September 28, 2012

Mitch McConnell bashes Justice Dept. for Media Matters coordination

A spokesman for Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attacked the Department of Justice for using its Office of Public Affairs to collude with left-wing advocacy organization Media Matters for America on Wednesday.

“The leader has said that the best way to address these types of actions is to change the administration,” McConnell spokesman Don Stewart told The Daily Caller. “And the bottom line is this: If the Justice Department had spent as much time getting to the bottom of Fast & Furious as it has on this, it wouldn’t have taken so long to start getting some real answers.”

McConnell has been an outspoken critic of political groups like Media Matters operating under tax-exempt statuses.

Last week, TheDC published a series of emails, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, that show Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs Director Tracy Schmaler and Media Matters staffers working together on posts that attack reporters covering DOJ scandals, as well as other administration critics.

House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa said the email evidence laying out the targets resemble former President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.”

“Not since Richard Nixon have we seen a president who puts together an enemies list and has a whole team pursuing it,” Issa said in a Fox News appearance. “That’s what’s happened in this administration. It’s sad. It’s not the America I want to see going forward. I sincerely hope that after the election, regardless, the American people will have made a statement that they won’t tolerate this.”

South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy, a member of Issa’s committee, promised hearings on the coordination in the near future, too, and many other congressmen have called for congressional investigations into the matter — and specifically why Media Matters is granted the tax-exempt status it currently has.


September 27, 2012

Gun law expert: Obama's blatant truth deficit

Is Obama afraid of the truth?" gun rights expert John M. Snyder asked in a statement released Tuesday. Snyder, who serves as an advisory board member of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and as Vice President of the Firearms Committee of the American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens, believes, as others do, that President Barack Obama and his minions are getting a free ride from the denizens of America's broadcast and print newsrooms who are loath to criticize Obama or administrators. Not only is the Obama administration responsible for a staggering budget deficit, the President and his underlings are also responsible for a truth deficit, say police and military veterans.

"At least a couple of recent developments lead to this kind of speculation," Snyder continued. "One is Obama's refusal to consider the charge that the Justice Department report on the Fast and Furious federal gun running scandal is a whitewash. Another is Obama's Pentagon attempt to silence professional military criticism of his policies."

Snyder noted that the ongoing Fast and Furious scandal involves the top officials Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF allowed straw purchasers of thousands of guns in the United States to move them illegally into Mexico. The guns ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Many reportedly were used in the commission of horrendous crimes, including the murder of American federal law enforcement personnel.

"The Justice Department released recently a report on Fast and Furious that exonerated Attorney General Eric Holder," Snyder pointed out, "even though Holder has been held in contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives for his refusal to produce documents demanded by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in its investigation of the scandal. Obama publicly has rejected criticism of Holder and the charges that the Justice Department report is a whitewash."

Snyder said that, "The whitewash news came as reports of Obama's Pentagon told retired military officials to stop negative criticism of Obama. As elections examiner Jim Kouri revealed, this report came as a result of pronouncements by 'Navy SEALs, intelligence officials, and others, such as Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, who are highly critical' of Obama.

"Kouri, who has trained police and security officers throughout the country, wrote that several veterans say they 'are used by the president all of the time as stage props so that he can look like a Commander in Chief and we have no choice but to stand there and pose in the background,'" said Snyder.

"Obama," said Snyder, "appears to have a problem with reality, with truth. What's he afraid of? What's he trying to hide? Why not let it all hang out?"

On 60 Minutes on Sunday, Barack Obama likened the murder of a U.S. Ambassador and three other Americans to a "bump in the road," said political consultant and attorney Michael Baker.

During his interview on 60 Minutes, Obama said: "I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights — a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance.

"But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam," said the Commander in Chief.


September 26, 2012

Ralph Nader: Obama’s a ‘war criminal’

It’s no surprise that Ralph Nader isn’t a fan of former President George W. Bush. After all, the longtime activist ran against him in both 2000 and 2004. But Nader’s even less a fan of President Barack Obama, if only because he thinks Obama was capable of so much more.

On issues related to the military and foreign policy, Obama’s worse than Bush, “in the sense that he’s more aggressive, more illegal worldwide,” Nader told POLITICO, going so far as to call Obama a “war criminal.”

“He’s gone beyond George W. Bush in drones, for example. He thinks the world is his plate, that national sovereignties mean nothing, drones can go anywhere. They can kill anybody that he suspects and every Tuesday he makes the call on who lives and who dies, supposed suspects in places like Yemen and Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is a war crime and he ought to be held to account.”

Nader called Obama“below average because he raised expectation levels. What expectation level did George W. Bush raise?… He’s below average because he’s above average in his intellect and his knowledge of legality, which is violating with abandon.”

“I don’t know whether George W. Bush ever read the Constitution,” said Nader. “This man taught the Constitution, and this is what we got.”

Nader gave Obama this much: He’s the lesser of two evils when compared to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But he said Obama is “the more effective evil because he brings credibility, he brings the democratic heritage to it, he has legitimized the lawless war-mongering and militarism abroad of George W. Bush.”

When asked to highlight some positives about Obama’s presidency, Nader said, “I like the way he’s emphasized renewable energy, even though he still supports nuclear and fossil fuels, as if they’re all the same, all of the above. But he does speak more about renewables than any president perhaps since Jimmy Carter.” (Nader will be speaking at the Green Festival in Washington, D.C., later this month.)

And: “He wanted to have a public works program, he really did want to have a jobs program and the Republicans crushed it and that would have created a lot of jobs that couldn’t be exported to China.”

Nader doesn’t let Republicans off easy, either, calling them “the worst Republican Party in history.”

“We’re dealing with a real sick, decaying Democratic Party that can’t defend the country against the cruelest, most ignorant, most anti-worker, most war-mongering, most Wall Street–indentured Republican Party in its history, since the 1850s.”

As for Romney, Nader said “he’s not the old Romney, governor of Massachusetts. He’s had a character and personality makeover. He’s just bought into the extreme right wing of the Republican Party, represented by Paul Ryan, and I don’t think he’s going to be able to shake that. He’s basically a corporation running for president masquerading as a human being.”

For the first time in a long time, Nader is not running for president this year. From the way he puts it, he may be through with such campaigns.

“I’ve run several times and we’ve documented the two-party tyranny, which means they’re very adept at excluding, with a whole variety of ways, third parties.”

It’s not, however, because he’s been billed by some as a political spoiler.

“That’s a politically bigoted words, as if we’re second-class citizens,” said Nader. “Since we’re all trying to get votes from one another, either we’re all spoilers of one another or none of us are spoilers.”

Read the entire article

September 25, 2012

Obama's Bald-faced Lie on Fast and Furious

No sooner had two mainstream media headlines announced Obama "falsely claimed" Operation Fast and Furious was begun under the Bush administration than the MSM and the White House were ready with the spin. ABC News and Yahoo got ahead of the backlash from real media types on Friday by running stories on Obama's blatant attack on the truth. When co-hosts Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas pushed Obama for answers on the Fast and Furious scandal during Thursday's now infamous Univision townhall, the President outright lied. "I think it's important for us to understand that the Fast and Furious program was a field-initiated program begun under the previous administration," the president said. "When Eric Holder found out about it, he discontinued it. We assigned a inspector general to do a thorough report that was just issued, confirming that in fact Eric Holder did not know about this, that he took prompt action and the people who did initiate this were held accountable." White House spokesman Eric Schultz was called on to respond to his boss's latest distortion. The President was referring to the flawed tactic of gun-walking, which despite Republicans efforts to politicize this issue, began under the previous Administration and it was our Attorney General who ended it. In fact, this week's IG report affirms this and if Republicans still have any legitimate questions about Fast and Furious, the 450-page report answers them. In light of this thorough report and Congress's 16 month-long investigation, Republicans have no excuse to keep wasting time and taxpayer resources on politically-motivated, election-year attacks. ABC and Yahoo reporters both conceded in their articles Operation Fast and Furious was initiated in October 2009 under the Obama administration. Also, neither outlet mentioned another subtle lie in Obama's statement when he claimed the people "who initiated this were held accountable." Most of the ATF and DOJ personnel implicated in the debacle have either resigned, been reassigned, pled the fifth or are now awaiting action by Holder who "said the job performances of the dozen cited in the report [IG's report] and still employed at the ATF and the Justice Department would be reviewed with the "consideration of potential personnel actions."" Doesn't sound like anybody's been held accountable at all. As far as gaining traction in the news cycle, nothing happened. The two news media's coverage didn't matter. By Saturday the fact Obama lied was tossed away like yesterday's garbage. The families of the federal agents who were killed not to mention those of the murdered Mexican citizens deserve the truth but Obama's obedient press corps couldn't care less. Not one of the Sunday news shows mentioned Obama's Fast and Furious lie; not even George Stephanopoulos' This Week on ABC whose panel included Univision's Jorge Ramos and Ann Coulter. What was the topic on all four shows from Meet the Press to Chris Wallace's Fox News? The May 17 Romney video and the 47%. Obama's statement that "field agents" initiated Fast and Furious under Bush is so bizarre it borders on sociopathic. How can America abide the disconnect between reality and Obama's mind? He and his sycophantic slaves in the media would have us believe the Attorney General, not to mention the Secretary of State, was kept in the dark about a government program which would potentially result in an international incident and affect our relationship with a sovereign nation. The recently released DOJ Inspector General's report added to Obama's fairy tale explanation by admitting the White House made it impossible to follow up on leads regarding White House security staffer Kevin O'Reilly, allegedly a key player in Fast and Furious. Under the Bush administration's Operation Wide Receiver, which was mentioned throughout the DOJ's investigative report, agents attempted to track the weapons into Mexico and had the cooperation of Mexico officials; not so under the Obama administration. Mexico was unaware of Fast and Furious. The Univision statement is just a pinch of the mind-numbing manure Obama and his agency flunkies are throwing out about Fast and Furious. But it's a whopper. Forget the juvenile propagandists working for Obama, when will conservatives who have access to mainstream media outlets change the subject to murder?

