August 31, 2012

Ron Paul delegates still protesting on RNC’s final night

Late on the final day of the Republican National Convention, a group of 100 delegates pledged to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, and disgruntled tea party activists, huddled together for a hastily organized and at times barely audible press conference to protest — one last time – their treatment by the GOP.

Just hours before Mitt Romney was scheduled to accept the presidential nomination, the delegates held big yellow signs saying “grassroots” while reporters struggled to take it all in. The group was angry about new RNC rules “that diminish the importance of grassroots Republicans” and charge that a “legitimately filed minority report was ignored and was not presented to the body for consideration.”

Many of them also wanted additional “duly elected” Paul delegates seated and the Texas congressman’s name placed in nomination.

“We were railroaded,” asserted Mark Anthony Jones, a delegate from Missouri. “This is the shot heard ’round the world.”

But Jones said he has been a Republican for years and he isn’t going to change. “We are absolutely not leaving this party!” he exclaimed. “This is my party!”

The protesters alleged that GOP leaders changed the rules to consolidate power and prevent future bottom-up candidacies like Paul’s from gaining momentum. Defenders of the new rules claim it will prevent small but super-organized cliques inside the party from exerting influence beyond their numbers.

“We are enthusiastic about removing Barack Obama from office,” said a statement issued at the press conference, “but we are concerned that the actions of some in the Party leadership are jeopardizing our opportunity to get this done.”

August 30, 2012

FORUM: Rep. Issa, defend the federal whistleblowers

The General Services Administration junket to Las Vegas and the escalating "Fast and Furious" scandal have one key thing in common: they would not have come to light without the efforts of whistleblowers within the government.

Study after study shows that whistleblowers are our best defense for detecting waste, fraud and abuse. But the system that protects federal workers who can help to fix our government is broken.

Rep. Darrell Issa, of California's 49th district, has led the way in advancing legislation to resolve these flaws. However, taxpayers need his help to make certain federal whistleblowers don't end up with another system that does not properly protect them.

The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (House Resolution 3289/Senate Bill 743) was passed by the Senate unanimously earlier this year, and Issa's bill is awaiting action in the House of Representatives. The legislation includes many excellent policies to stand behind taxpayers and whistleblowers, but the access to court provisions must be improved if it's really going to function effectively. Every private-sector whistleblower protection law passed by Congress in the last decade includes a right to a jury trial and normal appeals process, which the current bill fails to include.

Legitimate federal whistleblowers ought to be allowed to have their day in court like everybody else. The current legislation has too many traps for a whistleblower who might pursue such an avenue: bench, not jury trials, a burden of proof that gives the upper hand to the government and makes more difficult than current law for a legitimate whistleblower to prove retaliation, and appeals that would only go to one inside-the-Beltway-court. Instead, whistleblowers must be allowed to appeal in their own districts.

The executive branch must not have the last say or the upper hand in deciding whether or not its own political appointees suppressed information of relevance to taxpayers.

If Issa wants federal workers to bravely stand up to government misdeeds, he should make sure they at least have the same legal shields as private sector whistleblowers and everyday citizens.

And as the original sponsor of HR 3289, he is in an ideal position to do so. Indeed, if the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee he chairs is to continue serving as a top-notch investigative body, equipped with the best possible information from whistleblowers, passage of a strong HR 3289 with solid court access provisions is imperative.

Now, more than ever, we need comprehensive whistleblower legislation to protect those who protect taxpayers.

August 29, 2012

MSNBC cuts every speech made by a minority from RNC speech coverage

MSNBC wants you to think the Republican Party hates minorities. So much so that the liberal news network cut minority speeches from it’s convention coverage.

When popular Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz, the GOP nominee for Senate, took the stage, MSNBC cut away from the Republican National Convention and the Hispanic Republican from Texas’ speech.

MSNBC stayed on commercial through former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis’ speech, as well. Davis, who recently became a Republican, is black.

Then, when Puerto Rican Governor Luis Fortuno’s wife Luce’ Vela Fortuño took the stage minutes later, MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews opted to talk over the First Lady’s speech.

And Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval? Noticeably missing from MSNBC, too.

Mia Love, a black candidate for Congress in Utah, was also ignored by MSNBC.

Will MSNBC conveniently manage not to show Governor Luis Fortuno’s speech tomorrow (Wednesday night) as well?

Former Secretary of State and prominent black conservative Condoleezza Rice is also slated to speak at tomorrow night’s convention.

August 28, 2012

Investigator who cleared Obama in scandal is his campaign donor

The financial institution executive who was in charge of the “independent probe" that ended up absolving the Obama Administration for wasting billions of taxpayers' dollars spent on green energy schemes was neither bi-partisan or non-partisan, but a big contributor to the Obama reelection campaign, according to a report by a Washington, D.C., public-interest group that investigates corruption.

According to a report on Friday, Herbert Allison’s role as a special investigator of the Department of Energy's stimulus-funded loan program that is sparking curiosity. Not long after Allison determined that billions in taxpayer dollars invested in Obama-favored “green” technology companies were at nominal risk, "he made campaign donations -- big ones -- to the Democratic National Committee and the president’s re-election efforts," officials at the National Legal and Policy Center claim.

In addition, according to officials at Judicial Watch, this situation raises doubts about the integrity of Wall Street maven Allison's investigation, "which centered on nearly $3 billion in loans that the Obama Department of Energy (DOE) doled out for experimental alternative energy projects."

Among the loans was an alleged fly-by-night California company named Solyndra, that was bankrolled by another Obama donor and fundraiser (bundler) George Kaiser, wasted more than half a billion dollars before finally going bankrupt.

In early 2012, a federal audit confirmed that “serious concerns” expressed by U.S. Treasury officials involving the risky $535 million Solyndra infusion were ignored as the deal was fast-tracked by top White House officials.

As a result, Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against the Department of Energy to obtain records regarding the Solyndra loan because "the administration has blown off a public records request that dates back to early September 2011."

The Treasury Department Inspector General's report, “Consultation on Solyndra Loan Guarantee Was Rushed,” revealed that Department of Energy cut out the Treasury Department officials from issues regarding Solyndra, ignoring the agency’s advice and limiting its opportunity to review the high-priced, high-risk financing of what critics called "an Obama green pipe dream."

Incredibly, the so-called in-depth investigation that is now known to have been conducted by Obama’s donor found no wrongdoing on the part of the administration.

"The donor/watchdog scandal was uncovered this week by a mainstream media outlet, which in and of itself is incredible considering the love fest that exists between most news organizations and the commander-in-chief. Puff pieces dominate coverage of the administration -- in major newspapers as well as television networks -- so this is a rare treat," stated the Judicial Watch blog entry.

The veteran Wall Street executive Herbert Allison, who was handpicked by the Obama administration to investigate the Obama administration's disastrous green energy loan losses, contributed $52,000 to re-elect Obama in the months after he completed the in-depth probe.

It’s all documented in federal campaign records reviewed by the national wire service that broke the story. The cash started pouring in just two weeks after Allison testified before Congress about his report, which exonerated the administration and was heavily touted by the White House.

"It started with a $2,500 donation to the Obama campaign in late March, the story reveals. In May he plopped down another $15,000 for the Obama Victory Fund, a joint group that supports the president’s reelection and the Democratic National Committee. In the following two months, Allison generously deposited another $40,000 into the coffers of the Obama/DNC account. In the news story he defends the integrity of his probe and assures he did not make the decision to back a presidential candidate until after his work was finished," according to the National Legal and Policy Center.

According to Allison's thumbnail bio, he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability of the United States having been confirmed by the Senate on June 19, 2009. He left the Treasury Department in September 2010. As part of his duties he also oversaw the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the $700 billion fund to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions in order to strengthen the financial sector of the economy.

August 27, 2012

Obamacare and the vanishing medical miracle

Obamacare is an imminent threat to people with life-threatening medical conditions.

People with serious medical conditions often achieve miraculous results in the U.S. thanks to a private health care system that gives them the freedom to track down and go to doctors with the right knowledge and experience. These people, who have the greatest and most urgent health care needs, will be stymied by Obamacare’s new layers of bureaucracy. Instead of swiftly obtaining the right diagnosis and treatment, they will lose precious time submitting forms and filing appeals.

As every physician knows, it’s important to arrive at a correct diagnosis as soon as possible because medical conditions are most treatable in their early stages.

