October 21, 2014

Obama Admin: We May Need 'Surge' Of Millions Of Immigrant Ids 'For Any Number Of Reasons'

In its first public response after Breitbart News reported that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is quietly preparing the capacity to issue more than double its baseline number of green cards and employment permits, a USCIS spokesman said such preparation is routine and that a spike in immigration applications could arise “for any number of reasons.”

“Solicitations of this nature are frequent practice for all USCIS contracts and allow the Agency to be prepared for fluctuations in the number of immigration applications received, which can arise for any number of reasons,” Christopher Bentley, a spokesman for USCIS said in a statement.

At issue is a solicitation for materials to print as many as 34,000,000 ids over five years. The request for proposals says vendors must be capable of handling a “surge” of five million ids in one year “to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements.”

Republicans have denounced the draft proposal, saying it shows the Obama administration is already beginning to implement a broad executive amnesty that President Obama has said he is planning for after the midterm elections.

The USCIS statement includes two examples of previous USCIS contracts that included options to increase capacity, one for “security support services,” the other for “records operations support services.”

It's not unheard of for federal agencies to plan for contingencies, but the request specifically explains that the surge is related to potential changes in immigration policy.

“The Contractor shall demonstrate the capability to support potential 'surge' in PRC and EAD card demand for up to 9M cards during the initial period of performance to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements,” the document says.

A year ago, such a plan might have been attributed to a forthcoming immigration bill. Now, following the summer's border crisis, the chances of such a new law are extremely low, giving additional credence to the possibility the move is in preparation for an executive amnesty by Obama.

The RFP “seems to indicate that the president is contemplating an enormous executive action that is even more expansive than the plan that Congress rejected in the 'Gang of Eight' bill,” Jessica Vaughan, an immigration expert at the Center for Immigration Studies and former State Department official, said.

Earlier Monday, a spokesman for Speaker John Boehner ripped Obama's planned executive amnesty.
“The Speaker has made perfectly clear to the president that it is unacceptable for him to unilaterally re-write immigration law on his own and the Speaker will never support this type of action,” Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a leading immigration hawk, called the document a “startling confirmation of the crisis facing our Republic.”

October 20, 2014

Obama Administration Quietly Prepares 'Surge' Of Millions Of New Immigrant IDs

Despite no official action from the president ahead of the election, the Obama administration has quietly begun preparing to issue millions of work authorization permits, suggesting the implementation of a large-scale executive amnesty may have already begun.

Unnoticed until now, a draft solicitation for bids issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Oct. 6 says potential vendors must be capable of handling a “surge” scenario of 9 million id cards in one year “to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements.”

The request for proposals says the agency will need a minimum of four million cards per year. In the “surge,” scenario in 2016, the agency would need an additional five million cards – more than double the baseline annual amount for a total of 9 million.

“The guaranteed minimum for each ordering period is 4,000,000 cards. The estimated maximum for the entire contract is 34,000,000 cards,” the document says.

The agency is buying the materials need to construct both Permanent Residency Cards (PRC), commonly known as green cards, as well as Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD) cards which have been used to implement President Obama's “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA) program. The RFP does not specify how many of each type of card would be issued.

Jessica Vaughn, an immigration expert at the Center for Immigration Studies and former State Department official, said the document suggests a new program of remarkable breadth.

The RFP “seems to indicate that the president is contemplating an enormous executive action that is even more expansive than the plan that Congress rejected in the 'Gang of Eight' bill,” Vaughn said.

Last year, Vaughn reviewed the Gang of Eight's provisions to estimate that it would have roughly doubled legal immigration. In the “surge” scenario of this RFP, even the relatively high four million cards per year would be more than doubled, meaning that even on its own terms, the agency is preparing for a huge uptick of 125 percent its normal annual output.

It's not unheard of for federal agencies to plan for contingencies, but the request specifically explains that the surge is related to potential changes in immigration policy.

“The Contractor shall demonstrate the capability to support potential 'surge' in PRC and EAD card demand for up to 9M cards during the initial period of performance to support possible future immigration reform initiative requirements,” the document says.

A year ago, such a plan might have been attributed to a forthcoming immigration bill. Now, following the summer's border crisis, the chances of such a new law are extremely low, giving additional credence to the possibility the move is in preparation for an executive amnesty by Obama.

Even four million combined green cards and EADs is a significant number, let alone the “surge” contemplated by USCIS. For instance, in the first two years after Obama unilaterally enacted DACA, about 600,000 people were approved by USCIS under the program. Statistics provided by USCIS on its website show that the entire agency had processed 862,000 total EADs in 2014 as of June.

Vaughn said EADs are increasingly coming under scrutiny as a tool used by the Obama administration to provide legalization for groups of illegal aliens short of full green card status.

In addition to providing government approval to work for illegal aliens, EADs also cost significantly less in fees to acquire, about $450 compared to more than $1000. In many states, EADs give aliens rights to social services and the ability to obtain drivers' licenses.

