page on the website. Back in 1998, in a piece on Heritage's 25th anniversary, Jacob Weisberg wrote:

Its ethical standards are as lax as its intellectual ones. Heritage is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, which means it is not supposed to lobby Congress. Edwards notes that a disclaimer appears at the foot of all its publications. "Nothing written here is to be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress." This is an evident absurdity. Heritage exists to aid and hinder legislation before Congress and often boasts about doing so. Edwards quotes the Heritage disclaimer immediately after he finishes explaining that Feulner and Paul Weyrich founded Heritage because in the early 1970s, AEI was taking its tax-exempt status too seriously. Having been investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, AEI didn't focus on getting its reports into the hands of members of Congress before the relevant votes. For whatever reason, liberal groups tend to be more punctilious about this. Many are split between two organizations, a 501(c)(3), to which contributions are tax deductible, and a 501(c)(4), which is simply not taxable itself, and which has more latitude in lobbying. This reduces the amount liberal groups can raise, enhancing their natural disadvantage.

What's true for lobbying is true to a slightly lesser extent for a way to comply with the letter and even the spirit of the law, Heritage just defies it and laughs.

Posted by: Mark Schmitt on March 9, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Alas, the number of real reporters is quite small these days. Real reporters are not afraid to offend powerful people. Real newspapers publish their reports. Reality has been losing in recent years.

Posted by: LeisureGuy on March 9, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps some real reporter will check this out.
Kevin Drum 11:18 AM

I believe that is now an extinct species. IIRC, there were scattered reports of a sighting of one remaining specimen in the wild a few months ago, but I don't believe any such sightings have yet been confirmed.

Posted by: smartalek on March 9, 2006 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps some real reporter will check this out. Kevin Drum 11:18 AM

Only if paid to do so. And if paid, told what to find out.

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on March 9, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

A quick scan of HF's 2004 990 reveals no related parties other than Heritage Institute, a tiny 501(c)(3).

Posted by: jpe on March 9, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Something garbled in my last sentence. I meant to write:


What's true for lobbying is true to a slightly lesser extent for political activity. Instead of looking for a way to comply with the letter and even the spirit of the law, Heritage just defies it and laughs.

Posted by: Mark Schmitt on March 9, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Optimist.

Posted by: ET on March 9, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Real reporter" indeed. As with so many stories that come out of Washington, not only during this administration, political reporters are not enough. What they need is good, old-fashioned STREET reporters,like Jimmy Breslin, who know more than anyone how to follow the money. This is not to say that Santorum IS a crook. It's just to say that when there's even a scent of corruption, news outfits should send out their best hounds. Political reporters can tell us all about rules and regs, the history of lobbyists, etc. But that's all just Glade. It takes an honest crime beat reporter to cut through the air freshener.

Posted by: charlie reina on March 9, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Alas, the number of real reporters is quite small these days. Real reporters are not afraid to offend powerful people. Real newspapers publish their reports. Reality has been losing in recent years.
Posted by: LeisureGuy

"The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent.
Gore Vidal

Posted by: CFShep on March 9, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

kleinman retracted: "Birnbaum and Babington have followed up, and so has someone else. Santorum's campaign says it paid Heritage $500 for the space, which means that there was no impropriety. I shouldn't have been so hasty to jump to the conclusion that Heritage had violated the rules."

Posted by: matt w. on March 9, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Is the room available to anyone for $500?? Can I hold a Bernie Sanders for Senate meeting with lefty lobbyists there?

If not, they still have a problem.

Posted by: Mark Schmitt on March 9, 2006 at 11:21 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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