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal illustrates the point. “Facing Lifesaving Heart Surgery, Twice” bemoans the plight of people who had heart surgery as children only to experience further heart problems as adults. Doctors were often baffled because their hearts had been reconfigured during childhood. In some cases, the best course of action proved to be going back to the pediatric hospitals and surgeons who performed the original operations. This is possible in a private health care system because patients are correctly viewed as customers. Under Obamacare — a system that perceives people with serious medical conditions as financial burdens to a government already deeply in hock — these patients are more likely to find themselves boxed in by rules designed to contain costs.

People with serious medical conditions quickly discover that there are three key components to effective medical care. The first is a timely and accurate diagnosis. Getting the right diagnosis may require not just a second opinion, but a third and a fourth. The second component is a complete list of treatment options. Multiple opinions and options require the free flow of information that only a competitive health care marketplace can deliver.

The final component is the freedom for patients to choose what they judge to be the best course of treatment. Patients and their families are best qualified to make these decisions because they are the ones most directly affected. Under Obamacare, it’s presumed that government officials are better qualified to make these decisions, and it’s a safe bet that they will be instructed to weigh each patient’s anticipated future contributions to society against the long-term costs of keeping that patient alive.

President Obama made it clear that this is exactly where we are headed when he said, “Maybe you are better off not having the surgery, but taking the painkiller.” He was doubtlessly thinking ahead to a time when the cost to government will take precedence over what’s best for the individual. Government-run health care is the most cold-hearted health care. For example, the U.K.’s National Health Service denies kidney dialysis to patients over the age of 55 just to save money.

Another way that Obamacare will hurt people with life-threatening medical conditions is by stifling innovation. Today, the U.S. has more CT scanners, PET scanners and MRI machines than any other country. And as the country that pioneered implantable cardio-defibrillators, the heart-lung machine and robotic surgery, the U.S. offers more and better treatment options. Thanks to our private health care system, entrepreneurs are free to develop powerful new solutions, and if government ever gets out of the way they will be free to drive down costs. In stark contrast, public health care systems start by constraining costs; most innovative solutions never get off the launching pad.

It’s understandable that people with life-threatening conditions are attracted to government programs such as Obamacare. Many of these people feel they have twice lost life’s lottery: first by having a medical condition they did not ask for, and second by being saddled with extraordinary health care expenses.

Unfortunately, Obamacare provides only false security. Subsidized or even free care is of no value if it doesn’t provide the right diagnosis and the right treatment at the right time. Nor does it help to encumber hospitals, doctors and patients with massive new regulations. The only way to reduce the cost of health care while maintaining or improving quality is to permit and encourage vigorous competition.

Give the patients who consume the most health care the freedom to shop for services and make their own buying decisions and they will help drive down prices for everyone else.

August 24, 2012

FBI, Homeland Security warn of anarchist chaos at political conventions

A joint FBI-Homeland Security bulletin warns that extremists could be planning to incite chaos at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Wednesday’s bulletin, titled “Potential For Violent or Criminal Action By Anarchist Extremists During The 2012 National Political Conventions,” warns that anarchists who “see both parties as the problem” could employ weapons like acid-filled eggs and Molotov cocktails to block roads and disable transit systems during the conventions, Fox News reports.

It is unlikely, however, that their methods will be able to overcome heightened security surrounding the conventions, the notice added.

The Republican National Convention is set to take place in Tampa, Fla. next week. Democrats will hold their event in Charlotte, N.C. the first week of September.

Tampa police announced Tuesday that they had found bricks and pipes on an area rooftop emblazoned with the “anarchist” anonymous symbol.

“Finding those items for us was not a surprise,” Police Chief Jane Castor said, according to WTVT-TV FOX 13. “We are just pleased to see the communications process worked the way it did.”

While there are concerns about violence, authorities expect most protesters to be peaceful.

“We have said all along that the vast majority of individuals coming to the Tampa Bay area to demonstrate will do so peacefully, but there is no doubt that there is a small percentage that will come bent on destruction and disruption, and those are the individuals that we will deal with very quickly,” Castor told Fox News on Tuesday.

Fox added that the Secret Service has designated each convention a “National Special Security Event” which requires federal, state and local law enforcement to coordinate their efforts.

August 23, 2012

Government joins false claims suit against Gallup

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it has joined a lawsuit against The Gallup Organization alleging the polling company filed false claims on contracts with the U.S. Mint, the State Department and other government agencies.

A fired Gallup employee who became a whistle-blower, Michael Lindley, alleges in the lawsuit that he discovered shortly after going to work for the polling company that it had engaged in widespread fraud against the government.

Honored as "Rookie of the Year" at Gallup in 2009, Lindley says he was fired six months later when he told colleagues that if the company didn't report overbilling practices to the government, Lindley would do so himself.

His lawsuit, filed nearly three years ago and unsealed Wednesday in federal court, says Gallup routinely submitted inflated cost estimates which enabled the company to reap huge profits from its government business.

In addition to its polling work, Gallup provides consulting services to government, corporate and other clients around the world.

The Justice Department said it was stepping into the case with respect to Gallup's contracts with the Mint and the State Department.

In response, Gallup general counsel Steve O'Brien said, "We believe that the allegations and the legal theory that the Justice Department is using are entirely meritless."

O'Brien said the work involved fixed-price contracts that were all competitively bid and paid for as agreed. Now, said O'Brien, the government is saying "the price should have been something else."

O'Brien is among those named in Lindley's lawsuit. According to Lindley, when he asked O'Brien why he had been fired, O'Brien said "When you start talking about going to the Department of Justice, I don't trust you anymore."

On Wednesday, O'Brien called Lindley's assertion "a total and complete fabrication."

According to Lindley's lawsuit, on a $2 million-a-year sole-source contract with the Mint, Gallup inflated the number of hours required to complete the work, usually by a multiple of two or three times the number justified by historical experience. Gallup was hired to conduct market research for the sale of newly issued coins.

The State Department work involved the U.S. Passport Agency. During negotiations on a $25 million sole-source contract, Gallup allegedly submitted detailed budgets with vastly inflated hours on the time to complete the work for the agency. Gallup was hired to conduct surveys to predict the level of passport applications stemming from changes in border laws governing travel to Mexico and Canada.

Separately, Lindley alleges that Gallup exercised undue influence over the award process on a $15 million contract with the Army's Joint Contracting Command in Iraq.

The lawsuit says Gallup actually wrote the request for proposal that the Army's contracting officer issued. Gallup wrote the proposal so the contract could be awarded only to a company with characteristics that were unique to Gallup, according to Lindley's allegations.

In a $10 million contract with a Health and Human Services Department agency, Gallup allegedly shifted costs from some of its fixed-price government contracts to a cost-plus contract with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In a $2 million-a-year contract with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a Gallup executive allegedly submitted inflated estimates of the hours required to complete various tasks, inflating the contract price.

August 22, 2012

Insurers banking on Obamacare

The big guys get bigger. The industry consolidates. Competition diminishes.

Obamacare is doing just what big-government intervention typically does.

Bloomberg reports:

Aetna Inc. (AET), the third-biggest U.S. health plan, agreed to buy Coventry Health Care Inc. (CVH) for $5.6 billion, in the latest bid by an insurer to boost government business under President Barack Obama’s health overhaul.

Aetna joins competitors WellPoint Inc. (WLP) and Cigna Corp. (CI) in making acquisitions over the past year as the U.S. government expands medical coverage. The purchase means 30 percent of Aetna’s revenue will come from federal-backed plans for elderly Medicare enrollees and low-income Medicaid patients, compared with the current 23 percent. Aetna’s reach in the markets for small businesses and individuals will also grow….

Here’s the key part:

“Scale matters now,” said Coventry CEO Allen Wise. “Our senior management board and board thought it was in the best interest of our shareholders, that we were stronger together than apart.”

As government gets bigger, business has to get bigger or die. Ira Stoll explained the health-insurers’ great stock performance back in February.

being one of just a few vendors of a product that the government is going to force every American to buy isn’t such a bad business to be in. That’s especially so given the high barriers to entry, both regulatory and capital, facing anyone trying to start a new health insurance company. If anything, the share prices are an affirmation not of the Republican criticism that ObamaCare would kill the insurance companies, but of the left-wing Democratic criticism that the bill was a government giveaway that would enrich the insurance companies.

