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Governor Quinn to Lead Trade Mission To Brazil PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 08:24

Trip to Focus on Manufacturing, Agriculture, Biotechnology, Education and Tourism

CHICAGO - September 20, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn will lead a trade mission to Brazil Sunday in an effort to increase economic opportunities between Illinois and Brazil. The governor will arrive in Brazil Sept. 23 for a six-day mission designed to strengthen Illinois exports, foster education and boost tourism.

“Brazil’s strong economy and expanding middle class make the country an important market for Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “We are bringing together leaders from business, government and education to create and develop the relationships that will help fuel economic growth in Illinois.”

Governor Quinn is the first Illinois governor to lead a trade mission to Brazil. With Illinois already leading the Midwest in exports, the trade mission will build on the state’s prior successes as part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to aggressively pursue international trade and create jobs in Illinois. In 2011, Illinois exports to Brazil totaled $2.55 billion, up 24 percent from the previous year, making Brazil the state’s fifth-largest export market. Illinois is the fourth-largest exporter to Brazil in the U.S.

A delegation of officials from Illinois businesses, educational institutions, and state and local governments will accompany Governor Quinn on the trip, which includes stops in São Paulo, Brasilia and Recife. During the mission, Governor Quinn will preside over the signing of several memorandums of understanding as part of the Doing Business with Illinois program, which is designed to establish ties in manufacturing, agriculture, biotechnology and education. The trip will also pave the way for Illinois companies to take advantage of business opportunities as Brazil invests $150 billion of public money to build out its transportation and physical infrastructure.

While in São Paulo, the governor will address the Brazil travel trade industry to encourage Brazilians to visit Illinois. The opportunity to attract more international tourism spending to Illinois is significant, with 1.5 million Brazilians visiting the U.S. in 2011, but less than 4 percent traveling to Illinois. At each of the three stops in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and Recife, Governor Quinn will hold meetings with key private sector leaders, top government officials and potential trading partners in order to open up more markets to Illinois companies.

The state is also working with Illinois colleges and universities to attract more Brazilian students. Last year, the Brazilian government unveiled plans to fund 100,000 scholarships to send students abroad to study science, engineering and math. The program, called Science Without Borders, provides scholarships for one year of study at colleges and universities in the U.S.

For the current academic year, nine Illinois universities and colleges are hosting 91 Brazilian students through the program. The mission will build on this strong foundation and expand the relationship. A number of Illinois companies have made plans to donate scholarship funds for Brazilians to attend Illinois universities for the 2013 to 2014 school year.  In addition, some Illinois companies will also provide internships to Brazilian students through the Science Without Borders program.

or follow him on Twitter at @GovernorQuinn. More information about Illinois trade and business opportunities can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website at

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Disclosure of tax returns by Administration officials PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 08:20

Floor Speech of Senator Chuck Grassley

on the Disclosure of Tax Returns by Administration Officials

Delivered Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On August 2, the Majority Leader decided that the valuable time of this body would be best employed by speculating on the contents of the tax returns of presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney.  These remarks also touched upon the vetting process of the Finance Committee.  As a senior member of the Finance Committee, as well as a former Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee, I have come to familiarize my colleagues with the Committee’s vetting process.

On Thursday, August 2, the Majority Leader exclaimed, “As we know, he has refused to release his tax returns.  If a person coming before this body wanted to be a Cabinet officer, he couldn’t be if he had the same refusal Mitt Romney does about tax returns.”

This statement demonstrates a misunderstanding of the confirmation process for cabinet officials and the Finance Committee vetting process in particular.

The fact is, most prospective cabinet officers do not need to disclose their tax returns.  Actually, no prospective cabinet officer is required to make their tax returns public in ordinary circumstances.

To my knowledge, the Finance Committee is the only committee that asks nominees to provide copies of tax returns.  Specifically the Finance Committee asks that nominees provide copies of their last three Federal tax returns.  The Committee may request further returns if it is warranted by the circumstances.

The Committee asks for this information for a few reasons.  To begin with, many nominees referred to the Finance Committee, such as the Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of the IRS, will be able to exercise significant influence over tax policy and administration.  Additionally, the examination of a nominee’s tax returns sheds light on the nominee’s character.

