December 2009 - Posts

CRS Report: ACORN Didn’t Break Law…but did Receive Tens of Millions in Tax Dollars
Wed, Dec 23 2009 7:36 AM

Yesterday, Politico reported the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released an 82-page document reporting on an investigation done on ACORN at the request of House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA). Amazingly, the report said that ACORN hasn't "violated the terms of federal funding in the last five years." However, the report does chronicle the tens of millions of dollars in federal funding ACORN has received over the past five years.

At first glance, the CRS researched exactly what they were asked to research. Just as the CBO reports have been criticized that their budget projections on the health care bill are based on the assumptions given to the CBO by Congressional Democrats, the CRS output is a direct result of the input by Conyers and Frank. i.e.: It's possible to get whatever answer you are looking for by adjusting the scope of your initial inquiry accordingly. Certainly, ACORN, Frank, and Conyers are happy about this, however. Please click here for the 82-page document. Stay tuned for a statement from the RNLA.

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Battle Begins in California on Voter ID Proposal
Tue, Dec 22 2009 7:58 AM

A recent piece in San Bernardino and the Inland Empire's The Sun, discusses the battle lines being drawn in a proposed ballot initiative that "would require voters to show a drivers license or other government-issued photo ID before being given a ballot." The man behind the proposal, California State Senator George Runner, will have until May 6 to gather approximately 434,000 signatures from registered California voters.

Predictably, opponents have said that Runner is trying to single out minorities and engage in voter suppression. A member of a local ACORN organizing committee in Fontana, Bobbi Jo Chavarria, argued that Runner's VoteSAFE initiative would lead to racial profiling at the polls: "If you're walking in with blond hair and blue eyes, you might not get ID'd," she said. "But if you're a person of color or you have a Spanish surname, you're definit[ely] going to be (asked for ID)." Chavarria added, the initiative's "sole purpose is to disenfranchise voters." There's more: "People see the writing on the wall," said Gil Navarro, a [L]atino activist and member of the San Bernardino County Board of Education. "They see ... that the demographics are changing, that the [L]atino population is increasing and becoming more politically astute. They're becoming registered voters, and that's scaring people like Runner."

"Runner said there's no motive behind the initiative beyond ensuring the sanctity of the state's electoral process and enfranchising more of the state's military personnel. Along with requiring voters to show ID at the polls, Runner's VoteSAFE initiative would require the DMV to issue photo IDs to voters who cannot afford a drivers license and allow more time for absentee ballots from troops overseas to be counted." 

Opponents ignore the fact that Americans overwhelmingly support voter identification requirements. For example, a Rasmussen Poll taken in the height of the hyper-partisan period immediately prior to the General Election in October of 2008, found that 76 percent of Americans, including three-fourths of Democrats, believe in a photo identification requirement (only 18% polled did not believe in one). In addition, members of the bipartisan Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Electoral Reform overwhelmingly endorsed a photo identification requirement with 18 yeas to 3 nays.

History appears to be on Runner's side, at least as far as getting the initiative on the ballot. The Sun reports that Runner "has a track record of getting initiatives on the ballot," with previous initiatives in 2006 and 2008 making it to the ballot. We will keep you posted on the initiative's progress.

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RNLA Calls on DOJ to Abide by Stated Mission
Fri, Dec 18 2009 2:37 PM

Today, the RNLA issued a formal letter to Attorney General Eric Holder calling on him to fulfill the Department of Justice's stated mission "to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans." The letter cites specific examples that demonstrate the Department is "putting political considerations first in its handling of certain matters." The RNLA points specifically to the Department's voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit against members of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation on Election Day, 2008 and its subsequent failure to give a proper explanation why the case was dismissed. In addition, the RNLA points to the Department's handling of the legislation defunding ACORN.

