Patrick Caldwell


Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow his tweets at @patcaldwell.

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Patrick Caldwell is a reporter in Mother Jones’ DC bureau. Previously, he covered all things domestic politics for The American Prospect and elections for The American Independent. His work has also appeared in The NationThe New Republic, and The Washington Independent. E-mail any and all tips to pcaldwell [at] motherjones [dot] com. Follow him on Twitter at @patcaldwell.

Citizens United Takes Another Swing at Campaign Finance Rules

| Mon Feb. 24, 2014 9:41 AM PST

Four years ago, the Supreme Court issued its decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, upending the nation's campaign finance laws by equating corporations' speech to that of ordinary citizens. In subsequent rulings based on that reasoning, lower courts overturned limitations on donations to political committees, paving the way for the era of the super-PAC. Since then, outside campaign spending has skyrocketed.

Now Citizens United, the conservative group behind the case that bears its name, has set its sights on a new target: the IRS. Citizens United, a 501(c)4 non-profit that produces conservative films, is upset about a set of proposed rules the IRS issued in late November to clear up confusion about what counts as political activity for non-profit groups. Non-profits that are organized under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code are supposed to be "social welfare" organizations, but they're allowed to engage in some political activity as long as it isn't the majority of their work. But until recently, it's been unclear what exactly counted as political activity. The new IRS rules would fix that problem by defining issue ads, voter registration, events with candidates near the elections, and a litany of other actions as political activities. But Citizens United sees this IRS effort to restrict politicking by non-profits as an attempt to limit free speech.

"I can commit with certitude that Citizens United will not sit by while any government agency tries to violate our First Amendment rights," David Bossie, president of the group, said in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity last Friday. "We have a proven track record of winning, and we're not afraid to take the fight to them. You'll see a Citizens United v. IRS."

It's not particularly surprising that Citizens United would be upset by these new restrictions. 501(c)(4)s have become a favorite vehicle for high-dollar donors to channel funds into political causes while remaining anonymous. Groups like the Koch Brothers' American for Prosperity have exploited these loopholes to turn their so-called social welfare organizations into campaign operations, running campaign ads to bolster their favorite candidates.

Citizens United's argument against these rules got a boost from Congress last month. A small provision slipped into the giant omnibus spending bill bars the IRS from using its funds to "target" citizens and organizations from exercising their First Amendment rights or ideological beliefs. Tax experts are worried that 501(c)4 groups, including Citizens United, could exploit that provision to win a court ruling barring the IRS from investigating non-profits' political activities.

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Michele Bachmann: Obama Won Because He's Black and America Felt Guilty

| Thu Feb. 20, 2014 12:17 PM PST

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is on her last tour in Congress. She's not seeking reelection and will leave the House after 2014. (A plum cable news gig is almost assuredly waiting for her once she reenters the private sector.) In the meantime, she's sticking to her usual habits: making offensive statements. In an interview published Wednesday, Bachmann said that Barack Obama won the presidency because white people felt too guilty about past racial injustices. "I think there was a cachet about having an African-American president because of guilt," she said in an interview with Cal Thomas, a syndicated conservative columnist.

Bachmann didn't stop there. She thinks Hillary Clinton has poor odds of winning the presidency in 2016. "People don't hold guilt for a woman," she said, explaining that much of the country isn't prepared to elect a women as president. "I don’t think there is a pent-up desire."

It's an odd view for Bachmann to hold. After all, she herself tried to become the first female president when she ran for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination, and she briefly led the polls in Iowa before her campaign cratered, forcing her to drop out the morning after the Iowa caucuses. But these new doubts about the public's willingness to vote for a woman to be president could be a projection based on that sour experience. A poll from last month found that 77 percent of voters expect the country to elect a female president within the next decade. Americans are ready for a female president, just not Bachmann.

(ht Huffington Post)

Boehner Struggles to Find 18 Republicans Who Don't Want to Nuke the Economy

| Tue Feb. 11, 2014 10:14 AM PST

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) admitted defeat Tuesday morning. His chamber needs to pass a bill raising the debt ceiling by the end of the day Wednesday. House Democrats head to a retreat in Maryland on Thursday and Congress is on vacation next week for President's Day, leaving few working days before the February 27 deadline issued by the Treasury Department. Boehner and his Republican colleagues had debated various asks they might attach to a bill raising the government's borrowing limit—approving the Keystone Pipeline, repealing parts of Obamacare, and restoring a cut to military pensions were all considered—but by Tuesday it had become clear that the GOP couldn't find a consensus. Boehner conceded that reality at a press conference. He'll now have to rely on Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to, yet again, deliver the majority of the Democratic caucus to save his hide.

The only trouble? Boehner isn't even sure if he'll be able to eek out the bare minimum of necessary votes from his own caucus, a mere 18 votes if every Democrat approves of the clean debt ceiling raise. "If you don't have 218, you don't have anything," he said. "We're going to have to find them."

Voting to raise the debt ceiling should be a no-brainer. The consequences of letting the government default would be catastrophic. In December, 169 House Republicans voted on the Ryan-Murray budget. To then turn around and vote against the government's ability to pay the bills for that budget appears illogical, until you consider the pressure conservative groups will exert on any Republican who raising the debt ceiling. The Senate Conservatives Fund—a group pushing tea party challengers in primaries—quickly denounced Boehner Tuesday, calling for a coup to replace him as speaker. Heritage Action plans to hold an approving vote against Republicans in their scorecard.

Boehner won't have much time to win over his wary colleagues. The House is scheduled to vote on the clean debt ceiling increase Tuesday night so that lawmakers can flee town before a winter storm hits Washington late Wednesday.

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