April 2010 - Posts

Big Money Friday – Over 100 Million Dollars
Fri, Apr 30 2010 4:09 PM

It’s been a while since I’ve written an installment of Big Money Friday.  Today there are two huge settlements coming out of the Department of Justice to bring to your attention.

 

As reported in the Department of Justice’s favorable press releases -- though with an $81 million and a $22 million settlement, it’s tough not to be favorable.

 

American pharmaceutical manufacturers Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical LLC and Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., both subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson, have agreed to pay more than $81 million to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from the illegal promotion of the epilepsy drug Topamax, the Justice Department announced today.

 

See the full release here

 

Schwarz Pharma Inc. will pay $22 million to resolve False Claims Act allegations that the company failed to advise the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that two unapproved products did not qualify for coverage under federal health care programs, the Justice Department announced today. Schwarz, now a subsidiary of Belgium-based UCB S.A., is alleged to have submitted false quarterly reports to the government related to a pair of drugs, Deponit and Hyoscyamine Sulfate Extended Release (Hyoscyamine Sulfate ER).

 

See the full release here.

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SEIU's Debt Problem
Mon, Apr 26 2010 10:46 AM

In today’s Washington Times RNLA Member, and former Bush Administration official, F. Vincent Vernuccio, outlines the financial mess that Andy Stern is leaving the SEIU in as he leaves his leadership post in Obama’s favorite union.

Purple may be the official color of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), but Andy Stern is leaving the union deep in the red. Last week, he surprised the labor community by announcing his resignation as president of SEIU. Mr. Stern has claimed victories in helping pass health care legislation and getting President Obama elected, but his impact within his own organization shows gaping budget deficits and massive underfunding of pensions.

SEIU has seen its liabilities skyrocket during the past decade. The union's liabilities totaled $7,625,832 in 2000. By 2009, they had increased almost by a factor of 16, to $120,893,259. Meanwhile, SEIU's assets barely tripled, growing from $66,632,631 in 2000 to $187,664,763 in 2009. A significant portion of SEIU's current assets are from IOUs from hard-up locals.

Even more ironic is the shape that the SEIU’s pension funds are in and the rough shape that they are currently in.

SEIU's pensions are in even worse shape. Both of SEIU's two national pension plans, the SEIU National Industry Pension Fund and the Pension Plan for Employees of the SEIU, issued critical-status letters last year. The Pension Protection Act requires any pension fund that is funded below 65 percent of what it needs to pay its obligations to inform its beneficiaries of the deficit.

Even worse is the connection between the union and the Obama Administration, with several high ranking SEIU officials now enjoying prime positions within the Obama White House.  While the employee pensions are floundering, the goals of the SEIU have taken on a very political tone recently.

While SEIU's pension plans were failing and its liabilities growing, Mr. Stern seemed more concerned with electoral politics than with the internal workings of the union. Indeed, politics can account for much of SEIU's lavish spending in recent years. "We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama - $60.7 million to be exact - and we're proud of it," he boasted to the Las Vegas Sun last year. In all, under Mr. Stern, SEIU spent more than $85 million to elect President Obama and give Democrats control of Congress. What has been Mr. Stern's reward?

Be sure to check out the entire Op Ed in the Washington Times.

 

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Virginia RNLA Leader on the Politics of Intimidation
Mon, Apr 26 2010 10:33 AM

RNLA Virginia Advisory Board member Ashley Taylor has penned an op-ed in The Washington Times concerning the Obama Justice Department's shameful stonewalling of an investigation into the dismissal of a voter intimidation suit against members of the New Black Panther Party for their actions outside of a Philadelphia polling place in November 2008's General Election. Please click here for the op-ed.

This comes on the heels of President Obama's "Vote 2010" message that Politico's Ben Smith says displays an "unusual demographic frankness" in pitching to African-Americans and Latinos among other groups. This is an interesting contrast in messages. The President's Vote 2010 message encourages minority groups to come out and vote in the midterm elections to ensure that the same coalition that elected Obama President and large Democratic majorities to Congress in 2008 comes out in 2010 "to keep our nation moving forward." Meanwhile, President Obama's Department of Justice has allowed blatant voter intimidation, an historical tactic to repress minority voters, to go unpunished. This is, unfortunately, a step backwards. 

