Call for investigation of NRA fraud, political misuse of donations


Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requested the Internal Revenue Service open an examination into the finances of the National Rifle Association after the group failed to disclose more than $33.5 million it spent on political activity over six years. CREW also called on the Federal Election Commission to audit the NRA’s campaign arm, the NRA Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF), and its lobbying arm, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), after the group apparently violated federal election law by soliciting donations for the NRA-ILA that went instead to the NRA-PVF.

Between 2008 and 2013, the NRA-ILA, an internal division of the NRA, reported to the FEC and in annual financial statements that it spent more than $33.5 million on political activity. However, for each of those years, the NRA stated on its Form 990 tax return that it did not engage in any political activity at all, and the group did not once file a Schedule C disclosing its political expenditures. This failure to disclose political activity appears to violate federal law and, if it was intentional, could violate several criminal statutes. The NRA blamed the failure to disclose its political activity on a “clerical error” but did not express any intention to amend its Form 990 returns or file Schedule Cs…

The NRA-ILA reported to the FEC nearly $11 million in independent expenditures and member communications expressly advocating election or defeat of candidates for federal office between 2008 and 2013, and disclosed on annual financial statements prepared by an independent auditor spending more than $22.5 million on fundraising and administrative expenses for its political action committee, NRA-PVF, during the same period. All of these expenditures were for political activities that needed to be reported on the organization’s tax filings but were not.

CREW also called on the FEC to audit the NRA-PVF and NRA-ILA because it appears these groups may have solicited donations in violation of federal election law by failing to disclose to donors that their money would be used for political purposes. The NRA also appears to have violated federal election law by soliciting donations from the general public, which it is prohibited from doing as a member organization, and by failing to disclose the employer and/or occupation of its contributors.

It’s always heartwarming to witness rightwing nutball organizations like the NRA ignoring essential transparency requirements while they blather about conspiracies against their pet demento issues. Perish the thought they actually live up to anything approaching ethical standards -0 like any normal business entity.

They set the standard for corruption even higher than Congressional Republicans.

Did you think buying influence in DC was limited to lobbyists?

STATOIL drill rig — Norway poured $24 million or more in recent years into Washington think tanks

The agreement signed last year by the Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs was explicit: For $5 million, Norway’s partner in Washington would push top officials at the White House, at the Treasury Department and in Congress to double spending on a United States foreign aid program.

But the recipient of the cash was not one of the many Beltway lobbying firms that work every year on behalf of foreign governments.

It was the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit research organization, or think tank, one of many such groups in Washington that lawmakers, government officials and the news media have long relied on to provide independent policy analysis and scholarship.

More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities, an investigation by The New York Times has found.

The money is increasingly transforming the once-staid think-tank world into a muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington. And it has set off troubling questions about intellectual freedom: Some scholars say they have been pressured to reach conclusions friendly to the government financing the research.

The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments. And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of The Times.

As a result, policy makers who rely on think tanks are often unaware of the role of foreign governments in funding the research.

Or so NY TIMES reporters would have us believe.

RTFA for the details. They’ve done a solid job of research and display it in scholarly fashion.

I just wouldn’t be so kind to our politicians. I don’t think they care a whole boatload where money and “advice” originate. Regardless of blather and bluster about ethics and ideology, most of the hacks in Congress will accommodate whomever offers them enough temple gold.

Web giants join to form powerful lobby

Web giants Google, Amazon, eBay and Facebook will form a lobbying organisation with other online companies to shape political and regulatory issues in Washington DC…

The organisation, to be called the Internet Association, will open its doors in September and will act as a unified voice for major Internet companies, Michael Beckerman, the association’s president, said on Wednesday…

Internet companies have been lobbying recently on issues as disparate as easing visa restrictions to hire overseas engineers, revenue repatriation, privacy, cybersecurity and sales taxes for Internet companies.

“We want to educate [legislators] about the impact of the Internet in their congressional districts,” said Beckerman. “In September, we’ll do a full rollout and announce companies and announce policy positions…”

RTFA for a taste of opinion about each of the major companies already lined up. I have to wonder how much of a commitment to the needs of Internet users will be considered as part and parcel of the needs of these firms.

It might be nice – one of these days – if we had a group of lobbyists that represented the needs of ordinary American citizens before the demands of the economy and politics, ideology and other distractions.

Oh! That’s right. That’s what Congress is supposed to be isn’t it?

Thinktank phonies accused of lying about taxes just as they lie about climate change

The Heartland Institute, the libertarian thinktank whose project to undermine science lessons for schoolchildren was exposed this week, faces new scrutiny of its finances – including its donors and tax status.

The Guardian has learned of a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service about Heartland’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status…

The unauthorised release of internal documents indicated Heartland had received $14 million over several years from a single anonymous donor as well as tobacco and liquor companies and corporations pledged to social responsibility, including the General Motors Foundation.

The release of the donors’ list led a number of environmental organisations to demand GM, which gave $30,000, and Microsoft, which gave $59,908 in free software, to sever their ties with a thinktank that has a core mission of discrediting climate science…

Others are focusing on Heartland’s support from the tobacco industry as well as major health and pharmaceutical companies for a thinktank which has opposed smoking bans and healthcare reform.

