5 notable GCs in the news

GCs sound off on the IRS, horse racing, immigration reform and more

Tax Targeting

“I became aware of this issue from the current news reports around the [Inspector General]’s report.”

--George Madison, former general counsel of the Treasury Department

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came under fire this week when an internal report revealed that it subjected conservative political groups to greater scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. During the 2012 election, the IRS flagged 300 groups with the words “patriot” or “tea party” in their names, although it says that the targeting was not politically motivated.

Nonetheless, lawmakers are investigating whether the agency’s chief counsel, William Wilkins, was briefed on the flagging as early as August 2011, and whether he passed the information on to Obama appointees at the Treasury Department. The IRS, however, says that Wilkins did not attend the August 2011 meeting and “is not involved in the 501(c)(4) application process.” Madison himself told MSNBC that Wilkins never informed him of the targeting during Madison’s time at the Treasury Department.

Peeved Press

“Even beyond the outrageous and overreaching action against the journalists, this is a blatant attempt to avoid the oversight function of the courts.”

--Lynn Oberlander, general counsel of the New Yorker

The New Yorker’s top lawyer came to the defense of fellow media company The Associated Press (A.P.), which recently learned that the Department of Justice (DOJ) seized two months’ worth of its reporters’ and editors’ office phone records. The DOJ seized the records at some point this year, but did not notify the A.P. until last week.

The A.P. speculates that the seizure was related to an information leak that revealed the Central Intelligence Agency’s disruption of an Al-Qaeda plan to bomb a U.S.-bound airplane in Yemen. Many journalists are up in arms over the DOJ’s decision not to notify the A.P. that it wanted the phone records, apparently over concerns that doing so “would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.”

Seed Scuffle

"The Court's ruling today ensures that longstanding principles of patent law apply to breakthrough 21st century technologies that are central to meeting the growing demands of our planet and its people.”

--David Snively, general counsel of Monsanto

The David-and-Goliath tale of Monsanto’s Supreme Court battle with 75-year-old Indiana farmer Vernon Hugh Bowman ended in a win for Goliath on Monday. The high court determined that Bowman had indeed infringed on Monsanto’s seed technology when he planted the company’s genetically modified soybeans without paying for them.

Bowman argued that his actions were protected by the doctrine of patent exhaustion, since the seeds in question came from the crops of farmers who had already bought Monsanto’s seeds. But Justice Elena Kagan, writing for the unanimous court, found that Bowman planted the soybeans “solely to make and market replicas of them, thus depriving the company of the reward patent law provides for the sale of each article.”

Immigration Invective

“It’s a simple matter of justice and fairness. It makes no sense that we continue to deport those who would be eligible for that relief.”

--Thomas Saenz, general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

With immigration reform legislation making its way through both houses of Congress, business and special interest groups are weighing in on the country’s current deportation practices. Saenz’s group, along with the A.F.L.-C.I.O.—the country’s largest federation of labor unions—asked President Obama to stop deporting illegal immigrants who could be eligible for citizenship if a new bipartisan immigration bill passes the Senate.

The Senate’s bill would allow undocumented immigrants to be eligible for permanent residency status after 10 years, and for citizenship after an additional three years. The House of Representatives, meanwhile, is reportedly close to a final formulation of its own immigration reform bill.  

Hurt Horsemen

"The average journeyman jockey – who sits in the jockey room every day and may get a $75 to $100 mount fee – will make less than $100,000 a year and may struggle to buy his own coverage.”

--Alan Foreman, general counsel of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horseman’s Association

The Kentucky Derby kicked off another Triple Crown season this month, bringing horse racing back into the consciousness of mainstream America. Foreman is taking the opportunity to lobby for more disability insurance for jockeys, telling the Baltimore Sun that many riders may have trouble buying coverage that would protect them from catastrophic on-the-job injuries.

Some track operators carry insurance coverage for jockeys, but the Jockeys’ Guild, a horse racing trade association, says that most of those policies are limited to $500,000 to $1 million for each event, which may not be enough to cover medical bills in the case of a severe injury. Meanwhile, only four states—Maryland, California, New York and New Jersey—provide workmen’s compensation coverage to jockeys injured while racing.

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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