In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and…
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First Amendment Rights: Good News from the IRS on Donor Privacy

In this era of increased harassment and persecution of people on the basis of political viewpoints and First Amendment expression, there’s actually good news to report.

In fact, that positive development comes from none other than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which few people typically consider a font of good news.

Specifically, the IRS just announced a proposed rule to stop requiring nonprofit organizations to file what’s known as a Form 990 Schedule B, which exposes sensitive donor information not only to the federal government and potential rogues like former IRS official Lois Lerner, but also people who seek to access and use that information to target people on the basis of political belief.

As we at CFIF have long asserted, this welcome move will help protect the…[more]

September 12, 2019 • 11:07 am

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A New Format for GOP Presidential Debates Print
By Ashton Ellis
Wednesday, May 20 2015
The problem with presidential debates isn’t primarily the moderator. It’s the fact that they aren’t real debates.

The Republican presidential debate calendar is now available, and it’s already generating groans.

Apparently, there are plans to cap the number of debaters at 12*, which probably gives just about anybody registering support in public opinion polls a chance to make their case on national television. But with all those people on the same stage, speaking time will be severely limited, and most of the attention will focus on a person not running for president: the debate moderator.

Previous years have seen moderators steal the show by asking gotcha questions designed to make Republicans – and especially conservatives – seem out-of-touch or downright mean. With some media personalities considerably left of Republican primary voters given the opportunity to marginalize candidates in front of a national audience, some on the Right are calling for changes.

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist and co-founder of RedState, has a solution that’s intriguing: Get rid of the moderator. “[C]andidates would debate an actual topic for an extended amount of time – say three topics with three questions in a policy space over an entire 90 minute debate (for example, a foreign policy debate where the questions concern what to do about ISIS, what to do about Russia, and what to do about the NSA, or an economic debate about taxes, trade, and Too Big To Fail).”

The upshot is authenticity.

“With 12 candidates speaking in that time period, they’re still only going to get two and a half minutes on each topic – but without a moderator, candidates are more likely to be drawn into debates with the people on the stage who disagree with their views,” argues Domenech. “In a more free-flowing debate, there is no Wolf Blitzer to cut things off, and the confrontations will be more extended – but I expect also more substantive, as arguments will be more extended, gotcha questions eliminated, and the need to have quick quips as a substitute for a point will not be as pressing.”

Perhaps in an ideal world. More likely, the event would degenerate into a cross-talking free-for-all that makes a group of accomplished adults look like screaming children.

The problem with presidential debates isn’t primarily the moderator. It’s the fact that they aren’t real debates. In order for voters to get a clear sense of how a candidate would govern, the candidate needs an opportunity to explain his or her thinking in an extended format.

Here’s my alternative. Assume the number of participating candidates stays at 12. The RNC could randomly assign pairings to debate one of the themes Domenech describes within a 60- minute segment, like taxes, trade and Too Big To Fail. Once each of the six pairs debates, the deck is shuffled and new pairings are made, this time to debate a different topic, say foreign policy. Throw in a social issues round and every part of the conservative movement gets to have its day. In every one hour debate each candidate would get five minutes to make an opening statement (one per subtopic, or three per debater), and three minutes to respond to each of the opening statements of his or her opponent. This gives everyone ample opportunity to lay out his or her policy vision, and defend it, within an actual debate context.

And there are still 12 minutes left for commercials.

This format also ensures that candidates won’t get rewarded for substituting flash for substance. It’s easy to hang back on a crowded stage and look for chances to zing an opponent with a poll-tested one-liner. It’s much harder to make the case for a policy position and then have to defend it under critical examination. 

As for who gets to participate, let the polls decide. If a candidate can’t crack the top 12, be quiet. If they can, let them in. So far, this election cycle promises more diversity among Republicans than the party has presented in a long time. GOP primary voters and the greater body politic would benefit from real debates that let candidates speak directly to voters – and each other.

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* Editor's Note: Following posting of this piece, Fox News announced that it would cap the number of participants for the first debate at 10, with a follow-up for others.  CNN indicated a cap of 18.  We may well end up with spectacles more like Musical Chairs than Presidential Debates.

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On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by terrorists using which one of the following?
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"The Democrats, after all, have shown themselves to be thoroughgoing authoritarians. Many of our progressive friends spent the Obama years lecturing us that opposition to the president and his agenda was tantamount to sedition or treason. They tell us now that failing to knuckle under to their political agenda is treason. Democratic prosecutors have been conducting investigations of companies and…[more]
 
 
—Kevin D. Williamson, National Review
— Kevin D. Williamson, National Review
 
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