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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Citizens for Tax Justice: Romney's generosity in 2011 an exception - The Hill's On The Money


One left-leaning group is trying to use Mitt Romney’s own generosity against Republicans in the fight over whether the wealthy should pay more in taxes.
Citizens for Tax Justice noted Thursday that Romney, the GOP nominee for president, had not used all of his deductions for charitable giving in 2011 – essentially giving the Treasury an extra $467,000.
But with Republicans stressing that Warren Buffett and others who want higher taxes on the wealthy can just cut the IRS a check, the left-leaning group essentially said that Romney was the exception that proved the rule.

For more, click the link below:

Citizens for Tax Justice: Romney's generosity in 2011 an exception - The Hill's On The Money

Few GOP freshman House members putting down roots inside the Beltway - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


Only a handful of the House Republicans who were elected to Congress in the anti-incumbent elections of 2010 have purchased homes in Washington, records show.

The Hill reviewed the financial disclosure forms for all 95 members of the House freshman class — 87 of which are Republicans — and found just four GOP members with mortgages on properties inside the Beltway.

The analysis indicates that the GOP freshmen have not put down roots inside the Beltway after promising not to become the “creatures of Washington” that they ran against in 2010. None of the nine freshman Democrats reported having a mortgage in the area.

For more, click the link below:


Few GOP freshman House members putting down roots inside the Beltway - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Facebook: Federal online privacy rules would violate free speech rights - The Hill's Hillicon Valley


Facebook is warning the Federal Trade Commission that its proposed update to children's online privacy rules would infringe constitutionally protected free speech rights.

The company said that because the proposal would restrict the ability of children to "like," comment on or recommend websites, it would violate the First Amendment.

"The Supreme Court has recognized on numerous occasions that teens are entitled to First Amendment protection," Facebook wrote in a filing with the FTC. "A government regulation that restricts teens’ ability to engage in protected speech—as the proposed COPPA Rule would do—raises issues under the First Amendment."

For more, click the link below:


Facebook: Federal online privacy rules would violate free speech rights - The Hill's Hillicon Valley

Biden links Romney to Ryan budget cuts - The Hill's Ballot Box


A vote for Mitt Romney is a vote for the Medicare cuts championed by his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Vice President Joe Biden warned voters in Florida this weekend.

Although Romney, the GOP presidential nominee, has sought to distance himself from Ryan's budget – including the sharp cuts to Medicare – Biden said Saturday that the Budget Chairman's proposal is the best indication what a President Romney would endorse from the White House.

Rallying the Democratic faithful in Fort Myers, Fla., Biden characterized Ryan as "the ideological center" of the Republican Party and warned the crowd that Romney's plan to cut Medicare – among other popular federal programs – is hiding in plain sight.

"What Gov. Romney did in picking Paul Ryan is he has given clear definition to all those vague assertions he was making during his primary campaign," Biden said. "[And] nowhere is it more clear what they would do than in Medicare."

For more, click the link below:


Biden links Romney to Ryan budget cuts - The Hill's Ballot Box

Ahead of debates, Obama attacks Romney as jobs killer at Bain - The Hill's Video


President's team accuses the GOP presidential hopeful of putting corporate profits above American workers when he headed private equity firm.

President Obama this weekend attacked Mitt Romney as a jobs killer, accusing the GOP presidential hopeful of putting corporate profits above American workers when he headed a highly successful private equity firm.

In a web video released Saturday, Obama's team revisits Romney's track record at Bain Capital, saying he sacrificed middle class jobs to enrich investors and executives, including himself.

The video features testimony from a handful of workers from various companies around the country purportedly laid off after Bain bought them up and shut them down.

"One day we had a job and the next day we didn't," says one unidentified man.

For more, including video, click the link below:


Ahead of debates, Obama attacks Romney as jobs killer at Bain - The Hill's Video

US forces in the dark about Taliban infiltration in Afghanistan - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


U.S. and coalition commanders are no closer to knowing how deep the Taliban has penetrated Afghanistan’s security forces despite increased efforts to flush out infiltrators who are carrying out attacks against Americans.
"As for what percentage of the insider threat is related to infiltration or radicalization, I mean, it's really difficult to determine," Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Thursday.
For more, click the link below:

US forces in the dark about Taliban infiltration in Afghanistan - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Brown faces a unique challenge - The Hill's Ballot Box


Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) faces a unique challenge among GOP candidates — that Republican control of the Senate is a stigma.

Unlike his colleagues, many of whom have used the prospect of a Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and 51 Republican votes in the upper chamber as a selling point for their bids, Brown has downplayed his GOP ties.

But, in order to run a competitive race in Massachusetts, he needs to raise millions, and pitches based on majority control of the Senate play well with Republican donors.

In at least one invitation to a fundraising event with Brown as the special guest, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pitched it as part of an effort “to gain a majority in the Senate in 2012,” according to the Sunlight Foundation’s Party Time blog, which obtained a copy of the invite.

And a number of websites connected to Brown’s official site, where supporters can donate funds to his campaign, offer majority control of the Senate as a selling point.

The discrepancy between Brown’s message on the stump and his message to donors illustrates just how fine a line he must walk in order to maintain support among Massachusetts moderates as well as Republican donors.

