April 30, 2013

Supreme Court: States can deny FOIAs from out-of-state residents

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday morning that states had the right to deny Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from non-residents. Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote the court opinion stating that, “This court has repeatedly made clear that there is no constitutional right to obtain all the information provided by FOIA laws.”

The ruling comes from a case brought by Rhode Island resident Mark J. McBurney and California resident Roger W. Hurlbert after their FOIA request for a child-support petition from McBurney’s divorce was denied, AP reports. The plaintiffs sued on grounds that denying their request was in violation of the Privileges and Immunities Clause, as well as the dormant Commerce Clause.

“Requiring noncitizens to conduct a few minutes of Internet research in lieu of using a relatively cumbersome state FOIA process cannot be said to impose any significant burden,” Alito wrote.
Virginia is not the only state to have such provisions in place against non-residents being able to request information through the FOIA process. Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire and New Jersey all have limiting laws to their FOIA process.

The case, McBurney v. Young, 12-17, was first brought to the Supreme Court in April 2012, with main arguments heard in February 2013. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion with Alito.


April 29, 2013

Immigration bill grants amnesty to employers of illegals; no prosecution for bogus IDs

The debate is raging over whether the latest immigration bill is an amnesty for illegal immigrants, but one part is clear: The legislation would forgive businesses that have employed those immigrants illegally.

Employers who have allowed illegal immigrants to work off the books can come forward safely and provide their work history without fear of prosecution, and businesses that knowingly employed someone using a bogus or stolen Social Security number likewise would get a pass, according to an analysis of the bill by the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank that wants a crackdown on immigration.

“The illegal workers at least have to pay a token fine. The employers of illegal immigrants who violated a whole list of laws themselves don’t even have to pay,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the center. “It’s the business side of the amnesty that doesn’t get a lot of focus.”

Business groups’ support is considered critical to getting a bill passed this year, but attention has been focused mostly on a guest worker program and requirements that all employers would have to meet, such as using an electronic verification system to check potential hires.

Indeed, it wasn’t until business groups, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, struck a deal with the AFL-CIO on a guest worker program that the final Senate bill came together.

The chamber said the provisions exempting businesses from penalties “had nothing to do” with earning their support.”Our focus in assessing the bill was looking to the good faith compliance and safe harbor provisions and other terms of the E-Verify mandate, the revisions to the high-skilled worker program, and the creation of a workable low-skilled worker program,” said Blair Holmes, a chamber spokeswoman.

The crux of the Senate bill, negotiated by four Republican senators and four Democrats, would legalize most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., but withhold a full pathway to citizenship for most of them until after the Homeland Security Department takes more steps to secure the border and implements the electronic verification system for employers.

All sides are still combing through the 844-page bill, trying to figure out what it would do. One major fight is over how many foreigners would be let into the country as a result of higher caps on legal immigration.

The Center for Immigration Studies says more attention should be given to the free pass for businesses.It counts four different ways businesses get a break: Employers who have illegal immigrants on their payroll can keep them there with no penalty; there is no assessment of back taxes for their employees who worked off the books; those who paid unfair wages will not be prosecuted; and those who aided fraud by accepting bogus Social Security numbers won’t face a penalty.

“It lets businesses that knowingly violated the law off the hook,” Mr. Krikorian said. “If they were not withholding payroll taxes, they’re held harmless. If they were violating labor laws, they’re held harmless. So this is a boon for crooked business.”

The word “amnesty” itself is loaded. The bill’s backers argue that it isn’t an amnesty for illegal immigrants because it imposes a penalty of a long wait for citizenship and a nominal fine. Opponents say illegal immigrants are almost immediately safe from deportation, which amounts to an amnesty.

The backers appear to be winning the public relations battle. A poll by MWR Strategies, released last week, found that 38 percent of voters labeled the Senate bill as “immigration reform,” compared with 30 percent who labeled it “amnesty.”

What to do about businesses that hire illegal immigrants has long been a sticking point in the debate.

The last time Congress granted an amnesty, in 1986, lawmakers legalized millions of immigrants but vowed to secure the borders and crack down on businesses that were magnets for the flow of people.

Knowingly hiring illegal immigrants became illegal and is punishable by fines ranging from $250 per employee for a first offense up to $10,000 per employee for a third offense. If prosecutors can demonstrate a pattern, employers can face up to six months in jail.

The current bill again promises to crack down on employers with fines and the potential for jail time.

Numbers are difficult to come by, but the Center for Immigration Studies estimates that 55 percent to 60 percent of illegal immigrants are working on the books, which means their taxes are being paid — though they are credited to bogus or stolen Social Security numbers.

The Obama administration has stepped up enforcement against employers compared with its predecessor, conducting far more reviews of businesses’ immigration records.

In 2006, for example, George W. Bush’s administration didn’t issue any final orders imposing penalties on businesses. But the Obama administration in 2011 issued 385 final orders, for a total of $10.5 million in fines.Mr. Krikorian said one question is whether it would be worth the cost to the government to try to go after business scofflaws for back taxes or other penalties. He said that would be difficult given the short time frames written into the Senate bill. If Congress writes a longer-term bill that requires Internal Revenue Service audits of illegal immigrants and businesses, he said, it might be possible.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin voting on amendments to the bill next week, once lawmakers return from a weeklong vacation.

The business amnesty could prove tricky to navigate when the bill comes to the Senate floor. Amendments imposing penalties on businesses that broke the law could be attractive for many lawmakers but could upset the delicate balance of the bill.


April 26, 2013

USDA to Mexico: Illegal immigrants can have food stamps

With food stamp spending in the United States skyrocketing since the beginning of the recession, the Department of Agriculture is paying to promote food stamp usage to illegal immigrants for the sake of their American children, according to documents obtained by a government watchdog.

