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Constitutional and Political Freedom

Clinton’s Cash for Access Diplomacy

by Glenn Harlan Reynolds • USAToday

Back in July, Democratic presidential nominee and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “there is absolutely no connection between anything that I did as secretary of state and the Clinton Foundation.”

On Monday of this week, ABC’s Liz Kreutzer reminded people of that statement, as a new batch of emails reveal that there was a connection, and it was cash. As the emails, recovered by the public-interest law firm Judicial Watch, demonstrate, people who made donations to the Clinton Foundation got preferential treatment, and access, at the State Department when Hillary was Secretary of State:

The Abedin emails reveal that the longtime Clinton aide apparently served as a conduit between Clinton Foundation donors and Hillary Clinton while Clinton served as secretary of state. In more than a dozen email exchanges, Abedin provided expedited, direct access to Clinton for donors who had contributed from $25,000 to $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. Continue reading


The Growing Scandal: Hillary Clinton Selling State Department Access for Cash

More than half of Hillary’s meetings with nongovernmental people were with donors. And foreign government officials who met with Hillary gave more than $170 million to the Clinton Foundation.

By George Landrith • Frontiers of Freedom

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The winds of scandal continue to swirl around Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, and the State Department. Oddly, the State Department has allowed itself to become sucked into defending Hillary and the Foundation despite the unsavory facts. It is highly inappropriate for the State Department to work to tamp down the facts and obfuscate what actually happened. It has no duty to defend Hillary’s private actions. As a result of the State Department’s very odd behavior in trying to hide Hillary’s actions from pubic view, it has made Hillary’s wrongs, its own.

One of the biggest whoppers often told to defend the Clintons and their Foundation is that it is a charity doing lots of good all over the world and thus we should not worry about these details. The Foundation may very well do some good here and there. But the truth is — the Clinton Foundation collects hundreds of millions of dollars from some very curious donors and gives less than 10% in charitable grants.

In 2013, the Clinton Foundation raised $149 million and only distributed charitable grants totaling less than $9 million. That is only about six percent. Continue reading


Fretting and fraud on voter ID

By Washington Examiner • Washington Examiner

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The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 29 struck down North Carolina’s 2013 voting law, which included a voter identification requirement and reduced the the number of days before Election Day on which people could vote.

It is perfectly reasonable for a state to demand that voters show ID at the polls, but the court decision and others recently handed down in other states suggest a systematic campaign is underway to discredit this basic truth. The principal weapon used in this campaign is the Left’s favorite: racial discrimination.

As long as an ID is easy to obtain and those without one may prove their identity later, voting regulations should be left to the states. Heavy-footed interventions of the type we are seeing is a constitutional usurpation against states rights.

North Carolina’s law allowed voters with “reasonable impediments” to fill out a form and cast a provisional ballot. This is why nearly every country in the world except the U.S. has a national law of this type, including Mexico and Canada. (Not all of the identification requirements are identical. Canada, for example, accepts credit cards as proof of ID.)

The number of people who cannot obtain photo identification is miniscule, despite the Left’s wild attempts to exaggerate it by marshalling biased studies with findings that undermine their credibility. The tiny population who for extraordinary reasons cannot currently get ID can almost certainly be accommodated with reasonable legal exceptions.

There is no evidence that those who lack ID are concentrated in any minority population. That’s one reason why ID laws did not reduce black turnout in any of the many states, including North Carolina, which recently introduced them. Nor did those ID laws in effect before 2008 prevent record black turnout in the states where they had already been enacted.

In arguing that North Carolina’s law was uniquely discriminatory in this respect, the court employed chopped logic and fuzzy math. It accepted that black turnout increased after the ID law passed, but decided there was a discriminatory effect because it increased by only 1.8 percent in the 2014 midterm elections compared to 12 percent when Barack Obama was on the ballot.

If that doesn’t sound like strong evidence to you, it doesn’t to us either. Should black turnout be expected to increase by double digits in every election? Of course not. It’s not even a mathematical possibility.