September 24, 2012

Obama, Holder have approved one of bin Laden’s bodyguards for release or transfer from Gitmo

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have approved one of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards for release or transfer from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to another country, according to prison records released by WikiLeaks and a recently published list of approved-transfer detainees from the Justice Department.

Idris Ahmad Abdu Qadir Idris is the second name on Holder’s Justice Department list of 55 Gitmo detainees approved for release or transfer. This detainee, according to a Jan. 26, 2008, Defense Department document published by WikiLeaks, provided security for bin Laden both before and after the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“Detainee is assessed to be a member of al-Qaida and was identified as a bodyguard for Usama Bin Laden (UBL) beginning shortly before the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Detainee is also assessed to be an al-Qaida recruiter associated with a Salafist network in Yemen,” the document reads. “Detainee transited through multiple extremist support guesthouses, received militant training at the al-Qaida al-Faruq Training Camp in Afghanistan (AF), and is assessed to have received advanced training.”

“Detainee fled UBL’s Tora Bora Mountain complex with a group of 30 fighters including other UBL bodyguards, collectively known as the Dirty 30,” the document states. “Detainee’s name was found on al-Qaida affiliated documents.”

The Defense Department considers Idris a “high risk” if released from custody, meaning that he is “likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”

The detainees on the Justice Department’s list have been approved for release or transfer since 2009 – the beginning of the Obama administration – but they remain in the Guantanamo Bay prison and their names had not been released publicly because, according to Politico, “the State Department’s envoy for Guantanamo, Ambassador Daniel Fried, cited a need to coordinate diplomatic efforts to resettle the war-on-terror prisoners.”

“However, in the new court filings Friday, Justice Department lawyers said that need no longer merited keeping the list secret,” Politico wrote. “They didn’t quite concede that the resettlement process has stalled, but that was the implication. Congress has also greatly complicated releases from Guantanamo with a series of legislative measures attached to budget bills that Obama signed into law.”
Obama, who had promised to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center if elected in 2008, and Holder cleared Idris for release or transfer from Guantanamo well before bin Laden was killed in 2011. The Obama campaign has emphasized the president’s decision to send in the military to kill bin Laden as part of a broader message that he is a strong foreign policy leader who is tough on terror.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and for the White House haven’t responded to requests for comment on why they want to release or transfer one of Bin Laden’s bodyguards from U.S. custody, even as reports surface suggesting the recent anti-American attacks in Libya were organized by a released Gitmo detainee.

September 21, 2012

The Food-Stamp Scandal

On Tuesday’s Morning Joe, the actor Jeff Bridges joined nutrition advocate Bill Shore in observing that, for the “first time in history,” there are “45 million on food stamps.” The pair then related that they had recently attended “a dinner with [Agriculture] Secretary Vilsack,” at which they had learned that “one of two kids in the United States will be on food assistance at some point in their childhood.”

“That’s remarkable,” said Bridges.

It is remarkable, indeed. And it is even worse than Bridges and Shore let on. In truth, “at some point in their childhood” is a rather vague way of putting it: According to a 2010 American Dietetic Association report, “half of all [American] children participate in at least one nutrition assistance program in their first five years of life.” Along with so many of the other numbers in American government, this one is growing.

Food stamps have been the silent welfare story of the Obama economy, and many are keen to keep them that way by shutting down discussion at the outset. When Newt Gingrich described Obama as “the best food-stamp president in American history,” the NAACP was quick to chime in with the typical accusations of racism, describing his remarks as “divisive” and “inaccurate.” Divisive they may have been — such things are in the eye of the beholder — but inaccurate? Certainly not.

Gingrich’s characterization was entirely fair. Since Obama’s inauguration, 18 million people have been added to the food-stamp rolls; spending on the program has doubled — it cost $75.7 billion in 2011 compared to $35 billion in 2008; and enrollment has hit an all-time high of 46.7 million recipients. Meanwhile, the number of children receiving free school lunches has inflated from 18 to 21 million — an unprecedented jump — and 53 percent of all American infants are receiving support from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, more commonly known as WIC. Business is booming.

To put these increases into context: The Congressional Budget Office reports that, since 2008, the federal government has increased defense and transportation spending by 11 percent each, and Medicaid spending by 27 percent. Over that same period, spending on food-stamp and nutritional programs has expanded by 110 percent. Eight in ten dollars in the farm bill are now spent on food stamps.

For this deluge, the economy bears much responsibility. But that the president is not the sole architect of the phenomenon is not to say that he is as vexed by it as he should be. Bobby Jindal’s caustic criticism that the administration appears to measure success by “how many people are on food stamp rolls and government-run health care” rings true.

If the president is uncomfortable with one in seven Americans’ being on food stamps, he has a funny way of showing it. In early 2012, the USDA was criticized for running advertisements that encouraged reluctant citizens to enroll because it would help them eat right and thus look good. At around the same time, the department partnered with the Mexican government to try to sign up “eligible Mexican nationals.” Despite these scandals, neither the administration nor the Democrats in Congress have shown much inclination toward reforming the programs, which are rife with inefficiencies. Nor, until recently, have Republicans. From 2001 to 2006, the food-stamp budget doubled, despite unemployment levels’ staying around the 5 percent mark. That is dependency without a cause, and it is shameful.

Not everyone is unhappy with this state of affairs. The American Dietetic Association wants federal nutrition programs to cover all those eligible as a matter of policy, lamenting in 2010 that “current participation in many programs is below 100 percent due to barriers.” These “many programs” include food stamps, the School Breakfast Program, the National School Lunch program, various summer nutrition programs, and WIC. “Without these programs,” ADA has argued, “millions of infants, children and adolescents in the U.S. may not reach their full developmental potential.” Here, the ADA has found common cause with Michelle Obama in fancying government-sponsored nutritional programs as a good in their own right.

It should come as no great surprise that so many children are being welcomed into the federal fold. The incentives to increase participation are often perverse, and Democrats in the Senate have blocked any attempts at reform. A raft of changes proposed by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions were dismissed out of hand by Harry Reid in June of this year. Among other things, Sessions submitted that granting bonus cash to the states simply for racking up enrollees was perhaps not the best of ideas, especially with a program that is wholly funded by the federal government; advocated ending “categorical eligibility,” which automatically enrolls people who do not need food stamps purely because they are eligible for other government assistance; and recommended a new system — “SAVE” (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) — that would ensure that no stamps went to illegal immigrants. Republicans also objected to the school breakfast and lunch programs’ enrolling children automatically. All Sessions’s proposals were killed without a vote.

There is a legitimate debate to be had about the role of government in a poor economy, and in this food stamps will inevitably play a role. But, as with all welfare programs, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that nutrition assistance is treated as what it is: a temporary solution to an economic problem. Such provisions always run the risk of being hijacked by those who see them as an opportunity to accomplish their personal policy goals on the sly; and when they are permitted to do so, it is the health of the republic that suffers most.

Read the entire article

September 20, 2012

Probe of Secret Service prostitution scandal may cite White House advance staff involvement

Federal law enforcement personnel and a congressional committee are anxiously awaiting an overdue inspector general's report that they believe may reveal the involvement of two White House advance team members in the Secret Service prostitution scandal in Colombia earlier this year.

While much of the attention in the case has focused on the actions of Secret Service personnel, multiple law enforcement and congressional sources tell that investigators also discovered two White House advance team members checked in prostitutes as overnight guests at a Cartagena hotel in the days before President Obama's April 13 visit.

"Three U.S. delegation members that stayed at the Hilton brought prostitutes back as overnight guests. One of them was ours (Secret Service) and the other two were White House staffers," a high-ranking Secret Service official told "We knew very early that White House staffers were involved."

Twelve of the 13 agents investigated for alleged misconduct in Cartagena stayed at another hotel, the El Caribe. Only one of those charged with misconduct had a room at the Hilton, where President Obama and the White House advance team also stayed.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in April, just days after Obama's visit, that there was no indication any White House advance team members were involved in the prostitution scandal.
But whether there will be any reference to the White House staffers in the upcoming report, from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General, remains to be seen. The report has yet to be delivered, though DHS OIG officials said Tuesday it would be submitted in the coming days. Acting DHS Inspector General Charles K. Edwards initially told a congressional panel in May he was aiming to present it by July 2.

