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Loebsack to Donate Portion of Salary to Charity PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Vonnie Hampel   
Monday, 15 April 2013 08:03

Davenport, IA – At an event today, standing with workers from the Rock Island Arsenal, Congressman Dave Loebsack announced that he is donating a day’s worth of his salary for every day that the Arsenal workforce is furloughed.  He will make donations to local charities that support Iowa families hit hard by these tough economic times.

“It is unacceptable that, through sequestration, Congress has asked everyone else but themselves to make a sacrifice.  Today, I am announcing that I will be donating a day’s worth of my salary for every day that the Rock Island Arsenal workforce is furloughed,” said Loebsack announcing his donation. “I am going to stand with those workers at the Rock Island Arsenal; the children who are losing Head Start education; the University employees who are performing important research projects, who, through no fault of their own, are being asked to shoulder part of the burden. It makes no sense to me that the only people that are not feeling any pain from sequester are members of Congress themselves.”

Loebsack has long believed that Members of Congress need to have a personal stake in our nation’s recovery. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation that would cut the pay of members of Congress by 10 percent.   This cut would be the first Congress has seen since 1933 – eight decades ago.   Loebsack called on Congress to immediately bring up and pass the bill.

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Grassley Works to Bring Transparency, Accountability to Federal Judiciary PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 15 April 2013 07:53

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa has introduced legislation to create an Inspector General for the federal Judiciary.  Congressman F. James Sensenbrenner introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives.

The bill allows the Inspector General to conduct oversight of all federal and appellate courts, including the Supreme Court, puts in place safeguards so inspectors general do not interfere with judicial decisions, and includes whistleblower protections for individuals within the judicial branch.

Grassley said that increased credibility within the judicial branch of government would be greatly enhanced with an independent watchdog shedding light on waste, fraud and abuse within the federal judiciary.  He said that the current practice of self-regulation of judges with respect to ethics and the judicial code of conduct has proven inadequate.

“In the past five years, the Senate received articles of impeachment for two federal judges whose actions fully came to light only after federal criminal investigations.  Not only were they caught severely breaking the Judicial Code of Conduct, but they attempted to defraud the American taxpayer by declaring themselves disabled in order to continue receiving their judicial salary.  In one case, the ex-Judge attempted to continue to draw his judicial salary while sitting in federal prison,” Grassley said.  “Federal judges must live by the highest of standards.  When misconduct, waste, fraud and abuse occur, the public’s confidence in the federal judiciary is eroded.  A good inspector general can detect, expose and deter problems and help keep accountability with the American people.”

Grassley is the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over the federal courts.

Summary of The Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act of 2013

·         Establishes the Office of Inspector General for the Judicial Branch, who shall be appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for a specific term of service of four years.  Gives the Chief Justice express authority to remove the Inspector General from office.

·         Specifies duties of the Inspector General, which include (1) to conduct investigations of alleged misconduct of judges in the judicial branch (Senate version includes the Supreme Court), that may require oversight or other action by Congress; (2) to conduct and supervise audits and investigations; (3) to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse; and (4) to recommend changes in laws or regulations governing the Judicial Branch.

·         Provides powers for the Inspector General, which include (1) to make investigations and reports; (2) to obtain information or assistance from any Federal, State or local agency, or other entity, or unit thereof, including all information kept in the course of business by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the judicial council of circuits, the administrative office of United States courts, and the United States Sentencing Commission; (3) to require, by subpoena or otherwise, the attendance for the taking of testimony of any witnesses and the production of any documents, which shall be enforceable by civil action; (4) to administer or to take an oath or affirmation from any person; (5) to employ officers and employees; (6) to obtain all necessary services; and (7) to enter into contracts or other arrangements to obtain services as needed.

·         Requires the Inspector General to (1) to provide the Chief Justice and Congress with an annual report on the Inspector General's operations; (2) to make prompt reports to the Chief Justice and to Congress on matters which may require further action; and (3) to refer to the Department of Justice any matter that may constitute a criminal violation.

·         Prohibits the Inspector General from investigating or reviewing the merits of a judicial decision.  The investigatory powers of the Inspector General are limited to only alleged misconduct under the "Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980."

·         Requires the Inspector General to commence an investigation only after the judiciary has conducted its review of an ethical complaint under the 1980 Act.