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ACORN Still Fundraising (and Litigating)
Thu, Apr 22 2010 10:46 AM

Matthew Vadum at BigGovernment.com scoops an ACORN fundraising email released on April 16 with a message from ACORN CEO and Chief Organizer Bertha Lewis asking for cash and claiming: "[W]e're not dead." That is not that surprising, although it seems like there have been mixed signals coming from the organization in the past few months as to its viability. In late February, Politico first reported the news of ACORN's dissolution. Following that were reports that several of ACORN's state and local organizations had rebranded under non-ACORN names and that others had simply shut down (like ACORN's Baltimore office). In Indiana, ACORN was even dismissed as a plaintiff in federal court in ACORN v. Murphy, a case involving the distribution of voter application forms at state public assistance offices, because the organization ceased to exist in the state. There were other statements from high-ranking ACORN employees that the organization may well be going down.  

However, ACORN has continued to litigate, most notably in ACORN v. USA, where ACORN challenged the constitutionality of October's continuing resolution withholding funding from the organization. ACORN prevailed in federal District Court where a Clinton appointee, Judge Nina Gershon, held that the bill amounted to an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder. The government appealed the case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and moved for an emergency stay of Gershon's decision that enjoined the U.S. from withholding funding for ACORN. As Chris wrote yesterday, the U.S. won this first battle on appeal and the Second Circuit overruled Gershon's order enjoining the U.S. from defunding ACORN. Now the federal government can, at least temporarily, withhold funds from ACORN. (Note: this is not a final decision. Briefs will be filed and oral arguments will still be made at the Second Circuit and I assume the constitutionality issue will be dealt with by the court.)  

What is most interesting about all the talk of ACORN's dissolution is the fact that it continues to send lawyers into court to argue its cases. In the past few months, ACORN has filed several pleadings and has appeared on a number of occasions (in addition to filing numerous pleadings) to safeguard its victory against the government in getting their funding back. Now in the appellate courts, ACORN continues to have legal representation. Just this Tuesday, ACORN attorneys appeared to argue at the Second Circuit on the governments' motion for a stay of Gershon's decision. Please click here and here for letters signed by ACORN's counsel in the case. (Note the interesting discussion in the letters of HUD renewing a public housing grant that may or may not be run by an ACORN affiliate.) Granted, the attorneys for ACORN work for the Center for Constitutional Rights, a public interest law organization, so it is likely that ACORN is getting its legal representation at little to no cost. Regardless, ACORN continues to battle in court as if it is a functioning and viable organization. We will see what happens from here in the Second Circuit. The government's (appellant) appellate brief is due on April 30, ACORN's (appellee) is due on May 14, and appellant's reply brief on May 24. Oral argument will be scheduled for shortly thereafter according to the order granting the stay.

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What Will Bertha Lewis Do? ACORN Funding Ban Temporarily Reinstated by 2nd Circuit
Wed, Apr 21 2010 3:02 PM

Here's the statement from Rep. Issa on the reinstatement of the ACORN funding ban:

U.S. Court of Appeals Suspends Ruling that Congressional Funding Ban on ACORN was Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON D.C. - Today, U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and Judiciary Committee Member released the following statement on the U.S. Court of Appeals Second Circuit decision to stay the December 2009 injunction by Clinton-appointed Judge Nina Gershon that the Congressional funding ban on the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (ACORN) was unconstitutional. As a result, as the U.S. Court of Appeals further reviews the case, the Congressional funding ban will go back into effect, and ACORN will not receive taxpayer dollars.

"I applaud the Court of Appeals for immediately addressing the effects of Judge Gershon's attempt to legislate from the bench. Today's action immediately restores the congressionally mandated ban on funding ACORN and its affiliates as a result of their criminal conduct and wasting of taxpayer dollars. Congress has the constitutional right to deny an organization the benefit of taxpayer dollars.

"With today's action by the Appeals Court, the Obama Administration must take immediate steps to re-implement the funding ban for ACORN Congress put in to law. In recent months, ACORN has undergone a rebranding campaign to disguise itself and its affiliates. As a result, the White House and all federal agencies must be extremely vigilant to ensure that rebranded organizations who have continued to make deals and maintain connections to ACORN don't receive taxpayer dollars."

Click here for a copy of the Appeals Court Decision to Stay Judge Gershon's injunction on implementing the Federal funding ban on ACORN.

Click here to read the April 2010 report entitled "ACORN Political Machine Tries to Reinvent Itself."

Click here to read the February 2010 report entitled "Follow the Money: ACORN, SEIU and their Political Allies."

Click here to read the July 2009 report entitled "Is ACORN Intentionally Structured As a Criminal Enterprise?"