“The promotion of the food stamp program, now known as “SNAP” (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), includes a Spanish-language flyer provided to the Mexican Embassy by the USDA with a statement advising Mexicans in the U.S. that they do not need to declare their immigration status in order to receive financial assistance,” Judicial Watch announced today.  “Emphasized in bold and underlined, the statement reads, ‘You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children.’”

The USDA said the program is designed to help American children. “[The USDA Food and Nutrition Service] understands that mixed status households may be particularly vulnerable,” FNS’ Yibo Wood wrote to Mexican embassy officials in a January 2012 email.   “Many of these households contain a non-citizen parent and a citizen child.”

The food stamp program may be cut when Congress moves to pass a farm bill this year. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., introduced a bill last week to cut $30 billion from the $760 billion the program is expected to spend over the next ten years.

“Since President Obama came into office, SNAP participation has increased at 10 times the rate of job creation, the annual spending on SNAP has doubled, and one in seven Americans now participates in SNAP,” Thune said in a statement on the bill.  “This explosive growth in both the SNAP enrollment and federal cost of the program is alarming and requires lawmakers to take cost-effective legislative control measures.”

“We save taxpayers $30 billion and make sure that families in need still receive a helping hand,” Stutzman added. “This is a common-sense start for Congress’ Farm Bill discussions as we look for ways to tackle Washington’s nearly $17 trillion debt.”


April 24, 2013

Obama, Clinton blew Benghazi response, Republican report says

House Republicans have concluded that the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies bear no blame for failing to halt the terrorist assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last year, releasing a report Tuesday that said President Obama and the State Department set up the military for failure.

The report also found that plenty of intelligence presaged the attack, but the White House and State Department — including the secretary at the time, Hillary Rodham Clinton — failed to heed the warnings.
In the most damning conclusion, House Republicans said Mr. Obama’s team lied about the attacks afterward, first by blaming mob violence spawned by an anti-Muslim video, and then wrongly saying it had misled the public because it was trying to protect an FBI investigation.

“This progress report reveals a fundamental lack of understanding at the highest levels of the State Department as to the dangers presented in Benghazi, Libya, as well as a concerted attempt to insulate the Department of State from blame following the terrorist attacks,” the GOP investigation concluded in its 46-page report.

The White House dismissed the report as a rehash of questions the administration has answered, and said it has provided extraordinary cooperation.

The report was released after rank-and-file Republicans feared the pressure to get answers on the Benghazi attacks was subsiding.

Some House Republicans want to create a Watergate-style special committee to investigate the attacks, but leaders have resisted, saying the existing investigative, defense, foreign affairs, intelligence and judiciary committees can handle it. Tuesday’s interim report is the result.

The report also could dog Mrs. Clinton if she returns to politics.

The Sept. 11 attacks on the consulate in Benghazi left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

The GOP report said the White House was responsible for prohibiting the mention of terrorism, and the report said administration officials were trying to shield themselves from criticism that they had been too lax in security.

“It is clear that the State Department expressed concerns — and was backed by the White House — that the information be removed to avoid criticism for ignoring the general threat environment in Benghazi,” the report said.

Democrats on the five committees fired off a letter Tuesday saying they were left out of the report-writing entirely, and that the end result was biased.

“You are sacrificing accuracy in favor of partisanship,” the ranking Democrats on each committee said in a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the report goes over old ground and that some of the conclusions conflict with the State Department’s internal review.

“The State Department’s Accountability Review Board — the independent body charged with reviewing the attacks and evaluating the interagency response — released its report which specifically found that the interagency response was ‘timely and appropriate’ and ‘helped save the lives of two severely wounded Americans,’ while also making important recommendations to improve security that we are in the process of implementing,” she said.

She said the administration has cooperated with the House committees’ efforts to investigate.

But House Republicans said the State Department’s review fell short. The GOP report said blame for lax security extended all the way to Mrs. Clinton.

The State Department didn’t comment on the report, but Secretary of State John F. Kerry, who took over for Mrs. Clinton this year, told House lawmakers last week that he would appoint a special liaison to try to dispel lingering questions. Still, he dismissed the core of the GOP’s charge.

“I don’t think anybody lied to anybody,” he said.

The Benghazi attacks played a major role in last year’s presidential campaign, with Republican nominee Mitt Romney arguing Mr. Obama was slow in recognizing it was a terrorist assault.

In a major turning point in the presidential debates, Mr. Obama retorted that he had mentioned terrorism in his first remarks on the attacks in a speech from the White House Rose Garden.


April 23, 2013

Gun group chief: Liberals OK with liberals dying in Boston to force more gun control

Larry Pratt, the head of the lobbying group Gun Owners of America, recently agreed with a pair of conservative Internet TV hosts who asserted that liberals didn’t mind if other liberals were killed in bombings like the one in Boston last week because “they are like the Chinese” and “they got a billion backups.”

Creative People’s Network host Steve Davis told Pratt in an interview last week that liberals “love guns,” but they just wanted to keep them out of the hands of conservatives.
“They just don’t want us to have guns,” Davis explained. “And they don’t care how many of us get killed, blown up, assaulted murdered, whatever, as long as they can control us by taking away our guns.”
Co-host Stan Solomon pointed out that it wasn’t just conservatives and Republicans that were going to die, “because these people that were killed and maimed and devastated and traumatized [in Boston] were overwhelmingly their people.”

“They don’t care, they are like the Chinese who don’t care if they have a million casualties because they got a billion backups,” Solomon insisted.

“That’s exactly right,” Pratt agreed. “This is mission oriented, they don’t care who the victims are.”
“If anything it might be to their liking because maybe they’re thinking that will make the liberals all the more prone to want more control, which plays right into the hands of terrorists and criminals, but then I repeat myself.”

Watch this video from the Creative People’s Network, uploaded on April 22, 2013.


