Tax Scandal Fells IRS Chief
Holder scolds Issa for ‘shameful’ demeanor
White House releases additional documents related to Benghazi response
Amb. Pickering Declines to Defend White House, State Department Accounts of Attack
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press today, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa said on Monday the Committee will formally ask the Benghazi Accountability Review Board co-chairs, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen, to submit to bipartisan depositions with Committee investigators. The Oversight Committee seeks the input of the co-chairs in response to assertions made by career State Department officials that the ARB report and process was flawed and let senior officials off the hook. After the interview, Ambassador Pickering told Chairman Issa that both he and Admiral Mullen would accept the invitation.
Issa on Unanswered Questions:“There are three distinct areas that haven’t been answered. First of all, a full understanding of why urgent requests repeatedly for more security before the attacks were denied. We’ve had statements that it wasn’t about money, but at the same time, people are asking for more security – they got less. The British ambassador has two assassination attempts and yet we keep a facility that was not able to withstand even a few minutes of attack. Then, those seven hours while the attack was going on: Was the response correct? Could it have been better? Why wasn’t – why weren’t things at least tried or revved up to be tried? Those are important questions. And then afterwards, how could you change talking points twelve times from what seems to be relatively right to what seems to be completely wrong.”
Issa on Next Step in Investigation:
“On Monday, I’ll be sending Ambassador Pickering a request for a deposition. We’re going to want to go through at length how the ARB reached its conclusions, who it interviewed, and why we believe there are shortcomings .. We have one witness who says I wanted to be interviewed and I wasn’t. One of the questions that came out of our hearing, Gregory Hicks – the acting ambassador – has not been allowed to look at the classified ARB report even though he is the foremost authority on at least what was happening in Tripoli and what the communication was.”
[After the interview, Ambassador Pickering told Chairman Issa that both he and Admiral Mullen would accept the invitation.]
Pickering Declines to Defend White House on Dishonest Account of Events:
David Gregory: “The Press Secretary to the President, Jay Carney, said back in November … this is what he said:”
Carney (video): “The White House and State Department have made clear that the single adjustment that was made to those talking points by either of these two institutions were changing the word ‘consulate’ to ‘diplomatic facility’ because consulate was inaccurate. Those talking points originated from the intelligence community, they reflected the IC’s best assessments of what they thought had happened.”
Gregory: “We know that’s not accurate. We know that, in fact, the State Department, Victoria Nuland was involved in removing from the talking points previous warnings about security and references to a terrorist group – an extremist group – being involved in the attack based on what was being reported on the ground and by intelligence. Is the Administration guilty of playing politics with terrorism?”
Pickering: “With full respect, the Accountability Review Board was there to look at the question of security. We did not examine talking points after the fact. It was not in our remit.”
Click here to watch the full interview with Chairman Issa and Ambassador Pickering on Meet the Press.
May 10, 2013
Contact: Ali Ahmad, 202.225.0037
Issa and Jordan: IRS Political Retaliation Tactics “Unconscionable”
WASHINGTON- Ahead of an impending report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Internal Revenue Service today disclosed that it had targeted certain tax-exempt organizations for their political beliefs.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio., requested the IG look into allegations of political retaliation last June. In response to the today’s disclosure and apology by IRS, Issa and Jordan issued the following statement:
“The fact that Americans were targeted by the IRS because of their political beliefs is unconscionable. The Committee will aggressively follow up on the IG report and hold responsible officials accountable for this political retaliation.”
Ali Ahmad | Communications Adviser
Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Chairman Darrell Issa
Press Line: (202) 225-0037
BlackBerry: (202) 821-9265
WASHINGTON – House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa today announced three witnesses who will appear at a full committee hearing, “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” on Wednesday, May 8, 2013, at 11:30 AM in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.
“I applaud these individuals for answering our call to testify in front of the Committee. They have critical information about what occurred before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks that differs on key points from what Administration officials – including those on the Accountability Review Board – have portrayed,” said Issa. “Our committee has been contacted by numerous other individuals who have direct knowledge of the Benghazi terrorist attack, but are not yet prepared to testify. In many cases their principal reticence of appearing in public is their concern of retaliation at the hands of their respective employers. While we may yet add additional witnesses, this panel will certainly answer some questions and leave us with many new ones.”
