On July 17, 2014, we sent a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Office of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) – in article Putting WH Press Secretary Earnest claim of “most transparent” to the test. We have sent FOIA request before and the normal response time is up to 48 hours for acknowledgement of email. Depending on the nature of the request some time may transpire before a response is provided. Last time it took 34 days to get an answer. Apparently that may have been a speedy response.
As of this writing, we have sent 3 requests to the OMB – July 17th, July 23rd, and again on July 30th. In addition, we have called the OMB on July 30th at 2:21pm. Thus far we have received no response or acknowledgement. The exact response from Andrew Echart, who answered the phone at the OMB media relations line, was to try to send the email again and that no response could be given verbally.
This is an abysmal response.
On July 13, 2014, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest touted the transparency of the Obama Administration. That didn’t exist in April of 2013. It’s even worse in 2014, as we are proving.
With such untimely response, and an apparent inability (or possibly willingness) to respond, the multiple scandals plaguing the Obama Administration seem far more understandable. If the OMB cannot acknowledge receipt of an email in 13 days is it any wonder that Lois Lerner emails have mysteriously been lost? Is it truly surprising that the VA kept secret lists and fudged numbers – and the White House never noticed the discrepancies even as they were told about them? Can anyone be shocked that our President is apparently the least informed person in his Administration – as he himself constantly states that he learns of events via the news media along with the public?
Given we are not the New York Times. Given we are not (to our knowledge) probing the Government for national secrets. Still a FOIA request is vital to the transparency and trust between the Government and the public. A trust that we have less of today than on July 17th.
Whether this is a matter of incompetence or human error or even a general dislike of the topics we present, is unknown and open to the interpretation of the reader. But it is a clear statement that the Government is failing the public, and the plausibility of transparency is tenuous at best.
There is a saying that we think applies,
“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” – John Wooden
We don’t have the readership of the Wall Street Journal or viewership of MSNBC (maybe), but if our Government can’t answer our simple request and answer then what are they doing when it comes to the really hard questions from the news media that millions rely on? What is our Government doing when it comes to the Benghazi investigation, the IRS, the NSA, the VA?
As always we will provide any and all responses we receive, when (and if) they are provided. But the proof is in what is happening. Our Government is failing us, and we are documenting it as it is happening. Feel free to contact the White House with your outrage, because you should be outraged. Not for us, but what it means for you.
Governor Andrew Cuomo had great news for the Binghamton, NY area on Sunday July 27, 2014. Jobs are coming thanks to START-UP New York. In an area with an official unemployment rate of 6.3% (higher than the State of New York, but equal to the national average) the promise of new jobs is a welcome bit of news. But the news was out on Sunday, which means it is suspect. What’s wrong with the news?
One of the things that is learned quickly when following politics is that politicians try to announce really bad news on a Friday evening, when everyone is home from work and either sleeping or preparing for a weekend away from work. At the same time, when a politician has really weak news, something that might sound positive until the public reads a sentence or two of details, politicians tend to push that news out on Sundays.
Just enough attention to pump up the base that don’t care about details; but not enough eyeballs by those less blinded by the cause to create a problem Monday morning. The latter relates to the news released by Governor Cuomo about jobs in Binghamton, NY.
Five companies, in fields as diverse as WiFi to energy storage, will be starting up in Binghamton University and creating jobs. Long-term jobs backed by a deal that they will pay $0 in New York State taxes for the next 10 years. That’s not a typo, zero taxes. This will allow the $2.3 million total investment these companies bring to be converted fully into jobs. All 80 of them. Eighty jobs total. Governor Cuomo called it a “game-changing move” in regard to NY State’s business climate.
There are some 112,800 people in the City of Binghamton, NY according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (unless you go by Census figures which says there are 46,400). There are 7,100 people that are counted as unemployed in Binghamton (by the BLS), though that does not count all unemployed. If they did, Binghamton’s unemployment would be closer to 12.6% (based on national average U-6). But thanks to Gov. Cuomo, START-UP New York, and the loss of tax revenues to NY State for 10 years, the official unemployment rate of Binghamton will be reduced by 0.08% (again going by BLS data). The State of New York will have it’s unemployment rate reduced 0.000… well that really doesn’t matter does it?
The only thing that matters is that Binghamton will have more jobs, and more businesses. Just read the headline and skip the details because they aren’t important. If it was, the news would not be out on Sunday.
But if you do read details, you may remember that Binghamton was selected as one of the 7 fastest shrinking cities in America. That according to the BLS, Binghamton has lost over 12,900 people and 9,700 jobs since May 2009.
