The Imperial President

The Imperial President

Most of Government’s Own Watchdogs Say They’re Stonewalled

Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97/August 07, 2014

    More than half of the federal government’s inspectors general have joined to lodge a formal complaint that the Obama administration places “serious limitations” on their ability to uncover waste, fraud, and abuse.

    A total of 47 of the 73 government watchdogs sent the unprecedented letter to leaders of two congressional committees, Fox News reported.

     In their complaint, the inspectors general say:

    Agency actions that limit, condition, or delay access thus have profoundly negative consequences for our work: they make us less effective, encourage other agencies to take similar actions in the future, and erode the morale of the dedicated professionals that make up our staffs.

    The watchdogs include IGs from the National Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Justice. They wrote Tuesday to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

    They call on the oversight leaders to reaffirm the commitment of Congress to helping IGs combat waste, fraud, and abuse, and to exert “all available powers to enforce” access to agencies that refuse to comply.

    Government bureaus, the IGs write, typically prevented them from obtaining relevant information by calling it “privileged.” These restrictions, they add, risk “leaving the agencies insulated from scrutiny and unacceptably vulnerable to mismanagement and misconduct — the very problems that our offices were established to review and that the American people expect us to be able to address.”

    Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that the IGs’ letter is both unprecedented and telling:

  This unprecedented complaint by a majority of the federal government’s inspectors general that the Obama administration is obstructing their ability to investigate corruption shows just how far the administration is willing to go to hide its wrongdoing.

    The IGs describe three specific instances in which government agencies would not give them access to records and other information needed to do their oversight work properly:

  The Peace Corps refused to provide records of reported sexual assaults that were needed for an investigation into how the agency handled such cases.

   In a statement to Fox News, a Peace Corps spokeswoman reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to “working with the inspector general to ensure rigorous oversight while protecting the confidentiality and privacy of volunteers who are sexually assaulted.”

The Department of Justice would not produce three separate reviews until officials learned that the documents would be of assistance to the agency’s leadership.

DOJ spokesman Brian Fallon told Fox that the inspector general received all information requested, but that “because the documents at issue included grand jury material, credit reports, and other information whose dissemination is restricted by law, it was necessary to identify exceptions to the law to accommodate the inspector general’s request.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board refused to provide requested documents during an investigation.

     House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said of the 47 IGs’ letter:

If there is anyone who should have transparency [from the government], it should be the watchdogs inside the government working for the president.

    Because many IG reports and activities are not public until their completion, Issa said, “some of the best examples of obstruction probably are the ones the IGs don’t want to say in a public format.”

    Inspectors general played a crucial role in investigating allegations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. They also identified internal weaknesses at the Export-Import Bank.

    Inspectors general for both the IRS and the Export-Import Bank agencies signed the letter.

    Von Spakovsky,  co-author of a book about Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department, said the allegations by the agency’s inspector general are notable. He told The Daily Signal:

   The complaint by the Justice Department’s IG is particularly concerning and very revealing. Eric Holder has no hesitation in abusing his power to prevent the public from finding out about the rank politicization of justice and the attorney general’s corrupt exploitation of his authority as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States.

    In the wake of the Watergate scandal, Congress in 1978 passed the Inspector General Act establishing the initial 12 IG offices. The law stipulates that each official watchdog has “complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that inspector general’s oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens,” the letter to the congressional committees states.

     Issa, saying “there has never been a letter even with a dozen IGs complaining,” called the letter unprecedented. He added:

   This is the majority of all inspectors general saying not just in the examples they gave, but government wide, they see a pattern that is making them unable to do their job.

    The Oversight Committee chairman said he intends to hold hearings to delve into issues raised by the IGs’ letter when lawmakers return to Washington in September.

 The Supreme Court Vs. Eric Holder

John Fund / Hans von Spakovsky / @HvonSpakovsky / July 13, 2014

If Eric Holder were a baseball player, he’d have been benched long ago — if not kicked off the team. His batting average before the Supreme Court is abysmal, losing again and again in his efforts to undermine the Constitution.

This term featured four big strike downs.

First was Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the Supremes tossed out ObamaCare’s contraceptive abortion mandate and upheld the First Amendment rights of several family-owned businesses to make their living in conformance with their religious beliefs.

Although the government was not party to another case, Harris v. Quinn, the Justice Department filed an amicus brief on the side of Illinois and the SEIU, arguing that unwilling home health-care workers could be forced into unions (and made to pay compulsory dues) simply because their services are paid for through Medicaid.

Fortunately, the Court ruled against Illinois’s heavy-handed attempt to help bolster its political allies, public sector unions.

On June 26, in National Labor Relations Board v. Canning, all nine Justices ruled that President Obama’s “recess” appointments to the NLRB violated the Constitution.

