March 31, 2012

Massive $17 Trillion Hole Found In Obamacare

Two years ago, when introducing then promptly enacting Obamacare, the president stated that healthcare law reform would not cost a penny over $1 trillion ($900 billion to be precise), and that it would not add ‘one dime’ to the debt. It appears that this estimate may have been slightly optimistic… by a factor of 1700%. Because coincident with the recent Supreme Court debacle, in which a constitutional law president may be about to find that his magnum opus law is, in fact, unconstitutional, someone actually read the whole thing cover to cover, instead of merely relying on the CBO’s, pardon Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs’, funding estimates. That someone is Republican Jeff Sessions who after actually running the numbers has uncovered that the true long-term funding gap is a mind-boggling $17 trillion, just a tad more than the original sub $1 trillion forecast. This latest revelation means that total underfunded US welfare liabilities: Medicare, Medicaid and social security now amount to $99 trillion! Add to this total US debt which in 2 months will be $16 trillion, and one can see why Japan, which is about to breach 1 quadrillion in total debt (yen, but who's counting), may want to start looking in the rearview mirror for up and comer competitors. And while Obama may have been taking creative license with a number that is greater than total US GDP, he was most certainly correct when saying that Obamacare would not add a penny to US debt. Because the second the US government comes to market to fund a true total debt/GDP ratio of 750%, it is game over, and the Fed will have its hands full selling Treasury puts every waking nanosecond to have any time left for the daily 3pm stock market ramp.

What is it that brought about this discovery of some inverse cash under the rug? The Daily Caller explains.

The hidden shortfall between new spending and new taxes was revealed just after Supreme Court justices grilled the law’s supporters about its compliance with the Constitution’s limits on government activity. If the court doesn’t strike down the law, it will force taxpayers find another $17 trillion to pay for the increased spending.

The $17 trillion in extra promises was revealed by an analysis of the law’s long-term requirements. The additional obligations, when combined with existing Medicare and Medicaid funding shortfalls, leaves taxpayers on the hook for an extra $82 trillion in health care obligations over the next 75 years.

Regular readers are well aware that when it comes to US insolvency, the underfunded American welfare state, whose obligations now amount to $100 trillion!, is the primary cause of this country's ultimate downfall. This latest revelation only makes it that much more certain, and likely, faster.

Currently, the Social Security system is $7 trillion in debt over the next 75 years, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Also, Medicare will eat up $38 trillion in future taxes, and Medicaid will consume another $2o trillion of the taxpayer’s wealth, according to estimates prepared by the actuarial office at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The short-term cost of the Obamacare law is $2.6 trillion, almost triple the $900 billion cost promised by Obama and his Democratic allies, said Sessions.

The extra $17 trillion gap was discovered by applying standard federal estimates and models to the law’s spending obligations, Sessions said.

For example, Session’s examination of the health care law’s “premium support” program shows a funding gap $12 billion wider that predicted.

The same review also showed the law added another $5 trillion in unfunded obligations for the Medicaid program.

Of course, that this "discovery" happened two years after the law was originally proposed and enacted merely once again confirms that other banana republics have nothing on the US, and that America continues to live in a state of sheer chaos when it comes to understanding that every use of funds must ultimately have a source as well.

Jeff Sessions' full presentation.

March 30, 2012

Fundraiser no stranger to finance inquiries

A key figure in the federal investigation into widespread campaign irregularities in Washington has twice faced misdemeanor criminal charges over election-law complaints in Maryland, records show.

Ralph B. Bazilio, a partner at a prominent Washington accounting firm raided last month by federal agents, was accused of failing to file campaign finance disclosures in 2006 for a political action committee called BizPAC, according to records on file with the District Court for Anne Arundel County.

The case was dropped after the committee paid thousands of dollars in fines and filed up-to-date campaign disclosures. It has since shut down.

The Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor filed an earlier campaign finance case against Mr. Bazilio, but the file was not available for inspection Thursday.

Since the March raid, Mr. Bazilio’s name largely has been overshadowed by that of his longtime accounting partner, Jeffrey E. Thompson, who founded Thompson Cobb Bazilio & Associates and who separately owns D.C. Chartered Health Plan, the city’s biggest Medicaid contractor.

While authorities are looking into Mr. Thompson’s political fundraising activities, Mr. Bazilio is a prodigious political donor in his own right. Like Mr. Thompson, he, too, was named in the federal subpoena sent to several D.C. lawmakers seeking records about political fundraising activities.

Mr. Bazilio, his wife and the accounting firm that bears his name have donated more than $45,000 over the years to politicians in Maryland, where Thompson Cobb Bazilio & Associates has won county and state auditing contracts. He also served on the transition team for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.

According to court records, Mr. Bazilio’s most recent legal problems in Maryland began in late 2006 when the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office charged him with failure to file 2006 campaign finance forms for BizPAC. Mr. Bazilio served as its treasurer.

A criminal summons issued in the case noted that an officer tried to serve the complaint on Mr. Bazilio but was unable to reach him. Court records list a Washington phone number that is the same as the one for Mr. Bazilio’s office in Washington, but phone and email messages left Thursday were not returned.

However, he told the Washington Informer newspaper this month that the federal investigation had nothing to do with the accounting firm’s clients.

The criminal charges against Mr. Bazilio were dropped after the political action committee paid nearly $4,000 in late fees and filed timely reports before shutting down in 2007.

Jared DeMarnis, director of the candidacy and campaign finance division for the Maryland State Board of Elections, said the board referred the case to prosecutors after BizPAC failed to file reports as required by state election law.

“The state prosecutor is our enforcement agency, and once they get the case they have complete carte blanche over its entire disposition at that point,” he said.

James Cabezas, chief investigator for the state prosecutor’s office, while not commenting on Mr. Bazilio’s case specifically, said such cases typically are filed against the treasurer or person legally responsible for a campaign committee.

“If reports aren’t filed timely, the Maryland Board of Elections starts sending out notices saying you have to file,” he said. “If they still don’t meet the requirements, the case gets referred to us, and we try to get them to file. If they’re still unresponsive, then we file criminal charges.”

At that point, Mr. Cabezas said, most campaign officials file the reports and pay fines and the case is dropped, which is what appears to have happened in Mr. Bazilio’s case, according to court records.

But according to online records from an earlier case, it wasn’t the first time Mr. Bazilio found himself in legal trouble over campaign finance issues.

The State Prosecutor’s Office filed another failure-to-file campaign finance report case against Mr. Bazilio in 2005, and the outcome appears the same. Court records in that case list an address for Mr. Bazilio in Washington, while the more-recent case lists an address in Bowie.

It’s unclear whether the earlier case stemmed from Mr. Bazilio’s role as treasurer of BizPAC, which despite the years of regulatory problems seems to have done little fundraising or donating to politicians. Both cases ended when prosecutors filed a “nolle prosequi” motion, which means they decided not to proceed.

March 29, 2012

“Drug Lords” Targeted in Fast & Furious Worked for FBI

In another significant embarrassment to the scandal-plagued Obama administration, newly released documents revealed that the supposed “drug lords” being targeted in the deadly federal “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation were actually working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) all along.

Thousands of American weapons were illegally offered to violent Mexican cartels by the Justice Department as part of the controversial program — many of them paid for by U.S. tax dollars through the two FBI assets supposedly being targeted in the investigation. Those guns were later linked to hundreds of murders, including the killings of U.S. federal agents.

The operation came to a screeching halt after it was exposed in Congress and the media by whistle-blowers from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (still known as ATF). The government responded to the scandal by claiming it was simply attempting to investigate Mexican cartels using a program that went tragically wrong.

But the facts paint a much different picture. According to documents obtained recently by the Los Angeles Times, the ATF zeroed in on a suspected gun trafficker named Manuel Fabian Celis-Acosta. He was detained in May of 2010, questioned, and eventually released after promising to cooperate with investigators seeking to track down two supposed “drug lords.”

Those two cartel chiefs, it turned out, were actually already on the FBI’s payroll. According to a source cited by Fox News, both of the men were considered "national security assets" who were "off limits” and “untouchable." The ATF apparently did not find out until mid-2010.

"This means the entire goal of Fast and Furious — to target these two individuals and bring them to justice — was a failure," noted Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif., pictured above) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who are investigating the scandal, in a memo to other members of Congress. ATF has refused to comment, citing ongoing investigations.

Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley also noted that the agency should have known the two supposed “targets” of the purported “investigation” were working for the FBI, blasting "the serious management failures that occurred throughout all levels during Fast and Furious." That would have allowed the deadly operation to be shut down before thousands of taxpayer-funded high-powered firearms were handed over to violent cartels.

A lawyer representing Celis-Acosta, the alleged gun runner who was arrested and released by the ATF, suspects that the various federal agencies involved in the scandal purposely withheld the critical information. "When one hand is not talking to the other, perhaps somebody is hiding something," attorney Adrian Fontes told the Times. "Was this intentional?"

Supporters of the Second Amendment had long suspected that the administration’s firearm-trafficking operation was aimed at demonizing gun rights and imposing more unconstitutional restrictions on Americans’ right to keep and bear arms. Official documents later confirmed those suspicions, revealing that the bloody fallout from the scheme was being used to advance more gun control.

More recently, analysts have pointed to scandalous video footage of Attorney General Eric Holder before he took over the Justice Department. In the speech, then-U.S. Attorney Holder proposes a massive tax-funded propaganda campaign to “brainwash” — in his words — America’s youth against gun rights.

His anti-gun campaign, however, appears to have backfired spectacularly. After bragging about the gun-running program in Mexico during a 2009 speech, Holder later claimed — under oath — that he had not heard of it until it was exposed in the media. He later admitted that was not true.

Since then, Holder has been caught lying repeatedly even as he lashed out at the media and investigators. Over 100 members of Congress are already calling for his resignation. And if he continues his efforts to cover up the Fast and Furious scandal, Rep. Issa has warned that he could be held in contempt.