April 21, 2013


Breitbart News has learned that the Saudi National questioned after the Boston Marathon Bombing had his deportation order records altered, rescinding his deportation order.

The alteration occurred the night before Secretary Napolitano vehemently denied the existence of any deportation order in testimony before the House of Representatives. Sources with knowledge of these matters says the change occurred subsequent to Secretary John Kerry's closed door meeting on Tuesday with the Saudi Minister and around the time of the meeting between the Saudi Minister and Obama later on Wednesday evening.

The Saudi National has been identified as Abdulrahman Ali Al-Harbi. There is no evidence that Al-Harbi is connected to the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Steven Emerson announced on Wednesday night's episode of Hannity that the Saudi National who was a person of interest and later cleared, was set to be deported.

Thursday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was questioned by Congressman Jeff Duncan about the alleged deportation in a House hearing. Napolitano responded “I am unaware of anyone who is being deported for national security concerns at all related to Boston. I don’t know where that rumor came from.”

Congressman Duncan pushed Napolitano and she retorted:
“I am not going to answer that question, it is so full of misstatements and misapprehensions, that it is just not worthy of an answer....there has been so much reported on this that has been wrong, I can’t even begin to tell you, congressman.”
Emerson appeared for a second time on Hannity on Thursday night to reveal that "the documents are going to surface or at least members of Congress have it right now, and they'll make the contents public."
HANNITY: I have multiple sources, high level, within our government, that told me the exact same thing. That this Saudi national, they said now is a witness, not a suspect, but saying is to be deported Tuesday, I was told for the exact same thing, for national security reasons. I did see the video where Janet Napolitano denied any knowledge of that, but yet it's been confirmed now by multiple sources.  
EMERSON: And the documents are going to surface or at least members of Congress have it right now, and they'll make the contents public. We don't know if he was connected to the bombing or not, but it's a strange coincidence for sure.

April 19, 2013

Top Obamacare jobs vacant for months at HHS as Baucus fears 'train wreck,' Issa demands docs

Top executive jobs have been vacant for months at the Department of Health and Human Services key Obamacare insurance program, but officials there refuse to talk about the problem.

The vacancies appear to support Sen. Max Baucus' complaint Wednesday to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that Obamacare is headed toward a "train wreck."

Baucus, a Montana Democrat, is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and was a key architect of Obamacare in 2010. Sebelius was testifying before the panel on how her department is implementing Obamacare.

"You need data. Do you have any data? You've never given me data. You only give me concepts, frankly," the senator told Sebelius, referring to how HHS has handled implementation of Obamacare more generally.

The vacancies are at the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, a key federal agency established under Obamacare to implement major parts of the health reform.

Evidence has been mounting for months of management problems within CCIIO. Vacancies have plagued the center since its inception. The center now has its third director in three years.

Other vacancies are in CCIIO's financial management group and consumer service division. The vacancies have been listed for months on CCIIO's website.

An HHS spokesman refused to comment, despite repeated requests from The Washington Examiner.
The specific vacancies fall on three vital areas: consumer protection, financial operations and the establishment of 24 health care co-operatives start-ups.

Two of the top four executive slots are unfilled in the insurance program office, which oversees the establishment of the $2 billion health care cooperative start-ups.

The job of insurance director is being performed by Teresa Miller on an acting basis. She splits her time between the Insurance Group and a CCIIO oversight group.

Three of five director positions are vacant at CCIIO's Payment Policy and Financial Management Group.

The vacancy in the consumer services director post may partially explain what Baucus said resulted in the fact "small businesses have no idea what to do, what to expect."

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., recently echoed Baucus' complaints about lack of responsiveness from HHS on Obamacare implementation.

Issa is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"HHS did not provide a single document" the committee requested, Issa told Sebelius in a March 25 letter, a comment repeated by other congressional oversight committees including the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

The vacancies may also contribute to multiple problems in the $2 billion Obamacare co-op program that have been reported by The Washington Examiner. Among the problems are hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made by CCIIO to groups led by executives with criminal records, as well groups with abyssmal ratings by state insurance regulators, little or no experience in health insurance management or operations, apparent conflicts of interest between CCIIO advisors and loan recipients, and other indicators of inadequate management.


April 18, 2013

Immigration bill would spend $50 million to advise illegals

The Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration bill offers $50 million in taxpayer-funded assistance to help illegal immigrants file for the multi-stage amnesty offered by the controversial bill.

The proposed spending is intended to help illegals get “registered provisional immigration status,” which is the first stage of the legalization process.

The money can be given to activist groups to support immigrants who need help “completing applications and petitions, including providing assistance in obtaining the requisite documents and supporting evidence … applying for any waivers for which applicants and qualifying family members may be eligible,” according to Section 2106, beginning on page 131 of the complex 844-page bill.
The very long bill also includes language granting the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority to spend the money on other priorities.

The money can be used for “providing any other assistance that the Secretary or grantees consider useful or necessary to apply for registered provisional immigrant status,” the bill says.

Also, in more good news for illegal immigrants, the $50 million may be just a down payment.

Section 2106(d)2(A) of the law provides a five-year authorization to congressional appropriations committees to spend even more taxpayer funds to help activist groups guide illegal immigrants in their quests for green cards as well as access to taxpayer aid and welfare programs.

“In addition to the amounts made available under paragraph (1), there are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary for each of the fiscal years 2014 through 2018 to carry out this section.”

The money is to be distributed by the secretary first “to eligible public or private nonprofit organizations.”
Paragraph B excludes for-profit companies from the task. Instead, it only allows “a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, including a community, faith-based or other immigrant-serving organization, whose staff has demonstrated qualifications, experience, and expertise in providing quality services to immigrants, refugees, persons granted asylum, or persons applying for such statuses.”

