Thursday, August 22, 2013

Last Call For 501(c)(4) Mystery Meat

House Democrat Chris Van Hollen of Maryland comes through with a novel approach to suing the IRS:  doing so to get them to adhere to federal law and stop allowing dark money PACs to play the anonymous donor game.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee whose office announced the action, will serve as lead plaintiff in the case, joining campaign-finance watchdogs Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen.

The lawsuit will address one of the main concerns that surfaced with the recent IRS targeting controversy: Differences between federal law and the IRS rules on eligibility for 501(c)(4) candidates.

Current law says the organizations must engage “exclusively” in so-called “social welfare” activities, while IRS regulations require that their “primary” purpose fall into that category.

The distinction means that 501(c)(4) groups could no longer be tax-exempt at all, and would be subject to reporting requirements for donors.  That's going to be a real damper on GOP groups, which overwhelmingly use these groups compared to Democrats in fundraising hundreds of millions of dollars.

It ought to be interesting where this goes.  I hope it's the end of these dark money PACs for good.

The Big Red Line In Syria Means Squat

We've seen "chemical weapons" attacks in Syria that later turned out to not be chemical weapons attacks before, or at least there was enough doubt that chemical weapons were involved that the UN's only real action was to send in a team of chemical weapons experts.  But Wednesday's attack in the East Ghouta suburbs of Damascus may have removed all doubt, as the experts are now already on the ground, and their initial reporting has been horrifying. From Foreign Policy magazine's blog, The Cable:

U.S. intelligence officials and outside experts are looking into claims of a new and massive chemical weapons attack that's left hundreds dead. From the limited evidence they've seen so far, those reports appear to be accurate. And that would make the strike on the East Ghouta region, just east of Damascus, the biggest chemical weapons attack in decades.

Tthe early analysis is based on preliminary reports, photography and video evidence, and conclusions are prone to change if and when direct access to the victims is granted. Over the past nine months, the Syrian opposition has alleged dozens of times that the Assad regime has attacked them with nerve agents. Only a handful of those accusations have been confirmed; several have fallen away under close scrutiny. But Wednesday's strike, which local opposition groups say killed an estimated 1,300 people, may be different.

"No doubt it's a chemical release of some variety -- and a military release of some variety," said Gwyn Winfield, the editor of CRBNe World, the trade journal of the unconventional weapons community.

While the Obama administration says it has conclusive proof that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons in the recent past, the White House has been reluctant to take major action in response to those relatively small-scale attacks. ("As long as they keep body count at a certain level, we won't do anything," an American intelligence official told Foreign Policy earlier this week.) But this attack appears to be anything but small-scale. If allegations about this latest attack prove to be accurate, the strike could be the moment when the Assad regime finally crossed the international community's "red line," and triggered outside invention in the civil war that has killed over a hundred thousand people.

In other words, US involvement in Syria now may be inevitable, and all this is happening with Egypt falling down around our ears, too.  Things just got real, as the kids say.  But the problem remains Russia, spinning so hard for the Asaad regime that keeps paying them a crapload of money for weapons, that no UN Security Council action will be forthcoming, period.

Russia's Foreign Ministry called for a thorough investigation on Wednesday into reports that Syrian government forces had launched a chemical attack, suggesting that rebels could have staged the assault to provoke international action.

Syria's opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's forces of gassing many hundreds of people - by one report as many as 1,300 - on Wednesday in what would, if confirmed, be the world's worst chemical weapons attack in decades.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that its sources in Syria said that a homemade rocket carrying unidentified chemical substances had been launched from an area controlled by the opposition.

"All this cannot but suggest that once again we are dealing with a pre-planned provocation," Lukashevich said in a statement.

"This is supported by the fact that the criminal act was committed near Damascus at the very moment when a mission of U.N. experts had successfully started their work of investigating allegations of the possible use of chemical weapons there," he said.

Translation:  the Syrian terrorist rebels did this, and we're sticking with that story as long as Asaad's money is good.  It also means that with veto over any UN Security Council resolutions, precisely not a damn thing will be happening.

Well, other than thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing and hundreds dying daily.  That will keep happening, and Russia is more than cool with it.

Katrina And The Waves Reunion Tour

How insane/hateful/willfully stupid are Louisiana Republicans towards President Obama?  Apparently their collective rancor has manifested in the form of a Presidential time machine, able to whisk the Weather Dominator-in-Chief to 2005, where apparently he's now partially or totally responsible for Hurricane Katrina.

According to a Public Policy Polling survey, 29 percent of Louisiana Republicans say President Obama is more to blame for the botched executive branch response to Hurricane Katrina while just 28 percent blamed George W. Bush. A plurality of 44 percent said they were unsure who was more responsible, even though Hurricane Katrina occurred over three years before Obama entered the presidency when he was still a freshman Senator.

So yeah, a total of 63% of Louisiana GOPers think President Obama at least possibly responsible for the White House response to a natural disaster that happened three years before he got into the White House.

Sure, your abject hatred of the President makes perfect sense, guys.  Keep it up, he may not win a third term.


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