Vaughn noted there are currently about 4.5 million individuals waiting for approval for the green cards having followed immigration law and obtained sponsorships from relatives in the U.S. or otherwise, less than the number of id cards contemplated by the USCIS “surge.”

USCIS officials did not provide additional information about the RFP by press time. 

October 17, 2014

The FBI Wants More Access to Your iPhone. Congress Is Standing in the Way.

Silicon Valley and the nation's law enforcement community are in an arms race.

Tech companies like Apple and Google want to make the data customers carry on their smartphones and computers more secure, safe from the prying eyes of spies and identity thieves alike. But law-enforcement officials—from the FBI to local police—see those same devices as treasure troves of evidence that they could be using to stop crimes and catch criminals.

As the tech giants get better at encryption, however, law-enforcement agencies are turning to Congress for help, asking lawmakers to make it mandatory for the tech companies to make their devices more accessible. FBI Director James Comey made that case personally on Thursday, saying at the Brookings Institution that police need new legislation to help them catch criminals who are using encryption to hide incriminating evidence.

Law-enforcement agencies are accustomed to getting what they want from the federal government—from new legal authority to the type of military-grade material recently on display in Ferguson, Mo. But following the broad and unflattering attention placed on government surveillance by Edward Snowden's leaks, few on Capitol Hill are demonstrating any appetite for further peeling back privacy protections.

"I'd be surprised if more than a handful of members would support the idea of backdooring Americans' personal property," Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and vocal privacy advocate, said.

An aide to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said the senator is open to reviewing the FBI's proposal, but that right now, he's focused on passing his own bill that would rein in government spying.

And a House Democratic aide said that staffers have been in touch with the FBI on the issue but that Congress is unlikely to force technology companies to build backdoors into their networks and devices anytime soon.

"I think the combination of business and civil-liberty concerns would have made this proposal difficult to adopt even before the Snowden disclosures," the aide said. "In the middle of a surveillance-reform fight, it's just that much more complicated."

The FBI director warned Thursday that encryption technologies are allowing criminals to become "beyond the law." Even with a court order, police are unable to access information that is critical to solving crimes, he said.

"The FBI has a sworn duty to keep every American safe from crime and terrorism, and technology has become the tool of choice for some very dangerous people," Comey said in a speech at Brookings. "Unfortunately, the law hasn't kept pace with technology, and this disconnect has created a significant public-safety problem."

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, a 1994 law known as CALEA, forces telephone companies to build surveillance technologies into their networks to allow law enforcement to install wiretaps. But the law hasn't been updated and doesn't cover new devices and online forms of communication.

Apple and Google recently announced that their new phones will feature default encryption that will make it impossible to unlock the devices for police. "Are we so mistrustful of government—and of law enforcement—that we are willing to let bad guys walk away ... willing to leave victims in search of justice?" Comey asked.

He urged Congress to update CALEA to "create a level playing field" so that companies like Google and Apple have to provide police the same access to information that telephone providers like AT&T do.

But the plan will face fierce resistance from tech companies and privacy advocates. They warn that any backdoor for law enforcement could also be exploited by hackers. Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel with the Center for Democracy and Technology, said he doubts Congress will enact legislation to make U.S. products less secure.

"Who in Europe is going to buy these newly compromised cell phones if Congress insists that they be made with backdoors for U.S. law enforcement?" Nojeim asked. "It's probably one of the worst job killers a member of Congress could propose."

A large majority of House members have already gone on the record opposing backdoor access to Americans' information. In June, the House voted 293-123 to adopt an amendment to a defense appropriations bill to cut off funds for National Security Agency projects that build vulnerabilities into security products.

Ed Black, the president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a lobbying group that represents Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and others, said securing customer information is a core function of technology companies. The new encryption features are more than just marketing gimmicks, he said.

"It's not like a new color on [the customer's] phone," he said. "It's something that they think is essential to protecting their freedom, their lives, and their privacy."

In his speech Thursday, Comey said he understands the need of businesses to compete overseas and that his goal isn't to "stifle innovation or undermine U.S. companies."

"But we have to find a way to help these companies understand what we need, why we need it, and how they can help, while still protecting privacy rights and providing network security and innovation," he said. "We need our private-sector partners to take a step back, to pause, and to consider changing course."

October 16, 2014

Obama Keeps 167,000 Foreign Criminals In The United States

President Barack Obama is allowing 167,000 foreign criminals to live freely in the United States, even though their deportation hearings and appeals have been completed, according to an internal agency report.

The data was revealed in a weekly report prepared by officers in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The Sept. 22 report, titled “Weekly Departures and Detention Report,” was leaked to the non-profit Center for Immigration Studies.

“This is ICE’s own unfiltered record that provides a benchmark of immigration enforcement, and so anybody who views this document can see what is actually happening… not filtered by ICE’s press office,” CIS Policy Director Jessica Vaughan told The Daily Caller.

Obama’s effort to reduce enforcement “makes a joke of or immigration law, and it creates an incentive for people to come [illegally]… the surge of [136,000] Central Americans that we’ve seen over the last year is proof of that,” she said.

In practice, “the president can drive it down as far as he wants, as long as nobody tries to stop him,’ she said.

