October 31, 2013

White House exerting ‘massive pressure’ on insurance companies to keep quiet

The White House is pressuring insurance companies not to speak publicly about Obama administration policies that could eliminate the existing health insurance plans of millions of Americans.

The administration made “clarifications” to the 2010 Affordable Care Act after it was passed that have already wiped out hundreds of thousands of existing health plans.

“Basically, if you speak out, if you’re quoted, you’re going to get a call from the White House, pressure to be quiet,” said CNN investigative reporter Drew Griffin on Anderson Cooper 360 Wednesday night. Insurance companies executives, Griffin said, ask heads of consulting firms not to criticize the Obamacare rollout debacle publicly.

“They feel defenseless before the White House P.R. team,” Griffin said. “The sources said they fear White House retribution.”

Prior to the Obamacare rollout, insurance companies issued warnings to the White House about the possibility of mass cancellations, which the administration ignored.

Although the mass cancelations are an embarrassment to insurance companies, they are more concerned about losing their biggest customer — the federal government.

“Executives are willing to listen to the White House, because right now, it’s the government that’s the biggest customers of these insurance companies,” Griffin said. “Government-backed plans accounted for about 48 percent of healthcare policies last year, Anderson — a number that’s expected to grow this year, and years to come.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney, however, waved off the allegations.

“That accusation is preposterous and inaccurate,” Carney said. “Plus, it ignores the fact that every day, insurance companies are out talking about the law, in large part because they are trying to reach new customers who will now have new, affordable insurance options available from providers through the new marketplaces.”

Carney’s statement echoed similar remarks Obama made during a Wednesday speech, blaming “bad apple insurers” who tried to rip off customers for the cancelled plans.

The law itself provided protections for healthcare policies in effect on March 23, 2010 onwards with “grandfather” clauses, permitting customers to keep them even if they did not adhere to the new requirements. But the Health and Human Services department stripped away those provisions, writing regulations that eliminated health care plans whose copays, deductibles or benefits changed.

HHS’s unilateral rewrite will eliminate the health insurance plans of up to ten million Americans, NBC News reports. Despite insistent, endlessly repeated assurances from Obama and a supporting cast of Democrats, from before the law’s passage to the 2012 presidential election to the present, the Obama administration knew that millions of healthcare plans would vanish under its regulations.

The online exchanges’ severe systemic flaws have inflamed tensions between the insurance industry and the administration. A group of major insurance executives met with senior White House officials — including senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius — last Wednesday in a closed-door meeting, after the rollout of HealthCare.gov demonstrated all the graceful coordination of a multiple-car pileup.

The White House may have increased pressure on insurance companies to keep them operating within the federal exchanges. The companies must back out of the exchanges before Oct. 31 or be locked into them. according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services contract governing the relationship between the companies and the government.

The companies issuing new, Obamacare-approved plans are free to terminate the agreement if the CMS does not propose a fix and remedy the companies’ complaints within 60 days — and with many Americans unable to purchase plans through HealthCare.gov, insurance companies may get cold feet and exit the exchanges en masse.

Combined with the grave possibility that healthy Americans, deterred by the broken exchange website, could fail to enroll at the rates needed to subsidize coverage for the sick and ailing, the health insurance industry, a full 1/6th of the economy, could quickly tumble into a death spiral.


October 30, 2013

Clapper contradicts White House, says Obama was aware of spying on allies

America’s top intelligence official acknowledged Tuesday that President Obama and other senior White House officials were well aware of U.S. surveillance activities targeting leaders of friendly foreign nations — a stark contradiction of the administration’s insinuation in recent days that the president was unaware of such spying.

Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper described the targeting of foreign leaders, including American allies, as a “fundamental” aspect of intelligence gathering, and said neither the CIA nor the National Security Agency can tap into a given leader’s private communications without White House oversight.

His testimony, made during a series of tacit exchanges Tuesday with members of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, came as all sides in Congress have begun seriously examining legislative proposals that would rein in the legal framework surrounding the NSA’s snooping programs.

Two lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would end the agency’s legal ability to collect and store massive amounts of private, albeit basic, telephone metadata, while a separate Senate proposal would allow the data gathering to continue under new oversight requirements.

Despite his broad characterizations about the program and the White House’s knowledge of it, Mr. Clapper sought also to defend Mr. Obama during the intelligence hearing, saying that while the president is briefed “quite frequently” on the scope of surveillance operations, it would be “unrealistic” to think his staff regularly goes over specific details, such as explicitly how or when the intelligence is being gleaned.

Testifying alongside Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the NSA, Mr. Clapper painted a picture in which recent revelations about American spying are obvious.

Both men said foreign leaders are disingenuous when expressing outrage over the snooping because America’s own allies have conducted similar spying operations against the U.S.

“Some of this reminds me a lot of the classic movie ‘Casablanca’: ‘My God, there’s gambling going on here?’” Mr. Clapper quipped at one point.