The reason so few people lack photo ID today is that life in modern America is nearly impossible without it. Without ID you cannot rent or buy a home or car, or alcohol, or tobacco. You can’t board an airplane. You can’t buy a cell phone plan, or a health insurance plan under Obamacare, or open a bank account, or get welfare or unemployment benefits, or even — get this — obtain credentials to attend the Democratic National Convention.

It is impossible to get a job legally without copious identification. A state-issued photo ID. or U.S. passport is just one of the many annoying requirements workers face under federal tax law. Does the federal government or the Democratic Party act with discriminatory intent when these institutions demand that people prove who they are?

Simply to ask the question is to demonstrate how ridiculous it is.

At most, those lacking ID form a subset of illegal immigrants (who cannot vote anyway) and a much smaller subset of older voters who have owned their homes for generations, have been retired for more than 15 years and neither drive nor fly anywhere. Perhaps there are a few subsistence farmers.

And thanks to the federal REAL ID law and the 2002 Know Your Customer banking regulations, there will be almost no one (except perhaps the most fanatical libertarians) who will still lack a valid ID just a few years from now. The North Carolina law in any case made special allowances for true hardship cases.

North Carolina also reduced its early voting period. Whatever the merits of one or another early voting scheme in each state, it is clearly a question for each state’s elected officials to decide, not the federal courts. Some lawmakers were concerned that not all residents have equal access to early voting, rural residents in particular. But, while voting is a right for all citizens, early voting is a convenience, and a relatively new one at that.

Liberals raise the spectre of Jim Crow every time reasonable requirements are put into place. It demonstrates nothing more than their penchant for exaggeration and cynical use of any tool that can paint their opponents with the ugly brush of racism.

ID requirements are much less dangerous to democracy than a lack of them. If those who vote don’t have to prove they are citizens and entitled to do so, the result in tight races will be skewed. In fact, it’s reasonable to suppose that many of those most fanatically opposed to vote ID laws are primarily concerned that a useful cover for voter fraud will be eliminated.


ObamaCare Is Failing Exactly The Way Critics Said It Would

By Investor's Business Daily • Investor's Business Daily

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Aetna’s decision to abandon its ObamaCare expansion plans and rethink its participation altogether came as a surprise to many. It shouldn’t have. Everything that’s happened now was predicted by the law’s critics years ago.

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said that this was supposed to be a break-even year for its ObamaCare business. Instead, the company has already lost $200 million, which it expect that to hit $320 million before the year it out. He said the company was abandoning plans to expand into five other states and is reviewing whether to stay in the 15 states where Aetna (AET) current sells ObamaCare plans.

Aetna’s announcement follows UnitedHealth Group’s (UNH) decision to leave most ObamaCare markets, Humana’s (HUM) decision to drop out of some, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s announcement that it was quitting the individual market in Minnesota, Continue reading


How The Left Is Weaponizing The American Legal System

Various progressive factions have undertaken an effort to criminalize dissent using the courts and statutory law.

By Daniel Payne • The Federalist

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For quite some time the American Left has been busy turning American law into a partisan political weapon. Various progressive factions have undertaken a disparate and uncoordinated but still ideologically homogeneous effort to criminalize dissent using the courts and statutory law.

By most traditional metrics, these efforts have been failures: the liberals have often lost, and the conservative targets have avoided jail time or crippling criminal or civil convictions or penalties. But the weaponization of our legal system should not be judged by traditional metrics. The point is not for liberals to “win” any particular lawsuit or legal enforcement so much as it is to use lawsuits and the law as the weapons in and of themselves. The process is the punishment. And in most of these cases the punishment is very severe. That’s the idea.

In large part this reflects growing liberal opposition to a pluralistic society: not merely opposition to ideas but rather opposition to ideas about ideas, a strong and deliberate enmity towards intellectual diversity and dissenting thought. Gay marriage, the “settled science” of climate change, the morality of abortion, the wisdom of allowing grown men into little girls’ restrooms—all of these things (and many other liberal ballyhoos) are assumed to be unassailable. “It’s 2016,” many on the Left will say, sneeringly. Meaning: “It is no longer appropriate or acceptable for you to say or think things with which I disagree.”