“Unless Congress begins to insert itself, and insist that the funds ICE is receiving for immigration enforcement are used appropriately,” she added.

The Sept. 20 report shows that officials have not deported 897,572 illegals who have been given a final deportation order by immigration courts. That 900,000 includes the 167,000 foreign criminals who have been ordered out of the country by courts, after their convictions for felony or misdemeanors.

The convictions include assaults, theft, murder, identity theft, domestic battery and obstruction of justice. The convictions usually do not include reckless driving and other driving-related offenses, unless a state’s courts treat them as serious crimes.

The 900,000 resident deportees are part of the larger population of 12 million illegal immigrants that Obama’s agencies are protecting from deportation under the so-called “prosecutorial discretion” policy.

That protection includes rollbacks in ICE arrests and a sharp reduction in deportations of people who had either recently crossed the border or who were living illegally inside the United States.

In September, White House officials suggested the policy might be expanded after the election to provide work permits to millions of illegal immigrants. That “executive action” amnesty policy is unpopular among voters, partly because it would allow the illegals to compete against Americans for jobs.

The still-vague executive action plan is begin applauded by progressives and business leaders, who want more workers and customers.

The total number of deportations handled by ICE dropped 15 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to the ICE document.

But there was a much steeper drop in ICE-managed deportations of illegals living in the United States, far from the border. Those interior deportations dropped 34 percent from 2013 to 2104, putting them 58 percent lower than the deportation number in 2009.

In 2014, for example, only 100,000 illegals —- including many criminals — were deported from the interior of the country.

That’s less than 1 percent of the illegal population.

“This is a stealth amnesty,” Vaughan said.

Obama’s decision to provide “Immunity from enforcement… is the next best thing to full amnesty,” she said.

In response to critics, Obama’s deputies say they’re trying to focus enforcement efforts on foreign criminals.

But the number of foreign criminals who were repatriated fell from 23 percent in 2013 to 2014, and are now 39 percent lower than the 2011 level.

“ICE officers are instructed to release or take a pass on illegal aliens whose crimes are designated as ‘minor’ or who have family members in the United States,” according to a statement from the CIS.
“The result is that only a fraction of deportable aliens that ICE identifies actually will be processed for deportation,” CIS said.

ICE officers are also instructed to ignore many foreign criminals. According to the report, “ICE officers had reported 170,125 encounters with aliens deemed a criminal threat,” said CIIS. But “only 90,500 criminal aliens were issued charging documents, indicating a startlingly large number — potentially nearly 80,000 — of illegal aliens with criminal histories who were able to escape deportation proceedings in 2014, even after being encountered by an ICE officer.”

The enforcement rollbacks has allowed the population of 167,000 foreign criminals to stay in the country.

“That’s just a damming indictment of the dysfunction in our immigration system,” Vaughan said.

“They’ve had their due process, they’ve exhausted their appeals, but they’re still here.”

October 15, 2014

Labor Secretary Perez won't answer questions about AG post

Labor Secretary Tom Perez declined Tuesday to discuss any talks he has had with the White House about replacing outgoing Eric Holder as attorney general.

Perez, who was assistant attorney general for civil rights at the Justice Department before moving to Labor, has been the subject of rampant rumors that he is the administration's top pick for the nation's top cop.

Asked during a conference call on unemployment issues whether he had spoken with anybody at the Justice Department or the White House about taking on the job, Perez quickly changed the subject.

"My conversations with the White House have been all about the long-term unemployed, all about the Department of Labor, all about the progress we are making about putting people back to work," Perez responded. "That is my singular focus."

Whether that was the White House's singular focus he didn't say. Perez gave a similar non-response when the question was asked during a conference call Friday on the minimum wage.

October 14, 2014

Army Tried To Get Rid Of Whistleblower, Stopped For Now By Special Counsel

When an Army civilian police officer disclosed that other officers were receiving unearned pay approved by the manager, the Army rewarded his whistleblowing efforts by promptly trying to fire him, the Washington Post reports.

Whistleblower Kenneth Delano has been temporarily spared by the intervention of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), postponing the procedure for 45 days until a full investigation can be carried out.

Delano’s original disclosure was reported to the Defense Department’s inspector general back in August 2013. Two other officers were receiving $25,000 dollars each in a process approved by managers. While the Army did in fact stop paying the officers, it followed up by ordering an investigation of a car crash Delano had suffered. Delano’s patrol car had been damaged. Steering routinely malfunctioned on the car.

The investigator, interestingly enough, was one of the officers Delano had reported for receiving extra pay without any corresponding increase in work. He protested the investigation, citing a conflict of interest, but his request for a new investigator was denied. The officer concluded that Delano had actually damaged the car, and also reported that Delano further made misleading statements during the investigation. The Army subsequently tried to fire Delano, but the OSC jumped in at just the right time to intervene.

“Based on the totality of facts, OSC concludes that there are reasonable grounds to believe that retaliation for whistleblowing at least contributed to the Army’s decision to propose Delano’s removal,” the OSC said.