Not only did Obama’s own judicial appointees vote against him (including his former solicitor general), but the majority opinion was written by Stephen Breyer, a liberal stalwart of the Court.

The Administration also lost United State v. Wurie, in which the Holder Justice Department claimed that the police and federal authorities did not need a search warrant to seize all of the information stored in the cellphone of someone who had been arrested.

Once again, the administration lost all nine justices.

The basic invasion of privacy and violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizures represented by the administration’s position is in line with its frightening view of governmental power over its citizens.

Canning and Wurie are only the latest losses of the administration in which all nine Supreme Court justices ruled against the government.

In fact, there have been 20 such cases during this administration — and even more if you include cases in which the administration filed an amicus brief, such as in McCullen v. Coakley, the free-speech case that was handed down the same day as the recess appointments case.

The Obama administration filed an amicus brief in that case supporting the Massachusetts law in question and helped argue the case before the Supreme Court.

But all nine justices found the Massachusetts law, which created a 35-foot “buffer” zone around abortion clinics, violated the First Amendment by restricting speech in public areas “that have historically been open to the public for speech activities.”

It is no surprise that the administration supported a law that restricted the voice of pro-life supporters.

That is in accord with its general attack on the political speech and activities of disfavored conservative advocacy organizations through the IRS and other government agencies. The positions taken by this administration in the other 9-to-0 cases are just as overbroad.

In 2012’s Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, DOJ displayed an open hostility to religious freedom by claiming that the federal government had the right, as the Supreme Court termed it, to “interfere” in a church’s employment decisions on the hiring and firing of its ministers and religious teachers.

The Supreme Court was clearly astounded at the arguments being made by the Justice Department and unanimously rejected it.

In Sackett v. EPA, the administration tried to prevent a family from defending itself in court and contesting a punitive order from EPA bureaucrats imposing a fine of $75,000 a day for trying to develop a lot in a residential neighborhood which the EPA considered a wetland. The administration lost.

In US v. Jones, just like in the Riley/Wurie cases, the administration claimed that law enforcement could attach a GPS device to your car without a warrant or even any suspicion of criminal activity.

The Court unanimously rejected this position and, in a concurring opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the administration was trying to invade “privacy interests long afforded, and undoubtedly entitled to, Fourth Amendment protection.”

Typically, the Justice Department does very well before the Supreme Court. Holder has made that a losing record.

That’s because, as legal scholar Ilya Shapiro says, the administration has “relied on outlandish legal theories that pushed a constitutional interpretation of extreme federal power.”

Holder and Obama have argued that we as Americans don’t have the right to free speech, the right to privacy, the right to due process or the freedom of religion.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court has become the last defense for those who still believe in those rights.

Originally posted on the New York Post.

IG Access Letter to Congress

One Less U.S. Apology Required

Paul Mirengoff

     In his 2009 Cairo speech, President Obama declared that “in the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.” Obama clearly intended to convey that the United States shares some of the blame for its longstanding dispute with the current regime.

     In conceding wrongdoing in connection with the overthrow of the government of Mohammad Mosaddeq and the restoration of the Shah, Obama was stating the conventional view of what happened in 1953. In fact, Bill Clinton had already apologized to the mullahs for the overthrow.

     The conventional view also has the imprimatur of Hollywood. The introduction of the hit movie Argo suggests that Iran’s 1979 Revolution was a belated response to the unjust overthrow 26 years earlier. (Scott and I have criticized that introduction.)

And last year, it was reported that the CIA had finally admitted its primary role in overthrowing Mosaddeq. As best I can determine, all the CIA actually did was release old documents in which Kermit Roosevelt Jr. (grandson of TR) boasts about the CIA’s alleged role. The conventional account was reinforced nonetheless.

But Ray Takeyh of the Council of Foreign Affairs, an Iranian-American and a liberal, has powerfully attacked the conventional view of U.S. responsibility for the overthrow of Mosaddeq. Takeyh attacks it most recently in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs.

Previously, he had made his case in the Weekly Standard.