The Left’s Hatred for Dissent

It should thus come as no surprise that the victims of this “lawfare” are almost universally conservative. The liberal order is in the midst of a great ideological hardening in which its adherents view progressivism’s domestic ambitions not merely as better or even superlative but as morally sui generis: progressive ideology is seen as the singular salvific political option, and conservatism is viewed as an evil mix between Nazism and antebellum pro-slavery racism. (A few years ago some researchers at my alma mater wrote a study linking conservative beliefs to “psychotism;” that paper turned out to be fatally flawed, but the belief that conservatives are all dictators at heart persists throughout much of our political landscape.)

Yet America is, at least by the standards of the rest of the Western world, a remarkably pluralistic nation: more so than a great deal of Western Europe, anyway, where many countries’ speech codes are draconian enough to preempt a great deal of political and cultural speech altogether. (In 2010 an English preacher was arrested for claiming homosexuality is a sin; in Scotland a man was arrested for an allegedly offensive post on Facebook regarding immigrants.)

The modern liberal impulse cannot very well tolerate a society that allows for multiple viewpoints, but the American tradition of free speech—along with its damaged but still vibrant culture of conservatism and conservative political thought—means that much of our political debate is still favorable ground for conservatives. That’s the way America was designed, intentionally and with forethought: to allow for dissent, to foster it, even to encourage it.

So the Left is turning to lawfare: a systematic effort to turn the American legal system against liberalism’s political opponents. The point is to take the court system (which is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of justice) and the law itself (which in many cases is ideologically neutral) and convert both into partisan weapons for liberal political advancement. It should cause you no small measure of discomfort to know that the Left has been largely successful in these efforts. Lawfare works.

Let’s look at some of the Left’s most prominent examples of lawfare to get an idea of how it works: how the law is used to squelch dissent, silence conservative voices, and punish incorrect opinions.

David Daleiden and Planned Parenthood

Daleiden is the founder of the Center for Medical Progress and the undercover investigator who exposed Planned Parenthood’s program to chop up aborted babies and sell their body parts to medical technology companies. Daleiden pretended to be a buyer interested in purchasing baby body parts from Planned Parenthood, and he secretly recorded high-ranking Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of dead baby organs.

Planned Parenthood was humiliated globally and implicated in countless felonies, so Daleiden had to be punished. He was charged with the purchase and sale of human organs, a misdemeanor, as well as tampering with a government record, a felony. His home was raided, with damning Planned Parenthood footage allegedly seized. Exemplifying the corrupt and partisan bias behind the charges, the prosecuting attorney general had financial ties to Planned Parenthood, and the attorney general’s office allegedly shared evidence with Planned Parenthood even though a judge had ordered them not to.

After months and months, a judge dismissed both charges against Daleiden (and one against his partner). The dismissal surely represents a great victory for the First Amendment (and for the pro-life movement). But the message was also clear: if you cross the pro-abortion Left—especially if you embarrass them in front of the whole world and expose their barbarous practices—you may face a costly, time-consuming, protracted legal battle.

Rick Perry and Travis County

A few years ago, a Texas district attorney from Travis County, Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, was pulled over for drinking and driving with a 0.239 blood alcohol level. While in custody she repeatedly threatened to retaliate professionally in her capacity as district attorney against the police officers involved.

As a result, Rick Perry—who was governor of Texas at the time—threatened to veto funding for a Texas anticorruption unit Lehmberg herself headed. It makes sense: why would a governor want to fund a public corruption task force headed by a woman so obviously neck-deep in corruption herself?

Perry followed through on his threat to veto. Shortly thereafter, a grand jury indicted Perry on charges he had abused his power of office. Texans for Public Justice, a liberal advocacy group, had advocated for the indictment. Eighteen months later the charges were dismissed. In the meantime, Perry had been forced to deal with the indictment (and a potential 109 years in prison) while running his presidential campaign.