Still, never fear because 80 new jobs are on the way. With that kind of turnaround you can understand why New York State is ranked 50 in business friendliness. Especially if you have an existing business in NY that gets none of these benefits.
Once again there is a call to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Without shock it comes from another financially unstable stronghold of Democrats, Chicago. But politics aside, we wondered what the ramifications of raising the minimum wage could be, once the domino effect happens. Business is not a vacuum, if the formula of profit = sales minus cost of goods and wages (at the most simple) changes there are repercussions. For everyone.
This will be an oversimplified thought experiment. We acknowledge there are many factors that affect profit (like the highest corporate taxes in the world, or the increased cost of healthcare via Government mandate, ect) but if the simple repercussion make sense you can look for more complex answers afterwards. If they don’t make sense, then the premise is likely invalid. Simple logic.
Thus, in Chicago the local fry guy is making minimum wage ($7.25/hour – approximately the 14th best minimum wage in the world). If the 1300 employees that protested on July 25th, and others like them across the country, instant got their wish and tomorrow they were to be paid 100% more for the same job, what would happen?
Well, employee compensation is one of the largest costs that any business must pay. At least a portion of the businesses would no longer be profitable, and at least another portion would be forced out of business as they could no longer afford to pay their employees. So, the increase in minimum wage would cause some of these workers to become unemployed. Those workers would add to the unemployment rate, and add to the national deficit as some of them would need unemployment checks and other Government aide.
Again, this is a thought exercise. Exact numbers are not needed. Just simple logic based on reasonable assumptions. It is illogical and irresponsible to assume that there would be no negative impact to any business, or any repercussions due to a change.
What else will happen?
Most jobs fix pay based on skills and demand. A doctor is paid more than the Fry Guy because he has spent easily a decade in studies and practice to become a doctor. The skill set is unique and demands a premium in pay. The same can be said of almost any job. The more unique the skill set the higher the pay. Fry guy is at the bottom of skill sets.
But if Dems have their way, the Fry Guy is now worth – without the skills or capability to do the job the same pay range for a data analyst. Yet a data analyst requires:
All of which are beyond the ability of a Fry Guy. Similar requirements are needed for a Payroll Assistant. At the same general rate of pay, Physician Assistant Neurosurgery requires certification, a state license, and 2 years experience. Even a UPS driver requires a DOT physical exam and the ability to lift 70lbs and a clean drivers license – which apparently Fry Guy does not have or they would working for UPS already.
If Fry Guy, who is not qualified for a job that pays $15/hour today, gets a raise then what about everyone else? Surely they must be worth far more or they would work the less stringent, less complicated job and get the same pay? No one wants to work harder for significantly less pay, no matter what your job.
So the fall of dominoes logically says that there would be a surge in raises, lest everyone goes to work as a Fry Guy. This includes all the co-workers of Fry Guy who have worked the job longer and have earned raises (but not the minimum wage), plus the managers of the Fry Guy, who have greater experience and responsibility. This brings us back to the first scenario – some businesses will be forced to close and more Fry Guys, plus more experienced co-workers and managers, will add to unemployment and national debt.
Onto the last part of this thought experiment. What about those companies that are not forced out of business, but are either struggling or slightly losing money? No one works, or owns a business, to lose money so what will they do? Pass on the higher cost to consumers.
The simple logical conclusion of doubling the unemployment rate, for the 3.8 million Americans (as of 2011), or roughly 2.4% of working Americans, is negative. Unemployment is likely to increase, business ownership (already decreasing for years) will decline faster, and the national debt will increase to help those now unemployed. For everyone in the nation, the cost of goods will increase to offset this higher cost of doing business.
Should there be an increase in the minimum wage? Maybe. But doubling the wages of an extreme minority of Americans generally without skills or experience to justify any pay increase is not the answer. It is just a problem wrapped in an emotional feel-good today and ignore the problem sales slogan.
It is being widely reported today (L.A. Times, Christian Science Monitor, et al) that President Obama is working on a new Executive Order that will directly affect immigration law – without the consent of Congress. The reaction has been sharp and quick. But does the Take Care Clause, allow for the broad use of Executive Power that has been promised to arrive after the summer?
First we should examine the Take Care Clause. This clause is found in the Constitution, Article 3, Clause 5. It states that “he [President] shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed”.
How to interpret that clause has been the concern of every President that has ever existed.
In the 1935 Supreme Court ruling of Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, the Court found that the President is obligated to follow the law
“The fundamental necessity of maintaining each of the three general departments of government entirely free from the control or coercive influence, direct or indirect, of either of the others has often been stressed, and is hardly open to serious question. So much is implied in the very fact of the separation of the powers of these departments by the Constitution, and in the rule which recognizes their essential coequality.”
