Nothing to see here, folks!
That's the takeaway of the House Ethics Committee's 616-page report on fundraisers targeting financial industry lobbyists held by members of the House around the time the legislative body was voting on an overhaul of financial regulation in December of 2009.
Despite the recommendations of the more independent Office of Congressional Ethics, the House Ethics Committee wouldn't be looking into whether events geared towards financial lobbyists held by three members of Congress had the appearance of impropriety.
OCE recommended that the House Ethics Committee further probe whether Reps. John Campbell (R-CA), Tom Price (R-GA), and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) did anything wrong when they raised funds from financial lobbyists around the time of the House vote, according to reports they posted on their website Wednesday.
But the House Ethics Committee, chaired by Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), released a report late Wednesday which essentially said there was nothing to worry about. Their 616-page report claims that "an independent investigation of the relevant facts and surrounding circumstances in all three matters demonstrated that each Member's fundraising activities raised no appearances of impropriety."
In fact, the investigation says that such fundraisers "exhibited no appearances of special access for attendees to the Members in their official capacity" and were "no different than any routine fundraising event held by any other House Member."
All in all, seven members had their cases dismissed by the House Ethics Committee today. Four had been expected, as the Office of Congressional Ethics didn't think any other action was necessary in the cases of Reps. Melvin Watt (D-NC), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) and Christopher Lee (R-NY).
But OCE thought Campbell, Price and Crowley were more overt in their attempts to pad their coffers with financial industry cash and recommended a further probe.
The Ethics Committee didn't agree. Much of their report focuses on whether their actions met the so-called "DeLay standard" -- whether their shilling gave an appearance of impropriety that reached the standard set by DeLay.
"Unlike in the DeLay matter, however, none of the three Members occupied such a senior leadership position," the report claims. "Their input during the legislative process was typical of that with regard to any Member regarding major legislation." (Further excerpts on the DeLay standard here).
Don't tell that to Campbell, Price and Crowley. The two Republicans were both members of the Financial Services Committee, while the Democrat Crowley headed up the influential New Democrat Coalition.
Price and Crowley's offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Campbell said he was glad the matter wrapped up.
"Since the beginning of this matter, I have consistently maintained that there has been no wrongdoing, and I have always expected a favorable outcome," Campbell said in a statement sent to TPM. "Today, the House Ethics Committee has confirmed this to be true, and I am pleased that the matter has been concluded."
Additional reporting by Melissa Jeltsen, Meena Rupani and Alex Sciuto. The OCE reports referring Campbell, Price and Crowley to the Ethics Committee are embedded below.
The House Ethics Committee dismisses cases against seven congressmen being investigated for fundraising from the financial services industry in the immediate run-up to the vote on financial regulatory reform. [...]
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enlargeHave you ever known anyone who sent their children to a neighboring school district and used a relative's address to qualify them? It happens here all the time, because an adjacent high school is on a block schedule, which many parents like better than the 6-period schedule in our own school district. However, I have yet to see any parent sent to jail for it.
But this is California, not Ohio. And in Ohio, if you're a single mom living in the projects who is going to school yourself to earn a teaching credential in order to make a better life for you and the kids, you might consider enrolling them in the district where your father lives, because that district has a terrific rating and great test scores. And if you did that, and got caught, you might be convicted of felonies and receive a jail sentence. For trying to get a better education for your kids.
[Kelly Williams-Bolar] is a single mother with two girls, ages 12 and 16, and is only a few credit hours short of graduating from the University of Akron with a teaching degree. She was working as a teaching assistant with special needs children at Buchtel High School. She also cared for her ailing father, who was charged with multiple felonies in the residency case.
Williams-Bolar was convicted of the two felony counts Saturday night after seven hours of jury deliberations.
On Tuesday, Cosgrove sentenced her to five years in prison but suspended all but 10 days in the county jail, saying that to not include time behind bars would ''demean the seriousness'' of the offenses.
She also was given two years of probation and 80 hours of community service.
In addition, her (ailing) father was charged with grand theft for allowing Williams-Bolar to use his address when the girls didn't live there. Prosecutors claim it cost the Copley-Fairlawn school district $30,500 for the girls' education at their school with no tax base supporting their attendance.
Which leads me to ask why it is that there was no offsetting charge for what their education could have cost in their home district? Either it should have washed, or else there's some inequity in the two districts. Perish the thought.
At first, the judge was the target of everyone's blame for what is clearly an outrageous miscarriage of justice. But reading further, it seems to be the fault of the prosecutor, the investigating officers and perhaps most especially the superintendent of schools for the Copley-Fairlawn district.
