In the USA....New light shed on US government's extraordinary rendition programme
Online project uncovers details of way in which CIA carried out kidnaps and secret detentions following September 11 attacks
• The Rendition Project interactive
• CIA rendition flights explained
Ian Cobain and James Ball
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 22 May 2013 12.01 BST
A groundbreaking research project has mapped the US government's global kidnap and secret detention programme, shedding unprecedented light on one of the most controversial secret operations of recent years.
The interactive online project – by two British universities and a legal charity – has uncovered new details of the way in which the so-called extraordinary rendition programme operated for years in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and the techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to avoid detection in the face of growing public concern.
The Rendition Project website is intended to serve as a research tool that not only collates all the publicly available data about the programme, but can continue to be updated as further information comes to light.
Data already collated shows the full extent of the UK's logistical support for the programme: aircraft associated with rendition operations landed at British airports more than 1,600 times.
Although no detainees are known to have been aboard the aircraft while they were landing in the UK, the CIA was able to refuel during operations that involved some of the most notorious renditions of the post-September 11 years, including one in which two men were kidnapped in Sweden and flown to Egypt, where they suffered years of torture, and others that involved detainees being flown to and from a secret prison in Romania.
The database also tracks rendition flights into and out of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Islands, and suggests that flight crews enjoyed rest-and-recreation stopovers on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Both are British overseas territories.
The Rendition Project is the result of three years of work, funded by the UK taxpayer through the Economic and Social Research Council, by Ruth Blakeley, a senior lecturer at the University of Kent, and Sam Raphael, a senior lecturer at Kingston University, working with Crofton Black, an investigator with the legal charity Reprieve.
"By bringing together a vast collection of documents and data, the Rendition Project publishes the most detailed picture to date of the scale, operation and evolution of the global system of rendition and secret detention in the so-called war on terror," said Blakeley.
Raphael said: "The database makes a major contribution to efforts to track CIA rendition flights, and provides the clearest picture so far of what was going on. It also serves as an important tool for investigators, journalists and lawyers to delve into in more detail."
Black added: "The Rendition Project lays bare the inner workings of the logistics network underlying the US government's secret prison programme. It's the most accurate and comprehensive resource so far published."
The data includes details on 11,006 flights by aeroplanes linked to the CIA's rendition programme since 2002. Of those, 1,556 flights are classed as confirmed or suspected rendition flights, or flagged as "suspicious", depending on the strength of the supporting evidence surrounding each.
The researchers have also confirmed 20 "dummy" flights within the data: flight paths logged with air traffic controllers, but never taken. Instead, the planes took a different route to different airports along the way, to pick up or drop off a detainee. About a dozen more flight paths are marked as possible dummy flights.
The website also weaves together first-hand testimony of detainees of their mistreatment within the secret prisons; the layout and conditions of the facilities; the movements of detainees across the globe; and documents that detail outsourcing to corporations that offered logistical support, from flights to catering and hotel reservations. In some cases, it is unclear whether the airline companies would have been aware of the purpose of the flights.
The project also brings to light new set to launchinformation on the methods used to avoid detection of rendition flights, particularly as journalists became aware of the programme. The project highlights "tarmac transfers" – occasions on which two planes involved in rendition met on remote airfields. The researchers believe these occasions were used to transfer detainees from one plane to another, making their rendition route far more difficult to track.
Among the prisoners who appear to have been switched from one aircraft to another in this way is Abu Faraj al-Libi, who is currently being held at the Guantánamo detention camp in Cuba. After being captured in Pakistan in May 2005, he appears to have been flown to Afghanistan, where he was switched to another aircraft and taken to Bucharest.
**********Subcommittee to Examine Offshore Profit Shifting and Tax Avoidance by Apple Inc.
May 20, 2013
WASHINGTON – Apple Inc. has used a complex web of offshore entities – including three foreign subsidiaries the company claims are not tax resident in any nation – to avoid paying billions of dollars in U.S. income taxes, a bipartisan investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found.
The subcommittee will spotlight Apple’s extensive tax-avoidance strategies at a Tuesday hearing. Witnesses will include Apple CEO Tim Cook, other Apple executives, Treasury Department officials and outside experts. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., subcommittee chairman and ranking member, respectively, will also issue a 40-page memorandum with findings and recommendations.