In fact, Perry believed the indictment was one of the reasons he performed poorly in the Republican primary. Whether or not that was the case, the damage had already been done: as punishment for exercising a legitimate and proper function as governor of Texas, Perry’s life had been ensnared in an expensive, distracting, hassling court case for a year and a half. Republican governors elsewhere were meant to take note of what happens when they draw the ire of liberals and corrupt Democratic officials.

The Wisconsin John Doe Affair

A number of years ago, the Gestapo came to modern-day America. Families in Wisconsin woke up in the early morning to find veritable squadrons of police officers at their doors. Police would barge in, seize computers and other sensitive information, and order the families to keep their mouths shut. The experiences were traumatic enough that many people did not want to speak on the record about them, if at all.

What had these families done—laundered money, engaged in the drug trade, committed murder? None of the above: the families were instead guilty of being conservative. A petty, vindictive, hyperpartisan Democratic district attorney named John Chisholm had used a clever legal maneuver known as a “John Doe” investigation to harass, intimidate, and terrify conservative Wisconsonites suspected of illegal political coordination with Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Assisted by Judge Barbara Kluka, Chisholm went after anyone and everyone he could. Families were traumatized to the point that stable marriages were in danger of dissolving. Conservative advocacy groups were muzzled.

In service to a political agenda, Wisconsin Democrats turned the state into a weapon against innocent American citizens. If you were one of the targeted families or individuals—or if you simply lived next door to people, or a few streets over—you’d probably think twice about participating in the democratic process in the future, at least if your opinions are conservative.

Mark Steyn and Michael Mann

Several years ago, conservative commentator Mark Steyn, writing at National Review Online, called global warming scientist and alarmist Michael Mann’s work on climate change “fraudulent.” In response, Mann sued both Steyn and National Review. That was in 2012; the case is still dragging on in a Washington DC court. Steyn has been vocal about the astronomical cost of fighting a years-long court battle; the legal battle also led to Steyn parting ways with National Review, for which Steyn had written for many years.

This isn’t Mann’s first lawsuit: he sued Canadian scientist Tim Ball for libel five years ago when Ball suggested Mann should be in prison for his role in the Climategate controversy.

Based on the Climategate e-mails, there are actually serious questions about the scientific validity of Mann’s work; the kind of rhetoric Steyn invoked was perfectly justified in light of those concerns. But Mann isn’t interested in restoring his good name (a name that was already rather sullied to begin with); he is interested in punishing Steyn and National Review with an endless, extremely expensive court battle that will discourage them (and others) from commenting on climate change in the future.

In addition to these and other instances of lawfare, there are several troubling indications that liberals want to expand the reach of vindictive lawsuits and law enforcement.

Global Warming and RICO

After years of alarmism and hysteria, climate change activists are dismayed to find out that the general public really doesn’t care all that much about global warming. Angry and embarrassed by the failure of the climate change campaign, liberals are turning towards a new tool to help quash dissent on the subject: lawsuits.

Last year Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse proposed using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) to prosecute fossil fuel companies for “climate denial.” Earlier this year a professor from the University of Wisconsin argued the same thing. Multiple climate scientists subsequently advocated in favor of prosecuting climate dissidents. Incredibly, the U.S. attorney general signaled an openness to the idea.

These prosecutions haven’t yet begun. But they are gaining currency on the Left, and you can be sure this idea will continue to gain traction, especially if global warming hysteria continues to be ignored and alarmists humiliated by this lack of interest.

Prosecuting Gun Manufacturers

Another public policy area in which liberals have consistently suffered humiliating defeats is that of guns. From the Supreme Court’s recent landmark Second Amendment rulings to the liberalization of gun laws at the federal, state, and local levels to continued widespread support for American gun ownership, the Left surely cannot help but feel embarrassed over firearms.