The remarks also added fresh context to the questions surging with Watergate-era flair through Washington in recent days, over exactly what the president knew about NSA efforts to tap into the private communications of some of America’s closest allies, including the cellphones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mrs. Merkel, along with leaders from Mexico, France, Sweden, Spain and Italy have seethed publicly at international news reports drawn from documents leaked by Edward Snowden — the former NSA contractor now hiding in Russia — that reveal aspects of the American snooping program, including one mission that involved hacking into Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s emails in 2010.

The White House this week has dodged questions about one specific report that claimed Mr. Obama learned of the NSA program’s scope only a few months ago.

The story, published Monday by The Wall Street Journal, cited unidentified officials as saying Mr. Obama had moved to swiftly end the program upon learning that the U.S. was tapping Mrs. Merkel’s phones.
Speaking only the condition of anonymity with reporters, U.S. officials have said that during a personal telephone call with Mrs. Merkel last week, Mr. Obama, who sought to allay the German leader’s frustration about the NSA program, denied having known about it.

Hitting a nerve

While Mr. Clapper and Gen. Alexander asserted Tuesday that the surge of international news reports about the NSA program have been inaccurate, neither was willing to disclose much about what the highly classified program entails.

With the committee hearing open to the public, lawmakers were also reluctant to use anything other than vague language about NSA operations.

During the nearly four-hour session, not one Republican or Democrat asked the specific question of whether Mr. Clapper or Gen. Alexander believes that Mr. Obama knew all along that Mrs. Merkel’s cellphones were being tapped.

During one exchange, Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and committee chairman, asked whether it “would be fair to say that the White House should know what those collection priorities are,” Mr. Clapper responded: “They can and do.”

“But I have to say that that does not necessarily extend down to the level of detail,” Mr. Clapper added quickly. “We don’t necessarily review with the White House what the forthcoming collection deck is. That is done at levels below the White House or the national security staff.”

A day earlier, Senate intelligence committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, in calling for a “total review of all intelligence programs,” said neither she nor the president knew about eavesdropping on the German chancellor.

Friendly spying

American intelligence officials have been monitoring world leaders’ conversations and activities for decades, ranging from open-source data and human intelligence from attendees at events to the monitoring of phone calls, according to U.S. officials who have spoken on background with The Washington Times.

Every president in modern history has been aware of the activities and been the beneficiary of information placed into the president’s daily briefings or special topic briefings, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Although those briefings don’t always specify the exact nature of how information was obtained, presidents have known about NSA eavesdropping on allies for many years.

Mr. Obama, for instance, specifically received briefings since being in office about information learned by U.S. intelligence about Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Pakistan’s prime minister, Russian President Vladimir Putin and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, the officials said.

Officials said intelligence agencies have been bracing for more Snowden-related revelations about espionage involving foreign friendlies.

But during one of the more enlightening exchanges of Tuesday’s hearing, Gen. Alexander told lawmakers he had no doubt that U.S. allies are also spying on Washington.

The testimony came after Rep. Rogers asked, “In your experience as director of the National Security Agency, have the allies of the United States ever, during the course of that time, engaged in anything that you would qualify as an espionage act targeted at the United States of America?”

“Yes, they have,” Gen. Alexander responded, to which Mr. Rogers asked, “And that would be consistent with most of our allies? Well, let’s just pick a place — the European Union?”

“Yes, it would,” Gen. Alexander said.


October 29, 2013

Soros Adviser, Obama Donors, Amnesty Activists Form Group to Target House GOP Members

On Friday, a top political adviser to left-wing billionaire George Soros met with leftist organizations to form a new group called the Latino Victory Project, the Washington Post's Matea Gold reports. The group is connected to Hollywood actress Eva Longoria, a longtime supporter of President Barack Obama's political campaigns.

Gold notes that the Soros adviser and a network of about 30 other left-wing “donors, fundraisers and union leaders” met on Friday to develop “a strategy to make the [immigration] issue central in next year’s midterm elections if Congress does not pass a bill, identifying 10 House Republicans who would be vulnerable to pressure from Latino constituents.” 

“The meeting was attended by officials from several labor unions, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as well as representatives of deep-pocketed backers of liberal causes, including a political adviser to billionaire George Soros,” Gold added.

The 10 Republicans they are targeting are Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Buck McKeon (R-CA), Gary Miller (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Daniel Webster (R-FL), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Scott Tipton (R-CA), Joe Heck (R-NV), Steve Pearce (R-NM), and Randy Weber (R-TX). These representatives are largely split on immigration efforts. 

Pearce, for instance, does not support the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill or anything like it. “You can’t get control of the borders if you tell people you can come here illegally and you can work until you work your way to the front of the line,” Pearce said in an interview with the New York Times’ Ashley Parker in August. “The whole world would want to do it that way. Who would want to wait and do it properly?”