The subcommittee, which previously explored tax avoidance by other multinational corporations using offshore subsidiaries, found similar practices at Apple. In addition, the subcommittee review discovered an unusual tax scheme: Apple’s claim that two key offshore companies are not tax residents of Ireland, where they are incorporated, or of the United States, where Apple executives manage and control the companies. One of those Irish subsidiaries has paid no income taxes to any national tax authority for the past five years.
"Apple wasn’t satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven," said Sen. Levin. "Apple sought the Holy Grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars, while claiming to be tax resident nowhere. We intend to highlight that gimmick and other Apple offshore tax avoidance tactics so that American working families who pay their share of taxes understand how offshore tax loopholes raise their tax burden, add to the federal deficit and ought to be closed."
"Apple claims to be the largest U.S. corporate taxpayer, but by sheer size and scale, it is also among America's largest tax avoiders,” said Sen. McCain. "A company that found remarkable success by harnessing American ingenuity and the opportunities afforded by the U.S. economy should not be shifting its profits overseas to avoid the payment of U.S. tax, purposefully depriving the American people of revenue. It is important to understand Apple’s byzantine tax structure so that we can effectively close the loopholes utilized by many U.S. multinational companies, particularly in this era of sequestration.”
Sen. McCain added: "I have long advocated for modernizing our broken and uncompetitive tax code, but that cannot and must not be an excuse for turning a blind eye to the highly questionable tax strategies that corporations like Apple use to avoid paying taxes in America. The proper place for the bulk of Apple’s creative energy ought to go into its innovative products and services, not in its tax department."
Tuesday’s hearing is the subcommittee’s second examining the tax-avoidance strategies of multinationals. A September 2012 hearing explored how Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard used dubious strategies to avoid billions in U.S. taxes. Similar practices at Apple include:
Using a so-called cost sharing agreement to transfer valuable intellectual property assets offshore and shift the resulting profits to a tax haven jurisdiction.
Taking advantage of weaknesses and loopholes in tax law and regulations to “disregard” offshore subsidiaries for tax purposes, shielding billions of dollars in income that could otherwise be taxable in the United States.
Negotiating a tax rate of less than 2 percent with the government of Ireland – significantly lower than that nation’s 12% statutory rate – and using Ireland as the base for its extensive network of offshore subsidiaries.
In addition to those standard multinational tactics, Apple established at the apex of its offshore network an offshore holding company that it says is not tax resident in any nation. That subsidiary, Apple Operations International, has no employees and no physical presence, but keeps its bank accounts and records in the United States and holds its board meetings in California. It was incorporated in Ireland in 1980, and is owned and controlled by the U.S. parent company, Apple Inc. Ireland asserts tax jurisdiction only over companies that are managed and controlled in Ireland, but the United States bases tax residency on where a company is incorporated. Exploiting the gap between the two nations’ tax laws, Apple Operations International has not filed an income tax return in either country, or any other country, for the past five years. From 2009 to 2012, it reported income totaling $30 billion.
A second Irish subsidiary claiming not to be a tax resident anywhere is Apple Sales International which, from 2009 to 2012, had sales revenue totaling $74 billion. The company appears to have paid taxes on only a tiny fraction of that income, resulting, for example, in an effective 2011 tax rate of only five hundreds of one percent. In addition to creating non-tax resident affiliates, Apple Inc. has utilized U.S. tax loopholes to avoid U.S. taxes on $44 billion in otherwise taxable offshore income over the past four years, or about $10 billion in tax avoidance per year. A third subsidiary, Apple Operations Europe, also has no tax residency, according to Apple.
The Levin-McCain memorandum offers recommendations to close those offshore corporate tax loopholes. They include strengthening U.S. transfer pricing rules, and reforming the so-called “check-the-box” and “look-through” loopholes that enable multinationals to shield offshore income from U.S. taxes.
Tuesday’s hearing will take testimony from three witness panels:
Harvard Professor Stephen Shay and Villanova Professor J. Richard Harvey;
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer, and Tax Operations Head Phillip Bullock; and
Mark Mazur, Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, and Samuel Maruca, IRS Director of Transfer Pricing Operations.
**********Rand Paul demands Congress ‘apologize’ to Apple for tax avoidance hearing
By David Edwards
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 14:35 EDT
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on Tuesday lashed out at fellow members of Congress for looking into how technology giant Apple is able to avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report on Monday detailing how Apple had used a network of offshore shell companies in recent year to avoid paying taxes.
At a committee hearing on Tuesday, Paul was livid that Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked to testify.