A variety of Democratic-leaning organizations would meet those requirements. They include La Raza and Casa De Maryland, both of whom are strongly promoting the new amnesty and guest-worker bill.
If the bill passes, eligible activist groups will likely apply for the funds.

At least 11 million people are expected to apply for the multi-stage amnesty if the bill becomes law.


April 17, 2013

Focus on Gun Control and Immigration Reform Diverted After Boston Bombings

What was billed as a pivotal week for gun control and immigration reform on Capitol Hill has turned into a mourning period for those killed and injured in the bombings in Boston.

Tuesday’s much-anticipated press conference to unveil the first major immigration overhaul in decades was postponed “out of respect for the victims of the terrible tragedy in Boston,” wrote Sen. John McCain of Arizona on Twitter. Gruesome scenes from the finish line of the Boston Marathon have replaced images of the victims of the Newtown school shootings and their families on the front pages.

“Major national calamities like this tend to freeze everything else,” said David Axelrod, a former White House adviser to President Obama. “The focus will be on Boston for days, crowding out other news. Immigration reform, which was on the launching pad, will have to wait for a few days. As for the gun debate, proponents of background checks will delay action because, with nearly 90 percent on their side, they'll want the full attention of the nation on that vote.”

A president who has grappled with a recession and two wars now faces the challenge of juggling his response to the violence in Boston with a crowded domestic agenda. In a striking example of the balancing act, Obama held a Tuesday morning press conference on the bombings and was scheduled to meet later in the afternoon with Sens. McCain and Chuck Schumer of New York on their new immigration bill.

Until more details about the bombings come to light, until officials learn whether they were the work of a lone perpetrator or a foreign terrorist cell, it’s unclear how much time and attention will be demanded from the administration.

“You have to be ambidextrous in the White House,” said Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary under President Clinton. “Every White House has to contend with multiple crises happening at the same time.”

President George W. Bush’s first term in office was dominated by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, leaving ambitious plans to overhaul immigration law and Social Security until his second term. “Domestic issues were always important, but the focus was on keeping the country safe,” said Sara Fagen, who served as White House political director under Bush. When the federal building in Oklahoma City was bombed on April 19, 1995, President Clinton was still reeling from the 1994 midterm election that cost Democrats control of Congress. Health care reform had been a colossal failure.

“Clinton was at a much different starting point, in that there were articles being written about whether the office of the presidency was even relevant,” McCurry said. “The speech he gave when he went down to Oklahoma City many people credit with shifting the focus back to the bully pulpit and its possibilities. The bombing changed the equation in a significant way and gave Clinton some momentum going into the budget fights that occupied most of 1995.”

Indeed, one of the most pivotal roles of a president during a national tragedy is to rally the country. In his nationally televised briefing, President Obama praised the marathon runners, emergency responders, and hospital personnel who tended to the wounded.

“The American people refuse to be terrorized,” he said. “So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil -- that’s it.  Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid…. The people of Boston will continue to respond in the same proud and heroic way that they have thus far -- and their fellow Americans will be right there with them.”

Though the president cautioned against speculation, finger-pointing is inevitable in a highly charged political arena. Rep. Steve King of Iowa told National Review that Congress shouldn’t rush into immigration reform in the aftermath of the bombings.

“Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa,” King said. “If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture.”

He added: “If we can’t background-check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we are going to background-check the 11 to 20 million people that are here from who knows where?”

McCain, one of the sponsors of the immigration bill, said he disagreed with drawing a connection between the bombings and the bill.

“I don’t think it’s related,” he said. McCain also suggested that if the culprits turned out to be in the country illegally, the bill would address the problem head on. “In fact, our provisions are to secure the border more,” he said. “I think it’s an argument for quick passage of it.”


April 16, 2013

Congress Guts Key Provision from Government Insider Trading Law

Last week, the House and Senate passed a bill that would gut a key provision of the popular STOCK (Stop Trading On Congressional Knowledge) Act that bans congressional insider trading and increases financial transparency for lawmakers, members of the executive branch, and their staffs.

The bill passed last week strikes down the STOCK Act’s requirement that financial records of some 28,000 federal officials—which are already publicly available in paper form—be made available online via searchable databases. Government watchdog groups say this provision would have increased transparency and helped root out potential financial conflicts of interest and cronyism in government deals, grants, and contracts.

Federal workers fiercely opposed the transparency measure. In a dramatic letter, a bipartisan roster of former senior federal officials warned that making records that are already public record accessible in a digitized, searchable format posed a dangerous threat to national security that could be a “jackpot” for “enemies of the United States intent on finding security vulnerabilities they can exploit.”

Government watchdog groups slammed the gutting of the STOCK Act, claiming the reversal of the act was based on scaremongering and was an effort by Washington insiders to protect one another and keep taxpayers in the dark.

“Continuing to obscure the contents of these reports by eliminating the database requirements is unnecessary and uncalled for,” said Dan Auble of the Center for Responsive Politics. “The filings of federal employees are and for many years have been available as part of the public record."
"In this day and age, publicly disclosed should mean available online,” he reasoned.

Lisa Rosenberg of the Sunlight Foundation agreed: “Security through obscurity as a justification to repeal the transparency provisions of the STOCK Act starts us down a slippery slope where any government action or information could be taken offline in the name of safety.”

Overwhelming bipartisan support for the STOCK Act emerged in 2011 after the publication of the book Throw Them All Out by Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer revealed that members of Congress were using nonpublic information to enrich themselves.

Schweizer’s book prompted a 60 Minutes investigation that produced an explosive exchange between CBS veteran reporter Steve Kroft and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over a Visa IPO she and her husband gained access to. The investment helped the Pelosis bag a 203% rate of return on a $1 million to $5 million purchase of Visa stock (politicians are required to report investments in ranges, not exact amounts).

Pelosi denied any wrongdoing in the deal.