Further, in 1995 United States Assistant Attorney General Walter E. Dellinger III stated in an Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memo that “…the President has no inherent constitutional authority to suspend the enforcement of the laws, particularly of statutes.” [page 16 of memo]
Finally, in 2007, then-Senator Barack Obama directly addressed the actions of then-President George W. Bush, noting the avoidance of Congress and unbalancing of separation of power via use of Executive Power.
The conclusion from all of this is that while the Office of the President has broad discretion and power to enforce and prioritize law, the President cannot forgo Congress and create law via Executive Power. Equally, the President cannot ignore law that exists, or chose to fail to execute law, in an effort to thereby create law.
Further, as noted in The Theory of Prosecutorial Discrection in Federal Law: Origins and Developments – pg 11, discussing the United States vs Cox it is noted that the Take Care Clause “does not explicitly provide for executive control over criminal prosecutions.”
Still, in apparent violation of Cox, President Obama argued that it was Executive prosecutorial discretion that allowed for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to be enacted in 2012. This Executive Order allowed for the mass exception of more than 300,000 illegal aliens from immigration law which would otherwise require deportation for violating immigration law.
The argument against DACA includes an overreach of the Executive Branch. As of this writing it has not been brought before a court.
At this point we must also review what Executive Power is and allows. We cite Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer and the opinion of Justice Robert Jackson.
“When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb… Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system.”
In a more general understanding, Executive Orders are expressly understood to be restricted from creation of law, as that remains in the sole domain of Congress.
Taking all of this into account, and looking at the promise of future unilateral action by the President – which will possibly take the form of direct acceptance of immigrants, qualified by the White House as “refugees”, from their home countries and into the U.S. – we must ask if this can be done? Does this violate the Take Care Clause? Does it strip power from the Congress and place it directly in the hands of the Executive Branch?
We conclude that the proposed action by the President would unbalance the separation of powers, a necessity as stated in the 1935 Supreme Court decision. It violates current immigration law in opposition to the 1995 OLC memo. It also exemplifies the very overreach of power that then-Senator Obama objected to in his speech in 2007.
Such action is directly incompatible with the will of Congress in regard to immigration reform. No matter how slowly Congress may be in enacting immigration reform, it is a matter that is before the Congress and being debated. The whims and political preferences of any President do not allow for the de facto creation of legislation, nor does the desire for a faster timetable to the President’s liking.
There cannot be found in the Constitution, or any Amendment, an expressed or even implied power for the Executive Branch that allows a President to enact law because the President is at odds with the Congress or either of its Houses. In fact, it is the expressed and implied requirement that Congress maintain the power to legislate alone that is the purpose of the separation of powers of the Government.
President Obama is actively trying to coerce legislation of his personal preference, via this promise of unilateral action with the help of the media under the guise of humanitarian aide. It is a purely partisan effort, that erodes the Constitution and steals power from the people.
If this is allowed to come to fruition, especially if without challenge upon attempt to enact, it will set a precedent that will be used, and likely abused, by every President to come (of whatever political party) for the entirety of the existence of the nation. That slippery slope inevitably leads to the very form of Government that the Founding Fathers strove to prevent with the Constitution and the Take Care Clause.
With the announcement by Moody’s on July 24, 2014, that the public debt of Atlantic City will be downgraded 2 steps to junk bond status, a review of the push to use casinos as the savior of New York State must be questioned. What does this reality of creditworthiness say about the future of New York and casino gaming?
“Because the wanton spending of the likes of Gov. Patterson and those before him are finally catching up with them. They have so embraced the “tax the rich” concept that either the rich don’t exist as they did, or they have moved to a State with far more fair tax codes.”
The NY State total public debt at the time was $297 billion. That takes into account the move to add $150 billion in revenue by expanding the ability to gamble in New York State – via video gaming tables. Since that time, according to Census data, NY State has lost population and businesses – as it has for 60 years.
Which brings us to October 2013, where Proposition 1 was presented to the public. The image presented was that in allowing 7 full casinos to be created in New York, tax revenues to the State would grow and allow school and property taxes to freeze at current levels or be reduced in time. To that we said,
“Because New York will remain (at least in the foreseeable future) a business unfriendly, hyper-taxed, debt-ridden State. The casinos will not plug the hole that is Albany spending.”
The NY State total public debt for 2013 was $353 billion. That’s after increases in taxes and freezes on property taxes and a host of other political campaign promises. New York debt is still increasing. By 2015 it is projected to his $373.7 billion, and that includes the windfall from the casinos granted by Proposition 1 in 2013.