“I’m offended by a $4 trillion government bullying, berating and badgering one America’s greatest success stories,” the Kentucky Republican told the committee. “Tell me what Apple has done that is illegal?”
Paul added that he was also “offended” that that the IRS would “bully” tea party groups.
“If anyone should be on trial here, it should be Congress,” he insisted. “I frankly think the committee should apologize to Apple. I think that the Congress should be on trial here for creating a bizarre and Byzantine tax code that runs into the tens of thousands of pages, for creating a tax code that simple doesn’t compete with the rest of the world.”
Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) pointed out that Paul was free to apologize, but “this subcommittee is about investigating a tax code that is not working for the American people, is not working for businesses in this country, which some business decide how many taxes they’re going to pay, how many they won’t, what they’re going to leave offshore in terms of profit, cooking up all kinds of arrangements to avoid paying taxes.”
“Apple is a great company, but no company — no company should be able to determine how much it’s going to pay in taxes, how many profits they’re going to keep offshore, how they’re going to bring them back home, using all kinds of gimmicks to avoid paying the taxes that should be paid to this country,” the chairman insisted.
For its part, Apple has released a statement defending itself as “likely the largest corporate income tax payer in the US, having paid nearly $6 billion in taxes to the US Treasury in FY2012.”
Paul will be in Apple’s home state of California next week for fundraising and a speech at the Reagan Presidential Library.
**********Apple chief calls on US government to slash US corporate tax
Tim Cook warns Congress that he would refuse to repatriate $100bn stashed offshore unless US severely reduced its 35% tax rate
Dan Roberts and Dominic Rushe
The Guardian, Tuesday 21 May 2013 20.20 BST
Apple has called for US corporate tax rates to be slashed after it admitted sheltering at least $30bn (£20bn) of international profits in Irish subsidiaries that pay no tax at all.
In a dramatic display of how threats from multinational corporations are driving down taxes across the world, chief executive Tim Cook warned Congress that he would refuse to repatriate a total of $100bn stashed offshore unless it acted to slash the 35% US rate.
Cook said the tax rate for repatriated money should be set "in single digits" to persuade companies to bring it back. Standard tax for US profits should be, he said, in the "mid 20s".
He also revealed that Apple had struck a secret deal with the Irish government in 1980 to limit its domestic taxes there to 2%.
Three subsidiaries based in Ireland are also used to shelter profits made in the rest of Europe and Asia but are not classed as resident in any country for tax purposes – a tactic dubbed the "iCompany" by critics.
Cook's testimony to a Senate sub-committee investigating multinational tax practices largely confirmed its findings that Apple had taken tax avoidance to a new extreme by structuring these companies so they did not incur tax liabilities anywhere.
Phillip Bullock, the California company's head of tax, estimated that just one of these subsidiaries – Apple Operations International – had channelled $30bn in global profits over the last five years without filing a single income tax return.
The only taxes paid were on the interest earned by the cash pile and small sums in local markets. Senate investigators allege a total of $70bn has been sheltered this way in four years.
Despite heated exchanges with committee chairman Carl Levin, Apple largely shrugged off criticism of the practice, insisting it was acting "in the letter and the spirit of the law".
An independent tax professor, Richard Harvey, testified that its tax avoidance was "probably legal" and could have been much more aggressive.
The Apple chief used his appearance to renew lobbying for Congress to cut a deal with multinationals to encourage them to bring back, or repatriate, the billions of dollars kept offshore to avoid tax.
Cook said he had no plan to bring back the $102bn built up by Apple at current tax rates, and recently opted to return money to shareholders by borrowing money instead. "I have no current plan to do so at the current tax rates.
"Unlike some technology companies, I am not proposing a zero rate," he said. "My proposal is that we have a reasonable tax for bringing back money from overseas.
"A permanent change is materially better than a short term tax holiday."
Cook said he "personally doesn't understand the difference between a tax presence and a tax residence".
He was even defended by some members of the committee who accused Levin and Republican John McCain of "bullying" Apple. "I am offended by the tone and tenor of this hearing," said fellow Republican and presidential hopeful Rand Paul.
The hearing was seen as a watershed in the increasing tense clashes between governments and multinationals, particularly technology groups such as Apple, Amazon and Google.
Edward Kleinbard, professor of law at USC Gould School of Law, said: "Apple is not an outlier in its efforts to produce 'stateless income' – income that is taxed neither in the United States nor in the countries where its foreign customers are located – but it is an outlier in the baldness of its strategies. Apple shifted tens of billions of dollars of income without even breaking into a sweat.
