Stage & Theatre
STOCK Act vote, political intelligence disclosure PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Stage & Theatre
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 23 March 2012 14:24

Please note:  Several news accounts are describing Sen. Grassley’s vote as against the anti-congressional insider trading bill, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, or STOCK Act.  Here’s an explanation of the vote:

 

Sen. Grassley voted against cloture on the STOCK Act, not against the STOCK Act itself.  There was a unanimous consent agreement that if cloture were invoked, the bill would be adopted.  That obviated the need for a roll call vote on final passage of the STOCK Act.  Sen. Grassley supports the STOCK Act.  He voted against cloture to proceed to the STOCK Act because the Senate leadership stripped out his political intelligence registration provision, and he wanted the opportunity to offer his amendment.

 

 

Also, here’s Sen. Grassley’s statement on the Senate floor from earlier today.

 

Statement by Senator Charles E. Grassley

Consideration of the Anti-congressional Insider Trading Bill,

Minus Political Intelligence Registration

March 22, 2012

 

Bpartisanship is alive and well here in Washington, DC.

 

On Tuesday the Republican Majority Leader of the House and the Democrat Majority Leader of the Senate worked together to thwart the will of 60 Senators and 286 Members of Congress.

 

This is not the kind of bipartisan cooperation we need.

 

I won’t ascribe motives to anyone in this body, but I know that today’s actions only serve the desires of obscure and powerful Wall Street interests and undercut the will of an overwhelming majority of Congress.

 

They took a common sense provision supported by a majority of both Houses of Congress — and they simply erased it.

 

The provision simply says that if you seek information from Congress or the executive branch to trade stocks – Congress, the executive branch, and the American people ought to know who you are.

 

But, the leadership of both parties went behind closed doors, and they made that provision magically disappear.

 

What they did was a truly amazing procedural sleight of hand.

 

First, the Majority Leader in the House said that the definition of political intelligence was so “vague” that he couldn’t possibly figure out how to define it.

 

That’s the excuse given for stripping any regulation of it from the STOCK Act.  To me, that came as something of a surprise.

 

I would like to read Section 7 part b of the version of the STOCK Act that was rammed through the House of Representatives:

 

“Definition – for purposes of this section, the term ‘political intelligence’ shall mean information that is derived by a person from direct communications with an executive branch employee, a Member of Congress, or an employee of Congress; and provided in exchange for financial compensation to a client who intends, and who is known to intend, to use the information to inform investment decisions.”

 

That seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

 

Of course, now that definition will only be applied to a study, not to legislation with any real teeth.

 

If you think that’s bad, this is what happened to the STOCK Act in the Senate.

 

By now I think just about everybody in this body knows how passionately I feel about this amendment.

 

I have spoken repeatedly about the dangers of unregulated political espionage.

 

I have reached out to leadership to express my concern and written a letter with Senator Leahy on the importance of our STOCK Act provisions.

 

I said that I was willing to negotiate on the language of my provision.

 

What was the response?

 

Nothing.

 

I wasn’t even given the courtesy of being notified before cloture was filed.

 

It was an ambush, plain and simple.

 

Just like those people who traffic in political espionage, this process has been cloaked in secrecy.

 

Now the claim is made that the Senate was forced to take up the House bill, because an unnamed Republican was threatening to object to a conference.

 

However, no Republican, or any Senator for that matter, has publically owned-up to trying to stop this bill from going to conference.

 

But, even if we accept this fact, there are still more questions.

 

Supposedly, we are taking up the House bill because the Senate does not have time to take two more cloture votes.

 

Throughout this Congress, we have spent weeks in nothing but quorum calls but suddenly, we have run out of time.

 

Of course, in less than ten days, we will be leaving Washington, D.C., for a two week recess.

 

Here is an idea.  With congressional approval ratings in the near single digits why can’t we spend part of that recess getting the STOCK Act right.

 

The Washington Post said that my amendment, combined with Senator Leahy’s political corruption amendment, “transformed the (STOCK Act) into the most sweeping ethics legislation Congress had considered since 2007.”

 

Isn’t that worth taking two extra votes?

 

I think so, but apparently others disagree.

At the end of the day, here is what will happen.

 

There are over 2,000 people working in the completely unregulated world of political intelligence, or political espionage as I call it.  Right now, they are celebrating.

 

They are celebrating because they know that its business as usual.

 

They can continue to pass along tips they get from Members of Congress, Senators and staff and no one will be the wiser.

