He's baaaaaaaaaack

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John Hood of the Carolina Journal has been away for a few days, and from the smarmy quality of today's column, he's probably been out groveling at the knee of Art "the Puppetmaster" Pope. Why else would he devote 600 words to the issue of fair and honest elections, without once mentioning how the Puppetmaster is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the North Carolina Legislature? It's Dishonest John at his best and worst - misdirecting and double-talking all the way home. First off, of course, Hood hits us with a red herring about the issue of public financing for elections . . .

For one thing, voters and taxpayers are not synonymous. Many taxpayers don’t vote. Some voters have essentially no net tax liability, when you compare what they pay to what they receive in government transfer payments. Unless the proposal is to charge people for the privilege of voting, and use the proceeds to finance campaigns, it is improperly named (and, of course, such a policy would be unconstitutional and absurd).

What clap-trap! It's often hard to take Hood seriously, but with this kind of silliness, it's hard to take him at all.

For another thing, despite the not-so-sly inference, current elections are not “owned” by private donors exercising their freedom to associate with and support the candidates and causes of their choice. Elections are complicated events, affected by a range of individual and collective actions. To suggest that their outcomes are dictated by the “well-heeled” and other groups bearing quasi-Marxist labels is to misstate reality. Money obviously plays a role in allowing some campaigns to communicate effectively with voters – remember, that’s what campaign cash is, a resource converted into political speech – but other campaigns with large amounts of cash still fall short. Beware of simplistic explanations here. News-media coverage of candidates also plays a significant role in political outcomes. Does that make them “media-owned elections”?

This is where an honest Libertarian would at least blush at the gaping hole in the discussion. By refusing to even fairly discuss his boss's (the Puppetmaster) illegal intrustion into North Carolina electoral politics, Hood reveals his true colors. Because despite all his rhetoric about freedom and liberty and fairness and integrity, he stands complicit in fostering corporate-owned elections, with the corporations in this case being the retail empire of Art Pope.

Finally and predictably, Hood falls back on one of the never-ending stream of John Locke Foundation "reports" to back his lame arguments. If you've paid any attention at all, you've noticed that these JLF "reports" are little more than ideological screeds backed up by a few data points cherry-picked to support whatever the Puppetmaster wishes.

As my JLF colleague Daren Bakst put it in a recent report on the subject, to force North Carolinians to finance the candidacies of individuals with whom they disagree, or perhaps even find abhorrent, is “constitutionally problematic and at a minimum unethical.” Yet some cite the 2002 legislation as a precedent for a new plan to import “voter-owned elections” into other races, including the state legislature itself.

Constitutionally problematic and unethical? Yep, that's the brilliant conclusion of the "report," which has fewer legs to stand on that the Pope Puppet who wrote it in the first place.

To take the "report" to it's logical and ridiculous conclusion, government could never spend taxes on anything whatsover. For example, I genuinely abhor the fact that my taxes to the federal government are going to fund Bush's War in Iraq. I despise the fact that Art Pope is getting a tax break (which my taxes are making up for) for giving money to a 527 organization that is illegally involved in electioneering. And I am appalled that my taxes are going to support 'abstinence only' education, which has been proven worse than useless when it comes to the sexual health of adolescents.

Follow Hood's so-called logic and you'll end up with a government that can do nothing. Which is exactly what the Republicans he shills for would like to see happen.


PS For more on Voter Owned Elections, check out this thread, with lots of links and discussion.


Anglico, “there you again”

Anglico, “there you again . . . .” as us Ronald Reagan fans like to say.

For the record, again, Art Pope has not even been accused of doing anything wrong, yet you state as fact, that Pope is engaged in an “illegal intrusion” into elections. And again, in regard to the RLM 527, there has been no action by the State Board of Election’s finding it has done anything wrong, just as it has also taken no action against the complaints against Jim Black’s 527 or Richard Morgan’s 527, both of which preceded the RLM 527.

I do appreciate your linking to the source material, and clicking on to Hood’s column, he in turned linked to one of his own earlier columns, which does expressly address the 527 issue.

From: John Hood Column: 8/25/2004

“At present, we have the spectacle of political candidates and the media exhorting other political candidates to tell independent 527 organizations to shut up. John Kerry wants George W. Bush to tell the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to shut up. Bush wants Kerry to tell George Soros and the MoveOn.org crowd to shut up. Mike Easley and The Charlotte Observer want the Republican Governors’ Association to shut up – or at least to stop saying things that the Easley campaign and the Observer don’t want them to say.

It’s hard to see any heroic figures in this, other than Federal Elections Commissioner Bradley Smith. He was a Bush appointee that Democrats savaged and tried to block. He took office anyway and then argued strongly that Democratic-leaning 527s had an obvious First Amendment right to organize, raise funds, and participate in the political process despite the best efforts of governmental busybodies to silence them and their (less numerous and less-well-funded) Republican mirror-images.

America is a free society. The fundamental concept is that people have the right to say, think, and act however they like consistent with the equal right of other people to do the same. In a free society, you have the right to be right. You have the right to be wrong. You have the right to be polite and frank, or obnoxious and unctuous. You can be conservative, liberal, libertarian, vegetarian, Unitarian, fundamentalist, environmentalist, disinterested, uninterested, or self-interested.”