"The hearing will forcefully remind policymakers that international tax reform will require the implementation of really thoughtful anti-abuse rules, ideally developed in conjunction with other OECD member states.
Every country is the worse off when they facilitate multinationals aggressively pursuing stateless income strategies, just as every country is worse off when they all engage in trade wars."
Corporate tax expert Jennifer Blouin at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school said the Apple revelations were "extraordinary but not surprising".
"We have seen versions of this with Microsoft and with Google," she said. "I hope it gooses the notion that we need to fix the worldwide system."
She said Apple was working within the law but that the law was written before huge profits could be made by companies that trade not in goods and manufacturing but in ideas.
"I have worked in this area for years and it's been largely an obscurity. But it's at the forefront now, and it needs to get fixed."
*************I.R.S. Official Will Decline to Testify Before House Panel
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
Published: May 21, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service official who tried to temper efforts to target conservative groups and then made the issue public will plead her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and decline to testify at a House hearing on Wednesday.
Document: Inspector General’s Report on I.R.S. Audits
For Tea Party Groups, Shades of 2010 (May 22, 2013)
White House Memo: A Sleeper Scandal Awakens for Obama, Post-Election (May 22, 2013)
J. Russell George, a Treasury inspector general, said he would look into how the I.R.S. enforced a law on tax-exempt groups.
The official, Lois Lerner, who heads the I.R.S.’s division on tax-exempt organizations, is scheduled to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, whose leaders have accused her of lying to them.
The committee’s chairman is Representative Darrell Issa, the California Republican who helped start the investigation of I.R.S. efforts to single out for special scrutiny Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
“The committee has been contacted by Ms. Lerner’s lawyer, who stated that his client intended to invoke her Fifth Amendment right and refuse to answer questions,” the committee’s spokesman, Ali Ahmad, said Tuesday. He said that Ms. Lerner remained under subpoena to appear at the hearing, and that Mr. Issa “remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify tomorrow about her knowledge of outrageous I.R.S. targeting of Americans for their political beliefs.”
In a letter to the committee, her lawyer, William W. Taylor III, wrote that Ms. Lerner had committed no crime or made any misrepresentations, but “under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course.”
On May 10, when Ms. Lerner first apologized for the targeting, she told reporters that she had learned of the improprieties from news reports in early 2012. But a Treasury inspector general’s audit indicated that she knew far earlier than that and tried to broaden the scope of the targeting efforts to include liberal as well as conservative groups.
Her decision on testifying, first disclosed by The Los Angeles Times, came on the same day that two of her superiors at the I.R.S. appeared before the Senate Finance Committee and said they never discussed the targeting issue with Obama administration officials outside the agency during the campaign year of 2012.
Steven T. Miller, the departing I.R.S. chief, joined the commissioner who ran the agency during the targeting of the conservative groups in saying that he never told Obama administration officials about the added scrutiny, either those at the Treasury Department or at the White House.
The hearing, the first in the Senate on the matter, underscored how the targeting was disclosed. Mr. Miller took responsibility for planting a question May 10 at a closed-door meeting with tax lawyers that prompted the revelation about the targeting, an awkward step that led to the inquiries now moving ahead on Capitol Hill.
The hearing shed little new light on the origins of the targeting efforts or on whether the matter was known outside the independent I.R.S. Democrats on the committee pressed their case that Congress needed to step in with clearer rules that prevent tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations from primarily engaging in electoral politics.
Republicans on the committee repeatedly pressed Mr. Miller and Douglas H. Shulman, who led the service from 2008 to 2012, on what they had shared with Treasury and White House officials. Each time, the men said they had shared nothing.
But J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, made it clear that the issue and the underlying question about tax-exempt organizations would not go away soon. Mr. George told lawmakers that he would soon open a new inquiry into how the I.R.S. enforces the law that designates 501(c)(4) tax exemptions for social welfare organizations.
If another look at political targeting is warranted, he said, he will do that too.
“Suffice it to say this matter is not over, as far as we are concerned,” Mr. George said.
For the first time in the case, the House hearing will include an administration official outside the I.R.S., Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin. Mr. Wolin learned of the inspector general’s audit into the targeting effort in the summer of 2012, and Republicans want him to say what he did with that information.