As a result, liberals have indicated a willingness to repeal a law that protects gun manufacturers from frivolous anti-gun lawsuits. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shields gun companies from being held liable for criminal use of the firearms they produce. This makes sense: one would not, after all, sue Ford or Chevrolet if one of their cars was used in a drunk-driving incident (like the one for which Lehmberg was arrested).

But liberals recognize the power of strategic lawsuits, so in recent years have been clamoring to repeal the PLCAA and allow people to sue gun manufacturers for crimes the manufacturers had absolutely nothing to do with. Earlier this year Democrats in Congress proposed a bill to allow just that. If liberals eventually get their way, gun ownership could be targeted not by traditional and fair democratic means but by the cynical and vindictive use of the court system. American citizens could have their rights stolen from them through crazy and indefensible lawsuits.

It is worth pointing out that it is not merely Democrats who have advocated and celebrated such noxious and underhanded tactics. The Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump, has signaled he wants to use libel laws to harass and intimidate people who criticize him. In fact, as a private citizen, he’s done it already, by his own admission: he once sued an author who criticized him, and he did it specifically “to make [the author’s] life miserable.” But of course Trump was a Democrat and a liberal for many years, so we might expect this from him.

How to Protect Americans from Legal Bullies

These efforts represent a serious threat to the American way of life. There are in fact laws in many states that are meant to prevent frivolous lawsuits; they are known as anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statutes, and they can be invaluable for avoiding these types of attacks. Congress should look into passing a federal anti-SLAPP provision. There should also be tighter oversight and policing of the kinds of statutory abuses that corrupt politicians like Chisholm engage in.

Liberalism itself has numerous structural flaws against which conservatives should argue. But this latest strain of progressive political tactic represents a new, almost existential problem: an attempt to use American law to shrivel the acceptable boundaries of American political thought. If you have the wrong opinions about climate change; if you expose the wrong sordid scandal at the wrong abortion clinic; if you support the wrong candidate, you may be a target for a crippling, frightening, stressful lawsuit or legal barrage. Your life may be derailed. You may lose your savings, your job, your health, your family.

Of course, you can avoid all of these negative consequences—by keeping your mouth shut and toeing the liberal party line. That’s always an option. And it’s the one they want you to choose.


Report: Hillary Clinton’s Job Creation as NY Senator Far Below What She Promised

By Natalie Johnson • Washington Free Beacon

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Hillary Clinton vowed to create 200,000 new jobs in Upstate New York during her time as a senator representing the state, but a new report published Monday found that the Democratic nominee’s efforts fell far below projections.

While upstate jobs rose 0.2 percent overall during Clinton’s tenure in the Senate, manufacturing jobs fell nearly 25 percent, the Washington Post reported, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Analysis of Clinton’s first Senate term revealed that Upstate New York actually lost jobs. The Public Policy Institute in Albany studied BLS data and found that between October 2001 and December 2006, Upstate New York lost more than 31,000 payroll jobs.

The Clinton campaign did not comment on how man jobs were created during Clinton’s tenure but directed the Washington Post to statistics from the New York State Department of Labor showing that Upstate New York had gained 117,000 jobs during the former first lady’s first term. The Post reported it was unable to confirm the number, saying that the state agency doesn’t “use Upstate New York as a specific regional area to measure employment.”

Clinton was reelected for her second term in November 2006 before leaving the Senate in January 2009 to become secretary of state.

The Washington Post reported:

The former first lady was unable to pass the big-ticket legislation she introduced to benefit the upstate economy. She turned to smaller-scale projects, but some of those fell flat after initial glowing headlines … Many promised jobs never materialized and others migrated to other states as she turned to her first presidential run, said former officials who worked with her in New York … In March 2001, she introduced seven bills to stimulate the upstate economy–“part of a larger partnership to spur job creation across our country,’’ Clinton said. None of the measures passed, records show.

Clinton has promised repeatedly on the campaign trail that she would “make the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.”

The new report from the Post could cast a shadow over the Clinton campaign’s focus on her time in the Senate, when she vowed to revive a depressed Upstate New York.