 

They pass along these tips to hedge funds, private equity firms and other investors who pay them top dollar.

 

The lobbyists get rich.

 

Wall Street traders get rich.

 

But the American people lose.

 

That is the tragic result of the Majority Leader’s decision.

 

Through my oversight investigations, I have learned that political intelligence gathering for Wall Street is growing field, ripe for abuse.

 

Here are just two examples of the type of activity that will continue to be kept in the dark.


In the course of my investigation of a whistleblower’s claims, I learned that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has closed door meetings with Wall Street firms where CMS policies are discussed.

 

No record is kept of these meetings and employees are essentially on the honor system to make sure that they are not giving investors inside information.

 

As an example, the whistleblower who came to us claimed that over a dozen CMS employees spent nearly two hours briefing Wall Street analysts and investors on the taxpayer’s dime.

 

A member of the public could not walk in and get that kind of access to information.

 

CMS is supposed to be working for us, but instead, we found out that they were working for Wall Street.

 

If my amendment fails we won’t know how many of these meetings occur throughout the government and who profits from these meetings.

 

Another example was an investigation I conducted into the Obama Administration’s Department of Education.

 

The Department of Education was getting set to issue regulations on gainful employment that would affect for-profit colleges.

 

Several hedge funds had bet big that those new regulations would make it harder for for-profit colleges to do business.

 

Then, news began to leak out that those regulations were not going to be as tough as was expected.

 

Suddenly, for-profit stocks began to rise and those hedge fund investors reached out to their friends in the Department of Education.

 

This is from an actual e-mail that my investigation uncovered.

 

It was sent from Steve Eisman, a hedge fund investor to David Bergeron, he was part of the team in charge of writing these regulations.

 

The e-mail reads:  “I know you cannot respond, but FYI education stocks are running because people are hearing DOE is backing down on gainful employment.”

 

To translate, on Wall Street, the term “running” means that a stock is going up.

 

Within minutes this e-mail was marked high importance and forwarded to senior level political appointees.  These appointees included James Kvaal, the Deputy Undersecretary and another policy expert at the Department and Phil Martin, the Secretary of Education’s confidential assistant.

 

To this day we do not know why the Department’s higher education policy experts needed to know that a hedge fund investor was losing money.

 

What we do know is that for-profit stocks dropped significantly and if you bet big that these stocks would drop, you likely made a lot of money.

 

When the Department of Education answered my questions, they admitted to my staff that this e-mail was not a proper contact.

 

In addition, the Department of Education’s Inspector General is investigating the gainful employment rulemaking process.

 

These are just two examples in two government agencies but reports like this are just the tip of the iceberg.

The more power Washington, DC has, the more it affects financial markets.

 

And the more it affects financial markets, the more people on Wall Street want to pay for information about what is going to happen in Washington, DC.

 

Usually, the only way any sort of ethics reform gets done around here is that someone gets caught.

 

With political intelligence we have the opportunity to create transparency before the next scandal happens.

 

As government grows, this industry is going to grow along with the potential for corruption.

 

The question is – what are we going to do about it?

 

Transparency is the simplest and least intrusive solution.

 

We can commission another study and kick the can down the road for another year or we can act.

 

This is our last chance to make sure that the Senate speaks with a unified voice against secrecy for political intelligence agents and for transparent government.

 

We must not allow special interests to operate in darkness.

 

For these reasons, and to support transparency, open government, and good government, I will oppose cloture on this bill.

 

If cloture is invoked, which is likely, I intend to vote for the bill.  Although very flawed, at least it’s better than current law.  But, it’s not much of a victory for the American people.

 

I yield the floor.

 
Scott County Board of Supervisors' Tentative Agenda PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Stage & Theatre
Written by Chris Berge   
Friday, 23 March 2012 14:14
TENTATIVE AGENDA
SCOTT COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
March 26 - 30, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Committee of the Whole - 8:00 am
Board Room, 1st Floor, Administrative Center

1. Roll Call: Minard, Sunderbruch, Cusack, Earnhardt, Hancock

Presentation

2. Presentation of PRIDE recognition for years of service. (Item 2) . . . . . 9:00 A.M.

3. Presentation of PRIDE recognition for retirement. (Item 3)

4. Presentation of Sunshine Award. (Item 4)

5. Presentation of PRIDE Recognition for Employee of the Quarter.

Facilities & Economic Development

6. Approval of third and final reading of an ordinance to amend Chapter 13-34 of the
Scott County Code relative to designated speed limits on F58/200th Street, Walcott.
(Item 6)