The delay has sparked speculation the report was being altered or manipulated to conceal or minimize the roles of some of those involved, multiple Secret Service officials with senior leadership positions told Meanwhile, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, of the Senate Homeland Security Committee sent Edwards a letter on Sept. 14 asking for information about the status of the report.

A congressional source told the Senate committee staff is particularly eager to see the report because it "includes information that two members of the White House advance team had prostitutes overnight."

"The Committee wants to know if White House staff engaged in improper conduct in Cartagena, which the White House previously denied," the source added.

"We are writing to inquire about the status of the investigation we requested into the April 2012 incidents in Cartagena, Colombia, involving the U.S. Secret Service and possibly other federal personnel and certain foreign nationals," the letter said. It was not clear what level of White House advance team personnel were involved or if they had access to classified material about the president's visit.

Read more

September 19, 2012

Fox News: Justice Dept. thinks its collaboration with Media Matters ‘not a big deal’

The Department of Justice continues to ignore requests for comment in response to the revelation its Office of Public Affairs director Tracy Schmaler has coordinated with left-wing advocacy group Media Matters for America, and is sending signals to at least one media organization that the cabinet agency doesn’t believe the collaboration has great significance.

“We have reached out to the Justice Department for some comment on this,” Fox News Channel anchor Jon Scott said on the air Tuesday morning. “Officially, they are not commenting about it — ‘no comment’ — although they are essentially saying, off the record, that it is not a big deal.”

Emails The Daily Caller obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and published Tuesday show Schmaler, Holder’s top press defender, and Media Matters staffers working together to attack reporters covering DOJ scandals.

Schmaler and the DOJ have ignored TheDC’s requests for comment on the matter since before the first piece was published. She has also ignored TheDC’s requests asking her to confirm that the DOJ doesn’t think her apparent partnership with Media Matters is a “big deal.”

Media Matters spokeswoman Jess Levin has also ignored requests for comment from TheDC about this story.

Fox News’ James Rosen reported Tuesday afternoon that “a spokesman for Media Matters told me the group would comment only if it was offered a chance to appear live on this network, which is a request this reporter was in no position to grant.”

Levin has ignored follow-up requests from TheDC, including requests to confirm Media Matters threatened that it would only comment live and on the air.

Schmaler may find herself under investigation as a result of these revelations. American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow said on Fox News that the DOJ’s internal Office of Professional Responsibility could probe whether she engaged in unethical behavior or misconduct.

“They [Media Matters workers] get the e-mail praising them for the piece — whether it’s information on a hit piece on a former DOJ employee,” Sekulow said. “They [DOJ] have an Office of Professional Responsibility, and I don’t know if Tracy’s a lawyer or not a lawyer, but I will tell you this, the Office of Professional Responsibility should be looking at this because the idea that the Department of Justice is using Media Matters as its proxy — as its front group or its outside, unpaid consultant — to do this is outrageous.”

“And when professional ethics are involved, which raises a serious issue here — and media journalism ethics: the idea that you’re planting stories with Media Matters or giving them information to go after former employees of DOJ, that is over the top and needs to be seriously investigated by the Office of Professional Responsibility inside the DOJ.”

Sekulow suggested Holder also may have approved or encouraged Schmaler’s apparently improper behavior.

“Does it go to Eric Holder?” Sekulow asked. “I mean, who knows, you know?”

“I suspect between now and the election we probably don’t find out. But there are people looking at this now, and I think as long as we stay on it, we need to demand an answer to that. Why is it that Media Matters gets a special relationship with the United States Department of Justice? Somebody needs to be asking that question.”

Schmaler has also ignored TheDC’s requests for comment on whether the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will be looking into her collaboration with Media Matters.

September 18, 2012

Solyndra scandal: Official defies Congress, refuses to appear

While several major news stories were eclipsed by the U.S. embassy attacks in Libya and Egypt, on Wednesday the Department of Energy's Strategic Initiatives director, Morgan Wright, took the opportunity to refuse to appear for a deposition regarding the Solyndra scandal after receiving a Congressional subpoena, according to the chairman of a key House of Representatives committee.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) called Wright's refusal to appear before Congress "unprecedented and regrettable."

"Wright became the first person to ever defy a subpoena for a deposition issued under Oversight Committee authority [which was] first established in 2007 under then Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA)," said Issa on Wednesday.

“The decision of this key figure in the Solyndra scandal to ignore his legal obligation to appear for a deposition is unprecedented and regrettable. This reflects poorly on not only Mr. Wright’s character, but also on Secretary of Energy Chu and other employees who worked on matters related to the loan program," Chairman Issa stated.

As the of Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Energy, Morgan Wright played a critical role in making decisions about controversial loan guarantees that largely benefited political supporters of the Obama Administration, according to House investigators.

Wright is a former investment banker at DeutscheBank whose career moves from high-paying investment banking jobs to federal positions are often part of a “revolving door” strategy to gain new contacts and that are later cashed in for an even more lucrative salary in the private sector, according to the House committee's investigation.

Under the §1705 Loan Guarantee Program, DOE awarded 26 companies loan commitments totaling over $14.5 billion. Three of these companies – Solyndra, Beacon Power, and Abound – have already gone bankrupt. Many others are struggling and taxpayers will likely suffer losses in the billions from failed loans, according to a report.

According to official allegations, e-mails show that Morgan Wright was involved in an organized effort within the Energy Department to use his non-official e-mail account to discuss loan decisions as part of an intentional effort to avoid scrutiny and disclosures under federal transparency laws.

Wright was the recipient of one e-mail from former DOE official Jonathan Silver. “Don’t ever send an email on [DOE] email with personal email addresses,” Silver wrote Aug. 21, 2011, from his personal account to Wright’s gmail account. “That makes them subpoenable.” [sic]

E-mails from non-official accounts have offered important insight into the decision making process at odds with narratives offered by Administration officials, according to the House committee.

“His [Wright's] refusal to appear as ordered by a lawful subpoena only adds to the perception of wrongdoing and attempts to hide what really happened in the loan program office. Taxpayers will likely lose billions on the Obama Administration’s ill-conceived loan guarantee program and the appearance of cronyism only enhances the need for answers," stated Issa.

“Mr. Wright was given notice more than two weeks ago that he would be depositioned [sic] under rules written years ago by committee Democrats that explicitly bar agency counsel from representing him. His excuses for not appearing were last minute and not fully credible. I had already agreed with Ranking Member Cummings that we would discuss Mr. Wright’s concerns about representation when he arrived and before deciding whether the deposition would proceed today. Wright’s failure to appear was an act of bad faith," said Issa.

Chairman Issa will be issuing Wright a new subpoena and may consider other steps in response to his decision not to appear today. The previous subpoena had directed him to appear Wednesday at 1 p.m. Wright’s failure to appear could be the basis of a federal criminal contempt of Congress charge.

September 17, 2012

Report: Wind tax credits should be allowed to expire

A new economic analysis concludes that the Wind Production Tax Credit should be allowed to expire at the end of this year because it “destabilizes” the electricity market and will lead to a less reliable electrical grid in the future.

“Our findings lead us to conclude that the PTC should be allowed to expire under current law,” says the report by the NorthBridge Group.

“As a matter of both economics and public policy, no government production tax subsidy should ever be so large that it creates an incentive for a business to actually pay customers to take its product,” the report continues.

Wind producers receive a $22 per megawatt hour federal subsidy which in some “wind-rich” regions of the country allows them to essentially pay electrical grid operators at times there are power surpluses. This creates what’s known as a “negative price,” meaning producers are selling at a loss to earn taxpayer dollars.

“This taxpayer-funded subsidy artificially depresses wholesale power prices, and in hours of the year when demand for electricity is low it can result in negative pricing,” the report notes.

While at first glance, negative prices may seem to save money for electricity users, these prices actually require enormous taxpayer subsidies, distort electricity prices, and harm conventional electricity generation and electrical grid reliability.

Wind often doesn’t produce enough power during times of the day when electrical demand is highest, but overproduces at times of the day when demand is lowest, researchers maintain.

The subsidy encourages wind producers to keep producing at high levels when power demand is low because they can still make money due to the federal subsidy they earn when they generate.

“The failure of wind generators to curtail output when wholesale prices approach zero has both short term and long term negative consequences,” the study notes. “In the short term, the failure of wind producers to curtail output makes it more difficult for system operators to maintain reliability, and also makes it more costly for them to operate the regional electric grid.”

In the long run, this means less investment will go into conventional power generation, imperiling the reliability of the electrical system.

“In recent years, about 85% of total wind capacity has not operated during the peak hours on the highest demand days of the year, on average,” the report adds. “Controllable conventional generation is thus needed to backstop wind and ensure the lights stay on.”

