December 31, 2014

David Duke, ex-KKKer, warns GOP: Back Steve Scalise, or I’ll name names

David Duke, the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, sent out a somewhat ominous message to Republican Party operatives to treat Rep. Steve Scalise fairly, or he’ll start naming names of others in the political arena with whom he’s met and maintained ties.

“If Scalise is going to be crucified — if Republicans want to throw Steve Scalise to the woods, then a lot of them better be looking over their shoulders,” Mr. Duke said, Fusion reported.

He intimated that he’s huddled with politicos in both Republican and Democratic parties, and the current atmosphere swirling about Mr. Scalise — the incoming majority whip who once spoke before Mr. Duke’s controversial European-American Unity and Rights Organization — is “all bull [expletive],” and “insane,” he said, Raw Story reported.

“Why is Scalise being singled out? I don’t know,” he said, Raw Story reported. “He was just going [to the EURO conference in 2002], obviously, to tell voters about some of his initiatives on tax matters. That’s what it’s all about. And I think it’s insane, this whole process.”

Mr. Scalise, meanwhile, has called EURO, the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, an “abhorrent organization” and he was not aware of its white nationalist bent when he appeared to speak in 2002.


December 30, 2014

Here's how inspectors found $43b Washington could save

Inspector generals almost always pay for themselves by recovering money from fraud and recommending ways to save money. Note: Savings on large agencies extend beyond the viewing area of the chart. Data for Treasury's IG was not available.

Taxpayers could save as much as $43 billion if officials running the biggest federal departments would do what their internal watchdogs recommended in 2014.

That $43 billion would be about $27 returned for every dollar invested in the work of 14 of the 15 inspectors general overseeing White House cabinet-level departments. Together, the budgets of the 14 IGs amount to more than $1.6 billion, according to their semiannual reports to Congress.

Total returns on investment were calculated by adding potentially avoidable costs identified by the IGs to amounts actually recovered. Then, the total was divided by their annual budgets. The Department of Treasury IG has yet to release its report, so it was excluded from calculations for this article.

That’s up from about $21 per dollar invested in 2013, according to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency.

The 14 watchdog offices returned almost $11 billion to the U.S. Treasury as a direct result of their investigative work. They also made management recommendations worth more than $32 billion in savings.

Such recommendations included actions such as implementing tighter controls and oversight to decreasing improper payments. Those alone represent almost $20 returned for every taxpayer dollar invested.

Despite their success, however, the IGs face two main barriers. First, the watchdogs are limited in their actions. Despite the potential savings, departments are not obligated to follow their auditors’ recommendations.

“There’s no consequence out there for ignoring the IGs’ recommendations,” said Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against Government Waste. Her organization is a nonprofit oversight group that includes among its co-founders the crusading investigative reporter Jack Anderson.

“[Return on investment] is helpful, but if there’s no accountability and no change, you have to question if this is a useful activity,” Paige said.

“The fact that so many billions are found with understaffed offices and often politically sympathetic IGs shows you what they’re uncovering is the tip of the iceberg,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.

The IGs’ semiannual reports make it difficult to measure the exact savings of their audits. The estimated potential savings range from the watchdogs identifying questionable costs to recommending new practices in the administration of their programs.

In addition to dollar returns, another measure of IG efficiency is the number of investigations and audits produced based on its staff and budget. However, like the recommendations, the diverse methods of presenting data across the Cabinet-level IGs make it difficult to accurately compare them.

Further, IGs’ audits don’t result in the manger running a wasteful program being relieved or otherwise disciplined.

“You’ll see facts in the reports that should result in firings, maybe criminal prosecutions,” Fitton said. “Rarely do you see these things come from the reports.”

Between the inability to enforce their recommendations on department managers and to prosecute ineffective bureaucrats, the IGs are faced with an uphill battle.

“Is waste decreasing because of IG activity?” Fitton said. “I don’t think anyone would make that case.”

Even so, when looking at the high returns on investment with the IGs’ work, it’s intuitive to think that additional money would result in greater results.
The second problem IGs face is limited resources.

“They’re underfunded, they’re ignored and essentially often politicized and manipulated and stonewalled,” Paige said. “Their ability to chase the dollars is outpaced by the money going out the door. I’d like to see some money taken away from the wasteful programs and give it to the IG.”

There is also the question of whether a high return on investment represents an efficient IG or an especially inefficient department being overseen.

“I certainly believe both are true,” said Don White, spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General. “I do believe that the HHS IG, although relatively small, is effective.”

White’s office had the highest return on investment among Cabinet-level IGs in terms of potential savings and actual recovery.

However, rampant waste throughout the federal government may make the IGs’ work look less impressive.

“To find waste in the government bureaucracy is like shooting a fish in a barrel, so it doesn’t show you much about the efficiency of the IGs,” Fitton said.

Additionally, there is hesitation to commit more money to an already wasteful government.
“We don’t want to see any more spending that will add to the national debt,” Paige said. “It would have to be paid for somehow.”

Despite the barriers, the Cabinet IGs compiled an average potential savings of $16 for each dollar invested. For actual money recovered, the IGs returned an average of $4 in fiscal 2014.

The HHS IG potentially saved $70 for every dollar invested. The Department of Defense and the Department of Housing and Urban Development followed, with about $37 and $33 returned on investment.

With a bigger budget, the HHS IG believes a bigger return is possible, according to White.
The Department of Justice IG had the lowest return on investment, losing 63 cents for every dollar invested in fiscal 2014.

"Focusing solely on dollar-related findings fails to recognize the hundreds of criminal administrative investigations we conduct each year," said DOJ IG spokesman John S. Lavinsky. He cited several reports, such as those involving the Boston Marathon bombing, in addition to year-to-year fluctuations.

Regardless of the returns on investments, the power ultimately resides outside of the IGs’ hands.

