Outside, secret money likely to flow in 2013
Get ready for what could very well be the most expensive gubernatorial elections ever.
As if the national profiles of the expected candidates in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races weren’t enough to draw bundles of cash, the new campaign finance structure has state-based and national outside groups considering pouring millions of dollars into these key off-presidential year races.
Super PACs, once widely thought to be limited to federal campaigns, are now expected to play on the state level after a series of court decisions effectively rendered state laws restricting independent groups moot. Tax-exempt nonprofits that don’t have to disclose donors — including big names like Americans for Prosperity and American Bridge 21st Century — are also considering directing their flood of money down to the state level for these races, while a secretive nonprofit supporting New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie has already run ads praising his work. READ MORE
Major companies push the limits of a tax break
The New York Times
It began more than 90 years ago as a small tax break intended to help family farmers who wanted to swap horses and land. Farmers who sold property, livestock or equipment were allowed to avoid paying capital gains taxes, as long as they used the proceeds to replace or upgrade their assets.
Over the years, however, as the rules were loosened, the practice of exchanging one asset for another without incurring taxes spread to everyone from commercial real estate developers and art collectors to major corporations. It provides subsidies for rental truck fleets and investment property, vacation homes, oil wells and thoroughbred racehorses, and diverts billions of dollars in potential tax revenue from the Treasury each year.
Yet even with those generous terms, some major American companies — including Cendant, Wells Fargo and General Electric — have routinely pushed the boundaries while claiming lucrative tax savings, according to evidence recently presented at a federal trial in New York. READ MORE
Microsoft, AT&T among corporate donors to inauguration
President Obama will have some major corporations such as Microsoft and AT&T to thank for the festivities surrounding his inauguration later this month, according to a list of event donors released Friday evening.
Obama banned corporate donations for his 2009 inauguration and the Democratic convention last year in Charlotte, but the president announced after his reelection in November that he was removing his objections for this year’s swearing-in ceremony and surrounding events.
So far, however, Obama has received little in return for the policy change. Fewer than a dozen corporations have donated to the official Presidential Inaugural Committee, compared with more than 400 individuals who have given $200 or more. Contribution amounts were not released. READ MORE
DISCLOSE advocates renew fight
The Democrat-authored campaign finance transparency bill known as the DISCLOSE Act failed to win approval in either the 111th or the 112th Congresses, but its backers have set out to try again in this session.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., reintroduced the legislation on Thursday, calling the bill “a first step to clean up the secret money in politics.” The bill is unchanged from last year’s version; it would require all corporations, unions and super PACs to report campaign expenditures of $10,000 or more. The bill also covers financial transfers to groups that use the money for election-related activity.
At the outset of the 113th Congress, the legislation’s prospects appear no better than they were previously. READ MORE
Court won't hear campaign finance arguments
The Supreme Court will not hear an appeal from an anti-abortion group that wanted to be exempted from campaign finance disclosure regulations.
The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from The Real Truth About Abortion, Inc., which was formerly called The Real Truth About Obama, Inc. The group wanted to stop the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department from enforcing fundraising and advertising regulations against it. READ MORE
Battle over corporate political spending disclosure heats up
Wall Street Journal - Blog
A shareholder suit against Qualcomm Inc. demanding access to the company’s political spending records could set the stage for more pressure from investors on disclosure of corporate political spending. The suit follows two years of largely stalled efforts by shareholders to gather that information from companies.
Since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission removed restrictions on corporate donations, some shareholders have been pushing companies for more details about their lobbying and political spending activities. Shareholders made a record number of proxy proposals related to political spending and lobbying activities in the 2012 proxy season, but The New York State Common Retirement Fund raised the stakes on Thursday in a lawsuit in Delaware.
“Without disclosure, there is no way to know whether corporate funds are being used in ways that go against shareholder interests,” New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said Thursday. READ MORE