For more, click the link below:


Brown faces a unique challenge - The Hill's Ballot Box

House GOP freshmen look for promotions in 113th Congress - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


With just two years in Congress under their belts, members of the House GOP's vaunted freshman class are looking for promotions into the party leadership come January.

At least three Republicans elected in 2010 are vying for leadership posts, lawmakers and aides say: Reps. Martha Roby (Ala.), James Lankford (Okla.) and Jeff Denham (Calif.). House Republicans vote by secret ballot after the national elections in November.

Roby, who at 36 is one of the youngest members of Congress, is running against Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kan.) for the vice chairmanship of the conference, the fifth-ranking leadership position. Having solidified a once-Democratic district in Alabama, Roby has emerged as a favorite of the current leadership team and frequently appears at its weekly press conferences.

She is also stumping for Mitt Romney’s campaign as a surrogate in battleground states, targeting young voters and women. Like other freshmen, Roby has started a leadership PAC to raise and distribute money to fellow Republicans.

For more, click the link below:


House GOP freshmen look for promotions in 113th Congress - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Santorum plants seed for possible 2016 White House candidacy - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Rick Santorum is positioning himself for a possible White House run in 2016.

The former Pennsylvania senator has thrown his support behind Mitt Romney, but it is clear he is mulling another White House bid down the road.

Unlike some other prominent conservatives that either ran against Romney or supported other candidates, Santorum has sought to amplify his brand in the conservative wing of the Republican Party while also serving as a surrogate for the 2012 Republican nominee.

Santorum, 54, has previously indicated that he might run in 2016 should Romney lose.

For more, click the link below:


Santorum plants seed for possible 2016 White House candidacy - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Saturday, September 29, 2012

FEMA Administrator Fugate Signs Partnership with UNCF Special Programs Corporation

FEMA Administrator Fugate Signs Partnership with UNCF Special Programs Corporation

Iowa Welcomes 230 FEMA Corps Members as They Begin Ten Months of Service Assisting Disaster Survivors

Iowa Welcomes 230 FEMA Corps Members as They Begin Ten Months of Service Assisting Disaster Survivors

Grassley Questions Deputy Attorney General About Reno ATF/US Attorney Rift

Press release:


For Immediate Release
September 28, 2012

Grassley Questions Deputy Attorney General About Reno ATF/US Attorney Rift

            WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley is asking Deputy Attorney General James Cole about his office’s knowledge about the falling-out between the Reno, NV offices for the U.S. Attorney and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

            In a letter sent late last night, Grassley wrote, and provided documents, that ATF agents in Reno notified the Office of Professional Responsibility nearly one year ago, yet the breakdown between the two offices continued.

“It appears the ATF and the US Attorney’s Office may finally be stepping up to resolve the problem in Reno, but we need to learn how it got to this point.  It’s inexcusable that it festered for more than a year,” Grassley said.

Here’s a copy of the text of Grassley’s letter.  A signed copy can be found here.


September 27, 2012
Via Electronic Transmission
The Honorable James M. Cole
Deputy Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice  
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

Dear Deputy Attorney General Cole:

    As you may be aware, I recently contacted both Nevada U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Acting Director B. Todd Jones about allegations from whistleblowers that a breakdown in relations had occurred between ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) in Reno, Nevada.1   I have not yet received a briefing from either of their offices.

The alleged breakdown is illustrated in a declination memorandum from the Reno USAO, which indicates that as of September 29, 2011, the Reno USAO categorically refused to accept any cases submitted by Reno ATF.  The declination memo states, “We are willing to consider your cases again when your management addresses and resolves the issues at hand.”2   Apparently as a consequence, ATF’s Reno Field Office has only opened one case in 2012, as the attached chart indicates.3

I have since obtained documents from whistleblowers which indicate that these issues were raised with ATF headquarters and the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) almost a year ago.  According to one document, ATF agents in Reno notified ATF’s Internal Affairs Division of the issue on October 13, 2011.4   According to a second document, an ATF agent in Reno notified OPR on October 25, 2011.5   As you may know, because of ATF and the Reno USAO’s inability to resolve these issues, three ATF line agents and a supervisor were transferred out of Reno in April 2012.

In light of these facts, I am seeking to understand whether Justice Department management was also notified of the problems between ATF and the USAO in Reno, and if so, what actions were taken to rectify these issues.  Your office, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG), is responsible for overseeing both ATF and U.S. Attorneys.  Therefore, please answer the following questions:

1)    Was anyone in ODAG notified in any way of these problems prior to my letters to ATF and U.S. Attorney Bogden on September 17, 2012?
a.    If so, when were individuals in ODAG first notified?
b.    What actions did they take to inquire into the situation?
c.    What actions did they take to address the situation?

2)    Were you aware of these problems prior to my letters to ATF and U.S. Attorney Bogden on September 17, 2012?
a.    If so, when were you first notified?
b.    What actions did you take to inquire into the situation?
c.    What actions did you take to address the situation?

3)    Was anyone in the Office of the Attorney General notified in any way of these problems prior to my letters to ATF and U.S. Attorney Bogden on September 17, 2012?
a.    If so, when were they first notified?
b.    What actions did they take to inquire into the situation?
c.    What actions did they take to address the situation?