Now, the firing is stayed at least for 45 days, and the Army will have to bide its time until a determination is made. The OSC will continue its investigation into the allegations without interference. The names of the employees making an extra $25,000 a year for nothing have not been released by the OSC.

October 13, 2014

Hispanics want Obamacare for illegal immigrant ‘dreamers’

Top Hispanic leaders asked President Obama last week to grant some illegal immigrants access to Obamacare, saying the “dreamers” to whom the White House has given tentative work permits are already paying taxes, so they deserve government benefits.

The request is yet another complication stemming from the legal limbo Mr. Obama created for the dreamers, hundreds of thousands of young adults to whom the president gave a tentative legal status in 2012, but who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents as minors and thus remain illegal immigrants.

Under government policy, illegal immigrants are barred from buying insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges, and about half the states also prohibit them from getting Medicaid benefits. But the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda said those whom Mr. Obama has freed from the danger of deportation should be considered “lawfully present for all purposes, including eligibility for public benefits and affordable health care.”

“NHLA asks that you apply the fairness and equality that your Administration has shown in various other areas in the health care context and ensure that no one — regardless of their immigration status — lacks access to critical health care services,” Hispanic leaders said in their letter.

Nearly 600,000 illegal immigrants had been approved for tentative legal status under what the administration labeled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Their status means they cannot be deported for two years from the time of their approval, and they can apply to renew that status every two years.

They have also been given work permits. Most states have also decided to allow them driver’s licenses.

Immigrant rights activists have asked Mr. Obama to expand his deferred action program to include illegal immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizen children and parents of dreamers. If Mr. Obama were to follow through on that as part of his promised executive action after this year’s elections, it could mean potentially millions more people eligible for Obamacare.
Rosemary Jenks, government relations manager for NumbersUSA, which fights for a crackdown on immigration, said there is a bright dividing line that determines who should be eligible for taxpayer-funded health care benefits.
“As soon as Congress votes to change the law and allow illegal aliens to become legal, then those aliens will have access to U.S. benefits. But it’s very clear taxpayers are not in favor of that, which is why Congress has not passed it,” she said.
A Rasmussen Reports poll released earlier this month shows just how deep that opposition runs.
The poll found 71 percent of voters opposed giving services to the illegal immigrant children who surged across the border this summer, and 63 percent of the voters surveyed said that a generous social welfare system in the U.S. draws illegal immigrants here.
During the 2009 and 2010 debates over Obamacare, immigrant rights advocates fought for access for illegal immigrants but ran into opposition from both the White House and Democrats in Congress, who didn’t want the issue sinking the entire health care law.
Immigrant rights advocates, though, say the legal situation for those illegal immigrants who have been granted forms of tentative legal status is different. Indeed, they said the law actually would allow dreamers to get health care, but the Obama administration changed its own policies to stop it.
Before Mr. Obama’s June 2012 policy for dreamers, others who had been granted deferred action on their deportations had been eligible for publicly funded health care benefits, according to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice.
But in August 2012 the administration issued new guidance saying dreamers wouldn’t be eligible — in essence creating yet another category of tentative legal status that was eligible for just a subset of rights to which other immigrants are entitled.
Mr. Obama had planned to take action extending his nondeportation policies this summer but backed off, fearing a backlash from voters. Now the White House has said he will act after Election Day, when voters can no longer punish him or his party.

Source

October 10, 2014

White House Aide Linked To Prostitution Scandal Was Hired By Anti-Prostitution State Dept.

The White House aide involved in the Secret Service prostitute scandal in Cartagena, Columbia, works for the government agency that is promoting worldwide stigma against the use of prostitutes.

“Governments can lead both in practice and by example by implementing zero-tolerance policies for employees,” says a State Department policy declaration, “Prevention: Fighting Sex Trafficking by Curbing Demand for Prostitution.”

The staffer, Jonathan Dach, was hired as a contract policy adviser in the State Department’s Office on Global Women’s Issues this year.

The office is directed by the Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

Dach was hired after the White House’s top lawyer — Kathryn Ruemmler — reportedly hid his role in the Cartagena scandal, which eventually ended or damaged the careers of 10 Secret Service agents.

The Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons is supposedly leading the administration’s moral push against the trafficking of prostitutes. Its web page highlights a quote attributed to President Barack Obama.

“It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity,” according to Obama.

“It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”

The office touts its “zero tolerance” policy on the hiring of prostitutes.

“The fact remains: if there were no demand for commercial sex, trafficking in persons for commercial sexual exploitation would not exist in the form it does today,” says the policy document.

“If paying for sex is prohibited for those who work for, or do business with, a government, the ripple effects could be far-reaching,” says the document.

“This reality underscores the need for continued strong efforts to reduce demand for sex trafficking by enacting policies and promoting cultural attitudes that reject the idea of paying for sex,” it says.

Before he was hired by the State Department, the White House’s lawyer, Ruemmler, however, created a loophole to justify its protection of Dach.