Hood makes a pretty good consistent principled point. And as we argued on earlier threads, a point that also benefits BlueNC (which as an LLC is just as much a business organization as an “Inc.” corporation) which promotes your political views and support for electing candidates, by using your internet and “news” exemption from FEC regulation.

Do you really want to ban all free speech, 527s, internet, news media, and just have “publicly financed” political speech?

Missing the point

You are still missing the point: one of Pope's main problems is that he violated the law governing 527's. There are other ways that Pope could use his freedom of speech rights, but if he chooses to express himself through the running of a 527 (an organization with special rules to get special tax treatment), he must do it through the rules set up for that group. If you need a simpler analogy, consider a UNC student in a public funded dorm; he wants to express his distaste of some university policy, so he hangs a banner outside his window. While his message would otherwise be protected by free speech, the school could restrict his placing of the banner in the apartment so long as the restriction is reasonable as to time, place, and manner and allows other avenues of expression. Just like the student, Pope and his corporations have other avenues for expression, but if they are going to use a 527, they need to follow the law set up for 527's. Do you get it yet?

Point Is BlueNC and RLM Both Comply With Law

No, you missed the point.

Pope has not been accused of any wrong doing. The RLM 527 has complied with North Carolina's “Electioneering” statute which limits the number of mailings a 527 can do that mention a legislator/candidate by name. The mailers were issue advocacy, listing legislators’ votes on legislation. None of the mailers, were “express advocacy” to elect or defeat, support or oppose, a candidate, as defined by the US Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo. See Wikepedia for an objective definition of those terms and their application.

Going back to Hood’s column, not only did Richard Morgan, who filed the complaint against RLM, have the equal right to form and use a 527, he in fact had done so, the NC Republican Main Street Committee, which was started before RLM ( Republican Legislative Majority of NC) was formed. Morgan’s 527 was funded in part by $100,000 from S&M Brands tobacco, during the Legislative Session, while Morgan was holding up legislation which would have required S&M to be part of the Master Settlement Agreement for tobacco companies. (See previous threads, News & Observer, Winston-Salem Journal news stories.)

To the extent you believe RLM “circumvented” the law by complying with it, then so has BlueNC, an LLC business organization, “circumvented” the law by using the internet and/or “news” exemption from campaign finance laws. A lot of what BlueNC “publishes” on the internet, is direct, express, advocacy to elect and support progressive candidates and defeat Republican candidates. If you sent out your material by direct mail or radio ads, then BlueNC would be violating the campaign finance laws.

Let me make it clear, I do not think BlueNC has violated, or circumvented, any laws. BlueNC has complied with one set of exemptions from “campaign finance” restrictions on free speech, and as a supporter of free speech and a robust debate, I support that.

As a Republican who opposed Republican Richard Morgan’s politically corrupt deals and coalition with Democrat Speaker Jim Black, I support RLM getting the word out to the people through direct mail.

Finally, what “special” tax exemption does a 527 get? Donations to a 527, or similar 501(c)(4)s, are not tax deductible. You have to a charitable non-profit, a 501(c)(3), for a donor to get a tax deduction. And yes, because 501(c)(3)s are charitable, they are subject to a whole different set of restrictions that severely limit them from lobbying and advocacy, and prohibit election support. Those tax laws on 527s, (c)(4)s, and (c)(3)s apply equally to all, left and right.

Gift tax exemption

If there is any significant tax subsidy granted to section 527 political organizations, it is because contributions (if greater than the general $10,000 gift-tax exclusion amount) are provided a special exemption from the Federal gift tax under section 2501(a)(1)(5). Absent section 2501(a)(1)(5), contributions to such organizations would technically be subject to the gift tax, although it is not clear under common law whether all political contributions would be viewed as gratuitous gifts subject to the gift tax regime. Nonetheless, the presence of a gift tax subsidy may provide the basis for regulation of constitutionally protected advocacy activities conducted by nonprofit organizations.

Review of 527 tax treatment

Gift Tax Analysis Fails

I give you an A for efforty, but an F in you tax course. Only transfers from individuals are potentially subject to a gift tax. Transfers from corporations are not subject to the gift tax.

Main point, is that all 527s, left and right, affiliated with Republicans or Democrats, are subject to the same tax treatment.

Your approach, and that on one of the later threads, confirms that you progressives really do believe that government has the right to all income, all that we own. And whatever money the government decides to let us keep, rather than take in taxes, is a subsidy! You extend that to what the government does not subject to a gift tax is also a subsidy! Boy, talk about Scrooge!

Oh, Socrates!

Sometimes you sound almost clever, then you trot out nonsense like "you progressives really do believe that government has the right to all income." Right. We're all really commu-fascists, and you've discovered our little secret. And we would have gotten away with it, too, kids, dog, etc.

Taxing subject

A transfer of property by a corporation is considered a gift from the individual stockholders of the corporation in proportion to their ownership.

There is no F in tax.

Dear Mr. Pope:

What a disappointment to find your Sock Rats Puppet back in our midst, blabbering from the same tired script you've been using for months. If you had half the hairs she's been splitting to defend your so-called integrity, you wouldn't be the bald-headed @$$hole that you are. That said, we're happy to engage in honest discussion with honest people who identify themselves and their motivations for all to see. So in the future, please make sure your Puppets are wearing nametags when they grace our modest portal.