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by Kelsey Harkness

Calling a secretive government operation to strangle politically out-of-favor businesses “more dangerous” than the IRS targeting scandal, a congressman with a background in banking is preparing to introduce legislation to kill the Obama administration initiative.

“I believe this activity is probably more dangerous and more disastrous than that of the IRS scandal because this is running people out of business for no reason and it’s harming livelihoods, incomes [and] families,” Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., said today in an interview with The Daily Signal.

Luetkemeyer, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, was comparing the Department of Justice’s Operation Choke Point to the Internal Revenue Service’s much-reviled targeting of tea party and other conservative groups.

Operation Choke Point seeks to cut off the financial lifeblood of payday lenders and other industries the Obama administration doesn’t like by pressuring banks to close their accounts with such businesses.

The government contends that Operation Choke Point combats unlawful, mass-market consumer fraud. However, a congressional report revealed that the initiative’s targets include legal businesses such as short-term lenders, firearms and ammunition merchants, coin dealers, tobacco sellers and home-based charities.

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FDIC Choke Point List

Personal Libert Digest New

industrial pipeline with gas or oil

“‘Canadian oil’ offers little to nothing for average Americans.” — TheStar.com’s summation of President Barack Obama’s statement last Friday

The House approved legislation for the Keystone XL Pipeline Friday. And although the Senate voted it down on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell  promised that Keystone will be “an early item on the agenda in the next Congress.” But even if both houses in Congress ultimately pass the legislation, President Obama has indicated that he will veto the pipeline.

Obama spoke on the subject last Friday: “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

Interesting in that Obama said “their” oil pumped through “our” land. He made it sound like an oil invasion by a Canadian vanguard. Yet Obama is leaving out a few things.

The U.S. and Canada already have pipelines measuring tens of thousands of miles that date back decades and crisscross the continent. Those pipelines have allowed Canada to be the No. 1 petroleum supplier to the United States, delivering 3 million barrels of crude per day, or three times more oil than the U.S imports from Saudi Arabia. Canadian pipelines have made petroleum more affordable, safer and easier to transport to American industry and consumers.

It would seem Obama skipped economics 101. There they teach that oil is a global commodity. More oil sloshing around the world — any part of the world — means cheaper gasoline for American drivers.

Obama’s rejection of Keystone is especially puzzling when you consider that Canada is a democratic country that for seven decades has been safely engineering and operating pipelines.

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Representative-elect asks for investigation

President Obama signing the federal health care law in 2010. (Image via Pete Souza at Wikimedia Commons).

A consultant considered an architect to the federal health care law who said a “lack of transparency” and “stupidity of the American voter” were critical to getting it passed reportedly received $481,050 from the state of Michigan, and a recently elected state representative said he wants an investigation.

Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who created an econometric model intended to project health care spending and costs under different assumptions, along with his team, was granted a $481,050 contract by the state of Michigan, according to the Washington Post. He was paid that to help set up state health-insurance exchange under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The Washington Post reported that Gruber received similar payments from three other states, but Michigan paid the consultant $81,050 more than any other state.

Gruber was paid the $481,050 even though the Michigan Legislature did not authorize creating a state-level exchange. In 2012, the Senate approved legislation authorizing one but the House declined, with the result that Michigan currently has an exchange run by the federal government.

In some cases Gruber worked with other consultants, so the fees may have been shared.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it will consider a case challenging the authority of a federally run exchange to distribute the health care law’s subsidies, without which its “employer mandate” may not be imposed in a state.

Gruber has been widely criticized for comments on a recently discovered video where he said, “If you have a law that makes explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it wouldn’t have passed. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage and, basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically that was really critical to getting the thing to pass.”

Rep.-elect Gary Glenn, R-Midland, said Saturday he will formally request Monday that the state House of Representatives Research Services Division investigate why Michigan’s payment was more than what Wisconsin ($400,000), Vermont ($400,000) and Minnesota ($329,000) paid.

Glenn will request that State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, and State Rep. Matt Lori, R-Constantine, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee, investigate the state’s deal with Gruber.