Please also provide the following documents:

4)    All emails pertaining to anyone at Justice Department headquarters becoming aware of these issues prior to my letters to ATF and U.S. Attorney Bogden on September 17, 2012.

5)    All emails pertaining to anyone at Justice Department headquarters responding to these issues prior to my letters to ATF and U.S. Attorney Bogden on September 17, 2012.

Please provide a response and produce these documents by Thursday, October 11, 2012.  If you have any questions concerning this matter, please contact Brian Downey or Tristan Leavitt of my staff at (202) 224-5225.

                        Sincerely,

                        Charles E. Grassley
                        Ranking Member


Attachments


cc:     The Honorable Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General
    U.S. Department of Justice

    B. Todd Jones, Acting Director
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives




1. Letter from Senator Grassley to U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Daniel G. Bogden (Sep. 17, 2012) (Attachment 1); Letter from Senator Grassley to ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones (Sep. 17, 2012) (Attachment 2).
2. Letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Sue Fahami to ATF Special Agent (Sep. 29, 2011) (Attachment 3).
3. “Cases Initiated by Program Area,” ATF Reno Field Office (Attachment 4).
4. Memorandum from ATF Internal Affairs Division to ATF Assistant Director for the Office of Professional Responsibility and Security Operations, “Request to Close Investigation” (Feb. 10, 2012) (Attachment 5).
5. Letter from Justice Department Office of Professional Responsibility to ATF Special Agent (Dec. 12, 2011) (Attachment 6).

Grassley, Upton Seek HHS Answers on Questionable Grants for Health Care Exchanges

Press release:


For Immediate Release
September 28, 2012

Grassley, Upton Seek HHS Answers on Questionable Grants for Health Care Exchanges

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan today asked the Department of Health and Human Services to explain waste and what appears to be inadequate or non-existent oversight of the open-ended federal checks awarded to states to establish health care exchanges through the President’s health care law.  More than $1 billion has been awarded to date, and revelations of questionable expenses, such as a public relations contract in California to promote the health care exchanges on primetime network television shows, continue to surface.

Grassley and Upton expressed concern over an unlimited budget and little or no restrictions and accountability for federal dollars to help states establish health care exchanges under the new federal health care law, especially in light of looming mandatory budget cuts of $1.2 trillion.  News reports have detailed the state of California’s contract with a public relations firm to “tap major network TV shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Modern Family’ to sell Americans on the health care law.”

“HHS has failed to provide substantive guidance to states on how the money is to be used,” Grassley and Upton wrote in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “Unsurprisingly given these facts, news reports have shown how states have engaged in questionable contracts with taxpayer dollars. … Ensuring proper use of American taxpayer dollars is of the upmost importance, and we trust that you share our concerns.”

Grassley is ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.  Upton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The text of their letter is available here.

Corker Asks DNI Clapper for "Substantive Answers very Quickly" on Precipitous Security Decline in Benghazi Delaying FBI Investigation of Terrorist Attack on U.S. Consulate

Press release:


September 29 2012 -

WASHINGTON – In a letter today to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked for “substantive answers very quickly” regarding what has led to such a precipitous security decline in Benghazi, Libya that is preventing FBI agents from entering the city to investigate the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, 18 days ago.
“As of this morning, reports indicate that our well-trained FBI agents still have not been able to get into Benghazi to investigate.  Yet just 18 days ago the administration apparently judged that it was appropriate for our consulate to be lightly guarded and it was safe for our ambassador to come through the city with a small security detail. What has changed in Libya in such a short time that even FBI agents, our most elite investigative personnel, cannot safely enter the city?  What has led to such a precipitous decline?,” wrote Senator Corker in his letter.  “An unwillingness to provide answers and the inaccuracy of the limited information we have received to date has undermined the credibility of the administration. To avoid further damage, I ask that you please personally respond with substantive answers very quickly.”
Corker is the cosponsor of legislation with Senator Jim DeMint, R-S.C., to require an investigation and report on recent attacks at U.S. missions in Libya, Egypt and Yemen. On Tuesday, Corker joined Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanding more details regarding the increasing threats and security concerns that preceded attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  He also was among all 19 members of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republicans and Democrats, to sign an additional letter this week to the State Department asking for information requested in the DeMint-Corker bill and an interim report and briefing regarding security and intelligence leading up to the Benghazi attack.
A complete copy of the letter is below and in the attached document.
The Honorable James R. Clapper, Jr.                         
Director of National Intelligence                                                               
Office of the Director of National Intelligence                     
Washington, D.C. 20511       
Dear Director Clapper:
It seems that with each passing day, the situation surrounding the administration's response to the terrorist attack on the U. S. Consulate in Libya becomes more bizarre.  The United States Congress and the American people are still waiting to get straight answers from the administration on what actually happened that led to the deaths of four Americans, including one of our ambassadors, in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
As of this morning, reports indicate that our well-trained FBI agents still have not been able to get into Benghazi to investigate.  Yet just 18 days ago the administration apparently judged that it was appropriate for our consulate to be lightly guarded and it was safe for our ambassador to come through the city with a small security detail. What has changed in Libya in such a short time that even FBI agents, our most elite investigative personnel, cannot safely enter the city?  What has led to such a precipitous decline?
An unwillingness to provide answers and the inaccuracy of the limited information we have received to date has undermined the credibility of the administration. To avoid further damage, I ask that you please personally respond with substantive answers very quickly.
Sincerely,

