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This site is the inspiration of a former reporter/photographer for one of New England's largest daily newspapers and for various magazines. The intent is to direct readers to interesting political articles, and we urge you to visit the source sites. Any comments may be noted on site or directed to KarisChaf at gmail.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Unions vs. Democrats -- By James Taranto, The Wall Street Journal

 (text from within article)

More recently, Sen. Chuck Schumer last month "proposed using the Internal Revenue Service to curtail Tea Party group funding during a speech on how to 'exploit' and 'weaken' the movement," as the Washington Free Beacon's Alana Goodman reported.

So what we have here is a dispute over means between liberal politicians and some of their strongest supporters. What accounts for it?

The ACLU could be taking a principled position in favor of free expression--something it was once famous for doing routinely. When we interviewed the renowned First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams four years ago, just after Citizens United, he pointed out that the ACLU viewed that case as having been correctly decided--though it did so relatively quietly and amid considerable internal dissent.

All the opponents Johnson quotes are leaders of one or another type of nonprofit and thus have an institutional interest in minimizing IRS restriction--though in the case of 501(c)(3)s, (5)s and (6)s, the interest is indirect. For a political party, by contrast, the paramount interest is winning elections.

The disagreement between Democratic politicians and unions is especially illuminating. Generally speaking, there is a confluence of interest between unions (especially public-sector ones like the SEIU) and Democratic politicians. The unions help elect Democrats, who help maintain and enhance union power, which enables them to help elect Democrats, and so on.

Yet confluent interests are not identical ones. Politicians are interested in winning elections; unions are interested in acquiring and maintaining power; and for each, helping the other is a means to an end. In the proposed 501(c)(4) regulations, the Democrats evidently see an opportunity to help win elections (or at least lose fewer of them) this fall. The unions see a precedent that could pose a long-term threat to their interests.

Meanwhile, David Firestone, a New York Times editorial board member, takes what at first glance appears to be a principled position against free speech:
Those who are worried about man-made climate change might be tempted to welcome the news that Tom Steyer, a Democratic billionaire, will spend $100 million this year to fight it. Mr. Steyer plans to put up half the money himself for attack ads against governors and lawmakers who ignore climate change, and will raise the rest from like-minded rich people.
But it's worth thinking twice before celebrating Mr. Steyer's donation, which will make plutocracy politics even worse. . . .
Mr. Steyer may think he's getting through to the masses with his criticism of the Keystone oil pipeline, but soon his ads, and his millions, will blend into the rest of the toxic sludge on television. You can't fight pollution with more pollution.
If Steyer's political speech is "toxic sludge," are we to believe Firestone's--which is brought to you by a corporation whose market capitalization is in excess of $2 billion--is pristine?

On the question of free speech, this column sides with the ACLU, the SEIU, Nan Aron and Tom Steyer and against the Democratic politicians and the New York Times. But the pols' anxiousness for a restrictive IRS has an additional troubling implication. If Chuck Schumer and his colleagues think the IRS can help them win elections, as they seem to be implying, then it's reasonable to wonder how much the abuses of 2011-12 affected the outcome of the 2012 election.
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