Mr. Mark Thompson
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism
US Department of State
Mr. Gregory Hicks
Foreign Service Officer and former Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’Affairs in Libya
US Department of State
Mr. Eric Nordstrom
Diplomatic Security Officer and former Regional Security Officer in Libya
US Department of State
In October 2012, the Oversight Committee held the first hearing on the Benghazi attacks, which exposed denials of security requests and forced the Administration to acknowledge that the attacks were not sparked by a protest of a YouTube video, contrary to claims made by Obama Administration officials.
Chairman’s Preview Statement
12:00pm in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building
On September 11, 2012, four Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya. We join all of these brave men’s family and colleagues in mourning their death and honoring their contributions to this country.
Yesterday, the State Department began the process of coming clean about what occurred in Benghazi. They made two witnesses available for interviews with this committee and, for the first time, publicly acknowledged the truth many had long suspected. Contrary to earlier assertions by Administration officials, there was no protest. The attack had nothing to do with a video made in California. The attack was a brutal and coordinated assault by terrorists on the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. I appreciate Secretary Clinton’s efforts to cooperate with this investigation. The steps she has taken to have those working under her tell the truth about what occurred is an important step in the right direction.
However, this hearing has been called for the expressed purpose of examining the security failures that led to the Benghazi tragedy. The “safe haven” within the compound, which some State Department officials seemed to think could protect the Benghazi compound’s inhabitants, did not work. The overall level of security at the compound did not meet the threat. This hearing is the result of concerned citizens, with direct knowledge of the events in Libya, unilaterally reaching out to the Committee. As we look back on what occurred, our challenge is to identify things that clearly went wrong and what – with the benefit of hindsight – should have been done differently.
Accounts from security officials who were on the ground and documents indicate that they repeatedly warned Washington officials about the dangerous situation in Libya. Instead, however, of moving swiftly to respond to these concerns, Washington officials seemed preoccupied with the concept of ‘normalization.’ We will ask our panel what ‘normalization’ means to them.
In the accounts we have heard, it included “artificial timelines” for removing American security personnel and replacing them with local Libyans. This occurred even as training delays, new threats, and logistical barriers seemed to present a compelling case for extending the deployment of American security forces. Requests for extensions and more security by the mission in Libya, however, appear to have often been rejected or – even more disturbingly – officials in Washington told diplomats in Libya not to even make them.
We know how the tragedy in Benghazi ended. The questions I put before our panel today are: What went wrong? What should have been done differently? What lessons must we quickly learn so terrorists do not use the attack on Benghazi as a template for other attacks?
Secretary Clinton has empanelled a blue ribbon board to fully investigate what occurred. Their work is important, and I respect the panel’s mission. The history of such panels – including those that examined the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and the bombing of the USS Cole – suggests, however, that their effort will take months if not years. State Department, however, would be unwise to delay efforts to improve how security questions are considered until after this report is complete.
This Committee wants to understand what the State Department recognizes went wrong, what it can do to avoid a reoccurrence, and how quickly it can institute changes. Protecting our diplomats has long been a bipartisan issue. Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans in the House voted to approve the bill that set the funding level for the State Department. I hope that Members today will stay focused on the dangers facing our diplomats and not allow the politics of the election season to creep into today’s hearing. Urgent attention to this security failure is required, that facts about what happened in Libya have driven this investigation and deserve to remain the focus of this hearing.
I appreciate our four witnesses appearing before us today. Each has long records of service to this nation, and we thank them for their efforts. I also express my particular thanks to the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Mr. Chaffetz, for leadership in this investigation. From traveling to Libya to get first-hand accounts from the ground to sharing his extensive expertise on national security, he has made invaluable contributions to what we have learned since we announced this hearing a little over a week ago.
Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Full Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa, (R-CA)
11:30 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building and streaming live at oversight.house.gov.
WASHINGTON- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) today announced that the Committee will convene for a hearing, “Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage,” on Wednesday, May 8 at 11:30 AM in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building.
“This Administration has offered the American people only a carefully selected and sanitized version of events from before, during, and after the Benghazi terrorist attacks” said Chairman Issa. “Not surprisingly, this version of events casts senior officials in the most favorable light possible.”