Weber, who represents the district of former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), spoke at an anti-amnesty rally on Capitol Hill in June alongside Reps. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) and Steve King (R-TX). “The president has the authority to secure our border,” Weber said at the event. “He should do it today. In fact he should have done it yesterday.”

Denham, on the other hand, supports amnesty, at one point issuing verbal support for the Senate bill but backtracking after immense pressure from conservatives and constituents over the course of August. Since the congressional recess, Denham has come out to publicly endorse House Democrats’ amnesty plan, which was introduced by House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) earlier this month. Denham has also publicly claimed that House Speaker John Boehner promised that in the next “month or so” there would be a vote on immigration legislation in the House of Representatives. 

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel has not confirmed or denied these claims.

The group of left-wing donors that Soros’ top political aide attended was borne out of a fundraising committee called the Futuro Fund, which raised more than $30 million for Obama’s re-election campaing. “Led by actress Eva Longoria, Puerto Rico lawyer Andres Lopez and San Antonio businessman Henry R. Muñoz III, the fund represented the most robust demonstration yet of the Latino community’s ability to amass cash for U.S. political campaigns,” Gold wrote.

Cristobal Alex, a former program officer at the Ford Foundation, left his position there to lead the Latino Victory Project as the new group’s president. “What we want to do with the Latino Victory Project is build political power in the Latino community, so that the faces of Latinos are reflected not just in every level of government but in the policies that drive the country forward,” Alex said.

Moving forward, the Post noted, the group will agree to spend anywhere from $1 million to $2 million per target district. “The effort will begin in coming weeks with a campaign aimed at persuading the lawmakers to back an immigration measure this year,” Gold wrote. “If that fails, the group plans to run a barrage of radio and TV ads against them next year.”

The AFL-CIO’s immigration campaign manager, Tom Snyder, said each of these GOP lawmakers has a target on their backs. “There was agreement in the room that if we don’t see action in the House, we know who we’re going after,” Snyder said. “There’s a realization that we have to get back to basics. We’re at the point where if you don’t act, we’re going to have to make you pay at the ballot box.”

Amalia Perea Mahoney, a Chicago-area art gallery owner who the Los Angeles Times reported raked in between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, said the group is “all very united” in its purpose. “I think it’s a pivotal moment,” she said. Mahoney is also an Obama appointee to an federal arts board.

Soros has spent $100 million since 1997 backing what his Open Society Foundation calls “immigrant rights” groups and projects. Some of those projects, like Soros’ National Immigration Forum-backed Evangelical Immigration Table (EIT), were meant to create the illusion of grassroots support for amnesty where there was none. Recent polling data released by NumbersUSA, conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, shows that Evangelical Republican likely voters disagree with the push for amnesty despite the Soros group’s claims there is grassroots support among Evangelicals for the policy.

Recently, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), a supporter of immigration reform, withdrew from the House's version of the Senate's "Gang of Eight" and announced his public opposition to negotiating with Obama and the Senate on immigration, saying such negotiations would be "crazy" for House GOP leadership to enter into. Labrador said House GOP leadership would not be smart to deal with these people because they are trying to "destroy" the Republican Party.


October 28, 2013

Author of Patriot Act plans to introduce to bill to rein in NSA

A bill seeking to rein in the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection could be introduced in Congress as soon as next week, The Daily Caller has learned.

Ben Miller, Communications Director for Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, told TheDC that the bill text of the bill will drop the last week of October, and the bill currently has roughly 60 cosponsors in the House.

Breitbart News said the bill could appear on Tuesday.

Sensenbrenner and Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committtee, announced their intentions to introduce the USA FREEDOM Act, Uniting and Strengthening America by Fulfilling Rights and Ending Eavesdropping, Dragnet Collection, and Online Monitoring Act, at the beginning of October.

According to Sensenbrenner’s site, the purpose of the bill is to “to rein in the dragnet collection of data by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies, increase transparency of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), provide businesses the ability to release information regarding FISA requests, and create an independent constitutional advocate to argue cases before the FISC.”

The bill would end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications records, reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, increase transparency and add a sunset date to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Security Letters.

National Security Letters allow federal officials to secretly collect the electronic communications of a suspect without a warrant or a court order.

During a keynote speech at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 9, Sensenbrenner — credited as the author of the original PATRIOT Act — emphasized the need to increase transparency in the federal government.

“We don’t need to have an Edward Snowden to let us know what’s going on there,” he said. “We need more transparency, and there’s a way to do it.”

Sensenbrenner has been a vocal critic of the way the agency has interpreted the law since former NSA  contractor Edward Snowden first began revealing in June secret information about how the NSA secretly collects the phone and Internet communications of Americans in bulk.

Sensenbrenner also voted for Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash’s defense appropriations bill amendment to defund the NSA’s bulk spying program.