Bob Corker
United States Senator  
CC:
The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton, Secretary of State 
The Honorable Leon E. Panetta, Secretary of Defense 
The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Boehner Column: The Debt is a Drag on America’s Economy

Press release:

Boehner Column: The Debt is a Drag on America’s Economy 


Sep 28, 2012

Washington
-
Today, John Boehner (R-West Chester) released the following column discussing the lack of action from the president to address our nation’s debt:

"On September 27, the latest economic numbers for our country were released.  They paint a grim picture, showing that economic growth slowed by more than a full percentage point during the second quarter of 2012. 

“It is a picture with which Americans have become all too familiar during President Obama’s nearly four years in office, during which the national debt has soared to more than $16 trillion.

“America needs a president with an understanding of how our economy works.  We need a leader who will challenge Washington’s ways and lead a bipartisan assault on the budget deficits that are holding our economy back.  

“President Obama took office promising to be such a leader.  But the actions he took as Chief Executive immediately revealed the emptiness of that promise.  

“One of the first decisions of his presidency was to allow the liberal leaders of the Senate and the then Democratic-controlled House to write his gigantic ‘stimulus’ bill behind closed doors with no input from across the aisle.  

“The result was a bloated, pork-ridden monstrosity rammed through the House and Senate with minimal scrutiny.  It added nearly a trillion dollars to the national debt.  And it didn’t work.

“After enactment of the ‘stimulus,’ the national unemployment rate soared into double digits, and even today remains above eight percent – a level the White House said we’d never exceed, and would be far below today if the bill was enacted.

“The president followed the colossal ‘stimulus’ error with a string of policies that caused massive uncertainty among private sector job creators.  

“He spent a year pushing Congress to pass a giant health care law that is raising costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers.  

“He spent years trying to impose a new national energy tax – first through legislation, later through new regulations – that would raise costs for every family and business that uses energy.  

“He has spent most of his presidency demanding – and is still demanding – a tax increase that Ernst & Young confirms will hit a large percentage of our country’s small businesses and cost our economy more than 700,000 jobs.  

“Policies such as these have hurt small businesses and driven work overseas, leaving Americans asking: where are the jobs?

“Experts and leaders in both parties know we won’t have economic growth until we address the cloud of debt that is hanging over our economy.

“My colleagues and I in the House have voted to stop the president’s small business tax hike while acting on long-term solutions to spur economic growth – the kind of growth necessary to fix the national debt.  The legislation we’ve passed would begin reforming our tax code, reduce spending and combat waste, and take steps to save Medicare and other critical programs that are heading toward bankruptcy. 

“By contrast – even amid constant reminders of the need for action, such as this month’s GDP report – President Obama and his Senate have done next to nothing.  

“The president hasn’t prodded his Senate to act or produce a budget – a fundamental responsibility it hasn’t fulfilled in more than three years.  

“He has been silent on the nearly 40 jobs bills passed by the House, mostly with bipartisan support, that are gathering dust in his Senate, which refuses to act.

“And the president’s budget plan has been so unserious that it received zero ‘yes’ votes from legislators of either party when it was brought to a vote in both his Senate and the Republican-led House.

“Americans deserve leaders who will get Washington moving on solutions that bring jobs home, clear the cloud of debt, and foster long-term economic growth."
Boehner represents Ohio’s 8th District, which includes all of Darke, Miami, and Preble counties, most of Butler and Mercer counties, and the northeastern corner of Montgomery County. He was first elected to Congress in 1990.

For Americans, Wealth Isn’t a Clear Indicator of Voting Behavior

The following is an excerpt from an article in:


The New York Times
Saturday, September 29, 2012

For Americans, Wealth Isn’t a Clear Indicator of Voting Behavior

By JAMES B. STEWART

“This president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office,” Mitt Romney said as he accepted the Republican presidential nomination. Since then, “Are you better off?” has become a central theme of the campaign, and is likely to surface next week at the first presidential debate.

Are Americans better off? By one important measure, that depends on who you are. Unfortunately for Mr. Romney, the group most likely to answer with a resounding “no” — those who should be most receptive to his message — appear to be the least likely to vote for him.

In raising the issue to such prominence, Mr. Romney is echoing Ronald Reagan’s famous closing during his 1980 debate with Jimmy Carter, which is widely credited with swinging the election in Mr. Reagan’s favor. Exactly what he and other politicians have meant by the phrase “better off” is vague, but many commentators have looked to the unemployment rate, gross domestic product, household income and inflation rate as relevant statistics for comparison.

By these measures, the answer is mixed. The unemployment rate in August was 8.1 percent, down from 10 percent in October 2009 but higher than the 7.8 percent in January when President Obama took office.

Gross domestic product increased at an estimated 2 percent rate in the first quarter and 1.3 percent in the second. While slow, that was a substantial improvement from the 3.8 percent contraction reported in January 2009, which was the worst drop in 27 years. Inflation was 1.7 percent in August, well within the Federal Reserve’s target range and much better than the modest but worrisome deflation of early 2009.