But the House inquiry will probably focus more on the I.R.S.’s investigation into the issue in the spring of 2012, which brought detailed accounts of the misconduct to the top echelon of the I.R.S. that May. House Republicans want to refocus the questioning around events during the election year, when, they contend, the matter was kept under wraps to avoid the political fallout and hamper Republican groups.
In March 2012, Mr. Miller, then the I.R.S.’s deputy commissioner for enforcement, dispatched an adviser, Nancy J. Marks, to the Cincinnati field office to investigate possible improprieties. Holly Paz, an I.R.S. official whom the House committee is seeking to interview, assisted with the inquiry.
Ms. Marks presented findings to Mr. Miller on May 3, 2012, that found “a substantial bias against conservative groups,” according to the committee staff, a conclusion the inspector general would not reach for another year. Mr. Shulman indicated Tuesday that he had been aware of those findings. Republicans are not satisfied that those conclusions could have been kept from the broader Obama administration for nearly a year.
The new details that emerged Tuesday revolved around who knew what over the last few weeks, a less politically charged time frame than 2012. Mr. Miller told the Senate Finance Committee that top I.R.S. officials knew that an inspector general’s audit was pending that would accuse the agency of misconduct. The agency wanted to pre-empt those findings, he said.
“We thought we’d get out an apology,” Mr. Miller said. “Obviously, the entire thing was an incredibly bad idea.”
**********Republicans Claimed an IRS Cover Up, But It Turns Out Darrell Issa Knew in 2012
By: Sarah Jones
May. 21st, 2013
Another GOP conspiracy dies as it comes to light during a hearing that the Treasury Department was investigating the IRS and told Darrell Issa this in 2012.
During a hearing on Tuesday, it came out that the Treasury Department informed Darrell Issa of its investigation into the IRS in 2012. The IRS is a bureau of the Treasury Department. They have letters and everything.
At a hearing Tuesday, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George told the Senate Finance Committee that the Treasury Department informed Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) office of its investigation into the IRS in 2012, and has had communications with this staff since then.
Part of Republicans outrage over the now dissolving narrative that conservatives had been targeted by the IRS for political reasons (instead of the fact that they were violating the law, were incompetent regarding setting up their “social welfare” organizations, or were trying to pass off PACs as social welfare organizations, or that the IRS is disorganized, under-funded thanks to Republicans, and has never been clear about the rules on this issue) was over their charge that the IRS knew and did nothing. The IRS knew last year and never told Congress! It’s an outrage, worse than Nixon, I tell you.
Only, it turns out that Obama-scandal-manufacturer Darrell Issa (R-CA) knew last year.
I pointed out on May 14th that the narrative about when higher up officials knew and allegedly didn’t inform Congressional Republicans was yet another story planted by “Republican Congressional aides”:
Who told the press that the Bush appointee knew in May? It turns out that is the interpretation of Republican congressional aides, who were not named in the Washington Post (my bold):
“Moreover, details of the IRS’s efforts to target conservative groups reached the highest levels of the agency in May 2012, far earlier than has been disclosed, according to Republican congressional aides briefed by the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration ¬(TIGTA) on the details of their reviews.
Then-Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee who stepped down in November, received a briefing from the TIGTA about what was happening in the Cincinnati office in May 2012, the aides said. His deputy and the agency’s current acting commissioner, Steven T. Miller, also learned about the matter that month, the aides said.”
When did they know and why didn’t they tell anyone? Oh my! NIXON!
Here’s the bit about how officials didn’t tell Congressional Republicans, leading Republicans to accuse the IRS of being “deliberately dishonest” with Congress (aka, a cover up):
The officials did not share details with Republican lawmakers who had been demanding to know whether the IRS was targeting conservative groups, Republicans said.
“Knowing what we know now,” he (Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT)) added, “the IRS was at best being far from forth coming, or at worst, being deliberately dishonest with Congress.”
Orrin Hatch was but one of many hysterical Republicans claiming a yet another cover up. This narrative didn’t require editing a Benghazi email — it was just a matter of feeding the press a few choice quotes and leaving out a lot of information.
It’s also worth pointing out, just so you can appreciate the thoroughness and coordination that goes into building a false narrative (someone should investigate!), that the Washington Post used a quote from True the Vote (aka, King Street Patriots) to buttress the Republican aides’ narrative that conservatives were being targeted. However, True the Vote was found by a judge to have violated their status as a nonprofit, and to be operating like a PAC, after they illegally aided Republicans.