“Administration officials interviewed by The Post earlier this year said there was no reason to investigate Dach beyond interviews with him … because he was not a government employee and because prostitution is legal in parts of Colombia, including Cartagena,” according to The Washington Post.

At the time he hired the prostitute, he was technically an unpaid volunteer.

Moreover, one White House official told the Post, Ruemmler believed she had a moral duty to overlook Dach’s actions

“One senior administration official … said Ruemmler believed it would be a ‘real scandal’ if she had sent ‘a team of people to Colombia to investigate a volunteer over something that’s not a criminal act. … That would be insane.’”

Dach is also the son of a Democratic staffer and donor who was hired by Wal-Mart to cut deals with Democrat-run regulators. That hire was mutually beneficial, because Democratic pressure on Wal-Mart has sharply dropped over the last several years and Wal-Mart has increasingly cooperated with President Barack Obama’s progressive priorities.

October 9, 2014

Wave of Ethics Complaints Hits Top Races

The closest races in the country have always attracted the most ad dollars, ground troops, and media attention. Now, with Election Day approaching, they've become a magnet for something else: ethics complaints.

Over the last month, watchdog groups and political parties have filed dozens of complaints against Republicans and Democrats in tough races, questioning fundraising tactics and accusing campaigns of improper coordination, among other allegations, just as voters begin to tune in to the election-year fight.

Regardless of their merits—and some make much stronger cases than others—the likelihood that any of these ethics complaints will be acted on before Election Day is slim. The Office of Congressional Ethics, for example, which deals with complaints against members of the House, is specifically prohibited from acting publicly on a complaint about a member within 60 days of any election in which he or she is on the ballot. And the Senate Ethics Committee hasn't taken public action against any senator in more than two years.

But for many of these groups, the result of a complaint isn't nearly as important as filing the complaint itself. "It's just a political tactic," says Meredith McGehee, the policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan watchdog group, and a longtime ethics advocate.

The act of filing an ethics complaint allows campaigns and partisan groups to cast aspersions on their opponents in the press—as long as the press obliges by paying attention. In most cases, the question of whether their claims are legitimate will be left until long after Election Day.

The practice is hardly new, McGehee said. "It's been a fairly common political tactic certainly in the last 20 years," she said. "Though I would note that it seems to kind of go in and out of fashion. … Some cycles you see more of it than others."

The 2014 cycle certainly appears to be one in which ethics battles are back in vogue. And a new group on the scene, the American Democracy Legal Fund, is laying the pathway for many more groups to wage political warfare through typically ignored regulatory filings and ethics-committee investigations in the future.

The ADLF represents a new breed of complainant in what McGehee terms "Dark Arts Campaigning 101." Whereas most ethics watchdogs maintain at least an appearance of bipartisanship, in the past month the ADLF has filed ethics complaints against nine Republican candidates, eight of whom are facing difficult elections in November, and not a single complaint against a Democrat. The ninth Republican targeted by the group, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, is running for governor in 2015.

"This looks like a pretty clear and straightforward attempt to go after one party," McGehee said. "I have to say I haven't really seen that before in this way. The groups that have been involved [in filing ethics complaints] have generally been pretty careful about trying to stay nonpartisan. This is kind of a different take on it."

The ADLF, which is run by Media Matters founder David Brock and Democratic operative Brad Woodhouse, declined to comment for this story. But the ADLF's website describes it as a group "established to hold candidates for office accountable for possible ethics and/or legal violations," making no mention of party affiliation.

The ADLF is an offshoot of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is now also run by Brock. But unlike CREW, which is incorporated as a nonpartisan nonprofit, the ADLF is registered as a 501(c)4 organization, which can engage in political activity.


All 10 of the ADLF's complaints (including two against Scott Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts now running against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire) have been filed since September, giving little time for investigators to come to any conclusions before Election Day. "To me, I look at these when they're filed so close to the election—the intent is to influence the outcome of the election," McGehee said.

In that regard, the ADLF and other political groups seem to be having some success. The ADLF's two complaints against Brown in New Hampshire made headlines in a number of national publications. Complaints that the group filed against North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis, Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst—all Republicans running in tight Senate contests this fall—also received significant media attention.

Despite the headlines, the ADLF does not yet appear to be making waves in ethics circles. Staffers at top watchdog groups and even some of the organizations that have received complaints from the ADLF said that they had never heard of the group.

Though the ADLF appears to be the only group currently focused solely on filing ethics complaints against members and candidates of a single party in races across the country, a number of other groups are using similar tactics.

CREW, which identifies itself as a nonpartisan organization, filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics this week, asking the group to investigate whether Rep. Paul Ryan, who is not in a competitive race this year but is a potential 2016 presidential candidate, received special treatment from Amazon in selling his new book.

State parties have also gotten in on the act. Within the last month and a half, state parties have filed complaints against Republican Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado; Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and her Republican opponent, Cassidy; Democratic Rep. Mike Honda of California; and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. All are locked in tight races heading into November.

Additionally, the North Carolina Republican Party filed a complaint against Sen. Kay Hagan, one of the GOP's top targets this year, on Monday—just four weeks before Election Day. The state Democratic Party responded by filing a complaint of its own against Hagan's opponent, Tillis, the very next day.