“Congress is terribly weak on oversight,” Paige said.

Without a body overseeing the IGs’ reports, little can be enforced after they’re issued.
“It ought to be the focus of Congress to be the stewards of public funds,” Fitton said.


December 29, 2014

Secret Service Stretched Thin And Hating Life In DHS

A new report from The Washington Post paints a depressing picture of the current state of the Secret Service, depicting the agency as plagued by low morale, mediocre performance and ineffective leadership since becoming a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Sunday WaPo report reveals that the Secret Service’s problems started all the way back during the aftermath of 9/11 when the agency was transferred over to the newly formed DHS. This caused the famous security detail to have to compete for money and be liable to severe cuts — leading to a decrease in quality.

Not only were there money issues, but after 9/11 the Secret Service was required to protect more individuals in the wake of the attacks. Before the terrorist attacks, the Service was tasked with protecting 18 people, which included the president, the vice president, their immediate families, and former presidents. By the end of 2003, the agency was protecting 29 people, which included then-President George W. Bush’s adult siblings and then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s grandchildren.

Today, the agency guards 27 people, including White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and Vice President Joe Biden’s grandchildren. Their duties also expanded to monitoring large public events, in addition to their increased details. While they are now tasked with more assignments, the Service is operating with less funding due to competition within DHS. According to officials interviewed by the Post, this expansion of duties has stretched the Secret Service “thin.”

“We are not the Super Bowl team we once were,” a former Secret Service supervisor told the Post.

The Post also lists that there have been more threats against Barack Obama, implying it was due to his election as the first black president, and that this has required more work from agents. However, the threat claim is not true, according to both PolitiFact and a former Secret Service director.

Many agents have a “noteworthy distrust” of their superiors, with a recent survey finding that in 1 in 4 agents believe their managers are not held accountable for miscounduct and 1 in 5 believing management even tolerated misconduct. The same survey reported that agents had observed 318 incidents where colleagues engaged in behavior that could jeopardize security. Another gap between leadership and personnel can be seen in a $1 million project to “upgrade” the Service director’s office at the same time the agency was undergoing significant budget cuts.

Scrutiny of the agency assigned to protect the president has increased over the last few months due to several high-profile security lapses, including allowing a knife-wielding intruder to get well into the White House in September.


December 26, 2014

Obamacare-Created Insurer Goes Under, Is Taken Over By The State

An Obamacare-created and taxpayer-funded insurance company in Iowa has been taken over by the state due to a financial crisis.

CoOportunity Health is Iowa’s insurance cooperative — a nonprofit insurance company created by the Affordable Care Act to supposedly undercut the large, for-profit insurers that Democrats castigated as “greedy” and “evil” during the debate over health care reform.

After just beginning to offer plans in 2013, the company’s already insolvent and has now been taken over by the state of Iowa, insurance commissioner Nick Gerhart announced. 

Wednesday. CoOpportunity doesn’t have enough cash on hand to be sure it can pay claims for its 120,000 customers, if necessary. The company has only $17 million in cash and assets, Gerhart said.

The federal government’s Obamacare administrator the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services initially gave CoOportunity a $112 million loan award in Feb. 2012, but doled out an additional $32.7 million emergency award to keep the company solvent in September of this year.

That wasn’t enough to keep it in business. CoOpportunity’s management expected to receive more federal money than they did, putting them in continuing financial peril.

The nonprofit insurers were single-payer advocates’ answer to private insurance companies, which some argued hiked premiums just to pad their profits. But after its initial year of Obamacare, 

CoOportunity was struggling so much that it ended up having to up its premiums in Iowa by 19 percent on average. 

“It’s a difficult situation,” Gerhart said. Customers’ coverage will continue for now, but Gerhart expects that most customers will switch to other insurers operating on Iowa’s and Nebraska’s Obamacare exchanges by the end of the open enrollment period on Feb. 15. It’s no longer accepting new sign-ups for coverage.

The state of Iowa, in the form of Gerhart himself, is in charge of the company now, according to Dana McNeill, a CoOpportunity vice president.

The Obamacare-created company has been bleeding cash over the past several months. Its net cash and investments fell from $121.5 million on Oct. 31, just a month after receiving a solvency loan from the Obama administration, to $17 million on Dec. 12, the Des Moines Register reports.

It’s far from the only Obamacare-created company that’s in peril. The Obama administration handed out almost $3 billion in loans to get the co-ops started in 2013. They were included in the law to placate critics on the left who advocated a public insurance option and lost.

In Sept. 2014, the administration handed out another round of solvency loans to a number of co-ops who needed help staying in business. Six state co-ops received a total of almost $268 million in extra loans to help keep the companies solvent and in business.

Even since then, the administration issued two last-minute solvency loans, which it kept quiet for weeks. Kentucky Health Cooperative received an extra $65 million emergency solvency loan days before the second open enrollment period launched and the co-ops began to sign up new customers — but CMS did not announce the loans until Dec. 15, along with another last-minute $23 million solvency loan to Wisconsin’s Common Ground Healthcare 

Meanwhile, large, private insurance companies are doing better than ever under Obamacare’s mandate to hold health insurance and its generous subsidies to purchase exchange coverage.


December 25, 2014

The year in government transparency: More FOIA lawsuits as reform effort failed

From mysteriously missing emails to confessions of voter deception, federal officials spent much of 2014 hiding their activities behind closed doors.

At one point during the year, IRS attempts to hide emails to and from Lois Lerner, the tax agency’s former director for exempt organizations, focused intense public attention on the issue of government secrecy.

At another point, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, a consultant who worked on the team that created healthcare cost models for Obamacare, took center stage when he appeared on multiple videos saying passage of the law he helped craft was made possible by misleading “stupid” voters.