Over the last few years, several high-flyers in the Obama administration have come up short when measured by their tax returns.   Therefore, the vetting process utilized by the Finance Committee has received a lot of attention.

Only two cabinet officers and one position with the status of cabinet-rank are referred to the Finance Committee.  These are the Secretaries of the Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services, and the United States Trade Representative.

As I said before, to my knowledge the Finance Committee is the only Committee to requests copies of actual tax returns.  This means that, not counting the vice president, there are 19 members of the cabinet who do not release their tax returns during the Senate confirmation process.

As I said, no cabinet official is required to make his or her tax returns public.  This goes to the details of the Finance Committee’s vetting process.

All nominees referred to the Committee are required to submit copies of their last three filed tax returns.  These copies, along with other financial data, are shared with a very limited number of staff specially designated by the Chairman and Ranking Member.

While being reviewed, the returns themselves are kept under very tight control.  Most staff for the Chairman and Ranking Member do not have access to the tax returns.  Neither the Chairman nor Ranking Member may unilaterally release the tax returns or information obtained from them.

This means that even when I was Chairman, the Committee rules prohibited me from unilaterally releasing a nominee’s tax returns or even making public that nominee’s specific tax information.

When an issue is identified pertaining to a nominee’s tax information, the Chairman and the Ranking Member jointly determine how to proceed.  Information is only released under bipartisan agreement, and after consultation with the nominee.

For example, Secretary Geithner was given the opportunity to withdraw his nomination before the world learned of his failure to pay all of his taxes. He was also provided an opportunity to review the bipartisan memo that the Committee eventually released.

In sum, no nominees vetted by the Finance Committee need to make their tax returns public, and in the majority of cases no information is released.  Additionally, the purpose of the vetting is not to damage the credibility of the nominee.  I bet those seeking Governor Romney’s tax returns are operating under a different standard.

I especially find it interesting that the Majority Leader compared Governor Romney to cabinet officials when speculating as to the contents of Governor Romney’s returns.  There seems to be an implication that a discovery of unsatisfied tax obligations would be problematic to the Leader.

While the Majority Leader may want to speculate as to whether or not Governor Romney has paid his taxes, there are nominees and officials of the current administration we know did not completely satisfy their tax obligations.

I will start this trip down memory lane with our current Treasury Secretary.  Due in large part to his failure to pay self-employment taxes, irregularities in Mr. Geithner’s returns added up to his owing a total of $48,268 in taxes and interest to the IRS.  Those seeking a full accounting of the episode may read the bipartisan memorandum prepared by the Finance Committee, which is part of the record of his January 2009 nomination hearing.  As I said, we don’t need to speculate whether or not Secretary Geithner completely paid his taxes; we know he did not.

Secretary Kathleen Sebelius disclosed that in preparation for her confirmation she filed amended tax returns for 2005, 2006, and 2007.  She voluntarily made this information public in the form of a letter to Chairman Baucus and me.  This letter was printed in the record of her nomination hearing.  The result of those amended returns was that she paid a total of $7,040 in additional tax and $878 in interest to the IRS.

Finally, I want to mention former Senator Tom Daschle, who was the administration’s nominee to be Secretary of HHS for a brief period.  Though Mr. Daschle withdrew his nomination before the Finance Committee held a hearing on his nomination, it was widely reported, including in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, that he failed to pay more than $128,000 in taxes in the three years prior to his nomination.

In mentioning Secretaries Geithner and Sebelius, and Mr. Daschle, I’m not suggesting anything beyond the reported facts of their circumstances or that their tax errors were intentional.  I just wanted to remind the Majority Leader of these situations where it is not necessary to speculate on whether or not taxes were owed.

While I appreciate the Leader’s newfound attention to the Finance Committees vetting process, I want to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the Committee’s process.  I’d be happy to discuss the Committee’s procedure with any interested colleague.  I am sure Ranking Member Hatch and his staff would also be happy to discuss the process with anyone who is interested.

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IG Report on Fast and Furious Released PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 08:15

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which has jurisdiction over the Justice Department, made the following comment after the Inspector General for the Justice Department released its long awaited report on Operation Fast and Furious.  Grassley first began investigating alleged gunwalking in January 2011 after whistleblowers came forward to alert Congress about gunwalking in Arizona.  The Justice Department and Attorney General Eric Holder initially denied gunwalking occurred.