Incredibly, after the latest public disclosures surrounding the two FBI “drug lords,” the Department of Justice vowed to break more federal laws by refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas. In a letter to Rep. Issa and Sen. Grassley, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich claimed their staffs were exposing the criminality to the public.

"While we do not know who provided these letters to reporters, we are deeply disturbed that the sensitive law-enforcement information contained in them has now entered the public realm," Weich wrote. "This public disclosure is impeding the department's efforts to hold individuals accountable for their illegal acts." He also said the Department would not be handing over any more information due to the purported “sensitivity” of supposed “ongoing operations.”

A spokesman for Rep. Issa, however, said the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would not put up with such lawlessness. "It is troubling that the attorney general continues to express the outlandish view that his compliance with lawful and binding subpoenas is merely optional," Issa spokeswoman Becca Watkins told CNN.

Issa’s Committee is also attempting to investigate a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) scheme to launder the profits of Mexican drug cartels. The Justice Department has so far refused to cooperate, but pressure is still growing after the New York Times blew the whistle on the program late last year.

And it is not just Congress that is growing weary of the administration’s antics. A recent survey of ATF agents reveals an extreme lack of trust in leadership. According to the study, less than half of those surveyed believed the agency’s senior leaders maintained high standards of honesty and integrity.

The Fast and Furious scandal — and the retaliation against brave whistleblowers who exposed the scheme — contributed to the dismal results. "The controversies plaguing ATF over the last year have weighed heavily on the morale of employees and their faith in senior leadership," ATF spokesman Drew Wade told Fox News. "Mistakes were made."

More than a few top drug bosses and even government agents have claimed the U.S. government is arming and protecting certain drug cartels. And as the administration continues to stonewall while top Justice officials plead the Fifth Amendment, public suspicion is only growing.

March 28, 2012

Barack Obama: I Have A "Moral Obligation" To Neuter America

Barack Obama actually plans to do it. He actually plans to neuter America by unilaterally dismantling most of the U.S. strategic nuclear arsenal. In fact, Barack Obama says that the United States has a "moral obligation" to disarm as we lead the way to "a world without nuclear weapons". Sadly, a "world without nuclear weapons" is a fantasy that will not be possible any time soon. Nuclear weapons technology is getting into more hands with each passing year, and geopolitical tensions are rising all over the globe. If the United States did not have nuclear weapons, anyone with just a handful of nukes would constitute a massive threat to our national security. An overwhelming strategic nuclear arsenal helps keep us safe because every other nation on the planet knows that it would be national suicide to attack us. If you take that overwhelming strategic nuclear arsenal away, the entire calculation changes.

Many out there claim that even if the U.S. only has a few hundred nuclear warheads that it will be more than enough to be an effective deterrent.

Sadly, that simply is not true.

If an enemy knows that we only have a few hundred warheads, and if they know exactly where those warheads are located for verification purposes, then a first strike which would take out the vast majority of our operational warheads becomes very plausible.

That is why what Obama wants to do is so incredibly dangerous. If he reduces our strategic nuclear arsenal down to almost nothing, the odds of a nuclear first strike against the United States someday go up dramatically.

The following is what Fox News reported that Obama said during a speech in South Korea the other day....

"American leadership has been essential to progress in a second area -- taking concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons," Obama said yesterday during a speech in Korea. "I believe the United States has a unique responsibility to act -- indeed, we have a moral obligation."

A moral obligation to do what?

A moral obligation to neuter America?

Obama also said the following in South Korea during his speech the other day....

"Even as we have more work to do, we can already say with confidence that we have more nuclear weapons than we need."
Is that really the case?

Back in 1967, the U.S. military had more than 31,000 strategic nuclear warheads.

The START Treaty that was agreed to back in 2010 will limit both the United States and Russia to a maximum of 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads. That represents a massive reduction from the height of the Cold War.

Unfortunately, that is not nearly good enough for Barack Obama.

Obama has instructed Pentagon leaders to draft a plan which would unilaterally reduce the number of strategic nuclear warheads in the U.S. arsenal by up to 80 percent.

The U.S. military may soon cut down to a level of only 300 warheads without requiring the Russians to make any additional cuts.

This is complete and utter madness!

Retired Air Force Lt. General Thomas McInerney shared his opinion of this disarmament plan with the Washington Free Beacon....

"No sane military leader would condone 300 to 400 warheads for an effective nuclear deterrent strategy"

Sadly, we do not appear to have sane people running things at this point.

In addition, the START Treaty did absolutely nothing to address the overwhelming superiority that Russia has in tactical nuclear weapons. Today, Russia has at least a 10 to 1 numerical advantage over us in tactical nukes.

By shifting the balance of power so dramatically, Barack Obama is making a nuclear attack on the United States someday far more likely.

And we have no idea how many nukes the Chinese have. They could have thousands. We have no nuclear weapons treaty with them and so they can build as many nukes as they want.

How in the world can we be so foolish?

But Obama doesn't just want to strip us of our nukes.

He also appears very willing to negotiate away our missile defenses.

On Monday, an exchange between Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev was caught by a microphone that was accidentally on.

The following is what was said during the exchange as recorded by ABC News....

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it’s important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.
Video of this exchange is posted below....


So essentially Obama is saying that he will be willing to negotiate away our missile defenses after the 2012 election when he won't be accountable to the American people any longer.

Get ready America.

You are about to be neutered.

Meanwhile, Russia and China are taking an approach that is 180 degrees in the other direction.

Russia has already been spending big money modernizing and updating the Russian military.

And now Vladimir Putin wants to take things to a whole new level. During the speech he made to formally launch his campaign to reclaim the Russian presidency, Vladimir Putin made the following statement....

"In the next five to 10 years we must take our armed forces to a qualitatively new level. Of course, this will require big spending .... but we must do this if we want to defend the dignity of our country"
We are also seeing nations in Asia really ramp up military spending. The following comes from a recent article posted on Business Insider....

Military analysts at IHS Jane's say that South-East Asian countries together increased defence spending by 13.5% last year, to $24.5 billion. The figure is projected to rise to $40 billion by 2016. According to SIPRI, arms deliveries to Malaysia jumped eightfold in 2005-09, compared with the previous five years. Indonesia's spending grew by 84% in that period.

It is part of a wider Asian phenomenon. For the first time, in modern history at least, Asia's military spending is poised to overtake Europe's, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think-tank in London. China is doubling its defence budget every five years and India has just announced a 17% rise in spending this year, to about $40 billion.
Both the Russians and the Chinese have much larger conventional military forces than we do. It has been our overwhelming advantage in strategic weaponry that has tilted the balance of power in our favor. But now Barack Obama wants to totally neuter us. A well-timed first strike at some point in the future could leave us as sitting ducks.

Most Americans don't ever think such a scenario could possibly happen.

Unfortunately, most Americans are dead wrong.

Right now, gun sales in the United States are absolutely skyrocketing. Someday those guns may be needed, but not for the reasons that most people think.

If we only have a handful of nukes, a limited first strike that takes out our nuclear weapons, our air bases, our naval bases, our electrical grid and our command and control capabilities could leave the United States wide open for a "Red Dawn" scenario.

The war and the starvation that would follow would result in the vast majority of Americans ending up dead.

That is why we need a strong strategic nuclear arsenal. Nobody ever wants to see a single strategic nuclear weapon be used. But we need them so that no other nation on the planet will ever dare nuke us.

Sadly, most people that will read this article will not understand it.

Most people that will read this article will choose to believe that a nuclear attack on America is absolutely impossible.

I wish that was true.

March 27, 2012

A Fistful of Euros

This week, my congressional committee will hold a hearing to examine how the Federal Reserve bails out European banks, propping up spendthrift European governments in the process. Unfortunately, this bailout comes at the expense of American citizens, in the form of higher prices and diminished savings down the road.

A good analysis of the Fed's "swap" scheme first appeared in the Wall Street Journal back in December, in an article by Gerald O'Driscoll entitled, "The Federal Reserve's Covert Bailout of Europe." Essentially, beginning late last year the Fed provided US dollars to the European Central Bank in exchange for Euros − sometimes as much as $100 billion at a time. The ECB then funneled those dollars to European banks to provide liquidity and prevent crises from bank insolvencies. Since the currency swap was not technically a loan, the Fed did not have to embarrass itself by openly showing foreign bank debt on its balance sheet. The ECB meanwhile did not have to print new euros and expose the true fragility of big European banks.

The entire purpose of this unholy arrangement was to obscure the truth: namely that the Fed was bailing out Europe with US dollars.

But why is it the business of the Federal Reserve to bail out European banks that find themselves short of dollars to pay their dollar-denominated contracts? After all, those contracts often were hedges taken to protect banks against weakness of the euro. Hedges are supposed to reduce risk, but banks that miscalculate should suffer their own losses accordingly. It's not our business if the ECB chooses to create moral hazards by providing liquidity to European banks, but why should the Fed prop up Europe's bad decisions!

The Fed has promised to provide unlimited amounts of dollars to the ECB, should circumstances require it. It boggles the mind. Of course, when Fed officials first entered into these swap agreements with the ECB last September, they did so quietly. The American public only found out via websites of the ECB, the Bank of England, or the Swiss Central Bank.

The Fed already has pumped trillions of dollars into the economy since 2008, and US banks currently hold $1.5 trillion of excess reserves. So why don't American banks lend those excess trillions to European banks if they really need dollars? If US banks could earn 1 or 2 percent on those loans, they might just be interested. But they can't compete with the ½ percent interest rate charged by the Fed to the ECB. That's one glaring example of the harm caused by the Fed's ability to create money and loan it at below-market interest rates.