State GOP spokesman William Allison defended the timing of the Hagan complaint in an interview, noting that the story upon which the allegations were based had been published just a week and a half earlier. "If the story is public, everyone knows that this happened, then I think that we have the responsibility to move in a timely fashion, which we have," Allison said.

All of those cases have received significant local coverage and are likely to play large roles in the final weeks of campaign advertising and debates. In some cases, the complaints have even received national coverage.

"The goal is to get the story written, pure and simple. It's often just to get the headline that suggests a candidate is now 'under investigation,'" said Elliot Berke, an attorney who handles ethics and campaign finance cases. But, he warned: "Such headlines are often misleading and lack context, and transparency without context is very dangerous and counterproductive."

Take this headline the North Carolina Republican Party used in a press release announcing its ethics complaint against Hagan: "Senate Ethics Committee Begins Formal Investigation of Kay Hagan's 'Stimulus' Payday."

Technically, the state party is correct. For many of these investigative bodies like the Federal Election Commission, the Senate Ethics Committee, and the Office of Congressional Ethics, the mere act of filing an ethics complaint against a candidate or member of Congress automatically triggers an investigation. That investigation could lead to weeks of interviews and potential ramifications for the candidate, or it could start and end with a staffer reading a complaint and throwing it in the trash. Whether the committee will pursue the complaint or believes that there are any merits to it—as the party's headline implies—is not clear. The Senate Ethics Committee does not comment on complaints or ongoing investigations.

When asked about the press release's potential to mislead voters, Allison, the state party's spokesman, defended the language as accurate. "What we're saying is that once the complaint is filed, they're automatically required to begin looking into to it," he said. "The precise steps that [the committee takes] to do that, they can speak for themselves. But they are automatically required to begin looking into it."

But that nuance isn't the only issue. Technically these watchdog groups and political parties can file ethics complaints against any individual, regardless of whether that candidate falls under an ethics committee or agency's jurisdiction. The ADLF, for example, filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics against Republican Barbara Comstock, who is running for a House seat in Virginia. The problem: The office can only investigate matters relating to members of the House, not candidates for Congress.

"ADLF filed the complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics, and many media outlets reported that fact while stating that the complaint likely wouldn't be resolved before Election Day," said Berke, who is working as legal counsel for Comstock's campaign. "But what no one reported was that the OCE has no jurisdiction over nonincumbent candidates and, consequently, it has no power to even review the complaint. So there is literally nothing to resolve now or after Election Day."

Regardless of the eventual outcome—and the motivations of the filer—the specter of an ethics inquiry can still be damaging to a candidate heading into Election Day. And that's what many of these groups, Berke and McGehee say, are counting on.

"Everybody knows it's not going to get resolved between now and the election. Everybody knows it's a tactic. But, for the people who don't pay attention, it's a good lick to get in on your opponent," McGehee said.

McGehee and Berke said they worry that more and more groups dedicated specifically to filing ethics complaints against members of the opposing party in an election year, like the ADLF, will begin to emerge. Berke called it an "unfortunate trend," but a "profitable one," noting that campaigns and outside groups often use ethics complaints to solicit money from donors.

McGehee said she worries specifically that a flood of complaints with clear partisan goals could further turn off an electorate that already questions the ethics of their elected officials. "I think it turns people off from the process, and that's dangerous," she said. "When you start going down a partisan path, I think—to me, it begins to undermine the work that is done to try and say that, look, these are common standards that everyone regardless of partisan ideology agrees upon. And I think that's an incredibly important kind of line and principle to have, regardless of whether you're Republican or Democrat."

What's more, the use of ethics inquiries as a campaign tactic, particularly in cases without a solid foundation, could cause voters to have less faith in more legitimate cases. "It will either desensitize the voters to legitimate ethics cases, or it will continue to negatively affect the voters' confidence in our elected officials. And neither is good for our country," Berke said.

October 8, 2014

World Bank workers turn on bosses, protest pay cuts and executive bonuses

The World Bank has been the go-to financier for developing nations for decades. But now its own employees are staging a rich-nation protest reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street, voicing outrage that top managers got hefty bonuses while pushing an aggressive cost-cutting agenda expected to include salary reductions and layoffs for lower-level staff.

The behind-the-scenes clash has gone public in recent days with a series of employee rallies — held in the bank’s headquarters lobby just blocks from the White House — thrusting the famously tranquil institution into turmoil just ahead of the annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings that open Friday.

Bank insiders said the situation reached a boiling point Tuesday.

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim led a hastily arranged “town hall” meeting to announce that bank Chief Financial Officer Bertrand Badre would “renounce” a bonus he received while spearheading efforts to shave $400 million from the bank’s budget through layoffs and other savings.

A World Bank source later clarified that Mr. Badre already had received more than half of his $94,000 “scarce-skills premium” bonus but agreed to forgo the rest “effective immediately.”

The announcement was made just hours after hundreds of bank staffers gathered in the World Bank lobby to protest management secrecy over the massive reorganization Mr. Kim is pushing.

