July 31, 2014

5 Ways The 'Billionaires' Club' Runs The EPA

According to a new report from the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, a “club of billionaires” including Tom Steyer and Hank Paulson has effectively hijacked the Environmental Protection Agency for its own purposes – to grow the EPA and regulate the economy from stem to stern.

Here are the top five takeaways from the report regarding the billionaire takeover of the EPA:
Agency “Capture.” According to the report, billionaires work with former colleagues in the non-profit sector who are specifically placed at key points within the agency. The report explains, “the Obama EPA has been deliberately staffed at the highest levels with far-left environmental activists who have worked hand-in-glove with their former colleagues.” Furthermore, the EPA sends “grants to their former employers and colleagues.”
The Revolving Door. The report reveals a huge number of EPA officials shuttling into and out of the agency and into and out of associated non-profits funded by the so-called Billionaires’ Club. These include Bob Sussman, Senior Policy Counsel at the EPA under former administrator Lisa Jackson; he came from the Center for American Progress. Other revolving door EPA staffers: Michelle DePass, former Assistant Administrator for the Office of International and Tribal Affairs, who came to her position from the Ford Foundation and actually worked for both organizations simultaneously at one point; Michael Goo, former Associate Administrator of EPA, who worked for Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA); Dr. Al Armendariz, Region 6 Administrator, who worked for the Environmental Integrity Project.
The Secret Emails. Jackson was caught using her private email address to send sensitive material, but she was hardly the only one. Sussman was caught using “his personal email to communicate with environmentalists in violation of EPA policy.” James Martin, former Region 8 Administrator, was similarly caugh “using his personal email account to communicate with environmentalists…about official agency business in violation of official EPA policy.” Michael Goo, former Associate Administrator of EPA, also emailed member so the Sierra Club about how to sink Keystone XL.
The Funding. The report shows that EPA regulators have used their influence to send money back to the Billionaires’ Club charities. Grants from the EPA have totaled $3 billion over the last decade; Obama’s EPA “has given more than $27 million in taxpayer funded grans to major environmental groups.” Organizations like the American Lung Association have received $14 million since 2009, even though ALA has repeatedly sued the Agency.
Special Treatment. The report suggests that Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck violated the EPA’s standards and ethics by giving EPA grantees “special treatment.” For example, even though the activist group El Puente had been ruled out of bounds thanks to breaking the terms of its grant, Enck delayed the killing of its grant for ten months. Enck is currently under inquiry by the Office of the Inspector General. Similarly, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB, a former project of the Tides Foundation) grabbed cash from Jackson. That cash went to fighting oil and gas projects in Louisiana.

Americans have long known that the regulatory state is a complete disaster area, and that the EPA is one of the worst regulatory agencies in government. The new report confirms that fear – and suggests that for all their complaints about money in politics, leftists are quite comfortable with it so long as it serves their ends.

July 30, 2014

Obama mum on where illegal immigrant children are sheltered

The Obama administration is concealing key details about its response to the surge of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the southern border, including where the unaccompanied minors are being sheltered and the circumstances under which some are set free inside the U.S.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill say the lack of information has handicapped their push to pass legislation to gain a handle on the surge — a debate taking place this week in both chambers.

“We’re getting almost no information, and there is all kinds of conflicting information,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who for months has been hounding the administration for answers about where unaccompanied minors, who crossed the border without their parents, are detained and released.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is bound by law to house and care for unaccompanied children and teens from Central America, rebuffed repeated inquires from The Washington Times about the location of shelters where many of the children are detained.

“We do not identify the approximately 100 regular/permanent Unaccompanied Alien Children program shelters for the safety and security of minors and staff at the facilities,” Kenneth Wolfe, deputy director of communication for HHS' Administration for Children and Families, said in an email.

Mr. Wolfe refused to say what the perceived danger is or whether state and local government officials were notified of permanent shelters located in their jurisdictions. A number of governors and local officials have said they only have found out from leaks and press reports.

The only sites that Mr. Wolfe would identify were the three temporary shelters set up on military bases — Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California and Fort Sill in Oklahoma, all of which restrict the general public’s access.

Mr. Wolfe did release to The Times the latest numbers showing that HHS has received 53,324 unaccompanied minors from the Department of Homeland Security and has released 48,805 of them.

There are currently 6,994 minors in the UAC program, he said, which includes youths taken into custody last year that have not been placed with families.

However, where the released children went and where the minors still in custody are being detained remain unanswered questions.

The locations of the permanent shelters have been kept secret since the agency’s Office of Refugee Resettlement began the UAC program, said Mr. Wolfe.

The secrecy didn’t raise eyebrows until the tsunami of unaccompanied children hit the U.S. this year, and the Obama administration began scrambling to find more shelter facilities, encountering fierce community opposition at nearly every proposed site.

Outcry from residents and local elected officials forced the administration to pull back from plans to set up temporary shelters in communities such as Baltimore, Maryland; Lynn, Massachusetts; Lawrenceville, Virginia; Hazleton, Pennsylvania and Murrieta, California.

The administration has since expanded the use of military bases for temporary shelters, including plans under consideration to send some of the children to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. On the bases, the Pentagon provides the facilities and HHS runs the shelters.