Lerner and Gruber put public faces on a persistent problem in the nation's capital with the federal government’s resistance to making public documents that might embarrass officeholders or bureaucrats.

It’s a problem that citizens, journalists and nonprofit advocacy groups constantly confront when filing requests for government documents that must be made public unless they are specifically covered by at least one of nine exemptions included in the Freedom of Information Act.

Originally approved by Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, FOIA has since been regularly updated to adapt to changes in the technology and media landscapes. Hundreds of thousands of FOIA requests are filed every year, mostly for routine documents such as military, family and entitlement records.

But thousands of those FOIA requests are for documents that somebody, somewhere in the government, would prefer not be made public. Consequently, 2014, like so many years before, saw thousands of FOIA requests left to gather dust in government offices.

This year’s effort to speed up the FOIA process failed when the Senate and the House weren’t able to vote on a compromise measure after each chamber approved bills with bipartisan support.

The 96 federal agencies that submitted individual FOIA reports at the end of 2013 began this year with 98,584 leftover requests. The Department of Justice said it doesn’t plan to release comprehensive FOIA numbers for 2014 until February 2015. The agencies handled 674,673 FOIA requests in 2013.

Of those requests, government officials fully granted an average of 36 percent, or a just a little more than a third, according to data culled by the Justice Department. They denied all or part of the rest.

The relative openness of different government offices ranged from the Selective Service System, which fully granted 100 percent of the FOIA requests it received last year, to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which denied all or part of every request it handled in 2013.

The Department of Homeland Security processed the most FOIA requests and racked up the biggest backlog of unanswered requests and appeals in the federal government, according to the Government Accountability Office.

DHS fully granted just 9 percent of last year’s requests, Justice Department reports showed.

Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told the Washington Examiner that FOIA requests for security information are often ignored unless the requester takes the agency to court.

“It’s basically taken for granted that if you want something interesting out of any sort of intelligence agency, you have to litigate,” Sanchez said.

For example, the CIA fully granted just 462 FOIA requests of the 4,625 it processed last year, meaning CIA officials denied all or part of more than 90 percent of the FOIA requests the agency handled in 2013.

Government agencies were hit with more freedom of information lawsuits in 2014 than in any year since at least 2001, said Greg Munno, assistant research professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. Syracuse provides research support for the FOIA Project, an effort to document government compliance with the transparency law.

Munno said his research team counted 422 suits in 2014, the highest number since the FOIA Project began tracking them.

“It looks like there has been a trend of a higher number of lawsuits under Obama than under Bush, although there’s a lot of fluctuation year to year,” Munno told the Examiner.

He said the spike could be the result of a number of factors, from “frustration” with the law to natural variations in activity.

While news outlets and advocacy groups filed many of the FOIA lawsuits — with Judicial Watch topping that list with 34 cases — “the majority of people that brought suits in 2014 were just individuals,” Munno said.

Sean Moulton, director of open government policy at the Center for Effective Government, said obstacles to getting records through FOIA requests begin long before an agency has the chance to block them itself.

Moulton said many rejected requests stem from confusion over which agency to contact and a lack of clarity about what documents the requester is seeking.

Despite the setback at the end of the 113th Congress, transparency advocates on both sides of the aisle in Congress will be back in 2015.

“The FOIA Improvement Act will help open the government to all Americans by placing an emphasis on openness and transparency, rather than allowing agencies simply to hide behind exemptions,” Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a joint statement following the bill’s passage. They are expected to reintroduce the bill in the 114th Congress.

The House version of the FOIA Improvement Act was co-sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the committee’s ranking minority member.

The failed legislation would have required agencies to publish any records subject to FOIA that have been requested three or more times. It would have barred agencies from charging fees if they didn’t fulfill requests within the law’s 20-day deadline for standard requests, although some could take much longer.

The bill would have also narrowed the scope of records that fall within existing exemptions, which agencies often interpret broadly.

Moulton cited the White House’s failure to support the reform bill as one of the year’s most telling examples of government secrecy.

“The main parts of the bill really just set into law policies this administration put out in guidance,” he said.

He was referring to President Obama’s promise soon after taking office in 2009 that his would be “the most transparent administration in history.” Obama had also instructed executive branch agencies to employ “a presumption of disclosure” when responding to FOIA requests.


December 24, 2014

Former Defense Firm CEO Pays Out Millions For Defrauding Government

A 55-year-old former CEO of a defense contracting firm has been forced to pay out $4.5 million dollars for creating fake front companies to take advantage of a special category of contracts offered to small businesses.

Former Marine Keith Hedman, currently serving time in prison on criminal charges, formed Protection Strategies, Inc. in 2001 and designated an African-American female president as CEO, in order for the firm to qualify for contracts through the Small Business Administration’s Section 8(a) program. Under Section 8(a) a certain number of contracts must be made available for businesses owned by disadvantaged minorities.

However, in 2003, the African-American CEO left the company, rendering PSI ineligible to continue activities under 8(a). At exactly the same time the CEO left, Hedman created a new company called Security Assistance Corporation and picked Dawn Hamilton, a female employee with a Portuguese background, to lead the company, figuring she counted as a marginalized individual.

Hamilton worked closely with Hedman to mislead the Small Business Administration. The two claimed that Hamilton was the only person in company management, and as a result, SBA finally granted SAC 8(a) status in 2004.

Since Hamilton was actually unable to direct the company in any capacity, Hedman conducted corporate operations behind the scenes, and over a period of eight years, SAC brought in $31 million dollars. In the course of his business dealings, Hedman also bribed a regional director for the National Capital Region of the Federal Protective Service.

“The civil settlement illustrates the importance of not stopping at a criminal resolution when a defendant has pled guilty to fraud against the government,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. In 2013, the Department of Justice finalized the criminal charges against Hedman, sentencing him to 72 months in prison.