“Last October, the Oversight Committee exposed State Department denials of security requests made by our diplomats in Libya and forced the Obama Administration to concede that there never was a protest of a YouTube video. Next week’s hearing will expose new facts and details that the Obama Administration has tried to suppress.”
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
“Benghazi: Exposing Failure and Recognizing Courage”
Full Committee, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA)
11:30 a.m. in 2154 Rayburn House Office Building and streaming live at oversight.house.gov.
WASHINGTON- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) made the following statement in response to President Barack Obama’s assertion that he’s “not familiar” with Benghazi whistleblowers being blocked from telling their stories:
“A lawyer for Benghazi whistleblowers has publicly stated that the State Department is blocking her client’s ability to talk freely with counsel. Over the past two weeks, I have sent four letters requesting that this Administration make information available about how lawyers – who already have security clearances and are representing Benghazi whistleblowers – can be cleared to fully hear their clients’ stories. I have yet to receive any response from the Obama Administration.
“Even if the President really doesn’t know anything about someone wanting to come forward, his position should be that whistleblowers deserve protection and that anyone who has different information about Benghazi is free to come forward to Congress. The President’s unwillingness to commit himself to protecting whistleblowers only aids those in his Administration who are intimidating them.”
Issa’s four letters requesting that the Administration make information available for lawyers representing Benghazi whistleblowers:
4/16/13 letter to Department of State
4/16/13 letter to Central Intelligence Agency
4/16/13 letter to Department of Defense
4/26/13 letter to State Department
Click here to read about a counsel for a State Department whistleblower being blocked from helping her counsel.
“Hamel: No more taxes, Mr. President”
Public Notice Executive Director Gretchen Hamel editorializes in The Richmond Times Dispatch, “In business, you have to compete. The only way to attract new jobs and create economic growth is by cultivating a better environment for businesses to thrive. Virginians understand this, and so do their neighbors. North Carolina is considering legislation to drop its corporate tax rate to 4.9 percent, which would be the lowest in the Southeast. Why take that step? According to one of the bill’s primary sponsors, it will make North Carolina ‘more competitive for economic development’ and bring tax rates ‘in line with our neighboring states.’ So when President Obama issued his latest budget proposal on April 10, which included a pitch for some $580 billion in higher taxes, the first question most are asking is how higher taxes will make Virginia and America more competitive.”
“USPS losing $25 million daily with ‘broken business model’”
The Washington Post reports, “The U.S. Postal Service could become ‘a significant burden to the taxpayer’ if it does not get needed flexibility to change its business operations, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe told Congress Wednesday. Appearing before a congressional hearing for the first time since the Postal Service had to back away from a plan to reduce delivery days from six to five, Donahoe told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that ‘the Postal Service is currently operating with a broken business model.’ ‘We are losing $25 million dollars every day and we are on an unsustainable path,” he added. … Donahoe announced in February that a five-day delivery schedule would save $2 billion annually and would begin in August. He had to change course, he said, after congressional action ‘specifically designed to prevent the Postal Service from changing its delivery schedule. According to this law, we are now required to deliver mail as if it were the year 1983.’”
IRS Caught Employees Stealing Unemployment Benefits
The Tennessean reports, “First it was the families of dead people and state employees. Now, authorities say Internal Revenue Service employees in Tennessee were stealing unemployment and other benefits while fully employed. On Thursday, 13 of those employees were indicted on federal charges that they lied to get unemployment, food stamps, welfare and housing vouchers. An additional 11 have been indicted on state charges of theft greater than $1,000. In all, authorities say the workers improperly received more than $250,000 in government benefits.”
What is Funding the Welfare State?
George Will writes in The Washington Post, “The regulatory, administrative state, which progressives champion, is generally a servant of the strong, for two reasons. It responds to financially powerful and politically sophisticated factions. And it encourages rent-seekers to exploit opportunities for concentrated benefits and dispersed costs (e.g., agriculture subsidies confer sums on large agribusinesses by imposing small costs on 316 million Americans). Such government inevitably means executive government and the derogation of the legislative branch, both of which produce exploding government debt. … Today’s government uses regulation to achieve policy goals by imposing on the private sector burdens less obvious than taxation would be, burdens that become visible only indirectly, in higher prices. Often the goals government pursues by surreptitious indirection are goals that could not win legislative majorities — e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of greenhouse gases following Congress’s refusal to approve such policies. And deficit spending — borrowing — is, DeMuth says, ‘a complementary means of taxation evasion’: It enables the political class to provide today’s voters with significantly more government benefits than current taxes can finance, leaving the difference to be paid by voters too young to vote or not yet born. … Funding the welfare state by vast borrowing and regulatory taxation hides the costs from the public. Hence its political potency. Until the implosion.”