Median household income for 2011 was an estimated $50,054, compared with $52,546 in 2008, according to the Census Bureau. About the best the Obama administration has been able to say is that trends show slow but steady improvement.

This ambiguity shows up in the latest polls. In a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS poll released this week, likely voters in Florida split 40 percent to 43 percent on the question of whether the United States is better off today than it was four years ago, with 40 percent saying the country is better off. In Ohio, it was tied at 39 percent, and in Pennsylvania it was 35 percent to 41 percent. Remaining voters thought the country was about the same or were undecided. But disaffection with the economy didn’t translate into support for Mr. Romney, who trailed Mr. Obama by widening margins in all three states.

There’s another measure that may help explain why Mr. Romney seems to be getting so little traction from the “are you better off” issue. It’s the wealth effect, which occurs when rising asset prices make people feel more secure. And in that respect, the answer is clear. As Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, told me this week, “From the perspective of the aggregate household balance sheet, we’re unambiguously better off than four years ago and are almost all the way back” to the peak before the financial crisis.

That’s because of a combination of rising asset prices, especially American stocks and real estate, and lower household debt. Total household net worth, which is assets minus liabilities, was $50.4 trillion in the first quarter of 2009 when Mr. Obama took office. It was $62.7 trillion in the second quarter 2012, which ended June 30. Mr. Zandi and other economists predict that it will be significantly higher for the third quarter ending this month thanks to this summer’s stock market rally and recent strong gains in housing prices. It might soon hit the peak of $67.4 trillion reached in the third quarter of 2007.

For more, visit www.nytimes.com.

Iranian press fooled by The Onion - The Hill's Global Affairs


Iran's semi-official FARS news agency has been fooled by an Onion story that found rural white voters prefer Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to President Obama. 
The agency on Friday republished, without attribution, a bogus Gallup poll from the satirical U.S. newspaper showing Obama badly trailing Ahmadinejad among rural white voters. 
For more, click the link below:

Iranian press fooled by The Onion - The Hill's Global Affairs

Senate hinges on New England - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


The battle for control of the Senate could come down to New England, a region where the GOP brand was seen as defunct a few years ago.
A best-case scenario for Republicans would allow the party to retain Senate seats in Massachusetts and Maine while picking up a seat in Connecticut. Coupled with gains in other parts of the county, it would likely be enough to make Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) the majority leader.
But to do so, the GOP will have to beat history. No Republican has been elected to the Senate from Connecticut since 1982, while Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) — who is in a tight race to retain his seat — was the first Republican senator elected from Massachusetts since Edward Brooke in 1972.
For more, click the link below:

Senate hinges on New England - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Rep. West features opponent's mug shot, police record in harsh television ad - The Hill's Video


Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) released a biting new ad in the battle to keep his House seat that features a mug shot of his opponent while showing the lawmaker serving in the Army.
The 30-second spot compares what West and Democrat Patrick Murphy were doing on the night of Feb. 16, 2003. The ad zooms in on Fort Hood, Texas, where it says that that night West, then a lieutenant colonel in the Army, received orders to deploy to Iraq and was preparing to go to war. It shows photos of West in military uniform.
For more, click the link below:

Rep. West features opponent's mug shot, police record in harsh television ad - The Hill's Video

GOP again denies Dem calls for House to return to work - The Hill's Floor Action


House Democrats on Friday morning renewed their call for the House to return to work and pass legislation to fix the pending tax crisis, reduce the debt and make federal health programs more sustainable, but were again shut down by House Republicans.

The House reconvened for a short pro forma session on Friday morning, and in a surprise move quickly passed three bills, including one that would delay the implementation of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK) Act for federal workers, and another extending protections for federal "whistleblowers."
As Republicans were moving to pass these bills by unanimous consent, they were met by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who said work should also be taken up on contentious tax issues.
For more, click the link below:

GOP again denies Dem calls for House to return to work - The Hill's Floor Action

Romney, Netanyahu agree nuclear Iran is 'unacceptable' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room


Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed a nuclear Iran was "unacceptable" in a phone conversation Friday afternoon, according to the Republican nominee's campaign.
"The Prime Minister and the Governor agreed that an Iran with nuclear weapons capability is unacceptable," said Romney traveling press secretary Rick Gorka, according to CNN. "They also discussed recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa generally. Governor Romney reiterated his belief that the United States has no greater friend and ally in the region than Israel."
Gorka added that Romney and Netanyahu "agreed that the largest security threat to Israel and the entire world is a nuclear-capable Iran."
For more, click the link below:

Romney, Netanyahu agree nuclear Iran is 'unacceptable' - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

White House: Obama in 'full agreement' with Netanyahu on Iran - The Hill's Global Affairs


President Obama is in “full agreement” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the need to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the White House said after the two leaders talked over the phone Friday.
“The two leaders discussed a range of security issues, and the President reaffirmed his and our country’s unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security,” the White House said in a statement describing the call. “The two leaders underscored that they are in full agreement on the shared goal of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Separately, Netanyahu met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following his address to the United Nations on Thursday.
For more, click the link below:

White House: Obama in 'full agreement' with Netanyahu on Iran - The Hill's Global Affairs

Sen. Kerry lashes out at GOP for exploiting bipartisan Libya letter - The Hill's Video