At the hearing, Micheal Davis, owner of small business Davis-Paige Management Systems, testified that he had had to cut employees after losing the contract to Hedman’s firms. Some employees were forced into part-time roles, since the company lost $100,000 in bidding on the contract.

What’s new is that Hedman has finally agreed to return $6.1 million dollars of money earned from contracts with the federal government. He will also pay a $15,000 dollar fine. Once released, Hedman will be under close supervision for two years.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) emphasized that although Hedman is currently serving sentence under criminal charges, this new development is a civil settlement, meaning that there has been no determination of civil liability, as Hedman was willing to come to the table and sign off on the proposed DOJ settlement.

Before starting in the private security industry, Hedman taught interrogation resistance while serving as a decorated Marine. According to his biography, Hedman “has been particularly successful in acquiring and managing contracts from the U.S. government.”


December 23, 2014

Tea Partiers Are Right: Jeb Is a RINO

So Jeb Bush might be running for president. The rest of the world must be howling with laughter.

Apparently, the American political establishment isn't just afraid of new ideas, it's afraid of new people. It wants things so much the same, it's seeking blood guarantees, like the old Euro aristocracies that sealed military alliances with marriages. It's pathetic, and if Bush-Clinton turns out to be the general election menu, it's going to make kleptocratic paradises like the Soviet Union or the PRC look like vibrant democracies in comparison.

And man, could anything be less exciting, less of an inspiration to get the vote out than that lineup? "Vote 2016! Nothing Ever Changes!" People will stay home and hand-remove their own moles before dragging themselves to vote in that contest.

But hoping for anything else increasingly looks like a vain pursuit, now that Jeb has just "announced" that he will "actively explore" a run for the Presidency, whatever that combination of terms means.

The news kicked off a heated debate in the blogosphere over what Bush's run will mean for conservatives, who will have spent eight painful years waiting to unseat the black Satan and probably had not planned on settling for anything short of a violent repudiation of his administration. Unsurprisingly, the reaction from the base to Jeb's announcement ranged from mild nausea to outright hysteria.

Probably the funniest bit was on, where preeminent military-thriller author Brad Thor took time out from talking about himself in the third person and fictionally thwarting elaborate presidential-kidnap plots to denounce Jeb's entrance in the race. "If Jeb Bush is the nominee, I will never vote Republican again," he promised, via Twitter.

The Breitbart writeup explained:

Putting a Democrat or establishment Republican in the White House in 2016 won't be sufficient, Thor said.

"You put in a left winger, it's going to increase the size of the federal government. You put in a squishy moderate, it's only going to increase the size of the federal government more slowly."

Laugh all you want at Brad Thor (and laugh you might: his books, which contain lines like "Cradling an H&K MP7 submachine gun in the backseat beneath her burka was twenty-five-year-old Sloane Ashby," were almost certainly an unironic inspiration for Team America: World Police). But he's not wrong. Jeb Bush is not what the conservative base wants, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Conservative voters of the type author describes don't "sort of" believe in balancing the budget. They believe that it's a mandatory, day-one prerequisite to other action. They likewise insist that deficit spending of any kind has to be immediately discontinued, and they believe this to be non-negotiable.

They won't accept any restrictions on gun ownership, and their stance on immigration is unequivocal (as one Tea Party group put it, "Illegal aliens are here illegally"). Moreover their concept of "limited government" isn't some abstract, rhetorical pose. It's a concrete idea that entails immediately wiping out massive portions of the federal bureaucracy.

Someone like Jeb Bush, who called immigration an "act of love" and supported Common Core (which was supported by the demonic Obama and which conservatives believe is a heretical federal takeover of education), does not come close to representing their values.

Jeb Bush isn't just a Beltway insider. He's literally the biological spawn of the political establishment. He's not going to come to Washington and (as the base wants and demands) start hurling government bureaucracies out the window in an attempt to clean out the Augean stables of big-government corruption.

Yet we all know that someone like Bush or like Mitt Romney is eventually going to be forced down the throats of Republican voters by the big-money donors of the Beltway. Jeb may not be a hit with Rush or Thor or "the base," but he's a hit with the money folks, and everyone, Republican voters especially, , know it.

In the coming days and weeks we'll be hearing a lot of voices from the Democrat-leaning side subtly (and in some cases not-so-subtly) applauding this process of subverting the desires of conservative voters with sheer financial force. Generally this will come in the form of trying to convince Republicans that Jeb, while maybe not all they want ideologically, is a good horse for the horse race.

While not exactly endorsing Bush, the general thrust of the rhetoric from mainstream campaign watchers will be that Jeb has a good shot at winning and will make things tough for other entrants.

The National Journal's Ronald Brownstein set the example, writing a scare piece ("Jeb Bush's 2016 Move Fuels Democratic Debate") arguing that Democrats should be knocking their spindly little knees in terror before such an imposing figure.

The entrance of Bush, Brownstein loathsomely argues, should make Democrats wonder if passing health care reform was such a good idea, when they could have passed something more "middle-class" (read: white-voter) friendly.

After all, now that the Republicans might be running a guy who speaks Spanish, is married to a Mexican woman, and supported Common Core, it's no longer a guarantee that the Dems will sweep the minority vote like they have the last two election cycles.

Bush, Brownstein argues, could be a game-changer just in terms of perception of the parties' relative strengths: while all everyone is talking about now is why Republicans do so badly with minorities, a loss of the White House by a Hillary to a Jeb could flip the script:

It wouldn't take much Republican improvement among minorities in 2016 to shift the discussion toward why Democrats are struggling so badly with whites…

I wasn't a fan of the Affordable Care Act, but the notion that Democrats should have shelved a revolutionary health care program in favor of some kind of superficial handout to the white middle class because Jeb Bush speaks Spanish – well, that tells you everything you need to know about how people inside the Beltway think.