·         Establishes whistleblower protections for individuals within the Judicial Branch.

Here is Grassley’s prepared floor statement upon introduction of the bill. 

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Introduction Of Judicial Transparency And Ethics Enhancement Act

Mr. President,

Today I am reintroducing the Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act, a bill that would establish within the judicial branch an Office of Inspector General to assist the Judiciary with its ethical obligations as well as to ensure taxpayer dollars are not lost to waste, fraud, or abuse.  Representative Sensenbrenner is introducing the companion bill in the House.  This bill will help make sure that our federal judicial system remains free of corruption, bias, and hypocrisy.

The facts demonstrate that the institution of the Inspector General has been crucial in detecting, exposing and deterring problems within our government.  The job of the Inspector General is to be the first line of defense against fraud, waste and abuse.  In collaboration with whistleblowers, Inspectors General have been extremely effective in their efforts to expose and help correct these wrongs.

That's why, during my 30 years in Congress, I've worked hard to strengthen the oversight role of Inspectors General throughout the federal government.  I've come to rely on IGs and whistleblowers to ensure that our tax dollars are spent according to the letter and spirit of the law. And when that doesn't happen, we in Congress need to know about it and take corrective action.

During the past fiscal year, Congress appropriated nearly $7 billion in taxpayer money to the federal judiciary.  To put this in context, the National Science Foundation, the Small Business Administration, and the Corporation for National and Community Service each received a similar or less amount than the judiciary.  Yet all three of these entities have an Office of Inspector General.  If we in Congress believed that these entities could use an Inspector General, I cannot see why the Judiciary wouldn’t deserve the same assistance.

But there is an additional reason why the Judiciary needs an Inspector General.  The fact remains that the current practice of self-regulation of judges with respect to ethics and the judicial code of conduct has time and time again proven inadequate.  I would point out to my colleagues two recent events here in the Senate that support this conclusion.

In the past five years, the Senate received articles of impeachment for not one but two federal judges.  In the first case, former Judge Samuel B. Kent, although charged with multiple counts of sexual assault, pled guilty to obstruction of justice.  Who did he obstruct?  Who did he lie to?  He did this to his fellow judges, who were assembled to investigate the allegations of his obscene and criminal behavior.  But it took a criminal investigation by the Department of Justice to uncover his false statements to his colleagues as well as substantiate the horrendous claims made against him.

In the second case, the Senate found that former Judge G. Thomas Porteous, Jr. was guilty of a number of things, including accepting money from attorneys who had a case pending before him in his court and committing perjury by falsifying his name on bankruptcy filings.  Once again, this Judge’s misbehavior came to light through a federal criminal investigation, after which another judicial committee had to be organized to investigate their fellow judge.

What’s more, in each case the disgraced judge tried to game the system in order to retain his $174,000 salary.  Rather than resign their commissions, each first tried to claim disability status that would allow each to continue to receive payment, even if in prison.  Then both played chicken with Congress daring us to strip them of their pay by impeaching and convicting them.  I am pleased that we put our foot down and said “No.”

The judicial misconduct committees are simply inadequate for investigating claims of misconduct.  These judges are not given the resources necessary nor do they have the expertise in conducting a complete investigation.  And they cannot, despite their best intentions, remove the inherent biases that develop from working closely with other judges.  This duty would be better suited to an independent entity within the Judiciary.

The Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act is the answer.  This bill would establish an Office of Inspector General for the judicial branch.  The IG's responsibilities would include conducting investigations of possible judicial misconduct, investigating waste fraud and abuse, and recommending changes in laws and regulations governing the federal judiciary.  The bill would require the IG to provide the Chief Justice and Congress with an annual report on its activities, as well as refer matters that may constitute a criminal violation to the Department of Justice.  In addition, the bill establishes whistleblower protections for judicial branch employees.

Ensuring a fair and independent judiciary is critical to our Constitutional system of checks and balances. Judges are supposed to maintain impartiality. They're supposed to be free from conflicts of interest.  An independent watchdog for the federal judiciary will help its members comply with the ethics rules and promote credibility within the judicial branch of government.  Whistleblower protections for judiciary branch employees will help keep the judiciary accountable. The Judicial Transparency and Ethics Enhancement Act will not only ensure continued public confidence in our federal courts and keep them beyond reproach, it will strengthen our judicial branch.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of this bill be printed in the Record.

