Political law links on the gift tax, draft EO, Colbert, and more

COLBERT AT THE FEC. National Journal has the picturesPolitico has a report here: “Technically, the requests asks the commission whether the airtime and other costs associated with any shows on which he promotes his hypothetical PAC would be considered a contribution from Comedy Central’s parent company, Viacom, or whether they would be exempted from campaign finance rules and disclosure requirements.”

GIFT TAX NEWS. Covington just released this timely e-alert on gift tax issues.  Might editorial writers at The Times have missed it?  Their recent editorial on the topic is here:  “Political money bundlers are wondering now that the Internal Revenue Service has put five unnamed donors on notice that it is looking at the checks they write to nonprofit groups that are increasingly funneling money directly to political campaign troughs.”

TIMES ON DRAFT EO. Editorial here.  “If Mr. Obama fails to issue the contractors’ order, he will underline the hypocrisy of his own campaign supporters’ decision to go all out for their piece of the secret money torrent. Representative Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip, certainly didn’t help when he recently questioned the propriety of the disclosure order.”

BOGLE ON SHAREHOLDERS AND CORPORATE POLITICAL ACTIVITY. In The Times. “America’s institutional investors must stand up to the Supreme Court’s misguided decision and bring democracy to corporate governance, recognize conflicts that arise from the interlocking interests of our corporate and financial systems, and take that first step along the road to reducing the dominant role that big money plays in our political system.”

NEWS CORP. AND DISCLOSURE. The Times reports.  “Beginning this summer, the News Corporation, the media company controlled by Rupert Murdoch, will announce each year all the political contributions it has made.”

POLITICAL LAW NEWSLETTER. Looking for a hefty newsletter brimming with developments in campaign finance  related areas?  Wiley Rein’s May 2011 Election Law News is available here.

REVOLVING DOOR PROBE? The Hill. “House members in both parties are concerned about the decision by FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker to leave the agency for Comcast/NBC Universal.”

REVOLVING DOOR NOTED. The Post. “From Capitol Hill to academia and the SEC inspector general’s office, observers of the agency have voiced concern that the revolving door can make the SEC a more docile protector of the public interest.”

ENSIGN MATTER. The Times has this story on the matter.  “An election commission official, who asked not to be identified while the case was pending, acknowledged that the commission took the senator at his word, whereas the Senate dug deeper. This official expressed anger to learn the true circumstances behind the $96,000 payment.  ‘I hate it when people lie to us,’ the official said, adding: ‘If somebody submits a sworn affidavit, we usually do not go back and question it, unless we have something else to go on. Maybe we should not be so trusting.'”  This editorial also discusses the issues.

SENATE ETHICS MOVE “UNUSUAL.” Roll Call reports.  “The sheer length of the 75-page report is remarkable, given that it surpasses past reprimands of Senators by more than 70 pages.”

18 USC 207 AND STRATEGIC CONSULTING. Is it too soon to write the complete lessons learned memo on the Ensign matter?  One section of the special counsel’s report caught my eye because it referred to the advice of some “ethics practitioners.”  Pages 51-52 addresses the argument that “communications by covered former employees with Senators or Senate staff are permissible if they are merely informational in nature and do not seek action of the type that would be defined as lobbying under other statutes, and moreover that this exemption is widely recognized among ethics practitioners. This contention was advanced in discussions with counsel, who did not cite any case law or any legislative materials in support of it. Special Counsel submits that this contention is incorrect as to contacts involving both Mr. Lopez and Senator Ensign.”  The report continues, “Section 207 prohibits any communications seeking official action made with the intent to influence, and does not state or imply that those communications must also meet the separate requirements of any other statute.”

YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU. Former Mayor Daley’s campaign cash is the topic of this report.  “The big pension, the security detail, the million-dollar campaign fund. Daley likes to say that being the mayor of Chicago is the best job in the world, but being the former mayor looks like an even better job.”

DATING AND PALM BEACH COUNTY ETHICS RULES. Story here.  “And so under the current proposal, if a man who works for Home Depot dates a woman who works for Palm Beach County, he can’t spend more than $100 on her in the course of a year – unless she pays him back or spends money on him.”

HAVE A GOOD DAY.

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