I disagree, obviously, with the politics of the Brad Thors of this world. And I'm with Bill Maher on this one – I'd rather see Jeb Bush be president than, say, Marco Rubio, because I personally prefer that the president be someone who "eats with a fork and a knife."

But voters, not some miniscule bund of financiers and pundits, should decide elections. One can argue that the Tea Party Platform is not a grassroots movement, that it just represents the wants and needs of a different set of Daddy Warbuckses like the Koch Brothers, who've used clever marketing techniques to get the frustrated, dying white middle class to support slashing corporate taxes and deregulating the economy.

But in the conservative platform there are echoes of the real anger and frustration of real people. Check out entry #2 in this Tea Party Platform: "Pro-domestic employment is indispensable." The Jebs and Hillaries who will head to the general election fattened by money from the same Wall Street banks that financed the relocation of the American manufacturing base from the Rust Belt to places like China and India, they're not going to be worried about "domestic employment" in the way the Tea Partiers mean.

Voters, even crazy voters, make better choices for the country than behind-the-scenes oligarchs who scheme to keep the field narrowed to an endless parade of the The Same Old Crap. It's hard to see, because the Schadenfreude factor is so high when the losers are voters who think Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born sleeper agent of Black September, but when the choices aren't real choices, everyone loses.


December 22, 2014

Fmr FBI Asst Director: ‘Race Provocateurs’ Incited Violence Towards Police

Ronald T. Hosko — a former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and current president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund — issued a statement Sunday condemning the brutal murder of two New York Police Department officers and placing the blame for their deaths on “race provocateurs.”

“While the criminal who shot these officers down is ultimately responsible for their murders, a thoughtful society must examine the social circumstances that fostered such outrageous criminal conduct,” Hosko stated. “To those who have chosen to incite violence against law enforcement through the reckless vilification of police officers — shame on you.”

Hosko then went on to single out racial activists, the media and even government officials for fostering a hostile anti-police sentiment that led to the deaths of two officers Saturday.

“From race provocateurs looking for five minutes of fame, to those in the media who wantonly mischaracterized and sensationalized recent criminal cases, to the government officials who have repeatedly made statements designed to undermine legitimate law enforcement efforts across our nation – it’s time to reexamine your own words and actions and take your share of responsibility,” the statement continued.

However, he did not specifically name who those individuals might be.

Hosko concluded his statement with a call to understand the difficult job cops have and how their lives are threatened on a daily basis.

“Men and women in uniform wear a target every day; law enforcement is under daily attack from those who seek to evade responsibility. Morale among those who serve is damaged and divisions are only widened when the facts are buried in an anti-police narrative,” Hosko wrote.

The retired FBI agent previously served as the assistant director of the Criminal Investigation Division until April 2014. The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit dedicated to representing the interests of law enforcement officials nationwide.


December 19, 2014

True The Vote Appeals Dismissal of Lawsuit Against IRS

True the Vote, a Houston, Texas-based non-profit organization focused on “voters’ rights and election integrity,” has appealed a U.S. District Court’s order dismissing their lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Breitbart Texas has learned. The lawsuit had alleged that the IRS had improperly delayed granting True the Vote’s application for 501(c)(3) status and targeted them as a conservative organization, but the opinion, issued by Judge Reggie B. Walton in October, found that the IRS had taken sufficient “remedial steps to address the alleged behavior.” In an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas, True the Vote representatives shared why they believe their appeal is valid and represents an important issue for conservative grassroots organizations to follow.

“The IRS targeting scandal is not over and neither is our effort to seek justice in the federal courts,” said True the Vote Founder Catherine Engelbrecht in a statement provided to Breitbart Texas. “Since the dismissal, ‘lost’ emails specific to our case have been found and assertions that the agency changed its ways have yet to prove true by any verifiable manner. Until the Court fully addresses the IRS’ wrongdoing, the risk of future political abuses without consequences will only compound.”

In 2010, True the Vote filed an application for 501(c)(3) status, which is the section of the IRS code conferring tax-exempt status on qualifying non-profit organizations. As Breitbart Texas reported, years went by without the application being approved, while Engelbrecht and King Street Patriots, another tea party group with which Engelbrecht was affiliated, found themselves facing invasive demands for records and information from not only the IRS, but also the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

After news broke in May 2013 that the IRS admitted they were targeting the 501(c)(3) applications from conservative organizations for “special scrutiny,” True the Vote filed suit against the IRS, and that September, finally granted True the Vote’s application. When it was revealed in July 2014 that the emails from Lois Lerner’s computer had been allegedly “lost” in a hard drive crash, True the Vote  filed a motion seeking emergency discovery, to obtain documents and other evidence on an expedited basis due to concerns about spoliation of evidence.

In an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas, True the Vote communications director Logan Churchwell said that this lost evidence was crucial to their case. Churchwell said that the IRS opposed the emergency discovery request, presenting the testimony of three computer experts who all said that Lerner’s emails were “lost to the universe” and not recoverable. Judge Walton denied the emergency discovery request, and True the Vote expected that the case would then move into a regular discovery process. However, to their surprise, the court then dismissed the case entirely, skipping the discovery issue entirely and holding that the issue was now moot because True the Vote had their 501(c)(3) status and the IRS had promised they had reformed their procedures.

Churchwell told Breitbart Texas that their main concern was that the IRS’ promises of reform were nothing but empty words. “We have a concern over ongoing and future injury especially given the widespread and long term discrimination by the IRS against conservative groups,” he said. “We haven’t seen any changes in policy. [Instead] we are seeing a culture in the IRS that constantly wants to grow its power and influence into further speech policing.”

“Our goals and political beliefs have not changed,” added Churchwell. “What’s the risk it’s going to happen again, to us or the next guy? Where’s the actual evidence that this isn’t going to happen again?”