Since 1960, New York State has net lost population and congressional seats (table 1 in link), while the debt has grown for those that remain. But Proposition 1 promises to change that, because casinos will spur economic growth for the State ranked 50 for business friendliness in 2014.
Which brings us back to Moody’s and the latest bond ratings.
Atlantic City was a boom city after it legalized gambling in 1976. Becoming known as the east coast Las Vegas, and being the most popular tourist destination in 1989. But then neighboring States got jealous, especially as the economy soured. Today, the outlook is that,
“Moody’s outlook on the New Jersey city remains negative because the credit rating agency expects regional gaming competition to further weaken the city’s prospects.”
Consider that for a moment. Atlantic City, after decades of successful promotion and the influence of the top rated casino companies in the nation, is considered a negative credit risk. New York State has none of these benefits even with Proposition 1.
As was cited in our aforementioned 2013 article, Atlantic City had 1% less poverty, and 13% less home ownership than Binghamton, NY. The median income comparison is a difference of $1,741 in favor of Binghamton, a city without a single casino. Yet, Moody’s outlook for the future is one of continued negative growth, even as NY seeks to emulate this failing economic model.
Given the history of New York State overspending, the negative outlook for Atlantic City due to competition, and the general malaise of the US economy, why should anyone expect New York State to improve due to casino gambling? Exactly how are cities like Binghamton, NY expected to grow when casinos are added to the economic mix, when far more successfully marketed cities are failing with the formula being adopted?
There is one big winner in the expansion of gambling in New York State. That is New York State itself. As reported by the Albany Business Review on May 30, 2014,
“…the state [NY] takes in $3.2 billion from gaming annually, the highest in the nation — more than California and Florida combined.”
While the current 4.6% of NY State budget that is represented by Lotto and other existing gaming has failed to lower property or school taxes, nor decrease the State deficit, there can be no doubt that any short-term gains created by casinos will be spent as quickly as possibly by the Albany leadership. While that may not help residents, or businesses, it is sure to enable enough additional spending to guarantee NY maintains the bluest, least business friendly, severely in-debt status that the State has come to be known for.
On July 21st, we had the opportunity to join local Southern Tier residents at the monthly Americans for Restoring the Constitution (AFRTC) meeting in the Vestal Public Library. The goal was to learn what benefits grassroots politics might have for any community, especially the Southern Tier of New York.
Like many Tea Party or pro-2nd Amendment organizations, the AFRTC is made up of regular people. Homeowners, small business owners, fathers and mothers and grandparents. People that you might see every day at work or walking down the street.
It’s important to note that far too many in the media, and a host of politicians, like to present an image of any group of Americans gathering and discussing their concerns (outside of the 2 party system) as radicals bent on destroying America. Yet in our experiences and observations, in interviews and reports since 2010, the reality is that these are just Americans expressing their 1st Amendment rights.
At this particular meeting, some 30+ individuals gathered to learn more about Agenda 21, its ramifications long-term, and sources where individuals can find out more information on their own.
According to Wikipedia, Agenda 21 is a “non-binding, voluntarily implemented action plan of the United Nations with regard to sustainable development.” Key points of Agenda 21 involve fighting poverty, especially in 3rd world countries by changing consumption patterns, promoting health, and creating a sustainable population. This process includes climate change, education, finance (especially on a global level), and political/social shifts in thought and planning.
As cited by the Huffington Post,
“A June  poll of 1,300 U.S. voters … found that when asked whether they supported or opposed U.N. Agenda 21, 85 percent of respondents said they did not know enough to form an opinion. Nine percent supported Agenda 21, 6 percent opposed it.”
Thus, the question of how Agenda 21 operates, and it’s long-term affects is quite justified. How consumption patterns are changed, the impact on private property, the influence on political actions and legislation should be discussed, openly, as these things affect 100% of Americans even if 85% know nothing about it.
One of the more interesting items address in the discussion was the critical fact that the public should always be wary of sources quoting ambiguous polls. A highly relevant insight, once you look at the American Planning Association (APA) website. Under the APA poll link, the graphic makes huge claims about what Americans want and think.
That graphic of poll results, the very same poll cited by Huffington Post, fails to mention that 85% of those that took the poll have no idea what Agenda 21 is. It fails to mention the questions specifically asked, or the number of people (out of the 1300 who took the poll that the graphic implies represents 300 million Americans) that responded to any particular question.