A 2008 law required HHS to take custody of most illegal immigrant children and attempt to reunite them with relatives inside the U.S. The law was intended to protect children from human trafficking, but critics say it became a way for children to gain a foothold in the country and now serves as an incentive for children to try to jump the border.

House Republicans are pushing to change the law as part of a $659 million emergency spending bill to address the border crisis for the next two months. A Senate bill contains more money to house and transport the children well into the next fiscal year but wouldn’t change the law to speed up deportations.

Mr. McCain said the information blackout will “absolutely” discourage Republicans from voting for anything more than a stopgap spending to keep the program running through Congress’ summer recess.

The administration also has stonewalled questions from Congress about how the program is run, including how many of the children have received asylum status that will allow them to remain in the U.S. or how many have been released to relatives or other guardians and asked to return for an immigration hearing at a later date.

Questions also have gone unanswered about the process for performing background checks on the children, many of whom are teens, and the adults who claim to be their relatives or guardians.

Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Henry Cuellar, both of Texas, sent HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell a letter July 18 with six questions about the policies for screening adults to whom children are released and tracking of the children after release.

“Does HHS conduct criminal background checks and national security checks on guardians prior to releasing unaccompanied alien children to their custody?” they asked in one of the questions posed in the letter.

The department has yet to respond, according to Mr. Cornyn’s office.

July 29, 2014

‘A Perilous Hour:’ Sen. Sessions Rails Against Obama’s Impending Unlawful Immigration Order

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions warned his colleagues they are fast approaching “a perilous hour” for the separation of powers between the president and Congress, delivering an impassioned denunciation of President Barack Obama’s plan to ignore Congress and grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants despite opposition from lawmakers.

Sessions spoke on the Senate floor Monday about the slew of reports indicating the White House is only days away from a major executive action on immigration.

Most reports — including some from Democratic members of Congress — claim Obama will grant some form of amnesty to vast swathes of people now living in the country illegal. According to Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, that number could be as high as 5 million.

“We are entering a momentous week,” Sessions began, “as Congress must face the reality that President Obama is moving towards a decision whereby he would issue executive orders in direct contravention of long-established American law . . . This after Congress has explicitly refused demands to change the law to suit his desire.”

Any amnesty without congressional approval, the senator warned, “would be in contravention of his duty and his oath to see that the United States are faithfully enforced — and it would be a direct challenge to the clear powers of Congress to make laws!”

“The president’s actions are astonishing,” he continued, “[and] they’re taking our nation into exceedingly-dangerous waters . . . Such calculated action strains the constitutional structure of our republic.”

Sessions called for the president to “pull back” and cease promising action to special interest groups. “Simply put, that which you desire is beyond your lawful reach!” he admonished.

“Mr. President, you work for the American people,” he continued. “They don’t work for you! And they will not accept nullification of their law passed by their elected representatives. The American people are not going to accept it. They’re going to fight this. They will resist.”

Sessions called on his fellow lawmakers to immediately pass a provision expressly forbidding Obama from taking unilateral action on amnesty.

“I’m calling on every person in this body and in the House of Representatives to stand up and be counted in this perilous hour,” he declared. “I think it is a perilous hour. I don’t think I’ve seen a situation in which a president, weeks in advanced, have announced he’s going to take action that violates law.”

“Will we answer that call?” he asked. “Where will history record each of us stood at this important time?”

“I believe the answer should be clear,” Sessions concluded. “We stand for law, we stand for the Constitution, we stand for an honorable, lawful immigration system that treats everyone fairly and serves the national interest of the people of the United States.”

July 28, 2014

Obamacare Architect Argued Years Ago That States Without Exchanges Can’t Get Subsidies

One of Obamacare’s authors said in 2012 that states that don’t set up their own Obamacare exchanges can’t offer residents subsidies, throwing heavy weight behind the argument that the billions in subsidies to federally-run exchanges are illegal.

Earlier this week two appeals courts heard arguments that the Affordable Care Act’s language doesn’t allow for subsidies in federally-run exchanges but answered the question differently. While the D.C. District Court of Appeals first found that the subsidies are illegal for the 36 states that didn’t create their own exchanges, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said otherwise. 

But Jonathan Gruber, an economics professor at MIT who worked closely with the Obama administration to create and draft the health-care law, said as far back as 2012 that states that didn’t step up to make their own exchanges wouldn’t be able to offer premium subsidies.

“In the law, it says if the states don’t provide [exchanges], the federal backstop will,” Gruber said in a newly unearthed 2012 presentation. “The federal government has been sort of slow in putting out its backstop, I think partly because they want to sort of squeeze the states to do it. I think what’s important to remember politically about this, is if you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”

Gruber’s argument is important: the federal government wants to pressure states into building their exchanges, or they’ll be the ones responsible for keeping subsidies away from their constituents.

“But your citizens still pay the taxes that support this bill. So you’re essentially saying to your citizens, you’re going to pay all the taxes to help all the other states in the country. I hope that’s a blatant enough political reality that states will get their act together and realize there are billions of dollars at stake here in setting up these exchanges, and that they’ll do it. But you know, once again, the politics can get ugly around this.”

Obamacare supporters have argued that providing subsidies through the federal exchange is what Congress intended to do, but admit that there was a “drafting error” that called it into question.

