Friday, September 15, 2006

the taxman cometh

Despite the fact that enforcement budgets are down and Ohio churches helped orchestrate Bush's 2004 victory (and were not investigated), the IRS has taken upon itself to investigate the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC). From Forbes:
the Internal Revenue Service has revoked the DLC's tax exemption on the grounds that it primarily benefited a private group--Democrats, and particularly "New Democrats" running for or holding office--rather than the community at large. The DLC has sued in federal court to overturn the decision; the outcome could affect the spreading use (abuse?) of tax-exempts by politicians and those seeking to influence them. Convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff is just one character who has used money from tax-exempts to get the attention of legislators.

By that standard, there are many other tax exempt groups that should have their status revoked, namely GOP-leaning ones.

The DLC also points to other issue-flavored (c)(4)s--Empower America, the Log Cabin Republicans and the Republican Main Street Partnership--whose founders are identified with one party. And it says the Democrat-only workshops ate up less than 5% of a $4 million annual budget while 70% went for publications available to the public.

The DLC does not seek to elect or endorse candidates, it only trains candidates in messaging, invites them to conferences to meet other candidates and big donors, and writes stuff on what Democrats should do policy-wise. And liberals on the blogosphere doubt that Democrat part because some of the prominant senior DLC folks are supporting Joe Lieberman, who is no longer a Democrat.

When I was working there, my bosses said over and over again how careful we had to be about not sounding too political, because "we have gotten in trouble with the IRS before" what I didn't know is that
The IRS began auditing the DLC in 1999 and in 2002 revoked its exemption for 1997, 1998 and 1999 (all the years audited), hitting it with a $20,083 back tax bill.

And if you don't think this is a partisan, ideological thing, then why is the Justice Department hiring Nader-founded Public Citizen to defend the IRS from the DLC's suit?

If there is any group DLCer hate close to as much as Republicans, it is Naderites. And if there is anything I hate more than hypocrisy, it is when it comes with partisan goals attached...and when Forbes manages to squeeze as many Jack Abramoff references into a story that is about a Democratic group that seeks to be tax-free, even though Abramoff was a college Republican and never gave a dime to Democrats. Hell, he was wearing an elephant tie to his sentencing hearing.

And don't say moral equalavence to me, Abramoff used charities as shams-- funnellers of money from one group to the next politican's pocket. There is simply no comparison Steve Forbes. The DLC may be organized to help a particular political group become powerful, but what 501(c)(4) isn't?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

the importance of political stunts

People these days seem to confuse political stunts with grandstanding. Grandstanding, for the most part is what politicians do when other politicians complain of "political stunts," like pulling out an obscure (to Bill Frist) Senate rule to halt the Senate and force WMD's to be discussed. Grandstanding is "performing ostentatiously so as to impress an audience." That is, being Senator Joe Biden, who gives lengthy lectures to judicial nominees from his seat at the Judiciary Committee.

Political stunts, however, are guerilla tactics to get free media to a candidate or incumbent. For example, Democratic Candidate for the US House from North Carolina Larry Kissel copied another Democratic Candidate from Kentucky for the US House (whose name escapes me) by offering constituents gas at pre-incumbent prices to make a point that gasoline has become much more expensive since Congressman X went to DC...why isn't he doing anything about it? the gimmick attracted local news stories, and more importantly, potential voters to the candidates name and message, however briefly.

More recently, MO Secretary of State and US Senate Candidate Claire McCaskill bought 100 St. Louis Rams tickets so as to avoid a TV blackout for fans who can't afford said tickets. She then was able to get on local TV, giving away the tickets to charities for needy children or something. For $44,000, she got lots of favorable press coverage, more name ID, and appreciative Rams fans who might vote for her because of it.

Kissell's gambit also cost a couple thousand dollars, but it was well worth it, just Google his name and gas and see how many local news stories you see.

The key is, if done correctly, a candidate can get a dirt cheep positive issue ad out. One that sends a message that "I care about things that matter to you, and Congressman/Senator X doesn't."

Closer to home, Jim Matheson does this by donating his pay raise to charity. It is only a few thousand dollars each time, but it generates national coverage. Every year, some editorial board mentions his name about how more members of Congress should be like Jim and forgo their auto COLA. Every year, Jim gets to pick a needy charity who benefits from the money, and the coverage.