[Judge] Cosgrove said the county prosecutor's office refused to consider reducing the charges to misdemeanors, and that all closed-door talks to resolve the case ? outside of court ? met with failure.
Kelley Williams-Bolar, 40, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 days in jail after a jury convicted her of two felony counts of tampering with records.
Cosgrove said numerous pretrial hearings were held since last summer.
''The state would not move, would not budge, and offer Ms. Williams-Bolar to plead to a misdemeanor,'' the judge said in an interview Wednesday.
And it gets creepier, when you see how far they went to investigate and prosecute her. Via the local ABC News station, Newsnet5:
Prosecutors said Williams-Bolar lived in Akron, but falsified enrollment papers in the Copley-Fairlawn School District so her two girls could attend schools for two years.
Prosecutors said the lies cost the district about $30,000. Copley-Fairlawn does not have open enrollment and out-of-district tuition is about $800 per month.
The school district spent about $6,000 to bring the case to trial. That included hiring a private investigator who followed Williams-Bolar and her children around while secretly videotaping their movements.
Superintendent Brain Poe said Copley-Fairlawn has lost hundreds of thousand of dollars because of parents illegally enrolling their children into the schools.
The article goes on to say that this is the very first time anyone has ever been brought up on felony charges for sending their kids out of district. Do you think it's coincidence that they brought those charges against a black woman sending her black children to a white, affluent, successful school? Were they afraid those children would bring down the property values or the test scores? Or both?
This makes me shaky-angry. The kind of angry where I want to walk out onto my front porch and scream at 2 am as I write this. The kind of angry that keeps me awake at night. Every child in this country should have the right to a good education, but they don't. And when a parent takes desperate steps to ensure they have a good education while caring for an ailing parent and going to school herself, a jail sentence is not the answer. Ever.
You shouldn't ever go to jail for sending your kids to school. That's all. But as angry as I am, it doesn't even come near what anger must feel like among the black community. Here's Elon James White, writing for Salon:
To judge this simply as a case of fraud is to ignore the surrounding circumstances. Some say that, legally speaking, "circumstances" don't matter. But if you murder someone they specifically have to figure out if it was a crime of passion, was it self-defense or was it premeditated. Each crime receives wildly different sentences. The bottom line is that a person is dead. But somehow that's not black and white. They say Williams-Bolar was judged by a jury of her peers. Was she really? Was it a group of poor minorities trying to finally have a chance at the supposed American dream? Were these "peers" people whose families have tried for generations to rise from the injustice and inequalities that they -- literally -- had nothing to do with?
Show me these "peers."
I'm not saying Kelley Williams-Bolar was right. I'm not saying she shouldn't have to pay what she owes to the local government. I'm saying to make an example of a poor mother with a family on her first offense is unconscionable. To think this reasonable is to ignore the reality that we live in and the shades of right and wrong that appear in so many offenses.
By the way, America stole a lot of labor from my people. Are we going to get any of that "owed" money any time soon? No? Didn't think so.
Third, I?m not sure why the court is treating this law-abiding mom like a thug who ran into a building with a shotgun and robbed the district of $30,000. Instead, they could simply subtract the amount it costs for her kids to go to the second school from the amount that would be spent for them to attend the first one. I?m sure the difference would still be substantial, since American educational apartheid dictates that schools in poorer neighborhoods are of significantly less quality than other schools. The racial divisions within American schools are nothing less than a blatant and consistent human rights violation and should certainly be treated as such.
This case is a textbook example of everything that remains racially wrong with America?s educational, economic and criminal justice systems. Let?s start from the top: Had Ms. Williams-Bolar been white, she likely would never have been prosecuted for this crime in the first place (I?d love for them to show me a white woman in that area who?s gone to jail for the same crime). She also is statistically not as likely to be living in a housing project with the need to break an unjust law in order to create a better life for her daughters. Being black is also correlated with the fact that Williams-Bolar likely didn?t have the resources to hire the kinds of attorneys who could get her out of this mess (since the average black family?s wealth is roughly 1/10 that of white families). Finally, economic inequality is impactful here because that?s the reason that Williams-Bolar?s school district likely has fewer resources than the school she chose for her kids. In other words, black people have been historically robbed of our economic opportunities, leading to a two-tiered reality that we are then imprisoned for attempting to alleviate. That, my friends, is American Racism 101.
You bet it is. If ever there were a case where a Presidential pardon would be in order, this is one. I'm still creeped out about this school district hiring private detectives and videotaping the movements of 2 girls and their mother. It takes a sick kind of racist jerk to authorize that for school attendance.