The Fed argues that these loans will be temporary, merely providing a little boost to get Europe over the hump. But that's what they thought a few years ago when such lines of credit to the ECB were set to expire, only to see the Fed reauthorize them. What happens if the European financial system collapses? Will the Fed be left holding a bunch of worthless euros? Will the ECB simply shrug and turn over the collateral it received from European banks, maybe in the form of bonds from Ireland, Italy, or Greece? Have the 17 individual central banks backing the ECB pledged their gold holdings as collateral?

The Fed has placed a hundred-billion dollar bet on the future of the euro, with the strength of the dollar on the line. This is absolutely irresponsible, and directly contrary to market discipline. Let private banks, European or otherwise, take their own risks. Let foreign central banks inflate their own currencies and suffer the consequences. In other words, it's time to apply market principles to banks and money.

March 26, 2012

Senators, state AGs: ‘Backpage’ sex-trafficking ads enrich Village Voice Media

A spokesperson for Village Voice Media, the privately held media company that operates Backpage.com, complained about a ”one-sided demonization” of its Craigslist-like website on Thursday. The Daily Caller was asking whether its “adult” ad section contributes to the entrapment of women and teens in sex slavery.

According to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Backpage.com earns its parent company $22 million per year with an immense collection of online prostitution advertisements. The website, Kristof alleged, serves about 70 percent of all online prostitution advertisements in the nation.

Along with “buy/sell/trade” and “community” ads, Backpage maintains extensive ads for such categories as “escorts,” “body rubs,” “dom & fetish,” “ts” [transsexuals], “male escorts” and “adult jobs.”

Village Voice general counsel Liz McDougall told TheDC that “human trafficking online is not a Backpage.com-specific problem, and eliminating an adult category from Backpage.com would exasperate the problem, not contribute to a solution.”

According to The Polaris Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on ending slavery, an estimated 100,000 underage children are involved with sex trafficking each year in America.

Last fall Auburn Seminary executive vice president Rev. John Vaughn and his associates decided to target Backpage, alleging that it facilitates that same human trafficking.

“You can sell posters. You can sell cars. You can sell whatever, but [Backpage should] stop providing a platform that sells underage kids,” Vaughn told TheDC.

Vaughn and a large multi-faith group of clergy began a fight against Backpage with Groundswell, the seminary’s “social arm,” by sponsoring a petition on Change.org calling for the removal of the website’s adult section. The group also purchased a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.

On March 29, Backpage and all subscribers to Change.org will receive the 100,000 signatures calling for the removal of the adult section of Backpage. Currently, more than 99,800 signatures have been recorded.

“It became pretty clear to us … the use of Backpage.com as a platform to traffic underage girls and boys for sex,” said Vaughn.

In an August 2011 open letter to Backpage, attorneys general from 48 states pleaded with the company to close its adult ad section and remove itself from the trafficking scene.

The letter came along with a report citing “more than 50 instances, in 22 states over three years, of charges filed against those trafficking or attempting to traffic minors on Backpage.com.”

And 19 U.S. senators signed a March 23 letter addressed to Village Voice Media chairman and CEO Jim Larkin, saying, “there is only one option to keep our children safe from exploitation on your advertising network — shut down the adult services section of Backpage.com.”

But Backpage, which operates websites in 395 U.S. cities and towns, has responded strongly to allegations that it facilitates human trafficking, and continually refuses to shut down its adult ad section.

With the help of Change.org and organizations such as Fair Girls, which works globally to prevent sex trafficking and help its victims through their healing process, attention to Backpage’s practices is the highest it has ever been.

In the Times, Kristof wrote that charges were filed in a case revolving around a 15-year-old girl who was attacked by a gang in an empty house. They allegedly gave her drugs, tied her up and raped her.

The gang then advertised her on Backpage, he claimed, adding that after a week of forced sex, the girl escaped.

“Every month we continue to see these stories of young, underage girls being trafficked that have been used in traffic through Backpage,” said Vaughn.

When Craigslist shut down its adult section in 2010, Fair Girls co-founder and executive director Andrea Powell assumed that pimps would use the next biggest site, Backpage, for their trafficking.

If Backpage’s adult section is closed however, Powell told TheDC, there is no “heir apparent … or one-stop shop where everyone is going to go.”

“The benefit [of shutting down Backpage’s adult section] is knowing there will be less marketplace for pimps to sell their victims,” said Powell.

Backpage’s defense, according to the New York Post, is that it made 2,695 reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding ads on the site that they thought suspicious of sexual trafficking for children.

Many of those reports concerned ads that were submitted to Backpage but never published, said McDougall.

Vaughn is unimpressed.

“One child is too many,” he told TheDC. “There’s more than one that we’re seeing.”

March 25, 2012

Lawmakers faulted in Fast and Furious investigative leaks

The latest twist in the tug of war over Department of Justice documents central to the investigation of Operation Fast and Furious came Friday evening, when a top Justice official refused a congressional request for subpoenaed documents and blamed GOP lawmakers over the leaking of sensitive information.

In a letter to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich suggested that sensitive information relating to ongoing investigations is coming from their staffs.

Information from the documents appeared in news reports after it was shared with the lawmakers' staffs, he said.

"While we do not know who provided these letters to reporters, we are deeply disturbed that the sensitive law-enforcement information contained in them has now entered the public realm," Weich said. "This public disclosure is impeding the department's efforts to hold individuals accountable for their illegal acts."

The documents refer specifically to reports of investigation (ROI's) involving an active criminal investigation of a firearms trafficking ring, and to the prosecution of suspect Manuel Celis-Acosta, who awaits trial on felony counts, Weich said.

The Justice official said he was denying Issa's and Grassley's requests for additional documents because of the sensitivity of the ongoing operations.

The ongoing dispute over access to Justice documents stems from an aggressive investigation by Issa's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, with Grassley's help, into the origins and impact of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' Operation Fast and Furious. That sting operation allowed agents to monitor illegally purchased long guns in Arizona gun shops. The weapons bought by straw purchasers were then smuggled into Mexico. Hundreds of weapons were then lost, and two of them turned up at the homicide site of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

Attorney General Eric Holder has acknowledged the flawed tactic, and has vowed that guns will not be allowed "to walk" from gun shops near the border with Mexico.

Friday night, in response to the Justice Department letter refusing the documents, Issa spokeswoman Becca Watkins said, "It is troubling that the attorney general continues to express the outlandish view that his compliance with lawful and binding subpoenas is merely optional."

March 24, 2012

High-paying, scandal-plagued immigration racket

If you have the bucks and the right investment project that will create jobs, you can become a permanent resident of the United States. At least, that's the idea behind the EB-5 visa category. Foreign nationals with $500,000 to spend on a project here can gain entrance to the US and apply for a green card, along with their spouses and children (under age 21), as long as they invest in something that will create at least 10 full-time, continuing jobs.

Trouble is that the program is an abyssmal mess. Bloomberg News has a report highlighting cases of investors who came here expecting to be able to stay but are facing deportation because their investments went sour, they got taken for a ride and have lost their money and their legal right to be here.

Developers John Leung and Jean Lang "solicited $500,000 from a South Korean eager to win a resident visa" through the EB-5 program for a redevelopment project in California. But it wasn't to be. "The developers’ company went bust, the investor doesn’t have a green card and Transit Village didn’t produce any jobs in El Monte, a city of about 120,000 east of Los Angeles. Leung and Lang said they did nothing wrong. City officials said federal authorities didn’t do enough."

The story of EB-5 is much the same everywhere says David North. According to North's research "EB-5 has generated large numbers of financial disasters and scandals.... [including], among many others, bankrupt dairy farms in South Dakota, a questionable sewage treatment plant in the Mojave Desert, banned Iranian money proposed to refurbish Washington’s Watergate Hotel, and a bit of economic sleight of hand and Wall Street-area gerrymandering that made the front page of the New York Times."

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has been trying to promote this program and increase the number of visas issued. "The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness has called for the EB-5 program to be “radically” expanded to generate at least 40,000 jobs a year," reports Bloomberg. But the job number seems to have been calculated in fantasy land given the lack of previous job creation.

"Some claims about job generation are dubious, said Michael Gibson, a Tampa-based investment adviser who vets EB-5 deals for foreigners. When a project “substitutes EB-5 capital for more expensive bank financing or bond funding or even equity,” he said, “that isn’t really creating new economic activity. It’s margin for the developer.”

Just look at the new Brooklyn arena for the New Jersey Nets. "The Atlantic Yards developer, Forest City Ratner Cos., is borrowing $228 million in EB-5 money for a $1.4 billion infrastructure and arena fund that’s paying for a new subway entrance, parking facilities, municipal water and sewer line upgrades and other work in the vicinity of Barclays Center, according to Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for the company." But the foreign investors are claiming responsbility for all of the supposedly 8,000 permanent jobs that Atlantic Yards will create.

North also criticizes the notion that immigration officials are best suited to judge the likelihood that any proposed investment opportunity will yield jobs or value.

One final point: Giving visas to wealthy foreigners who can pay for the priviledge is actually not a bad idea (if the program were administered better), if the current immigration system made more room for other employment-based visas. Currently, only seven percent of all legal visas are labor-based and of those, almost none are for low-skilled or unskilled non-agricultural labor, such as the hot dog vendors, ticket-takers and janitors who will one day be working at the Atlantic Yards arena.

March 23, 2012

Lord Monckton: ‘I’m no birther,’ but Obama birth certificate ‘plainly a forgery’

On Dennis Miller’s radio show Thursday Lord Christopher Monckton, a former policy adviser to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and an activist against global warming “alarmism,” went all-in on questioning President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

Monckton, the 3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, hinted about his position on the issue in April 2010 at a tea party rally on the National Mall near the White House. But on Miller’s show, he said the birth certificate issue was far more important that combatting so-called anthropogenic global warming.

