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Tilting at Windmills

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March 16, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

FUN WITH FUNDRAISING....I see that House Republicans are responding the Jack Abramoff scandal by proposing again to cripple the operation of "527" organizations. This is probably just a coincidence, but it's funny that they're picking on 527s, which are mostly used by liberal groups who had nothing to do with the Abramoff scandal, isn't it? Conversely, conservatives tend to prefer 501(c)s for their fundraising because they require less disclosure and can operate virtually in secret. That's was the vehicle of choice for Abramoff and Tom DeLay, for example, but the Republican proposal does nothing to rein them in.

Like I said, it's probably just a coincidence. I'm sure that as soon as someone points this out they'll fix up their proposal. In the meantime, if you don't don't know your 527s from your 501(c)(3)s, try reading "Bush's Secret Stash" from the May 2004 issue of the Monthly. It's enlightening.

Kevin Drum 1:56 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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One of the biggest open-secret scandals of the past 30 years has been how tax-exempt 501c3 think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have functioned as ideological and human capital adjuncts to, if not the executive management of, the Republican Party.

Posted by: Godshamgod on March 16, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

One of the biggest open-secret scandals of the past 30 years has been how tax-exempt 501c3 think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have functioned as ideological and human capital adjuncts to, if not the executive management of, the Republican Party.

Posted by: Godshamgod on March 16, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have to hand it to them, I think it is very clever of them to do this, and I suspect it will work.

Posted by: jerry on March 16, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, Kevin, you sure are busy today...Don't stop.

Posted by: gq on March 16, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

they'll have to pass this before November. Who knows? The way the repubs operate, they might have already passed it and just didn't tell anyone. Much easier for the new Patriot Act secret police to do their surprise raids on MoveOn.org.

Or am I just paranoid?

Posted by: TomStewart on March 16, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I await legislation requiring all fundraising groups to register with the Republican Party for approval.

And no TomStewart, you're not being paranoid.

Posted by: craigie on March 16, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

What is the obstacle that would prevent MoveOn and other groups from re-registering as 501(c) corporations?

Nevertheless, Kevin, you did a marvelous service to the reality-based community by raising this issue. The Republicans like to run on faux issues, and are hoping that if they can fake-it-with-style, that they can win. Whether we talk about HSAs or Healthy Forests, there's always a catch.

And you caught the catch. I had not. Our illustrious media has not. You may well deserve a special medal of commendation for this post.

Spread this Gospel, fellow netizens of the left: The Republican Party is not serious about lobbying reform unless and until they are willing to crack down on 501(c)s!

Posted by: Jim D on March 16, 2006 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

What is the obstacle that would prevent MoveOn and other groups from re-registering as 501(c) corporations?

Thats a good question. I believe that they actually have already in addition to their 527. So whats the problem? 501 (c) corporations unlike 527s must not to have a primary purpose of influencing elections.

The problem is that that rule placed on 501 (c)s if often breached and it doesnt appear the IRS is trying to do anything about it. While Im sure there are probably Democratic leaning 501 (c) that violate the rules it appears Republicans are a lot more willing to lie. See, the link in the orignal post to Bush's secret stash, see also sites like this one: http://www.stealthpacs.org/profile.cfm?Org_ID=46

USA ran advertisements supporting 19 House candidates and six U.S. Senate candidates during those two months. Sixteen of the 19 House candidates supported by USA were Republicans; of those,15 were involved in races deemed "competitive" by political handicapper Charlie Cook. USA ran ads in six of that fall's 34 U.S. Senate contests, including six of the seven contests that Cook rated most competitive.3 4 In each Senate contest, USA either praised Republicans or criticized Democrats.5