Footnote: Obama is easily the biggest recipient of health-insurer money this election, and most of the big insurers have outperform

August 21, 2012

Obama “Green Energy” Scandals Widen as Lawmakers Probe Deeper

The Obama administration and its Energy Department are under fire over controversial “green energy” schemes yet again, with Republican lawmakers alleging on August 15 that senior officials may have violated federal law by attempting to conceal records using private e-mail accounts. Last week, the House Oversight Committee also requested more information from President Obama about his personal involvement in funneling billions of taxpayer dollars to politically connected companies such as Solyndra that later failed.

In a letter sent on August 8, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and two other senior GOP members of Congress said they had acquired documents that sparked serious concerns over potential cronyism. They asked Obama to explain the extent of his participation in the scandal, as well as to detail his knowledge of decisions made by White House officials that resulted in gargantuan losses to taxpayers.

“The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has obtained documents which raise questions about how your interactions with business leaders at political events affected decisions to give billions of taxpayer dollars in loan guarantees to green energy companies through the Department of Energy’s ('DOE') 1705 Loan Guarantee Program,” wrote Issa and Subcommittee Chairmen Jim Jordan and Trey Gowdy Jordan in their letter to President Obama. The loan program in question was used to shower the American people’s money on assorted well-connected firms, many of which are now bankrupt.

Lawmakers are asking the administration to provide documents and information to congressional investigators probing an assortment of green-energy scandals — including a “full explanation” of Obama’s involvement. Republicans are also seeking to uncover details of any discussions the president may have had about energy projects at “political” events.

“The failure of several companies that received loans under the program, including Solyndra’s August 2011 bankruptcy, led to the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds,” the letter states. “The newly-obtained documents show that senior members of the administration were aware of substantial risks to taxpayers and objected to the way the funds were being distributed. They were overruled.”

According to the letter, more than a few senior officials within the administration advised against making many of the risky loans to “green” companies. E-mails cited in the document suggest Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, former Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Jacob Lew, and National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling — Obama's top economic advisors — were all opposed to some elements of the Energy Department's failed schemes.

DOE Secretary Steven Chu, however, apparently “defeated” the opposition and handed out the vast sums of taxpayer money under highly unfavorable and possibly unlawful terms anyway. “The American people have a right to know who adjudicated that dispute and what factors led to that decision,” lawmakers said in the letter to Obama asking for more documents.

Another e-mail cited by lawmakers was from DOE Chief of Staff Brandon Hurlbut. In June of 2011, Hurlbut wrote to Secretary Chu that President Obama regularly hears about the loan guarantee program "because at official events and political events he interacts with business community and Congressional members — many of them have some affiliation or interest in the numerous [loan guarantee] applications [DOE has] received that involve substantial funds.”

That message, as well as Chu’s response to it, appears to contradict past statements by the Obama administration indicating that all DOE loans were made within the department based solely on their merits. Other e-mails also suggest that bad decisions may have been rushed due to political pressure on particular projects that were “important” to the president.

"The American people have a right to know the level of involvement you and other senior White House officials had in the loan guarantee program," the letter concludes. Lawmakers asked that President Obama hand over a broad array of documents related to the scheme. Also requested was a list of all individuals he met with at political events where the projects were discussed, as well as a list of loan guarantees discussed there. The deadline is August 21.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Chu and other senior DOE officials have come under renewed congressional scrutiny. Lawmakers sent a letter demanding that Chu "clarify" apparently false testimony by him and subordinates about efforts to unlawfully conceal evidence and documents from investigators.

The department must also admit whether or not officials knew investors in companies receiving taxpayer funds. Despite DOE officials testifying that they did not know the investors, newly acquired documents show they did — including top Obama ally and Solyndra investor George Kaiser. White House involvement in the controversial loan debacle also featured prominently in the letter.

“Recently obtained documents show DOE officials frequently used Yahoo! and Gmail to communicate about the loan guarantee program,” lawmakers said in the letter to Chu. “This use of non-government e-mail accounts for official business may have violated the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Federal Records Act (FRA). The documents also show that testimony given to the Committee by current and former DOE officials, including you, was inaccurate, and may have been intentionally false.”

According to the letter, the House Oversight Committee obtained thousands of pages worth of documents detailing official business being conducted through private e-mail accounts. More than a dozen DOE officials were involved, as were senior White House staffers. In other words, federal employees — supposedly public servants — may have been deliberately breaking the law in an effort to keep certain official communications out of the reach of Congress and the public by using outside e-mail services.

“These e-mails show DOE officials routinely using non-official accounts to conduct official business,” lawmakers said, noting that the lawlessness and secrecy was at odds with Obama’s promise of transparent government. “Prior to the Committee’s acquisition of these documents from individuals, the Department had not produced them.”

The latest evidence uncovered also puts past testimony and official statements made by senior officials in question. "These e-mails contradict important assertions made by the Administration and DOE's failure to produce them is troubling,” the letter added. Also, there is "little doubt" that DOE officials "participated in an intentional effort to shield their communications from legal scrutiny and the public.”

It gets worse. "Despite significant public interest in this matter, new discoveries indicate the Department of Energy and its employees have deceptively and unlawfully withheld documents related to White House involvement in decisions related to loans, correspondence with loan applicants, and internal agency deliberations about the risky use of taxpayer funds,” the letter continued. Such practices violate federal law and could result in long jail sentences for those involved.

One of the e-mails cited in the letter, lawmakers say, offers some insight into why so much communication was taking place through non-official e-mail accounts. “Don’t ever send an email on doe email with private email addresses,” DOE Loan Program Office Director Jonathan Silver stated in an e-mail to a colleague, contradicting testimony he had made in Congress. “That makes them subpoenable.”

As the energy secretary, however, Chu’s alleged lies must be explained immediately. "Your apparent false or — at minimum — misleading testimony, combined with the widespread use of private e-mail accounts by Department employees, creates the appearance that you have been complicit in an organized effort to deceive Congress and hide the motives and process for decisions to use taxpayer funds to aid private interests," the letter explained.

Lawmakers said Chu has until August 28 to respond. If DOE continues to delay or obstruct the investigation, the House Oversight Committee may have to resort to the use of “compulsory process” to get the truth. Critics have been expressing outrage for over a year that taxpayers lost enormous sums of money on Obama’s half-baked subsidies to politically connected firms. Incredibly, however, it appears that the scandals just get bigger.

August 20, 2012

FBI probed GOP trip with drinking, nudity in Israel

The FBI probed a late-night swim in the Sea of Galilee that involved drinking, numerous GOP freshmen lawmakers, top leadership staff – and one nude member of Congress, according to more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses.

During a fact-finding congressional trip to the Holy Land last summer, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took off his clothes and jumped into the sea, joining a number of members, their families and GOP staff during a night out in Israel, the sources told POLITICO. Other participants, including the daughter of another congressman, swam fully clothed while some lawmakers partially disrobed. More than 20 people took part in the late-night dip in the sea, according to sources who were participants in the trip.

“A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit,” Yoder said in a statement to POLITICO. “It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

Travis Smith, Yoder’s chief of staff, told POLITICO “Neither Congressman Yoder, nor his staff, have been interviewed by the FBI.”

These GOP sources confirmed the following freshmen lawmakers also went swimming that night: Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) and his daughter; Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.) and his wife; Reps. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.). Many of the lawmakers who ventured into the lake said they did so because of the religious significance of the waters. Others said they were simply cooling off after a long day. Several privately admitted that alcohol may have played a role in why some of those present decided to jump in.

The Sea of Galilee, a Christian holy site, is where Jesus is said in the Bible to have walked on water.

The FBI looked into whether any inappropriate behavior occurred, but the interviews do not appear to have resulted in any formal allegations of wrongdoing.

But Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who was the senior most GOP lawmaker in Israel on the trip, was so upset about the antics that he rebuked the 30 lawmakers the morning after the Aug. 18, 2011, incident, saying they were distracting from the mission of the trip.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was also on the privately funded excursion, which means two of the three top Republicans were a part of this trip. Neither Cantor nor McCarthy went swimming that night, the sources said. Some of their staff did.

The account of that Aug. 2011 night in Israel was pieced together for the first time by POLITICO based on interviews with more than a dozen sources, including eyewitnesses, as well as public records of the trip.

A Cantor spokesman confirmed that the majority leader dressed down his Republican colleagues and that a staffer was later interviewed by FBI agents.

“Twelve months ago, [Cantor] dealt with this immediately and effectively to ensure such activities would not take place in the future,” said Doug Heye, Cantor’s deputy chief of staff.