April 15, 2013

Border Congressman: 'Big Sis' Must Read Immigration Bill Before Testifying

Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) told Breitbart News he fully expects Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to read the entirety of the reported 1,500-page immigration reform bill dropping on in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday ahead of her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

“This bill is shaping up to be Obamacare 2.0,” Gosar said in a statement provided to Breitbart News. “Thousands of pages cooked up behind closed doors and dropped without enough time for members or the public to read what is being voted on.”

Several media reports indicate the bipartisan Senate group, dubbed the “Gang of Eight,” will drop their bill on Tuesday. Despite protests from committee conservatives, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) has only agreed to one hearing on the expected-to-be massive legislation, and he scheduled that hearing for Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Thus far, the only scheduled hearing witness is Napolitano.

“I fully expect Secretary Janet Napolitano to have read the bill in its entirety prior to giving her testimony,” Gosar said. “No responsible official can support legislation rushed like this.”

“Gang of Eight” member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) says he supports multiple hearings on the legislation, but he has not fought Leahy for extra hearings and Leahy appears content with just the one. Rubio again said during his Sunday show charm offensive that he supports an open and transparent process, but his actions have not matched his words.

In addition to the expectation that the Gang of Eight, Senate Democratic leadership and Republican House leadership will rush this bill through without thoroughly examining it, there are numerous reports that it has been heavily influenced by and even written by special interest groups like the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Officials from President Barack Obama’s White House participated in the bill writing process too, but those intimately involved in the backroom legislation writing have actively blocked law enforcement experts like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents’ union president Chris Crane and other agents from participating in writing the bill.

Despite having not consulted any law enforcement specialists in writing the legislation, on CBS News’ Face The Nation during his charm offensive on Sunday, Rubio said the still-not-introduced legislation “puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States, potentially in the world.”

But as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has noted in a previous press release, details of the plan that have been leaked to media by Gang of Eight offices show that border security will not come before legalization, or amnesty, for the at least 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Sessions said, too, in a Sunday press release that Gang of Eight members have now also openly admitted that their plan will not secure the border before granting illegal immigrants amnesty.

“When the Gang of Eight was first formed a publicly stated principle was the enforcement would come first—before legalization,” Sessions said. “Today, on the Sunday shows, Gang of Eight members admitted that they abandoned this principle and that, in fact, legalization—or amnesty—would come first. This proposal offers immediate legalization with unfulfilled promises of enforcement in the future. This is contrary to the commitment they made to the American people and raises the same core problem as the 2007 proposal that was rejected by the American people. This should not surprise given that Gang of Eight has refused to meet with ICE officers while consulting with the special interests. The proposal will not stand up to scrutiny.”

Crane, the president of the ICE agents’ union, said in a previous release on Friday that he thinks it is a “dark day” for America when AFL-CIO leaders do things like openly threaten to “steamroller” any lawmakers who oppose amnesty. AFL-CIO director of immigration Ana Avendaño made the threat on Wednesday. Crane said the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce and other special interest groups all “stand to make billions from illegal aliens under the new legislation.”

Gosar told Breitbart News that this kind of lobbyist and special interest influence in legislation that does not actually solve problems is troubling.

“It is this type of back-room deal making that Americans detest and myself and the new class of members were sent to D.C. to stop,” Gosar said.


April 12, 2013

Obama budget trades fossil fuel subsidies for more money to green energy

President Obama’s 2014 budget proposal would slash $4 billion in subsidies to fossils fuels while increasing support for renewable energy programs, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency measures.
“As we continue to pursue clean energy technologies that will support future economic growth, we should not devote scarce resources to subsidizing the use of fossil fuels produced by some of the largest, most profitable companies in the world,” reads the budget proposal. “That is why the Budget proposes to eliminate unnecessary fossil fuel subsidies that impede investment in clean energy sources and undermine efforts to address the threat of climate change.”

However, the president’s budget plan increases funding for various programs that promote green energy use, electric vehicles, and energy efficiency.
Obama promises $2.8 billion to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy for research and development to increase the use of clean energy technologies.

“The [EERE] [b]udget increases funding by 75 percent above 2012 levels for development and demonstration of the next generation of advanced vehicles and by 42 percent for the next generation of advanced biofuels and biorefineries,” reads the budget proposal. “It increases funding by 29 percent for innovative projects to make clean, renewable power, such as solar energy and off-shore wind, more easily integrated onto the electric grid and as affordable as electricity from conventional sources, without subsidies.”

“[The EERE] more than doubles funding for energy efficiency and advanced manufacturing activities to help reduce energy use and costs in commercial and residential buildings, in the industrial and business sectors, and in Federal buildings and fleets,” the budget continues. “These investments will support progress toward the President’s goal of cutting in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses, doubling our energy productivity over them next 20 years.”

The budget also includes $615 million “to increase the use and decrease the costs of clean power from solar, wind, geothermal, and water energy.” During Obama’s first term, he came under fire for the high profile failures of government-backed renewable energy companies, such as Solyndra and Abound Solar.

Obama proposes investing “$575 million in cutting-edge vehicle technologies, $282 million in the next generation of advanced biofuels, and $2 billion of proposed mandatory funding for an Energy Security Trust to transition our cars and trucks off of oil.”

The DOE would get $28.4 billion in discretionary funds — an 8 percent increase from 2012 — to help the administration meet its clean energy goals, improve energy security, address the issue of climate change, and modernize the U.S. nuclear weapons systems.

President Obama has been at odds with the oil and gas industry over eliminating tax subsidies enjoyed by the industry. However, the oil and gas industry has argued that the “cost-recovery benefits” they receive aren’t actually subsidies.

“The oil and gas industry gets no subsidies, zero, nothing,” said Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute. “We get cost-recovery benefits, much like other industries. You can go down the road of allowing economic activity, generating hundreds of billions to the government, or you can take the alternative route by trying to extract new revenue from industry by increasing their cost to do business.”