It has yet to be established that conservatives were being targeted by the IRS for political reasons, any more than liberals were, since a liberal group actually had its nonprofit status revoked by the IRS. All groups seeking tax exempt status whilst involving themselves in politics were no doubt looked at with suspicion, especially post Citizens United.
So dies another Republican talking point your “free press” crafted a narrative around. It turns out that Darrell Issa knew about this last year. Maybe if Orrin Hatch wants to know why he wasn’t told, and who was being “deliberately dishonest”, he ought to take it up with Issa. Maybe Issa will try to claim that his office staff is incompetent; trickle down fail.
You might think Republicans would be embarrassed about this, or their deliberately edited Benghazi emails, but lucky for them, they seem incapable of shame. If Darrell Issa knew last year, then obviously Republicans couldn’t have actually ever believed there was a cover up going on, since the Treasury, of which the IRS is a bureau, was actually investigating the matter last year. Double der.
**********Conservative Nonprofits That Received Tax Exempt Status Outspent Liberals by 34-to-1
By: Sarah Jones
May. 22nd, 2013
The real scandal about the IRS is that they’ve been overwhelmed with dark money groups claiming nonprofit status since the passing of Citizens United, and conservative groups have outspent liberal groups on political spending by 34-1, according to a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of the IRS and FEC records.
Open Secrets reported, “Conservative nonprofits that received tax-exempt status since the beginning of 2010 and also filed election spending reports with the Federal Election Commission overwhelmed liberal groups in terms of money spent on politics, an analysis of Internal Revenue Service and FEC records shows.”
Furthermore, their analysis showed, “Of the 21 organizations that received rulings from the IRS after January 1, 2010, and filed FEC reports in 2010 or 2012, 13 were conservative. They outspent the liberal groups in that category by a factor of nearly 34-to-1.”
American Action Network spent $30.6 million in 2010 and 2012 comprises 94% of the conservative total. But Open Secrets notes, “(E)ven without American Action Network, spending by conservative groups approved after 2010 was nearly quadruple that of liberal groups receiving exempt status in the same period.”
Karl Rove’s Crossroads is the biggest spender, reporting spending more than $87.9 million since 2010, but it’s still waiting to be officially approved as tax exempt. Gee, do you think the IRS will be able to be objective when it comes to Crossroads’ overtly political purpose, or will they feel pressured to rubber stamp Karl so as not to cause offense?
Bear in mind that all of these numbers only represent the amount disclosed.
That’s why you were inundated with political ads over the last two elections. According to data released by the Television Bureau of Advertising, local television stations raked in nearly $3 billion in dark money from political ads in 2012. The sources behind that money are rarely revealed to the viewer, sort of like the anonymous trolls of TV.
Making matters worse, the Federal Communications Commission isn’t pushing for dislosure or transparency like they should be, according to a January 2013 report by Government Accountability Office for Congressional requesters. The FCC is responsible for “ensuring that the public when and by whom its being persuaded.”
For content considered political or that discusses a controversial issue,
broadcasters must follow all requirements for commercial content and additional requirements, such as identifying officials associated with the entity paying for an advertisement. In addition, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) enforces federal election law that requires all political communications for a federal election, including television and radio advertisements,
to include a disclaimer statement. FEC also oversees requirements to report campaign funding and expenditures, including funding for political advertising.
It just may be that with all of this overspending, 34-1, conservative groups might have drawn attention to their activities all by themselves. It didn’t help that they are using True the Vote as their IRS Persecution Cause of the Week, when a judge ruled that True the Vote was not a nonprofit, but was actually operating as a PAC, and had illegally aided the GOP.
***************The GOP: They’re Sneaky, Greedy and They Represent a Handful of People
By: Dennis S
May. 21st, 2013
Hey average dudes and dudettes, you’re being chewed up and spit out daily and don’t even know it. The poor and middle-class are carrying 100% of the burden of perpetuating the status of the privileged few squeezed into the top 1 or 2% of the U.S. population. Mr. and Mrs. Mainstream make virtually all the financial and service sacrifices at the altar of the political derangement that is today’s Republican Party.
The headline examples are obvious. Huge tax breaks for the hugely wealthy. Every multinational corporate incentive perk imaginable, relentless Republican attempts to destroy Obamacare under the aegis of insurance interests and pharmas, low wages getting lower for the have-nots and the use of God, Guns and Gays (and now fairy tale scandals) to keep red state voters in line. But there’s a lot more in the cynical and self-serving hopper of privilege embracing the sweet life of fancy cars, enormous homes and oceans of cash until death do ye part.