Heye added: “Last year, a staffer was contacted by the Bureau [FBI], which had several questions, the staffer answered those questions and that appears to have been the end of it.”

The FBI’s questions focused on who went into the water that night, and whether there was any impropriety, according to multiple sources.

The American Israel Educational Foundation, a group related to AIPAC, the prominent pro-Israel advocacy group, sponsored the trip, which ran from Aug. 13 to Aug. 21, 2011. The trip cost AIEF upwards of $10,000 per person, according to records filed with the House Ethics Committee. More than 60 people took part in this AIEF trip.

These trips to the Holy Land are a rite of passage for members of Congress, as they visit the most sacred sites in the Jewish and Christian faiths – while their Israeli government hosts drive home the huge importance of U.S. support of Israel. That’s partially why, when the trip devolved into drinking and merrymaking, Cantor was livid.

In a Congress that has already sunk to new lows in public-opinion polls, and seen a bipartisan wave of scandals, this latest controversy could only further damage that image. Since the start of the 112th Congress, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) resigned following the revelation that he was sending naked pictures of himself to women he met on the Internet. Former Rep. Christopher Lee (R-N.Y.) quickly left office after he was caught sending a topless photo of himself to an online acquaintance. Former Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) stepped down after an “unwanted” sexual encounter with the daughter of a longtime friend. Former Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) resigned after having an extramarital affair with the wife of an aide and then trying to cover it up.

On the Israel trip that included the late night swim, the group of lawmakers on Aug. 18 departed the posh David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem for Tiberias, a historic seaside town located on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. On the night in question, the GOP group checked into Scots Hotel, where rooms could run up to $1,000 each night. At 8:45 p.m., they headed to Decks, a popular restaurant located on the sea, according to an itinerary filed with the House Ethics Committee.

As dinner was winding down, Cantor and McCarthy left the restaurant, but the most of the other lawmakers and staff stayed behind, and the drinking continued, according to several sources who attended the dinner.

After what they describe as a “long, hot day,” more than 20 lawmakers and senior aides decided to jump into the sea, sources said. Some went in wearing all their clothes, although others partially undressed.

Yoder removed all his clothes, the only person to do so, according to multiple sources.

Senior aides also jumped into the Sea of Galilee. They include: Steve Stombres, Cantor’s chief of staff; Tim Berry, McCarthy’s chief of staff; Laena Fallon, Cantor’s former communications director and Emily Murray, McCarthy’s top health care aide. Kristi Way, a top Cantor staffer, was also on the trip.

Few offices responded to requests for on-the-record comment about the incident. However, numerous Republicans discussed what occurred on the condition of anonymity.

Some of those present took photographs of the group right after the late-night swim, sources said.

After the lawmakers and staff returned to the United States, FBI agents questioned congressional staff about the trip, specifically about what happened in Tiberias.

The FBI declined to comment on its probe, saying its standard policy was not to comment on such matters.

Patrick Dorton, a spokesman for AIEF, defended the group’s trip to Israel, saying they’re substantive and rigorous.

“As part of the trip, and after of day of meetings including with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, and briefings on Hezbollah and the border with Lebanon, trip participants traveled to the shore of the Sea of Galilee,” Dorton said in an emailed statement.

“This location made it possible to visit a series of Christian holy sites the next day. After dinner that evening, some in the group went swimming in the biblically significant sea. While AIEF has not been contacted by any government agency, we would certainly be willing to answer any questions or respond to any government inquiry on this event or the overall trip.”

The AIEF trips to Israel are a fixture of Washington. Both staff and lawmakers travel with the group to the Holy Land, and schedules are filled with boldfaced names.

On this trip, lawmakers met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his office and huddled with his top aide Ron Dermer over dinner at 28 King David, a posh banquet facility in Jerusalem. They ate breakfast separately with the Washington-based Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, and Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat. Israeli President Shimon Peres had the group gathered at his residence, and later that day, they met with Tzipi Livni, the opposition leader. Dan Shapiro, the American ambassador to Israel, had the large group to his home in Herzliya for dinner.

On the day of the swimming incident, they met with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority prime minister, according to the itinerary filed with the House.

August 17, 2012

General Motors Is Headed For Bankruptcy -- Again

President Obama is proud of his bailout of General Motors. That’s good, because, if he wins a second term, he is probably going to have to bail GM out again. The company is once again losing market share, and it seems unable to develop products that are truly competitive in the U.S. market.

Right now, the federal government owns 500,000,000 shares of GM, or about 26% of the company. It would need to get about $53.00/share for these to break even on the bailout, but the stock closed at only $20.21/share on Tuesday. This left the government holding $10.1 billion worth of stock, and sitting on an unrealized loss of $16.4 billion.

Right now, the government’s GM stock is worth about 39% less than it was on November 17, 2010, when the company went public at $33.00/share. However, during the intervening time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen by almost 20%, so GM shares have lost 49% of their value relative to the Dow.

It’s doubtful that the Obama administration would attempt to sell off the government’s massive position in GM while the stock price is falling. It would be too embarrassing politically. Accordingly, if GM shares continue to decline, it is likely that Obama would ride the stock down to zero.

GM is unlikely to hit the wall before the election, but, given current trends, the company could easily do so again before the end of a second Obama term.

In the 1960s, GM averaged a 48.3% share of the U.S. car and truck market. For the first 7 months of 2012, their market share was 18.0%, down from 20.0% for the same period in 2011. With a loss of market share comes a loss of relative cost-competitiveness. There is only so much market share that GM can lose before it would no longer have the resources to attempt to recover.

To help understand why GM keeps losing market share, let’s look at the saga of the Chevy Malibu.

The Malibu is GM’s entry in the automobile market’s “D-Segment”. The D-Segment comprises mid-size, popularly priced, family sedans, like the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord. The D-Segment accounted for 14.7% of the total U.S. vehicle market in 2011, and 21.3% during the first 7 months of 2012.

Because the D-Segment is the highest volume single vehicle class in the U.S., and the U.S. is GM’s home market, it is difficult to imagine how GM could survive long term unless it can profitably develop, manufacture, and market a vehicle that can hold its own in the D-Segment. This is true not only because of the revenue potential of the D-Segment, but also because of what an also-ran Malibu would say about GM’s ability to execute at this time in its history.

GM is in the process of introducing a totally redesigned 2013 Chevy Malibu. It will compete in the D-Segment with, among others, the following: the Ford Fusion (totally redesigned for 2013); the Honda Accord (totally redesigned for 2013); the Hyundai Sonata (totally redesigned for 2011); the Nissan Altima (totally redesigned for 2013); the Toyota Camry (refreshed for 2013); and the Volkswagen Passat (totally redesigned for 2012).

Automobile technology is progressing so fast that the best vehicle in a given segment is usually just the newest design in that segment. Accordingly, if a car company comes out with a new, completely redesigned vehicle, it had better be superior to the older models being offered by its competitors. If it is not, the company will spend the next five years (the usual time between major redesigns in this segment) losing market share and/or offering costly “incentives” to “move the metal”.

Read the entire article

August 16, 2012

Whistleblower Scandal Rocks National Reconnaissance Office

The Obama Administration’s war on whistleblowers has been well-documented by Kevin Gozstola and others. Now, McClatchy has the tale of a similar muzzling of whistleblowers at the National Reconnaissance Office, which handles the nation’s spy satellites:

A senior officer with the nation’s spy satellite agency is being investigated over criminal allegations related to contracting even as the agency’s No. 2 official is accused of trying to illegally shield the subordinate from scrutiny, McClatchy has learned.

The inspector general of the National Reconnaissance Office opened the criminal inquiry after meeting secretly in May with four top officers of the agency, who told her about “a series of allegations of malfeasant actions” by a colleague, according to agency documents obtained by McClatchy.

The agency’s deputy director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Mashiko, then heard about the investigation and made what the inspector general described as an illegal threat of retaliation against the whistleblowers.

“Four directors went to the IG,” the inspector general quoted Mashiko as saying to a senior officer. “I would like to find them and fire them.”

When the officer reacted with surprise, Mashiko backed off, saying she would have preferred if the directors had come to her first, the inspector general said in a memo. However, the inspector general, Lanie D’Alessandro, wrote that she’d learned of a “history of intimidation” by Mashiko and the senior official who’s being investigated.