Record 600 Major Regulations Imposed Under Obama

New burdensome regulation issued every 3 days

By Elizabeth Harrington • Washington Free Beacon

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The federal government has imposed a new major regulation every three days since President Barack Obama took office, as the administration has shattered the record for implementing regulations costing the economy $100 million or more.

The Obama administration has now issued 600 major regulations, the center-right policy institute the American Action Forum noted in a recent report.

“One year ago, the American Action Forum (AAF) celebrated a regulatory milestone, of sorts: 500 major regulations,” wrote Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy. “A major regulation has an economic impact of $100 million or more and can significantly affect prices for consumers.” Continue reading


Sen. Johnson finally answers Clinton’s infamous question: ‘What difference, at this point, does it make?’

By Jason Russell • Washington Examiner

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On Jan. 23, 2013, Hillary Clinton asked an infamous question about the attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton said. And Republicans have been attacking her for that line ever since.

“Why didn’t you just pick up the phone and call the survivors?” was the simple question Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., asked Clinton that day. Tuesday night at the Republican National Convention, he finally answered Clinton’s question.

“It made a difference to the young Yazidi woman I met who was captured and brutalized by ISIS barbarians, the joy of life hauntingly absent in her eyes,” Johnson said. “It made a difference to the businessmen traveling through the airports in Brussels and Istanbul, who just wanted to make it home to their family and their friends.

“It made a difference to the ordinary Americans sharing holiday cheer at a Christmas party in San Bernardino. It made a difference to the young men and women dancing on a summer night at a club in Orlando. And it made a difference to the families watching fireworks at a celebration of freedom in Nice.”

Although Johnson spent most of his speech attacking Clinton, he also attacked the Democratic foe running against him in November: former Sen. Russ Feingold.

“Even after 9/11, [Feingold] was the only senator to vote against giving law enforcement the tools they need to help stop international terror. During his 18-year Senate career, he also voted against authorizing our military 11 separate times.” He said the world is too dangerous to elect either Clinton or Feingold.

After formally winning the Republican nomination, it was Donald Trump’s night. But Johnson mentioned him only once, toward the end of his speech. “Donald Trump and Mike Pence understand that these must be America’s top priorities,” Johnson said, referring to defeating the Islamic State. “They will be strong leaders, working with Republicans in the House and Senate to achieve a goal that can unite us all: a safe, prosperous and secure America.”


PBS Freaks Out at Benghazi Mom’s Allegedly Historic ‘Intense Animus’ Against Hillary Clinton

By Tim Graham • Newsbusters

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PBS covered the Republican convention for three hours of prime time on Monday night, in association with its pubcasting buddies at NPR. But they were allergic to showing any Hillary-scandal films that were offered on the convention floor. As a mini-documentary ran about Benghazi, PBS anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff clumsily talked over it, and NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson had a wide-eyed freakout at what she claimed was a historically “intense animus” against an opposing candidate.

GWEN IFILL: Mara Liasson, why is it that this Benghazi episode gets so much attention? Why does it resonate, as it is tonight with the crowd?

MARA LIASSON: This is something that really for a lot of Republicans, and Hillary Clinton opponents, kind of crystallizes the worst thing about her, that she caused the deaths of these, of these soldiers and other personnel. I don’t know if Mark remembers a time when so much intense animus has been directed at the opposing candidate. This strikes me as being pretty intense. Continue reading


EPA stonewalled records requests by Republican-led states

By Michael Bastasch • Daily Caller

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Attorneys general from a dozen Republican-led states say the Environmental Protection Agency has been dragging its feet since February on their fee waiver requests, adding to a pattern of the agency making it harder for conservatives to obtain government records.

Twelve states with Republican administrations sent a Freedom of Information Act request for records regarding EPA “sue and settle” negotiations with outside environmental groups in lawsuits. These suits led to the agency entering into consent decrees that forced more federal intervention into state environmental plans.