Anti-surveillance activists are also scheduled to protest against the NSA in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Oct. 26.

Called the Stop Watching Us Coalition, the activists plan to deliver a petition of over half-a-million signatures to Congress demanding that members “reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.”

Organizations supporting the coalition include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council for American-Islamic Relations, Young Americans for Liberty, Restore the Fourth and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Many of these same groups also rallied on the Fourth of July to end mass surveillance in the United States.


October 25, 2013

Who’s up for a new Republican amnesty push?

I understand why Obama, who’s speaking about immigration this morning, wants to push the issue. When your opponent has just finished nearly tearing itself apart over defunding ObamaCare, why not bait it with amnesty to see if it’ll tear itself apart further? What I don’t understand is why House GOP leaders would take the bait. Boehner said yesterday in response to a question that he hasn’t ruled out bringing immigration back up this year. Normally I’d dismiss that as basic pandering, to show Latino voters that this is still a priority among the caucus even if it isn’t, but other GOPers like Mario Diaz-Balart claim that a “number” of Republicans are negotiating over a series of piecemeal immigration bills — and, he says, they understand that Democratic votes will be needed to pass them, which may or may not mean that Boehner’s prepared to violate the Hastert Rule (again) to get this done. Why anyone — anyone — in the party would want to distract the public right now with a shiny object when newspapers are filled with stories about Healthcare.gov’s meltdown imperiling ObamaCare, I can’t begin to imagine. Bad enough that they’d follow through on a quixotic play like “defund,” but then to not follow through by focusing all the party’s messaging on O-Care when Obama’s desperately trying to change the subject by reviving immigration? That’s a firing offense, quite apart from the merits or lack thereof of whatever immigration bill they end up opposing.

We’ll see what Boehner does. In the meantime, Darrell Issa’s decided to introduce his own immigration bill — one that would grant illegals “temporary” legal status for six years while America figures out what permanent track to put them on. Show of hands: Who thinks Congress will muster the will to revoke that “temporary” status for those who don’t qualify for permanent status when the six-year period is up?
Issa’s forthcoming legislation takes elements from similar legislation he introduced in December 2003, the Alien Accountability Act. The six-year period is intended to whittle down the undocumented immigrant population into several categories, such as immigrants with family ties to U.S. citizens or immigrants who want to participate in a guest-worker program. 
Bringing undocumented immigrants out “of the shadows” would also help the government identify undocumented immigrants with a criminal background, who would be deported from the United States, Issa said. 
“If somebody has a nexus that would reasonably allow them to become permanent residents and American citizen, we should allow them to do that,” Issa said. He added: “Our view is that long before six years, people would be in those categories heading toward some other pathway, in a guest worker program, or of course, have left the country.”
Conservatives in the House have been crowing lately that they won’t go to a conference committee with the Senate for fear that the final product will look too much like the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive bill, but if the alternative is to grant fake “temporary” amnesty to illegals without absolute assurance of border-security improvements first, I don’t see what the material difference is. That reminds me of the plan to grant legal status to illegals while barring them from any citizenship track; amnesty fans have been receptive to that because they know the citizenship bar will be lifted over time. If the House GOP sincerely believes in the “piecemeal” approach to comprehensive reform, I don’t know why they’re not focused entirely on drafting border-security legislation right now. That’s the first step in piecemeal passage; if they’re already looking past that to the legalization step, then they’re obviously more concerned with voter perceptions than they are with policy.

Rich Lowry wonders: Is a new immigration push the price of having stuck with the “defund” strategy all the way to the point of a government shutdown?
1) The Republican leadership is going to feel pressure to do some sort of bi-partisan pivot in a misbegotten attempt to repair the party’s image, which at least for now is uniformly in the toilet in every poll. 
2) The political judgment of the groups and members who favored the shutdown strategy and most strongly oppose amnesty is going to be highly suspect after defunding didn’t work. This will give them less influence in the immigration fight than they would have had otherwise. 
3) The supporters of defunding in the House could use a few dozen members to drive the rest of the caucus. The dynamic will be different on immigration. Because Democrats all opposed any fiscal measure offered by the Republican leadership, the votes of those few dozen members were essential to passing anything. On immigration, Democrats could well support incremental immigration measures to get to a conference with the Senate, meaning a few dozen Republican votes against don’t mean anything anymore.
In other words, “defund” was the cookie they gave to tea partiers. Now they need to give a cookie to the establishment for putting them through it, and there’s no cookie tastier than amnesty. Business groups who are angry at tea partiers over the shutdown have been begging for immigration reform for years, and because reform polls well on balance, it would in theory help revive the GOP’s standing somewhat among the wider electorate. Best of all, as Lowry says, because RINOs in the House stuck with “defund” almost to the very end, they’ll be less inclined to listen to tea partiers again if/when immigration comes to the floor. I still think Boehner’s unlikely to pursue it, just because the rift it would cause between the center and the right might be irreparably deep in the near term after the shutdown debacle, but if they do it, this is why. They’ve been eager ever since November to do something to rebuild the party’s brand and now, post-shutdown, they’re more eager than ever. Since the beginning of the year, they’ve fixated on immigration as a magic bullet to achieve their goal. No surprise really that they’d turn back to it now.