RNLA Chairman David A. Norcross released the following statement in conjunction with the letter:

"The actions out of the Obama Justice Department have been deeply disturbing to those who believe the rule of law supersedes all else in the administration of justice.  It is not the Attorney General's job to pick winners and losers, it is his charge to enforce the laws of our country fairly and impartially.  Today's letter issued by the RNLA comes on the heels of news reports that the Justice Department is appealing a recent ruling which stated the government's efforts to block funding to ACORN were unconstitutional.  Thus far, Mr. Holder has not exhibited a commitment to vigorously prosecuting ACORN for its crimes against the government and the American people, and one can only hope in this appeal, a vigorous effort is put forward.  As Attorney General, Holder's record of administering justice impartially is open to debate, how his department handles these matters will speak volumes as to whether politics is being placed before principle."

 Please click here for the letter and here for the press release.

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Rep. Wolf Keeps the Heat on DOJ for Black Panther Dismissal
Fri, Dec 18 2009 9:35 AM

Yesterday, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) initiated steps aimed at forcing the Department of Justice to explain why it dismissed a voter intimidation lawsuit against members of the New Black Panther Party for their actions outside of a Philadelphia polling place during last year's General Election. Reps. Wolf and Lamar Smith (R-TX) have been at the forefront of congressional efforts seeking an explanation for the dismissal. Following numerous requests by Wolf and Smith (R-TX), DOJ promised to conduct an investigation and to report its findings. Now, nearly four months since that promise, Wolf and Smith have yet to receive a report. A press release from Wolf's office states:

Wolf . . . announced that he had language inserted in the annual spending bill that funds the Justice Department requiring that its Office of Professional Responsibility provide the results of the investigation it is conducting surrounding the dismissal the case to the House Appropriations Committee.  Wolf, the top Republican on the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations subcommittee, and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, requested the investigation earlier this year.    

Wolf introduced a Resolution of Inquiry on Wednesday and it has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.  Under House rules, committees must take action on resolutions of inquiry within 12 legislative days.  Wolf's resolution directs the U.S. attorney general to provide Congress will "all information" relating to the decision to dismiss the case.  The committee must vote the resolution up or down.

As you may recall, DOJ voluntarily dismissed the case against two of the Defendants (and secured a worthless injunction against the third) despite the fact that all three Defendants failed to respond to the suit and appear before the court. In addition, the clerk of the court had already entered the Defendants default and career Justice attorneys had filed for default judgments against the three. Reports have it that political appointees ordered the career Civil Rights Division attorneys to reverse course and seek dismissal of the case.

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RNLA Member on Foreign Affairs
Thu, Dec 17 2009 3:57 PM

RNLA Member Ralph Winnie, Jr. has recently published two pieces on foreign policy. The first, "The New Chinese Capitalist Economic Model vis-à-vis Iran: So Near Yet So Far," discusses how Chinese-style capitalism could serve a possible model for Iran's development. The article also discusses how this could Iranian relations with the U.S. and the West. Please click here for the article.

Second, is "Closer to China," published in Russia Now and the Washington Post. This op-ed discusses President Obama's recent trip to China, tensions with the U.S. over China's currency manipulation, and Russia's response. Please click here to read this interesting piece.

by Justin Riemer | with no comments
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My Thoughts on the Decision in ACORN vs. the United States
Tue, Dec 15 2009 1:38 PM

My friends, I've been fairly quiet the past few days. I've read and re-read Judge Gershon's opinion in ACORN vs. the United States of America, and I'm still baffled. I am personally of the belief that defunding was a proper use of Congressional regulatory power. The decision to protect the taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse seems important if not imperative to me.

ACORN disagrees. They feel they are being punished.

Also, after reviewing the Harshbarger report, ACORN seems to believe that it has not been at fault for any of the criminal activity occurring within its offices. Harshbarger lays blame on ACORN's founder, ACORN's members, and the intrepid young journalists who dared to expose ACORN's corruption. Harshbarger concluded that laws were not broken and no doubt endorses ACORN's strategy of suing those who dare expose the truth. We've seen whistleblower Anita MonCrief, Hannah Giles, James O'Keefe, Andrew Breitbart, and even the federal government taken to court by ACORN.

