You will NOT criticize the Great Leader!
March 30, 2004 1:14 PM   Subscribe

The Republican National Committee is demanding that the Federal Election Commission issue new rules that would shut down groups that are in any way critical of President Bush or members of Congress. Under the proposed rules, nonprofit organizations that advocate for cancer research, gun and abortion restrictions or rights, fiscal discipline, tax reform, poverty issues, immigration reform, the environment, or civil rights or liberties - all these organizations could be transformed into political committees if they criticize or commend members of Congress or the President based on their official actions or policy positions.
posted by dejah420 (20 comments total)
Some points from about this issue:

-These rules would shut down the legitimate activities of nonprofit organizations of all kinds that the FEC has no authority at all to regulate.

- Nothing in the McCain-Feingold campaign reform law or the Supreme Court’s decision upholding it provides any basis for these rules.

- In the McConnell opinion upholding McCain-Feingold, the U.S. Supreme Court clearly stated that the law's limits on unregulated corporate, union and large individual contributions apply to political parties and not interest groups. Congress specifically considered regulating 527 organization three times in the last several years - twice through the Internal Revenue Code and once during the BCRA debate - and did not subject them to McCain-Feingold.

- The FEC should not, in a few weeks, tear up the fabric of tax-exempt law that has existed for decades and under which thousands of nonprofit groups have structured their activities and their governance. The Internal Revenue Code already prohibits 501(c)(3) charities from intervening in political candidate campaigns, and IRS rules for other 501(c) groups prohibit them from ever having a primary purpose to influence any candidate elections -- federal, state, or local.

- Under the most draconian proposal, the FEC would "look back" at a nonprofit group's activities over the past four years - before McCain-Feingold was ever passed and the FEC ever proposed these rules - to determine whether a group's activities qualify it as a federal political committee. If so, the FEC would require a group to raise hard money to repay prior expenses that are now subject to the new rules. Further work would be halted until debts to the "old" organization were repaid. This rule would jeopardize the survival of many groups.

- The 4 year "look back" rule would cause a nonprofit group that criticized or praised the policies of Bush, Cheney, McCain, or Gore in 2000, or any Congressional incumbent candidate in 2000 or 2002, to be classified as a political committee now, even though the group has not done so since then. This severely violates our constitutional guarantees of due process.

- These changes would impoverish political debate and could act as a de facto "gag rule" on public policy advocacy. They would insulate public officials from substantive criticism for their positions on policy issues. They would actually diminish civic participation in government rather than strengthen it. This would be exactly the opposite result intended by most supporters of campaign finance reform.

- Any kind of nonprofit -- conservative, liberal, labor, religious, secular, social service, charitable, educational, civic participation, issue-oriented, large, and small -- could be affected by these rules. A vast number would be essentially silenced on the issues that define them, whether they are organized as 501(c)(3), 501(c)(4), or 527 organizations.
posted by dejah420 at 1:21 PM on March 30, 2004

AS written, it looks like this law would destroy the right. MoveOn and Harold Ickes are nothing compared to Scaife, Grover, Steve Moore, etc. Is this real, or are they just trying to scare the liberal 527's while the conservative ones know that they're not really in danger?

I just don't get it, barring an intention to plan selective enforcement ahead of time. It kind of reminds me of Democrats fighting tooth and nail for soft money restrictions that totally crippled them.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:22 PM on March 30, 2004

It kind of reminds me of Democrats fighting tooth and nail for soft money restrictions that totally crippled them.

Yeah...that was particularly bizarre to watch...
posted by dejah420 at 1:25 PM on March 30, 2004

Boy howdy,

The Bush w(s)hite House is acting like a strict-father family model - telling us how to live our lives and punishing us when we disagree with their opinions. Why can't Bush lead a government that nurtures Americans by providing jobs and healthcare? Give us opportunities instead of punishments please daddy.

What we need is the equivalent of a battered-mother figure who can take us kids off to her parents until the strict-father stops being such an asshat.
posted by DragonBoy at 1:26 PM on March 30, 2004

Yeah, wouldn't this effectively kill the Cato Institute and things like the American Enterprise Institute?
posted by mathowie at 1:26 PM on March 30, 2004

Yeah, wouldn't this effectively kill the Cato Institute and things like the American Enterprise Institute?


Remember, a vote against Bush is a vote for Hitler!
posted by bshort at 2:21 PM on March 30, 2004

I was thinking the same line mathowie was, what's going to happen when all the conservative "public policy research institutes" get the kibbosh as well? If this can shut Focus on the Family up at the same time it might be a rather nice way to die.
posted by m@ at 2:28 PM on March 30, 2004

If you're the entrenched establishment, satisfied with the status quo, why not seek to limit any grass-roots/nonprofit attempts to usurp power? After all, the Bushies and Repubs don't need to worry much about needing "soft money", since their base is wealth, and they're otherwise able to raise money to get their message out in such creative ways:

Bush Donors Stay The Night

President Bush opened the White House and Camp David to dozens of overnight guests last year, including foreign dignitaries, family friends and at least nine of his biggest campaign fund-raisers, documents show.

In all, Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush have invited at least 270 people to stay at the White House and at least the same number to overnight at the Camp David retreat since moving to Washington in January 2001, according to lists the White House provided The Associated Press.

