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
We know President Obama doesn't mess around when it comes to pie, so it should really come as no surprise that the White House's Thanksgiving menu offers six of them. Yes, the Obamas see your standard pumpkin and pecan pies and would like to raise you a banana cream:
The menu for Thanksgiving dinner at the White House, complete with six types of pie for dessert: pic.twitter.com/Vb39xfhv9I
— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) November 26, 2015
On top of the generous pie options, the presidential feast will feature three different main dishes — turkey, ham, and prime rib — and myriad sides. Here's hoping Obama's turkey day suit comes complete with Thanksgiving pants. Kimberly Alters
With the 89th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade expecting a crowd of about 3 million spectators, the annual procession was always going to be a big deal. A record 2,500 police officers were stationed along the Manhattan parade route in light of recent, heightened fears of terrorism — though officials have said there are no known, credible threats to New York — as the city prepared for the larger-than-life gathering. Below, photos from the festivities, including some cartoon favorites inflated to a truly terrifying scale. Kimberly Alters
If you traveled this Thanksgiving, you know how cutthroat holiday hotel reservations can be. Or maybe over-crowded gatherings at home have you outsourcing to a local hotel. In any case, finding lodging for friends and family can be a certified headache.
Not so for the turkeys chosen for the White House's annual turkey pardon. National Journal accompanied last year's lucky birds, Mac and Cheese, into their swanky hotel suite at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington, D.C., where the two turkeys had their own room:
— National Journal (@nationaljournal) November 26, 2015
Mac and Cheese's digs go for more than $350 a night for non-presidentially pardoned guests, and come with stellar city views. The hotel did add a "thick layer of wood shavings" in the entryway specially for the birds, though. See more photos of the luxurious lodging for pardoned turkeys at National Journal. Kimberly Alters
Ah, Thanksgiving, a day for packing in as much poultry and pigskin as possible. And given the holiday's proclivity for football, NFL teams have a natural incentive to spread the good cheer on turkey day.
If you're the Washington Redskins though, you might want to stay mum on a holiday that traces its roots back to America's takeover of Native American land. The D.C. football team has been embroiled in controversy over its team name — an offensive word for Native Americans — for years. (If you're unclear as to why the name is offensive, this Daily Show segment can get you up to speed.) But rather than miss out on the holiday fun, the team's official Twitter account posted this glaringly oblivious graphic:
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) November 26, 2015
Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign has focused on his ambitious plans to, as a recent press release summarized, "create millions of jobs, raise wages, provide health care for all Americans, lower skyrocketing prescription drug prices, make college affordable, guarantee paid family leave, ensure pay equity for women and strengthen Social Security."
Some Gmail users received the Sanders press release with an automated phishing warning, cautioning readers that Sanders' campaign goals could be a scam designed to trick them into sharing personal data. The email's use of words like "prescription drugs," "guarantee," "free," and "health care" — common phrases in the spammer vocabulary — are likely what attracted the filter's attention. Bonnie Kristian
In his Thanksgiving-themed episode of The Late Show on Wednesday, host Stephen Colbert made an impassioned plea to keep politics out of Thanksgiving.
Even a "harmless gesture of goodwill" like the presidential turkey pardon "is pitting people against each other," he said, citing real poll results which found that 59 percent of Democrats approve of President Obama's turkey pardon — and just 11 percent of Republicans say the same.
This year, as usual, there are a litany of guides available for how to argue politics at the Thanksgiving table, from the DNC's passive-aggressive comebacks at YourRepublicanUncle.com to Politico Magazine's delightfully satirical ideas for being the crazy uncle.
Following the release of a video showing the fatal officer-involved shooting of a black teenager, hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Chicago on Tuesday night. Some shouted "16 shots," referring to the number of bullets allegedly fired during the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke. The protests continued Wednesday in Chicago's business district, The Loop, as demonstrators peacefully chanted and marched through the area.
New footage of the shooting was released Wednesday from the dashboard cameras of four additional police cars that responded to the incident, including Van Dyke's vehicle. That brings the total number of clips released to five, with footage from the three other squad cars that were at the scene during the shooting yet to be released.
The videos in question have little audio, something the Chicago Tribune notes should not be the case; while some videos include siren sounds from outside the vehicle, no sound of officers talking or any radio communication inside the vehicle can be heard. Only one of the videos shows the actual shooting of McDonald, while the others show the scene at various points. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder Tuesday. Kimberly Alters