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Update on Van Hollen-Schumer Citizens United Fix
Tue, Apr 20 2010 11:57 AM

The Hill reports that "Democrats have been unable to find a GOP co-sponsor of highly anticipated campaign finance reform legislation, delaying the rollout of a measure aimed at counteracting a landmark Supreme Court ruling." Apparently, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) planned to roll out the legislation at the end of last week but haven't been able to find any Republicans in the Senate to sign on:

With Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a longtime champion of greater restrictions on campaign finance, sidelined in a tough reelection primary fight, Democrats had set their sights on the newest GOP celebrity with centrist appeal, Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), the freshman Republican who won the seat held by the legendary Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) for decades.

After weeks of courting, however, Brown turned down the Democrats late last week, according to spokeswoman Gail Gitcho and several sources close to the negotiations. Brown delivered the news to Schumer on the Senate floor Thursday.

"Sen. Brown's priorities continued to be jobs, the economy and national security," Gitcho explained when asked why he declined to co-sponsor.

Shortly after Brown delivered the bad news, Schumer would not acknowledge the failure to win Brown over. 

When asked how important Brown's support was for the bill's passage, Schumer said only: "We welcome everyone's support."

In a statement e-mailed from his spokesman, Schumer on Monday told The Hill: "We are reaching out to a number of Republicans, but we will move forward with a bill whether we get a Republican co-sponsor or not."

As of late Monday, Senate Democrats still lacked a Republican willing to sign up for the difficult task. According to sources close to the negotiations, Schumer was focusing his efforts on convincing Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) but had yet to successfully secure an agreement.

After the high court's decision in Citizen United, Snowe seemed to come out swinging, saying it would undercut reforms that she and others had fought to secure and amounted to a "serious disservice to our country." Snowe's office did not respond to calls for comment for this story.

Snowe and Sen. Susan Collins, her fellow Republican from Maine, co-sponsored the historic Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002, along with McCain and a handful of other Republicans. But Collins's spokesman Kevin Kelley said this year that Collins would not jump onboard. He did not indicate the reason behind the decision.

Democrats have been slightly more successful in the House. Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) has confirmed that he will sign on to sponsor the bill. The Hill reports that other targeted Republicans in the House include Reps. Walter Jones (N.C.) and Todd Platts (Pa.).

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An Anniversary, A Nominee, and an Amicus, Oh My!
Mon, Apr 19 2010 8:12 AM

Last week Republican lawyers from across the country gathered here in Washington, DC for the RNLA Policy Conference.  This event also marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the RNLA.  I’d encourage you to read Bob Horn’s article reflecting on the past, present, and future of the organization.

 

As we celebrated this milestone the Senate Judiciary Committee held a confirmation hearing for liberal academic Goodwin Liu for a seat on the Ninth Circuit.  Mr. Liu, a professor and a leader of the American Constitution Society, admitted he never tried a case through to fruition, and has had little courtroom expertise.  Mr. Liu claimed that is “record is an open book.”  Unfortunately this book leaves many unanswered questions.  As Senator Sessions noted "He's never tried a case, never argued a case on appeal."

 

Senator Cornyn was right to ask "I guess the question I have is, is this the right job for you?"

 

Today keep your eyes focused on the Supreme Court.  As the session winds down there are still some interesting cases yet to be heard.  Today the Court will hear arguments in the case of City of Ontario v. Quon, a case that may determine whether government employees have a right to privacy while using government messaging equipment.

 

The Court will also be hearing arguments in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  This case involves a challenge to a University of California Hastings' derecognition of a Christian student group because it requires its members and leaders to be Christians.  The RNLA has filed an amicus brief in this case.

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BREAKING: Justice Stevens to Retire
Fri, Apr 9 2010 9:41 AM

It looks like it will be a busy summer in the US Senate.  First it was the START treaty ratification and now it will also add a Supreme Court confirmation battle.  Earlier today, Justice John Paul Stevens announced his intention to retire.

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the court's oldest member and leader of its liberal bloc, is retiring. President Barack Obama now has his second high court opening to fill.

Stevens said Friday he will step down when the court finishes its work for the summer in late June or early July. He said he hopes his successor is confirmed "well in advance of the commencement of the court's next term."

His announcement had been hinted at for months. It comes 11 days before his 90th birthday.

[...]

Chief Justice John Roberts said in a written statement that Stevens has earned the gratitude and admiration of the American people.

"He has enriched the lives of everyone at the Court through his intellect, independence, and warm grace," Roberts said.

Several names have emerged as potential replacements including:

The leading candidates to replace Stevens are Solicitor General Elena Kagan, 49, and federal appellate Judges Merrick Garland, 57, and Diane Wood, 59.

There will be more to come as the confirmation hearings heat up this summer.

 

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