Bank staffers said the protests were organized clandestinely because of fear among the rank-and-file economists that their jobs would be at risk if they spoke out.

According to the sources, a roar of applause and cheering erupted Tuesday morning when one staffer grabbed a microphone circulating among the protesters and bellowed: “When managing change, it’s like cleaning the stairs: You have to start at the top!”

“What the guy meant was that if you really want to bring positive changes through any reorganization, you should start by making sure management is being ethical and being transparent,” said one bank staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity with The Washington Times. “So far, that’s not happening.”

World Bank spokesman David Theis maintained that the dissent and protests marked a positive development.

“Of course staff unease is natural and understandable in any large organization undergoing such a large-scale realignment,” he said. “We believe we will come out of this process as a stronger, more unified organization, better positioned to achieve our mission.”

Mr. Kim’s announcement about Mr. Badre in the afternoon suggested that the message had been heard. Bank staffers said hundreds turned out for Mr. Kim’s impromptu meeting in an auditorium at World Bank headquarters but that the staffers remained skeptical of management’s sincerity.

“People welcomed Badre’s bonus denouncement,” said one staffer. “But the perception was still there that the top is not being affected by the belt-tightening the way the rest of us are.”

“There’s also still this fear of retribution,” said another, who added that attendees were stopped by a security guard for what they were told was a routine check “to make sure there are no journalists” trying to get into the Kim meeting.

Others voiced outrage over the way Mr. Kim, an American nominated by President Obama in early 2012, has implemented a reorganization that he says will help the bank better achieve its goals of ending extreme poverty in the world by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the globe’s poorest 40 percent.

The crux of the reorganization, announced in April, would double the World Bank’s annual lending to middle-income nations from $15 billion to $27 billion a year while shaving $400 million off the bank’s annual budget.

The point of contention, according to sources inside the bank, stems from general opaqueness surrounding the proposed cuts — specifically on the question of who among the bank’s 10,000 employees are about to lose their jobs.

Frustration soared two weeks ago when word spread that Mr. Badre, a former top official at the French banking giant Societe Generale, had been awarded his skills “premium” on top of a $95,000 signing bonus he received when Mr. Kim hired him in 2013 to spearhead the budget cuts.

The World Bank’s most recent annual report shows the bonuses rival what the majority of the institution’s rank and file — the economists who do the legwork in crafting, granting and collecting on loans to governments worldwide — make in total salary. Bank “professionals” and “senior professionals” get $102,000 and $140,000 a year respectively in base pay.

News that Mr. Badre had received $189,000 in bonuses on top of his $379,000 base salary as the bank’s CFO prompted a stern reaction from the World Bank’s staff association, essentially the union for the bank’s rank-and-file economists.

“We question the timing of such payments given the sacrifices the rest of us are being asked to make as a result of the back to front Expenditure Review process underway and the staff cuts that will follow,” the staff association wrote in a Sept. 25 internal email obtained by Bloomberg News.

Rumors have swirled through the bank that Mr. Kim also may have approved bonuses for three other managers.

World Bank sources confirmed Tuesday that four “scarce-skills premium” bonuses have been given out over the past year but Mr. Badre was the only top executive to receive one, suggesting that the other bonuses may have gone to midlevel managers.

The turmoil has risen at a sensitive moment for the World Bank, which faces growing lending competition from emerging economic powers such as the “BRICS” — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — challenging the traditional U.S. dominance of the bank and its policies.

An internal blog post Tuesday by World Bank Vice President of Human Resources Sean McGrath revealed how $200 million of the impending budget cuts would “be related to staffing” — but maintained that there was no specific number of staffers to be cut.

A copy of the post, obtained by The Times, also said there “is not single date when staff whose employment is at risk will be notified.”

Bank employees said privately that the blog post was just the latest example of management’s lack of transparency over the reorganization.

“These guys are running the premier development bank in the world, and it’s being mismanaged,” one World Bank source said.

Source

October 7, 2014

House Aide Tied to Insider-Trading Probe Creates Legal Fund

A top committee aide to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has established a special trust fund to solicit donations for his legal defense against an insider-trading investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department.

The creation of the legal-expense trust fund on behalf of Brian Sutter, staff director of the committee's Health subpanel, is the latest development in a matter that has for months left Congress itself fighting subpoenas from federal regulators and investigators.

A main argument of congressional lawyers in this standoff has been that the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution protects against such an outside inquiry into legislative business in most cases. But the fight also has become as much about the limits of a much-ballyhooed law passed in 2012 that was billed as clarifying that even members of Congress and their staff are subject to insider-trading prohibitions under securities laws.

News that federal regulators and prosecutors were seeking testimony and documents from Sutter and the Ways and Means Committee became public in early May. That's when Sutter formally notified Congress he was in receipt of subpoenas from the SEC and Justice Department, and Camp reported the committee had also received a subpoena for documents.