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) admonished Republicans on Friday for trying to "exploit" the bipartisan letter sent to the Obama administration on Libya. 
"Let me be crystal clear as chairman of that committee ... the Republicans are working overtime to try to exploit a very normal, run-of-the-course administrative letter that we agreed to on a bipartisan basis in our committee," said Kerry on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports." 
For more, click the link below:

Sen. Kerry lashes out at GOP for exploiting bipartisan Libya letter - The Hill's Video

President Obama flexes on China - The Hill's Floor Action


The Obama administration announced Friday that it would block an attempt by a Chinese-owned company to acquire four wind farm companies in the United States.
The Obama campaign is likely to use the decision to burnish Obama's credentials as a president who is "tough on China." 
Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been fighting for weeks over who can better protect the U.S. economy and its workers from China's economic expansion.
For more, click the link below:

President Obama flexes on China - The Hill's Floor Action

US intel agency: A “deliberate and organized terrorist attack” in Libya - The Hill's DEFCON Hill


The spokesman for the director of National Intelligence issued a statement Friday that appeared to try and explain why the Obama administration position has shifted on the events of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Shawn Turner, spokesman for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, said in the statement that new information led to a revised assessment indicating the Libya attack was a “deliberate and organized terrorist attack” carried out by groups affiliated with or sympathetic to al Qaeda, after intelligence had initially pointed to the attack being connected to protests.
For more, click the link below:

US intel agency: A “deliberate and organized terrorist attack” in Libya - The Hill's DEFCON Hill

DSCC pours $410,000 into Maine Senate race - The Hill's Ballot Box


The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is pouring $410,000 into the Maine Senate race, its first foray into the state.

The investment comes as a number of recent polls show front-runner Angus King's (I) lead dropping five to 10 points since polls conducted in June. Though an independent, King is expected to caucus with Democrats if he wins, and the national party apparatus has avoided backing Democrat Cynthia Dill in the state, as she could end up splitting off votes from King.

Republicans have been pouring funds into the race, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee recently spending $300,000 to extend its ad buy in the state for another week, bringing the total spent by the committee to nearly $1 million.

The $410,000 the DSCC is preparing to spend on ads to run from Oct. 10-12 is substantial in a state as relatively inexpensive as Maine.

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DSCC pours $410,000 into Maine Senate race - The Hill's Ballot Box

Romney and Obama build each other up ahead of first debate - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room


Both Mitt Romney and President Obama’s campaigns have worked to set debate expectations this week — each trying to portray the other as having the advantage headed into Wednesday’s showdown.

"President Obama is a universally-acclaimed public speaker and has substantial debate experience under his belt," Romney's campaign adviser Beth Myers wrote in a memo distributed to surrogates on Thursday. "This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his political career. For Mitt Romney, it will be his first.”

But Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod wrote in a memo released Friday that first debates "generally favor challengers."

"The challenger, unencumbered by the responsibilities of being the President, has more time to prepare — a benefit of which Gov. Romney has taken full advantage," Axelrod wrote.

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Romney and Obama build each other up ahead of first debate - The Hill's Blog Briefing Room

GOP bashes Obama on jobs, the economy - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


Attempting to shift the national debate back to the volatile economy, House Republicans this weekend are placing blame for the continued jobs crisis squarely on the shoulders of President Obama.

With fewer than six weeks remaining before November's elections, the GOP wants to paint Obama and the Democrats as big-government spendthrifts whose tax, energy and regulatory policies have kept the unemployment rate above 8 percent for almost all of the president's term.

To deliver their message, GOP leaders tapped Vernon Parker, a former mayor and council member from the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley who's in a tough race to fill the House seat in Arizona's newly created Ninth District. It marks the first time in this election cycle that a House candidate was chosen to give the Republicans' weekly address – a clear indication that GOP leaders are hoping the national spotlight will lift Parker's chances in November.

"Nothing is more important than getting the middle class back to work. … We have employers who want to hire and workers who want to work, but government won’t get out of the way," Parker said Saturday in the GOP's radio address.

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GOP bashes Obama on jobs, the economy - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Obama calls on Congress to pass refinancing bill - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


President Obama urged Congress on Saturday to pass a refinancing bill to provide a boost to the gradually recovering housing market.

In his weekly address, the president argued that the 2008 financial crisis, created largely by the collapse of a housing market overloaded with bad mortgages, hurt millions of responsible homeowners and could use some more help.

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Obama calls on Congress to pass refinancing bill - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Now Romney has to face Bill Clinton, too - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney isn’t just running against President Obama during this election cycle, he’s campaigning against Bill Clinton, too.

Obama’s strongest surrogate on the campaign trail has proven to be Clinton, who has been able to crystallize the president's vision and hammer home his last four years in bite-sized, practical ways for the electorate.

Clinton’s rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention earlier this month is credited with moving what had been a razor-tight race firmly in Obama’s direction, providing the president with a much-needed bounce heading into the final stretch of the campaign.

The former president’s performance won praise from strategists and observers – and even from Romney himself. Obama has taken to recycling Clinton’s line that the GOP nominee’s “arithmetic” doesn’t add up in almost every stump speech since the convention.