The federal Wind Production Tax Credit was enacted in 1992 get the wind industry off the ground. Congress has renewed the credit seven times and let it expire three times since it was enacted, and now lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are debating the merits of another extension.

While the tax credit extension seems less likely in the Republican-controlled House, Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he was “very confident” that the tax credit extension would pass his chamber as several key Republicans sponsored legislation extending the tax credit, including Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and Dean Heller of Nevada.

President Obama also favors extending the wind tax credit.

“You can expect to see this will be a top priority for the administration,” a senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has come out against an extension.

“He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits,” said Shawn McCoy, a spokesman for Romney’s Iowa campaign.

September 14, 2012

Scandals are making uphill battles even steeper for some lawmakers

Both Republicans and Democrats have doubled down on attacks on candidates facing allegations of corruption and misconduct, indicating that these could be potent issues giving otherwise safe lawmakers a tough reelection fight.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) launched its “10 Most Corrupt Democrats” campaign last week, an effort to highlight one Democratic candidate facing charges of corruption per week leading up the election.

NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said that this cycle in particular, the large number of Democratic candidates facing allegations of corruption warranted a particular focus from the group.

“There’s such an abundance of Democratic candidates running this cycle that have ethics issues that we can’t even keep up. We have more than one a week that we could do,” she said.

But Democrats, too, are making misconduct an issue this cycle with their House of Scandal campaign, which showcases a Republican facing investigations each month. A Democratic operative familiar with the planning of the campaign said that even if Democrats are facing similar allegations, what sets Republicans apart is the severity of their misconduct.

“The severity of [the Republican scandals] is just head and shoulders above anything [our candidates are] dealing with,” he said.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has so far this year targeted Reps. David Rivera (R-Fla.), Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) (twice), among others. Those three in particular were cited by DCCC spokesman Jesse Ferguson as candidates under a level of investigation unparalleled by Democrats.

Severity can make a difference in how misconduct plays in the minds of voters, but sometimes all it takes for a scandal to stick are juicy details. Melanie Sloan, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, says that some issues are simply easier to fit into the 30-second sound bites that make up an attack ad or an evening news report.

“Complicated financial transactions like those involving Buchanan are less immediately comprehensible — voters pick up on these a little less than they do on more salacious scandals,” she said.

Buchanan is under congressional and federal investigations into possible illegal donations to his campaigns for Congress in 2006 and 2008, as well as the possibility that he pressured a former business partner to sign an affidavit concerning those donations that he knew to be false.

The three-term lawmaker was recently cleared of wrongdoing by the Department of Justice, but other investigations are ongoing — and though the details aren’t simple, his opponent, Democrat Keith Fitzgerald, launched a website outlining the investigations.

“The Democrats have used this smear campaign too many times for voters to take them seriously,” said Buchanan spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts. “It’s a mirror replay of their negative campaign of 2008, when Vern won by a landslide.”

Other scandals remain potent, however, and might have room to grow — including those surrounding Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), whose in-laws were convicted of running an illegal gambling ring. Tierney denied any involvement or knowledge of the situation, but his wife spent 30 days in jail in 2010 — which Republican opponent Richard Tisei says stretches Tierney’s credibility.

“Most people for a long time were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt when he said he didn’t know about [the gambling ring] — it pushed his credibility,” Tisei said.

“Voters don’t expect perfection in their elected officials, but they do expect them to be honest and forthright, and on that account I think the congressman has failed. And that’s what I hear from people as I go around,” he added.

Tisei is the GOP’s best hope at picking up a district in the staunchly blue state, and the race has remained tight, indicating that despite strong Democratic support there, Tierney’s family’s legal troubles could be taking a toll on his campaign.

Rep. David Ciccilline (D-R.I.) was targeted by the NRCC on Wednesday as its next corrupt Democrat, a day after winning a tough primary fight during which his opponent for the nomination, Anthony Gemma, alleged that the candidate had engaged in voter fraud. The NRCC’s attacks instead focused on Ciccilline’s time as mayor of Providence, R.I., during which he left the city deeply in debt, of which his administration might have obscured the level and degree.

What makes some of these charges more potent than a typical ad attacking a candidate’s policy positions is that they are often corroborated by third-party reports, or seem more severe because of independent investigations.

That’s why this time around, the city budget issue could dog Ciccilline. Though it was raised during his 2010 run, the controversy has since come to a head due to an independent audit of Providence’s budget released in 2011 that offers corroboration that Ciccilline’s administration managed the city’s finances poorly.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), too, is facing an independent report that could hurt his reelection chances. Politico reported in August that the lawmaker might have inappropriately asked for campaign contributions after offering a constituent help through his office.

Sloan said that the report could be damning not because it found any clear evidence of wrongdoing — Bishop contests that he broke any rules — but because the race in New York’s 1st district was so close in 2010, and remains close. Bishop defeated Republican Randy Altschuler, whom he faces again this year, two years ago by fewer than 600 votes.

“We responded to the outrageous, over-the-top attack ad put on air by Randy Altschuler because people know Rep. Bishop, they know that he has conducted his entire adult life with integrity, and they know that outsourcer Randy Altschuler will stoop to any low to try to give his extreme Tea Party views … another voice in Congress,” said Bishop spokesman Robert Pierce.

And investigations into misconduct are, by definition, extraordinary, so they usually receive an extraordinary amount of media attention — meaning opposing candidates have to spend little time and money talking about the issues.

Jeffrey Garcia, campaign manager for Democratic candidate in Florida’s 25th district Joe Garcia, said the federal investigations into Rivera have been blanketing the front pages of local papers in recent weeks.

“We are in such an advantageous spot, where we don’t even have to carry the bad news,” Garcia said, adding that people in the district “are openly wondering and discussing their expectations for how much time he’s going to be spending incarcerated.”

Rivera’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

September 13, 2012

White House: Sebelius unlikely to be punished for violating Hatch Act

The Obama White House appears to be offering special treatment to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the wake of the news Wednesday afternoon that President Barack Obama’s cabinet official violated the Hatch Act — activity that is illegal and normally results in the offender’s termination from government employment.

“These were extemporaneous remarks. … The U.S. Treasury has been reimbursed, and Secretary Sebelius has met with ethics experts to ensure this never happens again,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz told The Associated Press in response to the news that Sebelius violated the Hatch Act.

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said Wednesday that Sebelius violated the law when she publicly endorsed President Barack Obama’s re-election during a taxpayer-funded public event on Feb. 25, 2012.

Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner wrote to Obama that the OSC found Sebelius “violated the Hatch Act by making extemporaneous political remarks in a speech delivered in her official capacity” on Feb. 25.

“The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from using their official authority or influence to affect the outcome of an election,” Lerner wrote to the president. “A federal employee is permitted to make partisan remarks when speaking in their personal capacity, but not when using an official title or when speaking about agency business.”

“Secretary Sebelius and the Department of Health and Human Services reimbursed the U.S. government for all costs and expenses associated with her travel to the February 25, 2012, event,” Lerner continued. “HHS subsequently reclassified the trip from official to political and issued a statement to that effect. OSC found no evidence that Secretary Sebelius made any other political statements in her official capacity.”

Dan Epstein, the president of government watchdog group Cause of Action, told The Daily Caller that since Sebelius is a Senate-confirmed presidential appointee, she isn’t entitled to a review from the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) — one that that could reduce her penalty if she were a career staffer.

September 12, 2012

Politicians and Lobbyists: Who is manipulating whom?

Certain types of politicians like to complain about lobbyists as if they are insidious creatures trying to influence the lawmaking process with their campaign donations.

A truer story is that politicians see K Street as a bank from which they can draw campaign funds and, upon retirement, lucrative sinecures.

This story in Roll Call today has some telling details:

Members on both sides of the aisle and their professional fundraisers have squeezed in events from dawn until the wee hours of the morning. They’re trying to extract every available dollar from the K Street and political action community in the remaining legislative days before Members shift all of their attention to the campaign trail….

Lobbyists say they are feeling the crush.

“The period of time that remains is going to be totally supercharged in terms of fundraising,” said the OB-C Group’s Larry O’Brien, a high-dollar donor to Democrats. “It’s an absolute blizzard. A tsunami. It’s completely and utterly intense.”

Last week alone, Kathryn Lehman, a Republican partner at Holland & Knight, received at least 59 email invitations for September fundraisers. Many more, she said, were already deleted and couldn’t be counted.

I’ve written repeatedly about a broader point: lobbyists are not simply the lever by which business moves politicians, they are often the lever by which politicians move businesses. This is not only extracting cash from businesses, but changing their policy views to be more government-friendly.

September 11, 2012


The Obama administration is famous for its crony capitalism. It’s famous for wasting money on disastrous investments like Solyndra to pay off its political allies. It now appears, however, that they go a step further: they put public funds in bad investment loans, then double down on their bad loans with free cash grants.