True the Vote’s Notice of Appeal was officially filed with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Thursday, December 18. The IRS has a short period in which to file their objections. Breitbart Texas will continue to follow this story.

December 18, 2014

Raul Castro Demands Obama Executive Action on Embargo in Victory Lap Speech

The people of Cuba received unprecedented news today, though they were unable to hear of the United States’ reforms in diplomacy with Cuba from President Barack Obama. Instead, they were treated to an address by dictator Raúl Castro, in which he celebrated that the reforms will lead to “sustainable socialism” and urged President Obama to lift the embargo entirely through executive action.

Castro spoke simultaneously to the Cuban people as President Obama delivered his remarks, explaining the release of both USAID worker Alan Gross– who had been subjected to various abuses in Cuban prison for attempting to connect Cuban Jews to the Internet– and three Cuban spies convicted of crimes in the United States. He described the release of the three spies as a promise kept by “Comrade Fidel” and addressed them by their first names.

For Castro, he explained, the new diplomatic relations were a sign that Cuba can “resolve differences through negotiations without renouncing to even one of our principles.” He heralded “the heroic cuban people” for “remain[ing] loyal to our ideals of independence and social justice.” The new reforms, he continued, would help in “the actualization of our economic model to construct a prosperous and sustainable socialism.”

Castro noted that “this decision by President Obama deserves the respect and recognition of our people,” without indicating any specific measure Cuba would taken in removing its economic sanctions and limits on the American people. Instead, he placed the blame squarely on President Obama’s shoulders, and urged unilateral executive action:
The economic, commercial, and financial blockade that provokes enormous human and economic damage to our nation must cease. Even though the measures of the blockade have been made by law, the President of the United States can modify their application through his executive powers. We propose to the United States government to adopt mutual measures to improve the bilateral climate and advance towards normalization of links between our countries, based on the principles of the international rights and the UN Charter. 
Castro only expressed a “will to dialogue” about both economics and human rights, demanding the United States “remove obstructions to the families of both nations regarding trips, direct postal service, and telecommunications.” He did not discuss his own unilateral executive actions in September severely limiting travel by Cuban Americans into the island and limiting the free flow of necessary goods from Cuban Americans to the needy on the island.

The White House has not responded to the request for executive action. Watch Castro’s full comments (in Spanish) below:


December 17, 2014

Federal judge rules Obama amnesty order unconstitutional power grab

A federal judge Tuesday ruled parts of President Obama’s deportation amnesty to be unconstitutional, with a scathing memo dismantling the White House’s legal reasoning and arguing that Mr. Obama tried to steal Congress’ lawmaking powers.

The ruling doesn’t invalidate the policy immediately because it was part of a case over a single illegal immigrant’s deportation, but it could serve as a road map for other federal judges who are considering direct challenges to the president’s policy.

Judge Arthur J. Schwab, sitting in the Western District of Pennsylvania, said Mr. Obama has some discretion in how to enforce laws, but by setting out a comprehensive system to grant tentative legal status to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, the president has strayed into trying to write the laws, which is a power reserved for Congress.

“President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore is unconstitutional,” Judge Schwab wrote.

Immigrant rights advocates said the ruling was a shocking overstep of the court’s authority. Indeed, the Obama administration has argued in federal court in Washington that judges have no power to review the president’s decision-making.

Judge Schwab issued the ruling the same day the Senate voted to confirm Mr. Obama’s pick to head U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that the president instructed to stand down on most deportations.

Sarah R. Saldana was confirmed on a near party-line vote, overcoming objections from Senate Republicans who said approval of the nomination amounted to a show of support for the president.

Mr. Obama’s policy would allow up to 5 million illegal immigrants to apply for “deferred action,” a proactive notice that they won’t be deported, and would grant work permits to allow them to compete for jobs legally.

To qualify, illegal immigrants would need to show they were brought to the U.S. as children, or to show that they have children who are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents of the country.

The White House defends the policy as a reasonable use of Mr. Obama’s powers to set priorities for enforcing laws, and to stop the breakup of families because of deportation.

It now faces multiple legal challenges in federal court in southern Texas and one in Washington, D.C.
The D.C. challenge, filed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, is moving quickly. The judge has scheduled a hearing on a preliminary injunction next week.

The Obama administration filed a brief late Monday in the D.C. case defending the policy.

Joyce R. Branda, the acting assistant attorney general who is leading the case, argued that Congress has provided too little money and the administration can deport fewer than 400,000 immigrants a year out of the total population of more than 11 million.

Ms. Branda said given that, it makes sense for Mr. Obama to set priorities, including proactively telling millions of illegal immigrants that they are in no danger of being kicked out. That policy allows immigration agents to focus on the other illegal immigrants whom the president deems serious cases, or on those crossing the border this year and beyond.

“Federal courts sit to decide cases and controversies, not to resolve disagreements about policy or politics,” the administration’s attorney said.

Indeed, one major hurdle for those challenging Mr. Obama’s policies is showing that they have standing to sue by proving they have been injured. Sheriff Arpaio says he will be injured because Mr. Obama’s policy will mean more illegal immigrants in his county committing more crimes and using more services — an argument some lawyers doubted would carry weight with the court.

The Pennsylvania case suggests, however, that others could have standing to sue and signals that the president’s legal argument may not be as strong as Mr. Obama has asserted.

One of the administration’s key arguments is that the policy doesn’t create any rights and that the illegal immigrants who gain tentative status could be deported at any time.

Judge Schwab refuted that, saying Mr. Obama couched his policy as a moral imperative to keep families together, so it is not easy to reverse.

The judge also repeatedly used Mr. Obama’s own words against him. He listed the times the president said he didn’t have the power to take the kinds of actions he has now taken.

