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Grassley addresses college tuition, tax-favored asset hoarding PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 09:45
Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today made the following comment on recent interest from President Obama and his education secretary in the cost of higher education.

“It’s good to see the Administration is at last recognizing the problem of high college tuition, at least verbally.  If the Administration wanted to take action, it could have taken seriously the mandate to study colleges’ use of tax-preferred arrangements to house their assets.  The Treasury Department’s study on donor-advised funds and supporting organizations, released this week, highlighted that colleges heavily use these vehicles, yet the study stopped there.  The Administration could and should find ways to get educational institutions to help the people they’re supposed to help instead of hoarding assets at taxpayer expense.  In addition to the benefit of income tax exemption, private, tax-exempt colleges and universities are able to raise capital through tax-exempt bonds and tax-deductible contributions.  It’s important to understand whether these tax benefits are fueling the tuition increases by subsidizing high salaries for college leaders and rock-climbing walls and other non-educational amenities to try to attract students.  The Administration should follow through on the proposal to require new disclosures for tax-exempt colleges and universities, similar to the schedule required for tax-exempt hospitals.  Additional transparency related to revenues and expenses would give us all a better handle on how tuition is set.  Colleges that have well-funded endowments, including money housed offshore to avoid taxes, should tap more of those resources before raising tuition.”

Grassley’s comment on the Treasury Department’s study on donor-advised funds and supporting organizations is available here.

 
Amica offers tips for finding and caring for Christmas trees PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Laura Meade Kirk   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 09:22

LINCOLN, RI, Dec. 7, 2011 – Christmas trees come in all sizes, shapes and colors. But if you’re looking for a real Christmas tree, it’s important to know how to choose and care for it.

“Nothing beats the look, smell and feel of a real Christmas tree,” said Lisa Melton, an assistant vice president with Amica Insurance. “But they require extra care and attention if you want them to last safely through the holidays.”

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that Christmas trees account for about 250 fires a year, resulting in 14 deaths, 26 injuries and nearly $14 million in property damage.

“That’s why it’s important to take extra care with real trees, whether you select your own at a local tree farm or buy pre-cut Christmas trees from a holiday lot or retail store,” Melton said.

Some of the most popular Christmas trees include fir, spruce, cypress and pine, with different varieties of each grown around the world, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. 

Diane Duquette, whose family owns Duquette Tree Farm in Chepachet, RI, said the single most important factor when it comes to selecting a Christmas tree is to make sure the tree is fresh. Run your hand along the branch, she suggested. If it’s a fresh tree, the green needles should not come off when they’re touched.

When you take a tree home, whether it’s fresh cut or has been standing outside in a lot, store it outside in a bucket of water, sheltered from the sun and wind, until you’re ready to bring it into the house, Duquette said. Before bringing it inside, cut about an inch off the end of the trunk. This fresh cut will allow the tree to absorb water more easily. Make sure you check the water supply frequently – at least once a day. If the stand runs out of water, the trunk can seal and will need to be cut again.

When you’re ready to decorate your tree, here are a few reminders:
• Never place a tree near a heat source, such as a woodstove, fireplace, radiator or heat vent.
• Check the lights before you put them on the tree, to make sure they’re working and to make sure there are no loose bulbs or frayed wires.
• Connect no more than three strings of mini lights together, and do not overload extension cords or electrical outlets.
• Never use lit candles on a Christmas tree.
• Always turn off the lights before leaving the house or going to bed. Never leave a lit tree unattended.
• Dispose of the tree when it begins dropping its needles, since a dried-out tree is a fire hazard.

With proper care, Duquette said, a real Christmas tree should last at least a month indoors – giving families plenty of time to enjoy it through the holidays.

“The right tree can be the perfect centerpiece for your holiday decorations,” Melton said.  “But make sure you take care of it, to keep you and your family safe this Christmas.”

 
Grassley Calls for Resignation of Assistant Attorney General Breuer PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:19

***Supporting documents can be found here.***

 

Prepared Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Holding People Accountable for Gunwalking

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

 

I have been investigating ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious for almost 11 months now.

It is past time for accountability at the senior levels of the Justice Department.

That accountability needs to start with the head of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer.