And just to add insult to injury, prosecutors have the option of retrying this woman's father and Williams-Bolar on the grand theft charges. What a great way to hold an anvil over their heads. I keep trying to reach for the right set of words to express just how ugly this situation is, but they're not there. It's a situation that exceeds my vocabulary. It's despicable.
Brian Poe is the Superintendent of Copley-Fairlawn CSD. Here's what he says in an interview last week:
BP: We worked with the family for more than two years. It started before I became superintendent. There was a residency hearing and a significant amount of communication.
Patch: Have there been similar incidents, students who are enrolled illegally?
BP: My best estimate is that over the last three years there have been about 50 incidents. In about 99 percent of those cases we find a way to work with the family. Sometimes they pay tuition, sometimes they voluntarily withdraw.
Patch: How do you know where your students live?
BP: Every family completes a residency affadavit. They present identification, utility bills and other proof of residency.
Patch: You have three full-time investigators looking into allegations related to improper enrollment. How do they decide who to look into?
BP: The investigators respond to tips. Sometimes students turn other students in. Sometimes parents call, sometimes a communication we have with a family turns up a red flag.
Patch: Recently one of your investigators retired from his police job and pleaded guilty to using a police database to research residency of parents in your district. Was that officer investigating this case?
BP: No, and we were not involved in that investigation.
Patch: I understand you sometimes charge parents for back tuition. Will you file a civil suit against Williams-Bolar?
BP: That's an option.
The school attendance police. The 21st century equivalent of the KKK? What a crock.
Newly elected New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) has made a series of troubling moves since taking office last month, from proposing the elimination of a crucial state women’s services commission to making her first priority the revocation of illegal immigrants’ driver’s licenses. But the Tea Party-backed governor’s selection of Harrison Schmitt to head the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, which oversees all environmental matters in New Mexico, is the most disturbing action to date.
Schmitt, a retired astronaut and former U.S. Senator, has said he believes the leaders of the environmental movement are communists, and that when these communist environmentalists are appointed to government positions, citizens need to “wake up” and “take control of their government again.” The New Mexico Independent has flagged this interview Schmitt gave to crank radio host Alex Jones in 2009:
SCHMITT: Number one we’ve been concerned with the misuse of science, but I think more fundamentally, this misuse of science has lead to politicians and ideologues to try to gain control of the American economy, and indeed the global economy, by scaring people….I think that there are individuals, [Obama science czar John] Holdren apparently among them, a very large number who have taken ? shall we say captured the environmental movement and turned it into what was previously considered the communist movement. And that?s just something that people of common sense are going to continue to have to counter and wake up enough so that they can take control of their government again. [...]
I think the whole trend really began with the fall of the Soviet Union. Because the great champion of the opponents of liberty, namely communism, had to find some other place to go and they basically went into the environmental movement. That?s not to say there aren?t some major and significant environmental issues, particularly at the local level, but they converted environmental activism to a political movement and some would say a religious movement.
Schmitt also claimed that there has been steady warming of the Earth every year since 1660. Presenting his evidence, Schmitt said, “If you want to read some of the history of the American Revolutionary War, you will realize how damn cold it was back then. And we were just moving out of the little ice age very slowly, and it was very cold.”
Martinez’s appointment of Schmitt to oversee New Mexico’s environmental matters is nothing short of shocking. The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department is charged with “mak[ing] our state a leader in developing reliable supplies of energy, and energy efficient technologies and practices, with a balanced approach toward conserving our renewable and non-renewable resources” and aims to “protect the environment and ensure responsible reclamation of land and resources affected by mineral extraction.” Martinez said she wants Schmitt’s first order of business to be reviewing regulations on oil companies put in place by her predecessor, former Gov. Bill Richardson (D).
h/t Steve Benen:
"Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact."
--President Obama, 1/25/11
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Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) says the Republican Party has a plan:
The Republican Party is the party of K-N-O-W. We know how to lower the cost of health care. We know how to take care of the uninsurable. We know how to put patients in charge of their health care and have a market-based, patient centered health care system that’s not going to kill jobs like ObamaCare is going to do. And we know how to stimulate the economy. We know how to create jobs in the private sector. We know how to prevent this huge government takeover of health care as well as all of society.
Well, apparently it's a secret plan, because it's been more than two years and Republicans have yet to come up with anything even vaguely resembling a plan.
In fact, the only thing they have come up with -- and have endlessly peddled without challenge by the traditional media -- is the Lie of the Year: the "government takeover of health care."
But who knows ... someday, journalists may finally decide to stop reporting that Republicans plan to do something and ask them a simple question: what?