John Mashey, a retired computer scientist and Silicon Valley executive, said he filed a complaint to the IRS this week that said Heartland’s public relations and lobbying efforts violated its non-profit status. Mashey said he sent off his audit, the product of three months’ research, just a few hours before the unauthorised release of the Heartland documents.

Mashey said in a telephone interview that the complaint looked at the activities of Heartland and two other organisations that have been prominent in misinforming the public about climate change, the Science and Environmental Policy Project, run by Fred Singer, and the Centre for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, run by Craig Idso. Both men were funded by Heartland, with Idso receiving $11,600 per month and Singer $5,500 a month, according to the 2012 budget…

I believe there was a massive abuse of 501c(3),” Mashey said. “My extensive study of these thinktanks showed numerous specific actions that violated the rules – such as that their work is supposed to be factually based. Such as there was a whole lot of behaviour that sure looked like lobbying and sending money to foreign organisations that are not charities.”

Mashey later published his audit of Heartland finances in Desmogblog, which was the first outlet to run the trove of Heartland documents.

Overdue. Creeps like this violate federal law on non-profit status all the time when they serve as a lobbying front for corporations with a vested interest in Heartland’s comments – whether that be climate, tobacco or fronting for pharmaceutical companies.

Facebook execs establish their own lobbying PAC

Preparing to join the ranks of publicly traded companies, Facebook is also beefing up its presence in the U.S. capital with a first report of money pouring into its newly created political fundraising arm.

A latecomer to Washington, the social networking site is joining scores of powerful technology companies such as Microsoft and Google that have political action committees (PACs) used to raise funds for donations to political campaigns or causes.

The Facebook PAC, officially registered in December, last year raised just above $170,000, predominantly from Facebook’s own executives and employees, according to its filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Co-founder and newly minted billionaire Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg gave $5,000, and so did investors Marc Andreessen, James Breyer, and Peter Thiel…

Facebook PAC also received $5,000 from Erskine Bowles, another member of the board of directors who was U.S. President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and helped lead a deficit-reduction panel last year…

In addition to privacy issues, Facebook has also thrown its hat into debates over patent reform, online piracy and cybersecurity, among other topics…

The Menlo Park, California-based company added experienced political staffers to its Washington-based public policy team, including Joel Kaplan, former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. Kaplan gave $5,000 to the PAC and is treasurer.

With a new powerhouse team in place, Facebook’s lobbying expenditures skyrocketed in 2011 to $1.35 million from under $400,000 in 2010, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The company’s lobbying is meager, a barebones beginning next to tech firms Google spending $9.68 million and Microsoft spending $7.34 million on lobbying inside the Beltway in 2011. Still, Zuckerberg has learned from the experience of the two giants. Neither especially ramped up lobbying until they were under full-on attack by the elected blivets in Congress and the White House.

The question waiting to be asked and answered is what will be the Facebook style in Washington DC? Will it follow the sort of middle trade road characteristic of Microsoft, be more aggressive and protective of the Web and the industry that provides a foundation for Zuckerberg’s creativity. Will he move in the direction of old school American capitalists and found activist political organizations? Left or Right or pander to American-style fence sitters?

Religion-based lobbyists multiply like rabbits in Washington

The number of religion-related lobbying groups in Washington has grown five-fold in the past 40 years, with their spending reaching almost $400 million annually…

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life study identified 212 groups, up from 158 a decade ago and 40 in 1970. Their collective budgets for lobbying efforts in Washington were estimated at $390 million a year…

Forty groups accounted for the bulk of the spending, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which spent nearly $88 million in 2008, the last year for which data was provided.

Also in 2008, the Family Research Council spent $14 million and the American Jewish Committee $13 million.

In 2009, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops spent $27 million, Concerned Women for America $13 million, Bread for the World $11 million, the National Right to Life Committee $11 million and the Home School Legal Defense Association $11 million.

Issues the various groups lobbied on included support of Israel, church-state issues, and religious rights.

The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life said other topics were bioethics, abortion, capital punishment, and end-of-life and family-marriage issues. Many of the groups also addressed international issues such as poverty.

But, don’t count on many of the issues that are supposed to concern the holier-than-thou-and-everyone-else. The core issue of most of these religio-political hacks is preventing someone else from exercising individual liberties.

Which is it, Gingrich? Hypocrite, liar or both?

Even pigs wear boots to a Gingrich press conference

Newt Gingrich made between $1.6 million and $1.8 million in consulting fees from two contracts with mortgage company Freddie Mac, according to two people familiar with the arrangement.

The total amount is significantly larger than the $300,000 payment from Freddie Mac that Gingrich was asked about during a Republican presidential debate on Nov. 9 sponsored by CNBC, and more than was disclosed in the middle of congressional investigations into the housing industry collapse.

Gingrich’s business relationship with Freddie Mac spanned a period of eight years. When asked at the debate what he did to earn a $300,000 payment in 2006…the former speaker lied and said he offered lessons from history.