But Gruber’s two-year-old explanation appears to back the plaintiffs’ case. Gruber was hired by the Obama administration to craft the law — and even worked with congressional staff to draft the legislation itself. And he suggests not that the law’s exclusion of federal subsidies is a “drafting error,” but a fully-intended incentive structure in order to convince states to take up the burden of creating their own state exchanges.

That said, since the lawsuits cropped up, Gruber has argued extensively in favor of the Obama administration in both cases regarding federal subsidies and joined amicus briefs to support the federal government’s position. These days, Gruber says it’s “absurd” that Congress didn’t mean to apply the subsidies to federally-run exchange states as well.

The D.C. circuit’s conclusion relied on the wording of the law: subsidies go to “exchanges established by the State,” choosing not to try to assume what Congress intended. Meanwhile, the Fourth Circuit’s decision that federal subsidies are permissible rested on their understanding that the law’s language is “ambiguous” and that Congress’s intent to provide subsidies to the whole country is clear.

The plaintiffs who brought the case, the court wrote, may not “rely on our help to deny to millions of Americans desperately-needed health insurance through a tortured, nonsensical construction of a federal statute whose manifest purpose, as revealed by the wholeness and coherence of its text and structure, could not be more clear.”

But the law’s architect apparently stating that Congress intended to withhold the subsidies in 2012 — before any court cases had put the subsidies in danger — suggests that congressional intent in this case may be anything but clear.


July 25, 2014

Obama May Bypass Congress To Grant Refugee Status For Hondurans

The Obama administration is considering a move that, according to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, "would increase, not stem, the flood of migrants from Central America trying to get into the United States".

“It’s clearly a bad idea,” Mr. Krikorian said. “Orders of magnitude more people will apply for refugee status if they can just do it from their home countries.” He added that the proposal would allow people to claim to be refugees from their countries with “nothing more than a bus ride to the consulate. We’re talking about, down the road, an enormous additional flow of people from those countries.”

The move may also fly in the face of the traditional legal definition of precisely who qualifies as a refugee.

The preliminary plan could create a thorny challenge for the administration because the definition of a refugee is legally specific, and children fleeing street gangs could have a hard time qualifying.

In effect, the plan would establiish a screening center in Honduras and allow for the direct transport of individuals into the U.S. if it were determined they qualified for refugee status.

... the Obama administration is considering whether to allow hundreds of minors and young adults from Honduras into the United States without making the dangerous trek through Mexico, according to a draft of the proposal.

If approved, the plan would direct the government to screen thousands of children and youths in Honduras to see if they can enter the United States as refugees or on emergency humanitarian grounds. It would be the first American refugee effort in a nation reachable by land to the United States, the White House said, putting the violence in Honduras on the level of humanitarian emergencies in Haiti and Vietnam, where such programs have been conducted in the past amid war and major crises.

Critics of the plan were quick to pounce, saying it appeared to redefine the legal definition of a refugee and would only increase the flow of migration to the United States. Administration officials said they believed the plan could be enacted through executive action, without congressional approval, as long as it did not increase the total number of refugees coming into the country.


July 24, 2014

Whistleblowers flood VA with lawsuits despite apology

Ex-employees claim retaliation for workplace complaints

An apology from a senior VA official earlier this month failed to prevent a spate of employment-related federal lawsuits from former employees who claim they faced retaliation after lodging workplace complaints, a review of court records shows.

The complaints include the case of a former staff psychologist in South Dakota who says she was punished for calling attention to building problems that were making people physically ill.

In another case, a patient safety manager in Texas says he was suspended after raising concerns about a staffing shortage in his department, all while being the target of racial slurs.

It’s unclear whether the unfolding VA scandal will result in an uptick in lawsuits and the prospect of expensive legal judgments or settlements. But the half-dozen recent cases reviewed by The Washington Times almost certainly represent a tiny fraction of overall workplace complaints the agency is facing.

“Unless you do something real, it’s just window dressing,” said Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center, when asked about the VA apology. “I haven’t seen any change in the culture at VA. It really has a reputation as one of the worst federal agencies for whistleblowers.”

Mr. Kohn is representing Dr. Ram Chaturvedi in a case before the Merit Systems Protection Board. The doctor, who worked at the VA medical center in Dallas, says he was fired after raising concerns about patient safety violations of hospital accreditation rules.

“It’s an ingrained culture,” Mr. Kohn said. “What they need to do if they were serious is to appoint a truly independent and responsible neutral mediator, someone who can come in and actually look these cases over and resolve them if they need to resolved. But they continue to fight them in court.”

Among other recent federal cases reviewed by The Times, Rebecca Watson-Miller, a former psychologist assigned to VA facilities in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday saying she was targeted after complaining that the building where she worked was making people sick.

The lawsuit said she and others in the building feared the structure was causing respiratory infections and other health problems. Ms. Watson-Miller said the VA’s subsequent investigation was inadequate, according to the lawsuit.

An attorney declined to comment, and the VA did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

In another case, John Bender, a patient safety manager for VA’s North Texas Healthcare System, said he was subjected to offensive racial slurs at work and that he was placed on leave after complaining that a staffing shortage could “impact patient safety,” according to the lawsuit, which was filed last week.

Both cases were filed weeks after a top VA official issued a blunt public apology to employees who endured retaliation over the years. James Tuchschmidt, acting principal deputy undersecretary, made the remarks during a congressional hearing in which several whistleblowers recounted their stories of reprisal.