“Oklahoma and other states seek this information out of substantial concern with EPA’s practice because it directly results in minimizing the substantive role of the States in energy, land use and environmental regulatory programs in a manner that is contrary to the cooperative federalism structure set forth in federal law and the United States Constitution,” wrote Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt on behalf of the twelves states. “The EPA must be transparent about its actions.”

The EPA denied fee waiver requests to the twelve attorneys general and the decision was appealed by the states in March. However, the EPA has been dragging its feet, twice asking for more time to consider their appeal.

The states are especially concerned given reports that the EPA has been routinely denying fee waiver requests to conservative groups seeking government records, while granting them to environmental groups that seek to push more federal involvement in state environmental rules.

The free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute obtained documents showing that since January 2012, the EPA granted fee waivers for 92 percent of FOIA requests from major environmental groups, while the agency rejected or ignored 81 percent fee waiver requests from conservative groups.

According to the states’ February FOIA request, the EPA has entered into at least 45 settlements with environmental groups under the Clean Air Act in the last three years, forcing the agency to engage in rulemaking. When this happens, the states — which have to implement the new rules — are kept out of the process.

“Not only does EPA’s action harm and jeopardize the States’ role as a partner with EPA, but it harms the interests of the citizens of the Requesting States,” reads the FOIA request sent by Pruitt and the states in February. The EPA has also disclosed nearly $1 million in attorneys’ fees to these groups.

Earlier this year, seventeen states, including Oklahoma, pushed back against the EPA’s new proposal that would revoke existing state implementation plans that grant exemption to fines for power plants and other emitters that exceed emissions limits during times of startup, shutdown, and malfunction (SSM). The new EPA rule was the result of a legal settlement with the Sierra Club.

If the rule becomes final, emitting facilities could be fined if they have excess emissions during times currently under SSM protection.

“The startling disparity in treatment strongly suggests EPA’s actions are possibly part of a broader effort to collude with groups that share the agency’s political agenda and discriminate against states and conservative organizations,” wrote Republicans including Rep. Darrell Issa and Sens. David Vitter, Chuck Grassley and Jim Inhofe in a letter to the EPA.

“EPA is instead making environmental policy on its own and with special interest groups and then forcing the states to comply with these new policies. This is far from what Congress had in mind,” a conservative environmental lawyer close to the issue told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In February, twelve states — Oklahoma, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wyoming — requested records pertaining to settlements the EPA entered into with environmental groups over state Regional Haze implementation plans.

The agency denied their request, arguing that the states did not express specific intent to disseminate the information to the public. However, the states did mention in their FOIA request that the information would be disseminated to the public. The states appealed, and the EPA has twice asked for more time to review the appeal.

If the agency doesn’t grant Oklahoma and the other eleven states’ fee waiver request by May 31, the states will act to “compel EPA’s compliance with applicable law.”

Republican senators pressed President Obama’s EPA nominee Gina McCarthy on the issue in the wake of her hearings.

“EPA can only approve State implementation plans that are consistent with the Clean Air Act and our regulations. I am committed to working with States so that more of these plans can be approved and litigation can be avoided,” McCarthy responded to a question regarding states challenging the EPA’s actions on state Regional Haze plans.

The EPA did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.


IRS Finds Missing Hard Drive Related to Controversial Hiring of Elite Law Firm

By Alexander Hendrie • Americans for Tax Reform

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The IRS now says it has recovered a hard drive belonging to a former top employee, months after the agency admitted it had erased the data despite the existence of a preservation order.

The hard drive belonged to the agency’s former director of transfer pricing operations at the IRS Large Business and International Division, likely a key employee involved in the agency’s controversial, taxpayer-funded hiring of elite white shoe law firm Quinn Emanuel.

Earlier this year, the IRS quietly announced it had erased this hard drive, despite a preservation order borne from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Under pressure from Congressional investigators, IRS chief John Koskinen last month said that the agency had discovered a backup of the employees’ hard drive. Now, the agency has changed its story a third time, saying it has discovered the employee’s hard drive.

Given the constant feet dragging and changing stories, it is likely the IRS would never have recovered this hard drive without pressure from Congressional investigators.

