ProPublica doesn't have a smoking gun, but the journalism advocacy organization has pretty solid circumstantial evidence that Intuit, the maker of popular tax filing software TurboTax, is behind a seemingly grassroots effort to thwart a proposal for the IRS to offer pre-filed tax returns, or return-free filing.
The idea behind return-free filing is that the IRS would basically do your taxes for you, filling in the blanks based on information it already has from banks and employers. Taxpayers would get the pre-filed documents and either correct any errors and return them, use the information to file their own tax returns, or just ignore the pre-filed return and go about their normal business. Depending on how you feel about the IRS, this is either creepy or a godsend.
ProPublica is on the godsend side: "Return-free filing might allow tens of millions of Americans to file their taxes for free and in minutes," says ProPublica's Liz Day. Intuit, not surprisingly, is against the idea, since — as it explained in a filing with the SEC — free, easy tax-filing options "may cause us to lose customers and revenue."
Intuit has every right to make that case — and it spent $2.6 million on lobbying in 2013, including against return-free filing proposals in Congress, to make it. But the methods it is employing, according to ProPublica, look pretty shady: Hiring PR firms, either directly or through the trade group the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), to urge community leaders and nonprofits to put their moral authority to work in service of stopping return-free filing.
ProPublica spoke with several such community leaders, including a rabbi and a state NAACP president, who wrote public letters against the proposals after receiving misleading form letters from acquaintances they either didn't realize were lobbyists or didn't know were representing Intuit.
Day also spoke with an Oregon nonprofit director, Angela Martin, who asked enough questions to intuit who was behind the push, researched return-free filing, then wrote in support of the proposal. "You get one or two prominent nonprofits to use their name, and busy advocates will extend trust and say sure, us too," Martin explained to ProPublica. If you aren't too exhausted after filing your tax returns by today's deadline — or, especially, if you are exhausted — read the entire article at ProPublica. Peter Weber
As the GOP sees it, Hillary Clinton has always been wrong on Iraq — starting with that moment back in 2002 when she voted with George W. Bush to authorize the war. That choice, according to a GOP post entitled, "Wrong At Every Turn," was "devastating to her 2008 presidential bid" because, as The Washington Post explained, it "put her out of step with the Democratic base."
But while Republicans don't seem to be happy about that time when Clinton voted with them, they certainly aren't happy when she stands with her party, either. The post goes on to pan Clinton for falling back in step with Democrats, criticizing her for "belatedly" apologizing for her Iraq War vote and defending Obama's "popular yet premature withdrawal policy that left Iraq vulnerable and deteriorating."
The conclusion: "Throughout her career, Clinton has always been wrong on Iraq." Becca Stanek
Today's Playboy magazine covers do technically leave something to the imagination. But it's not like you could flip through a gallery of recent Playboy covers at your open-office desk without receiving a reprimanding email from your HR department.
But that wasn't the case 60 years ago. Picking up a Playboy from the 1950s, you'd be forgiven for mistaking the racy mag for a quirky comic book about a smartly dressed anthropomorphic rabbit who liked to keep tabs on his fully-clothed female friends:
The covers from the first two decades of Playboy's inception were more endearing innuendo than bra-busting cleavage. It's sweet, really. If fully clothed ladies and rabbits that can really pull off a suit are your thing, click here to see more G-rated vintage Playboy covers. Lauren Hansen
In a recent interview with DJ Whoo Kid, Atlanta-born rapper T.I. said he wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton because women are inherently emotional and irrational.
"I just know that women make rash decisions emotionally," T.I. explained. "It's kind of like it didn't happen or they didn't mean for it to happen." The Grammy winner argued that "the world ain't ready" for a female president, citing the age-old concern that women in power are somehow more likely to set off a nuke than men.
"I think you might be able to get the Loch Ness Monster elected before [a woman]," he theorized.
It didn't take long, however, before backlash prompted the rapper to apologize:
My comments about women running for president were unequivocally insensitive and wrong. I sincerely apologize to everyone I offended.
— T.I. (@Tip) October 13, 2015
Perhaps T.I. acted... irrationally. Roxie Pell
It's happening: Donald Trump is hosting Saturday Night Live.
Although Trump has had a turbulent relationship with NBC this year (they terminated their relationship with him following his derogatory statements about immigrants last June), Trump is something of a fixture on SNL — at least as a punch line. Most recently, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took a jab at him during a brief appearance on the show earlier this month, and cast member Taran Killam has been donning an orange wig to play The Donald this election season.
But hosting The Apprentice and appearing on nearly every news channel aren't Trump's only qualifications for the gig — he actually hosted the show once before, back in 2004.
Just 15 days after first capturing the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz, the Taliban announced Tuesday that they had withdrawn from it, ending their first occupation of an Afghan city in the last 14 years of war. The insurgents delivered the news of their withdrawal on a website associated with the group, ordering fighters to "withdraw from the city to save ammunition and the lives of its fighters, as well as to protect civilians," The New York Times reports.
The pressure is on for Bernie Sanders. While the first Democratic presidential debate presents the socialist senator from Vermont with an opportunity to ride a tide of grassroots support into the mainstream, his success hinges on whether he can make a good first impression, Politico reports. And if he fails to do so, his now-surging campaign could face the consequences:
"This is an opportunity for him to introduce himself to a much broader part of the country, so it's important for him to explain where he comes from, who he is," explained top Sanders strategist Tad Devine, adding that the senator had prepared to discuss areas where he disagrees with Clinton, from Syria to college affordability.
Yet it's precisely because of his chance to introduce himself that Sanders has little room for error: he can't afford to make a bad first impression on a wide swath of Democratic voters in the states beyond his own Vermont and New Hampshire, where he leads Clinton. [Politico]
Sanders will have to go toe-to-toe with Clinton on policy and defend his plans "without appearing angry, all the while avoiding the trap of playing defense all night," Politico adds. "Since most voters don't know Sanders, his campaign figures, he can't let himself get defined on stage as simply the anti-Clinton."
If Sanders emerges victorious tonight, successfully imprinting a friendly, lasting impression on the American public, his unexpected gains on Clinton in the polls could continue to creep up. But if he doesn't, his reputation as nothing more than a "fad" could be solidified. Bernie only has one chance.
Last year's unprecedented Sony hack led to a revelation for Jennifer Lawrence. In an essay published Tuesday in Lena Dunham's newsletter, Lenny Letter, the Oscar-winning actress explained that, prior to the hack, she had been "ever-so-slightly quiet" on the topic of feminism because she "didn't like joining conversations that feel like they're 'trending.'" But once she discovered in the hack how little she was getting paid in comparison to her male co-stars, she began to realize the full consequences of how Hollywood treats women — and decided, at long last, to speak up:
I'm over trying to find the "adorable" way to state my opinion and still be likable! F--k that. I don't think I've ever worked for a man in charge who spent time contemplating what angle he should use to have his voice heard. It's just heard. Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale, and Bradley Cooper all fought and succeeded in negotiating powerful deals for themselves. If anything, I'm sure they were commended for being fierce and tactical, while I was busy worrying about coming across as a brat and not getting my fair share. [Lenny Letter]
The hacked emails showed that for American Hustle, actors Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and director David O. Russell earned 9 percent of back-end profits. Lawrence was originally slated to earn 5 percent, though she and co-star Amy Adams ultimately only ended up receiving 7 percent. Read more about Lawrence coming to terms with her feminism — and fighting back against sexism in Hollywood — over in Lenny Letter. Jeva Lange