7. Approval of the purchase of a sport utility vehicle for the Secondary Roads
Department. (Item 7)

8. Approval of an Amendment to the Agreement for Services between Scott County and
Bi-State Regional Commission for preparation of a Scott County Multi-Jurisdictional
Hazard Mitigation Plan. (Item 8)

9. Approval of 2012 Weed Destruction Program for Scott County. (Item 9)

10. Approval of award of bid for fine paper. (Item 10)

Human Resources

11. Discussion of strategy of upcoming labor negotiations with the County's organized
employees pursuant to Iowa Code Section 20.17(3). - CLOSED SESSION

12. Discussion of pending litigation pursuant to Iowa Code Section 21.5(1)(c). - CLOSED
SESSION

13. Approval of personnel actions. (Item 13)

Page 1 of 2

Health & Community Services

14. Approval of tax suspension requests. (Item 14)

15. Discussion of County Medical Examiner Autopsy costs. (Item 15)

Finance & Intergovernmental

16. Approval of 2012 slough bill exemptions. (Item 16)

17. Approval of the abatement of deliquent property taxes. (Item 17)

18. Approval of proclamation for National County Government Month - April 2012. (Item
18)

19. Approval of recognition of Rex Ridenour's years of service on the Planning and
Zoning Commission. (Item 19)

Other Items of Interest

20. Consideration of appointments with upcoming term expirations for boards and
commissions. (3 month notice)

Scott County Public Safety Authority (6 year term)
Carolyn Scheibe - 06 (term expires 06/30/12)

Library Board (6 year term)
Joe Ragona - 00 (term expires 06/30/12)
Robert Petersen - 99 (term expires 06/30/12)
Jenni Criswell - 99 (term expires 06/30/12)

Benefited Fire District #6 - (6 year term) (Joint appointment with Muscatine Board)
Angie Ehlers - 11 (term expires 06/30/12)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Regular Board Meeting - 5:30 pm
Board Room, 1st Floor, Administrative Center

 
Don’t miss the area premiere of the Broadway thriller A Steady Rain at Riverside Theatre PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Stage & Theatre
Written by Sarah Burnett   
Friday, 23 March 2012 13:53

Iowa City, IA – Don’t miss the area premiere of the gritty and complex Broadway thriller, A Steady Rain by Keith Huff, directed by Joseph Price at Riverside Theatre.

A Steady Rain opens Friday, March 30 and runs through Sunday, April 15 and features local actors Martin Andrews and Jim Van Valen.

Chicago cops Joey and Denny are lifelong best friends and partners on the beat until a chain of events spirals out of control and threatens to change not only their lives, but their friendship forever.

“It's a story about a relationship under threat -- and how brotherhood and loyalty are brought into question when the battle lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’ become blurred,” said Van Valen, who plays Denny.

A Steady Rain contains strong language and adult content.

Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $28 for adults, $25 for 60 and over/30 and under, $15 for youth (18 and under).

Tickets can be purchased online at www.riversidetheatre.org or by phone at (319) 338-7672. The Riverside Theatre Box Office is located at 213 N Gilbert St, Iowa City. Box office hours are: 12 – 4 p.m. Monday – Friday and 1 hour before performances.

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Is "Pink Slime" safe? Do animals need antibiotics? Experts respond. PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Stage & Theatre
Written by Best Food Facts   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:40

Latest Poll

Food Fight Poll: "Pink Slime"

What are your thoughts on lean finely textured beef (“pink slime”)?

Take our latest poll!

***

What's Cookin'?

Recently we’ve talked with University-based food experts/researchers about these topics

Does Size Matter in Sustainable Food?
Our experts debate the correlation between the size of a farm and whether it sustainably produces food.

The Truth About “Pink Slime”
Dr. James Dickson explains the process behind Lean Finely Textured Beef and whether our beef is safe.

Do Fatty Foods Cause Brain Damage?
Dr. Melinda Sothern explains why it's important to watch what you and your children eat.

Consumer Questions: White Goo on Chicken - What Is It?
Dr. Casey Owens and Dr. Don Conner answer a reader's question about chicken breasts.

Antibiotics For Animals: Dangerous for Humans?
Dr. Peter Davies and Dr. Scott Hurd explain why antibiotics are fed to livestock and whether that causes human health risks.

"Pink Slime" in Chicken Nuggets?
Dr. Casey Owens explains what mechanically separated chicken is and why it is used.

