Briefly Noted: March 2014

Conservative grassroots groups FreedomWorks, Club for Growth Action Fund, Senate Conservatives Fund, and the Tea Party Patriots, raised $20 million last year, according to news reports. “This is by far the biggest nonelection year we’ve ever had,” said Matt Hoskins, executive director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. “It shows how committed people are to electing true conservatives and to advancing conservative principles.” The three groups run by GOP consultant Karl RoveAmerican Crossroads (super PAC), Crossroads GPS, Conservative Victory Project (super PAC) — took in a combined $6.1 million in 2013. In the 2012 election cycle, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS together raised $325 million.

Republicans are fighting back against proposed new IRS rules that they say would make formal the tax agency’s infamous crackdown on Tea Party groups that oppose the Obama agenda, stripping them of their free speech rights during election cycles. The new rules, first unveiled around Thanksgiving when no one was paying attention, would prevent so-called 501(c)(4) social welfare/advocacy groups from participating in certain kinds of political activity. Such nonprofit organizations would be prevented from communicating with voters about candidates or political parties within 60 days of a general election. “Every American needs to know about this abuse of power,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) said in a recent speech on the Senate floor. Although new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said he did not participate in drafting the rules, he has refused demands to block their implementation. Senate Democrats such as Mark Begich (Alaska) and Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) are demanding that the IRS crack down further on right-leaning nonprofits like Americans for Prosperity.

Some groups on the left don’t support the proposed IRS regulations. The American Civil Liberties Union said that “[s]ocial welfare organizations praise or criticize candidates for public office on the issues and they should be able to do so freely, without fear of losing or being denied tax-exempt status, even if doing so could influence a citizen’s vote.” Such advocacy is “the heart of our representative democracy” and if social welfare groups influence voting, they do so only by “promoting an informed citizenry.”

During a speech at John Podesta’s Center for American Progress, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) revealed the Left’s plan to attack the Tea Party movement in advance of the November congressional elections. Democrats “must stop playing defense and go on offense when it comes to the need for government,” Schumer said. “We must state loudly and repeatedly we believe government is often a necessary force for good.” The senator’s allies plan to focus on highlighting examples of popular government programs and show how “government can help the average family.” Invoking all the usual liberal cliches about conservatives, Schumer said the Tea Party is a successor to “the Know-Nothings, Prohibitionists, Father Coughlin, and Huey Long.” (Actually, Coughlin and Long were registered Democrats, the latter as a U.S. Senator.)

The radical agitators at MoveOn wheeled out left-wing gadfly Robert Reich in a new campaign to raise the minimum wage and warn Americans about the supposed dangers of economic “inequality.” Although polls show that “inequality” doesn’t register on American voters’ radar screens, Reich, who was U.S. labor secretary under President Clinton, thinks opposition to big government is part of a larger conspiracy. “Opposing a minimum wage hike, blocking unemployment insurance, cutting food stamps, keeping millions from accessing Medicaid,” Reich says in a MoveOn video. “I believe these positions are part of a concerted effort to keep struggling folks down that represents nothing less than a war on the poor and working class.”

Paul Teller left his position as executive director of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) to become deputy chief of staff for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “It is an honor and privilege to work for Sen. Cruz,” Teller said. “His leadership is truly motivating, and I can’t wait to get started on our collaboration for liberty.” Teller has served in various positions on Capitol Hill for 14 years. Before RSC was a staff member for the Committee on House Administration under Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.). He holds a Ph.D. in political science from American University.

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