“At first glance, the Inspector General’s report reaffirms virtually everything that Congressman Issa and I have already reported.  Operation Fast and Furious was the height of irresponsibility on the part of a number of people from the ATF Phoenix field office all the way up to the Justice Department headquarters.  And, we still don’t know the full extent of any White House involvement because they refused to be transparent and provide documents requested by the Inspector General.

“It’s clear that both the ATF and the Justice Department failed to provide meaningful oversight of Operation Fast and Furious.  They ignored warnings from employees, and frankly, failed to do their jobs.  It took the death of our own Border Patrol Agent, action by a courageous whistleblower, and intense scrutiny from Congress before they even took note of what was happening under their own eyes.  Even then, they wouldn’t come clean with how bad it really was until after they had sent a false letter and retracted it eight months later.

“It’s particularly discouraging that this all could have been stopped early on if people had just read the wiretap applications.  The Inspector General noted that anybody reading those documents should have seen the red flags. The law requires that certain senior officials authorize those applications, and the Inspector General found that they did so without reading them.  I’m glad that the OIG is joining me and Chairman Issa in urging the Justice Department to move to unseal the wiretap applications so that the American people can read them and make up their own minds.

“The President also appears to be abusing his authority to exert executive privilege.  The White House rightly allowed the Inspector General to make public a small subset of the documents withheld from Congress under his claim of Executive Privilege, but it continues to shut out Congress’ access to the rest of the documents.  It proves that this subset of documents could have been released earlier, and the President was merely thumbing his nose at Congress by claiming Executive Privilege on the eve of the contempt vote against Attorney General Holder for withholding the documents.

“It’s time to hold people accountable.  Attorney General Holder is out of excuses for action.

“We’ll be reading the report in more detail.  We’ve already noticed that the report contains a factual error that lets Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer off the hook.  The report accepts Breuer’s version of events, claiming that he hadn’t “proposed edits, commented on the drafts or otherwise indicated he had read them.”  In fact, emails show that he received drafts of the February 4 letter and commented on them before it was sent, which he later denied to Congress.

“Last but not least, I hope the report helps answer questions for the Terry family.  They deserve more answers than they’ve received up to this point from their government.”

 
INTELLECTUALLY DISABLED WORKERS AWARDED $1.3M FOR PAY DISCRIMINATION BY HENRY’S TURKEY SERVICE PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Barbara Fuller   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 08:11
Federal Judge Rules for Workers In EEOC Lawsuit, Further Proceedings on Disability-Based Abuse and Harassment Allegations Lie Ahead

DALLAS—Hill Country Farms Inc., doing business as Henry’s Turkey Service (“Henry’s Turkey”) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by paying 32 workers with intellectual disabilities severely substandard wages, a judge ruled in an EEOC lawsuit. The court ordered the company, based in Goldthwaite, Texas, to pay its former employees lawful wages totaling $1.3 million for jobs they performed under contract at a turkey processing plant in West Liberty, Iowa, between 2007 and 2009.

The EEOC alleged in the lawsuit (No. 3:11-cv-00041 , filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Davenport Division,) that Henry’s Turkey exploited a class of disabled workers because their intellectual impairments made them vulnerable and unaware of the extent to which their legal rights were being violated.

In this latest ruling, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Wolle found that, rather than the total of $65 dollars per month Henry’s Turkey paid to the disabled workers while contracted to work on an evisceration line at the plant, the employees should have been compensated at the average wage of $11-12per hour, reflecting pay typically earned by non-disabled workers who performed the same or similar work. The EEOC’s wage claims for each worker ranged from $28,000 to $45,000 in lost income over the course of their last two years before the Henry’s Turkey Service operation was shut down in February 2009.

"This case reflects the Commission's longstanding commitment to enforce the antidiscrimination laws nationwide on behalf of all workers, including workers with intellectual disabilities and other vulnerable communities,” said P. David Lopez, General Counsel of the EEOC.  It is a serious mistake for any employer not to adopt safeguards against unlawful discrimination based on the assumption that workers will not exercise their rights due to fear or the lack of understanding."

“I believe that this positive result furthers the ongoing discussion about how far our country has come in promoting and supporting employment opportunities for persons with mental, intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the Dallas District Office of the EEOC, who is litigating the case. “Unfortunately, this case also reflects the sad reality that we still have a ways to go to ensure that employment of persons with disabilities does not require them to sacrifice their true earning capacity or their human dignity.”

