Dent In Citizens United From A Montana Judge

Some good news via the Los Angeles Times Thursday morning.   

Judge overturns IRS rule that shielded political donors’ identities

“A federal judge in Montana overturned an Internal Revenue Service rule that allowed many political nonprofit groups to keep their donor lists private.

The ruling upends a change the IRS made last year that permitted so-called Section 501(c)4 groups, known as “social welfare” organizations, to keep their donor lists private. A federal judge said the IRS didn’t follow proper procedure in writing the rule and needs to let the public weigh in on the change before altering the tax code.

“Then, and only then, may the IRS act on a fully informed basis when making potentially significant changes to federal tax law,” U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said in the opinion Tuesday evening.

<< snip >>

“Not only did the IRS try to make it easier for dark money groups to hide their funding sources, it did so behind closed doors,” Grewal said in a statement.

The ruling is a blow to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, who said the rule protected donor privacy because the IRS could enforce tax laws without that information. Democrats had criticized the agency’s move, saying it opened up the possibility for foreign interests to influence elections.”

Up until now, donors have been able to hide their sometimes rather nefarious political action behind an IRS rule that hid their names from the public. This spits in the face of everything that having an open democracy stands for. Everyone  is most certainly allowed to join whatever political group they want, but there should be no secrecy. 

Donations for political purposes, since they affect the public’s business should be made public. The 501(c)4 provisions for “social welfare” groups that are in reality political issue organizations is yet another example of the Republican disdain for real democracy in this country. Hiding the names of donors to these issue groups ranks right in with voter suppression, Russian interference, gerrymandering and possible voting machine hacking.

We really need to know who is donating to these issue organizations. Who donates will help to expose who the people who are pushing the issue and what the real purpose behind the issue group is. Election rules state that foreign money is not supposed to be involved in our elections. With the names of donors to issue oriented groups unavailable, foreign donors could easily be hidden behind the curtain of secrecy.

There was much suspicion that money from Russia was funneled to the NRA over the past 3 years or so, but without access to donor records that would be hard to prove. Corporations and CEOs of major companies use this provision to shield their companies from negative publicity by hiding behind this IRS provision. If a business or company officer is ashamed to be outed as a contributor to an issue oriented group because of possible negative publicity, you would have to wonder why they would contribute to such a group.

“We, the People” as intoned in the preamble to the constitution should be able to see who is pushing what issue, so we can figure out why. Simply stated, secrecy is the enemy of democracies and the friend of tyrants.

As the LA Times stated in an editorial after Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin created the rule slightly over a year ago:  

But while this week’s policy change may not affect what the public may learn about political spending by so-called social welfare groups, it could make it more difficult for the government to police laws against spending by foreigners on U.S. elections. Fred Wertheimer, president of the campaign reform group Democracy 21, warned that, with the end of the reporting requirement, “there is no way to determine if a 501(c)(4) advocacy group that is spending money to influence federal elections is taking that money from Russia, from Russian agents, from China or from any other foreign interest.”

Once again we see a Republican Party that is bent on winning elections by cheating and hoodwinking the public. Ads have already started running with a pack of lies about Medicare For All. They were running during the Democratic debates last week. According to the Hill:  

Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which is funded by influential health care groups like PhRMA, the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association, will air the ads Tuesday and Wednesday nights as part of a six-figure television and digital campaign targeting the proposal and other expansions of Medicare.

I have to wonder as should we all if that is a comprehensive list of donors? Are there any foreigners among the donors? 

Get ready for a long couple years of lies, misleads and omissions as money tries to fool us into not doing what is good for the whole.

Expect the Montana ruling to be appealed. This will be where we see in Moscow Mitch’s strategy of refusing to allow Obama to appoint judges and then changing rules to fill the benches with Trump appointees pays off. My bet is it will and within a short space of time we will once more be denied the ability to find out where the money behind the issue ads comes from.

Thank you, Moscow Mitch for destroying democracy.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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