Let’s go for a ride on the scamola train. We’ll make a few stops at the more egregious of sneaky ways to pick your pocket without you being aware that you’re a major contributor to a huge multinational or the victim of unhinged politics. I recently attended an Upstate South Carolina meeting that featured speakers from the publicly owed, Commission of Pubic Works (CPW), a local city water and sewer system entity that also serves the county. CPW arbitrarily decided to change the formula for paying the city a “dividend” each year out of monies collected for water and sewer services. That dust-up blew the cover off of information that, while supposedly public, was sometimes hidden deep in the small print.
CPW has raised rates for the past 5 years. Their latest proposal is a 13.9% increase for in-city residential customers or about $35 annually. City commercial rates would be 14.7% higher and $188 per annum. For county customers those number rise to 14.2% for residents ($61.00) and 14.9% commercial or $328. In-city industrial customers get socked for a $64,053 increase, while the county industries, including some giant multinationals kick in $112,029. As for the latter, ROTFLMAO!!!
I asked the speaker the obvious question. In getting the giants to grace your small, right to work, anti-union, desperate for jobs county, don’t you and your butt-kissing economic development partners, make water negotiations a major part of your incentive packages? Well, ‘er, yes, we do sometimes negotiate rates. I further asked how long some of these contracts are? “Well, ‘er, 30 years!” So, for the highly misleading suggestion that the multinationals are going to have their rates raised by some loathsome percentage, file that under pure bulls**t. Their much lower rates are contracted for decades.
You, the little guy and gal, are going to pick up a substantial portion of multinational rate slack. A percentage of your increase will absorb the percentage that is negotiated away by the hulking behemoth of brick and mortar, located in 50 countries, paying minimal (if any) taxes, often getting its land for nothing and infrastructure compliments of the city.
Something else built into your rate structure is absorbing a $500,000 health insurance increase for employees of CPW. For some, that represents hundreds a month in premiums. This is going on in every corner of our fine land. Before the state health exchanges bring in some competition to the state marketplace in 2014, the major insurance companies are slamming businesses and local governments with increases in the 14-15% range. And the problem in many states is that as few as 1 or 2 such companies serve some states. Blue Cross and Blue Shield have about a 50% South Carolina stake. THAT is why powerful insurance companies have their hugely unethical and greedy (cushy lobbying jobs on retirement?) legislators attacking Obamacare.
Another local impact, essentially a consequence of Nikki Haley’s Social Services policies, involves a local boys home that could close by the end of the year. Reduced reimbursement rates are partially at fault. It’s a 42-year-old facility for boys, 8 to 18years.
Speaking of the state budget, 84% of those in the county with mental issues cannot get help from the county mental health system, largely due to lack of resources. A lack of state funding closed a detoxification center that served 11,000 people in its 15-year history. Are you satisfied Republicans? A friend of mine’s son recently died with issues that mental health support could have addressed. Another non-profit center providing services on a sliding pay scale locked its doors for the same reason.
For religious Republicans, serving the mentally challenged, the sick and poor and young boys in need, or serving giant multibillion-dollar corporations is no contest. Go Boeing!
The sequester, was born of Republican legislative blackmail to keep the government up and running, includes 9 years of ruinous cuts. The Huffington Post lists a few: they included cuts in food safety, scientific research (I can hear the goobers cheering now), cuts in HIV tests and meds (more goober cheering), care for those with mental health needs, cuts in head start, help for the homeless and unemployment benefits could go down by as much as 9%. That’s how heartless Republicans are. That’s $1.2 trillion less over 9 years; $85 billion this year.
On the hypocritical side, mandated furloughs for Air Traffic Controllers were removed when members of Congress realized they were impacted. Another enormously ill-conceived cut was the slashing of emergency response funds. In light of the horrible Moore tragedy, what an incredibly short-sighted move. My heart goes out to the families of Moore and the surrounding area.
It’s not that there isn’t huge money out there. Risking a reprising of the obscene and economically deadly dot-com bubble of 2000, we’re starting to get questionable big money investments tossed around. For 3 years from 1997 to 2000, pimply-face adolescents could get their garage Internet businesses purchased or IPO’d and invested in at ridiculous prices while having zero revenue.