If for no other reason, the AFRTC meeting was worthwhile for spreading information on a tactic that is used in politics (by both parties) constantly. This is true no matter what position you may take on the issue of Agenda 21. The fact that the AFRTC meeting is providing information on an issue almost completely absent in mainstream media reporting only adds to their benefit to the community.
After the discussion on Agenda 21, which included hand-outs of links for sources of information on the issue, the assembly had an opportunity to hear from Denver Jones. Mr. Jones is running for the NY State Senate District 52 this election year.
[We will be doing a full interview with Denver Jones in the coming days, and we have sent a request for interview to the incumbent - State Senator Tom Libous.]
Here is a video of Mr. Jones at the meeting.
Overall, the importance of grassroots politics, like the AFRTC and other organizations, is that of community involvement. For decades, if not longer, multitudes of Americans have bemoaned the lack of connection between the people and elected politicians. During those decades fewer and fewer people have paid attention to what is happening in politics (even failing to vote) as apathy set in. Grassroots politics combats that apathy and reconnects people to the issues that directly affect them.
While we have identified the AFRTC in this article, it is by no means the only grassroots organization that exists – on either side of the political ideology. We do suggest that those who may have an interest in learning more about their local, State, and national politics should seek out whatever grassroots and/or major political organization they believe matches their needs.
With a congressional disapproval that hasn’t dipped below 70% since June 2011, and a consensus (51% or greater) that America has been on the wrong track since June of 2009 getting involved certainly can’t hurt – even if Rep. Nancy Pelosi and others don’t like it.
On July 17, 2014 as Deputy Attorney General James Cole spoke to the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs. For those that may have listened to any of the prior Oversight Committee’s hearings on the IRS scandal and Lois Lerner, the lack of a legal dictionary surely has made its impression known. We would feel quite safe in stating that at points (especially once Rep. Gowdy gets on a roll) the average American can become quite lost as various legal precedents, rules and regulations, and legal opinions are cited.
A substantial portion of the more than 3 hour long hearing on July 17th was dedicated to what the Department of Justice (DOJ) is, can, and must do in regard to the investigation of the IRS abusing its power and targeting Americans based on their political beliefs. The simple summary of the hearing was that the DOJ cannot and will not discuss any part of the investigation not already known by the public – which is incredibly little.
Expanding beyond that oversimplified summary, there was a long debate – still unresolved – over the issue if the Attorney General (a political appointee) is being impartial and fulfilling his duties to the full extent of the power of the DOJ. Democrats on the Committee cited questions and testimony trying to support AG Eric Holder and the DOJ as being lambs stalked by the political aspirations of the Republicans. For their part, Republicans cited the disbelief the American public has with regard to the IRS abuse (and sudden loss of emails), President Obama’s assertion that there was not a “smidgen” of wrong-doing, and that the DOJ has apparently done nothing to get to hold wrong-doers accountable.
Before we go further, let’s clarify where the American people appear to be. In May 2013, a Quinnipiac University national poll found
“American voters say 76 – 17 percent, including 63 – 30 percent among Democrats, that a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate charges the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups…”
More recently a Fox News poll asked,
“Do you think Congress should continue to investigate the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of hundreds of conservative and tea party groups until someone is held accountable, or not?
Jun 21-23 2014: Yes-74%, No-21%, Don’t Know-5%”
Thus, according to polls and not the partisan preferences of Dems in Congress, the IRS hearings are on target. Equally, the DOJ seems to be remiss in their duty to take action. The public wants accountability, and so far a contempt charge has been the only visible example of holding anyone accountable.
Which brings us to Lois Lerner and the contempt charge from Congress. On May 7th the House of Representatives voted 231 to 187 in favor of charging Lerner with contempt. To date the DOJ has taken no action to bring the contempt charge to a grand jury. The reasoning that Deputy AG James Cole stated was the May 30, 1984 Office of Legal Counsel opinion written by Ted Olson. The opinion, called Olson by Cole and several members of the Committee during the testimony, asserts prosecutorial discretion.
At this point more than a few following the hearing got lost. Even several of the Committee members, including ranking Democrat Rep. Cummings was confused. A continuous debate went on for the rest of the hearing focused on a single word “shall”.
So lets focus on this and why it is important.
First is prosecutorial discretion. In effect it means that a prosecutor has the right to pick what cases they may bring to trial. In the most broad sense, as used by President Obama, this was the means used to rewrite immigration law in 2012 and allow tens of thousands of illegal aliens to avoid deportation. Regardless of a crime being committed or not, a prosecutor can choose to not bring a case to trial that they think they cannot win – or in the case of President Obama, that political partisanship would prefer not to occur. Prosecutors cannot be forced to go to trial.