October 24, 2013

D.C. businessman faces two years in jail for unregistered ammunition, brass casing

Mark Witaschek, a successful financial adviser with no criminal record, is facing two years in prison for possession of unregistered ammunition after D.C. police raided his house looking for guns. Mr. Witaschek has never had a firearm in the city, but he is being prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The trial starts on Nov. 4.

The police banged on the front door of Mr. Witaschek’s Georgetown home at 8:20 p.m. on July 7, 2012, to execute a search warrant for “firearms and ammunition … gun cleaning equipment, holsters, bullet holders and ammunition receipts.”

Mr. Witaschek’s 14-year-old daughter let inside some 30 armed officers in full tactical gear.

D.C. law requires residents to register every firearm with the police, and only registered gun owners can possess ammunition, which includes spent shells and casings. The maximum penalty for violating these laws is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Police based their search on a charge made by Mr. Witaschek’s estranged wife, who had earlier convinced a court clerk to issue a temporary restraining order against her husband for threatening her with a gun, although a judge later found the charge to be without merit.

After entering the house, the police immediately went upstairs, pointed guns at the heads of Mr. Witaschek and his girlfriend, Bonnie Harris, and demanded they surrender, facedown and be handcuffed.

In recalling what followed, Mr. Witaschek became visibly emotional in describing how the police treated him, Ms. Harris and the four children in the house.

His 16-year-old son was in the shower when the police arrived. “They used a battering ram to bash down the bathroom door and pull him out of the shower, naked,” said his father. “The police put all the children together in a room, while we were handcuffed upstairs. I could hear them crying, not knowing what was happening.”

Police spokesman Gwendolyn Crump would not provide further information on the events in this case.
The police shut down the streets for blocks and spent more than two hours going over every inch of his house. “They tossed the place,” said Mr. Witaschek. He provided photos that he took of his home after the raid to document the damage, which he estimated at $10,000.

The police found no guns in the house, but did write on the warrant that four items were discovered: “One live round of 12-gauge shotgun ammunition,” which was an inoperable shell that misfired during a hunt years earlier. Mr. Witaschek had kept it as a souvenir. “One handgun holster” was found, which is perfectly legal.

“One expended round of .270 caliber ammunition,” which was a spent brass casing. The police uncovered “one box of Knight bullets for reloading.” These are actually not for reloading, but are used in antique-replica, single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles.

This was the second police search of his home. Exactly one month earlier, Mr. Witaschek allowed members of the “Gun Recovery Unit” access to search without a warrant because he thought he had nothing to hide.

After about an hour and a half, the police found one box of Winchester .40 caliber ammunition, one gun-cleaning kit (fully legal) and a Civil War-era Colt antique revolver that Mr. Witaschek kept on his office desk. The police seized the Colt even though antique firearms are legal and do not have to be registered.

Mr. Witaschek is a gun owner and an avid hunter. However, he stores his firearms at the home of his sister, Sylvia Witaschek, in suburban Arlington, Va.

Two weeks after the June raid, D.C. police investigators went to his sister’s house — unaccompanied by Virginia police and without a warrant — and asked to “view” the firearms, according to a police report. She refused. The next day, the D.C. police returned to her house with the Arlington County police and served her with a criminal subpoena.

The Office of Attorney General of the District of Columbia Irvin Nathan signed an affidavit on Aug. 21, 2012, in support of a warrant to arrest Mr. Witaschek. A spokesman for Mr. Nathan would not comment on a pending case.

Mr. Witaschek went to the police station on Aug. 24 at 5:30 a.m. to turn himself in, but was not transferred to central booking until 11:30 a.m., at which time he was told it was too late to be arraigned that day. He spent the night in jail and was released the next day at 10 a.m.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier reserves such harsh tactics for ordinary citizens. When NBC News anchor David Gregory violated the gun-registration law last year by wielding an illegal 30-round magazine on live television, he was not arrested.

Mr. Nathan also gave Mr. Gregory a pass, writing that prosecuting him “would not promote public safety.”

Mr. Nathan, who is unelected, showed no such leniency to Mr. Witaschek. In September 2012, the attorney general offered Mr. Witaschek a deal to plead guilty to one charge of unlawful possession of ammunition with a penalty of a year of probation, a $500 fine and a contribution to a victims’ fund.

Mr. Witaschek turned down the offer. “It’s the principle,” he told me.

To increase the pressure a year later, Mr. Nathan tacked on an additional charge in August of illegal ammunition from the first, warrantless search. Mr. Witaschek chose to accept the risk of prison time by going to trial instead of pleading guilty.