Takeyh argues that Mosaddeq was destined to fall due to the internal opposition produced by the British response to his oil nationalization policy, and that the U.S. played an inconsequential role in his demise. He makes the following points:

  • 1. Mosaddeq, a popularly elected leader, antagonized the British by taking over the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, whose majority shareholder was the British government.
  • 2. Great Britain responded by, among other measures, discouraging European countries from buying Iran’s oil and interdicting Iranian ships that carried oil for export
  • 3. The U.S., under President Truman, tried to mediate the dispute and work out a compromise
  • 4. Mosaddeq wasn’t interested in compromising.
  • 5. Britain’s retaliatory measures dealt a huge blow to the Iranian oil industry, and to Iran’s economy generally.
  • 6. As a result, Mosaddeq became unpopular in Iran.
  • 7. Among those who turned against him were the mullahs — the predecessors of those who excoriate the U.S. for alleging toppling Mosaddeq and restoring the Shah.
  • 8. The Shah, fed up with Mosaddeq, announced he was leaving the country due to unspecified medical concerns
  • 9. Mass demonstrations broke out imploring the Shah to stay. (There is, according to Takeyh, no evidence that the CIA was behind these demonstrations).
  • 10. Mosaddeq responded by dissolving the Iranian legislature and holding a national referendum on this action.
  • 11. The election was rigged, as evidenced by the fact that 99 percent of vote went Mosaddeq’s way.
  • 12. The U.S. government, now led by President Eisenhower, urged Mosaddeq to settle his dispute with Great Britain, but also began considering a British plan further undermine Mosaddeq.
  • 13. The CIA participated with Britain’s M16 in this plan which included paying journalists to write stories critical of the prime minister, charging that he was corrupt and power hungry, and alleging that he was of Jewish descent.
  • 14. With U.S. encouragement, the Shah signed a royal decree dismissing Mosaddeq and appointing General Fazlollah Zahedi as the new prime minister.
  • 15. The Shah sent an emissary to deliver the decree to Mosaddeq, who refused to accept it and promptly arrested the emissary.
  • 16. The Eisenhower administration did not pursue the matter further. Indications are that it was prepared to change direction and “snuggle up” to Mosaddeq (in the words of Bedell Smith, a high level State Department official and the president’s close confidant).
  • 17. General Zahedi, however, did not give up. He published the Shah’s decree.
  • 18. This led to major demonstrations against Mosaddeq throughout the country.
  • 19. The U.S. did not take these demonstrations seriously. The U.S. ambassador cabled Washington to say they would probably prove insignificant.
  • 20. Mosaddeq commanded the military to restore order, but instead many soldiers joined in the demonstrations.
  • 21. The army chief of staff told Mosaddeq he had lost control of many of his troops and of the capital city.
  • 22. Mosaddeq went into hiding, but later turned himself in.
  • 23. The Shah was restored.

If this scenario is accurate, the United States was a bit player in the overthrow of Mosaddeq. The prime minister authored his demise and the Iranians carried it out.

The U.S. did nothing that rose to the level of requiring an apology, much less an apology to brutal theocrats whose predecessors supported the overthrow of Mosaddeq.

Even under the popular version of the events of 1953, it would have been disgraceful for President Obama to come “hat in hand” to the mullahs out of guilt over Mosaddeq’s ouster. If Takeyh’s version is correct, it is doubly disgraceful for Obama to do so.

Not surprisingly, there has been push back against Takeyh’s inconvenient (from a leftist point of view) version. The push back is less than persuasive.

The conventional version seems to rest largely on the self-aggrandizing account of Kermit Roosevelt, Jr. As Takeyh shows, that account seems inconsistent with the contemporaneous statements of the U.S. ambassador to Iran and the CIA’s acting director.

Takeyh concludes:

    “As Washington and Tehran struggle to end their protracted enmity, it would help greatly if the United States no longer felt the need to keep implicitly apologizing for its role in Mosaddeq’s ouster.

    As for the Islamic Republic, at a moment when it is dealing with internal divisions and uncertainties about its future, it would likewise help for it to abandon its outdated notions of victimhood and domination by foreigners and acknowledge that it was Iranians themselves who were the principal protagonists in one of the most important turning points in their country’s history.”

 

12 States Sue Obama Administration for Regulatory ‘Overreach’

Natalie Johnson /August 07, 2014

coal power plant

Photo: Richards/Record/Newscom

     Coal country is striking back at the federal government in the latest “war on coal” battle.

     Twelve states are suing the Environmental Protection Agency to deter impending restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

     The states filed the lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, accusing the EPA of “overstepping its legal boundaries” under the Clean Air Act.

     West Virginia is leading the lawsuit along with Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina and Wyoming.“This lawsuit represents another effort by our office to invalidate the EPA’s proposed rule that will have devastating effects on West Virginia’s jobs and its economy,” West Virginia Atty. Gen. Patrick Morrisey said in a statement.

One West Virginia company said the EPA’s power-plant regulation jeopardizes 1,100 jobs.

    The state, which heavily relies on coal, has already begun to feel the regulation’s impact. A major coal company, Alpha Natural Resources, announced last week that it might lay off 1,100 West Virginia mining employees, citing the rule as one of the reasons.

Morrisey said his office plans to use “every legal tool available” to defend coal miners and their families from the Obama Administration’s “overreach.”

“We can’t afford to see more announcements like we saw with Alpha Natural Resources,” Morrisey said.