A congressional contempt citation – 2 U.S. Code § 192 – Refusal of witness to testify or produce papers – is when any person before Congress or a Committee “refuses to answer any question pertinent to the subject under inquiry“. This is what Lois Lerner did when she answered some questions and then enacted her 5th Amendment right on other questions. The penalty
“…shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 nor less than $100 and imprisonment in a common jail for not less than one month nor more than twelve months.”
The enforcement of the contempt citation is found under 2 U.S. Code § 194, and states
“…it shall be the duty of the said President of the Senate or Speaker of the House, as the case may be, to certify, and he shall so certify, the statement of facts aforesaid under the seal of the Senate or House, as the case may be, to the appropriate United States attorney, whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.”
So to summarize, Lois Lerner initially spoke to Congress and professed her innocence. She then took the 5th when asked about what she did or did not do that seemed to conflict with that claim of innocence. Because of this seesaw of answers, Lerner was held in contempt. The United States attorney, who works for the Department of Justice, is required (that is where the “shall” comes in) to bring this to a grand jury, and if they believe a case can be won, to trial. This has not been done, and Deputy AG Cole claims this is because of prosecutorial discretion via the opinion of Olson.
So what is Olson? It states
“As a matter of statutory construction and separation of powers analysis, a United States Attorney is not required to refer a congressional contempt citation to a grand jury or otherwise to prosecute an Executive Branch official who carries out the President’s instruction to invoke the President’s claim of executive privilege before a Committee of Congress.”
In other words, in the opinion of Ted Olson, 30 years ago, high ranking political appointees of the President cannot be brought before a grand jury. Thus AG Eric Holder, who also was held in contempt of Congress, was not brought before a grand jury – he is a political appointee with Executive privilege. But Lois Lerner was not.
Thus, what Deputy AG Cole tried to present as a reason not to place Lois Lerner in front of a grand jury is a fiction. Not only is this opinion of Ted Olson not law (though it is legally binding on the Executive Branch), more importantly it does not apply. Lerner did not serve at the pleasure of the President, but was an employee of the IRS – which is part of the Executive Branch. If the contempt charge was placed against IRS Director John Koskinen then Olson might apply, but that is not the case.
So why does this matter? What does all the boring legalese come down to in the end?
It matter because this is about accountability. This is about an abuse of power by the IRS, against American citizens who were exercising their 1st Amendment rights. If any Agency or Branch of the Government is allowed to silence any amount of speech based solely on political preferences, and there is no accountability for that violation, then in effect the 1st Amendment ceases to exist.
The rule of law must apply to Lois Lerner, and the IRS. That’s why a majority of Americans want a special prosecutor and people held accountable. If the DOJ does nothing, they violate the purpose of the DOJ and the freedoms all Americans enjoy every day. Using a legal opinion that does not apply, to subvert law, even as the President tries to divert the public’s attention and opinion, is just a very long-winded way to take freedoms from the people and give that power to the Executive Branch.
It may be boring, but in our non-legal opinion this is a critical issue that most of the mainstream media is ignoring at the detriment of the masses.
Even the most casual observer of politics knows that Hillary Clinton is the front-runner for the Democrat nomination for the Presidential race. Again. But unlike in 2007, when an unknown and untested junior Senator appeared and stole her spotlight, Hillary supporters are on the attack even without an official statement from Clinton.
One of the most recent Democrat hopefuls to feel the wrath of the spectre of Hillary for President 2016 is Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. Gov. O’Malley has announced that he is done waiting for the former Secretary of State to officially decide what has been observed to be a de facto campaign for the presidency disguised as a Clinton book tour. He has already started to set speaking dates in bellwether Democrat-leaning States like Massachusetts, California, and Wisconsin.
Yet, outside his home State, Gov. O’Malley may best be know for his comments in 2012. It was September 2nd, and Gov. O’Malley was asked a critical question as the race of the Presidency was heating up. Bob Schieffer, of CBS’ Face the Nation, asked if the nation was better off than 4 years prior. Gov. O’Malley stated, as we quoted at the time,
“No, but that’s not the question of this election. The question, without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush job losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars — charged for the first time to credit cards, the national credit cards.”
Gov. O’Malley would go on to backtrack that statement almost immediately. By Sept. 7th, he was back in line with the pro-Obama gameplan and announced on MSNBC that America was better off. As a side note – on this day in 2008 the number of unemployed was 13.5 million with 80 million not in the laborforce. In 2012 those numbers were 22.8 million & 87.8 million respectively. Today the figures are 18.8 million & 92.2 million. It would seem the right answer was the first one.
