- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

House Democrats defeated Republicans' tax-day "gimme" vote yesterday, charging that the bill actually would undo some campaign finance regulations.
But Republicans say by defeating the new protections for taxpayers included in the bill, Democrats have created an issue that can be used against them in November, when all 435 House seats are up for election.
"If they believe that phony urban myth on 'stealth PACs' enough to vote this way, they're going to have to live with the consequences," said Bill Thomas, California Republican and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, after the vote.
And John Feehery, spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, said, "We'd rather have the bill, but it's a nice issue."
Lawmakers traditionally like to pass a taxpayer-friendly bill around April 15, the day when individual income tax returns are due, but the Taxpayer Protection and IRS Accountability Act failed 219-205.
There were 25 Republicans who voted against the bill, 15 Democrats who voted for it, and one Republican who voted present. Given the procedural rules governing the bill on the floor, it would have needed support from two-thirds of the House to pass.
Democrats said by bringing the bill up under those rules, which also prohibit amendments, Republicans proved they were just looking for a campaign issue.
"It's a legislative attempt to create 30-second [television ad] spots to defeat Democrats," Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, told reporters before the vote. "The other thing that comes out of this, and we intend to say this in the election, is Republican leadership, and a majority of Republicans are not for campaign finance reform."
The main thrust of the bill, which had across-the-board support, would have allowed the Internal Revenue Service to waive penalties for first-time violators who have a history of compliance, reformed the way interest is applied to estimates tax payments and penalties and would have given taxpayers more time to contest a levy the IRS imposes on an account.
It also would have allowed electronic filers until April 30 to file and would have made it a firing offense for an IRS employee to browse, unauthorized, through taxpayer records.
The controversial part, though, applied to "527 organizations," named after the section of tax code which governs them. These are political organizations formed by political committees and candidates that, until recently, weren't required to disclose fund-raising information but which ran ads in federal elections.
A law passed in 2000 required that 527s disclose officers, donations and expenditures. But state and local parties, both Republican and Democrat, were surprised to find they were affected, and some complained that they often already file that information with state officials.
Republicans said yesterday's bill just corrected that double reporting.
"I'm for disclosure," Mr. Thomas said. "I'm not for unnecessary, duplicative disclosure."
Campaign finance reform proponents agreed some organizations are burdened, but they said there are other ways to correct it.
"Why is it so difficult for there to be a compromise?" Rep. Christopher Shays, Connecticut Republican, wondered to reporters during the vote. Mr. Shays was a sponsor of the landmark campaign finance regulations that became law last month.
Yesterday Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican and the most vocal opponent of the new campaign finance regulations, announced two dozen plaintiffs have joined his suit against the law among them the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, the National Right to Life Committee and the Christian Coalition.
Floyd Abrams, a prominent First Amendment lawyer who is joining Kenneth W. Starr as Mr. McConnell's lead lawyer, said the wide range of groups is natural.
"The reason that so many of us who may have some disagreements on some issues come together so easily on this issue is that this is a wholly, wholly nonpartisan, nonideological issue," he said.


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