“I mean, hey you got a president who has a false birth certificate on the Internet, on the White House website,” Monckton said. “It’s not even clear where he was born. You’ve got a national debt which is rising into the stratosphere. You’ve got unemployment certainly here in California at 11 percent, 50 percent in the construction industry. These are real problems. You’ve got real environmental problems — overfishing, deforestation, pollution, not so much in the west but certainly in other countries. These are real problems which ought to be addressed. You’ve got poverty. You’ve got disease. These are again serious problems in Africa for instance, that we could be helping with. But no, we’re obsessed with making the rich even richer and making the absolute bankers richer still by going for global warming and cap-and-trade and other nonsenses of this kind.”

Miller protested by saying he disagreed with the suggestion that Obama has a fraudulent birth certificate. But Monckton dug in his heels.

“I don’t know whether he is Kenyan or not,” Monckton said. “The point is that if I were you, I would want to make absolutely sure that he was born here before allowing him to be elected. And the birth certificate that he put up on that website, I don’t know where he was born. But I do know that birth certificate isn’t genuine.”

Monckton firmly asserted that the birth certificate on the White House website wasn’t real, and claimed it could be dismantled with software.

“It appears in layers on the screen in such a way you can remove quite separately each of the individual dates,” Monckton said. “You use Adobe Illustrator and each of the individual dates is in its own separate layer. This thing has been fabricated. Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio of Arizona has had a team on this for six months. And he has now gone public and said there’s something very desperately wrong with this and of course nobody is saying anything because the entire electorate has been fooled.”

“I’m no birther, don’t get me wrong,” Monckton said. “I haven’t a clue where Obama was born and I wouldn’t want to entreat into the private grief behind investigating. But the point is, is what he has done on the White House website is he has put up a document which he is plainly a forgery and I would regard that as a very serious matter.”

March 22, 2012

Bernanke Fights Back Against a Gold Standard

Bernanke says gold standard wouldn't solve problems ... Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Tuesday took aim at proponents of the gold standard, saying that such a system handicaps the government's ability to address economic conditions. Bernanke spoke in the first of a series of four public lectures at George Washington University that is the central bank's latest effort to counter a raft of negative public sentiment that has arisen from its handling of the financial crisis. The former Princeton economics professor delivers a second lecture on Thursday and two more next week. – Reuters

Dominant Social Theme: Take your gold standard and shove it.

Free-Market Analysis: Ben Bernanke has come out forcefully against what may be seen as a burgeoning support for a monetary gold standard in the financial community and among the alternative media. This is newsworthy, because it begins to show what the power elite REALLY thinks about a gold standard.

The power elite that wants to create world government certainly does want a universal money. But, what it likely doesn't want is a money that is available to anyone who can dig it up.

We know this is anathema to the power elite because they spend considerable time and energy shutting the door to methodologies of money generation that are NOT controlled by them.

Whether it is Wall Street itself or a myriad of other monetary and financial activities, the elites make it difficult to generate capital in ways that are not supervised by their agents and enforcement officials whenever they can.

The elites do this via mercantilism, by controlling governments and creating laws that support their own enterprises at the expense of others. They then create support for these manipulations via dominant social themes.

These dominant social themes are fear-based promotions that frighten middle classes into giving up power and wealth to facilities that provide global governance. The goal of the elites seems to be a new world order with a new money and a universal government. There are indications that the elites wish to cull the larger human population dramatically as part of this evolution (see Georgia Guidestones).

While some in the alternative media community have claimed with increasing fervor that the elites DO want a universal gold standard, this has never been commensurate with the way the elites operate.

The powers-that-be have been fighting for fiat money (under their control) for centuries. Beginning with European and British central banking perhaps 500 years ago, the elites have been steadily moving away from commodity-based money and toward pure paper that is easy to print and easy to inflate.

The most significant movement to oppose the elites' affection for paper money has been the Austrian, free-market economic movement with its emphasis on "honest money" – a full-fledged, one-to-one gold standard.

In the past decade, however, as the Austrian movement has gained considerable popularity and clout, the preferred position on money seems to have evolved to one of monetary competition, which this modest paper (the Daily Bell) favors.

Money is what people make of it, and while we believe that societies at least in part would settle on some sort of private, fractional gold and silver standard, it is only through the free market itself (monetary competition) that a utile and useful monetary standard can be ascertained.

It is surely not the advantage of central banking generally to face monetary competition, as the only thing that keeps central banks in business is their monopoly control of money production.

Central banks – especially the Federal Reserve – are private in one sense and public in another. This is the way the elites work in fact. They use mercantilism, the conflation of private goals with public mandates, in order to cement control of society.

By ensuring their own goals and desires are enshrined into law, elites make their success mandatory and criminalize its failure. Thus, a private money-making machine like the Federal Reserve has been enshrined into law.

Congress passed an enabling act for the Fed in 1913 and subjects the Fed to considerable scrutiny while also controlling, along with the president, the appointment of its head. Without Congress, there IS no Fed, and this is true around the world. Everywhere you go, central banks have gained the willing or unwilling support of the governments they supposedly support.

Of course, in reality, central banks are apparently controlled by a handful of dynastic families that use the hundreds of trillions within their control to push the world toward global governance.

It is not in their best interest, of course, for these families and their enablers and associates to give up fiat money. At best, these families may wish to subject the world to an ARTIFICIAL gold standard controlled by THEM. But a free-market gold standard is not something that is in their interest.

We know this because the US itself was on a gold and silver standard once upon a time before the Civil War. Certain sophists and wily ones will make the argument that a gold standard especially is sought by the elites, but we know this is not true because the elites destabilized the US gold and silver standard and, in fact, fought a US war in the mid-1800s to implement paper money.

The argument is that the elites control all the gold (they don't) and therefore any gold standard will inevitably be controlled by them. But if this were truly the case, why did the elites evidently and obviously create a war (between the states) to implement paper money?

In fact, within the context of a private marketplace, it is impossible to sustain a monopoly. It is sophistry to maintain that people, freely trading, will support a monopoly not to their liking. The only way an elite can control the market for gold and exercise continued Money Power is via mercantilism and the continued control of government. A free market in gold and silver would deal death to their designs.

Money power fears terribly a free market in gold and silver. All their patiently hoarded metals would go for naught. They could spend every bit of it trying to manipulate fee markets and at the end would have nothing to show for it but an empty checkbook and frustrated connivances. For this reason, the "war between the states" was prosecuted. Money Power needed to regain control of money in the colonies.

Some will maintain that the war was about freeing the slaves, but anyone who looks closely at the historical record will likely come to the conclusion that the New York/European banking establishment was behind the Civil War and that its real goal was to minimize US exceptionalism and reduce the power of the republican experiment as regarded both free money and a free society.

The elites have been fighting FOR monopoly fiat money ever since. It is no coincidence that some 150 central banks now occupy most of the world's countries, when there were but a tiny handful 100 years ago. The elites have sought forcefully to emplace private/public central banks throughout the world and have succeeded in doing so.

It makes no sense, then, that the elites would now wish to revert to a free-market gold standard, much less to a gold and silver standard. Such gold and silver standards have been popular throughout history.

Common people can ascertain manipulation by checking the ratio between gold and silver. It's a good way to figure out the manipulations of a given power elite. It is not in the self-interest of central bankers to impose a credible, private market gold standard (or gold and silver) standard, and it is not surprising that Bernanke would come out against such an idea. Here's some more from the article excerpted above:

"Since the gold standard determines the money supply, there is not much scope for the central bank to use monetary policy to stabilize the economy," Bernanke said. "Under a gold standard, typically the money supply goes up and interest rates go down in a period of strong economic activity - so that's the reverse of what a central bank would normally do today."

Embodied by Texas congressman and Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, a loud minority advocates the closure of the central bank and a return to a gold standard where every dollar issued must be backed with equivalent reserves of precious metal.

Most economists credit the Fed for acting forcefully by lowering interest rates aggressively once it realized the magnitude of the 2007-2009 crisis. But policymakers, including Bernanke, have been chided for downplaying the housing downturn in its early stages and for turning a blind eye to flaws in the regulatory system that laid the groundwork for the boom and bust.

Some Fed critics argue that the central bank's ultra-easy monetary stance - it has held overnight interest rates near zero since late-2008 and has bought $2.3 trillion in bonds - is paving the way for future inflation.

In the above excerpt we can see the tremendous power that a central bank exercises through its monopoly manipulation of fiat money. Bernanke has "held" short rates near zero since 2007 while injecting trillions into the larger banking economy.

Of course this is nothing but a kind of price fixing. Bernanke is "fixing" the volume and price of money. In doing so, he is presiding over a tremendous wealth transfer from people who earn money to those who haven't earned it and likely won't handle it as well.

Central banking is nothing but price fixing, and price fixing never works. The dollar has depreciated some 95-99 percent since the inception of the Federal Reserve in 1913, and today, given that the Fed has injected literally tens of trillions more into the banking economy, it is very likely that the dollar reserve system is on its way out.

The power elite knows this, of course. The current growing, worldwide depression is of its own design and making as it is a direct result of central banking – the facility, worldwide, that prints too much causing first euphorias and booms and then busts.

The elites evidently and obviously want to supplant national currencies with one international one, perhaps the infamous SDRs supervised by the International Monetary Fund. But in doing so you can be sure the elites don't intend to let the markets themselves control money.

Bernanke would seem to be sending a clear message about that. However, we note that he seems to think he has to do so, and this is probably due to the success that educators like Congressman Ron Paul have had when it comes to money.

Fiat money, Greenbackerism and other inflation-oriented manipulations have been thoroughly vetted in the alternative media and no doubt these discussions have been examined at length by the powers-that-be.

Bernanke's caution about a private-market gold standard is a kind of warning squeak from the power elite that never deigned to address these issues before. That Bernanke, who works directly or indirectly for the top central banking families, has had to issue a statement on the subject is evidence that a great change in taking place in the historical monetary discussion.

Of course, as proponents of what we call the Internet Reformation, we are not surprised. We have long held that the Internet would focus attention on these previously abstruse issues and begin to undermine most if not all of the dominant social themes that the elites use to control people and move the world toward global governance.