USA was founded by Richard Viguerie, a conservative who pioneered the art of using direct mail pitches to solicit small political contributions.6 But the group has grown increasingly reliant on large donors in recent years. USA, which had 2001 revenue of $8.6 million, posted $25.4 million in revenue in 2002; of that $20.1 million came from a single donor, according USA's filing with the IRS.7 The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the trade association of the brand name pharmaceutical industry, said it gave "an unrestricted educational grant" to USA in 2002.8 9 Because most of USA's ads emphasized prescription drugs, it is likely that PhRMA was the $20.1 million contributor. In 2001, USA reported to the IRS that it received a $1.5 million contribution from PhRMA.10

USA reported $18.6 million in expenditures for "radio/TV placements" in 2002. 11 Researchers at the Wisconsin Advertising Project, the foremost academic research program assessing the political content of television ads, concluded that 72.9 percent of USA's television advertisements included in the Project's database in 2002 were intended to influence the outcomes of elections.12

USA reported zero political activity in its 2002 IRS filing, as it had in previous years and did again in 2003.13 In effect, the group claimed that none of its ads were intended to influence the outcomes of elections.14

Posted by: Catch22 on March 16, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Moveon.org IS a 501(c). The relationship between it and their political arm is explained here.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 16, 2006 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

There's an interesting paper on this subject here.

Posted by: tbrosz on March 16, 2006 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

"I do think there is a tendency on the part of some on the left to criticize some politicians--particularly conservative politicians--on the basis of their religious views."

Uh, name one, please. Fuzzy thinking makes for fuzzy writing.

That's not to say that Amy's not onto something. I accept the polls showing that many people see the Democratic party as unfriendly to religion and religious people, but this dynamic certainly wasn't caused by Democratic politicians, who talk about faith as often as Republicans. There's a de facto religious test for office in the country that I suppose we have to accept, and we might as well pick a presidential candidate, unlike Kerry or Dean or Hillary, who's comfy talking about faith, although I'd prefer a devoutly religious canidate who could forcefully explain why it's no one's goaddamn business. But I'm not sure that people need candidates who are religious; I think they need politicians whom they can trust, in whom they can see a piece of themselves, and faith is a sort of proxy for real knowledge.

In any case, this is a tired argument that's been going fon or years.If Democrats every offered a coherent, sweeping, bold economically progressive polpulist program, they'd be surprised by how many religious voters they could win back. A choice between a politician who goes to church and one who will put money is your bank account isn't much of a choice at all. (One who does both is even better)


Posted by: david mizner on March 16, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz,

That is an interesting article(http://www.ssireview.com/pdf/2005SP_feature_rich.pdf). The main thesis appears to be that conservative groups are more political and more ideological and less conserned with science or the facts.

There is one more distinction between conservative and liberal foundations that affects the disparities in their level of support: Funders on the left appear to have a different view of the role of the researcher and the role of the research organization than those on the right. For many of the mainline foundations and the foundations that are more clearly progressive, the primary concern when it comes to funding think tanks is in funding rigorous research that strives to be neutral. For them, think tanks and policy institutes should be homes to the disinterested expert. Concern for neutral, unbiased research is not a preoccupation of the foundations on the right.... If youre on the left, you have to go to the foundations and say youre neutral, unbiased not politicized. Youre certainly not liberal. If youre ideological, they dont want to support you. Its frustrating because, by contrast, if youre on the right, the foundations will only fund you if you toe the ideological line, if you want to do battle for the conservative cause.

This tendency is mirrored in the Bush administration where science is constantly trumped by ideology. It also fits my early comment that conservatives were more likely to stretch or even break the law on 501cs. This is also in the allegedly liberally biased media, where conservative groups like Fox are far more political and ideological.

Posted by: Catch 22 on March 16, 2006 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

Catch22:

I don't know. I wonder about any categorization that puts the Urban Institute in the class of "no identifiable ideology."

Posted by: tbrosz on March 16, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: adult toys sex toys on March 17, 2006 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

I keep feeling that 527s are a parallel to certain religious groups -- nobody is talking about banning Dobson...so if you're not a member of a state-sanctioned religion there's no permissible organizing mechanism?

Posted by: Ross Judson on March 18, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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