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REP. SMIDDY HOSTING CONCEALED CARRY CLASSES PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rep. Mike Smiddy   
Monday, 15 April 2013 07:44
PORT BYRON, IL – State Rep. Mike Smiddy (D-Hillsdale) is hosting two concealed carry permit class on Sunday, April 28. The first class will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Whiteside County Farm Bureau located at 100 E. Knox St. in Morrison and the second class will be held from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Coe Township Building located at 9327 239 th St. N. in Port Byron.

“Supporting local gun owners and guaranteeing our right to own and carry firearms is very important to me,” said Smiddy, who is sponsoring House Bill 997, concealed carry legislation supported by the NRA. “I am committed to fighting for the Second Amendment in Springfield, and am thrilled to have this opportunity to join local residents in obtaining our own concealed carry licenses through this course.”

The class is taught by SAFE Gun Permits, LLC, who will also take the necessary photographs, fingerprint students, and mail the student applications. Students will then be eligible for a concealed carry license through the State of Utah, which is recognized in Utah and 30 other states, including every state bordering Illinois.

"Many students ask if this will suffice for the impending Illinois permit,” said Craig Celia, owner of SAFE Gun Permits, LLC. “We will not know this answer until Illinois passes a concealed carry law. Once Illinois passes a law, Illinois residents will not be able to obtain a Utah non-resident permit until they obtain their home state permit first – so the time to apply for a Utah permit is now. Within the Illinois bill, House Bill 997, it does state that Illinois residents with an out of state permit can carry in Illinois for the first 180 days of the enactment of the Illinois law – this is subject to change before the enactment of the Illinois law."

The class fee is $100 plus a $51 processing fee to the State of Utah. Residents can sign up online at www.safegunpermits.com/classes. For more information, contact Smiddy’s office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , (309) 848-9098, or toll free at (855) 243-4988.

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Questions to Consider About Group of Eight Immigration Proposal PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 15 April 2013 07:41

Prepared Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Questions to Consider About Group of Eight Immigration Proposal

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mr. President,

For months, members on both sides of the aisle have been working to find common ground on ways to fix our broken immigration system.  This group has been meeting behind closed doors to forge a consensus on a very difficult topic.  The group released a framework, or a document of principles, that would guide their negotiations.  I cannot stress the importance of the first sentence in their preamble that states, “We will ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.” In other words, the group claimed to understand that we need a long-term solution to our immigration problems.  That sentence is the most important part of their document, and as we work together on this issue, we must not lose sight of that goal.

In order to achieve that goal, we need to learn from our previous mistakes so that we truly don’t have to revisit the problem.  There is clear evidence that the 1986 amnesty program didn’t solve our immigration problem, despite the intent of the law.  Even though, for the first time ever, we made it illegal to knowingly hire or employ someone here illegally, illegal immigration soared because we rewarded the undocumented population.  We set penalties to deter the hiring of people here illegally. Yet, an industry of counterfeiting and identity theft flourished and made a mockery of the law.

Unfortunately, the 1986 law didn’t adequately provide for securing our borders or provide the tools to enforce the laws. Nor did it properly address the need to create or enhance the legal avenues for people to enter the country.  The bill focused on legalizing millions of people here rather than creating a system that would work for generations to come.

So, I’ve made a point of trying to remind my colleagues that we must learn from the mistakes we made.  As a member of the Judiciary Committee, I have been adamant about making sure all members have an opportunity to review, analyze and debate the bill.  Along with other members, we have asked for hearings.  We have pressed the bipartisan group to work with us and ensure that we have a deliberative and healthy debate.

Unfortunately, this bipartisan group has failed to consult with many members of the Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over immigration matters.  They’re working with the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO.  They’re sharing language with K Street and interest groups.  They are leaking details of their plans to certain media outlets.  Yet, members of the Senate are forced to learn through these avenues about their negotiations.  And, all along, the American people have been in the dark.