Here’s the short story: Angus King, former governor of Maine, Obama supporter, and front-running independent Senate candidate, owned a wind company. Obama’s Department of Energy handed over a deeply questionable $102 million loan to that company. It appears that as that company was coming under investigation, King quickly divested himself of his interests, hoping he was doing so just in time to escape scrutiny, and as he was preparing to announce his candidacy for Senate.

But that's not where the story ends. It seems that before he left the company, King helped apply for a Department of Energy grant worth some $33 million. Which means one of two things: either the company was thriving, in which case King was helping bilk taxpayers for an additional $33 million; or the company was having financial difficulties, in which case the $33 million grant was designed to help cover the cost of the loans, $23 million of which was coming due with a maturity date of April 27, 2012.

Either way, the situation doesn’t look good for King, or the Obama Administration. Either the two were working to ensure that King’s company got paid millions so that King could reap the benefits, or they were working to cover up a troubled company and highly questionable investment subsidized with federal tax money.

Here’s the more complete story.

In 1997, Governor King signed into law a bill that would require utilities to generate at least 30 percent of their energy from “green” sources like wind. In 2007, King decided to take advantage of his mandate and founded a wind energy company, Independence Wind. The first major project of Independence Wind was to build the Record Hill wind farm, near Roxbury, Maine.

Ironically, King once said, “In the process of rebuilding Maine, we must never compromise the integrity of our environment. It’s not only immoral, it’s bad economics.” Yet his wind project has blasted the tops of mountain ridges along many of bucolic Maine’s well-known and beloved mountaintops to make way for a new and much less attractive landscape consisting of hundreds of windmills.

In 2011, King’s company received a $102 million for development of Record Hill. The loan came through the same stimulus program that funded Solyndra. The original federally-guaranteed loan was as questionable as the Solyndra loan. As it turned out, there was no need for a federally-guaranteed loan on the surface; the company supposedly had $127 million in liquid assets available, assets it had to have under Maine state law in order to commence construction. The loan program was specifically designed to help companies that couldn’t get private loans otherwise.

Furthermore, the company may not have been eligible for the loan, since its technology wasn’t innovative under the applicable regulation. But the company got the loan anyway, from an Obama administration eager to help out its cronies. Angus King was, of course, an Obama supporter, endorsing him and having contributed at least $10,000 to Obama’s reelection campaign.

Record Hill promptly used the money on foreign companies. Just a quarter of the cash was reinvested in the State of Maine; 58 percent of the cash went to Siemens to pay for building 22 windmills. The turbines themselves were manufactured in Europe “because that’s where the biggest turbine market is, and the tower sections are made in Asia, because that’s where the new efficient steel mills are,” said King’s partner in Record Hill, Rob Gardiner. About 467 people worked on the site, reportedly, but “at least some of these jobs could measure their duration in days rather than weeks or months.” Today, nobody is employed by the wind farm itself.

In March, King declared his Senate candidacy. He would run as an independent, but he would likely caucus with the Democrats. He was a solid lock to replace Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

But the loan was coming under scrutiny. As steam picked up on the curiosity about Record Hill, King spoke out. “The project is operating and actually is ahead of its production schedule,” he claimed. “The risk now basically is that the wind won’t ever blow again, and that is a pretty low risk.”

Despite King’s assessment of the situation, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Darrell Issa, released a report bashing the Department of Energy and singling out Record Hill as a loan that shouldn’t have happened. Two days before the report was released, King dropped his association with Record Hill, dumping all of his stock. He told a Maine news outlet the timing was an “amazing coincidence.” Actually, Record Hill was notified that they’d be mentioned, and King almost certainly wanted to avoid blowback. Gardiner admitted that he’d received a letter of notification from the Committee two days before King sold his stock.

But wait, there's more! From August 2011 to January 2012, the federal financing bank signed checks worth $101.5 million to Record Hill. In March 2011, King and Gardiner said they’d expect another $70 million in stimulus funds; as of July 2012, they’d received another $33.7 million in Section 1603 cash grants. A grant, not a loan.

Was the grant designed to help Record Hill cover loan repayments that the company couldn’t pay? Or was it just double-dipping by a highly-connected company?

If it’s the former, this is fraud. For the federal government to guarantee a loan, know the loan is going bad, and then give a “grant” to a company to pay off that loan is cooking the books.

If it’s the latter, King and company were all too happy to grab more and more taxpayer money.

King, for his part, continues to maintain that the company is in solid financial shape. But if it is, why should the Department of Energy give it a $33 million grant? What need would the company have for such a grant? Angus King and his former partner are wealthy magnates; the company supposedly had $127 million in liquidity when it began. If these 1 percenters are so flush, why do they insist on taking money from the 99 percent to pay for their already-flourishing company?

This isn’t Solyndra. This is far worse than Solyndra. It wasn’t just a Solyndra-like loan to a wind energy company designed to make a Senate candidate rich – although it appears that the Department of Energy loan was Solyndra-lite. It’s the follow-up grant that’s even more troubling. The cash grants arrived just two months after King cut ties with the company – and it takes several months for such grant applications to be filed. If the company was doing well, it wouldn’t need a grant; if it was doing poorly, it didn’t deserve a grant. But it got a grant nonetheless.

This is not the first time that Angus King has been involved in a Solyndra-like situation. King’s son, Angus III, is vice president of First Wind, another wind boondoggle that received federal stimulus dollars and almost went bankrupt.

King’s wind fixation certainly enhanced his wealth. It hasn’t enhanced the wealth of Maine or American taxpayers, though. It’s cronyism at its finest. And it’s a double-down Solyndra story that should make any
taxpayer cringe.

September 10, 2012

Harvard law dean cited ‘affirmative action’ in 1993 Elizabeth Warren hiring; academic qualifications questioned in 1990

In a 1994 interview, then-Harvard Law School dean Richard Clark said his institution was actively applying an affirmative action policy to hiring female faculty, The Daily Caller has learned. The famed law school first offered Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren a professorship in 1992 and granted her tenure in 1995.

And charges leveled in a 1990 academic law journal raised serious questions about her qualifications to teach at Harvard at all. (RELATED: Complete coverage of Elizabeth Warren)

In 1991, Rutgers Professor Phillip Schuchman reviewed Warren’s co-authored 1989 book “As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America” in the pages of the Rutgers Law Review, a publication Warren once edited. Schuchman found “serious errors” which result in “grossly mistaken functions and comparisons.”

Warren and her co-authors had drawn improper conclusions from “even their flawed findings,” and “made their raw data unavailable” to check, he wrote. “In my opinion, the authors have engaged in repeated instances of scientific misconduct.”

The work “contains so much exaggeration, so many questionable ploys, and so many incorrect statements that it would be well to check the accuracy of their raw data, as old as it is,” Schuchman added.

Harvard Law School appears to have overlooked that review, in part, because of its commitment to hiring a woman professor. (RELATED: Native American accuses Elizabeth Warren and Harvard of ‘ethnic fraud’)

“We’re clearly trying to add more women to the faculty,” Clark told the Harvard Law Record in March 1994.

“Clark said HLS was engaging ‘affirmative action’ to the extent it was working to increase the number of women considered and interviewed,” wrote the Record’s Greg Stohr. “He also said the Law School would be willing to hire a qualified woman, even if her area of expertise did not fit an immediate need, but he stopped short of saying the school would lower its qualification requirements for women.”

“I guess what we’re not ready to do is to have a different standard,” Clark told the Record.

But Warren, now on a leave of absence from Harvard to run for office, is the only law school professor there who did not graduate from a top-ten law school. Of the 350 Ivy League law school professors, Warren graduated from the second worst ranked school — Rutgers, ranked no. 82 according to a May 2012 analysis by The Washington Examiner.

Clark had been feeling pressure. In 1992, positive tenure decisions about four white male faculty members touched off student protests and demonstrations which included taking over the dean’s office.

Warren’s first tenure offer in February 1993 coincided with a Friday vigil held by law students demanding more female and minority professors. Students agitating for more campus diversity praised Clark’s commitment to bringing more women on campus, but wanted more minorities. (RELATED: Newly uncovered documents show Warren’s ancestors listed as ‘white’)

Hiring more women and minority professors “was something that people were doing already and with their own sense of how to adjust to all the different values and goals we have,” Clark told the Record in October 1994.

“Noting that he wanted to ‘increase diversity on all fronts,’ Clark said HLS needed to remedy its lack of women professors,” the Record reported in February 1995 after Warren accepted the job.

“No matter how you count it, we’re short [on women faculty], and I’ve been trying to address that,” Clark said then.

In a letter to the Harvard Law Record in December 1995, Clark praised his own successes.

“I should note that if one includes visiting professors, lecturers, and clinical instructors, the number of women teaching here full-time in 1995-1996 is 33,” he wrote. “Including part-time teachers the number of women is 51. Of the 15 appointments made over the last four years, seven have been women.”

“It is my goal to offer women students the best possible environment for the study of law and to increase the number of women students and the number of women on the faculty. I think we have made substantial progress in this direction.”

Warren, who had been a visiting professor in 1992, championed the student diversity protests, telling the Record that Harvard law students “have exercised power in a very interesting way.” Citing personal reasons — her husband was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania — Warren turned down that first tenure offer in April 1993, much to Clark’s disappointment.