The firearms laws in places such as the District of Columbia, Chicago, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey do nothing to reduce violence, but merely infringe on the Second Amendment rights of the law-abiding.

However, if these laws are going to be enforced, the police and government must treat everyone equally.

The charges against Mr. Witaschek should be dropped.


October 23, 2013

IRS wastes billions in bogus claims for Earned Income Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service paid up to $13.6 billion in bogus claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit last year and as much as $132.6 billion over the past decade, according to an internal audit that already has some members of Congress questioning how the agency will be able to administer Obamacare.

IRS problems with the tax credit aren’t new. In fact, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration said it warned officials about the problems in 2011 — but two years later, the agency still hasn’t solved the situation and remains in violation of one of President Obama’s executive orders.

Indeed, the IRS has not established annual targets for reducing the payments, which is required by law, nor is the agency complying with requirements that it report to auditors each quarter on any EITC payments totaling more than $5,000.

“The IRS should be commended for implementing numerous processes to educate Americans and identify and prevent improper EITC payments,” said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration. “Unfortunately, it is still distributing more than $11 billion in improper EITC payments each year, and that is disturbing.”

Mr. George and his investigators said 21 percent to 25 percent of all EITC payments in 2012 were erroneous, meaning $11.6 billion to $13.6 billion was paid to people who shouldn’t have received the credit, or received the wrong amount.

The EITC is a refundable tax credit designed to transfer money to the working poor through the tax system. It allows the working poor to pay less in taxes or, if they have no tax liability, to get money.

Both the IRS and the auditors agreed it is a complex program and checking eligibility is difficult.

The program is popular with many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who say it’s an effective anti-poverty tool, rewarding those who work.

But the large error rate left some lawmakers questioning whether the agency will be able to administer the tens of billions of dollars in health care tax credits that are part of the Affordable Care Act.

“That the IRS can’t figure out how to rein in the improper Earned Income Tax Credit payments doesn’t bode well for the $1.1 trillion in ObamaCare subsidies,” said Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

He said if the error rate in Obamacare subsidies is as big as it is in the EITC, that could mean $250 billion would be wasted in health care payments.

The size of the erroneous payments was staggering to lawmakers. At more than $13 billion a year, the bogus tax claims are more than the entire budget of the Environmental Protection Agency or the Interior or Labor departments.

“The waste outlined in this report — more than $13 billion a year — equals or exceeds the annual budgets of some federal agencies,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and Congress‘ chief waste-watcher. “Before we ask taxpayers to send even more of their own money to Washington, we must do more to prevent these egregious examples of waste.”

The IRS said it does try to crack down on bad EITC payments. Americans who claim the tax credit are already audited at twice the rate of other taxpayers.

“The IRS protects nearly $4 billion in improper claims each year and is committed to continuing to work to reduce improper claims,” the agency said in a statement.

The agency said it’s working with the White House budget office to try to come up with other ways to weed out bad payments, and promised to soon comply with reporting requirements.

And it’s already shown some progress in cutting the problem. In 2010, as much as 29 percent of EITC payments were erroneous, accounting for up to $18.4 billion.

Analysts said the large error rate stems from the complexity of the program, which leaves taxpayers confused about who is able to claim it.

Then there are the competing goals Congress and Mr. Obama have set.

For example, in a 2009 executive order the president told agencies to do more to make sure Americans know they are eligible for tax credits. But he also told agencies to crack down on bogus payments, laying out the reporting goals that the inspector general said the IRS is violating.


October 22, 2013

Rep. Miller: Obama administration ‘stonewalling’ on bonus to official who oversaw preventable veteran deaths

The Obama administration’s Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) broke a promise to review a taxpayer-funded bonus to an official who oversaw preventable veteran deaths, according to a congressional committee.
In May, VA promised to conduct a review of a $63,000 bonus awarded to Michael Moreland, a regional director who oversaw the Veterans Administration hospital in Pittsburgh during a nearly two-year outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.
More than 20 illnesses and five deaths from a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak between February 2011 to November 2012. Moreland had several warnings about the outbreak. The head of the Pittsburgh hospital sent Moreland a memo on the outbreak in July 2011. The manufacturer of the hospital’s water system informed hospital officials that the water contained the dangerous legionella bacteria as early as December 2011.
Yet VA held a black-tie awards ceremony celebrating Moreland’s Presidential Distinguished Rank Award in April of this year, not long after the Department received a report to the presence of the dangerous bacteria Legionella at the Pittsburgh hospital, according to the American Legion.
After news reports on Moreland’s management appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other media, the Department announced it would review Moreland’s award and bonus.
But VA recently backtracked and refused to confirm that the bonus given to Moreland, who is retiring November 1 after 34 years at VA, is under review. The Department refused to ever say anything more on the matter.
“After telling every reporter who would listen that Michael Moreland’s outrageous $63,000 bonus is under review, VA has suddenly decided to stonewall the American public on the status of that review. This is an insult to the families of those who died in the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System Legionnaires’ disease tragedy and calls into question whether or not the department ever sought to review Moreland’s bonus in the first place,” Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, told The Daily Caller in a statement.
“One thing is clear: VA does not get to decide when this conversation is over,” Miller told TheDC. “Congress and the American people do. We simply will not stand by while VA attempts to quietly shuffle Moreland out the back door with his $63,000 bonus in hand. It’s time for VA to come clean about its review of Moreland’s bonus and take any and all steps necessary to recoup the funds. If department leaders refuse to do so, they owe everyone – especially the families of those who died – an explanation as to why they won’t act.”
VA did not return a request for comment.