“I apologize to everyone whose voice has been stifled,” Mr. Tuchschmidt said.

Appearing before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Mr. Tuchschmidt told lawmakers that the VA wouldn’t tolerate an environment where “intimidation or suppression” of reports occurs.

“Clearly, we are deeply concerned and distressed about the allegations that employees who sought to report deficiencies were either ignored, or worse, intimidated into silence,” he said.

Committee Chairman Jeff Miller, Florida Republican, expressed little doubt that more whistleblower complaints would emerge as the VA continues to deal with a scandal involving manipulated patient wait times at multiple facilities across the U.S.

“VA has failed to engage their clinician workforce as partners, as evidenced by the numerous whistleblowers who have come forward to share their stories of retribution and reprisal and the many more who continue to call our offices yet, understandably, are reluctant to come forward publicly,” Mr. Miller said.

Eric K. Shinseki resigned as VA secretary May 30, a month after he became embroiled in the scandal over unacceptably long wait times for some veterans.

The fallout continues. Lydia Dennett, a spokeswoman for the Project On Government Oversight, said the watchdog group still receives confidential reports from VA employees about retaliation. She said some employees informed the agency’s inspector general but didn’t receive any feedback on their complaints.

She said she was unsure whether another level of federal review of whistleblower complaints was necessary but added that the VA needed restore the trust of its employees.

This week, the watchdog released a report saying it had received nearly 800 complaints from current or former VA employees and veterans, the most in its history on any topic.

A doctor in Pennsylvania told the group he was removed from his job and told to sit in an office with nothing to do after he complained about colleagues who weren’t showing up to work.

Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson said in a speech this week that the VA would do a better job of listening to workers who file complaints about workplace and patient safety issues.

July 23, 2014

Some ‘Beneficiaries’ Of Export-Import Bank Oppose Re-Authorization

Business support for the Export-Import Bank of the United States is not universal, even among companies that have taken advantage of Ex-Im financing.

Ron Conry, the owner of Tallahassee-based Verdicorp, recently joined a growing chorus of business leaders opposing re-authorization of the bank, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

Verdicorp, which sells heating and air conditioning systems, had secured export insurance from Ex-Im once in the past, but Conry said he does not plan to use the bank again.

Conry also criticized Ex-Im for its preferential treatment of large companies, saying, “If you send them aircraft, they’re very good… but for smaller companies, it’s useless.” Ex-Im awarded 82 percent of all its FY 2012 loan guarantees to customers of Boeing.

Similar concerns were voiced by Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, in a letter to members of Congress earlier this month. Although it stops short of opposing re-authorization, the letter does ask Congress to institute reforms designed to eliminate competitive disadvantages faced by domestic airlines due to Ex-Im financing of foreign competitors.

Specifically, it requests that Congress ban Ex-Im from financing aircraft purchases for companies that are owned by, or receive backing from, foreign governments.

Conry’s echoes Edmund Schweitzer III, whose Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories has been cited as an example of why Ex-Im is necesary. In a letter to the editor of the Spokesman-Review, however, Schweitzer claimed that Ex-Im is not financially necessary. He added that without Ex-Im, “buyers and sellers would find attractive commercial options unencumbered by politics and special interests.”

Opposition to the bank on the part of companies like Verdicorp and SEL, which ostensibly benefit from Ex-Im financing, contrasts sharply with lobbying efforts undertaken on the bank’s behalf. According to the Wall Street Journal, a coalition of businesses and interest groups, including Boeing, are attempting to build support by distributing index cards to members of Congress listing all the companies that receive Ex-Im financing in each member’s district.

It’s not clear that all the listed companies necessarily support re-authorization.


July 22, 2014

Now IRS Reports EVEN MORE Computer Crashes, Doesn’t Know If Emails Still Exist

IRS Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Thomas Kane said in transcribed congressional testimony that more IRS officials experienced computer crashes, bringing the total number of crash victims to “less than 20,” and also said that the agency does not know if the lost emails are still backed up somewhere.

The new round of computer crash victims includes David Fish, who routinely corresponded with Lois Lerner, as well as Lerner subordinate Andy Megosh, Lerner’s technical adviser Justin Lowe, and Cincinnati-based agent Kimberly Kitchens. 

“You stated at the time that document was produced to Congress, the document, the white paper in Exhibit 3[the June 13 memo], that it was accurate to the best of your knowledge.  Is it still accurate?,” a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee investigator asked Kane.

“There is an issue as to whether or not there is a ‑‑ that all of the backup recovery tapes were destroyed on the 6‑month retention schedule,” Kane replied.

“So some of those backup tapes may still exist?,” the investigator asked.

“I don’t know whether they are or they aren’t, but it’s an issue that’s being looked at,” Kane said.


July 21, 2014

Hitting the boiling point over the border

It’s probably not true that a frog will allow itself to be boiled alive if only the heat is raised slowly enough, but it’s an irresistible image nonetheless.

However, the anti-borders forces — on the left and the right — have counted on such passivity among the public to incrementally erode the American people’s ability to decide who gets to move here from abroad. They have devised endless opportunities to appeal deportation decisions, prevented the implementation of needed control measures, pushed relentlessly to pierce numerical caps, and created strong incentives against government functionaries saying “no” to those who want to come. The motto over the doorway of the immigration office might as well be “It ain’t over til the alien wins.”