Last Friday was a decisive win for ACORN. Legal scholars have made the case for the Constitutionality of the defunding. The Department of Justice even was forced to acknowledge the Constitutionality of the law, and attempt to defend it. ACORN however carried the day. Judge Gershon looked beyond the legitimate regulatory concern of Congress to find what she believed to be in the hearts of the lawmakers. This empathic quality, when coupled with the defense of ACORN should entitle her to a promotion from President Obama.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Ed Whelan on ACORN Ruling
Mon, Dec 14 2009 1:00 PM

Ed Whelan at National Review's Bench Memos has written on last Friday's ACORN ruling by Judge Gershon. Whelan finds Gershon's opinion "unpersuasive."

by Justin Riemer | with no comments
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U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Steps up Pressure on DOJ Re: Black Panthers
Mon, Dec 14 2009 10:58 AM

An op-ed in today's Washington Times reports on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights continued dispute with the Department of Justice (DOJ) over DOJ's continued stonewalling in the dismissal of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case. The long simmering controversy centers around the decision by DOJ political appointees to drop a suit against New Black Panther Party members for voter intimidation at a Philadelphia polling place on Election Day 2008.

Last week, the Commission on Civil Rights finally resorted to a subpoena in its latest interrogatory and document requests to DOJ. Interestingly, DOJ has questioned the Commission's authority to issue subpoenas to the Department despite clear statutory authority and historical precedent stating otherwise. DOJ has also refused disclosure based on privilege. In the letter accompanying the subpoena, David Blackwood, General Counsel of the Commission, points out that DOJ "consulted with outside third parties, such as . . . the NAACP Legal Defense Fund," and that "[n]o privilege exists that would allow disclosure by the Department of information to an outside group, but prohibit same to an investigatory agency with a statutory mandate." Blackwood makes an excellent point: Why should the NAACP have access to this information, but not the Commission on Civil Rights, the non-partisan government organization charged by statute to investigate complaints of citizens being deprived of their right to vote?

The pressure is building on DOJ. It is one thing to ignore the calls for transparency by outside groups such as the RNLA; it is another to ignore the Commission on Civil Rights. It is unclear what the Commission's next step will be in the event DOJ refuses to release the requested information. Ironically, the statute giving the Commission subpoena power, 42 U.S.C. § 1975b(e)(2), authorizes the Attorney General to enforce the power in federal court. We will update you when we learn of DOJ's latest move and the legal implications should DOJ continue to stonewall.

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RNLA Response to Ruling on ACORN
Mon, Dec 14 2009 7:56 AM

The RNLA has issued a response to the decision by Judge Nina Gershon of the Eastern District of New York to grant ACORN a preliminary injunction by declaring that legislation defunding the organization was an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder. Please click here for the statement.

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Obama’s Lawyers Have Confirmation Trouble So They Go Back to School
Fri, Dec 11 2009 9:13 AM

We've seen Obama's lawyers leaving his Administration. First his White House Counsel was replaced, then the number two man at Justice. Now we see that two of his nominees who have yet to make it through the confirmation process have continued their academic careers:

Two stalled Justice Department nominees are slated to continue their university teaching jobs early next year, according to university course schedules for spring 2010, MainJustice.com reports. The teaching jobs give the two nominees a backup plan in case their confirmations stay stuck in the Senate.

Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen, chosen Feb. 11, will teach a class at Indiana University's law school this spring. Office of Legal Policy nominee Christopher Schroeder, nominated June 4, will teach two courses for Duke's law school in Washington this spring.

Unclear what effect these commitments would have on any recess appointment.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Let’s Do Lunch on the Hill - Congress Goes Back to School
Fri, Dec 11 2009 8:56 AM

I could try to spin this as related to law and lawmaking. But to be honest, this story caught my eye and I thought you might enjoy it:

USDA will offer lawmakers a sampling of school lunches

Chicken fajita strips, sliced ham and canned green beans: That's what's for lunch one day next week for some lawmakers and congressional staffers, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The menu offers the same products, known as commodity foods, that the agency provides every day to public schools across the nation.

The goal of next week's tasting is to show lawmakers the improvements the department has made in the nutritional quality -- and taste -- of the $1.2 billion in school commodity foods and to win support to fund further improvements. With one-third of American children overweight or obese, the USDA has been working to cut salt and fat and provide more fruits and vegetables.