Tax Code Needs Simplicity
Robert Samuelson editorializes in The Washington Post, “At this time of year, when most Americans have just filed their returns, exasperation with the income tax system reaches a peak. Hardly anyone denies that it is a complex mess. In 2010, calculating their taxes cost Americans $168 billion, estimates the Taxpayer Advocate Service of the Internal Revenue Service. That’s about 15 percent of taxes collected — a heavy overhead. Almost 60 percent of taxpayers pay accountants or other tax preparers. Public esteem for the tax system is low; in a 2011 Pew poll, 55 percent judged it unfair. Disaffection was fairly even politically: 47 percent among Republicans, 58 percent among Democrats and 56 percent among independents. … The value of tax breaks is roughly reckoned at about $1 trillion annually. There seems ample room for trimming. Guess again. Tax breaks have huge constituencies. The largest is the exclusion of employer-paid health insurance from the income tax. That’s worth an estimated $213 billion in 2014. If Congress tried to reduce it, there would be howls of protest — from affected workers and firms, insurance companies, hospitals. The next largest is the deductibility of home mortgage interest: $101 billion. Builders, real estate agents and homeowners would resist any cut. Charitable contributions ($54 billion) and individual retirement accounts ($19 billion) also involve big breaks. Politicians abet tax complexity, because dispensing preferences enhances their power. This helps explain why the Tax Reform Act unraveled. New tax breaks multiplied; rates were raised.”
“Rove: Steaming Toward the ObamaCare ‘Train Wreck’”
The Wall Street Journal reports, “In congressional testimony last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blamed Republican governors for her department’s failure to create a ‘model exchange’ where consumers could shop for health-insurance coverage in states that don’t set up their own exchange. Nice try, but GOP governors aren’t the problem. Team Obama’s tendency to blame someone else for its shortcomings is tiresome. The Affordable Care Act requires HHS to operate exchanges in states that won’t operate their own. Since the act became law in March 2010, it has been abundantly clear that the agency would have to deploy a model exchange. It is Ms. Sebelius’s fault there isn’t one. … Part of this problem stems from the way the law is crafted. For example, a subsidy to help small businesses provide insurance coverage while ObamaCare ramped up was so complicated and difficult to use that only 1% of its $40 billion budget was spent. Other provisions have been poorly executed or needlessly delayed. Ms. Sebelius’s HHS has missed dozens of deadlines for major rule-making or program start dates required by the law.”
Senate Appropriations Chair Plans To Ignore Sequester
Congressional Quarterly reports, “Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md, reiterated Wednesday her plans to ignore the sequester in writing fiscal 2014 spending bills, setting up a likely confrontation with the House. ’I believe that it will be at the $1.058 trillion level that this full committee will be marking up,’ she said at a Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations panel hearing. ‘In terms of dealing with sequester, we need a balanced approach, and we call upon the leadership and the president to help come up with that balanced approach so that we can cancel the sequester.’ House Republicans will use a $967 billion top line as required by the sequester in writing their spending bills. Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget request proposes a combination of new tax revenue and alternative savings to replace the sequester with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.”
“Fed: Economy still growing, but Washington a source of concern”
According to The Hill, “The Federal Reserve reported Wednesday that the economy was continuing to expand ‘at a moderate pace,’ but that several policies out of Washington were pinching growth. Fiscal tightening, including automatic sequestration cuts, as well as the continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act were cited by the Fed’s business contacts as reasons for concern about the trajectory of the nation’s economy. Businesses in several districts nationwide told the Fed they saw ‘uncertainty or weakness’ in military and defense-related businesses. In San Francisco, manufacturers with ties to the defense industry said they were issuing furloughs, laying off workers, and even closing some production plans. Business contacts in Chicago and Philadelphia were also taking steps to cut costs in anticipation of reduced government spending on defense. … Elsewhere, the expiration of the payroll tax cut was cited as a factor in holding back sales growth.”
