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Grassley Explores Whether Top Health Care Agency Gave Special Access to Wall Street PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 19 December 2011 15:04

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa is asking the top government health care agency whether it gave special access to hedge funds and consultants “who seek to profit from government information.”  Grassley is concerned about a specific meeting in 2009, as alleged by a whistleblower, and in general, because of increased Wall Street interest in gaining information from government agencies and Congress.

“The bottom line question for anything government employees do on the clock is what’s in it for the taxpayers,” Grassley said.  “If government employees are spending hours providing inside information to hedge funds or companies that consult for hedge funds, it’s hard to see how that helps the public.  In fact, it robs the taxpayers of these employees’ full value.  It raises concerns about whether hedge funds get special access to information above other Americans just because of who they are.  The public’s business ought to be public, not parceled out behind closed doors.”

This week, Grassley wrote to the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, asking for details of the agency’s dealings with hedge funds and others who seek to profit from government information.  Grassley cited allegations from a then-agency employee who said nearly one dozen agency employees were made to have a lengthy meeting with a Wall Street firm in 2009 over reimbursement policy for certain medical devices.  The whistleblower said the Wall Street firm peppered the agency employees with questions about decision-making and agency processes.

The agency controls billions of dollars of federal spending through Medicare and Medicaid and has significant power over issues of interest to Wall Street, including whether the government health care programs will pay for certain medical devices and procedures and if so, to what extent.  An agency decision on coverage can make or break the success of a medical device, for example, and investors have great interest in gaining insight into coverage decisions so they can plan accordingly.

Grassley asked the agency to explain whether it has any policies governing employee interaction with Wall Street and other outside groups and for any records of how often such interactions occur.

Grassley’s inquiry comes amid increased exposure of contact between Wall Street and government agencies, based on his own inquiries and reporting from The Wall Street Journal and the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, and others.

In December 2010, the White House received attention for organizing private meetings with the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with outside groups, including those with lobbyists, on the implementation of the controversial health care law.

At the Department of Education, Grassley wrote to Education Secretary Arne Duncan regarding contacts with hedge funds and top staff members over whether the government would crack down on the for-profit education industry.

Grassley’s letter this week to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is available here.  A Wall Street Journal piece on the inquiry is available here.  A piece from the Project on Government Oversight on Wall Street interest in government is available here.

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IOLTA Grant Applications PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Iowa Judicial Branch   
Monday, 19 December 2011 13:03

Des Moines, December 9, 2011— The Iowa Supreme Court Lawyer Trust Account Commission is accepting applications for grants under the Interest on Lawyer Trust Account (IOLTA) program for the grant period that begins July 1, 2012. IOLTA program grants are awarded to public purpose projects that provide legal services to the poor in civil cases, law-related education, and other programs that improve the administration of justice in Iowa.

Organizations may obtain grant application forms by contacting the Lawyer Trust Account Commission, Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa 50319, or by calling (515) 725-8029. The Commission encourages applicants to submit grant requests in electronic form. Organizations may request an electronic version of the complete application set from the Commission by electronic mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or download the application forms from the Commission's web page on the Judicial Branch web site at:

http://www.iowacourts.gov/Professional_Regulation/Attorney_RegulationCommissions/IOLTA

The Commission must receive completed grant applications no later than 4:30 p.m., Friday, March 2, 2012. The Commission will then review the applications and seek approval from the Iowa Supreme Court for awarding the grants. Grant recipients will be announced in late May or early June of 2012.

The Iowa Supreme Court created the Lawyer Trust Account Commission to provide legal services to the poor in civil cases using the interest from lawyers' pooled trust accounts. The lawyers' pooled trust accounts hold clients' funds that are so small in amount or held for such a brief period that it is not possible for the funds to economically benefit the individual clients. Previously, attorneys' trust accounts earned no interest. The first grants awarded under the IOLTA program were made in June, 1986. To date, the Commission has awarded more than $22,883,000 in grants.

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Grassley Weekly Video Address PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 16:19

Advisory for Iowa Reporters and Editors

Friday, November 18, 2011

During his weekly video address, Senator Chuck Grassley explains why the U.S. Supreme Court should allow video and audio coverage of upcoming oral arguments about the 2010 health care law. The law is massive in size and scope. The constitutional questions are landmark. Public understanding of both the health care law and the proceedings of a case before the Supreme Court would benefit from access to audio and video of the legal arguments that will be made. Grassley is Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is responsible for oversight of the federal courts. He is the former Chairman and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over most of the 2010 health care law.

Click here for audio.

Here is the text of the address:

This week I asked the Chief Justice to allow audio and video coverage of the oral arguments made during the Supreme Court’s consideration of the challenges to the 2010 health care law.