The Congressional Budget Office reported that tax benefits for renewable energy and energy efficiency make up three-quarters of more than $16 billion in energy-related tax subsidies the U.S. for 2013.
“Now months overdue, President Obama’s budget represents the administration’s desire to double down on bad energy policy,” said American Energy Alliance president Tom Pyle. “The same week that the U.S. Comptroller General identified scores of fragmented, duplicative and wasteful renewable energy programs, the Obama budget calls for even more spending on these and other initiatives, including permanent taxpayer-funded subsidies for century-old industries like wind and solar.”


April 11, 2013

FOIA documents suggest IRS may have ignored court ruling on email privacy

A bundle of documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request suggests that the nation’s tax collector may have ignored a court ruling in 2010 that ordered it to always obtain a warrant before spying on emails stored on cloud servers, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Wednesday.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), commonly thought of as accountants with the power to garnish wages and seize property, is also a law enforcement agency with the power to spy on communications, so it’s not totally surprising that it has typically followed Supreme Court precedent regarding law enforcement’s broad spying powers when it comes to emails more than 180 days old.

However, in a ruling issued December 2010, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the IRS to always obtain a warrant before rifling through emails, no matter how old, contained on services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail, which otherwise have significantly less privacy protections than, for instance, encrypted communications stored on a home computer.

The first indication as to whether the ruling truly made the agency change its ways came in January, 2011, the ACLU’s documents reveal. In an email titled after the case’s name, US v. Warshak, an IRS criminal prosecution attorney wrote: “I have not heard anything related to this opinion. We have always taken the position that a warrant is necessary when retrieving e-mails that are less than 180 days old.”

The ACLU also dug up a 2011 edit to the Internal Revenue Manual (PDF) that simply re-stated the prior policy in different words, saying investigators can obtain emails older than 180 days without a warrant. “Again, no suggestion that the Fourth Amendment might require more,” ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler wrote.

A third indication arises in an October 2011 memo (PDF) from the IRS chief counsel, which seems to parse whether the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling could be applicable to outside jurisdictions. Examining the details of US v. Warshak, the memo explains that although the Sixth Circuit issued a ruling, the case ultimately arose out of a dispute with an Internet service provider (ISP) in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction — and that court hasn’t ruled so clearly on the matter.

“So does the IRS always get a warrant? Unfortunately, while the documents we have obtained do not answer this question point blank, they suggest otherwise,” Wessler concluded. “This question is too important for the IRS not to be completely forthright with the American public. The IRS should tell the public whether it always gets a warrant to access email and other private communications in the course of criminal investigations. And if the agency does not get a warrant, it should change its policy to always require one.”


April 10, 2013

Harris-Perry to Beck and Limbaugh: ‘Allow me to double down’

Melissa Harris-Perry responded Tuesday to charges by right-wing commentators like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh who say that her recently released 30-second MSNBC promo is part of a United Nations plot to collectivise U.S. children and remove them from their parents’ custody.

In an essay published Tuesday called “Why caring for children is not just a parent’s job,” the Tulane professor and author said that the deluge of hate mail she has received from Beck and Limbaugh fans spurred her into action.

“My inbox began filling with hateful, personal attacks on Monday, apparently as a result of conservative reactions to a recent ‘Lean Forward’ advertisement now airing on MSNBC,” she wrote. “What I thought was an uncontroversial comment on my desire for Americans to see children as everyone’s responsibility has created a bit of a tempest in the right’s teapot. Allow me to double down.”
“I believe wholeheartedly, and without apology, that we have a collective responsibility to the children of our communities even if we did not conceive and bear them,” she wrote, saying that her belief in these shared responsibilities reaches across all lines of class, race and politics.

“Of course, parents can and should raise their children with their own values,” she continued. “But they should be able to do so in a community that provides safe places to play, quality food to eat, terrific schools to attend, and economic opportunities to support them. No individual household can do that alone. We have to build that world together.”

On Monday, Glenn Beck said that Harris-Perry’s promotional spot was a coded reference to “Agenda 21,” the debunked conspiracy theory that maintains that the United Nations is attempting to use mind control techniques to unite the planet under one world government and destroy the concept of private property.

Calling “Agenda 21″ and President Barack Obama’s “Common Core” academic initiative “a loss of parental sovereignty” and “a loss of our children into a grotesque system,” Beck warned that the U.S. is rapidly approaching its doom.

“This is the announcement of where they’re headed,” he said. “This is exactly what we warned about, this is the fulfilment of so many things that we have said on this program.”

Not to be outdone, Rush Limbaugh called Harris-Perry a Marxist, who is peddling “foreign” ideology.

“This is Marx, Mengele, communist manifesto, the nuclear family has always been under attack by communists, leftists,” said Limbaugh. “The nuclear family, just like religion, must be destroyed, and in its place the community, the collective. So while this is outrageous in its self-contained form, it isn’t anything new.”

Harris-Perry’s essay concluded, “I venture to say that anyone and everyone should know full well that my message in that ad was a call to see ourselves as connected to a larger whole. I don’t want your kids, but I want them to live in safe neighborhoods. I want them to learn in enriching and dynamic classrooms. I want them to be healthy and well and free from fear. I want them to grow up to agree or disagree with me or with you and to have all the freedom and tools they need to express what they believe. And no hateful thing that you say to me or about me will ever change that I want those things for your children.”

Watch the video that began the controversy, embedded below via MSNBC:


April 9, 2013

Gang of 8 Republicans Reject Senate Conservatives' Request for Immigration Proposal Briefing

The Republican members of the bipartisan Senate “Gang of Eight” have passed the deadline for Senate Judiciary Committee ranking GOP member Sen. Chuck Grassley’s request for a briefing on their coming immigration reform bill.