I believe it is time for him to go, and I’d like to explain why I have come to that conclusion.

The Justice Department denied in a letter to me on February 4, 2011 that ATF had ever walked guns.

Mr. Breuer had been consulted in the drafting of that erroneous letter.

On May 2, 2011, rather than acknowledging the increasingly obvious facts and apologizing for its February letter, the Justice Department reiterated its denial.  Thus, when the Justice Department revealed on October 31 of this year that Breuer had known as far back as April 2010 about gunwalking at ATF, I was astounded.

This was a shocking revelation.

The controversy about gunwalking in Fast and Furious had been escalating steadily for 10 months.

The Justice Department had publicly denied to Congress that ATF would ever walk guns.

Yet, the head of the Criminal Division, Mr. Breuer knew otherwise and said nothing.

He knew that the same Field Division was responsible for walking guns in a 2006-2007 case called Wide Receiver.  But the real shock was how Mr. Breuer had responded within his own Department when that earlier gunwalking was first brought to his attention in April 2010.

He didn’t tell the Attorney General.

He didn’t tell the Attorney General’s Chief of Staff.

He didn’t tell the Deputy Attorney General.

He didn’t tell the Inspector General.

Instead, he simply told his deputy to meet with ATF leadership and inform them of the gunwalking “so they know the bad stuff that could come out.”[1]

Later, his deputy outlined a strategy to “announce the case without highlighting the negative part of the story and risking embarrassing ATF.”[2]

For 18 months, the embarrassing truth about ATF gunwalking in Wide Receiver and Breuer’s knowledge of it was successfully hidden.

It only came out because of the Congressional investigation into gunwalking in Fast and Furious.

The public outrage over Fast and Furious comes from average Americans who cannot understand why their own government would intentionally allow criminals to illegally buy weapons for trafficking to Mexico.

Next week, it will be one year since Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered by bandits armed with guns as a direct result of this policy of letting guns walk.

The Terry family and all Americans who sympathize with their loss are rightfully outraged and astonished that our own government would do such a thing.

Yet when Mr. Breuer learned of a case where ATF walked guns in a very similar way, all he did was give ATF a “heads up.”

There seems to be a vast gulf between what outrages the American people and what outrages Lanny Breuer.  Mr. Breuer showed a complete lack of judgment by failing to object to the gunwalking that he knew about in April 2010.

If Mr. Breuer had reacted to gunwalking in Wide Receiver the way most Americans reacted to gunwalking in Fast and Furious, he would have taken steps to stop it and hold accountable everyone involved.

Fast and Furious might have been stopped in its tracks.

When Mr. Breuer came before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism the day after those revelations, I gave him a chance to explain himself.

I listened to what he had to say.

He told us that he “thought that … dealing with the leadership of ATF was sufficient and reasonable.”

Clearly, it was not sufficient.

Mr. Breuer even admitted as much, saying: “I regret that I did not alert others within the leadership of the Department of Justice to the tactics used in Operation Wide Receiver when they first came to my attention.”

He regrets not bringing gunwalking in Wide Receiver to the attention of the Attorney General, but what about bringing it to the attention of Congress?

He didn’t even step forward to express his regret until emails that detailed his knowledge were about to be produced under Congressional subpoena.

It is astounding that it took the public controversy over Fast and Furious to help the chief of the Criminal Division realize that walking guns is unacceptable.

He’d had nine months after the February 4 letter to step forward, correct the record, and come clean with the American public.

He’d had 18 months after learning of gunwalking in Wide Reciever to put a stop to it and hold people accountable.

He failed to do so.

So during his testimony, I asked him point blank if he reviewed that February 4 letter before it was sent to me.

His misleading answers to these questions form the basis for my second reason for calling on Mr. Breuer to resign.

He responded that he couldn’t say for sure but suggested that he did not review the letter.  He said: “[A]t that time, I was in Mexico dealing with the very real issues that we are all so committed to.”

Now, last Friday the Justice Department withdrew their February 4th letter to me because of its “inaccuracies.”

The department also turned over documents under subpoena about who participated in the drafting and review of the letter.

So imagine my surprise when I discover from documents provided Friday night that that Mr.  Breuer was far more informed during the drafting of that letter than he admitted before the Judiciary Committee.