"These guys are moving in the right direction," said Tony Geraci, food service director for Baltimore City public schools and a pioneer for healthful foods in schools. "Is it fixed? Hell, no. But at least now we're having conversations about this. Before, it was straight-up stonewalling."

See the full story here.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Hiring Partner Rejects Federalist Society Members
Fri, Dec 11 2009 7:26 AM

I came across an interesting piece from the New York Times (by way of ABAJournal.com) this morning about a hiring lawyer from Greenwich, CT, who was in charge of recommending associates and clerk candidates for his firm based on their judgment and personality. This lawyer wrote to the Ethicist and asked: "May I recommend not hiring someone solely because of his or her politics?" Surprisingly, the Ethicist says the lawyer may not. The gist of the explanation from the Ethicist: "I am tempted to believe that those whose politics differ from mine lack 'judgment and personality' and taste in clothes and finesse on the dance floor. But this proposition is unsupportable. As to judgment: politics is famously a subject about which honorable people differ"

An update to the original letter noted that the lawyer, "[b]elieving that all candidates were qualified, but able to hire only a few . . . , recommended rejecting each member of the Federalist Society." Isn't that enough to get your blood boiling early in the morning?

Please click here for the Times piece and here for the ABA's take on it. (Many interesting comments on ABAJournal.com.)

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McConnell: Start Over and Get It Right
Thu, Dec 10 2009 12:47 PM

With the Senate version of the health care bill making its way though the Senate, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has been working hard to educate other Senators that the bill needs to have a restart and allow for a process that allows for the bill to be done right.  His office issued the following release today laying out why this bill is wrong for America.

 

Start Over and Get it Right

'The majority leader said we'd be working every weekend.  We take him at his word. We expect to be here this weekend - and we look forward to it. Republicans are convinced there's nothing more important we could do than to stop this bill and start over with the kind of step-by-step reforms Americans really want'

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor Thursday regarding the importance of getting it right on health care reform:   "The American people have seen what Democrats in Congress plan to do with seniors' health care. They've looked on in disbelief as almost every Democrat in the Senate voted again and again to slash Medicare.   "Now they're watching in disbelief as Democrats float the idea of herding millions more into this near-bankrupt program as part of a backroom deal to force their plan for health care on the American people by Christmas.   "Every day it seems we hear new revelations about the secret conference room deliberations where Democrats are frantically working to get their sixty votes by Christmas. And every day we hear about some new idea they've come up with for creating a government plan by another name.   "This week's version would have the Office of Personnel Management running the program - an idea that was shot down almost as soon as it was announced by a former OPM director, who said it couldn't be done. "I flat out think that OPM doesn't have the capacity to do this type of role."   "This is precisely the kind of approach Americans are tired of in Washington - and this is precisely the kind of health care plan Americans didn't want.   "Seniors thought they could expect lower costs. What they're getting instead is an assault on their Medicare. Small business owners thought they could expect lower costs. What they're getting instead are higher taxes, stiff fines and costly mandates. Working Americans thought they'd get more efficiency, less fraud, cheaper rates. What they're getting instead are new bureaucracies and higher costs.   "Business leaders from across the country enthusiastically support the idea of health care reform. They know better than anyone that costs are out of control and that something needs to be done. But they've read the bill Democrats in Congress have come up with. They're telling us this isn't it.   "Not only won't this bill solve the problem, they say. It makes existing problems worse.   "The Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was here yesterday. He said there's a desperate need for reform - reform that bends the cost curve down. He said that unfortunately this bill fails the test.   "He said this bill will only lead businesses to lower wages, decrease working hours, reduce hiring, and cut jobs. He said it adds to the deficit. It adds to the debt. It includes massive new spending programs and entitlements, and incredibly, as I've noted, it also borrows from existing entitlement programs.   "Businesses look at this bill and they see:  

 

§  Half a trillion dollars in new taxes

§  As many as 10 million employees at risk of losing their coverage

§  Crushing new mandate

 "This is not reform.