Rep. McMillin said he’d ask the Department of Community Health how Gruber was selected and what services he provided for the money.

“Mr. Gruber appears to be a very devious man – perhaps with a proclivity for fraud,” Rep. McMillin said in an email. “Based on the info I receive, I’ll decide if a hearing is warranted.”

 

Personal Libert Digest New

Oilfield - pipe line

House lawmakers on Friday passed a bill to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The Senate is expected to vote on a similar measure Tuesday.

Lawmakers in the House voted 251-161 in favor of the legislation aimed at circumventing the need for TransCanada Corp. to get the Obama administration’s approval to go ahead with construction of the pipeline. The company has been waiting for the administration to make a decision for more than six years.

Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the legislation’s sponsor, said he wants the legislation to move quickly through the Senate to” finally get a bill to the president’s desk that approves this long-overdue Keystone XL pipeline.”

“This will create other economic activity. This will ripple out through the economy,” Cassidy also said of the legislation.

If Keystone supporters in the upper chamber gain the 60 vote majority needed to block a filibuster in passing the legislation, it’ll go to the president’s desk. After years of delaying a decision on Keystone, Obama would then be forced to either pass or veto the legislation, without blaming hurdles within the State Department for his indecision.

On Thursday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested that Obama could veto the legislation.

And Obama, speaking from Asia, said that the pipeline would do little to help U.S. energy independence.

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices,” said Obama, according to USA Today. “If my Republican friends really want to focus on what’s good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy. I’m happy to have that conversation.”

As to whether a filibuster-proof majority is possible for Keystone in the Senate, supporters appeared confident that they had sealed the deal by Friday.

“It is ready for a vote and we have the 60 votes to pass it,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said midweek.

Landrieu is currently battling Cassidy for her Senate seat, which could prove instrumental in helping the conservative state Democrat get her colleagues to help her pass the legislation.

Personal Libert Digest New

Former IRS official Lois Lerner’s “lost” emails are actually just emails that no one within the agency bothered to try to find.

Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit which is in the midst of an ongoing legal battle with the IRS over the emails, reported last week:

[T]he Internal Revenue Service (IRS) admitted to the court that it failed to search any of the IRS standard computer systems for the “missing” emails of Lois Lerner and other IRS officials. The admission appears in an IRS legal brief opposing the Judicial Watch request that a federal court judge allow discovery into how “lost and/or destroyed” IRS records relating to the targeting of conservative groups may be retrieved. The IRS is fighting Judicial Watch’s efforts to force testimony and document production about the IRS’ loss of records in Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation about the IRS targeting of Tea Party and other opponents of President Obama (Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-1559)).  The lawsuit is before U.S. District Court Judge Emmett G. Sullivan.

Lawyers representing Judicial Watch concluded that the IRS “did not undertake any significant efforts to obtain the emails.”

IRS attorneys haven’t disagreed, saying that the agency’s servers hadn’t been searched because they believed “the servers would not result in the recovery of any information.”

Furthermore, the IRS attorneys said that the agency’s internal disaster recovery tapes because they had “no reason to believe that the tapes are a potential source of recovering” the information and didn’t attempt to locate the emails in a broader government information backup system because they had “no reason to believe such a system… even exists.”

The lawyers had previously told Judicial Watch that all government computer records are backed up in case of a government-wide catastrophe.

“The Obama IRS couldn’t care less about the federal court’s orders to provide full information about the ‘missing’ Lois Lerner emails,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Instead, the IRS, with the help of a compromised Justice Department, has engaged in a series of transparently evasive distractions.”

Fitton believes that the IRS is trying drag the process out in hopes that Americans will forget about the scandal.

“The IRS would have Judicial Watch wait for years before we can ask questions about the cover-up that is going on now. The IRS thinks it can game a federal court, Congress, and the American people,” he said. “Having delayed accountability for over two years, the Obama administration is prepared to stonewall on the IRS targeting of Obama’s ‘enemies list’ until after the 2016 presidential election.”