October 21, 2013

Ted Cruz stalker inspired by Democratic Party messaging materials

The man under FBI investigation for making violent threats against Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz was inspired to encourage violence by Democratic Party messaging efforts.

Troy Gilmore, Jr., who identifies himself as having served in the U.S. Navy, is under FBI investigation for possible violent threats on Twitter against Republican senator Cruz. The FBI has communicated with Gilmore as part of the investigation and is monitoring for possible violence inspired by Gilmore’s online writings.

“Given this is a security matter, all I can say is that we have notified the appropriate authorities of the threats,” Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier told The Daily Caller.

The Twitter account of Gilmore, named “DarkNight,” is now protected. But Gilmore wrote numerous threats toward Cruz on his Facebook page, the address of which ends with the term “countdown543,” while linking to anti-Republican activist web pages paid for by the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a Democratic congressional campaign.

“I WILL SAY IT AGAIN LET’S GO TO TED CRUZ,HOME AND KICK HIS STINKING ASS FOR CAUSING THIS MESS.YOU CAN BET HE HAS HIS PAYCHECK AND HEALTH BENEFITS FROM THE SENATE AND CANADA. HE LIVES AT [address redacted by The Daily Caller], THE FUCKING SCUM,” Gilmore posted on Facebook October 14, linking to a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee web page entitled “Demand Ted Cruz Denounce Disgusting Tea Party Attacks on President Obama.”

“Show up at Ted Cruz’s home he is the dirt bag fucker who caused all of this shit to take place.Lets drag him out hid damn home and kick his ass [address redacted by The Daily Caller].The damn scum bag of a U.S.Senator,from the sorry ass state that hates women,and to think this Pussy is married to one,” Gilmore posted to Facebook October 14, linking to a petition to House Republicans paid for by the campaign of Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider.

“Well since Ted Cruz,started all of this mess let’s show up at his home in Houston,and slap him around. [Address redacted by The Daily Caller],” Gilmore wrote October 14, linking to Schneider’s campaign’s petition.

“So they want to disrespect the ‘WHITE HOUSE’ Lets disrespect Ted Cruz home address at [address redacted by The Daily Caller],” Gilmore also wrote on Facebook October 14, noting that when you “disrespect the ‘WHITE HOUSE’ that is when you have crossed the line.”

“Why don’t we all show up at Ted Cruz,house in Texas,and beat the hell out of him,because he trying to be another Sarah Palin,has caused all of this that has taken place,and all those asshole Tea Party Pricks and that Wimpy ass Speaker of the House John Boehner,have caused this problem in the country,and they want Obama,and the Democrats to compromise,” Gilmore posted on Facebook October 8, linking to a web page paid for by the Democratic National Committee blaming Cruz for the shutdown and encouraging people to “Tell the GOP that it’s time to get the government back up and running.”

“Compromise what!! they did not cause this that assholes on the other side did.So lets show up at Ted Cruz house in Texas,and show him how angry he has made all of us as American people and than go after the wimp of a speaker John Boehner,” Gilmore wrote.

“Lets all rally at the new Sarah Palin which is Ted Cruz,and his big mouth and meet at his home in Texas,and kick his fucking ass for causing all of this I have had enough of this shit,” Gilmore wrote on Facebook October 8, linking to a Democratic National Committee web page.

Gilmore has also linked on Facebook to a web page from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee featuring a Rachel Maddow clip and the progressive reform group CREDO Action, called Marco Rubio “the new Uncle Tom.of the people of color community” and encouraged Americans to “RISE UP” and “KICK THESE TEA PARTY MOTHER FUCKERS OUT OF OFFICE COME 2014.”

Gilmore identifies himself on Facebook as a native of Orange, New Jersey who lives in Winter Park, Florida.
Despite dealing with liberal threats on his safety, Cruz and his supporters are consistently painted by the liberal media as extremists.

” These days, when you say “Texas” in the context of heavy-breathing Republican extremism, everybody immediately thinks of Senator Ted Cruz. Which is really unfair when there are so many other members of the state delegation trying to do their part,” talentless New York Times humor columnist Gail Collins wrote Sunday in a column entitled “A Ted Cruz on Every Corner.”