In its motion for partial summary judgment, the EEOC argued that Henry’s Turkey Service was not justified in paying disabled workers wages that were lower than the minimum wage for Iowa where they lived and worked, and that the disabled workers, some of whom had performed the work for over 25 years, were due the same wage rate as non-disabled workers. In support of its motion,  EEOC included the statement of a West Liberty Foods supervisor, who stated that the contracted Henry’s workers were as productive as other workers in the plant, and that they actually demonstrated their knowledge and skills to persons who were being hired to replace them as the Henry’s Turkey contract operations were winding down.

The EEOC also submitted evidence from West Liberty Foods records showing that while the plant paid Henry’s Turkey Service as much as $11,000 per week for the work performed by the crew of 25-30 disabled men, Henry’s paid the men only an average of $15 per week each.

Henry’s maintained that it should be credited with wages for providing a 100-year-old former schoolhouse as living quarters. The EEOC submitted evidence, however, from various witnesses, including admissions by Henry’s supervisors, that the “bunkhouse”--from which the men were later evacuated--was closed down by the state fire marshal as unsafe, its heating was inadequate, the bug-infested building had rodent problems, and the roof was in such disrepair that buckets were put out to catch water pouring in. The EEOC’s position, supported by testimony of the U.S. Department of Labor, was that it was unlawful for the company to deny the disabled workers their full wages and benefits by claiming a “credit” for these substandard living conditions.

Dr. Sue Gant, an expert witness, supported the EEOC's claims that the company's scheme involved purposeful financial exploitation of the trusting workers. She concluded that Henry’s conduct "including acts of deliberate misrepresentation" about wages and expenditures, was profit-driven and deprived the workers of "economic independence and self-sufficiency." She further declared that the company "took advantage of the workers. . .knowing that they would not likely be discovered because the workers were disabled."

“Company officers were never able to explain why they were deducting about $1,000 per month from each employee’s wages to cover the company’s alleged room and board and expenses, while simultaneously pulling out hundreds of dollars per month from each of the men’s personal Social Security SSI and disability benefit accounts to reimburse itself for the very same described
‘expenses’,” added Regional Attorney Canino. Anyone could plainly see that the math just didn’t add up, while the personal costs to the men continued to multiply.”

In addition to the discriminatory pay practices which are the subject of the Court’s order, the EEOC’s suit also alleges that the company subjected the disabled workers to abusive verbal and physical harassment, unnecessarily restricted their freedom, and imposed harsh punishments and other adverse terms and conditions of employment such as requiring them to live collectively in substandard living conditions and failing to provide proper health care. The EEOC’s trial on these remaining issues regarding mistreatment of the workers is currently scheduled for March 2013.

The EEOC enforces the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.

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Treasurer Fitzgerald Is Gearing Up for the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt Fall Publication PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Karen Austin   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 07:52

DES MOINES, IA (09/19/2012)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald's Great Iowa Treasure Hunt fall publication is scheduled to be released soon. The upcoming list is the latest names of unclaimed property owners with undiscovered treasures.

"This fall we will be publishing the names of people who have had funds turned over to the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt in the last year," Fitzgerald said. "If your name is not on this list, visit our website at www.greatiowatreasurehunt.com and search the entire Great Iowa Treasure Hunt list for your name anytime."

The Great Iowa Treasure Hunt program has returned over $149 million in unclaimed property to more than 374,000 individuals since Fitzgerald started it in 1983. Unclaimed property refers to money and other assets held by financial institutions or companies that have lost contact with the property's owner for a specific period of time. State law requires these institutions and companies to annually report and deliver unclaimed property to the State Treasurer's Office, where it is held until the owner or heir of the property is found. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed checks, life insurance policies, utility security deposits, and safe deposit box contents.

Everyone is encouraged to keep watch for the upcoming publication. In the meantime, all Iowans are urged to visit www.greatiowatreasurehunt.com and check to see if they have unclaimed property. Individuals may also send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For those who prefer corresponding by mail, please write to: State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald, Great Iowa Treasure Hunt, Lucas State Office Building, Des Moines, IA 50319. Please make sure to provide current name, previous names and addresses.

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