We Bet You Didn't Know... Interesting Food Facts
We've gathered some interesting facts from our food system experts.

Check out all the Food for Thought posts!

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Meet Our Featured Expert!

Dr. Ethan Bergman, PhD, RD, CD, FADA, is the associate dean in the College of Education and Professional Studies and professor of food science and nutrition at Central Washington University. He was named CWU Distinguished University Professor in 2001-02 and was named by the Washington State Dietetic Association as Outstanding Registered Dietitian of the Year in 2000. He is the president-elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. He is a past delegate and the immediate past-speaker of the Academy's House of Delegates. Bergman is a former high school biology, physics, mathematics and computer science teacher and a former volleyball and wrestling coach. He has served on the Academy's Educator's Task Force on Education Reform in Dietetics Education and on the Evidence-Based Practice Committee. A graduate of Linn-Benton Community College and Eastern Oregon State College, Bergman received master's degrees in biology from the University of Oregon and in interdisciplinary studies in biology, general studies and education from Western Oregon State College. Bergman earned his doctorate from Washington State University. He has helped Best Food Facts answer the question, Salt: How Much Is Too Much?.

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Coming Right Up!

Best Food Facts readers asked questions – and our experts will be providing answers! Look for these topics to be covered soon!

  • What are farmers doing to grow healthier food? What technologies are being used?
  • Water: What's the magic number? How much water should you drink per day?
  • Do beef cattle secrete synthetic hormones?

Have a food question you'd like answered? Click here to ask our experts!

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Hire U.S. Workers First, Restore Integrity of U.S. Visa System PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Stage & Theatre
Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 22 March 2012 12:53

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

 

With spring just around the corner, many Iowans look forward to seasonal rites of passage this time of year.  Farmers are itching to get in the fields. Home gardeners anticipate the first shoots of peas and lettuce.  Spring cleaning tops the to-do list for many families.  School students give thanks for Spring Break.  And, soon-to-be-college graduates have their sights set on landing a job.

 

It’s no secret the Class of 2012 needs to break into a job market struggling to rebound from Wall Street’s financial meltdown and mortgage industry mess.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the unemployment rate is idling at 8.3 percent. This year’s crop of graduates also will be competing with more than five million jobless Americans who have been looking for work for longer than six months.

 

Yet, the Obama administration has proposed federal rules to “attract and retain highly skilled immigrants” that arguably increase the competition for Americans who are looking for work.

 

Is this really the administration’s idea of priming the employment pump?

 

In Iowa, civic and business leaders work together in their communities to grease the wheels for economic development.  From Council Bluffs to Keokuk, local economic development leaders search for ways to attract and keep businesses.  They go to bat for their towns because they know their labor pool is ready and willing to work.

 

So, flooding the employment market with foreign workers, when high-skilled Americans are seeking jobs at unprecedented levels, just doesn’t square with improving the home team advantage, let alone fostering a level playing field.

 

From my leadership position on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, I have championed reforms to the nation’s immigration and visa laws to better protect the pool of highly-skilled, unemployed U.S. workers and graduates who struggle to find good-paying jobs here at home.

 

For example, the H1-B visa program was created in 1990 as a temporary measure to help companies in America find high-technology workers -- assuming specialized workers aren’t available in the United States to fill these jobs.  After more than two decades on the books, the program needs better controls and stronger oversight that will prevent qualified American workers from being passed over for good-paying jobs.

 

That’s why over the last several years I’ve introduced an H-1B visa reform bill that would require a good faith recruitment of American workers by all companies seeking to bring in foreign workers, change the wage requirements to ensure that visa holders are not undercutting American workers, give more authority to the Department of Labor to investigate allegations of fraud, prohibit employers from advertising only to H-1B visa holders, and increase penalties for those who violate the terms of the H-1B visa program.

 

Working with Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, I’ve also urged the administration to formally adopt the standards set by the U.S. Department of State and the Administrative Appeals Office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when adjudicating L-1B visas (a visa that allows employers to transfer its existing workers to the U.S. if they have “specialized” or “advanced” knowledge of the company).  Unfortunately, the Obama administration is considering changes to the L-1B visa program that could water down these standards and allow the L-1B visa program to be used as a back door to evade restrictions of the H-1B visa program, putting American workers at a disadvantage.

 

Out-of-work Americans and graduates of the Class of 2012 have enough hurdles to overcome.  The nation’s visa system should not undermine their chances of landing a good-paying job.

 

March 19, 2012


 
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