The case before Judge Schwab, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, involved an illegal immigrant, Elionardo Juarez-Escobar, who was deported in 2005 but sneaked back into the U.S. and ended up in Pittsburgh, where his brother, a U.S. citizen, owned a landscaping company.

Juarez-Escobar went to work for his brother but was snared in a traffic stop by local police this year. He was reported to federal authorities, who charged him with re-entering the U.S. illegally.

Judge Schwab wanted to know why Mr. Obama’s amnesty didn’t apply to Juarez-Escobar, who pleaded guilty to the illegal re-entry charge. Judge Schwab has said Juarez-Escobar could be allowed to change his plea.

The judge questioned why Mr. Obama’s policy applied only to parent-child relationships and not to Juarez-Escobar, who has a “close bond” with his brother.

The judge said Juarez-Escobar appears to be “more ‘family’ than ‘felon,’” which would seem to make him a low priority under the president’s deportation policies.

Immigrant rights advocates said the judge was stretching the limits of the case to rule against the president.

“It’s shocking that a federal judge would use an unrelated criminal case to take it upon himself to declare the lawful, discretionary decisions of a sitting president unconstitutional,” said David Leopold, a former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “I’m confident that this ill-advised and poorly reasoned opinion will be corrected by the Court of Appeals.”

The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for comment on the decision.

In the D.C. case, administration attorneys argued that the policy is designed to carry out, not to thwart, what they believed was Congress’ intent that the Homeland Security Department go only after recent border crossers and more serious criminals in the interior of the U.S.

The Justice Department also disputed Sheriff Arpaio’s claim that the policy would lead to more illegal immigration.

Larry Klayman, an attorney for Sheriff Arpaio, said the judge in that case should grant a temporary injunction to halt the policy.

“We’re seeking to preserve the status quo, and there’s absolutely no harm to the Obama administration and the government to preserve the status quo,” Mr. Klayman said. “They are rushing to create law, unconstitutional law, in effect, claiming they have an unbridled right as a policy to do whatever they want because they’re trying to jump the gun on the new Congress.”


December 16, 2014

Senate Republicans need to decide whether they're led by McConnell or Cruz

For all of their foresight on other matters, America's founders were somewhat taken aback by the natural development of political parties. It happened anyway, even during George Washington's presidency. And although party ideology has fallen along different lines at various points in American history, it has long governed the allegiance of a majority of American voters in elections.

In legislative matters, party ideology takes the form of the modern party caucus system. In order to achieve their goals, partisan lawmakers collaborate, choose leaders, and agree on strategies in advance.

On Saturday, lawmakers demonstrated why this system evolved and is necessary. Two conservative senators, Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Mike Lee, R-Utah, discarded the caucus system and put their own tactical plan into action without warning. It did not prove helpful to their cause.

Cruz and Lee derailed a bipartisan agreement on procedure Friday night. Their actions removed the only major obstacle to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., confirming several minor Obama nominations that Republicans strongly opposed. Because Republicans lacked the votes to block the nominations in question, their best and only leverage was to insist on the use of all debate time, running out the clock on the lame duck Congress. It seemed likely that Democratic senators would not tolerate losing their Christmas just so that Obama could get his surgeon general confirmed.

Cruz's and Lee's parliamentary freelancing gave Reid all he needed to advance the schedule by two full days and guarantee the confirmation of these nominations. In exchange for making Reid's job easy on ramming the nominations through, all Cruz and Lee got was a symbolic floor vote against Obama's executive action on immigration. It drew the support of only 22 senators. One reason was that if it had succeeded, their motion would not have prevented Obama's executive action but, rather, would have killed the underlying omnibus bill and caused a government shutdown.

Many people believe that party leaders set the ideological tone of their caucuses. This is not quite accurate. The leaders' constituents — the caucus members — are the ones who set that tone and choose the caucus's shared goals by consensus. What the leaders do is choose tactics for achieving the caucus's goals. They play the role of the football coach or the general.

Every army has disagreements among its leaders, but they must agree on tactics to effect their strategy. Every football team must agree on the next play if it is to work. In the Senate, caucus leaders are chosen precisely to make such decisions. The weekend's events demonstrate that some Republicans are not playing on the same team. This was not a simple, common occurrence of senatorial independence, but rather open defiance of caucus strategy — a decision by junior officers that their own tactical decisions take precedence over those of generals who were chosen for the job.

When this happens, games and battles are lost. Before Republicans take the majority in the Senate next month, they should make up their minds about who is in charge. Otherwise, they face the prospect of losing again and again.


December 15, 2014

Spending bill battle exposes intraparty rifts among Democrats, Republicans

Congress cleared the $1.1 trillion spending bill over the weekend, overcoming objections from senators on the left and the right in a marathon Saturday session that exposed continued rifts among Democrats and Republicans.

President Obama supports the bill. He faces a Wednesday deadline to sign the legislation before funding expires for most basic government operations.

The bill’s passage was a victory for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. Despite some hiccups, the leaders pushed the bill through their chambers on fairly comfortable votes, giving them a chance to claim victory.

Those hiccups, however, presage problems for both parties. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, joined a liberal rebellion that embarrassed Mr. Obama last week. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, scuttled a deal arranged by Senate GOP leaders, thus allowing Democrats more time to approve key nominees before they lose control of the Senate at the end of the year.

“The chasm in the Republican Party is huge,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program Sunday morning, hours after the spending bill cleared despite Mr. Cruz’s objections.

The vote was 56-40, with 31 Democrats, 24 Republicans and one independent backing the legislation and 21 Democrats, 18 Republicans and one independent opposing it. Had they banded together to filibuster, they could have blocked the bill, but that could have precipitated a government shutdown that neither party wanted.