Still, Maryland’s Governor was undaunted. He has moved forward with plans to run for President, assuming the masses cannot remember his flip-flops from 4 years ago. But the Clinton machine does not forget, and they do not like competition.
That might explain why after criticizing the White House on the illegal alien children crisis (and taking away the thunder of Hillary Clinton), equating deportation of these children to “certain death”, there was a leak of a private (at least it was private at the time) conversation between Gov. O’Malley and an annoyed White House Domestic Policy Director Cecilia Muñoz. Confirmed by the White House, Gov. O’Malley stated,
“…not to send any of the children to the facility in Westminster, Md., that the White House was looking at. It’s a conservative part of the state, he warned.”
In 2 sentences Gov. O’Malley’s chances of becoming President in 2016 have now been damaged. The hypocrisy of trying to appear immigration friendly, as long as it does not affect his State, and an attack on Conservatives (implying they would harm children) is sure to cut at any support he is garnering. While likely recoverable – as Gov. O’Malley will once again flip-flop the public record – the bigger message was sent with full clarity. The White House accepts no criticism and friends of Hillary Clinton will make sure you don’t get too far ahead to make a difference. That was the conclusion of CNN
Coincidentally, the leak on O’Malley has come out at the same time that a NBC News/Marist poll of Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire shows landslide support of Hillary Clinton vs VP Joe Biden. Of course the poll did not consider Gov. O’Malley or even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, or any other prominent Democrat whispering about a run in 2016.
The fireworks have begun. Hillary Clinton has a lead, and her supporters want to keep it that way.
On July 13, 2014, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said,
We found this to be a compelling statement considering our attempts to learn the average cost of a round of golf for President Obama. In fact we were willing to even have just the cost of 1 round of golf. Our efforts involved FOIA request to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
On March 20, 2013 we made a FOIA request of the GAO – Why won’t the White House answer the question?. On March 26, 2013 we made the same FOIA request of the OMB, with a response on April 17, 2013 – OMB apparently believes Pres. Obama golf rounds are for free.
These FOIA requests were made in response to a question asked by Jonathan Karl of ABC News on March 14, 2013 (which we covered in article So how much does it cost for President Obama to golf?),
“How much does it cost for him to go and play golf?”
After 34 days of research and requests, the net result was essential that there is no cost that can be attributed to a single round of golf played by President Obama since 2009. A laughable response until you consider that this is taxpayer money we are dismissing.
But 2014 is a new year, Josh Earnest is a new Press Secretary, and perhaps the Obama Administration has suddenly become a more transparent Administration since our last FOIA request. So we decided to take up Secretary Earnest and ask our question again – with a few more specifics to see if that would help.
The following FOIA request was sent to the OMB on July 17, 2014 @ 2:56am:
Subject: FOIA request for information about 7/12/2014 golf outing at TPC Potomac
To whom it may concern,
I am a member of the press representing the Examinier.com and M V Consulting, Inc’s political news and commentary division.
I am requesting cost amounts related to the July 12,2014 round of golf involving President Obama, ESPN co-host Michael Wilbon, White House aide Marvin Nicholson, and co-founder of Silver Lake Partners Glenn Hutchins. This round of golf took place at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Potomac, Maryland as reported by the press.
To be specific, I am requesting:
1) The cost of gas and aviation fuel (if applicable) to transport President Obama to and from the golf course, as well as all members of staff that accompanied the President.
2) The average cost of non-salaried staff that had not volunteered their time, and were at this golf outing, as well as the approximate number of non-salaried staff.
3) The approximate cost of salaried staff under the same conditions as non-salaried staff.
4) The above can exclude any figures of Secret Service staff, or other applicable individuals where national security concerns may be involved.
5) The cost of food and refreshments for all involved including staff.
6) The cost of grounds fees.
7) The total of any donations of fees, food, refreshments, services, ect that were provided to the President and staff to reimburse or otherwise compensate the costs of this golf outing. In addition the name(s) of the institutions/organizations/individuals that made these donations if allowed by law to be reported.
8) Any and all other reasonably applicable costs in conjunction with this golf outing.
If the OMB does not have these records and another Department or Agency does have this information, we ask for the contact information to whomever we should be making this FOIA request with.
If there is specific legislation that prevents disclosure of part and/or the total of the records we have requested, we ask for the specific title of that legislation.
I thank you for your efforts in this matter.
We hope to see an example of the “most transparent” Administration that Secretary Earnest has proffered to the American people. We will provide, verbatim as always, any and all responses from the OMB as we receive them.