Mashiko is a career bureaucrat in the Air Force with over 30 years of service, so I don’t want to go too far in attributing this to the Administration. Rather, I think what we see here is an unfortunately standard practice as it relates to whistleblowers in federal agencies. They are seen not as people to be defended but as people to be rooted out and subjected to intimidation and harassment. The chilling effect this creates is pretty obvious.

Of course this violates federal statutes. But the culture at this agency will be forever tarnished by this incident. People will learn that they should not speak up if they cherish their job. And there’s not really anybody in the whole of government to look to as a model in the opposite direction. Congress is seeking to pass legislation to prevent leaks. The White House has been the most litigious Administration against whistleblowers in history, with an unprecedented number of criminal prosecutions. As long as the leaks don’t present the White House or Congress in a flattering light – those leaks are encouraged – they are criminalized.

The fish does rot from the head down, to an extent here. But sadly, I suspect this is always the culture we’ve had at these agencies, especially in the intelligence community.

The inspector general, Lanie D’Alessandro, did good work here in getting the information out. But it’s probably the last bit of decent information she’ll ever get.

August 15, 2012

Ryan: 'It's irrefutable' that President Obama is damaging Medicare

Paul Ryan doubled down on Romney campaign attacks on President Obama's handling of Medicare, saying Tuesday it was "irrefutable" that the president was "damaging Medicare for current seniors" in his first solo interview since being named the GOP's vice presidential nominee.

The recently named vice-presidential candidate added that Republicans were excited to have a debate about the issue.

"We're the ones who are not raiding Medicare to pay for ObamaCare. We're the ones who are repealing President Obama's 15-person bureaucratic board that will put price controls on Medicare that will lead to denied care for current seniors. We're the ones continuing the guarantee of Medicare for people in or near retirement," the Wisconsin congressman told Fox News.

"And you have to reform it for the younger generation in order to make the commitment stick for the current generation," he continued. "President Obama is actually damaging Medicare for current seniors. It's irrefutable. And that's why I think this is a debate we want to have, and that's a debate we're going to win.”

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's campaign has been aggressively hitting the president on the issue in campaign speeches and advertisements in an attempt to inoculate the Republican ticket on the issue after Ryan's selection.

Ryan's recent budget proposal would shift Medicare funding to a voucher-like program, a move that financial analysts and Democrats argue would increase costs for seniors. And while the Obama campaign has been slamming Ryan for that proposal, Romney's team has instead focused on $700 billion in Medicare cuts that were part of the president's signature healthcare law.

Ryan's budget proposal also included the same $700 billion in cuts, however, which came from eliminating subsidies to insurance companies and cutting waste and fraud — neither of which would affect heath services or benefits for seniors. Asked about that discrepancy Tuesday, Ryan said his preference would be to repeal the entirety of the president's healthcare reform law.

“I joined the Romney ticket. And what Mitt Romney is proposing to do is repeal all of ObamaCare. I have voted repeatedly in Congress to repeal all of ObamaCare, including this cut of $716 billion to pay for ObamaCare," Ryan said. "So what's very important here — and a lot of seniors don't know this — is that they turned Medicare into a piggy bank to finance ObamaCare. The Obama campaign thinks it's an achievement that they raided Medicare to pay for ObamaCare.”

In a statement Tuesday, the Obama campaign blasted a Romney ad taking a similar tack as "dishonest and hypocritical."

"The savings his ad attacks do not cut a single guaranteed Medicare benefit, and Mitt Romney embraced the very same savings when he promised he’d sign Paul Ryan’s budget," Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith said. "Because the President is eliminating subsidies to insurance companies and cutting waste and fraud, we’ve extended the life of Medicare by eight years. The truth is that the Romney-Ryan budget would end Medicare as we know it: people with Medicare would be left with nothing but a voucher in place of the guaranteed benefits they rely on today.

"And they do it all to pay for massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires — the very same top-down economic scheme that crashed our economy and devastated the middle class in the first place."

Ryan went on to discuss the budget that would be proposed by a Romney administration more generally, avoiding specifics but arguing details would be ironed out in the legislative process.

“That is something that we think we should do in the light of day, through Congress, unlike how ObamaCare was passed. ... We don't want a backroom deal, what — what the Ways and Means Committee did, what the House passed is to have a process for tax reform so that we do this in the front of the public," Ryan said.

The House Budget Committee chairman also avoided pledging a date by which the budget would be balanced, but argued the Republican administration would break from the president in offering a pathway to doing so.

“Well, I don't know exactly when it balances because we haven't — I don't want to get wonky on you, but we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan," Ryan said. "The plan that we've offered in the House balanced the budget. I would put a contrast. President Obama never once, ever, has offered a plan to ever balance the budget. The United States Senate, they haven't even balanced — they haven't passed a budget in three years.”

Ryan also dished on the relationship that developed between himself and the presumptive Republican nominee, saying they "just kind of developed a chemistry with one another and a mutual understanding of each other.”

“You know we spent about five days on the road, five 14 hour or so days, and in-between all of those stops driving from you know, Appleton to Green Bay to Janesville to Milwaukee," Ryan said. "We got to know each other we conversed on policy issues on where to take the country. And sooner or later we basically started sharing the microphones at these town-hall meetings and we just kind of developed a chemistry with one another and a mutual understanding of each other.”

August 14, 2012

Federal MMJ crackdown speculated to be a diversion from Fast and Furious scandal

As public scrutiny of the United States government’s increasingly opaque actions rises, not only have marijuana advocates sought rhyme or reason for the ongoing crackdown on the industry as well as ways to legally evade the prosecutions put forth by the United States’ attorney generals. In northern California, facilities in San Francisco have faced closure and the seizure of assets by the IRS while facilities nearby in San Jose remain both untargeted and illegal, as declared in February of this year. When repeatedly asked why the government continues to strike down these state-regulated shops, Attorney General Melinda Haag has cited the protection of students and the state regulatory systems some dispensaries fail to comply with. The public looked on with increasingly skeptical eyes as the war on illegal facilities became a indiscriminate buck-shot blast against all dispensaries who sell the federally classed Schedule I substance. Despite this and other scientifically inaccurate allegations made by officials, it is the closure of some of San Francisco’s most loved and law-abiding facilities that has begun to strike heavy discord between the suffering industry and the federal government’s still unexplained actions.

Almost a year after Attorney General Eric Holder announced his crackdown on the marijuana industry, California’s dispensaries underwent forfeiture notices and DEA search and seizure that has rendered almost half of the state’s facilities now closed, and marijuana-tolerant individuals and organizations are pushing harder to expose this meaningless war and find a legal out against the federal charges brought against these facilities. Journalist Martin Lee proposes that the quickly ignited war on marijuana was incited by Holder to divert public attention away from his misconduct of the Fast and Furious gun-scandal. Citing congruities in the timelines, Lee reasons that California’s Proposition 215 had caused no concerns for the government over public health since it was put into effect in 1996, yet on October 7, 2011, Holder both wrote a letter to Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) defending his actions regarding the scandal and hastily called forth a press conference in which he announced the DOJ’s plans to target the marijuana industry. In his modern sociopolitical climate, conspiracy and lack of transparency in the government have become well-known, publicized issues which is further highlighted by President Obama’s claim of executive privilege concerning the documents Holder currently faces contempt for (CNN).

August 13, 2012

Holder went on ‘Reefer Madness’-like campaign to distract from Fast and Furious

In late 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder authorized raids against marijuana dispensaries in California, where medicinal marijuana is legal, in an effort to create a distraction from the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious, a new book set for release Tuesday claims.

“Eric Holder, Obama’s embattled Attorney General, was under mounting pressure from Congress to explain the botched Fast and Furious sting operation, whereby two thousand assault rifles and other firearms were sold to suspected traffickers for the Mexican drug cartels,” Martin A. Lee writes in “Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific.”

“It was intended as an intelligence-gathering ploy, but U.S. agents lost track of most of these weapons.”

In an excerpt obtained and published by the left-wing news and opinion website, Lee describes the Fast and Furious scandal — including how it led to the murder of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry — and how Holder “stonewalled” Congress for months, “disavowing any knowledge of the caper despite documentation showing that high-level Justice Department officials aided the surveillance mission.”

“The fact that Fast and Furious had its roots in a similar Bush-era ATF operation mattered little to GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, the grandstanding chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who went so far as to accuse the Obama administration of purposely allowing the guns to escape as part of a liberal plot to impose new gun control laws,” Lee writes. “Issa was not credible; nor was Holder.”