EPA Agency Credit Cards Misused?
According to The Washington Guardian, “If Environmental Protection Agency workers went on a spending spree, investigators will find out soon. Government inspectors are looking at the EPA’s purchase card and convenience check programs to make sure agency workers have been making taxpayer funded purchases correctly and on things that are needed for the agency to conduct its business. Investigators noted the review is not in response to any specific tips or concerns, but is a required routine check-up. The EPA Office of Inspector General said it will evaluate whether the agency has controls to prevent ‘potentially illegal, improper and erroneous use of purchase cards.’ Investigators said they also want to ensure the EPA is getting the best deals and lowest prices for the things it buys.”
“More Children in Greece Are Going Hungry”
The New York Times reports, “As an elementary-school principal, Leonidas Nikas is used to seeing children play, laugh and dream about the future. But recently he has seen something altogether different, something he thought was impossible in Greece: children picking through school trash cans for food; needy youngsters asking playmates for leftovers; and an 11-year-old boy, Pantelis Petrakis, bent over with hunger pains. ‘He had eaten almost nothing at home,’ Mr. Nikas said, sitting in his cramped school office near the port of Piraeus, a working-class suburb of Athens, as the sound of a jump rope skittered across the playground. He confronted Pantelis’s parents, who were ashamed and embarrassed but admitted that they had not been able to find work for months. Their savings were gone, and they were living on rations of pasta and ketchup. ‘Not in my wildest dreams would I expect to see the situation we are in,’ Mr. Nikas said. ‘We have reached a point where children in Greece are coming to school hungry. Today, families have difficulties not only of employment, but of survival.’”
“Can European disintegration be reversed?”
Thomas Wright, a Managing Global Order fellow at the Brookings Institution, editorializes in The New York Times, “Throughout the euro crisis, observers have been asking if the euro zone will disintegrate — as if it is a decision that will be made by its leaders at some point in the future. This holds out the prospect of a great historic choice: Europeans can choose to properly unite and overcome their crisis or they can choose dissolution. We wait with bated breath for the next summit or the latest ‘most crucial month in the euro’s history,’ which now seems to come several times a year. But, this may be the wrong way of looking at the euro crisis. Integration and disintegration are not just the products of deliberate decisions. They are both processes, set in motion by actions regardless of the stated intentions of leaders. Once underway, each process takes several election cycles — probably a decade or so — to reach completion. Only one will prevail in the end, but it is possible that in the early stages these two processes can coexist even as each vies for supremacy. Looked at this way, the euro zone is in serious trouble. The events of the past six months are consistent with a process of disintegration, while the process of integration has steadily weakened. The question is no longer, ‘Will Europe unravel?’ We should be asking, ‘Can European disintegration be reversed?’”
Poll: Majority Says Wealth Should Be Redistributed
POLITICO reports, “Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say wealth is distributed unfairly in the United States, and a majority want the federal government to play Robin Hood to fix the problem, according to a poll released Thursday. Only 33 percent of Americans think the current distribution of wealth in this country is fair, according to the Gallup Poll, while 59 percent say it is not. Fifty-two percent said the United States should redistribute wealth through heavy taxes on the rich, while 45 percent disagreed. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans say wealth is distributed unfairly in the United States, and a majority want the federal government to play Robin Hood to fix the problem, according to a poll released Thursday. Only 33 percent of Americans think the current distribution of wealth in this country is fair, according to the Gallup Poll, while 59 percent say it is not. Fifty-two percent said the United States should redistribute wealth through heavy taxes on the rich, while 45 percent disagreed.”