President Obama has turned up the heat over the past five years. Using “prosecutorial discretion” as a pretext, he has exempted the vast majority of illegal aliens from the consequences of their actions. He has formally amnestied — without legislative authorization — more than a half-million illegal immigrants who claim to have come here before age 16. He is signaling that sometime this year he will unilaterally, and illegally, amnesty half or more of the roughly 12 million illegal aliens now living in the United States.

All this generated some pushback, of course, but not enough to get the frog to jump out of the pot.

The border crisis seems to be changing that.

Tens of thousands of teenagers and families from Central America have poured into Texas, drawn by the Obama administration’s lax enforcement policies. There should be an emergency response to this unprecedented crisis, featuring military backup, tent cities, expedited processing and uncompromising rhetoric. Instead, the illegal immigrants are simply being released into the United States with a summons to appear in immigration court. The majority will ignore the summons with impunity, but it allows them to reside and travel here legally until the court date, leading to its being nicknamed a “permiso,” or permit.

The administration’s frivolous approach to the deluge is clear from a recent request for an extra $3.7 billion to address it. The majority of funds would go not to enforcement but to efforts at resettling the illegal aliens in the United States.

The response of the administration and its supporters to the breakdown of the border in South Texas seems to have finally gotten a large share of the public to see what’s happening. Even the White House’s use of illegal-alien children as human shields for its anti-sovereignty policies has not managed to allay the increasing sense of alarm across the country.

Only a few peeps of concern have emanated from Democrats in Congress, most of whom are applauding the border breakdown. Republicans haven’t been much better. Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain have taken the opportunity to repeat their support for amnesty and dramatic increases in immigration. Others at least are concerned, but have been distracted by the trivial issue of a 2008 anti-trafficking law, which does not even apply here.

In the absence of political leadership, the public is jumping out of the pot on its own. A new Gallup poll shows that immigration now tops the list of most important issues facing the country, higher than dissatisfaction with government, the economy, jobs or health care.

That concern is being expressed by ordinary citizens in their communities. Residents of Murrieta, Calif., were the first to act, blocking buses to prevent the relocation of illegal immigrants from the Texas border. Virtually the entire town of Lawrenceville, Va., came to a community meeting on relocating illegal-immigrant juveniles there, causing the federal government to back off. Similar resistance has happened in Vassar, Mich.; Oracle, Ariz.; Greece, N.Y.; Escondido, Calif.; and elsewhere.

The story isn’t over in those communities, where illegal immigrants have already been relocated. Come September, thousands of illegal-alien “minors” (many of them adults lying about their age) will be entering unprepared public schools, creating a new wave of outrage.

Perhaps one particular decision by the White House highlights how concerned the administration is about public reaction: As of now, not a single illegal-alien detainee seems to have been sent to Louisiana or Arkansas, the states bordering Texas that are closest to the site of the border deluge. This is no accident. Those two states have Democratic senators up for re-election who are vulnerable enough to lose, but who might still be able to prevail. The White House appears to have decided not to send any illegals there to avoid the potential for political damage.

This weekend, protests are planned across the country against amnesty and for immigration enforcement. Such events don’t usually draw large crowds, since for most people most of the time, immigration just isn’t that important an issue.

However, this time might be different. The anti-borders crowd has overreached, doing us a favor by revealing their true intentions. It’s time to jump.

July 18, 2014

Department of Justice: We Heard About IRS Missing Emails On The News

James Cole, deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice, testified Thursday that the DOJ heard about the destruction of IRS officials’ emails in the news, even though DOJ has formally been investigating the IRS for more than a year.

“I think we learned about it after that, from press accounts,” Cole told House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Jordan at a hearing Thursday on the DOJ’s response to the wave of computer crashes at the IRS that wiped out seven different employees’ hard drives. (RELATED: Meet The Seven IRS Employees Whose Computer Crashed). DOJ has allegedly been conducting a widely-mocked investigation into the IRS conservative targeting scandal for more than a year, and recently announced that a new investigation is underway into the IRS missing emails.

“So you actually read about it in the press and nobody in the IRS ever went to the Justice Department to give you a heads-up, knowing you were conducting the investigation that some evidence may have been destroyed?,” Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis ventured.

“Not before the 13th of June,” Cole replied.

Cole confirmed at the hearing that DOJ is now “looking into” the IRS commissioner’s delayed response in the IRS emails case.

President Obama previously said that he heard about the Department of Veterans Affairs deadly wait list scandal on the news. He also originally said that he heard about the IRS targeting scandal on the news “along with most of you.”


July 17, 2014

Issa’s fight with WH reaches new peak

Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) fight with the White House reached a new peak on Wednesday as the administration ignored a subpoena for the director of President Obama’s Office of Political Strategy and Outreach to testify at the House Oversight Committee.

 The White House’s lack of a response was “absurd” and “deeply disturbing,” according to Issa, but he did not make any promises to take the administration to court over David Simas’s refusal to testify.

Issa said his panel would look to “clarify” whether Obama intended to invoke executive privilege to deny Simas from testifying.

 “The American people have a right to know if their tax dollars are being used for political activity,” Issa said, adding that the testimony was “critically important” to his investigation into whether the political office had violated the Hatch Act, prohibiting executive branch employees from partisan campaign activity.