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Now Romney has to face Bill Clinton, too - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Democrats lay out second-term wish list for President Obama - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com


The presidential contest is far from over, but House Democrats are already readying their legislative wish-lists in hopes that President Obama is reelected.

The lawmakers are floating a broad array of issues they'd like Obama to tackle immediately in a second term, placing a focus on jobs and the economy, but also thorny discretionary issues like immigration, climate change, housing – even a return to healthcare reform.

An Obama victory in November would lend the president a new fistful of political capital as he confronts Republican leaders over how to avoid the fiscal cliff and steer the polarized country through the next four years. More than a month before November's elections, his allies in the House are already offering tips for how to spend it.

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Democrats lay out second-term wish list for President Obama - The Hill - covering Congress, Politics, Political Campaigns and Capitol Hill | TheHill.com

Friday, September 28, 2012

Co-Founder of Casino-Cheating Criminal Enterprise Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison for Targeting Casinos Across the United States

Press release:


Co-Founder of Casino-Cheating Criminal Enterprise Sentenced to 36 Months in Prison for Targeting Casinos Across the United States

U.S. Department of JusticeSeptember 28, 2012
  • Office of Public Affairs(202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888
WASHINGTON—Van Thu Tran was sentenced today in San Diego to 36 months in prison for her role in a scheme to cheat casinos across the country out of millions of dollars, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy for the Southern District of California.
In addition to her prison sentence, Van Thu Tran, 47, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge John A. Houston in the Southern District of California to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay $5,753,416 in restitution, payable to several casinos. The court ordered the forfeiture of her interests in various assets, including jewelry and bank accounts.
Van Thu Tran entered her guilty plea in San Diego on January 14, 2011.
In her plea agreement, Van Thu Tran admitted that in approximately August 2002, she, along with co-conspirators Phuong Quoc Truong, Tai Khiem Tran, and others, created a criminal enterprise defined as the Tran Organization, based in San Diego and elsewhere, for the purpose of participating in gambling cheats at casinos across the United States. In her plea agreement, Van Thu Tran also admitted that she and her co-conspirators unlawfully obtained up to $7 million during card cheats.
The investigation of the Tran Organization led to the filing of three separate indictments in 2007, 2008, and 2009. A three-count indictment was returned in San Diego on May 22, 2007, and unsealed on May 24, 2007, which charged Van Thu Tran and 13 others each with one count of conspiracy to participate in the affairs of a racketeering enterprise; one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The indictment also charged five separate individuals each with one count of conspiracy to commit several offenses against the United States, including conspiracy to steal money and other property from Indian tribal casinos; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to court documents, the defendants and others executed a “false shuffle” cheating scheme at casinos in the United States and Canada during blackjack and mini-baccarat games. Court documents also show that members of the criminal organization bribed casino card dealers and supervisors to perform false shuffles during card games, thereby creating “slugs,” or groups of unshuffled cards. Court documents also show that, after tracking the order of cards dealt in a card game, a member of the organization would signal to the card dealer to perform a “false shuffle,” and members of the group would then bet on the known order of cards when the slug appeared on the table. By doing so, members of the conspiracy repeatedly won thousands of dollars during card games, including winning several hundred thousand dollars on one occasion.
Court documents also show that the members of the organization used sophisticated mechanisms for tracking the order of cards during games, including hidden transmitter devices and specially created software that would predict the order in which cards would reappear during blackjack games.
To date, 42 defendants have pleaded guilty to charges relating to the casino-cheating conspiracy: Van Thu Tran, Phuong Quoc Truong, Tai Khiem Tran, Anh Phuong Tran, Phat Ngoc Tran, Martin Lee Aronson, Liem Thanh Lam, George Michael Lee, Tien Duc Vu, Son Hong Johnson, Barry Wellford, John Tran, Willy Tran, Tuan Mong Le, Duc Cong Nguyen, Han Truong Nguyen, Roderick Vang Thor, Sisouvanh Mounlasy, Navin Nith, Renee Cuc Quang, Ui Suk Weller, Phally Ly, Khunsela Prom, Hop Nguyen, Hogan Ho, Darrell Saicocie, Bryan Arce, Qua Le, Outtama Keovongsa, Leap Kong, Thang Viet Huynh, Don Man Duong, Dan Thich, Jimmy Ha, Eric Isbell, Brandon Pete Landry, James Root, Jesus Rodriguez, Jason Cavin, Nedra Fay Landry, Connie Holmes, and Geraldo Montaz. These defendants admitted to targeting, with the aid of co-conspirators, a combined total of approximately 29 casinos in the United States and Canada during the course of the conspiracy:
1) Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi;
2) Casino Rama, in Orillia, Ontario, Canada;
3) Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut;
4) Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, Mississippi;
5) Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana;
6) Horseshoe Casino and Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi;
7) Isle of Capri Casino in Westlake, Louisiana;
8) Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana;
9) Mohegan Sun Resort Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut;
10) Palace Station Casino in Las Vegas;
11) Resorts East Chicago Hotel and Casino in East Chicago, Indiana;
12) Sycuan Casino in El Cajon, California;
13) Cache Creek Indian Bingo and Casino in Brooks, California;
14) Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington;
15) Imperial Palace Casino in Biloxi;
16) Argosy Casino in Baton Rouge, Louisiana;
17) Trump 29 Casino in Coachella, California;
18) Isle of Capri Casino in Bossier City;
19) Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, California;
20) Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, California;
21) Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California;
22) L’Auberge du Lac Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana;
23) Nooksack River Casino in Deming, Washington;
24) Barona Valley Ranch Casino and Resort in Lakeside, California;
25) Caesars Indiana Hotel and Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana;
26) Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas;
27) Harrah’s Casino in Lake Charles;
28) Golden Moon Casino in Choctaw, Mississippi; and
29) Viejas Casino in Alpine, California.
Two other defendants, Ha Thuy Giang and Tammie Huynh, pleaded guilty to tax offenses stemming from the investigation, and Khai Hong Tran admitted to the offenses alleged in a 2007 U.S. indictment when he pleaded guilty to casino-cheating offenses in Canada.
On December 15, 2010, defendant Mike Waseleski, a former casino card dealer, was found guilty by a federal jury in San Diego for his role in the Tran Organization’s cheating scheme to steal approximately $1.5 million from Resorts East Chicago Casino.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s San Diego Field Office; the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation; the San Diego Sheriff’s Department; and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Gambling Control. The investigation has received assistance from federal, state, tribal, and foreign authorities, including: the Ontario Provincial Police; the National Indian Gaming Commission; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington; FBI Resident Agencies in Gulfport (Mississippi), Tacoma (Washington), and Toledo (Ohio); the Indiana State Police; the Rumsey Rancheria Tribal Gaming Agency; the Sycuan Gaming Commission; the Barona Gaming Commission; the Mississippi Gaming Commission; and the Washington State Gambling Commission.
The case is being prosecuted in San Diego by Criminal Division Organized Crime and Gang Section Trial Attorneys Joseph K. Wheatley and Robert S. Tully.