Lee goes on to explain that when calls for special investigations into Fast and Furious and for Holder’s resignation intensified in October 2011, Holder played what Lee calls the “ace up his sleeve.”

“Ever since California voters approved Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana for medical use in 1996, law enforcement lobbyists had been urging the federal government to enforce prohibition and choke off the burgeoning industry,” Lee writes.

August 10, 2012

DOJ Will Not Prosecute Goldman Sachs in Financial Crisis Probe

The Justice Department has decided it will not prosecute Goldman Sachs or its employees for their role in the financial crisis, following an investigation by senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Tom Coburn (R-OK). The congressional investigation found problems with the credit rating agencies and poor oversight from regulators, and highlighted abuses by Goldman Sachs and other large investment banks. Senator Levin sent a formal referral to the Justice Department for a criminal investigation in April 2011.

The investigative report by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Levin, found that Goldman Sachs “used net short positions to benefit from the downturn in the mortgage market, and designed, marketed, and sold CDOs in ways that created conflicts of interest with the firm’s clients and at times led to the bank’s profiting from the same products that caused substantial losses for its clients.”

A statement from the Justice Department issued late on Thursday evening noted, “Based on the law and evidence as they exist at this time, there is not a viable basis to bring a criminal prosecution with respect to Goldman Sachs or its employees in regard to the allegations set forth in the report.”

“The department and its investigative partners conducted an exhaustive review of the report and its exhibits, independently gathered and scrutinized a large volume of other documents, and tenaciously pursued potential evidentiary leads, including conducting numerous witness interviews,” the Justice Department’s statement continued. “While the department and investigative agencies ultimately concluded that the burden of proof to bring a criminal case could not be met based on the law and facts as they exist at this time, we commend the hard work of those involved in preparing the report and thank the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for its cooperation in regard to the criminal investigation.”

“We are pleased that this matter is behind us,” Goldman Sachs spokesman David Wells said when contacted by ABC News.

The Justice Department statement noted that if additional information emerges, the cases could be prosecuted in the future.

This most recent decision follows other high-profile investigations that Justice decided not to prosecute: There was the collapse of AIG and the role of the top executive at AIG Financial Products division, Joseph Cassano, and former Countrywide CEO Anthony Mozillo, who was fined by the SEC in an insider trading case. Citibank and JP Morgan both had multi-million-dollar settlements with the SEC over collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, tied to the U.S. housing market, but Justice has not brought any criminal cases. Freddie Mac was subpoenaed in a grand jury investigation in 2008 but the firm disclosed in an Aug. 8, 2011, SEC filing that the Justice investigation was closed.

Attorney General Eric Holder defended the Justice Department’s record in pursuing high profile financial fraud cases. “There have been, I guess, 2,100 or so mortgage-related matters that we have brought here at United State Department of Justice. Our state counterparts have done a variety of things. The notion that there has been inactivity over the course of the last three years is belied by a troublesome little thing called facts.”

Goldman has faced stiff penalties from the Securities and Exchange Commission. In April 2010 the SEC filed a civil charge against Goldman Sachs and Fabrice Tourre, a vice president, for making misstatements and omissions from financial records in connection with CDOs that Goldman Sachs marketed to their investors. CDOs played a significant part in the financial crisis in 2008.

ABACUS 2007-AC1 was tied to the performance of subprime residential mortgage-backed securities and was composed of investment choices hedge fund manager John Paulson had a financial interest in selecting, although Tourre never disclosed to potential investors that Paulson & Co. had a short-interest position in seeing ABACUS go down. Investors in ABACUS allegedly lost an estimated $1 billion.

According to the SEC complaint Tourre, who called himself “Fabulous Fab” wrote to a friend in a January 23, 2007, email: “More and more leverage in the system, The whole building is about to collapse anytime now…Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab[rice Tourre] … standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstruosities(sic).”

Goldman Sachs reached a settlement with the SEC in July 2010, paying a $550 million fine for admitting that they should have included information about Paulson’s investment position. Tourre is currently in ongoing litigation with the SEC over the case.

August 9, 2012

Veracity of Holder Testimony on New Black Panther Party Scandal

Judicial Watch today raised questions today about the testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder in the wake of a federal court ruling that cast doubt on the accuracy of sworn testimony provided by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez regarding the Department of Justice (DOJ) decision to abandon its voter intimidation lawsuit against the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP).

Judicial Watch uncovered information that top political appointees at the DOJ were intimately involved in the decision to dismiss the NBPP lawsuit. These documents, which include internal DOJ e-mail correspondence, directly contradict sworn testimony by Perez, who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that no political leadership was involved in the decision. The documents were obtained by Judicial Watch pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. Department of Justice (No.10-851)).

Despite the revelatory documents, the DOJ continued to insist that the documents did not make “any political interference whatsoever.” A federal court judge disagreed. In a July 23 ruling by Judge Reggie B. Walton of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in response to Judicial Watch’s effort to obtain attorneys’ fees from the DOJ for stonewalling the release of documents pertaining to the NBPP scandal, Judge Walton ruled:

The documents reveal that political appointees within DOJ were conferring about the status and resolution of the New Black Panther Party case in the days preceding the DOJ’s dismissal of claims in that case, which would appear to contradict Assistant Attorney General Perez’s testimony that political leadership was not involved in that decision. Surely the public has an interest in documents that cast doubt on the accuracy of government officials’ representations regarding the possible politicization of agency decisionmaking.

The court’s conclusions also call into question the veracity of Attorney General Eric Holder’s testimony on the controversy. On March 1, 2011, Holder testified to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (see page 66 – 2:49:00):

The decisions made in the New Black Panther Party case were made by career attorneys in the department. And beyond that, you know, if we’re going to look at the record, let’s look at it in its totality.

The court received documents that included a series of e-mails between two political appointees: former Democratic election lawyer and current Deputy Associate Attorney General Sam Hirsch and Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli. Both DOJ officials were involved in detailed discussions regarding the NBPP decision. For example, in one April 30, 2009, e-mail from Hirsch to Perrelli, with the subject title “Fw: New Black Panther Party Update,” Hirsch writes:


I need to discuss this with you tomorrow morning. I’ll send you another email on this shortly.

If you want to discuss it this evening, please let me know which number to call and when.

These e-mails were put into further context by an updated Vaughn index obtained by Judicial Watch, describing NBPP documents that the Obama DOJ continues to withhold. These documents, which were attached to the DOJ’s Motion for Summary Judgment filing, include a description of a May 13 e-mail chain that seems to suggest political appointee Sam Hirsch may have been orchestrating the NBPP decision.

Acting DAAG [Steven Rosenbaum] advising his supervising Acting AAG [Loretta King] of DASG’s [Hirsch’s] request for a memorandum by the Acting DAAG reviewing various options, legal strategies, and different proposals of relief as related to each separate defendant. Acting DAAG forwarding emails from Appellate Section Chief’s and Appellate Attorney’s with their detailed legal analyses including the application of constitutional provisions and judicial precedent to strategies and relief under consideration in the ongoing NBPP litigation, as well as an assessment of the strength of potential legal arguments, and presenting different possible scenarios in the litigation. [Emphasis added]

In fact, political appointee Sam Hirsch sent an April 30, 2009, e-mail to Steven Rosenbaum (then-Acting Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Civil Rights in charge of voting rights) thanking Rosenbaum for “doing everything you’re doing to make sure that this case is properly resolved.” The next day, the DOJ began to reverse course on its NBPP voter intimidation lawsuit.

Regarding the Attorney General’s knowledge of the NBPP decision, Judicial Watch also obtained two e-mail reports sent by former Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Loretta King to Holder.

The first report, entitled “Weekly Report for the Week ending May 8, 2009,” was sent on May 12, 2009, notes: “On May 15, 2009, pursuant to court order, the Department will file a motion for default judgment against at least some of the defendants” in the NBPP lawsuit. The report further notes that the NBPP “has been identified as a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League and the founders and members of the original Black Panther Party.”

The second report, entitled “Weekly Report for the Week ending May 15, 2009,” was sent on May 18, 2009, demonstrates that the DOJ did an abrupt reversal on the NBPP issue: “On May 15, 2009, the Department voluntarily dismissed its claims” against the NBPP and two of the defendants, the report noted. The DOJ moved for default judgment against only one defendant.