While this story again proves the ineptitude of the IRS, of bigger concern to taxpayers should be the agency’s decision to hire an elite law firm to perform audits. There is no reason the agency should be hiring costly outside counsel that has zero experience protecting sensitive, confidential taxpayer data.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened when the agency hired elite law firm Quinn Emanuel under an initial $2.2 million contract despite the firm having never even conducted an audit.

Not only is this wasteful, it is also unnecessary. The IRS already has access to around 40,000 employees responsible for enforcement. The IRS can also turn to the office of Chief Counsel or a Department of Justice attorney, both of which have the expertise to conduct this kind of work, without risking sensitive information.

This hiring decision was described as “troubling” by a federal judge and prompted a probe by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Ultimately, while this decision appears to be reckless and unnecessary, it appears not to break any laws.

But regardless, the IRS should not be allowed to spend taxpayer resources on an unqualified trial law firm given the agencies record failing to safeguard taxpayer data and using its power to target taxpayers for their political beliefs.


No, President Obama, It’s Not Easier To Buy A Glock Than A Book

According to Pew Research Center, 92 percent of teens use the Internet every day.

by Sean Davis     •     The Federalist

During his speech at the memorial service in Dallas for murdered police officers, President Barack Obama lamented that his words have little power to effect change, then proceeded to peddle blatant, easily refutable lies about guns.

“I’ve seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change,” Obama said. “I’ve seen how inadequate my own words have been.”

One reason for that inadequacy may be that he says things he knows aren’t true. Over the weekend, Obama said, “I think it’s very hard to untangle the motives of this shooter.” Given that the shooter himself told police that he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” there doesn’t seem to be much left to untangle. Continue reading


Dem AGs Accused of Flouting Public Records Laws

Conservative legal group blasts agreement to withhold documents

by Lachlan Markay • Washington Free Beacon

A conservative legal group is accusing state Democratic officials of conspiring to flout public records laws in order to keep secret details of a campaign to bring racketeering charges against climate policy dissenters.

Democratic attorneys general led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman are seeking to block efforts to obtain documents about their efforts by invoking an overbroad claim to secrecy in ongoing legal proceedings, according to the Energy and Environment (E&E) Legal Institute.

“These activist AGs are trying to write themselves out from freedom of information laws their legislatures have written them into,” E&E senior legal fellow Chris Horner said in a Wednesday statement. Continue reading


Congress Seeks Legal Recourse to Stop Obama Admin’s Secret Iran Giveaways

Claims Obama admin misled Congress about purchase of Iranian nuclear material

by Adam Kredo     •     Washington Free Beacon

Congress is seeking legal remedies to block further concessions by the Obama administration to Iran, according to a leading member of the House Intelligence Committee, who told the Free Beacon that the administration has been systemically misleading Congress about the nature and scope of its giveaways to Iran.

Obama administration officials confirmed overnight that an $8.6 million deal to purchase nuclear material from Iran was functionally finalized in late April. The administration had in recent months refused to answer questions about the payment from lawmakers and journalists, claiming that the deal had not yet been finalized.

The revelation triggered condemnation from leading members of Congress as well as top nuclear experts, who linked the administration’s contradictory statements to efforts by U.S. officials to quietly promote Iran as a legitimate nuclear industry player and economic power. Continue reading


Dem Senator’s Floor Speech to Attack Nonprofit Critical of Her

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen targets group that exposed green group coordination

by Lachlan Markay     •      Washington Free Beacon

A Democratic Senator will take to the chamber floor on Tuesday to attack a group that exposed her secret collaboration with environmentalist pressure groups in crafting official press statements.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) is scheduled to attack the Energy and Environment Legal Institute on the Senate floor on Tuesday as part of a coordinated PR offensive against conservative and libertarian nonprofit groups.

Nineteen Senate Democrats involved in the effort were tasked with using floor speeches to attack specific groups, which they are branding as parts of a “web of denial” seeking to impede Democratic energy and environmental policies. Continue reading