Things are worse at Quantico brig than I ever imagined.[...]
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The Bush administration tried to illegally help Mike Fitzpatrick and other candidates get re-elected to Congress in 2006, according to a government report.And in response, I have only this to ask:
The White House repeatedly broke the law by using federal funds to send Cabinet secretaries and other high-level political appointees to congressional districts of GOP candidates in tight races, the long-running federal investigation concludes.
Jack Claypoole, administrator of the Drug Free Communities program, was sent to Quakertown by the White House to speak with the Upper Bucks Healthy Communities Healthy Youth Coalition on Oct. 23, 2006, just two weeks before Election Day. The visit was viewed as getting "attention" for Fitzpatrick, the report states.
The 118-page report, which cites "a systematic misuse of federal resources," was released Monday. It was put together by the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency that enforces Hatch Act restrictions on partisan political activity inside the federal government.
?The report found that in the three months before the 2006 elections, agency political appointees participated in 197 events. Out of that number, 183 of the events were with a Republican candidate. In contrast, in the same time frame in 2005, a non-election year, agency political appointees went to 76 events, 46 of them with a Republican candidate.I?m not sure how the report overlooked the General Services Administration under Lurita Doan, but somehow it did (Digby provides some background on the fiasco which ensued under Doan?s watch here, along with Hatch violations involving Karl Rove ? of course ? along with former Commerce Secretaries Don Evans and Carlos Gutierrez; there?s a Hatch-related link to the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias also ? more on Doan is here).
The 10 agencies that used federal funds to pay for political appointees to travel to events supporting Republican candidates in 2006 were the departments of Transportation, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Energy, the Veterans Administration, the Small Business Administration and the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The charity was founded in 2004 to help those who have been severely wounded in service to the country in the war on terrorism. The organization donated the money to build a wheelchair-accessible home for (Marine Cpl. Vishnu Gonzalez, paralyzed from the waist down due to combat wounds in Iraq), his mother and his sister. Another nonprofit, Hope for the Warriors, contributed funds to help buy the lot on which the house was built.All good and commendable stuff?
The efforts of Homes for Our Troops and other charitable organizations reveal the heart and soul of America. The United States is the most giving country in the world, with our voluntary contributions adding up to more than $300 billion a year. Mr. Obama is right to elevate the needs of military families and veterans, but compared to these young pioneers, he is a newcomer to the effort.Oh really?
After watching Gov. Chris Christie try to burnish a reputation as a fiscal conservative, political analysts said the New Jersey governor on Monday significantly broadened his national credentials as a social conservative by joining abortion protesters at a rally and encouraging them to ?stand up and speak strongly in favor for the protection of every human life.?This seems to be the latest evolution by Christie on this issue; this tells us that he said he was pro-choice in a 1996 interview with The Record of Bergen County (of course, now Christie says he was ?misquoted?...of course).
Christie spoke to the crowd from the top step outside the Statehouse, with the temperatures in the teens and the governor not in a topcoat. But there were other reasons why the five-minute speech was unusual. Marie E. Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said it was the first time a New Jersey governor had addressed a pro-life rally. The event marked the 38th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision.
This is especially disturbing because the governor last year cut state funding for family planning and women?s health services. That move saved only $7.5 million for the state, while forfeiting a much larger share of federal matching funds.For the record, this story about a possible expansion of Planned Parenthood clinics tells us that, in addition to abortion services, Planned Parenthood offers "a unified set of core preventive services," including HIV testing, the vaccine to prevent most kinds of the human papilloma virus in girls and young women, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, and all forms of birth control, according to Lisa David, senior vice president for Health Services Support at the national office.
At the time, he said it was strictly a matter of saving money, but that was plainly untrue. When Democrats found a way to cover the costs with federal money, he still blocked it. The problem was that some of these services were being performed by Planned Parenthood, an organization that anti-abortion conservatives detest.
It?s also disturbing that the governor kept these sentiments hidden during the 2009 campaign, though his spiritual conversion came 14 years ago.
Yes, he made it plain he was anti-abortion, but when The Star-Ledger pressed him, he suggested only the mildest restrictions. He wanted a 24-hour waiting period, and he wanted minors receiving abortions to notify their parents. He even opposed the idea of requiring parental permission.
Now, suddenly, he?s a crusader. And while he didn?t propose specific restrictions, we should be worried. Because even with the protection of Roe v. Wade, many states have found obnoxious ways to harass or block women seeking abortions.
Lockheed research labs have just opened something that for the Trek geeks among us sounds a lot like a Holodeck. [...]
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