“I worked very hard on that,” Clark told the Record. “I really wish we could have had a different result.”

Six of the eleven offers of visiting professorships that year went to women. The Record ran a headline on March 18, 1994, reading, “HLS Takes Steps to Bring in Female Profs.”

Warren herself seems to have doubted her own fitness to be a Harvard Law professor. “If you’d told me [I would be granted a tenure offer], “I’d simply have laughed at you and said, ‘What a charming thought! I have as good a chance of flying a rocket ship to the moon,’” she told the Record in February 1993. (RELATED: Geronimo’s great-grandson on Elizabeth Warren: “It’s a shame when somebody’s taking advantage of your identity”)

Warren ultimately accepted the tenure offer in 1995 and encouraged the campus to become increasingly diverse. Adding women to the faculty is “terribly important,” she told the Record, because without affirmative action “think of all the smart and interesting people you wouldn’t meet.”

Now as Warren runs for the U.S. Senate, she downplays her past while claiming the mantle of meritocracy.

“We’re Americans. We celebrate success. We just don’t want the game to be rigged,” she told the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

“We’ve fought to level the playing field before. … Americans are fighters. We are tough, resourceful and creative.”

Warren’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

September 7, 2012

Democrats shift with Obama on foreign policy, civil liberties

“Mr. Romney, here’s a little advice,” intoned Sen. John Kerry during his Democratic convention speech. “Before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself!”

It was intended as a zinger from one Massachusetts politician to another — the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee taking on his 2012 Republican counterpart. But given the Democratic Party’s official shift on civil liberties and foreign policy since its 2008 convention, Kerry could just as easily have intended these lines for the delegates inside the hall.

Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination in large part because he distanced himself far more effectively from George W. Bush’s approach to the war on terror. While Clinton was voting to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Obama was giving anti-war speeches.

Clinton also voted for the Patriot Act while Obama was talking about the erosion of personal freedoms. “[W]e don’t like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states,” the future president said at the National Democratic Convention in 2004.

Once in office, however, Obama reconciled himself with many Bush stances on foreign policy and civil liberties. Judging from the 2012 Democratic platform, the rest of the party has followed suit.

In 2008, Democrats opposed indefinite detention of terror suspects. “We will not ship away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, or detain without trial or charge prisoners who can and should be brought to justice for their crimes, or maintain a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law,” they declared in their platform.

Four years later, the Obama administration continues to detain some terrorism suspects indefinitely while shipping others off to foreign countries with harsher conditions under a practice known as proxy detention.

President Obama signed into law a National Defense Authorization Act containing a provision that civil libertarians in both parties fear will lead to the indefinite detention of American citizens charged with but not convicted of terrorist acts.

This year’s Democratic platform is silent on detention practices and softened the party’s unequivocal language about closing Guantanamo Bay.

“We will close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst constitutional abuses in recent years,” has turned into “we are substantially reducing the population at Guantanamo Bay without adding to it.”

Obama has also made extrajudicial killings a critical component of his counter-terrorism strategy, not confined to the successful raid against 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The word “drone” appears nowhere in the Democrats’ platform.

The 2008 platform included blanket opposition to racial profiling as a method of fighting terrorism, reading, “[W]e will ensure that law-abiding Americans of any origin, including Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, do not become the scapegoats of national security fears.”

This year’s platform omits this language, only opposing racial profiling in the context of domestic law enforcement. The New York Times reported that the Obama administration mostly kept the FBI guidelines promulgated under President George W. Bush.

Four years ago, the Democratic platform vowed to review the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program and the Patriot Act while demanding “judicial oversight on any surveillance program involving Americans.”

Amid allegations that the Bush White House was targeting political dissenters, Democrats vowed to oppose “the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war.”

In 2012, the platform doesn’t mention any of this, and a Democrat-controlled Congress passed and Obama signed an extension of the Patriot Act with little reform.

On torture, the 2008 platform was simple and categorical: “We reject torture.”

Today, the Democratic platform allows that “[a]dvancing our interests may involve new actions and policies to confront threats like terrorism,” while also congratulating the president for banning “torture without exception in his first week in office.”

Allegations of torture have, nevertheless, persisted. The Bush administration also denied using torture and no one has been prosecuted for interrogation techniques used during that period.

The 2012 Democratic platform repeatedly praises Obama for initiating a war for regime change in Libya, despite a lack of congressional approval. Bush sought, and received, congressional authorization for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The current platform gives Obama credit for “responsibly” ending the war in Iraq and simultaneously wining and withdrawing in Afghanistan, reading, “We have reversed the momentum of the Taliban and established the conditions to draw down our forces in Afghanistan.”

Kerry’s own speech displayed similar dissonance: He criticized the Republican “war of choice” in Iraq, but actually voted for that war himself; he called Afghanistan a necessary war, then criticized Romney for not having a plan to pull out; he attacked Romney for “neocon advisers,” but then cited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

Democrats clearly believe that Obama has struck the right balance between hitting terrorist targets who would threaten the United States while avoiding a large commitment of “boots on the ground” in foreign countries, but not everyone is happy.

Pointing to the Democrats’ pledge this year to uphold American values “not just when it is easy, but, more importantly, when it is hard,” progressive journalist Adam Serwer of Mother Jones wrote, “The distance between the 2008 and 2012 platform shows just how hard it has been, and starkly illustrates the extent to which the Democratic Party has given up on its 2008 promises to roll back the national security state that emerged and expanded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.”

Obama concluded his Charlotte, N.C. acceptance speech by observing that he had changed in the last four years, too.

“I’m no longer just a candidate,” he said. “I am president.”

That fact seems to have led to some changes in his perspective on foreign policy and civil liberties. And for now, it has at least partially changed his party too.

September 6, 2012

Division over platform at DNC

Two platform planks sparked division at the Democratic National Convention here Wednesday.

Things got so bad that President Barack Obama was forced to personally intervene, ordering language mentioning God and naming Jerusalem as the rightful capital of Israel be added.

While the campaign at first said Obama had seen the language prior to the convention, it later said he did not learn of the issue until Wednesday morning, when he became aware of seeing news coverage of the issue. Once that happened, the president directed his staff to change the language to include a reference to God and Jerusalem as Israel’s capital because, the campaign source said, the amended version is “consistent with the president’s own positions.”

And even then, it had to be forced through a convention hall full of delegates who nearly shouted down the change.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the convention’s chairman, kicked off Wednesday’s proceedings by trying to clean up a mess Democrats made by omitting from their official party platform mentions of God and of Jerusalem as the preferred capital of Israel.

Villaraigosa called for a voice vote on an amendment offered by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who chaired the platform drafting committee. Facing boos and nays, he tried again, before announcing that in his judgment, a two-thirds majority had approved the measure. He was booed again as he walked off the stage.

A senior White House said Wednesday that the platform dispute was an unfortunate stumble during this week’s convention.

Republicans mocked each subsequent mention of God from the podium as antithetical to the Democratic Party’s platform. GOP rival Mitt Romney released a statement blasting Democrats for leaving Jerusalem out of the platform.

After Villaraigosa announced the platform change, Republicans wasted little time trying to exploit the flip-flop on Jerusalem. Romney has said he’d as president acknowledge Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which would be a change in longstanding U.S. policy, which has been that all “final status issues” be left to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. “Although today’s voice vote at the Democratic National Convention was unclear, the Democratic Party has acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. President Obama has repeatedly refused to say the same himself. Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.”

The convention language Obama pushed for is somewhat at odds with his own policy. Obama, like predecessors Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, has every six months waived moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem since Congress voted to move it in 1995. He most recently did so June 1.

The White House directed questions on the topic to the reelection campaign.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the platform was changed to “maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the president and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

The division over Israel also flies in the face of a prediction Obama strategist David Axelrod made days earlier on “Fox News Sunday,” when he crowed that Obama’s convention would be free of the sideshows that plagued the Republican National Convention last week in Tampa.

“We don’t have the problems that the other party has,” Axelrod said then. “We’re not divided. We don’t have to worry about, you know, what people are saying on the side or about their affection for the president or — we don’t have those problems.”

Obama’s campaign and the party, as well as the news organizations covering their confab, stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been invested in the planned Thursday night event. When Obama accepted his party’s nomination at the NFL stadium in Denver in 2008, the city’s host committee spent $2.3 million just to rent the stadium.

Blaming the weather — hardly a surprise in the humid South during the first week of September — for ditching the football stadium venue drew immediate criticism from the editorial page editor of the Charlotte Observer.

“What did organizers think the chance of rain would be on a September evening in Charlotte when they decided to put the Obama event at the stadium in the first place? Zero?” Taylor Batten wrote on the paper’s blog.

September 5, 2012

Fallout From a Government Meeting Scandal

The trouble started in October 2010, when the General Services Administration, which oversees the business of the federal government, flew 300 people to the M Resort Spa Casino in Las Vegas for its Western Regions Conference. The total tab for that event topped $822,000. Subsequent scrutiny into the practices at the GSA uncovered more questionable spending, leading Martha N. Johnson, the agency's chief, to resign in April.