Former Hedge Fund Research Analyst Pleads Guilty in New York Federal Court to Insider Trading Charges

Press release:


Former Hedge Fund Research Analyst Pleads Guilty in New York Federal Court to Insider Trading Charges

U.S. Attorney’s OfficeSeptember 28, 2012
  • Southern District of New York(212) 637-2600
NEW YORK—Jon Horvath, 42, of San Francisco, a former research analyst at a hedge fund in New York, pleaded guilty today in New York City federal court to charges arising from his involvement in a $61.8 million insider trading scheme, announced Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. The alleged scheme involved multiple analysts and portfolio managers at different hedge funds and investment firms who allegedly exchanged material, non-public information (inside information) about publicly traded technology companies, including Dell Inc. and NVIDIA Corp. Horvath was arrested and charged by complaint in January 2012 and was further charged in a superseding indictment in August 2012. He pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Sullivan.
According to the superseding indictment to which Horvath pleaded guilty, statements made during the plea proceeding, and other court documents:
Horvath was part of a circle of research analysts at different investment firms who obtained inside information from 2007 to 2009, both directly and indirectly, from employees who worked at public companies. The analysts, including Horvath, then shared the inside information with each other and with the hedge fund portfolio managers for whom they worked. For example, Horvath admitted receiving inside information concerning Dell and NVIDIA from other members of this circle of analysts, knowing that it came from employees at public companies, in breach of their duties of loyalty to their companies. Horvath then provided the inside information to the portfolio manager for whom he worked. Horvath caused trades in Dell and NVIDIA to be executed based on the inside information he received from the circle of analysts. In exchange, Horvath provided the circle of analysts with inside information concerning other technology stocks that he obtained directly from public company employees.
* * *
Horvath pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud. The conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The securities fraud counts each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million or twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss derived from the offense. As part of his plea agreement, Horvath agreed to forfeit his share of the proceeds obtained as a result of the offenses. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Sullivan on March 31, 2013.
Horvath was originally charged in January 2012 with three co-conspirators—Danny Kuo, Todd Newman, and Anthony Chiasson. Kuo pleaded guilty in April 2012 to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and two counts of securities fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Sullivan at a later date. Newman and Chiasson are scheduled for trial before Judge Sullivan on October 29, 2012, and the charges against them are merely accusations. They are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Mr. Bharara praised the investigative work of the FBI. He also thanked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
These cases are part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Antonia M. Apps, Richard C. Tarlowe, and John T. Zach are in charge of the prosecution.

Lower Brule Woman Sentenced for Assault

Press release:


Lower Brule Woman Sentenced for Assault

U.S. Attorney’s OfficeSeptember 28, 2012
  • District of South Dakota(605) 330-4400
United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that a Lower Brule, South Dakota woman charged with assault with a dangerous weapon was sentenced on September 25, 2012, by United States District Judge Roberto A. Lange. Keesha Ewing, age 31, was sentenced to 27 months in custody, two years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $100 special assessment to the Victim Assistance Fund.
Ewing was indicted by a federal grand jury on March 20, 2012, and pled guilty to count two of the indictment on July 3, 2012.
The conviction stems from an incident that took place on December 18, 2011, when Ewing assaulted the victim with a knife. Ewing stabbed the victim once in the neck, requiring 10 staples to close, and once in the back, requiring six staples to close.
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Meghan N. Dilges.
Ewing was remanded to the custody of the United States Marshals Service.