RHETORIC: President Obama: “No Smart Way” To Cut $85 Billion: “The problem is, when you’re cutting $85 billion in seven months … there’s no smart way to do that. There’s no smart way to do that.” (“Obama on Sequester Cuts: ‘There’s No Smart Way To Do That,’” Real Clear Politics, 2/26/13)
REALITY: Postal Service Hemorrhaging $25 Million A Day: “The U.S. Postal Service could become ‘a significant burden to the taxpayer’ if it does not get needed flexibility to change its business operations, Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe told Congress Wednesday. … ‘We are losing $25 million dollars every day and we are on an unsustainable path.’” (“USPS losing $25 million daily with ‘broken business model,’” The Washington Post, 4,17,13)
REALITY: Redundant Federal Programs Wasting Billions: “Redundant federal programs are leading to billions in waste, congressional auditors say, and the government is slow to adopt reforms to fix the problem. The White House says President Obama recognizes the problem and will propose eliminating redundant programs in the budget plan he releases Wednesday. … Over the past three years, the Government Accountability Office found 162 areas where agencies are duplicating efforts, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. How many billions? No one knows.” (Gregory Korte, “Report: Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions,” USA Today, 4/9/13)
- Billions For New Mapping Data: “Government agencies are spending billions on new mapping data — without checking whether some other government agency already has maps they could use.” (Gregory Korte, “Report: Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions,” USA Today, 4/9/13)
- Duplicative Renewable Energy Programs: “At least 23 different federal agencies run hundreds of programs to support renewable energy.” (Gregory Korte, “Report: Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions,” USA Today, 4/9/13)
- Lack Of Coordination Between Branches Of The Armed Services: “Each branch of the armed services is developing its own camouflage uniforms without sharing them with other services.” (Gregory Korte, “Report: Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions,” USA Today, 4/9/13)
- Overlapping Research At The Department Of Homeland Security: “29 Department of Homeland Security contracts that partly or completely overlapped with research being done by another part of the same department. Five contracts funded research into the detection of the same chemical.” (Gregory Korte, “Report: Redundant Federal Programs Waste Billions,” USA Today, 4/9/13)
REALITY: Stimulus-Funded Condom Study Creates Zero Jobs. The details of a stimulus grant awarded to Indiana University to study condom use have now been released on a government website. The study, titled ‘Barriers to Correct Condom Use,’ is now completed, according to the website, and the university received $423,500 of stimulus funds to perform the study. The stimulus project yielded a total of 0.00 jobs created, according to the federal government. ‘No jobs created/retained,’ the form says under ‘Description of Jobs Created.’” (Daniel Halper, “$423,500 Stimulus Program on ‘Correct Condom Use’ Yields Zero Jobs,” The Weekly Standard, 4/4/2013)
REALITY: House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Report Finds Unimplemented Recommendations Could Have Saved Taxpayers $67 Billion. “The Committee’s review found that the backlog had grown to a high of 16,906 open recommendations. Using the most conservative cost-saving estimates, implementing these recommendations could save taxpayers $67 billion per year.” (House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Report, “Staff Report: Open and Unimplemented IG Recommendations Could Save Taxpayers $67Billion,” 3/5/13)
REALITY: Energy Department Approved $3.5 Million in Bonuses to 10 Employees, Some As Much As 82 Percent Above The Market Rate. “Federal employees are facing unpaid days off and salary cuts due to the sequester, but several contract workers inside the Energy Department are still raking in the cash. Ten individuals at the department’s Oak Ridge nuclear laboratory are set to make an extra $3.5 million above and beyond their normal pay, according to an Energy Department inspector general investigation that exposes a lavish bonus system. The 10 people are executives at the company UCOR, which the department hired for environmental clean-up. And despite watchdog warnings that the executives’ salaries are as much as 82 percent above the market rate, Energy Department officials continue to pay out the bonuses.” (Phillip Swarts, “Energy Department approves lavish bonuses: $3.5 million to 10 workers alone,” Washington Guardian, 3/29/13)
REALITY: IRS Video Production Unit Costs Taxpayers $4 Million A Year: “The Senate’s top tax-writer wants answers from the IRS about a‘Star
-Trek’ spoof that the tax-collecting agency has now apologized for making. … Baucus also questioned why the IRS had a video production unit at all — especially at its reported $4 million a year price tag. The ‘Star Trek” parody and a separate takeoff on “Gilligan’s Island” cost around $60,000 in tandem, the IRS has said.” (Bernie Becker, “Baucus to IRS: How did the ‘Star Trek’ video happen? Who’s responsible?,” The Hill, 3/27/13)
REALITY: Energy Department Mismanaged More Than $90 Million In Stimulus: “The Energy Department’s (DOE) internal watchdog is attacking DOE management of a $1.5-billion stimulus program to help develop technology that captures industrial carbon dioxide emissions. An Office of Inspector General (IG) audit made public Tuesday examines $1.1 billion in funding for 15 projects. The audit notes three project recipients together received $90 million even though reviews of the proposals ‘identified significant financial and/or technical issues.’” (Ben Geman, “Report: Energy Department Mismanaged Stimulus-Backed Climate Program, The Hill, 3/22/13)
REALITY: “Pentagon Handed Out $419 Million In Improper Travel Reimbursements Last Year.” “While making improvements in some spending areas, the Defense Department was singled out this week for failing to trim unnecessary travel reimbursements. In fact, the Pentagon’s internal watchdog concluded that wasteful travel spending actually grew last year to a total of $419.3 million, accounting for roughly five percent of the Pentagon’s mammoth $8.4 billion travel budget.” (Phillip Swarts, “Pentagon Handed Out $419 Million In Improper Travel Reimbursements Last Year,” The Washington Guardian, 3/21/13)
As the White House has continued to keep its doors closed to the American people, Chairman Darrell Issa and the Oversight & Government Reform Committee decided to send out this meme reminding the American people that the Capitol doors continue to be wide open.