In fact, Mr. Breuer got frequent updates on the status of the letter while he was in Mexico.

He was sent versions of the letter four times.

Two versions were emailed to Mr. Breuer on February 4, after he’d returned from Mexico, including the version of the letter that was ultimately sent to me that day.

At that time, he forwarded the letter to his personal email account.

Mr. Breuer’s deputy also sent him two drafts of the letter while he was in Mexico, and he also forwarded one of those to his personal email account.

We do not know whether he did that in order to access it on a larger screen than a government-issued Blackberry or whether he engaged in any further discussion about the letter in his non-government email account.

However, we do know that in response to the draft received in Mexico, he wrote to one of the main drafters of the letter, “As usual, great work.”

The Justice Department excluded Breuer’s compliment about the content of the draft from the set of emails it released to the press on Friday.

That evening, Mr. Breuer submitted answers to written questions.  He wrote:

“I have no recollection of having [seen the letter] and, given that I was on official travel that week and given the scope of my duties as Assistant Attorney General, I think it is exceedingly unlikely that I did so.”

So as late as Friday night, Mr. Breuer was still trying to minimize his role in reviewing the letter despite all the evidence to the contrary.

Why would Mr. Breuer say “great work” about a letter he claims not to have read?

It just isn’t credible that someone like Mr. Breuer would forget about his involvement in a matter like this.

Mr. Breuer’s failure to be candid and forthcoming before this body irreparably harms his credibility.

His complete lack of judgment and failure to deal with gunwalking when he first learned of it in April 2010, was bad enough, but this is the final straw.

Mr. Breuer has lost my confidence in his ability to effectively serve the Justice Department.

If you can’t be straight with Congress, you don’t need to be running the Criminal Division.

It’s time to stop spinning and start taking responsibility.

I have long said that the highest-ranking official who knew about gunwalking in Operation Fast and Furious needs to be held accountable.

That standard applies no less to officials who knew about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver.

Gunwalking is unacceptable no matter when it occurred.

Documents make clear that Assistant Attorney General Breuer was the highest-ranking official in the Justice Department who knew about gunwalking in Operation Wide Receiver.

He did nothing to correct the problems, alert others to the issue, take responsibility, or even admit what he knew until he was forced to by the evidence.

Therefore, I believe the Attorney General needs to ask for Mr. Breuer’s resignation and remove him from office if he refuses.

If Mr. Breuer wants to do the honorable thing, he should resign of his own accord.

Now I’m not someone who flippantly calls for resignations.

I’ve done oversight for many years, and in all that time, I don’t ever remember coming across a government official who so blatantly placed sparing agencies embarrassment over protecting the lives of citizens.

He has failed in his job of ensuring that the government operates properly, including that people are held accountable.

Because of that, Mr. Breuer needs to go immediately.

Anything less will show the American people that the Justice Department isn’t serious about being honest with Congress in our attempt to get to the bottom of this.

Just last night, the Justice Department sent a letter refusing to provide several Justice Department staff for transcribed interviews.

The letter explicitly goes back on the assurances I received when I consented to proceed with the confirmation of three senior Justice Department officials.

One of my conditions for agreeing to proceed with those nominations was that officials who agreed to voluntary interviews in this investigation would have either a personal lawyer present or a Department lawyer present, but not both.

I personally met with the Attorney General and he had that condition listed on a piece of paper in front of him.

It looked as if he had read it and was familiar with it, yet he never objected to that condition.

Dozens of witness interviews have been conducted under that understanding with no problem.

The only difference now is that instead of ATF witnesses, we are now seeking to interview Justice Department witnesses.

Well, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

There’s no reason to change the rules in the middle of the game.

I was relying on the Attorney General and the other officials at the Department to honor their agreement.

Apparently, that’s not going to happen.

Fortunately, Chairman Issa has the ability to require the witnesses to appear via subpoena if they refuse to appear voluntarily under the conditions that the Department previously agreed to.

I am confident that he will do that if it becomes necessary.  And, I will take whatever steps I have to take here in the Senate to encourage the Department to reconsider and stick to its original agreement.

-30-

 
Facts are stubborn things PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Howard Kaloogian - Tea Party Express   
Monday, 12 December 2011 16:10

This is Part 2 of a 2 part commentary.  If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.