When ever people complain about political stunts, see if it is really grandstanding (to Biden). If so, join the chorus. But if it is truly a political stunt, you know they are just jealous they didn't come up with it first.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

where I was today

Although the criminal clinic officially started a couple weeks ago, for me it really started today. I skipped class and played prosecutor for the day, wearing a suit and tie...well my one and only suit with the only tie that matches it that I own.

Anyway, I got to argue the motions that I had written a couple weeks ago in front of a Justice Court judge, against a member of the bar with a real defendant sitting there, and I pretty much succeeded. The facts and the law were overwhelmingly on my side, so I am not here to boast.

In fact, the defense attorney did his best to obfuscate the issues at trial with other matters and a long windbag style that had me befuddled too. Why would 6 months of logs for a breathalyzer be necessary for his case if we gave him an affidavit that said it was checked prior to and after the breath test was conducted and the machine was functioning properly? Why would he need a 911 tape of a witness who said he saw the defendant driving drunk when we had the eyewitness present in the courtroom to testify and the tape had been destroyed per administrative procedure? Why on God's green Earth did it take nearly 3 hours to resolve those issues and the legality of a semi-standard stop and arrest?

He pulled out cases that had nothing to do with the matter and tried to connect them. He decided to whap down the print on the State's table as if that lent them more authority. It was exaspirating. And after all that, I discovered that one of my motions was not delivered to the other side, so the judge gave him time to respond to my response, and cut off my argument.

I am almost certain that his motion will fail, but it sure was frustrating. My supervising attorney told me that I had had enough for several trials and that I had earned my stripes today. So I returned home happy, tired, but annoyed.

How was your day?

Monday, September 11, 2006

where were you?

For my Parents generation, everyone knew where they were when they heard Kennedy was shot. They remember lots of trivial things about that moment that make it seem alive again. For my Grandparents, it was Pearl Harbor. But for my generation, it will be where you were when you heard that the twin towers had been struck by Al Qaeda (not Saddam, you crazy 30%).

I remember getting up at about 9 something (I didn't have class that day until 10:30), looking out the window into the clear blue sky and feeling a pleasantly warm breeze on my face. The feeling of happiness and calm passed over me. I thought "what a nice day." Boy was I wrong. I turned on my computer and chatted with a mutual friend of my now wife's and mine, and she told me what happened. She is a woman who subscribed to the New York Times as a student and prides herself on being well-informed. So I belived her, yet it seemed so fantastic. So I went into the common room and turned on the TV...and like election night 2000, our TV didn't turn off for days.

What dark days those were, with the anthrax scare that followed. Yet we all had hope, we saw people coming together to do brave and simple things for the good of all and felt the condolances from our allies. Five years later, we can see of far Bush has pissed it away. No one trusts the U.S. government at its word any more (save those 30%), we have more enemies, more trained people trying to kill our countrymen, and less places to travel without feeling disliked than ever before.

I get a bit choaked up when I think about those firefighters rushing up the stairs, the people who carried disabled co-workers down 90 plus flights, the passengers who charged United 93's cockpit...but then I get so angry when I think about all those who have died in Iraq for a war of choice that should have been much further down the priority list (behind Iran, N. Korea, Syria, and certainly Al Qaeda itself).

Please use the comments section to tell me where you were on that fateful Tuesday morning.

Huntsman sticks it to the poor, again

Hot off the heals of jamming through his two tiered (with a new flat tax) tax system for his wealthy collegues, Jon Jr. now cut hundreds of hungry Utahns off food stamps. The Salt Lake Tribune reports:
About 875 Utahns lost their food stamps last month under a new policy that anti-hunger advocates say they would have opposed had they known about it.
That's fewer than 2 percent of the 54,750 households on food stamps in any given month. But it's the neediest 2 percent, mostly chronically homeless men and women, say advocates who complain the policy was never publicly vetted.

Good job also hunger advocates, who missed the boat on this one, thinking that more people would be covered under the new plan. Also, Huntsman's stooges didn't follow Administrative Rulemaking proceedures, calling it a temporary fix to a "crisis" that there is isn't enough food stamps to go around.
"In the past, Utah has never exhausted its limit and should be able to roll over cases from last year or borrow from next year's allotment," said [ Bill] Tibbetts [, an advocate for the Anti-Hunger Coalition]. "I'm not sure why state officials kept this under wraps. It makes you wonder, are there other major changes in policy that we don't know about?"

I bet there are. You don't seem to be doing your job very well, since Huntsman is pretty crafty.