- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2006

Act like PACs

“Last week, the Federal Election Commission fined MoveOn.org, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and two other groups a total of $629,500 for violating campaign-finance laws during the 2004 election,” Bradley A. Smith writes in the Los Angeles Times.

“According to the FEC, these ‘527’ organizations (so named for the tax-code provision governing their activities) ought to have registered as political action committees, which would have limited their ability to receive large donations and, in the case of MoveOn and the Swifties, would probably have shut both groups out of the 2004 election altogether,” said Mr. Smith, who served as chairman of the FEC in 2004.

“For decades, only groups that contributed directly to candidates, coordinated their activity with candidates or ‘expressly advocated’ a candidate’s election or defeat in public advertising (with phrases such as ‘support’ or ‘vote against’) qualified as PACs. But in a landmark ruling, the FEC held that even if the Swifties and MoveOn stopped short of using such magic words in public, they were PACs because their fundraising ‘clearly indicated that the funds received would be targeted for the election or defeat of specific federal candidates.’ [The] organizations decided to pay up rather than take on the government in court. The FEC warns that future fines will be more severe.

“What did the groups really do wrong? Did they bribe or corrupt politicians? Well, no. You won’t find ‘Duke’ Cunningham, William Jefferson or Bob Ney connected to MoveOn or the Swift Boat Veterans. Did they make illegal contributions to campaigns? Well, no again. Did they seek out special favors or illegally coordinate their efforts with candidates? No. The FEC admitted that, after a ‘thorough’ investigation, it found no evidence that any of the groups operated in concert with candidates or sought legislative favors.

“The elitist cognoscenti in Washington, who support anything they think will take money out of politics, are pleased, huffing only that the fines are too small. The FEC admitted to going easy on the groups, given the ‘uncertainty’ in the law. In my view, there is no uncertainty — the groups did not violate the law at all.

“But these groups aren’t being punished for making errors in their filing papers. They’re being punished for criticizing politicians.”

Hat in the ring

Former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III has added himself to the list of 2008 Republican presidential hopefuls.

Mr. Gilmore, a staunch anti-tax candidate who served as governor from 1998 to 2002, said he will open an exploratory committee on Jan. 2.

“I believe the current field of potential candidates lacks a mainstream conservative that is capable of mounting an effective national campaign,” Mr. Gilmore said. “It is my intention to fill that void.”

For several years Mr. Gilmore, a lawyer, has been upfront about his political ambitions, saying he “would be a candidate again some day.”

His interest in seeking the governorship again in 2009 was well-known, but recently he started elevating his national profile with visits to key presidential primary states.

Mr. Gilmore, in his announcement, touted his national security credentials.

He noted he served as chairman of the congressional “Gilmore Commission” to assess U.S. response capabilities to terrorism after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Now, Mr. Gilmore is chairman of the National Council on Readiness and Preparedness, a role that he’s used to make national television appearances and to travel the country. In his law work, Mr. Gilmore is a partner who leads the Homeland Security Practice Group at Kelley Drye Collier Shannon LLP in Washington.

Soaking the rich

“Maybe our liberal friends are onto something,” the Wall Street Journal says in an editorial.

“They keep saying the rich should pay more taxes, and it turns out the rich already are! That’s one of the valuable lessons from the IRS’s annual study of income-tax data, just released for 2004,” the newspaper said.

“Americans who earned more than $1 million in adjusted gross income paid $178 billion, or an average of $740,000 per filer, in income taxes in 2004. That’s up about one-third from 2002, the year before the Bush tax cuts in marginal income-tax and dividend and capital gains rates. The wealthiest 1 percent of tax filers paid a remarkable 35 percent of all individual income-tax payments that year.

“Yes, we know: Some will claim that this merely shows that the Bush tax cuts made the rich richer. In fact, the Statistics of Income data reveal that there were more Americans filing taxes in every income category from $50,000 and up in 2004. In other words, Americans across income categories were (and are) making more money, thanks to the buoyant economy spurred in part by the tax cut.”

The newspaper added: “If House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi wants to keep revenues flowing to pay for her priorities, the best thing she can do is leave the lower Bush tax rates alone to soak the rich some more.”

Lawmaker probed

The majority leader of the New York state Senate says the FBI is investigating him and his private consulting business.

Sen. Joseph Bruno, who will be the state’s top Republican next month, said Tuesday he was told by the FBI in late spring that he was being investigated. The 77-year-old lawmaker said he doesn’t know exactly what investigators are looking for, but he has cooperated.

Mr. Bruno is listed as a consultant to Capital Business Consultants LLC, according to his legislative ethics filing. He said the company specializes in marketing, business strategy and business development, the Associated Press reports.

Senator Santa

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton got into the holiday spirit yesterday, describing her family’s Christmas traditions, as well as the political mood, hinting it might be time for a mom to occupy the Oval Office.

“We’ve never had a mother who ever ran for or held that position,” the former first lady told the all-female cast of ABC’s “The View.”

Mrs. Clinton appeared on the show to promote the 10th-anniversary rerelease of “It Takes a Village,” the Associated Press reports.

“We are probably as fanatic about Christmas as anyone you’ll meet,” Mrs. Clinton said of her husband, Bill, and daughter, Chelsea. She added that she loved making homemade ornaments and trimming the tree.

“You’d be surprised how crafty she is,” host Rosie O’Donnell cracked.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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