The headline question facing the nation has far-reaching consequences and cannot be taken lightly. Executive Power is a serious matter. Politics alone is never reason enough for such a powerful issue.
Given is the fact that the political parties are always biased in regard to this. Under Republican presidents Democrats scream outrage, and vice versa. All presidents push the envelope of Executive Power during their tenure. Thus the real question is where is the line that a President dare not cross, and what should be done when it is crossed?
Speaker Boehner has chosen the changes to Obamacare that President Obama unilaterally put into place for his line in the sand. There is no question that the President took action without Congress, as well as that the changes were changes in law and not just execution of the law. So the question of standing – the first hurdle that a lawsuit must clear to move forward – is valid.
But Obamacare is not the only case that can be claimed as crossing the line. The unilateral action on immigration – DACA – violates Executive Power as defined in the Constitution in that it affects an entire class of people, not a case by case discretion which is solidly in the purview of the Executive Branch. Lesser arguments can be made for violation of the War Powers Act last summer with Syria and even earlier with the bombing of Libya. There are many other examples that can be used, with varying degrees of support and credibility, but the point is that the Presidential overreach is occurring regardless of the issue used for the lawsuit being proposed.
So Speaker Boehner has picked potentially the best case to make the argument, at a time when the President has repeatedly publicly stated he will act unilaterally on a host of issues in debate in Congress. Still Rep. Slaughter, during the House Rules Committee hearing on the lawsuit July 16, 2014, took the partisan position of defending the Party first and the Constitution a far second.
“Furthermore the Constitution gives the Congress the power to write the laws. The legal theory put forward by the Republicans to explain why this lawsuit should prevail relies on the notion that somehow President Obama has nullified the House’s legislative power. This is simply not the case.”
Just as a quick summary response to Rep. Slaughter we provide the following from Forbes (2/24/14)
“But Obama has changed all of that, instead using executive orders on offense, to trigger a set of policy changes he wants but fears Congress won’t enact… frustrated by the inability of Congress to pass immigration reform, Obama kicked off his own set of reforms by executive order, halting the legal deportation of thousands of immigrants in the U.S. illegally… Congress won’t pass gun control? No problem, as Obama signed 23 executive orders on gun control, a couple of recent ones setting up possible confiscation of guns using the Affordable Care Act… Obama has found yet another use for executive orders: changing and amending his own laws… Don’t like the mandate on small companies? Fine, we’ll just postpone it. How about the requirements on big companies? Fine, we can ease those too. In all, the president has issued 22 modifications or delays of his signature legislation.” [emphasis added]
There is no lack of documentation, reports and commentary that support a simple conclusion, President Obama has executed law. In fact, at the 2014 State of the Union Address, President Obama made his intent crystal clear
“I’m eager to work with all of you,” a confident Mr. Obama told lawmakers of both parties in the 65-minute nationally televised speech in the House chamber. “But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” [emphasis added]
Thus the question becomes, without partisan defense of their own party for political self-interest, has the Executive Branch grown in power such that it today exceeds the intended limits outlined in the Constitution?
We believe that the House Rules Committee testimony of Johnathan Turley, a George Washington Law School professor, outlines the issue and the resolution.
We agree with Speaker Boehner, Rep. Sessions, Elizabeth Foley, Johnathan Turley, Georgia State University law professor Neil Kinkopf (accusing President Bush of presidential overreach), U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker (who ruled against the Bush & Obama Administration’s claim of state secrets privilege for warrantless surveillance program) on Presidential overreach. Easily since President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment of Japanese Americans with Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, if not even before that time, the power of the Executive Branch has steadily grown and is now far out of balance with the Congress and courts in our opinion.
Can Congress sue the President? Yes. More importantly the Congress must act, not just because of the promise of even further unilateral legislation, but because the power of the Executive is a slippery slope to a form of Government that our Founding Fathers created the Constitution to fight against.
Our conclusion is that the greatest benefit to the nation, now and in the future, is a direct action to curtail the overreach of the Office of the President. Because as John Nichols (Washington correspondent for THE NATION) said in part in 2007,
“He has taken powers unto himself that were never intended to be in the executive. And, frankly, that when an executive uses them, in the way that this president has, you actually undermine the process of uniting the country and really focusing the country on the issues that need to be dealt with. Let’s be clear. If we had a president who was seeking to inspire us to take seriously the issues that are in play and to bring all the government together, he’d be consulting with Congress. He’d be working with Congress. And, frankly, Congress, through the system of checks and balances, would be preventing him from doing insane things…”
Those words apply as much today as they did 7 years ago, if not more. IF Congress fails to act, imagine what will be said about Presidential overreach in another 7 years.