Last week, Grassley (R-IA) and his conservative committee colleagues Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Lee (R-UT) wrote to “Gang of Eight” senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), asking them to champion a transparent immigration reform process complete with thorough hearings examining each facet of any legislation those “Gang” Republicans and their Democratic counterparts develop.

“Because the president has failed to lead on this matter, your group has secretly met for months and not consulted with members of this Committee about major changes to our nation’s immigration laws,” Grassley and his colleagues wrote. “The time for transparency has come. Given the Majority’s rushed timetable, we believe it is time for you to discuss the status of your negotiations, disclose what concessions have been made, and provide details to members of the Judiciary Committee as well as the entire Republican Caucus.”

In the letter that Grassley organized, he and his fellow Judiciary Committee conservatives asked for a briefing from the Gang GOP by the close of business on Monday April 8. "[W]e ask that your staff be made available to Republican Committee staff no later than the close of business on Monday, April 8,” Grassley and the Senate Judiciary conservatives wrote. “We also request that you personally discuss your group's proposal with the entire caucus early next week so that all members can raise concerns and questions before the deal is finalized."

Despite this request from Grassley and his colleagues, an aide for one of the offices who signed the letter confirmed for Breitbart News that the Gang of Eight Republicans ignored the deadline.
“The request for a staff briefing by today was declined,” the aide said.

Rubio had responded to Grassley’s and his colleagues’ original letter by saying he agreed with their concerns about process. In his response, Rubio did not mention Grassley’s request for a briefing of Senate Judiciary Committee GOP staff by the close of business on Monday.

“I believe strongly that all other 92 senators should be given ample time not just to review the legislation, but to offer ways to improve it,” Rubio said instead. “Earlier this week, I requested and received permission to brief the entire Republican conference during our policy lunch next week. I look forward to briefing you at that meeting.

"In addition, I have asked my staff to brief the staff of every Republican member of your committee once the details of our starting point proposal are finalized. Rest assured I continue to welcome, value and encourage any input you may have. In the meantime, if you or your staff has any specific ideas on immigration reform, please contact us as soon as possible.”

Grassley is known for being a tough oversight official and led, with House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious that spanned most of last Congress and is ongoing.

Spokespersons for each of the Gang of Eight Republican members either did not return Breitbart News’ request for comment on their bosses’ decision or would not comment on the record.


April 8, 2013

Senate Judiciary Republicans call for immigration reform transparency from ‘Gang of 8′ Republicans

Senate Judiciary Committee members Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz called on Republican members of the “Gang of Eight” senators currently shaping immigration reform legislation to bring additional transparency to their negotiations, in a letter released Friday.

“As members of the Judiciary Committee, we believe it is critical that the public and the entire Senate body be given adequate time to read and analyze the contents of any immigration bill put forth by the Majority,” Senate Judiciary ranking member Grassley and three of his Republican colleagues wrote in a letter to the four GOP “gang” members. “Our Committee has had only three hearings in recent months, barely touching on issues involving enforcement, border security or the creation of a temporary worker program.”

In the letter to Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, John McCain and Lindsey Graham dated April 4, the four Senate Judiciary members pointed out that the committee’s chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy has indicated that he might only hold a single hearing on the legislation before marking up the bill.

“As members of this Committee who apparently will soon have to vote on this legislation, we need to be consulted,” they wrote.

The four went on to lay out their concerns with not only the process but the other instance in the immigration debate which have served to “erode” the faith the American people have in their government’s commitment to enforce the law.

“In the last four years, we have received very little cooperation in fulfilling our duty to conduct oversight. The policies of the Obama Administration, including the recent revelation that the administration refuses to establish a border security metric for fear that it would interfere with a legalization program, leave little doubt that this administration has no intention of cooperating with Congress,” they wrote. “These actions have further eroded the American people’s confidence that the government will carry out its duty to enforce the laws. We should not further test the faith of the American people by implementing a major overhaul of the immigration system that prioritizes legalizing law breakers over the long-term needs of the country.”

They added that in that same vein, recent comments from Gang of Eight member Charles Schumer — that they group has “come to a basic agreement, which is that first, people will be legalized. In other words, not citizens, but they’ll be allowed to work, come out of the shadows, travel. Then, we will make sure the border is secure” — has caused them further concern.

“Going forward, we expect to hear from experts on each of the proposals being put forth, including but not limited to a new temporary worker program, border security, interior and worksite enforcement, and the impact of a large-scale legalization on American workers and taxpayers,” they added in their letter. “We hope you will stand with us to ensure that all viewpoints are heard before the Committee considers any immigration legislation.”

“The time for transparency has come,” they declared. “Given the Majority’s rushed timetable, we believe it is time for you to discuss the status of your negotiations, disclose what concessions have been made, and provide details to members of the Judiciary Committee as well as the entire Republican Caucus.”

Grassley, Sessions, Lee and Cruz went on to request that the GOP gang member’s staff brief Republican committee staff about the negotiations no later than Monday close of business.

“We also request that you personally discuss your group’s proposal with the entire caucus early next week so that all members can raise concerns and questions before the deal is finalized,” they concluded their missive. “Finally, we hope you will pledge your commitment to protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate by demanding a full, orderly and open debate process during Committee consideration and when the bill is sent to the full Senate.”