Gilmore did not return a Facebook request for comment. The Democratic National Commitee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee did not return requests for comment.


October 18, 2013

Cruz: Establishment GOP Acted like 'Air Force Bombing Our Own Troops'

Conservative senator faults old guard for one-sided results of budget showdown.

On Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) ripped establishment Republicans for going out of their way attacking and undermining the defunding Obamacare effort and ensuring that Senate and House Republicans would never be united in order for the strategy to succeed or conservatives to gain leverage in budget negotiations. 

Though there were House Republicans--like Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on the record and a host of Representatives and their aides off the record--that never gave the defunding effort a chance from the beginning, Cruz singled out Senate Republicans for becoming the "Air Force bombing our own troops" that bombed House Republicans and conservatives repeatedly.

"You can't win when one half of Congress turns its cannons on the other half," Cruz said, noting that the outcome may have been different had Senate Republicans been united and not sabotaged conservatives.

As a result, when the government re-opens and the debt-ceiling is raised temporarily, Americans will still be stuck with an Obamacare law Cruz has said will be the top job destroyer in America. 

Appearing on Mark Levin's radio show, Cruz blasted the Washington establishment for not sticking up for the mother trying to feed her kids after seeing her hours cut to 29 hours a week and said that was yet another example of Washington "not listening to the American people."

Levin emphasized that the "American people stand behind" constitutional conservatives in opposition to Obamacare, and Cruz reiterated that the party did not rally around conservatives fighting to defund the law.

Cruz said "Senate Republicans didn't stand united" after House Republicans finally passed a short-term resolution to fund the government except for Obamacare and were "divided in half" before criticizing Republicans who went on television and radio "blasting House Republicans" and saying, "We cannot win... This will fail."

He said when Senate Republicans are "firing their cannons at the House Republicans," it "sabotages the effort" to defund Obamacare. 

He criticized Washington Republicans embracing "risk aversion" and being more concerned about their standing in the D.C. cocktail party circuit before pointing out that Republicans opposed to the defunding Obamacare strategy never had plans to fight Obamacare with a "middle-ground compromise" of their own. 

Cruz said their compromise was "complete" and "abject surrender" that did "noting for the American people" and gave Obama "everything he wants."

Cruz said while House Republicans "stood strong for two weeks," Senate Republicans "were attacking House Republicans from every venue from every front." Those like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) relentlessly attacked Cruz during the defunding fight. 

While he and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) were fighting to defund Obamacare, Cruz always said, contrary to how he is being attacked, that it would be easier to convince Democrats in red states to support the strategy if Republicans were first united in the effort. On Wednesday, Cruz singled out Senate Republicans who did not keep their criticisms private and made a point to bombard the airwaves to attack and demean House conservatives and those like Cruz, Lee, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Those Republicans never gave the defunding Obamacare strategy a chance to, at minimum, offer Americans some type of relief similar to what Congress and big business were getting and instead spent all their time, as Cruz said, sabotaging the effort. 

Levin noted that conservatives would be giving Cruz plenty of "air cover" going forward. 


October 17, 2013

McConnell Spokesman: Kentucky Dam Earmark in Debt Deal Not Senator's Project

Senate Minority leader's office claims controversial pork spending in debt deal came from a sub-comittee.

Kentucky outlet WFPL reported Wednesday that a proposal to end the federal government shutdown and increase the U.S. debt ceiling by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) included a $2 billion earmark for the Olmstead Dam Lock in Louisville.

Language in a draft of the McConnell-Reid deal (see page 13, section 123) provided to WFPL News shows a provision that increases funding for the massive Olmsted Dam Lock in Louisville from $775 million to nearly $2. 9 billion.

The dam is considered an important project for the state and region in regards to water traffic along the Ohio River.

As The Courier-Journal's James Bruggers reported in 2011, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they needed about $2.1 billion for the locks due to "stop and go funding."

McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told Breitbart News, "It’s an authorization; it doesn’t appropriate any money, but the energy and water sub committee appropriations committee did that. They’re the ones to talk to."

Stewart continued, "It’s not our project, but the Energy and Water Sub Committee did that project and they’re the ones to talk to. Senator Alexander and Senator Feinstein of California."

Sen. Alexander's office told BuzzFeed the provision was added to keep the funding from being canceled.

"According to the Army Corps of Engineers, 160 million taxpayer dollars will be wasted because of canceled contracts if this language is not included. Sen. [Diane] Feinstein and I, as chairman and ranking member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, requested this provision. It has already been approved this year by the House and Senate."

The Senate Conservative's Fund, however, refers to the measure as a "kickback," saying that McConnell "may try to blame someone else for this, but he wrote the bill and it's not the first time he has sought funds for this project. He also requested $100 million for it in 2010."