 “It is deeply ironic that an administration claiming to be the most transparent ever has resisted oversight of its political office and offered less cooperation than its predecessors,” Issa said.

The chairman told Politico he wasn’t ruling out the possibility of holding Simas in contempt. 

Throughout the day, the White House and congressional Democrats needled Issa, who is nearing the end of his term at Oversight.

 “Throwing out subpoenas like candy on Halloween has not served the functioning of that committee very well,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “It also has, I think, understandably caused a lot of people to tune him out. And I think that’s probably a source of some frustration to him.”

 Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on Oversight, suggested the subpoena was “political theater.” He noted that Issa had issued nearly 100 subpoenas — more than the previous three chairmen combined. 

 “I noted that these unilateral subpoenas began to spike last month after Speaker [John] Boehner announced that he was taking the Benghazi investigation away from this committee and transferring it to the new select committee,” Cummings said in another shot at Issa.

 The recently re-opened West Wing political office is at the center of Issa’s latest effort to cast the Obama administration as secretive and corrupt. 

 Both sides have attempted to gain the upper hand in the dispute, pointing reporters to tangential evidence to boost their argument.

 At the White House, Earnest criticized Issa for not attending a briefing offered by administration lawyers to committee staffers on Tuesday.

 But Oversight staff pointed out that the meeting was intended to be a staff-level discussion, and was described as such in letters provided by the White House.

 Issa, meanwhile, used the hearing on Wednesday to unveil for the first time an answering machine message left by former Labor Secretary Hilda Solis in which she solicits a subordinate employee to donate to the president’s reelection campaign.

 “This makes the claim by this administration, that they are doing everything right and should be immune from oversight, all the more indefensible,” Issa said.

 The tape appeared to confirm allegations Solis had run afoul of the Hatch Act, which could create new headaches for the White House and for Solis. The Justice Department has said it was investigating the incident.

 At the White House, Earnest refused to comment, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

 “The clear guidance that every member of this administration has received is to follow the guidelines, both the spirit and letter of the Hatch Act,” he said.

 Still, Solis’s possible violation — and her tenure in the administration — predates the reopening of the political office. Solis stepped down in January 2013.

 Republican strategists say Issa’s push could prove a politically potent tool ahead of the midterm elections.
 “Issa’s trying to show that the White House’s assertions that they’re the most transparent administration in history is nonsense,” said former GOP aide Ron Bonjean.

 “Obama’s poll numbers are so low, spiraling downward, it’s almost impossible to turn them around,” Bonjean said. “Issa subpoenaing the White House to get them to work with the committee isn’t going to help Obama.” 

Still, Bonjean said, there’s little risk for Issa drawing Obama into the spat. 

 Democrats have embraced Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) proposed lawsuit against the president, saying it underscores their narrative that the GOP wants to pick fights with the president rather than legislate.


July 16, 2014

Lie at Heart of “Immigration Reform” Exposed

“Trust” is for Con Men: The reaction to the border chaos in Texas has accomplished one thing: It has exploded the lie at the heart of current “comprehensive” immigration reform plans.  The basic structure of those plans is a swap of a) near-immediate legalization for b) increased border security in the future. The appealing idea is to let current illegals stay while taking the steps necessary to prevent further waves. The lie is the assumption that, once current illegals get their legalization, pro-immigrant activists in both parties will continue to support the second half of the bargain, the increased security.

The chaos in Texas shows they won’t.  Faced with a clear hole in the border — with a wave of tens of thousands of undocumented Central Americans crossing into the U.S. in order to get in line for hearings years from now, which they likely won’t attend while they continue to live here – pro-reform activists have scrambled, not to show their border security bona fides, but to generate arguments and outbursts designed to let the new wave stay.  As National Journal’s Major Garrett reported, when President Obama, met with activists at the White House, he proposed that he make it clear that new migrants who don’t qualify for humanitarian relief won’t get in. The activists would have none of it:

Angelica Salas, executive director of Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, piped up and warned Obama that the driving energy to reach the United States could not be stopped. “Mr. President, when my family and I came to the country, I was 5 years old, and when we were caught crossing the border and were sent back, we didn’t give up,” Salas said. “We kept trying until we made it.”

Faced with a revolt among pro-immigrant Democrats and ACLU types, Obama omitted a request for greater deportation authority from the “supplemental” package he sent to Congress (which is focused mainly on feeding, transporting and resettling the new entrants). Latino conservatives seem to agree with this retreat: ”From a policy perspective it’s bad, in terms of optics, it’s just terrible” in “the Hispanic community” for Republicans to insist on quicker deportation authority, said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of something called the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles.

Obama’s old policy seemed to be to forget about illegals who make it into the interior of the country while increasing deportation of new arrivals at the border (an emphasis that coincidentally juiced up Obama’s deportation stats). Now, under pressure from the advocates, he’s moving to accommodate new arrivals at the border as well. Who’s left that the left wouldn’t let in? True, you could imagine migrants less appealing than those flocking into Texas–adults, none of whom had credible claims of fear or persecution.**  But activists like Angelica Salas wouldn’t want to block them either. She’d be supported in that effort by professional amnesty-pushers like Rep. Luis Gutierrez — who once at least paid lip service to enforcing the Southern border at some point, down the road, after a “comprehensive” legalization.