Update, 7:05 p.m.: Sen. Rubio’s office today sent the following response letter to the Senate Republicans who inquired about the comprehensive bill’s transparency.
April 5, 2013
Dear Colleagues:
I have received your timely letter regarding recent immigration reform efforts. I appreciate your interest in this important issue and I share your position about the need for a robust and public debate. As you know, I have been forceful and clear in my position that the Judiciary Committee hold multiple hearings on the topic and be given ample time to consider any immigration proposal. This is a position I reiterated last weekend in a letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy, which I have attached for your reference.
It has always been my view that any proposal crafted by the bipartisan group working on immigration serve as a starting point, not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. I can assure you that the work we have done to date has been no different – and therefore no more or less secretive – than any other process intended to develop legislation as a starting point for debate.
As you know, at the very beginning of this process, my office issued a standing invitation for the entire Republican conference to send me input and ideas on immigration reform. In fact, I specifically asked for proposals on border security, workplace enforcement and a process to handle the millions of people currently in this country who are in violation of our immigration laws. To date, we have received no response from any of your offices. Nevertheless, as I have shared with several of you personally, I have used previous immigration-related bills you and others have filed in the past to ensure your views were reflected in the legislation. That includes a conversation I had with Senator Sessions during the budget votes, where I personally informed him that his amendment to prevent government benefits to undocumented immigrants was consistent with the proposal being worked on by the bipartisan group.
Nonetheless, I have been clear in stressing, both in the bipartisan group and publicly, that the most important part of the process is what comes after the legislation is introduced. I believe strongly that all other 92 senators should be given ample time not just to review the legislation, but to offer ways to improve it. Earlier this week, I requested and received permission to brief the entire Republican conference during our policy lunch next week. I look forward to briefing you at that meeting. In addition, I have asked my staff to brief the staff of every Republican member of your committee once the details of our starting point proposal are finalized. Rest assured I continue to welcome, value and encourage any input you may have. In the meantime, if you or your staff has any specific ideas on immigration reform, please contact us as soon as possible.
My hope is that the work of the bipartisan group is drawing to a close, and we will soon have a specific proposal drafted and ready for review by the entire Senate. Like all legislation of this magnitude, it should be reviewed and scrutinized thoroughly by numerous interested parties well before the first vote is taken.
Let me reiterate, this proposal will be a starting point. Assuming the majority follows regular order, as members of the committee of jurisdiction, I expect you to have ample opportunity to review, comment and amend as you see fit. If the majority does not follow regular order, you can expect that I will continue to defend the rights of every senator, myself included, to conduct this process in an open and detailed manner.
Marco Rubio


April 5, 2013

Democrat behind mandatory insurance for gun owners bill claims she’s getting threats

The Democratic congresswoman behind a new bill that would require gun owners to get liability insurance or face a fine of up to $10,000 says she’s now receiving death threats.

New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney said she has been receiving threats since The Daily Caller reported Tuesday about her “Firearm Risk Protection Act,” which would require gun buyers nationwide to obtain “a qualified liability insurance policy” before they are able to legally purchase a firearm.

“They said they were going to kill me,” Maloney said of the threats, according to the New York Daily News. The liberal Democrat, the paper reported, received three calls within about an hour on Tuesday night.
She says she was so shaken up by the calls that she skipped an awards dinner after reflecting on what happened to former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was nearly killed in a 2011 shooting.
“I couldn’t go. Who knows what could happen?” Maloney told the Daily News. “I think any member of Congress would be scared after what happened to my good friend Gabby Giffords.”

The proposed bill offered by Maloney and eight other Democrats says, “It shall be unlawful for a person who owns a firearm purchased on or after the effective date of this subsection not to be covered by a qualified liability insurance policy.”

“For too long, gun victims and society at large have borne the brunt of the costs of gun violence,” Maloney said as she introduced the legislation. “My bill would change that by shifting some of that cost back onto those who own the weapons.”

Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, told The Daily Caller that the bill is “ridiculous on its face, as it presumes law-abiding gun owners are guilty for merely exercising a fundamental, constitutional right.”
Maloney’s bill — while liked by liberal activists — is unlikely to become part of the gun control package President Obama is pushing.

The Democratic congresswoman’s claims come as Obama is traveling to the states of some of the country’s most recent horrific shootings to try to re-invigorate some momentum for gun control legislation.

With doubts that Democrats can get a gun control package passed through Congress, Obama is returning to Colorado — the location of the Aurora movie theater shooting — on Wednesday. He then will travel to Connecticut — the location of the Sandy Hook elementary massacre — 0n Monday.


April 4, 2013

ACLU says Reid’s gun legislation could threaten privacy rights, civil liberties

As Senate Democrats struggle to build support for new gun control legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union now says it’s among those who have “serious concerns” about the bill.

Those concerns have the capacity to prove a major setback to Sen. Harry Reid’s current gun bill, which includes language from earlier bills introduced by Sens. Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer.

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, a top lobbyist for the ACLU announced that the group thinks Reid’s current gun bill could threaten both privacy rights and civil liberties.
The inclusion of universal background checks — the poll-tested lynchpin of most Democratic proposals — “raises two significant concerns,” the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese told TheDC Wednesday.

Calabrese — a privacy lobbyist — was first careful to note that the ACLU doesn’t strictly oppose universal background checks for gun purchases. “If you’re going to require a background check, we think it should be effective,” Calabrese explained.
“However, we also believe those checks have to be conducted in a way that protects privacy and civil liberties. So, in that regard, we think the current legislation, the current proposal on universal background checks raises two significant concerns,” he went on.
“The first is that it treats the records for private purchases very differently than purchases made through licensed sellers. Under existing law, most information regarding an approved purchase is destroyed within 24 hours when a licensed seller does a [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] check now,” Calabrese said, “and almost all of it is destroyed within 90 days.”
Calabrese wouldn’t characterize the current legislation’s record-keeping provision as a “national gun registry” — which the White House has denied pursuing — but he did say that such a registry could be “a second step.”
“[U]nfortunately, we have seen in the past that the creation of these types of records leads sometimes to the creation of government databases and collections of personal information on all of us,” Calabrese warned. “That’s not an inevitable result, but we have seen that happen in the past, certainly.”
“As we’ve seen with many large government databases, if you build it, they will come.”