The EPA declined to comment directly on the lawsuit, but responded to Morrisey’s claim that the regulation will destroy the coal industry.

Liz Purchia, an EPA spokeswoman, asserted that the Clean Power Plan proposal gives states “enormous flexibility” in deciding how they would like to meet “pollution reduction goals,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

Heritage Foundation economist Nick Loris disagrees.

‘No state is going to escape the economic pain of higher energy costs,’ says @Heritage’s Nick Loris.

     “The EPA is telling states there’s flexibility in this regulation, but the reality is no state is going to escape the economic pain of higher energy costs these regulations will bring,” said Loris, Heritage’s Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow.

The lawsuit alleges that the EPA doesn’t have the legal authority to dictate the regulations, saying that the Clean Air Act prohibits the agency from regulating coal-fired power plants using different sections of the act.

“[The lawsuit] is a positive sign that states are stepping up,” Loris said. “More states should work together to prevent the EPA from limiting Americans’ energy choices.”

Obama Is Bypassing Congress Again. This Time It’s Going to Cost You.

Nicolas Loris / Nicole Rusenko /May 29, 2014

    Next week, the Obama administration is planning to unveil a climate action plan that it intends to implement without legislative approval. It’s a creative approach to governing, not unlike other executive actions  President Obama has taken to bypass Congress.

    When lawmakers refused to pass cap-and-trade legislation, Obama announced there was more than one way to skin the cat. Through climate plans, executive orders and regulatory action, he directed his agencies to find ways to curb the country’s carbon dioxide output and commit to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

     Leading the charge, unsurprisingly, is the Environmental Protection Agency, which will release its carbon-dioxide regulations for existing power plants on Monday. The plan will drive up energy prices for American families and businesses without making a dent in global temperatures.

 Our infographic explains what it means for jobs, incomes and the states hurt most.

 climate change scam

Climate Change Is a Fact. But These New Emissions Regulations Won’t Help the Environment.

Nicolas Loris / June 03, 2014

     Draft regulations released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency could cut carbon dioxide from existing power plants by 30 percent. Such a drastic cut will amount to a massive energy tax devoid of any benefit.

     President Obama warned us it was coming, when he said in in 2008 that electricity prices would “necessarily skyrocket” under his cap-and-trade proposal.  And when our elected officials rejected that, he said there was more than one way to skin the cat.

But now he’s singing a different tune.  Promoting the regulations, Obama said, “Your electricity bills will shrink as these standards spur investment in energy efficiency, cutting waste, and ultimately, we’re going to be saving money for homes and for businesses.”

     Electricity bills will shrink?  Is that a “if you like your insurance, you can keep it” type of promise?

     To attract state buy-in, the agency’s regulation has different targets for different states and would allow states flexibility in implementation plans. But flexibility would merely shift the costs around, not prevent them from happening. If anything, state and regional implementation plans would protect special interests, which could then pass the costs on to American families.  The president stressed that the regulation “provides a huge incentives for states and consumers to become more energy efficient.”

     Families and businesses don’t need a federal regulation or mandate to save money on energy. That incentive already exists: It’s called saving money.

Businesses and families make energy-saving investments when it makes sense to do so. The myopic view from the feds is that efficiency upgrades always make sense if they save money. And that’s not always the case. When the government forces efficiency choices on people, it takes away choices or overrides them.

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where these regulations drive down electricity bills. More than 80 percent of America’s energy needs are met through carbon-emitting conventional fuels. Last year, coal and natural gas provided 66 percent of U.S. electricity generation.

Whether it is by cap-and-trade, regulation or a straightforward tax, restricting carbon emissions would harm American families and businesses through higher energy costs. Families would pay more to use less electricity. The costs would reverberate throughout the economy as affected industries pass higher costs onto consumers. Simply put, consumers would consume less and producers would produce less, resulting in income cuts, jobs destroyed and lost economic output.

The economic pain stemming from the EPA’s regulation would spread throughout the country, but some would be harmed more than others.  A tax that increases energy prices would hit hardest against America’s poorest families. The median family spends about 5 cents out of every dollar on energy costs, but low-income families spend about 20 cents.

Further, some industries are more energy-intensive and thus hit harder by higher energy prices. Particularly alarming is the damage the EPA regulations would inflict on America’s manufacturing base.

What’s worse is the economic pain comes with no environmental gain.

Obama is right to say climate change is a fact.  A near-universal consensus does exist that manmade emissions have some warming effect; however, the controversy is about whether human activity is the primary driver of climate change and the magnitude of climate change induced by GHG emissions. Most importantly, no matter what one believes regarding climate change, one thing is clear: The regulations would not have any noticeable impact on global temperatures.