Since that initial scandal came to light, President Obama has put his signature on a number of executive orders, severely curtailing the travel and meetings budgets for government agencies. These measures have altered planning practices for federal meeting professionals, third-party firms handling their events, and employees looking to attend nongovernment business meetings.

Here is a look at the far-reaching ramifications of what has become known in some circles as the "GSA effect."

From the White House In June 2011, President Obama started tightening the screws with Executive Order 13576, "Delivering an Efficient, Effective and Accountable Government," which outlines ways to make spending more transparent and clarifies the fiscal roles of various government executives in containing costs.

This was followed in November by Executive Order 13589, "Promoting Efficient Spending," which got down to the nitty-gritty, requiring government agencies to cut spending by at least 20 percent below fiscal year 2010 levels on travel, extraneous promotional items, printing and more. According to the Office of Management and Budget, these efforts have identified $8 billion in reduced costs for FY2013, but for government meetings, the result has been cancellations and confusion.

"It's a lot more chaotic in those departments," says Katie Herritage, CMP, CSEP, a corporate planner and former federal contractor in Northern Virginia. "Government planners have had the brakes put on. They are reconciling what they can, canceling contracts and halting orders. A lot of agencies are getting their lawyers more involved to get out of contracts."

This past May, an OMB memorandum further outlined how costs will be cut, specifying that in FY2013, each agency will be required to spend at least 30 percent less on travel than in FY2010, and agencies must maintain that spending level through FY2016. The memorandum also addressed government conferences, requiring senior-level review and approval of spreadsheets for all upcoming conferences sponsored or hosted by federal agencies that exceed $100,000, and prohibiting expenses of more than $500,000 on any single conference, among other actions.

Herritage, who conducted a seminar at Meeting Professionals International's World Education Congress in July on the changes facing federal planners, says, "Many government planners are encountering issues and requirements never seen before. For them to now be canceling events and doing more strategic planning is a personal and organizational challenge."

For those toughing it out, Herritage offers some suggestions for coping with the new restrictions.

• Find out how your agency is dealing with the new mandates, whether it's fewer, shorter, smaller or less elaborate meetings.

• Expect to spend more time on requests for proposal. "If you have 100 events a year where you used to send one to three RFPs, the most you would get is 300 to vet. If you're mandated now to send out more, you don't have more events, but you have so many more RFPs to review. It makes more work for the planner and the hotelier," says Herritage.

• Be prepared to cut ancillary spending, such as giveaways or even F&B, if there are enough reasonably priced outlets nearby. "I'm having to look for venues where my attendees can go outside of the hotel," says Audrey L. Steidl, of Steidl Site Services, who is a director of global accounts for third-party HelmsBriscoe. "Or, I'm looking [to provide] a half-sandwich and a cup of soup for the attendees, just something."

• Start planning earlier, because there are so many more hoops to jump through to get an event approved.

• Use webconferencing whenever possible.

The bottom line, says Herritage: Be prepared to do more work.

In light of the federal crackdown on travel and meeting funds, the Society of Government Meeting Professionals is focusing on helping its members learn to work within the restrictions, because this seems to be the new status quo.

"We are experiencing a fundamental paradigm shift in our industry due to the 2011 executive order requiring a 30 percent decrease in federal travel expenses," said Rob Bergeron, SGMP's acting executive director. "We also understand that significant scrutiny for government meetings will continue in the near term until appropriate spending levels have been established."

The Outside World Not only does the cutting back affect government events, it also has an impact on events federal employees attend.

For example, conferences put on by the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, part of the University of Florida, typically attract scientists, engineers, policy makers, planners, academicians, company representatives and government agency representatives. "As my boss says, you can't put scientists in a cubicle 52 weeks of the year," says Beth Miller-Tipton, CMP, CGMP, director of the UF/IFAS Office of Conferences and Institutes in Gainsville, Fla. "Conferences are how information is exchanged."

As the federal government restricts who can attend such events, Miller-Tipton adds, that has a negative impact on overall conference numbers beyond the restricted cohort, as those who normally come to the conference to interact with agency representatives might now have less reason to attend.

"And if no more than 25 or 50 people in any government organization can attend, it's very hard to prioritize whose information is most important," Miller-Tipton says. "As a citizen, I hate the fact that an accountant is deciding who is allowed to attend a conference. Who is the accountant to decide what kind of science is important and what is not?"

The government's scrutiny on meetings also renews perception problems, similar to those experienced by all meeting professionals during the recent economic downturn. Any property with the word "resort" in its name is frowned upon, forcing federal employees to choose limited-service properties and potentially adding transportation costs.

The phenomenon affects corporate meeting professionals, too, who hope to keep their events out of the limelight. "You've got a lot of corporate planners saying, if this is happening in the government, this could happen to me," says Herritage. "You have to keep your goals and objectives in mind while shaping a conference, cutting the 'fluff' and keeping things black and white."

The Third-Party View In the investigations into the GSA's actions, independent planners were made scapegoats for some spending excesses, resulting in a call to limit the use of third parties. This loss of business is forcing independents who relied on government work to shift their priorities.

For Anne Hallinan, CMP, who runs Marrone-Hallinan Event Management in Springfield, Ore., government meetings used to take up about 25 percent of her time. "I had contracts with two government agencies," she says. "After managing a successful annual conference in 2010 for one of them, I was the winning respondent for a series of additional meetings. Before contracts were signed, the agency had their funding pulled and all that education -- and work for me -- disappeared." It has taken her more than a year to replace that business with other organizations and some corporate work.

"I wish that what has happened had not put a black eye on third-party planners," says Miller-Tipton of IFAS. "Many know what they're doing, they optimize pricing, they minimize costs. They free federal employees up to do the jobs they were hired to do in the first place."

As the country rolls up to November's election, it's possible that a new administration will be affecting these issues come January. But while no one expects the restrictions to go away, government meetings still will have to go on, if in an altered form. For SGMP, that means educating all who will listen about the good those events do. "SGMP will continue to prioritize our education mission to support the significant and positive role that government meetings and training play in the overall U.S. economy," said acting director Bergeron.

Rethinking the Per Diem

The GSA is charged with setting per diem travel and lodging rates for government employees, and the agency decided this summer to re-evaluate its methodology for setting those rates. To the relief of the hotel community, the GSA has chosen to freeze current rates for fiscal year 2013 (which go into effect this Oct. 1).

The Society of Government Meeting Professionals applauded that decision, since "a rate decrease would have potentially resulted in the unintended consequence of driving up the costs of government meetings," said SGMP president Rob Coffman, who is the deputy director of the office of conference, event and meeting services for the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Audrey L. Steidl, who runs Steidl Site Services in San Diego and is a director of global accounts for HelmsBriscoe, feels rates already are absurdly low in some markets. "Government meetings require full-service hotels," she says. "They need meeting space, they need A/V, all the usual things."

Hard negotiating has had to come into play: Not long ago, Steidl had a large group contracted for a San Diego property, where the negotiated rate was more than 25 percent above the per diem limit, and people were looking outside the host hotel for rooms. "I got the hotel to meet the per diem," says Steidl. "But I really don't know how hotels can make any kind of living from government business."

One hotelier who wished to remain anonymous told M&C, "Lowering per diems is not the answer. How about holding accountable those people who do wrong when it comes to meetings and abuse their positions? Seriously, 95 percent of all government meetings are so above reproach, and they watch everything very closely."

September 4, 2012

Congress Probes Obama Green Stimulus Funds for MSNBC

Lawmakers are investigating the Obama administration’s controversial decision to purchase over 100 advertisements touting so-called “green jobs” on the far-left MSNBC cable television outlet using “stimulus” funds, raising serious questions among analysts about misappropriation of taxpayer money to reward allies of the president who parrot White House talking points. No other TV media channels received similar contracts and no jobs were “created.”

The dubious Obama-friendly commercials touting “green” stimulus schemes ran over 100 times on MSNBC, costing taxpayers about half of a million dollars. But after the administration’s decision became a public scandal in the wake of watchdogs and media reports exposing it, criticism of the plot is growing. And now, members of Congress want answers.

Republican leaders on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which oversees the Department of Labor, are leading the charge. In a letter, the lawmakers demanded access to all documents and communications surrounding the administration’s “public relations” contract with McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations, as well as details about meetings between officials and the PR contractor hired to tout the stimulus scheme.

“We understand this contract used taxpayer dollars to purchase advertisements on MSNBC during ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann’ and ‘The Rachel Maddow Show,’” wrote Committee Chairman Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), Rep Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) in the letter. Since 2009, they added, the Labor Department has spent nearly $2 million with the PR firm to promote its “Job Corps” schemes.

“Despite the fact that these funds were made available as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — legislation President Obama said was critical for immediate job creation — an examination of public records show that the contract that resulted in the advertisements on MSNBC created no jobs,” the lawmakers concluded, asking Labor Department Secretary Hilda Solis to explain herself by September 7. The letter also requested information about which law purportedly authorized spending taxpayer funds on public relations gimmicks by Job Corps.