Gingrich said this morning that the payments were for “strategic advice over a long period of time.” His fees were sent to his consulting firm, The Gingrich Group, not to him personally…well, that’s a big difference, eh?

Gingrich’s first contract with the mortgage lender was in 1999, five months after he resigned from Congress and as House speaker…His primary contact inside the organization was Mitchell Delk, Freddie Mac’s chief lobbyist, and he was paid a self- renewing, monthly retainer of $25,000 to $30,000 between May 1999 until 2002, according to three people familiar with aspects of the business agreement.

During that period, Gingrich consulted with Freddie Mac executives on a program to expand home ownership, an idea Delk said he pitched to President George W. Bush’s White House.

“I spent about three hours with him talking about the substance of the issues and the politics of the issues, and he really got it,” said Delk, adding that the two discussed “what the benefits are to communities, what the benefits could be for Republicans and particularly their relationship with Hispanics…”

While campaigning in Iowa this week, Gingrich, 68, was asked about his relationship with Freddie Mac. He said he did no lobbying “of any kind…”

RTFA if you can stand the stink of Gingrich’s lies. I’d recommend wearing rubber boots, as well.

There’s a good deal of sound journalist research and statements from Freddie Mac officials and employees trying to tightrope it between saying what really happened and keeping their jobs while facing a Republican House.

More Gingrich lies, of course. As more comes out into the light of day, Newt has to rearrange his lies to suit the occasion. A reflection of the cesspool that is Congressional ethics.

Champion lobbying crook says our politics are worse than ever

Jack Abramoff and Dickhead

Ethics reforms put in place since the influence-peddling scandal surrounding high-rolling lobbyist Jack Abramoff haven’t cleaned up the system “at all,” a now-free Abramoff says.

Abramoff served three and a half years in prison for conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion before his release last December. In an interview…he said the reforms imposed after his guilty plea have little effect while campaign finance remains untouched.

“You can’t take a congressman to lunch for $25 and buy him a hamburger or a steak or something like that,” he said. “But you can take him to a fund-raising lunch and not only buy him that steak, but give him $25,000 extra and call it a fund-raiser — and have all the same access and all the same interactions with that congressman…”

“There’s an arrogance on the part of lobbyists, and certainly there was on the part of me and my team, that no matter what they come up with, we’re smarter than them — we’ll just find another way through,” he said.

The high-flying Republican lobbyist pleaded guilty to a raft of federal corruption charges in 2006 and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating Washington influence-peddling. He admitted illegally showering gifts on officials who provided favors for his clients in a probe that led to convictions or guilty pleas for 20 lobbyists and public officials — including Ohio GOP congressman Bob Ney and Stephen Griles, the Bush administration’s deputy interior secretary.

Between the two phony political parties – and a Supreme Court packed with rightwing political appointees – democratic processes in legislation and regulation continue to be removed as quickly as they were the day Newt Gingrich rolled out his contract on the American people in 1994.

Lobbyists still have greater access – legal and upright they say – than they did before that fateful time. The Supreme Court says “Corporations are people, too” and their dollars pour into political chamberpots like so much greenback diarrhea.

Abramoff was the champion of gaming the system designed by corrupt corporate ideologues, agreed to nowadays by both Democrats and Republicans. He ought to know how it works.

Ex-Senator waiting criminal charges for sex, lies and lobbying

The happy family

Former Senator John Ensign appears to have violated federal law in a sex-and-lobbying scandal that drove the once-rising Republican star from office…

The Senate ethics committee said it found “substantial credible evidence” against Ensign, and referred the case to the Justice Department for possible criminal prosecution. In a report capping its 22-month probe, the panel listed possible charges, including “potential obstruction of justice” for what it described as Ensign deleting “relevant documents and files…”

Ensign, 53, first elected to the Senate from Nevada in 2000, resigned last week after earlier announcing he would not seek re-election.

Ensign admitted in 2009 to having had an affair with Cynthia Hampton, who worked for his campaign, and whose husband, Douglas, was a legislative aide to the senator.

The Senate ethics investigation focused, in part, on $96,000 that Ensign’s parents gave to the Hamptons, which Ensign’s attorney has characterized as a gift.

Douglas Hampton was indicted in March on suspicion of trying to lobby and seek assistance from his former boss on behalf of his new employers, an airline and an energy company…

Ensign had been a member of Senate Republican leadership and was seen as a potential future presidential contender.

He’s certainly as qualified for the presidency as just about anyone the Republican Party has put forward in the last century.

The report just issued describes much more than the newspaper articles up to today. Aside from the involvement of other ranking Republicans like Tom Coburn, collusion to hide what started as an affair, there are questions raised of sexual harassment, questions of Ensign pressing Mrs. Hampton to continue having sex with him – using the wedge of the Hampton family’s income to force the issue.

I’ll say it again. Too bad Christians get credit for inventing hypocrisy – Congress is so much better at it.

UPDATE: Watch the Rachel Maddow Show, tonight on MSNBC, Friday, 13th May – she is on the story, on the facts of this sleazy joint enterprise of Conservative Congressional Christians working to cover-up the fall of this creep.