The bill was unveiled late Tuesday. It passed the House on Thursday and cleared the Senate about 10 p.m. Saturday, meaning lawmakers and watchdogs had less than 100 hours to scrutinize the 1,600 pages of legislation, plus another 1,200 pages of explanations.

The measure funds the Defense Department and basic domestic needs including education, the Internal Revenue Service and health care through Sept. 30.

The exception is homeland security money, which is provided only through Feb. 27. Republicans insisted on the stipulation, saying they want to return early next year and try to halt Mr. Obama’s deportation amnesty by tying it to the rest of immigration enforcement money.

Mr. Cruz, though, tried to take a stand on that issue over the weekend, scuttling a deal that would have passed a short-term bill to keep the government open and given senators the weekend off, to return Monday.

Democrats were giddy over Mr. Cruz’s tactics, which sparked a war of words on Twitter between his staff and senior Republican and Democratic aides.

Mr. Cruz’s side claimed victory, saying it got senators to go on record on whether they believed the spending bill was unconstitutional because it included funding for homeland security, which would carry out Mr. Obama’s amnesty plans.

Mr. Cruz lost support overwhelmingly, on a 74-22 vote. Even some Republicans who said Mr. Obama’s policies were illegal voted against the senator from Texas, arguing that a constitutional objection doesn’t apply to a spending bill.

“While the president’s executive actions on immigration are reprehensible and deserve a strong response, I value the oath I took to support and defend the Constitution too much to exploit it for political expediency,” said Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican. “The Constitution gives Congress the power to fund the government, so to assert that the House-passed spending bill is unconstitutional is not only inaccurate but irresponsible.”

But Mr. Cruz said in a statement that he picked a good fight and forced senators to take a stand.

“The Constitution matters, and we must defend it. That is why we have fought so hard to ensure this vote,” he said.

The vote total, however, showed a strong rejection in both parties of either his tactics or his constitutional analysis.

Democrats couldn’t resist piling on. Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson issued a statement thanking Mr. Cruz for helping them speed up a number of nominations.

Much of the last week’s fighting in the Senate has dealt with timing of votes rather than the substance of the issues. Republicans are trying to use the few days left in the year to prevent Democrats from installing several dozen nominations before Republicans take control.

By coming in Saturday, Mr. Reid was given an extra two days.

Mr. Cruz’s staff said Mr. Reid would have fought for the nominees anyway.

Mr. Reid told colleagues he thought going through the exercise would pay dividends for the Senate as a whole.

“What we’ve gone through here the last day or so, I think is going to help us next year,” he said.


December 12, 2014

Tea Party Reacts to Obama-Boehner Omnibus Passage With Defiance; Vows to Remember Yes Votes in 2016

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, isn't wasting any time. Minutes after the House passed a controversial omnibus spending bill, she tweeted: "Speaker Boehner & House GOP leadership have found a way to needlessly squander political capital, after being handed a historic majority."

The bill, literally crafted behind closed doors in cigar smoke-filled rooms by a handful of legislators and staffers, fully funds President Obama's unconstitutional executive actions granting amnesty to illegal aliens.

The House of Representatives passed the 1,700-plus page, $1 trillion-plus CR-Omnibus budget bill by a 219 to 206 margin late Thursday night, barely two hours before the clock struck midnight and the federal government would have shut down.

Only 162 Republicans voted for the bill, while 67 opposed it. The bill passed because 57 Democrats -- encouraged by Obama and Vice President Joe Biden -- crossed the aisle to vote yes. 

Tea Party reaction to the vote was uniformly negative and defiant.

"Rather than negotiate & govern from a position of strength & defend the Constitution against a lawless autocrat," Martin continued, "he has punted on 1st down."

"It’s shameful, it’s senseless, and it will be remembered," Martin concluded.

Remembering which Republican members of the House voted for the bill in 2016 is exactly what conservative icon Richard Viguerie had in mind when he tersely tweeted out moments after the bill passed: "target list for 2016 Republican primaries to be found in this roll call YES vote = Primary challenge."

With 162 YES votes, Viguerie is suggesting a very large list of incumbent Republican targets. But Tea Party activists around the country already appear up to undertaking the challenge.

Ben Cunningham of the Nashville Tea Party summarized the sentiment among the thousands of local Tea Party groups around the country. "I am not sure why we ever expected any different behavior from 'establishment Republicans,'" Cunningham told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview.

"It seems ridiculously naive with just a minimum of retrospection," Cunningham remarked.

"Power always takes precedence over principle and it always will," Cunningham noted. "The question now is this: will we simply be assimilated like all the other activist groups that came before, adjusting to 'reality' and being 'pragmatic,' or will we resolve to take back our stolen birthright of a Constitutional Republic?"

One last minute rider in particular--a provision that would effectively raise the amount that high net-worth donors can contribute to political party committees from $97,250 to $777,600--raised the ire of Tea Party groups and conservative Super-PACs on the right and public interest groups and Super-PACS on the left alike. They correctly concluded the rider would give the Republican and Democrat Party establishments huge advantages in battles with primary challengers to incumbents.

The very existence of the rider in the legislation was not known until after the full bill was posted online late Tuesday. By Wednesday, conservative talk radio host Mark Levin sounded the alarm on his syndicated program.

By Thursday morning, Tea Party groups and activists around the country were in full attack mode, hitting hard against the bill on all fronts--opposing the amnesty funding, the pork laden riders, and the campaign finance rider.

Among those Tea Party Republicans who voted against the CR-Omnibus were retiring Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN), Representative Steve King (R-IA), Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), and Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN.)

Senator-elect Tom Cotton (R-AR) cast one of his final votes as a member of the House in opposition to the CR-Omnibus.

Newly elected Representative Dave Brat (R-VA), who also won an election to fill out the term of the establishment Republican he upset in the June Republican primary, former Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA), cast one of his first votes as a member of Congress against the bill.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass some time next week.