Roundup: Force PACs to disclose soft-money donors, lawmakers urge IRS

Friday, July 28, 2000

Congressional supporters of a new law requiring tax-exempt political organizations to reveal who is paying for their campaign-style activities on July 26 urged the Internal Revenue Service to also make it apply to lawmakers' political action committees. In a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti and Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, 21 senators and representatives urged the agency, which will enforce the law, to make it clear that these leadership PACs must disclose all contributors of the unlimited sums known as soft money. The leadership PACs are all registered with the Federal Election Commission and disclose the contributions they receive under federal law, which can be used to directly aid candidates. But at least a dozen lawmakers also have set up nonfederal entities — which do not have to report to the FEC — to raise money that otherwise would be prohibited by Watergate-era campaign-finance laws. The new law requires groups organized under Section 527 of the IRS code to register with the agency and disclose their donors. Since leadership PACs do not have to reveal their contributors to the FEC, the law's supporters say they should have to disclose to the IRS. IRS spokesman Terry Lemons said the agency was reviewing the issue. Associated Press

Minnesota: Biology teacher removed for criticizing Darwin files appeal

The American Center for Law and Justice, a socially conservative law firm, appealed July 24 a state court's dismissal of a lawsuit by Rodney LeVake, a high school biology teacher who was barred from teaching the subject because of his criticism of Darwin's theory of evolution. LeVake filed a suit in June 1999 in state district court in Rice County after he was told in 1998 he could no longer teach biology at Faribault High School because of his deep religious conflicts, the school's curriculum director said. LeVake, who has a master's degree in biology education, states in his suit that he doesn't have any such conflicts and would teach the theory of evolution. LeVake also says he wouldn't be teaching creationism in class, but would point out what he called flaws in the theory of evolution. He claims the school district violated his “First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and academic freedom, the free exercise of religion and freedom of conscience,” according to a recent press release. American Center for Law and Justice

Wisconsin: Judge bans news media from reporting on trial, but then lifts order

A judge said he would prohibit the news media from reporting on the trial of two men charged in the killing of an 11-year-old girl, but then canceled his gag order several hours later. However, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Dennis Moroney said July 25 he still might seal the verdicts until at least two more trials in the fatal shooting are completed. The result is that the news media may report on the first trial, but they might not be allowed to immediately report the outcome. Moroney scheduled a hearing for Aug. 1 to decide whether to seal the verdicts. Moroney issued the gag order at the start of the trial of Anthony Fancher and Miriam Myles, two of the seven men charged with the March 25 killing of Rita Martinez. Under the gag order, Moroney would have allowed the news media to attend the trial but not publish or broadcast reports on it until the gag order was lifted. He said he was afraid that coverage would bias potential jurors in the later trials. Associated Press

New York: Judge rules against PETA in fiberglass cow caper

Despite meaty First Amendment issues, a judge ruled July 25 it was OK for sponsors of a New York City bovine sculpture exhibit to reject designs by an animal rights group. Among the artsy fiberglass cows suggested by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was a heifer claiming that eating meat causes impotence. But in a written ruling, Judge Victor Marrero denied PETA's request to force CowParade organizers and city officials to add an extra cow to the 500 on show between June 15 and Sept. 3. Marrero said PETA raised important First Amendment issues in its request, but he also said the CowParade committee was within its rights to reject some designs. He said he reached his conclusion because the guidelines regarding designs were spelled out to each applicant. Marrero ruled that restrictions on content were reasonable and did “not burden speech any more than necessary.” Bruce Friedrich, a PETA spokesman, promised an appeal. Associated Press

New York: State orders six pages torn from prison copies of 'Newjack'

Six pages must be removed from Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing, a book written by journalist Ted Conover who worked as a guard at Sing Sing, before copies will be allowed into any state prison, officials decreed July 25. State Corrections Commissioner Glenn Goord says the book is not a security risk when read by the general public, but could be when consumed by the “violent and predatory offenders within” the state prison system. Among other things, the six pages contain information about the deployment of chemical agents used to control unruly inmates in state prisons, the holds guards are taught to subdue prisoners, the duties of corrections officers during disturbances and descriptions of security issues inside Sing Sing, prison officials said. The six pages will be cut out of all copies of the books sent or given to inmates, state officials said. Possession of the six pages will be considered contraband and subject inmates to disciplinary proceedings. Associated Press

Alaska: State Supreme Court upholds ruling on blanket primary

The Alaska Supreme Court on July 25 rejected a challenge to the state's emergency rules of two-ballot voting issued for next month's primary election. The high court upheld a lower court's order denying Michael O'Callaghan's complaint for injunctive relief. O'Callaghan sought to overturn the primary regulations issued by Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer in response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that invalidated California's blanket primary election system. In that state's blanket primary, voters were allowed to cast ballots for any candidates regardless of their party affiliation. Alaska had a similar primary. The justices said political parties have a right to close their primaries if they wish and that forcing them to let nonparty members vote violates a party's First Amendment right of association. Associated Press

Louisiana: ACLU targets 'Choose Life' license plates

With more than 100 specialty license plates in the state, new designs brought before the state Legislature don't grab much attention. As a result, civil rights attorneys and women's reproductive rights advocates only recently learned about new anti-abortion “Choose Life” license plates that won approval from state lawmakers and are headed for the streets. The American Civil Liberties Union is now considering legal action to remove lawmakers' authority to approve specialty license plates altogether. Joe Cook, director of the Louisiana chapter of the ACLU, said that if the Legislature allows this type of political message on a state-sanctioned license plate, then it would have to allow plates with other controversial messages. The sponsor of the 1999 bill creating the new plate, state Rep. Shirley Bowler, said opponents should have noticed “Choose Life” in the bill's title. Bowler sponsored the Choose Life plate bill at the request of the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group based in Tupelo, Miss. If the ACLU attempts to block the plate, American Family has a team of constitutional lawyers prepared to intervene, said spokesman Allen Wildmon. Associated Press

Michigan: Ex-girlfriend sues Kid Rock, saying lyrics defame her

Rap musician and Macomb County native Kid Rock is being sued by an ex-girlfriend, who says he lied about her in a song, damaging her reputation. His lawyer says Kid Rock told the truth. The suit involves the 1998 song “Black Chic, White Guy,” which is on Kid Rock's best-selling record, “Devil Without a Cause.” Kelley Russell, mother of Kid Rock's son, filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court in November, saying the song “contains several graphic, inflammatory, untrue, hurtful remarks.” The suit also says Kid Rock invaded Russell's privacy and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Russell also sued Atlantic Records, and Spin and Rolling Stone magazines. The lawsuit alleges that the magazines published stories containing “harmful, false and misleading information about” Russell. The defendants said they told the truth. They also said they did not name Russell. And they said they disclosed only information that was from the public record, publicly known and not “highly offensive to a reasonable person.” Associated Press

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