Likewise, does anyone think the people attending Obama’s White House meeting will accept any other new security measures that might actually succeed in blocking their co-ethnics from moving to El Norte–even as part of a “comprehensive” reform bill?***  They won’t. Once today’s illegals get their immediate “provisional” (i.e. permanent) legal status, security measures like E-Verify (computerized checks of new hires), the border fence, and exit-entry visa controls will be subject to the same sort of counterattack as Obama’s request for more deportation “flexibility.”

Overcoming those attacks will only get more difficult as the Latino population grows — and it will grow even faster once a reform bill legalizes millions more eventual voters. It’s not hard to imagine that we’re at a tipping point: Implement border security measures now, or else they will never be implemented.

And the only way to implement them is to require they be done first, before any legalization — before the activists are free to attack them with full force (lest they jeopardize the eventual amnesty prize). The other way around, the McCain-Schumer-Obama way — ‘Legalization First, Security Later’ — is a swindle in the classic tradition. Just give us our amnesty. We’ll be there for you when it’s time to appropriate for the border fence. Really we will. You can trust us! You just have to wire the money to the Nigerian prince give us what we want first.

If we didn’t spot the fraud before, we do now.

P.S.: Smart amnesty backers, like Schumer and McCain, seem to realize they need to act forcefully to stem the current border surge in order to build “trust” for a future “comprehensive” immigration bill. But we don’t need “trust” — if we structure the “comprehensive” bargain so the enforcement measures come first. It’s con men who need “trust.”


July 15, 2014

Lois Lerner’s Former FEC Colleague Has Emails Go Missing Too

The Federal Election Commission recycled the computer hard drive of April Sands — a former co-worker of Lois Lerner’s — hindering an investigation into Sands’ partisan political activities, according to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Sands resigned from the Federal Election Commission in April after she admitted to violating the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from engaging in partisan political activities on federal time and at federal facilities.

The twist is that Sands also worked under Lois Lerner when the ex-IRS agent — who is currently embroiled in a scandal over the targeting of conservative political groups — worked at the FEC’s enforcement division.

In a letter to FEC chairman Lee Goodman, Oversight chairman Darrell Issa and committee member Jim Jordan laid out Sands’ partisan activities and asked for records pertaining to the recycling of her hard drive and of the agency’s records retention policies.

Sands took part in a heavily partisan online webcam discussion from FEC offices and also operated a Twitter account with the handle @ReignOfApril which were sent during Sands’ normal working hours.

One of Sands’ tweets, from June 4, 2012 read “I just don’t understand how anyone but straight white men can vote Republican. What kind of delusional rhetorical does one use?”

Sands is a black female.

“Dear every single Republican ever, When will U learn that Barack Hussein Obama is simply smarter than U? Stand down, Signed #Obama2012 #p2,” Sands wrote on May 1, 2012.

In a message fro Aug. 25, 2012, Sands called Republicans her “enemy.”

In others, Sands issued fundraising pleas on behalf of Obama. “Our #POTUS’s birthday is August 4. He’ll be 51. I’m donating $51 to give him the best birthday present ever: a second term,” she wrote on July 18, 2012.

“The bias in these messages is striking, especially for an attorney charged with the responsibility to enforce federal election laws fairly and dispassionately,” read the Oversight letter to Goodman, an Obama appointee.

The FEC’s Office of Inspector General sought to conduct a criminal investigation into Sands’ activities but were stymied when they found that the agency had recycled her computer hard drive.

“Therefore the OIG was unable to show that Ms. Sands’ solicitations and political activity were done from an FEC computer,” reads the letter.

Because of this, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia declined criminal prosecution.

“The FEC’s failure to retain Ms. Sands’ hard drive prevented the FEC OIG from fully pursuing appropriate criminal sanctions for Ms. Sands’ admitted violation of federal law,” wrote Issa and Jordan.

“Like the IRS’s destruction of Lois Lerner’s hard drive, the FEC’s recycling of Ms. Sands’ hard drive may have also destroyed material responsive to Freedom of Information Act and congressional oversight requests,” the letter continued.

Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed in the middle of 2011, right around the time that questions were being raised over whether the IRS’s enforcement agency was targeting conservative non-profit groups while considering whether to grant them tax-exempt status.

News of the loss of Lerner’s emails was only made public last month, much to the frustration of Issa and the Oversight Committee.

Though it is unclear whether Sands and Lerner communicated after Lerner’s move to the FEC, the Oversight Committee letter points out that Lerner was known to have communicated with other FEC employees after her switch. That correspondence included the sharing of information protected by section 6103 of the tax code, the letter notes.


July 14, 2014

Obama’s ‘blank check’ rejected as border solution

Not even a week after it was offered, President Obama’s $3.7 billion plan to deal with the growing crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border appears all but dead, with Republican lawmakers Sunday decrying the administration’s “blank check” proposal and instead calling for a more targeted response centered on greater border security.

Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, personally recruited by the president to persuade Republicans to support the measure, threw cold water on the idea. He said the president doesn’t need that much money and instead should send National Guard troops to secure the border.

The apparent defeat caps a whirlwind several days for the White House, which responded to increasing calls for action — and criticism of Mr. Obama for his decision not to visit the border while fundraising in Texas last week — by seeking more spending.