Within this context, Bernanke's statements can be seen as further evidence that even the basic memes of the elite are under attack. They must be most uncomfortable now for Bernanke to make this statement.

They must, metaphorically, be making such statements between gritted teeth. It is NOT something they wish to do. They wish to treat monopoly fiat central banking as a GIVEN, something that is never to be commented because it is natural as breathing.

Only it is not. And the billions of words now expended on the subject of this illegitimate and destructive monetary system are likely, finally, having an effect on the powers-that-be. Not even the top powers of the world can keep an entirely illegitimate system in place.

There is, in fact, no place in the world for a system that allows a handful of people to print up to US$50 trillion on a whim to support their cronies while the rest of the world is struggling to get by on a dollar or two a day.

Since entering office in 2006, Bernanke has taken several steps to make the central bank more transparent, including holding quarterly news conferences and publishing policymakers' own projections for the path of interest rates.

This statement toward the end of the article profoundly misses the point, of course. The elites' staggering monetary manipulation has played out over the Internet in the past decade, and its profound IMMORALITY is public knowledge. More transparency is the LAST thing the system needs.

We have been arguing for a long time that many of elite memes are dying or dead thanks to the Internet and central banking may be chief among them. This squeak of agony from Bernanke is further proof that the top powers feel a need to protect central banking and to challenge its detractors.

The trouble is that central banking came in with assurances that it would modify monetary manias and ensure the system stayed solvent and steady for the benefit of the average person. As it has done none of that and has been exposed as horribly unjust and even genocidal system anyway, it is difficult to see how the elites intend to defend it going forward.

The alternative, in fact, is some sort of PUBLIC gold standard or global monetary standard controlled by the elites who have set up the current system. Bernanke's comments can also be seen as paving the way for a further evolution within the context of these parameters. But the LAST thing the elites want is a private gold standard or private money generally.

Ironically, unless they can gain significant control over the Internet, private monetary standards may indeed be in their future, which would jeopardize the entire program of global governance as their funding sources would dry up.

Conclusion: This will likely be the final battle of the Internet Reformation in our view – the struggle by the elites to move away from the failing and exposed central banking system toward another system ALSO controlled by them. Whether they can pull it off remains to be seen. The world's economy would seem to hang in the balance.

March 21, 2012

Eric Holder is at war with gun owners' rights

This week we've seen confirmation that the National Rifle Association has been right all along about President Obama's choice for attorney general to lead the Department of Justice.

Taken with Eric Holder's arguments at the Supreme Court, and Operation Fast and Furious, the picture emerges of an inveterate opponent of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

When Holder was U.S. attorney for D.C. in 1995, he gave a speech to the Woman's National Democratic Club about firearms. He shockingly argued that "what we need to do is change the way in which people think about guns, especially young people, and make it something that's not cool, that it's not acceptable, it's not hip to carry a gun anymore, in the way in which we changed our attitude about cigarettes."

Holder added that he asked the District of Columbia's "school board to make a part of every day, some kind of anti-violence, anti-gun message. Every day, every school, at every level ... We need to do this every day of the week, and just really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way."

This video -- first aired in 1995 on C-Span2 -- was unearthed by Breitbart.com, posted by editor-in-chief Joel Pollak (the same guy who annihilated Soledad O'Brien on CNN recently).

By the way, it's encouraging evidence that before he passed away, Andrew Breitbart built an operation and assembled a team of capable researchers and reporters to realize his vision of exposing the Far Left, packaging material in a user-friendly fashion.

Someone might suggest that Holder is only going after inner-city youth violence involving guns, but those suggestions fall flat. Holder says not a single word acknowledging that over 80 million American gun owners possess guns for self-defense or other lawful purposes, or that 20 million of them use firearms for hunting.

Instead Holder expresses absolute opposition to private gun ownership. By saying we need to change the way "people think about guns, especially young people," that means older people, too.

It also means people outside the city of Washington. He wants a daily "anti-gun message" to "brainwash" people to think of gun ownership like "cigarettes," as unhealthy and undesirable. Those are his words in context in a full-length video, not anyone's spin.

This video reinforces Holder's argument to the Supreme Court in 2008 in a new light. In D.C. v. Heller, Holder joined a brief arguing that the Second Amendment "right of the people to keep and bear arms" does not apply whatsoever to private citizens.

Holder's brief argued that the Second Amendment only concerns state governments equipping their National Guard units, and therefore that a nationwide ban on gun ownership would not violate the Constitution.

Add to this the still-unfolding scandal of Operation Fast and Furious, where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives -- part of Holder's DOJ -- was allowing guns into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.

This, while Holder's anti-gun political allies argued that the fact that those cartels had American guns means that we need new and harsher federal gun-control laws (which Holder would be in charge of enforcing and prosecuting).

Together, this video, the Heller case, and the gun-running scandal paint a picture of a liberal anti-gun activist, who rejects the plain meaning of the Second Amendment, and who relentlessly explores new ways to limit firearm ownership and turn public opinion against gun owners.

We don't need Holder brainwashing our children to despise the Second Amendment, or for that matter any part of the Bill of Rights to our Constitution.

What we do need is a U.S. attorney general who reveres the Constitution that he is sworn to uphold.

March 20, 2012

Group urges DOJ to investigate taxpayer funds used to lobby for higher taxes

A government accountability group is calling on the Department of Justice to investigate the use of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention money to lobby state and local officials for higher soda and tobacco taxes through the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant program.

According to Cause of Action, a nonprofit advocacy group, there have been a number of grantees who have been using taxpayer money through the CPPW grant program to lobby local officials without oversight and despite prohibitions on such activity.

“For example, in March of 2010, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) received a $15 million CPPW grant for obesity prevention,” the group wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. “A PDPH presentation, bearing a CPPW grant logo, noted that the Department planned to use CPPW monies to ‘[i]nitiate, enforce, and evaluate supportive policy and regulatory initiatives’ and to ‘implement a two-cent per ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Philadelphia.’” (RELATED: FoodPolitik: Want to live forever? Tax everything)

Cause of Action says they have found 20 instances of this type of lobbying. The group sent letters to the grantees who have used their funds to lobby in February and a letter to HHS requesting the agency look into the lobbying efforts this past October.

“The administration has been stonewalling attempts at transparency and accountability on how it is using taxpayer dollars,” Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein told TheDC. “Cause of Action sent a request to the Department of Health and Human Services months ago regarding the Communities Putting Prevention to Work grants that has gone unanswered, which is why we have now asked the DOJ to take a serious look at how the CDC grants were used by their recipients.”

Earlier this month, Kentucky Republican Reps. Ed Whitfield and Brett Guthrie sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting clarification on her understanding of the regulations governing lobbying with taxpayer funding.

Sebelius had testified before the the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health that she knew of such lobbying efforts, but that they were not prohibited because they were occurring at a local level.

March 18, 2012

Internal White House emails reveal deep concern, embarrassment over Solyndra

Less than one year after President Barack Obama touted his administration’s $535 million loan guarantee for green energy company Solyndra during his State of the Union address, embarrassed White House officials wanted nothing to do with the company, newly released internal emails reveal.

The emails, which are part of the administration’s seventh document dump in response to congressional subpoenas, show just how little faith the White House had in the former green tech darling — weeks before the Department of Energy restructured the failing company’s loan to ensure it tens of millions of dollars in additional financing.

In May 2010, the president said that “companies like Solyndra” are the “true engine of economic growth.” In his State of the Union address earlier that year, the president referred to the company as a veritable stimulus darling, a “California business that will put a thousand people to work making solar panels.”

But White House communications officials didn’t even want the president seen near Solyndra executives during the 2011 State of the Union address.

“Can’t do Solyndra … they’ve run into some issues recently. ,” Daniella Gibbs L├ęger, director of White House message events, wrote in a Jan. 5, 2011 email, according to Politico.

And an administration official told Politico on Friday that the idea of seating Solyndra executives near the president “didn’t even make it to any sort of serious consideration.”

But there were signs within months of the president’s public praise for the company that Solyndra was in trouble.

On Dec. 8, 2010, White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner and a colleague lamented Solyndra’s future.

“You hear solyndra is in a severe liquidity crises and we areent likely given next doe loan? Banner week,” Heather Zichal wrote. Browner replied, “Yep. Ugh.”

Solyndra wasn’t just raising red flags among staffers at the White House communications department.

In December 2009, top Obama economic adviser Larry Summers wrote to an investor tied to Solyndra that “gov is a crappy vc [venture capitalist] and if u were closer to it you’d feel more strongly.”

Still, just months after these internal White House emails were sent, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Federal Financing Bank reported that, despite Solyndra’s apparent problems, the company had secured an interest rate on its loan that was dramatically lower than the interest rates on the loans assigned to several other comparable green energy projects.

And, even though Solyndra was such a taboo topic in the White House that lower-level communications personnel reacted to the mere mention of the company with a sad-faced emoticon, the Department of Energy agreed to restructure the company’s loan to allow for $75 million in additional financing.

George Kaiser, a billionaire who raised over $50,000 for Obama during the 2008 campaign, was one of Solyndra’s biggest investors. Several Solyndra shareholders had made sizable donations to the Obama campaign.

Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September 2011 and laid off virtually all of its employees. Solyndra’s offices have since been raided by the FBI, and the company is under investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Treasury Department.

March 17, 2012

Friday document dump: Holder’s DOJ releases more on ‘Fast and Furious’

In what has become a pattern, Attorney General Eric Holder dumped more documents related to Operation Fast and Furious on congressional investigators late Friday.

Terry Frieden of CNN reported that Holder coughed up “hundred of pages” of documents. Assuming that means Holder did not produce more than 1,000 documents, the Justice Department is still far from compliance with lawful congressional subpoenas.

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has subpoenaed 80,000 pages of documents concerning Fast and Furious. Holder has only provided about 7,000 pages. He has, however, given all 80,000 to his internal investigator — DOJ’s Office of Inspector General.