In court documents and in communications with the House General Counsel's office, federal officials later confirmed that the focus of the inquiry relates to a spike in stock trading of certain health care companies based on a prediction of a government health care policy by a research company, Height Securities. The questions have centered on role what, if any, Sutter's advance knowledge may have played in that company getting information on which to make its prediction.

Neither Sutter, who remains in his job with the Ways and Means Committee, nor his lawyer Christopher Guest of Washington, returned telephone calls Monday for comment about Sutter's new legal-expense trust.

But papers filed in the House clerk's office show the trust was created last Tuesday "to provide a proper means for the acceptance of money, property and services."

Donations collected, according to the document, are to be used by Sutter's trust toward legal fees "in connection with his official duties and position as a staffer in the United States House of Representatives, in connection with any action taken against Mr. Sutter by the Securities and Exchange Commission or the United States Department of Justice."

Such a trust cannot accept more than $5,000 in any calendar year from any individual or corporation, or from any registered lobbyist. Whether lawmakers and fellow congressional staffers might be among those who could give to the trust could not be determined Monday.

Specifically, the matter under which Sutter has come under federal scrutiny involved stock trading just before an April 1, 2013, Medicare Advantage reimbursement rate announcement for 2014 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In a letter dated May 8 of this year, an SEC official explains the inquiry is focused, at least in part, on Sutter's knowledge of the rate announcement beforehand, his relationship and communication with a lobbyist at Greenberg Traurig, and whether that lobbyist may have then sent an email to an employee of Heights Securities approximately one hour prior to the rate announcement, causing a spike in stock trading.


According to that letter, Sutter may have modified his initial recollection of his discussions with the lobbyist after initially talking to FBI and Health and Human Service Office of Inspector General officials in early 2013.

October 6, 2014

Medicaid Scam In Michigan Takes $29 Million From Taxpayers

Health care providers defrauded Medicaid to the tune of $29 million dollars by coordinating with a day care center for mentally ill adults to steal patient information, the Washington Examiner reports.

Abdul Malik Al-Jumail and his daughter Jamella Al-Jumail created a series of fake health companies, and then collaborated closely with Felicar Williams, 51, who ran the day care center. Felicar would steal patient information, the Jumails would file false claims, and then provide kickbacks to Felicar. Many complex procedures for mental health were billed that were simply never provided.

Sometimes the Jumails would even fabricate entire medical records if necessary to gain reimbursement, showing how patients desperately needed treatment, and how their companies provided care. All three individuals involved are now in prison. The actual sentencing, however, hasn’t yet been scheduled. Two others, Mohammed Sadiq and Philandis Thomas, are charged in the indictment and scheduled for trial later this month. Another individual remains on the loose.

A 61-year-old psychiatrist, Carey Vigor, was also named in the indictment, but was later acquitted by the jury.

As the investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general (HHS-OIG) deepened and Malik Al-Jumail was promptly arrested, his daughter panicked and instructed an employee to burn the falsified medical records. In total, they siphoned off $29 million dollars in the scam.

However, since its inception in 2007, the HHS-OIG has worked closely with the Department of Justice and the FBI, among others. These agencies together work in the Medicare Fraud Task Force, and together, they have recuperated approximately $14.9 billion dollars. The task force has charged almost 2,000 individuals and operates in 9 cities across the United States.

With this recent case in mind, the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are joining with the HHS-OIG to further crackdown on fraud.

October 3, 2014

Special Agent and Whistleblower Vince Cefalu's Trial Against ATF For Retaliation Starts Monday

After eight years of constant government stonewalling and mistreatment, including an unexplained firing in a Denny's parking lot, Special Agent and whistleblower Vince Cefalu's trial against the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives for retaliation and unlawful termination is set to start Monday. 

In 2005, Cefalu exposed ATF corruption and illegal wiretapping. Prior to becoming a whistleblower, he put dozens of hard criminals in prison and received promotions in addition to consistently positive evaluations. In 2009, he launched the website CleanUpATF.org in order for agents within ATF to blow the whistle on corrupt behavior anonymously due to the agency's history of retaliation against those who "jump their chain of command." His website is where bloggers and news reporters first saw allegations of gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious. The site is heavily monitored by the Department of Justice.

In the February 2012 issue of Townhall Magazine, Cefalu detailed the ATF corruption leading up to Fast and Furious and his retaliation case from inside the bureau. When ATF managers fired him without explanation, again in a Denny's parking lot, the following was posted on CleanUpATF.org.
It's well-known that ATF management and their viciously corrupt counsel are, for the most part, brutally self-serving and mean-spirited. But this Cefalu termination is nevertheless surprising in its utter incomprehensibility under the circumstances, from purely legal and elemental federal labor law standpoints. If they had any prayer of making the action stick, they had to do it more than a year ago, before so many additional events have transpired that will render the termination plainly unlawful and inescapably untenable. It's just plain moronic no matter how you slice it.

It seems apparent that ATF's leadership at all levels has degenerated to a pathetic state of paroxysmal, shoot-from-the-hip incompetence. They can't even do the wrong thing right.
Cefalu's trial will take place in U.S. District Court Northern District of California in San Francisco.