Republican leaders such as Mr. Perry also have put the request into a larger context, noting that Mr. Obama allowed the problem to worsen over the past five years, then responded to public pressure by demanding that Congress pass his supplemental spending plan immediately.

“It is a very large amount of money, and as you analyze it, very little of it is for border security. And I think until he gets realistic about the problem and how you deal with the problem — and it is a border security issue. And we’ve got a track record now of five-plus years of him disregarding what’s going on on the border,” Mr. Perry said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“So here’s his opportunity to truly lead. Don’t blame this on anyone. Be a leader. Lay out a plan. And I will suggest to you, actually, the president doesn’t have to have this big amount of money,” the Texan said.

After meeting with Mr. Perry last week, the president personally pitched the $3.7 billion plan during a hastily arranged press conference in Dallas.

The money would be used for detaining and deporting illegal immigrant families, transporting unaccompanied children back to their home countries, greater law enforcement, housing services for children, the hiring of more immigration judges and other purposes.

In his plea, Mr. Obama suggested that the only reason for Republican opposition would be politics.

“Are folks more interested in politics or are they more interested in solving the problem? If they’re interested in solving the problem, then this can be solved. If the preference is for politics, then it won’t be solved,” he said. “This is just a very narrow issue, the supplemental, in terms of dealing with the particular problem we have right now.”

Meanwhile, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell met with dozens of governors Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, as the administration seeks locations to host thousands of Central American children who have come to the U.S. over the past year.

Unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico are turned over to HHS within 72 hours after U.S. authorities take them into custody.

Governors from both parties have raised serious concerns about hosting those children in their states.

“Our citizens already feel burdened by all kinds of challenges. They don’t want to see another burden come into their state,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. “However we deal with the humanitarian aspects of this, we’ve got to do it in the most cost-effective way possible.”

While the administration looks for support from governors, backing for the supplemental spending plan on Capitol Hill is evaporating.

“Our view, I think, as House Republicans, is, look, we’re not going to write a blank check,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “It’s going to be a more targeted approach, probably through the end of the fiscal year.”

Mr. McCaul also appeared on “Fox News Sunday.”

House Republicans, led by Speaker John A. Boehner, also have called for National Guard troops to patrol the border. Mr. Perry echoed those sentiments Sunday, saying such a step would act as an effective deterrent.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also said Mr. Obama, whom Republicans often have criticized in recent months for unilateral use of executive authority, already has the power to send these children home.

Mr. Obama “has tools in his toolbox” and “can safely get them home” to Central America “and that’s where the president needs to start,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The White House has rejected the National Guard idea, and congressional Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with the Republican focus on border security.

“We spend $18 billion a year on making sure that the federal government has immigration enforcement agents. That’s more than the DEA, the ATF and the FBI and all other enforcement combined. But we still have a problem, right?” Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat, said during an appearance Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“So you can keep throwing money and talk about enforcement, enforcement, enforcement, but you’ve got to put money also into your judicial system, and you’ve got to put money and a comprehensive program that deals with the issue,” he said.


July 11, 2014

DOJ won't probe CIA-Senate spy charges

The Department of Justice has decided not to pursue accusations that the CIA spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee, nor will it investigate charges that committee staffers took classified documents from a secure CIA facility.

"The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation," Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr confirmed to The Hill.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Intelligence Committee’s chairwoman, took to the Senate floor in March and blasted the CIA, saying it had spied on her staffers conducting an investigation into the agency's rendition, detention and interrogation program during the Bush era.

The CIA, in turn, alleged that the staffers had taken unauthorized documents while conducting their investigation.

Both sides referred criminal charges against each other to the Justice Department.

Feinstein said she was "pleased" with the Justice Department's decision not to open an investigation into Intelligence Committee staff.

"I believe this is the right decision and will allow the committee to focus on the upcoming release of its report on the CIA detention and interrogation program,” she said in a statement to The Hill.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the panel’s top Republican, said he assumed the department “did a very thorough investigation and made their decision.”

“I accept what they decided and we’ll look to see what the sergeant at arms says,” he added. The Senate sergeants at arms is conducting its own investigation into the case.

The accusations revolved around the Intelligence Committee's investigation into the "enhanced interrogation" techniques used during the George W. Bush administration.

The committee has produced a 6,600-page report on the program after clashing repeatedly with the CIA during the process. Feinstein alleged the CIA had snooped on the committee's activities at a secure facility where staffers were allowed to review highly classified cables and other documents.

The CIA countered that staffers took documents from the site that they were not supposed to have. Those documents allegedly included an internal review, conducted by former CIA Director Leon Panetta, that found the "enhanced interrogation" methods did not produce useful intelligence.

The executive summary of the report is is due to be released this year. Nearly 500 pages of executive summary is being reviewed by the CIA and the White House for redactions.

Security concerns are complicating the release of the report, however, with officials fearing the document could inflame the Arab street and put Americans in danger.

While an August release seems unlikely, putting the report out in early September might not be an option, as it would fall near the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — a day when terrorist groups typically attempt to strike, as they did two years ago in Benghazi, Libya.

Officials have made clear the release date is a sensitive matter, as Democrats claim the report documents "shocking" brutality, including techniques that critics have labeled "torture" such as waterboarding.

Democrats on the Intelligence panel conducted the investigation, which was boycotted by Republicans, who dispute its findings.