Issa has laid the groundwork to hold Holder in contempt of Congress in the near future if he doesn’t comply with the subpoenas.

Frieden also reported that few of the documents Holder dumped on Congress are actually related to Fast and Furious.

“Most of the documents deal with a 2007 operation involving Fidel Hernandez, who the ATF believed would be prosecuted for gun violations in Mexico by Mexican authorities,” Frieden wrote.

According to congressional Democrats on the House oversight committee, in the “Hernandez case” ATF agents, working with Mexican police, planned to track illegal weapons as they left the United States all the way to their final destination. But Mexican police reported they never saw the vehicle that ATF agents had followed to the border. (RELATED: Full coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)

March 16, 2012

US Court Allows Edwards to Hire Mistress's Lawyers

Former presidential candidate John Edwards got his wish Thursday and is changing his defense team ahead of his criminal trial on charges of campaign finance violations, hiring the same attorneys who once helped his mistress in a lawsuit over the couple's alleged sex tape.

The former U.S. senator from North Carolina testified under oath that he understood a jury might puzzle over the fact that lawyers Alan Duncan and Allison Van Laningham would be representing him after previously representing his mistress, Rielle Hunter.

Edwards faces charges that he broke federal campaign finance laws, allegedly using nearly $1 million from two wealthy donors to hide the pregnant mistress and prevent a scandal from erupting as he campaigned for the White House in 2008. He has pleaded not guilty.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Eagles told Edwards that shaking up his defense team was likely causing him stress, something the former senator's doctor said in a private letter to the judge Edwards should avoid to protect his health. The judge asked Edwards whether he was taking any narcotics or other medications that might fog his judgment before trial.

"I'm taking a bunch of medication. No narcotics, to answer that question," said Edwards, who appeared sharp and relaxed. "If I have memory problems, they're not because of the medicine."

Edwards was a successful trial attorney before winning a U.S. Senate seat in his first political campaign, becoming the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee and then running for the White House in 2007 and 2008. But he gave no immediate reason for hiring the lawyers as his trial is scheduled to open in Eagles' courtroom on April 12.

Federal prosecutors said they've made no final decisions, but chances are good they will call Hunter as a witness at the trial. Hunter was given immunity from prosecution for her testimony to a grand jury in 2009. Prosecutors handed Eagles a copy of the immunity deal Thursday, which the judge scanned and noted the government "didn't agree not to prosecute" on all issues.

Based on what Hunter has told them so far, prosecutors said in a recent court filing they expect she will testify that Edwards was aware of funds that were provided as part of what they said was a scheme designed to conceal their affair and the pregnancy from the media and the public. They also said she indicated that Edwards was aware of and condoned the role of many of the participants in the alleged scheme.

Duncan and Van Laningham represented Hunter in her lawsuit against former Edwards aide Andrew Young. That case ended last month with a settlement that ordered all copies of the alleged sex tape destroyed.

Duncan and Van Laningham have not represented Hunter on criminal issues linked to the Edwards case. Hunter signed a waiver dropping any objections to Edwards hiring the new lawyers, Van Laningham said.

Eagles decided that if the government calls Hunter to testify, defense cross-examination would have to be handled by other Edwards attorneys.

"It just minimizes the possibility that a former relationship is discussed in front of the jury," the judge said. "I want to be sure we don't have any problems at trial," the judge said.

Earlier, federal prosecutor Robert Higdon raised questions about whether Duncan and Van Laningham would have divided loyalties if testimony from Hunter and Edwards conflicted, or whether they could use insider knowledge of Hunter.

Prosecutors previously alleged that another Edwards defense lawyer, Abbe Lowell, had a potential conflict of interest because he had previously represented Fred Baron, a former Edwards campaign finance chairman. Baron has since died, but Lowell had also represented his wife, Lisa Blue, last year before a grand jury investigating Edwards.

Eagles ruled Lowell could remain on the defense team but could not cross examine Blue if she is called to the witness stand.

Eagles on Thursday allowed well-known Charlotte defense lawyer Jim Cooney to withdraw from Edwards' defense team.

Edwards' defense team has seen significant turnover since his arrest in June.

Former White House Counsel Gregory Craig and former Associate White House Counsel Cliff Sloan, who began representing Edwards in March 2010, resigned in August. Raleigh defense lawyer Wade Smith withdrew in October after federal prosecutors suggested he had a conflict of interest because he might be called to testify about a 2009 conversation he had with a financial adviser for Bunny Mellon. Authorities say the 101-year-old socialite provided much of the money used to support Hunter.

March 15, 2012

Times nixes anti-Islam ad, runs anti-Catholic ad

Executives at The New York Times have rejected a full-page anti-Islam advertisement that mimicked a controversial anti-Catholic advertisement they published on March 9.

According to a Mar. 13 letter sent by the Times to the ad’s sponsor, anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller, the $39,000 anti-Islam ad was rejected because “the fallout from running this ad now could put U.S. troops and/or civilians in the [Afghan] region in danger.”


Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, accused the Times of having a double standard and told The Daily Caller that The Time’s was based on “either [anti-Catholic] bigotry or fear [of Islamic violence], and they’ve painted themselves into that corner.”

Donohue said the frequent claims of intellectual honesty by Times employees would compel them to address the double standard if they weren’t “shameless.”

TheDC asked Robert Christie, the Times’ senior vice-president for corporate communications, if the Times’ decision is a surrender to violence and also an incentive for additional threats of violence.

However, Christie declined to discuss the paper’s decision, and referred TheDC to the letter sent by the Times to Geller and her organization, Stop the Islamization of Nations.

The Times’ letter included a commitment to “consider the ad … for publication in a few months,” and the claim that “we publish this type of advertising, even those we disagree with, because we believe in the First Amendment.”

Geller scoffed at the Times’ conditional commitment. She told TheDC she believes the Times will never publish a criticism of Sharia, or Islamic law, because “when is it ever a good time to blaspheme under the Sharia?”

On multiple occasions since the 1980s, Islamist groups have murdered fellow Muslims and non-Muslims following Western criticism of Sharia, Islamic texts, or even the Western production of cartoons about Islamic violence.

At least two U.S.-based Muslims have been jailed for threatening American media professionals who produced criticism of Sharia. In 2010, a U.S. cartoonist, Molly Norris, went into hiding to evade threatened Islamist attacks.

In February, groups of Afghans — reportedly led by Taliban-aligned Imams angry at the burning of Korans by American soldiers — spurred street riots that killed roughly 24 Muslim Afghans.

When the Times ran an anti-Catholic ad produced by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, however, no one was attacked.

That ad called on Catholics to quit their religion, and asked “why send your children to parochial schools to be indoctrinated into the next generation of obedient donors and voters? Can It you see how misplaced your loyalty is after two decades of sex scandals involving preying priests, church complicity, collusion and cover-up going all the way to the top…Join ‘those of us who put humanity above dogma.”

According to Donahue, “no rational person can maintain there is anything but injustice” in the Times’s decision to run the anti-Catholic ad but not Gellar’s anti-Islam one.

Geller designed her anti-sharia ad to mimic the Mar. 9 anti-Catholic ad in appearance, tone, structure and words.

For example, Geller’s ad called on Muslims to quit their religion, and asked “Why put up with an institution that dehumanizes women and non-Muslims … [do] you keep identifying with the ideology that threatens liberty for women and menaces freedom by slaughtering, oppressing and subjugating non-Muslims… Join those of us who put humanity above the vengeful, hateful and violent teachings of Islam’s ‘prophet.’”

Geller’s mimicry also included a paragraph that asks Muslims to “think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly a the door of Islam’s antiquated doctrine that commands jihad and genocide.”

That passage replicates a paragraph from the Time’s anti-Catholic ad, that declared “think of the acute misery I poverty I needless suffering I unwanted pregnancies I overpopulation, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of your church’s pernicious doctrine that birth control’ is a sin and must be outlawed.”

The co-director of the anti-Catholic group, Annie Laurie Gaylor, declined to comment to TheDC.

March 14, 2012

Congress must decide if it or the president declares war

Last week, in a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., asked Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, "do you think you can act without Congress to initiate a no-fly zone in Syria?"

Panetta -- a former congressman -- bobbed, weaved, and waffled: "Our goal would be to seek international permission and we would ... come to the Congress and inform you and determine how best to approach this ...."

That answer would be "breathtaking to the average American," Sessions declared: you're going to seek "international permission" and then maybe you'll tell Congress what you're doing?

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., apparently found it "breathtaking" as well. On Wednesday, he launched a preemptive strike of his own, in the form of a resolution "expressing the sense of Congress that the use of offensive military force by a president without prior and clear authorization of an Act of Congress constitutes an impeachable high crime and misdemeanor under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution."

Is unauthorized war-making an impeachable offense? Certainly. As Hamilton explains in "The Federalist," the impeachment power serves as "an essential check in the hands of that body upon encroachments of the executive," aimed at "those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust."

Given the many abuses of public trust committed by presidents over two centuries of constitutional history, isn't it surprising we've only had two and a half presidential impeachments?

(For those keeping score at home. that's Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton and Richard M. Nixon -- who resigned before the articles of impeachment were put before the full House.) Any way you look at it, that's far too few.

In fact, Congress considered impeaching Nixon for waging war without authority. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., drafted an article of impeachment based on the secret bombing of Cambodia, charging Nixon with violating his oath of office by ordering "the concealment from the Congress of the facts ... concerning the existence, scope and nature of American bombing operations in Cambodia in derogation of the power of the Congress to declare war."

That charge did not make it into the final articles of impeachment, which is too bad. As the House Judiciary Committee's William Hungate, D-Mo., put it at the time: "It's kind of hard to live with yourself when you impeach a guy for tapping telephones and not for making war without authorization."