When the bill is unveiled, possibly next week, every member of the Senate will have questions.  We’ll comb through the details and determine if the proposal will truly fix the problems once and for all.  So, allow me to share some of the questions I have.  In an effort to ensure that the bill does what their framework insisted – that the problem be fixed once and for all – I will ask these questions when the bill is finally revealed to the public.

·         Is this bill enforcement first or legalization first?

·         What is the expected cost?  How will it be paid for?

·         Will the bill ensure that undocumented immigrants don’t get public benefits?

·         Will the bill move us closer to a merit-based system?

·         Will the bill be an avenue for labor unions to push Davis Bacon?

  • What are the concrete metrics used to measure border security?
  • Who will determine that these metrics are met?  Will it be Congress, a commission, or a Secretary who doesn’t think that the border matters?
  • Will the entry/exit system Congress mandated in 1996 finally be implemented? Will it be a part of the trigger?
  • Will the language be tight enough to prevent criminals, those with DUIs and other aggravated felonies from being eligible for legalization?
  • Will individuals already apprehended, or people in removal proceedings be eligible or even allowed to apply for the legalization program?
  • Will the bill ensure that the legalization program is covered by beneficiaries, and not taxpayers?
  • What will happen to individuals who do not come forward and register, or get provisional status?
  • What will happen if the border is never secured?  What will be the consequences, including for those that have already received registered provisional status?
  • Will the agency in charge of immigration benefits be able to handle the additional workload while also preventing fraud and abuse?
  • Will the bill encourage cooperation between the federal government and state and locals to enforce the laws?
  • How will the bill ensure that ICE agents are allowed to do their job?
  • Will E-Verify be mandatory for all businesses?  Will there be exceptions to the rule?
  • Will the bill require all businesses to use E-Verify now, or will it drag out the requirement even though it’s ready to go nationwide?
  • Will the bill exempt or preserve state laws that require E-Verify?
  • What are the concessions to the unions and to the business community?
  • Will the new temporary worker program, which is a new model encompassing instant portability, truly work?  How will employers be held responsible for the visa holders, if at all?
  • Is the new temporary worker program truly temporary?  Will they get a special green card process?
  • Will the bill exempt certain industries, like construction, from this new visa program?
  • Will the 11 million people here illegally get priority in this new temporary worker program?  Will they be able to use it?
  • Will the bill require employers to first recruit and hire Americans?

Mr. President, we have a long road ahead of us to pass legislation to reform our immigration system.  We’ll have many more questions, and hopefully, a transparent and deliberative process to improve the bill.  I look forward to working with my colleagues on this issue, and solving the problem once and for all.

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Feinstein, Grassley Introduce Bill to Combat Transnational Organized Crime PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 15 April 2013 07:38
Washington (Apr 11, 2013) —Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), co-chairs of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, today introduced legislation to combat transnational organized crime. The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2013, which passed the Senate unanimously in 2011 but was not considered in the House of Representatives, provides the Justice Department new tools to prosecute foreign drug traffickers.

“Drug traffickers are constantly finding new and innovative ways to avoid prosecution, and we cannot allow them to exploit these loopholes.” Senator Feinstein said. “Congress must provide the Department of Justice with all of the tools necessary to prosecute drug kingpins both at home and abroad.”

“Since drug cartels are continually evolving, this legislation ensures that our criminal laws keep pace.” Senator Grassley said.  “This legislation closes a loophole abused by drug traffickers who intend for drugs to end up in the United States but supply them through an intermediary.”

 

The Transnational Drug Trafficking Act of 2013:

  • Establishes penalties for drug trafficking activity when individuals have reasonable cause to believe that illegal drugs will be trafficked into the United States.  This provision will help the Justice Department build extradition cases on drug kingpins from the Andean countries of Colombia and Peru who often use Mexican drug trafficking organizations as intermediaries to ship illegal narcotics to the United States.
  • Ensures current penalties apply to chemical producers from other countries (including producers of pseudoephedrine used for methamphetamine) that illegally ship precursor chemicals into the U.S. knowing these chemicals will be used to make illegal drugs.
  • Provides a technical fix to the Counterfeit Drug Penalty Enhancement Act, which increases penalties for the trafficking of counterfeit drugs, by adding a “knowing” requirement so pharmacists can only be held criminally liable if they knowingly sell counterfeit drugs to a customer.

This bill supports the Obama Administration’s July 2011 Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

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