  "This bill doesn't solve our problems - it spreads them.   "That's why seniors don't like this bill. That's why job creators don't like this bill. And that's why public opinion has dramatically shifted against this bill.   "Americans want reform. But this is not the one they asked for. This bill is fundamentally flawed, and it can't be fixed.   "Americans want us to stop. They want us to start over and get it right.   "Democrats should stop talking at the American people and start listening to them.   "Republicans are prepared to provide a platform for that debate for as long as it takes.   "The majority leader said we'd be working every weekend.  We take him at his word. We expect to be here this weekend - and we look forward to it.   "Republicans are convinced there's nothing more important we could do than to stop this bill and start over with the kind of step-by-step reforms Americans really want.   "We have amendments. We want votes.  We've been waiting since Tuesday to have more votes. We're eager to continue this debate."

 

 

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Wednesdays on the Steps – First Supreme Court Opinion By Sotomayor
Thu, Dec 10 2009 8:54 AM

I was at the press conference regarding ACORN held by Representatives Bachmann, King and Royce yesterday and was unable to post my usual Wednesday Supreme Court piece. It's a day late, but it's one that's definitely worth taking a look at.

When selecting Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court President Obama noted he was looking for someone with empathy. I suppose that's a keyword for someone who would look beyond the law and divine an answer based on thoughts and feelings.

We're about two months in to Justice Sotomayor's first term and we've received the Court's first wave of opinions for the term. Among them is the first Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Sotomayor. She wrote the opinion in Mohawk Industries v. Carpenter. The case dealt with timing of appeals regarding trial court rulings on attorney client privilege. In a unanimous decision the Court found:

"Permitting parties to undertake successive, piecemeal appeals of all adverse attorney-client rulings," she wrote, "would unduly delay the resolution of district court litigation and needlessly burden the courts of appeals."

At one point however Sotomayor arguably looked outside the law and imposed a values judgment. Justice Thomas declined to join Sotomayor in her weighing the "likely" costs and benefits of allowing these appeals. Justice Thomas notes:

I would leave the value judgments the Court makes in its opinion to the rulemaking process, and in so doing take this opportunity to limit—effectively, predictably, and in a way we should have done long ago—the doctrine that, with a sweep of the Court's pen, subordinated what the appellate jurisdiction statute says to what the Court thinks is a good idea.

While we're looking at the opinion it's interesting to note that Sotomayor has replaced the term "illegal immigrant" with "undocumented immigrant." The NY Times reports that this is the first use of the phrase in a Supreme Court opinion.

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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Have Yourself a Merry Little ACORN Cookie
Thu, Dec 10 2009 8:24 AM

At the White House Christmas Party the other evening there was an interesting choice for dessert, Acorn shaped cookies. Representative Darrell Issa tweets that they were a "bad, yet tasty choice."

Fox News is reporting that:

Any fan of Cookie Monster on Sesame Street knows that "C" is for cookie.

But at the Obama White House, "A" may be for acorn -- as in acorn cookies served at Monday's annual Christmas party.

The chocolate cookies shaped like an acorn were quite a hit with Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

"I didn't expect to see such stark symbolism," King said in an e-mail.

President Obama worked with the community organizing group ACORN in the mid-90s. But now ACORN faces a host of allegations related to voter fraud in the 2008 election and has been weakened by an undercover expose that shows employees offering tax advice to a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute.

The irony of the White House dishing out acorn-shaped chocolate cookies seemed a little, well, "nutty" to King. The Iowa Republican is one of the loudest voices calling for Congress to investigate ACORN.

King pocketed several of the acorn cookies at the White House soiree and even stowed a few at home in his freezer. King even delivered a real acorn to House Judiciary Committee John Conyers, D-Mich., in an effort to launch a dialogue about the organization's legal woes.

"Bill Clinton redefined a two and a three-letter word," King said, a reference to Clinton's denial of the Lewinsky scandal . "But from the man who wrote 'The Audacity of Hope,' we were served the very redefinition of the word 'audacity.'"

by Chris Berg | with no comments
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