WASHINGTON –Today, Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa released the following responding to the Attorney General’s statement that he does not respect members of Congress, including 17 Democrats, who voted to hold him in contempt:
“Attorney General Holder’s admission that he does not respect the Democratic and Republican Members of Congress who voted to hold him in contempt offers a window into why Washington is so dysfunctional,” said Chairman Issa. “President Obama once campaigned as someone who wanted to bring America together but instead appointed divisive and highly partisan figures like Attorney General Holder who are arrogantly dismissive of those who question them and demand transparency.
“Finding out why the Justice Department made false denials about Operation Fast and Furious, and only corrected the record after ten months of public pressure, is a legitimate exercise of congressional authority.The Attorney General clearly believes he is above the law and is not accountable to the duly elected representatives of the American people or the institutions of our democracy.”
The Note: Eric Holder’s Contempt for Contempt
By Chris Good—2/28/2013
Attorney General Eric Holder shrugged off the House’s move to hold him in contempt last year because he didn’t respect the votes by those who chose to do so.
In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview Wednesday, ABC News’ Pierre Thomas asked Holder how he reacted when House Republicans voted with 17 Democrats to hold him in contempt of Congress last June over ATF’s “Fast and Furious” gun scandal.
“It’s something that I think was unfortunate,” Holder said. “I think it’s a result of this kind of partisan sport that I think we engage in here in Washington far too often.”
Holder said the votes it didn’t bother him, considering who cast them.
“But I have to tell you that for me to really be affected by what happened, I’d have to have respect for the people who voted in that way,” Holder told ABC News. “And I didn’t, so it didn’t have that huge an impact on me.”
All but three House Republicans voted to hold Holder in contempt. Two of them, Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., have since left Congress–meaning Holder does (or did) not respect most of the current Republican House delegation.
Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., voted against holding Holder in contempt, and House Speaker John Boehner didn’t vote, meaning Holder’s blanket statement does not apply to those two.
At issue was Holder’s compliance with a House subpoena to turn over documents related to the ATF’s Fast and Furious program to disseminate and track guns in Mexico.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., spearheaded the crusade against Holder and the Fast and Furious program, repeatedly accusing the attorney general of obscuring facts and refusing to comply with his investigation, and insinuating that top officials at the department, including Holder, likely knew about the program before terminating it.
The Justice Department maintained that it had consistently complied with Issa’s requests and that it had produced every kind of document typically handed over under such circumstances.
Holder took another jab at Republicans when asked about the current partisan stalemate over deficit reduction and the looming automatic budget cuts, which Holder says ill interfere with vital law-enforcement missions and endanger U.S. security.
When asked about how much of the blame Obama’s administration deserves, Holder said he wasn’t sure “it’s an awful lot.”
“I mean, I think this president came into office with the notion that he wanted to change how Washington does business. I think this president has extended his hand on any number of occasions,” Holder said.
“And I think we’ve seen too often the opposition not being what I would call a responsible opposition party, but a part that simply is opposed to anything the president has wanted to do,” Holder said. “And I think that has led to partisan gridlock that the American people are not satisfied with and that frankly does not serve the interests of this nation.”
From ABC’s Chris Good, Pierre Thomas, Jason Ryan, Jack Cloherty, and Jack Date