This law is massive in size and scope.  Its impact is reverberating throughout America’s economy.  The constitutional questions are landmark.  The public has a right to hear the legal arguments.  It’s a tremendous educational opportunity, especially considering the way this controversial law was pushed through Congress.  It was very partisan, unlike previous legislation where major social policy changes were made with broad-based support.  And, so much about the policy changes and consequences from the 2010 health care law were unclear even to supporters when it was pushed through.

The first time I appealed for broadcast coverage of oral arguments before the Supreme Court was in 2000 in the Bush v. Gore case regarding the presidential election.  The request for audio was granted, and it was released immediately following the arguments.  I’ve sought to pass legislation allowing broadcast coverage of federal courtrooms for 12 years.

The issues with the 2010 health care law and this review by the Supreme Court of the United States emphasize the value and importance of public access to the courtroom.  Sunshine would shed light on the law and enhance understanding of the issues and important concerns.

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SEC Wells Notice to Harbinger Capital Partners; FCC Dismissiveness Over LightSquared Connection PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 16:14
Friday, December 09, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following comment on disclosure that Philip Falcone and Harbinger Capital Partners have received a Wells Notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission. For months, Grassley has questioned the Federal Communications Commission’s fast-tracking of the firm’s LightSquared project. Grassley is blocking consideration of two FCC nominees over the agency’s refusal to provide information on why it fast-tracked the project.

“In my initial letter to the FCC on its decision to fast-track the LightSquared project, I noted that the hedge fund owner behind the project, Philip Falcone, faced ongoing SEC investigations.  On July 5, 2011, I followed up by writing a letter that asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski if he was concerned about these multiple SEC investigations of Mr. Falcone, especially since the FCC had granted Mr. Falcone’s company a $10 billion victory following a shortened comment period.

“Today, documents have been released showing that Mr. Falcone and his hedge fund, Harbinger Capital, received a Wells Notice from the SEC.  While this does not mean the SEC definitely will take action against Mr. Falcone and his hedge fund, it does show that the SEC staff believes there is sufficient evidence to consider recommending an enforcement action.  Now the FCC is faced with the real possibility that it made a multi-billion-dollar grant of valuable spectrum to someone who could be charged with violating securities laws.  I raised this concern seven months ago.  Chairman Genachowksi was dismissive.  Now, more than ever, the FCC chairman should lead the effort to provide documents and offer insight into how the agency decided to give Mr. Falcone, Harbinger Capital and LightSquared this multi-billion-dollar grant.”

 

 
Facts are stubborn things PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 10:09

Senator Charles Schumer, Press Statement, Dec. 7, 2011

House Judiciary Committee Oversight Hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder, Dec. 8, 2011

Response to Gunwalking

  • Senator Schumer: “Contrary to Sen. Grassley’s assertions, it was this administration – and specifically the criminal division, [headed] by Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer – that identified that these ‘gunwalking’ tactics had been used and approved of in the past administration.  It was this administration that confronted ATF leadership about the problems of using these tactics.”
  • Attorney General Holder: “Soon after learning about the allegations raised by ATF agents involved with Fast and Furious, I took action designed to ensure accountability.  In February, I asked the Department’s Acting Inspector General to investigate the matter, and in early March I ordered that a directive be sent to law enforcement agents and prosecutors prohibiting such tactics.”

FACT

In Operation Wide Receiver, which ran from 2006-2007 and did involve gun-walking tactics, few documents have been produced about which officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office or Main Justice were involved.  One November 16, 2007, memo addressed to the Attorney General, which would have BEEN Michael Mukasey at the time, does not refer to Operation Wide Receiver, but rather to a case called Hernandez, involving a controlled delivery and cooperation with the government of Mexico rather than gunwalking.

Unlike the actions Attorney General Holder would later take under pressure from Senator Grassley’s public inquiries when he found out that there might have been gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer did not take “action designed to ensure accountability” when directly informed by his deputy in April 2010 of gun-walking in Operation Wide Receiver, such as asking the Department’s Inspector General to investigate the matter or ordering that a directive be sent to law enforcement agents and prosecutors prohibiting such tactics.

Rather than “confront[ing] ATF leadership,” emails indicate Mr. Breuer’s concern was simply letting ATF “know the bad stuff that could come out.”  After Mr. Breuer’s deputy, Jason Weinstein, followed those instructions by meeting with ATF leadership, he emailed Mr. Breuer on April 30, 2010, to say that the outcome of the meeting was concluding: “[T]he best way to announce the case without highlighting the negative part of the story and risking embarrassing ATF” was to make it public “as part of Project Deliverance, where focus will be on aggregate seizures and not on particulars of any one indictment.”

This focus on press strategy alone carried through to October 2010, when Mr. Beuer’s subordinates were clearly still concerned about the public relations impact of both Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious.  Weinstein wrote: “Do you think we should try to have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed?  It’s a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked…”

Documents supporting the FACTS.

 
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