Part 1 ended with the idea that It’s time to cut spending. The left blames the Iraq war for deficits, but that just doesn't add up.

Obama and the left claim apocalypse will occur if you cut anything from the budget. Any time someone claims that immediate spending cuts will harm the economy -ignore them, laugh at them, mock them. You know why? Because spending never goes down. Never. Republicans, Democrats and the Press all deceive you when they use the word “cut.” When businesses cut expenses, spending declines. When people cut their bills, they spend less. But when government “cuts” spending, the total amount spent still rises, always. And the Press never explains this properly.

While any tax increase occurs immediately, another sleight of hand is that the spending “cuts” are planned for the last couple of years of any ten year deal, as in years eight, nine, and ten. So they know it will never happen. It’s four or five Congresses from now. Laws change. Deals are forgotten. Promises are broken. The only thing that really matters is next year’s budget. Will it be less than the previous year? Now that would be a real cut. All that other “deal” stuff? Increased spending. Politicians want deals; Americans want solutions.
Obama used the word “balanced” so many times in the recent debt-limit debate it must focus-group well, but the only thing he never would accept was a balanced budget. He claims he inherited his problems. Well get over it. Every president inherits the problems left behind by the previous administration.
I’ll tell you what else Obama inherited, a triple-A credit rating. He tried to blame losing that on the Tea Party! First they claim the Tea Party is fake, astro-turf, small and losing influence; then they turn around and claim we are so powerful we impacted the entire economy of the United States. I guess being President isn’t enough power. Obama should try organizing a community Tea Party.
Obama loves to blame others for his poor job performance: “It’s Bush’s fault.” Obama demonized Bush as an evil fool, but Obama has adopted and continued many of Bush’s policies, and justifies the bad result by saying “Bush did it first!” The Press lets him have it both ways, but we know better. He said we should change what Bush was doing, and a majority agreed. The problem is, Obama made it worse.
Obama has never before run on a record. He’s always run almost literally on words. Hypnotic charm, clever phrases spoken with flare. Speechwriters and tele-prompters. Now he must defend what he has done, and what he has failed to do.
What is Obama’s record? Sustained high unemployment as a new norm; he has lost the AAA credit rating; he has added more to the national debt than any other president ever; he has more than tripled the annual deficit; he has implemented socialized medicine with Obamacare while health insurance costs continue to rise; he has failed to “stimulate” the economy; he has stopped off shore domestic oil exploration making us more dependent upon foreign sources for energy.
Food costs more. Fuel costs more. Housing values have plummeted. More Americans are on Food Stamps than ever in history. Real median household income has declined since Obama took office.
Obama claims he has leveled off the economy. If Obama were a pilot and he crashed a plane into the ground, would you say he leveled off?
Answering this failed record the administration says it hasn’t spent enough. But Obama doesn’t seem to learn from history. Henry Morgenthau Jr., the Secretary of Treasury for FDR testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on May 9, 1939 saying “We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work… We have never made good on our promises…after eight years of this administration we have just as much unemployment as when we started….and an enormous debt to boot!”
Nobody has ever spent a country into prosperity, but Obama’s dogma won’t allow him to learn from history.
The recent victory in Wisconsin shows us the way forward. Gov. Walker brought a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a surplus in less than 6 months without raising taxes. He did it by gaining control over the spending obligations. It’s time to follow that lead nationwide. Revenues will increase through more prosperity. Grow the number of taxpayers by increasing employment rather than taking an ever larger share from those already struggling. Economic growth is the only way out of debt.
President Ronald Reagan said “Freedom is not something to be secured in any one moment of time. We must struggle to preserve it every day. And Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”
If we intend on passing the torch of freedom to the next generation, let us return our government to its Constitutional moorings. That would be real change. Let us not grow weary in the effort. Our nation’s future depends upon our vigilance. Our freedoms, and that of our posterity, depend upon it.