Some guests spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom, historic quarters that gained new fame in the Clinton administration amid allegations that Democrats rewarded major donors like Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand with accommodations there.

That scandal and Mr. Bush's criticism of it is one of the reasons the White House identifies guests. In a debate with Vice President Al Gore in October 2000, Mr. Bush said: "I believe they've moved that sign, 'The buck stops here,' from the Oval Office desk to 'The buck stops here' on the Lincoln Bedroom. And that's not good for the country."
At least nine of Mr. Bush's biggest fund-raisers appear on the latest list of White House overnight guests, covering June 2002 through December 2003, and-or on the Camp David list, which covers last year.

posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:44 PM on March 30, 2004

I'm thinking that maybe the Republicans feel that bundling is a tactic that can survive administrational reshuffling of political groups better than anything the Democrats do. The main disadvantage of being reclassified as a political group is that there would be hard-money limits.

Perhaps the Republicans feel that they can survive this by bundling, whereas the Democrats will be bone-dry without big money from the "Limousine Libruls?" In a way, it would make sense in terms of the fundraising advantage and momentum that the GOP has picked up since McCain-Feingold.

And finally, does anyone know if multiple 527s or whatever can get together to spend money together? Because that would be a good way to get around hard-money limits if the Democratic 527s do get hamstrung by this proposal (one could give his 2 grand each to 5 different groups, and bada-bing, you're back in the sleazy loot!).
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 2:46 PM on March 30, 2004

I think this'll be a selective application of the law most likely. Who's in charge? You supported them? Okay, then you can continue to exist. Just keep those "donations" coming.

When is a donation less a donation and more like extortion payments to not get shut down or "investigated"?

On Preview: fold_and_mutilate demonstrates just how much the Above-the-Law mentality pervades this administration. I'd amend that "buck stops here" sign to read "The Buck Never Stops".
posted by fenriq at 2:49 PM on March 30, 2004

Aren't the Repubs the first to cry "free speech" when it comes to campaign contributions? It's funny (in a stupid way) that they want not to allow it for non-profits.
posted by amberglow at 5:09 PM on March 30, 2004

Still, to this day, amazement rushes over me when I consider that G.W. Bush is the President of the United States.

It's as the U.S. has been had, but is too nice to say anything about it.
posted by the fire you left me at 6:33 PM on March 30, 2004

The good news is that the piggies are scared.
We must be doing something right.
This might be a good time to make a small donation.
posted by 2sheets at 6:39 PM on March 30, 2004

I wonder if this is actually a tactic to coathanger the burgeoning evangelical uprising before it forces the Republican party to alienate the ever-important moderates.
posted by Ptrin at 8:22 PM on March 30, 2004

have you seen these ads? Without a doubt they violate the spirit, if not the letter, of McCain Feingold. Both McCain and Feigold have spoken out against these attack ads. I wish I could bring myself to defend them, but I can't.
posted by pejamo at 9:23 PM on March 30, 2004

have you seen these ads? Without a doubt they violate the spirit, if not the letter, of McCain Feingold. Both McCain and Feigold have spoken out against these attack ads. I wish I could bring myself to defend them, but I can't.

I agree, though it is worth noting that there was exactly zero bitching--even (especially) from congressional Democrats--about these kinds of ads when all we were seeing were the Club for Growth's "latte-sipping, volvo-driving, left-wing freakshow" commercials.

In my opnion these commercials (meaning both the MoveOn and Media Fund ads, as well as all the right wing 527s, like Club for Growth) violate the letter and spirit of McCain-Feingold, but the FEC knew full-well what the 527s were founded to do (why the hell else would anyone give them any money?), and these are the groundrules and structures that they put in place before the election season began. Changing the rules in the middle of the election would be fucked-up, especially when one-side has already used 527 ads to destroy a candidate in the other side's primary.

So I say rein 'em all in... the day after the election.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:11 PM on March 30, 2004

Maybe y'all should invite the Canadians to burn down the white house again. It'd solve the bedroom rental addiction your Presidents seem to have.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:14 AM on March 31, 2004

rePublicans are saying in the words of Bill O'Really, "SHUT UP!"

But when it's time for aWol to joke about the Iraqi war and WMD all of a sudden everyone else is "too sensitive."

No double standard for Mr. Strict Father is there?
posted by nofundy at 4:56 AM on March 31, 2004

wouldn't this effectively kill the Cato Institute and things like the American Enterprise Institute?

Cato and AEI are 501(c)(3), so they are already prohibited by the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) from intervening in political campaigns.

527's, on the other hand, are defined as existing for the primary purpose of influencing political campaigns (see IRC Secs 527(e)(1) & (2)).

Different types of organizations, governed by different rules.
posted by probablysteve at 7:10 AM on March 31, 2004

Right, but it worth noting that the Club for Growth is not only bigger (by a mile) than any liberal 527, it is actually the biggest conduit of Republican money outside of the RNC. Cutrailing their activities would not only hurt with Rep. races against Dems., but also with the Club's specialty, which is defaming and destroying moderate Republicans.

I had no idea that AEI was a 501c3. Why is it OK for David Frum to say that God wants W elected, then? Because he's too much of a nut to change minds?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:52 AM on March 31, 2004

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