Another concerned Republican, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has been working with his colleagues on the committee to investigate several other scandals tied to Obama’s “stimulus” spending. Now, he wants to know about the flow of taxpayer money to MSNBC, too.

"On the surface, this doesn't pass the basic sniff test," Rep. Chaffetz told about the ads, adding that the federal government already spends "way too much" on “advertising” and that the most recent scandal raises questions about "political motivations." He, too, was reportedly writing a letter to the Labor Department seeking more information.

Taxpayer watchdogs that helped expose the controversial “public relations” ploy — the field of PR is widely viewed by analysts as akin to propaganda — were up in arms, too. “Hiring a PR firm does not create jobs, and this was obviously meant for selling a particular political agenda,” said David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. “The placement really reeks of a political ad rather than a job ad, and taxpayers see through this. Taxpayers would be a lot happier at the end of the day to see a completed road rather than a bunch of ads on cable television.”

The dubious advertisements ran during two disgraced MSNBC shows that have become almost a punch line when discussing media bias. The first one, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, was terminated due its host’s overt political bias after he was caught violating policies on donations. Olbermann had long been criticized for a history of outrageous attacks against anyone whom he disagreed with politically. He eventually went on to work for Al Gore’s Current TV.

The other program to benefit from Obama’s stimulus largesse was The Rachel Maddow Show, which has come under fierce criticism for its distortion of the truth on multiple occasions. Last year, for example, Maddow’s half-baked attacks on state nullification — a legislative maneuver used to reject unconstitutional federal statutes such as the "law" requiring states to return fugitive slaves to their “owners” — resulted in a barrage of ridicule. Scholar Tom Woods and the Tenth Amendment Center both made a mockery of the host and her wild assertions.

The Labor Department claimed the ads were designed to raise awareness “among employers and influencers about the [Job Corps] program’s existing and new training initiatives in high growth and environmentally friendly career areas.” The expensive spots were also supposed to encourage prospective enrollees to join the so-called “Job Corps” to prepare "for an emerging green economy" in fields such as “smart meters.”

Unsurprisingly, the contract created no jobs.

Still, the department defended its funneling of tax dollars to the blatantly pro-Obama network, saying the decision had nothing to do with politics and was handled by an outside contractor. However, former Labor Department public affairs office chief of staff Rick Manning, who currently serves as a spokesman with Americans for Limited Government, blasted the department’s excuses. "The fact that they claim that they delegated this spending authority to a consultant without oversight is outrageous," Manning was quoted as saying.

Even media analysts were largely unsympathetic to the administration’s “green” stimulus ad schemes. “If the ads tooted Obama’s horn too much (even a little), then they are definitely taking advantage of the taxpayers’ dollar,” observed the Radio & Television Business Report, a media-industry trade publication. “Bottom line, stimulus money should be spent on putting people back to work, not much else.”

Former “Green Jobs Czar” Van Jones, a self-styled communist, resigned from his administration post in September of 2009 after a firestorm of controversy. It remains unclear whether he was involved in the controversial MSNBC ad scheme at all.

The 2009 stimulus bill, amounting to nearly $1 trillion, was originally sold to the public as a way to somehow “create jobs.” However, as analysts noted at the time, siphoning money from the productive sector to spend on government programs actually destroys jobs and wealth by its very nature.

More recently, critics have accused the Obama administration of using the taxpayer “stimulus” money to reward political allies such as Solyndra investors, MSNBC, Big Business, Big Labor, ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and other special interests. Multiple investigations are ongoing.

“This is just the latest evidence of how the $831 billion Obama stimulus package was not merely wasteful but arguably corrupt, channeling money to enterprises that were strongly supportive of the Democratic party. Conservatives don’t call MSNBC, ‘MSDNC’ for nothing,” noted Ryan Robertson with the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division. “This one may not be on par with ‘Fast and Furious’ or ‘Solyndra,’ but it’s up there.”

It is not the first time similar accusations have arisen, however. As The New American revealed last year, many of the biggest establishment media companies — the Washington Post, NBC, Reuters, newspaper giant Gannett, CBS, among others — were receiving billions of tax dollars from an ObamaCare slush fund even as they were busy selling the unprecedented healthcare takeover to the American people. No disclosures were offered.

But Obama is hardly the first president to come under fire for spending taxpayer dollars on so-called “public relations,” either. According to news reports, a 2006 study by the Government Accountability Office revealed that the Bush administration spent more than $1.5 billion on “media and public relations.” The GAO also concluded that the White House had unlawfully disseminated "covert propaganda" inside the United States.

Federal law currently prohibits government propaganda aimed at the American people as well as tax-funded political kickbacks. However, it remains unclear whether any action will be taken — and analysts are not particularly hopeful.

September 3, 2012

House Ethics Committee Gives Wrist Slap to Scandal-Ridden California Rep.

Let’s say a member of Congress violates the law by forcing her taxpayer-funded staff to work on her campaign. Let’s say she also improperly uses official resources for her personal use. And then, when Congress decides to look into the matter, she obstructs the investigation.

What is a proper punishment for the perpetrator?

How about a verbal reprimand and a $10,000 fine complete with a nice little payment plan? That’s exactly what Rep. Laura Richardson (D-CA), one of “Washington’s Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” received for these exact same transgressions (click here for JW’s detailed dossier on Rep. Richardson).

Per The Hill:

The House voted to reprimand Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) for using House resources for her own personal purposes and pressuring and intimidating her staff to work on her campaign, after a debate in which Richardson continued to argue on the floor that the report mischaracterized some of these violations.

By voice vote, members approved the bipartisan Ethics Committee report outlining seven violations against Richardson, which includes the charge of trying to obstruct the investigation. It also recommended at $10,000 fine, which Richardson must pay out of her personal funds by December.

Ethics Committee Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and ranking member Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said the committee unanimously agreed that a reprimand was in order, and said this step is needed to ensure the integrity of the House.

"The recommendation for sanction we present to you today will ensure that Rep. Richardson is held accountable for her conduct," Sanchez said. "It will also reaffirm the credibility of the House by demonstrating our commitment to upholding and enforcing the ethics standards that apply to all of us equally.”

We’re not fools. This “punishment” does absolutely nothing to restore the “credibility” of the House of Representatives, which currently boasts a whopping 13.8% approval rating.

A sitting member of Congress violates federal law and brings shame to the House of Representatives and all she receives is a slap on the wrist fine and a stern “talking to”? The New York Times described the reprimand as a “significant embarrassment” for Richardson.

It’s a significant embarrassment, all right -- for the Ethics Committee, which clearly shirked its responsibility. Especially considering the gravity of the report’s findings as described by Reps. Jo Bonner (R-AL) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA), the Ethics Committee Chairman and Ranking Member, in a joint statement announcing the report of the Investigative Subcommittee (ISC):

At the completion of its investigation, the ISC unanimously concluded that there was substantial reason to believe that Representative Laura Richardson violated the Purpose Law, 31 U.S.C. § 1301; House Rule XXIII clauses 1, 2, and 8; Clause 2 of the Code of Ethics for Government Service; and other standards of conduct, by improperly using House resources for campaign, personal, and nonofficial purposes; by requiring or compelling her official staff to perform campaign work; and by obstructing the investigation of the Committee and the ISC through the alteration or destruction of evidence, the deliberate failure to produce documents responsive to requests for information and a subpoena, and attempting to influence the testimony of witnesses.

One of Richardson’s former employees, who came to Richardson’s office via the Wounded Warrior program, according to The Hill, had it right. She issued a stinging criticism of Richardson in her resignation letter, which was read on the House floor: “As a service-connected disabled veteran, it is sad to say that I would rather be at war in Afghanistan than work under people that are morally corrupt,” she wrote.

Richardson, despite the committee’s report detailing her many transgressions, was defiant to the very end. As part of the deal she reportedly struck with the committee, Richardson was forced to admit guilt. But that didn’t stop her from taking to the House floor to dispute the report’s findings.

The American people are sick and tired of politicians covering for each other. In fact, next to the economy, which we are told is the worst since the Great Depression, corruption is the most important issue for voters this fall.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

Reducing corruption in the federal government is Americans’ second highest priority for the country’s next president, according to a new poll.

That lofty aspiration for the next U.S. leader is only topped by Americans’ desire for the president to create “good jobs,” the study found.

The poll…by Gallup, found that 45% of Americans believe reducing corruption is “extremely important,” while 87% of them feel the issue is “extremely/very important.” The goal scored above a host of other presidential talking points, including “reducing the federal budget deficit” and “dealing with terrorism and other international threats.”

This certainly squares with JW’s most recent poll, conducted January 2012 in partnership with Harris Interactive, which found that the vast majority of registered voters (88%) believe corruption is a significant problem in Washington. That number does not figure to improve so long as members of Congress continue to look the other way when their colleagues stomp all over the rule of law.

Richardson should have been expelled.