Alas, Rep. Conyers, who has tried to impeach three Republican presidents for unauthorized war-making, stayed silent in 1999 when Bill Clinton ignored three congressional votes denying him authority to wage war in Kosovo. For Conyers and too many others, illegal wars are OK as long as you like the president who is waging the war.

You can't fairly accuse Jones of similar constitutional hypocrisy. Jones rose to national attention in 2003, when, in a fit of pique over France's refusal to back the Iraq War, he ordered the House cafeteria to rename french fries "Freedom Fries."

But his doubts about the war grew: "I did not vote my conscience and I sent kids to die, and they didn't have to go," he said later. In 2007, Jones tried to set things right by introducing the constitutional War Powers Resolution, which would limit the president to defensive uses of force.

You may look at Jones as a Don Quixote tilting at windmills with a flaccid lance. I see him as somebody armed with a more powerful weapon, the Constitution, and I think he's making an important point: The impeachment power is there for a reason.

March 13, 2012

Surprise! Obama has a secret plan to deal with a catastrophic U.S. debt crisis. Here’s what might be in it

This is a stunner. In the new book The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery, journalist Noam Scheiber uncovers this tantalizing tidbit:

In May 2009, the president asked [White House budget director Peter Orszag] to draft a secret memo laying out the government’s options in the event of a fiscal crisis, in which a runaway deficit sent interest rates spiraling upward. No other member of the Obama economic team was even aware of the assignment.

OK, let’s take this step by step:

1. The Obama administration has already conceded it has no long-term plan to deal with rising U.S. debt, driven for the most part by social insurance spending. Testifying before the House Budget Committee recently, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Chairman Paul Ryan the following: “We’re not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to that long-term problem. What we do know is we don’t like yours.” Even Obama’s ten-year plan doesn’t keep the debt burden from increasing.

2. Yet, apparently, the White House does have a secret plan to deal with a sudden debt crisis. So instead of developing a long-term plan to avoid the worst-case scenario, it has chosen to plan for the worst-case scenario. (This will certainly be a shock to liberal economists like Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong who insist a debt crisis, as evidenced by the current low level of interest rates, is highly unlikely. In fact, they say, we should be borrowing more to boost the economy.)

3. Then there’s this possibility: Maybe the crisis plan is the long-term plan. Maybe it’s something like this: a) do nothing; b) keep implementing the Obama healthcare and environmental agenda; c) wait for markets to finally freak out over rising U.S. debt; d) break the glass and grab the 2009 Orszag plan.

4. And what exactly is in the Orszag memo? Well, as they say in Washington, personnel is policy. Here’s what we know about Orszag, who now works for Citigroup. He thinks America is undertaxed. Elsewhere in Escape Artists, Scheiber writes that “[Orszag] believed the only practical way to balance the budget was to repeal all the Bush tax cuts, not just the upper-income variety.” That is a $4.5 trillion tax hike right off the bat.

And here is Orszag just last month:

… to significantly reduce the deficit over the next decade, additional revenue will be needed. The administration’s budget proposal projects revenue to reach 20 percent of gross domestic product by 2022, about 1 percentage point of GDP more than what is projected with no policy change. The administration deserves credit for proposing even that, given the antipathy to any tax increases. But in the end more revenue will be needed. And since the administration’s budget probably shows the outer limit of what’s plausible in terms of taxing high-income households, the implication is that middle-income households will have to pay more, too.

And how to best tax the middle class? Like most left-of-center economists, Orszag loves the idea of a VAT:

Although hardly anyone wants to admit it, we’re not going to solve our budget problem over the next decade unless revenue is part of the equation. … One possibility would be to establish a new source of revenue, perhaps through revenue-increasing tax reform, and possibly including a modest value-added tax (that is, a V.A.T. of 5 percent to 6 percent). This approach has many potential benefits, including the opportunity to improve our tax code by cutting back on loopholes and shifting toward a consumption-based tax system.

So I think it’s reasonable to assume that the secret Obama-Orszag memo contains some options on massively raising taxes to send markets a signal that the United States is getting its fiscal house in order, ASAP.

Orszag, when he worked for Obama, was also the guy behind the creation of Obamacare’s Independent Medicare Payment Advisory Board. Starting in 2015, IPAB will have the power to making binding recommendations to cut Medicare provider payments if Medicare costs rise too quickly. As Orszag has put it: “This could well turn out to be as consequential for health policy as Federal Reserve policy was for monetary policy. The commission will put its proposals forward and if Congress does not act on them, or if it votes them down and the president then vetoes that bill, they will automatically take effect. Huge change.”

So perhaps the plan recommends giving the powerful IPAB technocrats even more power, not to just limit Medicare spending, but all healthcare spending in the age of Obamacare, public and private. In effect, use IPAB to fully nationalize U.S. healthcare and then ration care, as they do in the U.K., to reduce spending.

But again, this is all just speculation. Mr. President, how are you going to deal with a debt crisis? What’s in the Orszag memo?

March 12, 2012

Team Obama hires lobbyist again, ethics be damned

Revolving-door lobbyist Steve Ricchetti, Vice President Biden's new top aide, exemplifies President Obama's farcical crackdown on lobbyists. Ricchetti and his K Street firm also embody another core trait of this administration: using big government and populist rhetoric to enrich politically connected companies.

Bailout recipients like General Motors and Fannie Mae have retained Ricchetti Inc. for lobbying, as have Obamacare beneficiaries like the American Hospital Association and drug companies. But the most illustrative example of Ricchetti's lobbying -- and how it melds perfectly with the Obama administration's governing -- was his campaign to save the death tax.

Ricchetti founded the Coalition for America's Priorities in 2005 and began a print and broadcast campaign in favor of preserving the estate tax, which Republicans were trying to permanently abolish.

The ads featured a Paris Hilton look-alike gushing over estate tax repeal. This helped frame the Democrats' attacks on pro-repeal Republicans.

"There is a big moral dimension," Ricchetti sermonized to the Christian Science Monitor in 2006, with lofty appeals to "basic fairness and equity" and "hard work."

Media outlets covering this pro-death-tax campaign typically described Ricchetti as "co-chair of the Coalition for America's Priorities," and a former Clinton White House aide -- omitting that he was a corporate lobbyist being paid to save the death tax by the life-insurance industry.

Life insurers profit from the death tax by selling estate-planning products. Also, life-insurance payouts, unlike inheritances, are not taxed.

The Association for Advanced Life Underwriting is a multimillion-dollar-a-year Washington lobby shop for the life insurance industry, and it was one of Ricchetti's big funders in his push to preserve the death tax.

Top AALU lobbyist Marc Cadin gushed about Ricchetti's efforts at a life-insurance trade conference in 2007. "[C]oming up with what's dubbed the 'Paris Hilton tax cut' was sure political genius," National Underwriter quoted Cadin as saying. "It provided [political cover] for politicians who want to be in the reform camp."

The Ricchetti family's "moral" crusade to save the life-insurance industry's favorite tax goes back to 1999 when Steve's brother Jeff was a lobbyist at the Podesta Group, the lobbying firm started by John Podesta, who was Obama's White House transition director. Jeff Ricchetti lobbied for the death tax on behalf of the American Council of Life Insurers, according to lobbying filings.

In 2001, Jeff and Steve formed Ricchetti Incorporated, with ACLI as an original client -- and death-tax preservation as part of its portfolio. Today, Ricchetti Inc. represents both ACLI and AALU, and is still fighting to save the estate tax, lobbying filings show.

Given the Obama administration's ample record of corporatist policies and populist rhetoric, Biden's hiring of Steve Ricchetti as "counselor" is fitting. But what about Obama's supposed "lobbyist ban"?

Candidate Obama said lobbyists "won't work in my White House," and he issued executive orders barring lobbyists in his administration from doing administration work in their old lobbying issue areas or involving their old clients.

Ricchetti's firm, within the past few months, has represented the American Bankers Association, multiple drug companies, the American Hospital Association, military contracting giant United Technologies, and the life insurers. The firm's issue areas, according to disclosure forms, include budget, energy, defense, banking, labor, and health care. What sort of counsel could Steve Ricchetti provide Biden while avoiding the issues that his firm is currently lobbying or recently lobbied?

No worries, the Obama White House explains, because Steve Ricchetti deregistered as a lobbyist in the fourth quarter of 2008, when Obama was elected. Sure, he still owned a lobbying firm last month, and his brother is still a registered lobbyist, but Obama's revolving-door regulations go back only two years.

Lobbyists are required by law to register if they spend 20 percent or more of their time on lobbying activities, but the Obama administration has not visibly enforced this requirement, as dozens of lobbyists have deregistered to evade the administration's rules on donors, bundlers, and hires.

So Steve Ricchetti can help craft laws and regulations affecting the banking, pharmaceutical, and life-insurance clients of his lobbying firm, and Obama's ethics rules say nothing about it. As a bonus, Ricchetti Inc.'s newest lobbyist is Jay Heimbach, Obama's former congressional liaison.

This is ethics, Obama-style: play the same revolving-door self-dealing game as every other politician, but compound the dishonesty by pretending to be above it all.

March 11, 2012

Abramoff Scandal Secrets: Tribal Confrontation Sparks Journalist Mystery

A hot guessing game is being played in the Washington journalism and political worlds these days after a tribal lobbyist got disgraced super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff to admit that he’d tried to buy-off some mainstream journalists inside the Beltway.

The allegation was made at the National Press Club on the evening of March 5 where Abramoff, who went to prison for 3 ½ years for defrauding tribes of millions of dollars during his time as a lobbyist in the late-1990s and early 2000s, joined a panel discussion on campaign finance reform. Moderators set the stage early for a possible confrontation, telling the packed audience that some tribal leaders were in attendance, including Rick Hill, former chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association and the Oneida Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, and Jay St. Goddard, chairman of the MT-WY Tribal Leaders Council.