The DOJ filed its lawsuit against the NBPP following an incident that took place outside of a Philadelphia polling station on November 4, 2008. According to multiple witnesses, members of the NBPP blocked access to polling stations, harassed voters and hurled racial epithets. Nonetheless, the DOJ ultimately overruled the recommendations of its own staff and dismissed the majority of its charges. Current and former DOJ attorneys have alleged in sworn testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that the Holder DOJ’s NBPP and other civil rights-related decisions are made on the basis of race and political affiliation.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the leadership of the Justice Department, including Attorney General Holder, has a problem with truth. There needs to be an independent investigation into whether Messrs. Holder and Perez committed perjury in testifying under oath about the Black Panther controversy. We are pleased that a court has already seen through the false narrative presented to it by the Justice Department. We can’t have our nation’s top law enforcement officers playing fast and loose with the truth,” stated Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

August 8, 2012

Drug cartel used Fast and Furious weapon in failed assassination plot

Drug cartel operatives used weapons from Operation Fast and Furious in a failed attempt to assassinate a high-ranking Mexican law enforcement official, the El Paso Times reports in an article that follows up on an initial report from Breitbart News’ Mary Chastain.

The gun — which “was seized in Tijuana in connection with a drug cartel’s conspiracy to kill the police chief of Tijuana, Baja California, who later became the Juárez police chief” — is tied to Fast and Furious.

“The firearm was found Feb. 25, 2010, during an arrest of a criminal cell associated with Teodoro ‘El Teo’ García Simental and Raydel ‘El Muletas’ López Uriarte, allies of the Sinaloa cartel,” Diana Washington Valdez wrote on Monday for the El Paso Times. “Tijuana police said they arrested four suspects in March 2010 in connection with a failed attempt to take out Julián Leyzaola, and that the suspects allegedly confessed to conspiring to assassinate the police chief on orders from Tijuana cartel leaders.”

“Leyzaola, a retired Mexican army officer, reportedly survived several attempts on his life while trying to bring order to Tijuana, a city torn apart by turf battles following the arrests and deaths of Arellano Felix cartel leaders,” Valdez added.

Leyzaola has since moved to Ciudad Juarez, a town right across the border from El Paso, Texas, to become the police chief there.

This new information comes on the heels of the release of a lengthy congressional report into Fast and Furious from House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley. That report — the first of three — named five Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials Grassley and Issa believe are ultimately responsible for Fast and Furious. On the same day of the report’s public release, one of those officials — former deputy ATF director William Hoover — resigned his position.

That congressional report also saw the release of new evidence that Obama administration ATF officials sought to cover up the Fast and Furious connection to a death other than that of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

August 7, 2012

Cronyism, political donations likely behind Obama, Holder failure to charge any bankers after 2008 financial meltdown

A new report from the conservative Government Accountability Institute (GAI) finds that President Barack Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s failure to criminally charge any top Wall Street bankers is likely a result of cronyism inside the Department of Justice and political donations made to Obama’s campaign.

Despite Obama’s and Holder’s “heated rhetoric” against Wall Street (in 2009, Obama blamed the 2008 financial collapse on “reckless speculation of bankers” while Holder charged that “unscrupulous executives, Ponzi scheme operators and common criminals alike have targeted the pocketbooks and retirement accounts of middle class Americans”), they haven’t “filed a single criminal charge against any top executive of an elite financial institution,” GAI wrote in its report, exclusively obtained by The Daily Caller.

GAI argues that the Obama administration’s decision to not go after Big Finance is due to senior DOJ leadership — Holder, Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, Associate Attorney General Tony West, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Deputy Associate Attorney General Karol Mason — who “all came to the DOJ from prestigious white-collar defense firms where they represented the very financial institutions the DOJ is supposed to investigate.”

The report details how Holder and Breuer both came to the DOJ from Covington & Burling, a “top-tier Washington law firm” with a client list that includes financial firms like Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, ING, Morgan Stanley, UBS and Wilmington Trust.

GAI said that President Obama’s decision to choose Holder, “a white-collar defense attorney from Covington,” as his attorney general, over a “more fiery prosecutor,” appears to have sent “a subtle signal to the financial community” that this administration isn’t going to actually do anything, despite the harsh words.

Cole, the report outlines, was with Bryan Cave LLP — “a white-shoe firm with A-list clients” — before becoming Holder’s right-hand man at the DOJ. One of Cole’s clients while at Bryan Cave LLP, the GAI report shows, was insurance and financial giant AIG.

Cole had done $20 million worth of work for AIG between 2004 and 2008, but his close ties with the company — which was “at the heart of the financial crisis largely because of its noncompliance in regulatory and compliance issues” — didn’t stop Obama or Holder from welcoming him aboard their administration.

August 6, 2012

White House considers executive order, leaves Internet takeover a possibility

The White House has left open the possibility of enacting its Internet agenda via executive order after the failed effort to bring the Democrat-supported cybersecurity bill to a full vote in the Senate last week.

In response to a question from The Hill, a Washington, D.C. political newspaper, about whether President Obama was considering advancing his party’s cyber-plan through an executive order, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney didn’t rule out the possibility.

“In the wake of Congressional inaction and Republican stall tactics, unfortunately, we will continue to be hamstrung by outdated and inadequate statutory authorities that the legislation would have fixed,” he said via email.

“Moving forward, the President is determined to do absolutely everything we can to better protect our nation against today’s cyber threats and we will do that,” added Carney.

The failed cyber security bill, which could be revived by Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid when the Senate comes back from recess in September, would have given federal agencies in charge of regulating critical infrastructure industries like power companies and utilities the ability to mandate cybersecurity recommendations.

Shortly before the Senate’s August recess, Obama penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed in which he threw his support behind the Cybersecurity Act of 2012.

An executive order would be another action from the Obama administration to extend executive branch authority over a largely free and open Internet.

August 3, 2012

Jerry Sandusky Scandal: Is Former Penn State President Working for Government?

Even as the dust settles from the removal of Joe Paterno's statue from the Penn State campus, the avalanche from the Jerry Sandusky scandal continues.

Say THIS ain't so Joe.

While former Penn State President Graham Spanier is worrying about his damaged reputation and how it will affect his future, he is also saying that he is gainfully employed.

Don Van Natta Jr. of ESPN reported on July 24 that Spanier has contacted the Board of Trustees to dispute the report which accused him of negligence in the handling of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's alleged child abuse. Spanier resigned under intense pressure from the board, students and other entities on November 9, 2011—the same time longtime football coach Joe Paterno was fired.

Spanier came under severe scrutiny in the aftermath of the child abuse scandal when a school investigation by Louis Freeh concluded that Spanier and three other Penn State officials (including Paterno) had, among other things:

"failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade..."

"concealed Sandusky's activities from the Board of Trustees, the University community and authorities..."

"exhibited a striking lack of empathy for Sandusky's victims by failing to inquire as to their safety and well-being..."

"empowered Sandusky to attract potential victims to the campus and football events by allowing him to have continued, unrestricted and unsupervised access to the University's facilities and affiliation with the University's prominent football program."

Van Natta Jr. writes that "Spanier, who wrote that he has a 'heavy heart for the children who were victimized by Sandusky,' said his reputation has been 'profoundly damaged' by the Freeh report and individual trustees who have spoken negatively about him in public."

Yet that damage may not have affected his other job, which may be supported by none other than the American taxpayer.

All the way back on April 11, 2012, Sara Ganim of the Patriot-News reported via that Spanier had taken a new position working for the federal government. According to Ganim, Spanier communicated via e-mail:

“For the next several months, as I transition to my post-presidential plans, I will be working on a special project for the U.S. government relating national security. This builds on my prior positions working with federal agencies to foster improved cooperation between our nation’s national security agencies and other entities.”

Yet only recently, even though details are sketchy, did the Washington Post pick up the story on July 27.

Unfortunately, no one knows exactly where Spanier might be working as he is ostensibly prohibited from sharing that information. Well, we all know he's good at keeping secrets. Maybe a job in security is perfect.

With the Office of Personnel Management not providing any assistance as to his top-secret post, it is unknown if Spanier is busy working with James Bond or has a desk job in the Pentagon. In fact, we can't even be sure he isn't making the whole thing up.

With reports of his supposed employment finally hitting the national stage, perhaps there will be some answers in the near future. It seems fair to say that if true, this epitomizes the old adage "your tax dollars at work."