We here at the Tea Party Express are guided by our slogan of "Restore Liberty - Honor the Constitution" and our 6 basic principles:
    • No more bailouts
    • Reduce the size and intrusiveness of government
    • Stop raising our taxes
    • Repeal Obamacare
    • Cease out-of-control spending
    • Bring back American prosperity and jobs

 
Grassley Statement on Cameras in the Supreme Court, Iowa Supreme Court Justice Cady testifies before Senate Committee PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 12 December 2011 14:39

***Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady’s prepared testimony is attached.

 

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Hearing of the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts

“Access to the Court: Televising the Supreme Court”

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

 

Madam Chairman, I want to thank you for calling a hearing on increasing the public’s access to the Supreme Court.  Over ten years ago, Sen. Schumer and I introduced the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, a bill which would grant federal judges the authority to allow cameras in the courtroom.  Since that time, this bill has been brought before the committee many times.  And each time it has been scrutinized, improved upon, and reported out under broad bi-partisan support.

Today’s hearing focuses on a companion issue: whether or not the Supreme Court should permit cameras in its courtroom.  Just yesterday, Sen. Durbin and I introduced “The Cameras in the Courtroom Act of 2011,” a bill which would require the Supreme Court to broadcast and televise its proceedings.  Like the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, this bill has also been brought before the committee on several occasions.  It, too, was reported out favorably with bi-partisan support and was championed by my friend, Senator Arlen Specter, who I am pleased to see here today.

My interest in expanding the people’s access to the Supreme Court increased eleven years ago when the Supreme Court decided to hear arguments on the Florida recount during the 2000 Presidential Election.  Senator Schumer and I urged the Supreme Court to open the arguments to live broadcast.  In response, the Supreme Court took the then unprecedented step of releasing an audio recording of their arguments shortly after they occurred.  It was a sign of progress that gave the entire country the opportunity to experience what so few get to: the Supreme Court at work.

Just last year, the Supreme Court began releasing audio recording of its proceedings at the end of each week.  This is another step in the right direction and I applaud the court for increasing its transparency and access.  But it is not enough.  I believe that the nature of our government and the fundamental principles upon which it was built require more.

As Abraham Lincoln said, ours is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.  Our Constitution divides power.  It creates a system of checks and balances.  But most importantly, it makes the government accountable to the people.  The best way we can ensure that the federal government is accountable to the people is to create transparency, openness, and access.

Sadly, the vast majority of the people do not believe they have adequate access to the Supreme Court.  According to a poll released last year, 62 percent of Americans believe that they hear too little about the workings of the Supreme Court.  Two-thirds of Americans want to know more.  What could be a better source of the workings of the Supreme Court than the Supreme Court itself?

In 1947, the Supreme Court stated, “what transpires in the courtroom is public property.”  Well, if its public property, then it belongs to the whole public, not just the 200 people who can fit inside the public gallery.  With today’s technology, there is no reason why arguments could not be broadcast in an easy, unobtrusive, and respectful manner that would preserve the dignity of the Supreme Court’s work and grant access to the millions of Americans wishing to know more.

My state, Iowa, knows something about this.  For over 30 years, it has permitted the broadcast of its trial and appellate courts.  In fact, I am pleased to welcome Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady here today.  He has come to share with this committee his unique perspective of presiding over a court that broadcasts its proceedings.  He is a strong proponent of transparency and continues to pioneer new ways to give the public greater access to their court system.  I look forward to hearing his testimony and thank him for his time here today.

Before we begin, I ask that three things be included in the record.  First is a letter I wrote to Chief Justice Roberts last month, urging him to permit cameras during the court’s upcoming arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare law.  This upcoming case is the perfect example for why the Supreme Court should televise its proceedings.   It is a case which will address the role and reach of the federal government.  All of us deserve to see and hear the legal arguments in a case which will have a lasting effect on every single American.

The second and third are newspaper editorial opinions. One is written by the Editorial Board of Iowa’s second largest paper, The Gazette.  The other is written by the Editorial Board of the Washington Post.  Both express belief that the Supreme Court must permit its proceedings to be broadcast.  It isn’t often that the American Heartland and the Washington Establishment agree on something.   I ask that each of these be made part of the record.

Once again, I want to thank Sen. Klobuchar for organizing this hearing.  I would also like to thank each witness in advance for their testimony.  This is a distinguished panel of witnesses who will provide excellent insights.  I am eager to hear what each of you has to say.

Thank you, Madam Chairman.

 

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