Anyone hoping to see Abramoff receive a smack-down from the tribal leaders was disappointed—but one tribal lobbyist did land a punch, by highlighting Abramoff’s current and past coziness with the mainstream media. Tom Rodgers, a Blackfeet lobbyist with Carlyle Consulting, patiently waited for his turn during the question-and-answer part of the program, and when he finally got the microphone, Rodgers framed his query by noting that Abramoff had once said a bevy of racist things about his former Indian clients. E-mails uncovered during the U.S. Senate investigation of Abramoff led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in the mid-2000s showed he had referred to his Native American clients as “retards,” “morons,” “monkeys,” “idiots” and “troglodytes.” Abramoff and his associate Michael Scanlon, Rodgers pointed out, also made an offer to the Tigua Tribe to take out life insurance policies out on elder Indians, wanting to use those pay-outs to help fund some of their corrupt lobbying activities.

Instead of requesting an apology from Abramoff, Rodgers surprised the crowd by asking if the former lobbyist and his team had tried to buy or bribe any mainstream reporters to write favorably about his operations. It had already been detailed in 2005 by Bloomberg and other news outlets that Abramoff’s firm paid to influence op-ed writers, and he confirmed that in his response to Rodgers’ question: “To try to get our clients’ stories out, we would go to writers—mainly think-tank folks—to write op-ed pieces and try to get our op-ed pieces placed to promote our side.”

When Rodgers asked Abramoff if he had bribed any mainstream reporters currently working in D.C., Abramoff seemed to be caught off-guard. “Mainstream reporters? I don’t remember, but I’m not saying there couldn’t have been. I mean, my mindset in those days—if I could’ve gotten a mainstream reporter [then] 100 percent I would’ve done that, as unfortunate as that is.

“Early in my lobbying career, I tried to put together an effort to either start a new Washington newspaper, or to make a run at either trying to buy The Hill or Roll Call.”

This answer drew a few gasps from the audience, but the more important reaction came later. After the event, tribal officials planned to reach out to Pablo Carrillo, McCain’s chief investigative counsel, to see if there are more e-mails that were once classified as part of the earlier Abramoff investigation that could shed light on this bit of intrigue.

This still unfolding situation is just the latest example of the press’ strange new relationship with Abramoff as he reincarnates himself as a campaign finance reformer.

“The mainstream press built [Abramoff] up starting in July 2000 with a glowing piece in The Wall Street Journal,” Rodgers said in an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network the day after the National Press Club event. Jim VandeHei, current executive editor of Politico, the political news operation based in Arlington, Virginia, wrote the Journal piece Rodgers was referring to, Rain Dance, Mississippi’s Choctaw Find an Unlikely Ally In a GOP Stalwart, on July 3, 2000. An interesting tidbit about VandeHei is that his wife, Autumn Hanna VandeHei, is a former Tom DeLay, R-Texas, staffer. Two former aides to DeLay were implicated in the Abramoff scandal, and DeLay himself was investigated for six years.

In more recent times, Politico has offered several friendly post-prison Abramoff pieces, including a quip-filled video featuring one of its reporters golfing with the former lobbyist.

Rodgers said he asked his questions of Abramoff at the Press Club event because he and many Natives are disgusted by the mainstream media’s current treatment of Abramoff as a poster boy for campaign finance reform. Many mainstream journalists have become unlikely bedfellows with Abramoff during his forgiveness tour, including Dylan Ratigan at liberal cable outlet MSNBC, and have promoted his current reform shtick. Even the skeptical liberal Washington Post opinionista Dana Milbank wrote recently that Abramoff makes a “better case for reforms than the liberal activists ever could” after attending a February event featuring the disgraced lobbyist.

Tucker Carlson, publisher of the conservative Beltway political website The Daily Caller, hosted a party at his posh Northwest D.C. home in November in Abramoff’s honor with many Washington elite media-types on the guest-list. Politico covered the event, and talked about the mutual adoration between Carlson and Abramoff. “There is a decency that emanates from him despite all of the accounts,” Carlson said about Abramoff.” I have experienced it personally and I think it’s real and I’m willing to vouch for that. So I’m impressed with anybody in Washington who exudes that level of kindness to other people.”

Last month came word that Abramoff was hired by United Republic, a nonprofit electoral reform group, to blog about the sins of his past, and his ideas for improving American campaign finance laws. His new boss there, Nick Penniman, a former journalist with The Washington Monthly and The Huffington Post Investigative Fund, sat on that National Press Club panel with him, and eagerly touted him as a reformer.

“It has been abusive how the mainstream media has sought to resurrect and give him a platform on the backs of Native Americans,” Rodgers said. Meanwhile, Abramoff’s past sins against Indians are getting less and less ink, and he’s ducking interviews with the Indian press, including ICTMN. Rodgers said he was initially asked to sit on the Press Club panel due to his role in uncovering Abramoff’s crimes, but Abramoff said he would not sit on a panel with him, so the invitation was withdrawn.

In turn, Rodgers decided to confront Abramoff from the audience, while the handful of tribal leaders and Indian advocates stared down Abramoff from the front row throughout his 90 minutes on-stage—about two-thirds of which was devoted to question-and-answer—but they did not ask him any questions.

“To do what he did, he had to dehumanize us,” Rodgers said, noting that he had helped assemble the tribal attendees for the Press Club event. “And it must be hard for him to confront that.”

Abramoff, responding to concerns raised by Rodgers, issued the following statement to The Hill, published March 7: “From the advent of the scandal which ended my lobbying career, I reached out to as many of my clients as possible to offer my profound apology for anything I did which was either illegal, wrong or offensive. I continue to express my heartfelt and sincere apology to my friends, family and clients — including my Indian tribal government clients — for anything I did that caused any harm to them.” This followed another statement he made to the El Paso, Texas, Times in December when he apologized to the Tigua Tribe for cheating it out of $4.2 million.

To date, Abramoff has not met with tribal citizens, and some Indians, including Rodgers, have deemed his words hollow.

A sincere apology to Indians, Rodgers said, would involve volunteering on a reservation to help improve the lives of Indians. But when getting that is dependent on the vigilance of a mainstream press that is increasingly cozy with Abramoff, that resolution seems all too far away.

March 10, 2012

Emails show White House kept in loop in USDA decision to oust Shirley Sherrod in 2010

White House officials were in close contact with the Agriculture Department in the hours leading up to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s decision to fire USDA employee Shirley Sherrod in 2010, according to nearly 2,000 pages of internal emails released by the administration.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act don’t contradict Vilsack’s assertion that he made the decision to oust Sherrod as the department’s director of rural development in Georgia after an edited video of her making supposed racist remarks surfaced on a conservative website.

But they do show the White House and Agriculture Department officials were sharing information and advice from the first minutes after the scandal began to emerge until Sherrod submitted a resignation hours later at the request of a senior USDA official.

USDA officials asked Sherrod, who is black, to resign after the original video emerged. Once it became clear a day later that Sherrod’s speech was about racial reconciliation, not division, Vilsack apologized and asked her to return to the department — an offer she declined. President Barack Obama also offered an apology after her ouster created a racial firestorm.

Agriculture Department officials exchanged more than two dozen e-mails with their White House counterparts as the story began to hit conservative websites and later Fox News the afternoon and evening of July 19, 2010. The video — posted on the website BigGovernment.com, run by the late Andrew Breitbart — showed Sherrod saying she was initially reluctant to help a white farmer more than two decades earlier.

USDA director of communications Chris Mather sent the White House press office a heads-up email describing the video.

“She goes on to make it a larger case about understanding race .... but looks bad. (Fox News host Bill) O’Reilly just called us for statement,” Mather says in the email.

White House spokesman Reid Cherlin, responds, asking Mather in an email what USDA is going to say about the matter, “and has she been fired? I’ll alert folks here.”

Mather answers, telling Cherlin that Sherrod had been placed on administrative leave. “I guess some folks over there are circling wagons,” Mather says, referring to the White House.

At the same time, Valerie Green of the White House presidential personnel office was emailing the USDA’s White House liaison, Kevin Washo, asking him to loop her in, “Please. Please. Please.”

Washo emails back to her, “I tried calling you.”

In a separate email exchange with Green, Washo asked for records the White House might have on Sherrod, who was a political appointee. Green says she is working on it. Washo replies: “Let me know what counsel says so we can be decisive on this.”

In a later email, Green says, “I still think we need the rest of the speech if we can get it.”

Despite those concerns, USDA officials extracted the resignation from Sherrod that evening. In an email, she offered her resignation but put the Obama administration “on notice that I will get the whole story out.” The next day, Sherrod appeared on numerous television news programs, saying she was unfairly asked to leave.

The email exchanges confirm what White House and Agriculture Department officials acknowledged in background interviews in the weeks after the incident — that the White House was more involved in the immediate response to the video of Sherrod’s remarks than officials initially let on. Several emails detail White House and USDA calls to members of Congress, civil rights groups and Vilsack the night Sherrod was fired.

No one stepped in to stop Vilsack from telling his subordinates to get Sherrod to resign. But it’s clear that the White House kept itself in the loop on the decision to oust her.

“We’re good with this version on this end. Counsel has cleared the language,” White House cabinet communications director Tom Gavin said in an email to the Agriculture Department’s Mather after Mather sent him Vilsack’s initial statement on Sherrod’s firing.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday repeated the administration’s statement that the decision to oust Sherrod was USDA’s alone.

“The emails confirm what we said at the time, which is that the White House had no involvement in the decision made regarding Ms. Sherrod’s employment, her firing, but were made aware of the decision that had been made by the Department of Agriculture,” Carney said.

Many of the newly released emails are blacked out, citing laws that allow the government to withhold information that shows the “deliberative process.” Others concerning Sherrod’s personnel records also are blacked out. The Agriculture Department released an earlier batch of emails in October 2010.

Sherrod has a defamation lawsuit pending in federal court against Breitbart, who died unexpectedly last week. She also sued one of Breitbart’s colleagues and an unidentified defendant who she says gave Breitbart the video. Breitbart was trying to get the suit dismissed when he died.