August 2, 2012

Mainstream Reporter Tells The Truth About Audit The Fed And The Creation Of The Federal Reserve

When someone in the mainstream media goes out on a limb to tell the truth, then the rest of us should go out of our way to applaud that effort. Reporter Ben Swann of Fox 19 in Cincinnati is one of the few local television reporters in the United States that consistently tackles the tough issues. As you can see from his "Reality Check" archives, he regularly does reports on the Federal Reserve, the emerging police state, the loss of our freedoms and liberties, the advance of globalism, the economic collapse, political corruption, etc. etc. That is one reason why his YouTube channel is rapidly approaching a million views. In his most recent Reality Check, Ben Swann asked this question: "Is auditing the Federal Reserve really necessary?" In just four minutes, Swann covered the creation of the Federal Reserve, where money comes from, the 16 trillion dollars in secret loans given out by the Fed during the last financial crisis, and why an audit of the Fed is so important. It really was extraordinary to watch a local mainstream news reporter tell the truth about these things. We could definitely use about 1000 more reporters just like him.

The video of Ben Swann's recent Reality Check is posted below. If you have not seen it yet, it is definitely worth the 4 minutes that it takes to watch it....

What in the world would this country look like if we had hundreds of other real journalists such as Ben Swann that were willing to tackle these kinds of issues head on?

Certainly nobody is perfect, but when a reporter like Swann is willing to go out on a limb and attack the Fed we need to applaud his efforts.

The mainstream media is supposed to hold those in positions of power accountable.

But most in the mainstream media treat the Federal Reserve with kid gloves. It is incredibly rare to hear any real criticism of the Fed by mainstream reporters.

If the mainstream media was actually doing their job, then perhaps we could get some answers to some questions that have gone unanswered for a very long time.

For example, Zero Hedge has published a "smoking gun" that proves that the Federal Reserve was heavily involved in manipulating the price of gold long after the gold standard was abandoned. If you have not read that piece yet, you can find it right here.

I would love to know to what extent this is still going on today, and why nobody ever asks Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke about this.

Another mystery that I would like to see addressed is the trillions of dollars of "off balance sheet transactions" that are unaccounted for at the Federal Reserve. This was brought up once during a Congressional hearing, but nobody seemed to have any answers. Video from this hearing is posted below....

As you can see from the video, nobody in the federal government seems to have any idea what is really going on over at the Fed.

But the Fed has more power over our economy and over our financial system than anyone else does.

Isn't it about time that the American people got some answers?

The Federal Reserve is at the very heart of our debt-based financial system that was created by the big Wall Street banks and for the benefit of the big Wall Street banks.

The Federal Reserve (and virtually every other central bank in the world) is not accountable to the people. The Federal Reserve has created a perpetual debt bubble that is designed to systematically transfer the wealth of the American people to the banks. In this system, the total amount of money and the total amount of debt is designed to continually expand.

Since the Federal Reserve was created, the value of the U.S. dollar has declined by well over 95 percent and the U.S. national debt has gotten more than 5000 times larger.

But nobody seems to want to hold the Federal Reserve accountable for any of this.

Just what in the world is going on here?

In a previous article about auditing the Fed, I listed some more questions that I would like to see someone ask the Federal Reserve....

If the Federal Reserve is supposed to prevent shocks to our economy, then why have there been 10 different economic recessions since 1950 and why are we about to enter another one?

Was the Federal Reserve involved in the manipulation of Libor?

What role did the Federal Reserve play in creating the housing bubble that resulted in our unprecedented housing crash?

Why has the value of the U.S. dollar fallen by 83 percent since 1970?

Why is the Federal Reserve paying U.S. banks not to lend money?

Why did Barack Obama nominate Ben Bernanke for a second term as head of the Federal Reserve when Bernanke has a track record of failure that makes the Chicago Cubs look like a roaring success?

Why is the U.S. national debt more than 5000 times larger than it was when the Federal Reserve was created in 1913?

Why were the Federal Reserve and the personal income tax both pushed through Congress in the same year in 1913?

Why does the Federal Reserve argue that it is "not an agency" of the federal government in court?

Why do all 187 nations that belong to the IMF have a central bank?

Most Americans are pinning their hopes for an "economic turnaround" on the upcoming election in November.

But the truth is that until something is done about the Federal Reserve it isn't going to matter very much who is in the White House.

As I wrote about yesterday, the total amount of all debt in America has grown from about 2 trillion dollars to nearly 55 trillion dollars over the past 40 years.

Yes, we should blame the American people for being really stupid about debt, but we also need to keep in mind that this is exactly what the debt-based Federal Reserve system was designed to do.

We have been enslaved by design and most Americans do not even realize what has happened.

Let us encourage reporters like Ben Swann to keep speaking out about the Federal Reserve, and the rest of us need to keep speaking out about the Fed too.

August 1, 2012

ATF and US Attorneys at fault in Fast & Furious scandal

A new Congressional report hoists blame on five ATF agents and, three U.S. attorneys for the “Fast and Furious” gunwalking operation that led to the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, ICE Agent Jamie Zapata and hundreds of Mexican nationals. The report concludes agency supervisors failed to reign in the reckless operation, yet none of the agents named in the congressional report have been fired for their roles in the botched gunwalking program that allowed high-powered weapons, purchased with taxpayer stimulus money, to fall into the hands of ruthless drug cartels.

The new report comes 18 months after Agent Terry’s murder and a month after Congress voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for not providing thousands of documents related to the investigation.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tabacco and Firearm and Explosives (ATF) agents named in the report include, (then) Acting Director Kenneth Melson, Phoenix field office Agent Bill Newell, Deputy Director William Hoover, Deputy Assistant Director of the Phoenix office, William McMahon and Assistant Director for field operations Mark Chait. The three attorney’s named were Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for the Arizona District, Emory Hurley, assistant U.S. Attorney in Arizona and Lanny Breuer, the Assistant Attorney General at Main Justice.

Acting ATF Director Melson suggested the Obama Administration tried to pin responsibility for the wrong-headed gunwalking scheme on him after he secretly testified before Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Melson claims that once details of the gunwalking operation were leaked to members of the media, ATF as well as Department of Justice (DOJ) officials went into damage control mode.

“I think they (ATF/DOJ) were doing more damage control than anything,” Melson said in the Fast and Furious report. “My view is that the whole matter of the department's response in this case was a disaster.”

Part of Justice’s cover-up strategy was to blame ATF’s Phoenix office and label the gunwalking program as nothing more than a “rogue” operation. However, Holder was forced to reveal at a previous hearing that his office’s premier Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDEF) committee approved the flawed program. By admitting that OCDEF played a role in Fast and Furious, Holder essentially turned the spotlight back on his office as the highly coveted program includes a representative from most federal law enforcement agencies, oversees millions of dollars and approves arrests worthy of national headlines.

ATF agents have admitted time and time again that supervisors in the Phoenix office were extremely interested in bringing down the “bad guys” and making “headlines.” They did. In fact, the new report confirms that Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) played a significant role in Fast and Furious, and ICE agents wanted to catch the drug cartels’ “big fish.” The flawed gunwalking program failed to deliver a high-profile arrest, but ICE has escaped Congressional scrutiny?

The scathing report cites many flaws with Fast and Furious and said the program “was marred by missteps, poor judgments and (using) an inherently reckless strategy.” The report also concludes that ATF agents in Phoenix received little guidance from supervisors who seemed content to “rubber stamp” a deeply suspect program that sent more than 2,000 guns directly to drug cartels in Mexico.

The Democrats see things differently. Publically, the Democrat leadership has called the GOP investigation a “witch hunt” and politically motivated. Senate leader Harry Reid (D-NV) even says the Republican investigation lacks merit, is only partisan and hopes to win back the White House by disgracing Attorney General Holder. Yet several Democrats crossed party lines and voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt. Moving forward, House members will push for a contempt (civil lawsuit) proceeding, but said the legal issue will take place after the November elections.

Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies across the country knew the consequences of a program like Fast and Furious were predictable- someone would die. That’s what happens when guns “walk” into the hands of ruthless cartels- they have the propensity to kill people. Regrettably, Operation Fast and Furious successfully did exactly what it was designed to do- make headlines with multiple murders. And to this day no federal workers have been held accountable and fired for the murders of Agents Terry or Zapata, as well as the November 2010 death of Mario Gonzalez, the brother of Patricia Gonzalez, then Attorney General for the state of Chihuahua. Two of the 16 firearms recovered at the police shootout scene in Mexico were later traced to the ill-fated Fast and Furious program.