A 26-year-old recently unloaded his popular blogging forum, Tumblr, with tens of millions of daily posters. Certainly cool and neat and the back-story of the whiz-kid owner is cute, but worth $1.1 billion to Yahoo? Tumblr is a great favorite of the teen to early 20s set. Is there a more fickle demographic?
For his part, Mark Zuckerberg parted with $1 billion of Facebook’s billions for Instagram, a popular photo-sharing mobile app with no profits. A Forbes writer postulated that among 10 reasons Facebook bought Instagram was “Because it Could” and Facebook is having a “midlife crisis.” Pretty sophisticated stuff.
Both these deals might work out just fine, but remember those reckless dot-com days where NASDAQ closed at it’s highest at $5,048. Some 13 years later, it’s hovering around the $3,500 level. The estimated loss to investors; $5 trillion. Thinking dot-coms are once again easy money is a small-investor trap.
A final warning that things could get worse. Mergers and acquisitions in the health care field. Generic drug maker Actavis, just used an all-stock deal to put together the third largest specialty Pharmaceutical in the country. Few companies, less competition, higher prices.
So, while the top tier money-changers are on a financial high, the Bush recession has cost the middle-class Gen Xers almost half of their wealth between 2007-2010. Their current age range is 36-47.
Seems an appropriate time to vote for damn near every Democrat who runs for office.
************Bachmann: God will ‘answer our prayers’ and repeal Obamacare with a ‘miracle’
By David Edwards
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 13:13 EDT
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is telling her constituents that God will “answer our prayers” and create a “miracle before our eyes” to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
In a Tuesday interview with evangelical radio host James Dobson, Bachmann noted that the House of Representatives had recently voted for the 37th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act and that she was hopeful that the Democratically-controlled Senate would do the same.
“I think the President will ultimately be forced to repudiate his own signature piece of legislation because the American people will demand it,” she explained. “And I think before his second term is over, we’re going to see a miracle before our eyes, I believe God is going to answer our prayers and we’ll be freed from the yoke of Obamacare.”
“I believe that’s going to happen and we saw step one last week with the repeal of Obamacare in the House. We have two more steps. We serve a mighty God and I believe it can happen.”
At a tea party rally last week, Bachmann had falsely warned that Obamacare would allow the Internal Revenue Service to deny health care to patients.
“Many people said this issue was dead, many people have said that Obamacare is here to stay,” she told the crowd. “We are here as the people’s representatives, as real people across the United States to say, this issue is now revived! It’s is back on the table!”
May 21, 2013 08:51 PMBernie Sanders Goes After Wall Street Oil Speculators
By Diane Sweet
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) called on Tuesday for an investigation into oil price manipulation. He also proposed a 30-day deadline for federal regulators to use emergency powers to curb excessive speculation in crude oil markets.
“We must do everything that we can to make sure that oil and gasoline prices are transparent and free from fraud, manipulation, abuse and excessive speculation,” said Sanders, a member of the Senate energy committee.
Over the past five months, the national average price for a gallon of gasoline has gone up by more than 41 cents. The price hikes come at a time when U.S. oil inventories reached a three-decade high while demand for gasoline is lower than four years ago when prices averaged less than $2.30 a gallon.
Sanders spoke about rapidly rising gas prices during a Senate floor speech on two amendments he proposed to the farm bill.
“The skyrocketing cost of gasoline and oil is causing tremendous hardship to the American consumer, small businesses, truckers, airlines and fuel dealers. In fact, as we struggle to claw our way out of this terrible recession, high oil and gas prices are enormously detrimental to the entire economic recovery process,” Sanders said.
One Sanders amendment to the farm bill would make the commission that regulates commodities and the Justice Department’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group conduct a six-month investigation to determine whether any company or individual in the United States has manipulated the price of gasoline, crude oil, heating oil, diesel fuel or jet fuel.
The investigation would be similar to one already underway in Europe, where the European Commission on May 13th announced that it was investigating the possibility that BP, Shell, Statoil and others “may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a Price Reporting Agency to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products.”
A second Sanders amendment would give the commission 30 days to use all of its authority, including its emergency powers, to eliminate, prevent or diminish excessive oil speculation. It also would make the commission ensure that oil and gasoline prices are based on the fundamentals of supply and demand.
Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, the American Trucking Association, Delta Airlines, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, the Consumer Federation of America, the International Monetary Fund and a 2012 report from the St. Louis Federal Reserve all have indicated that excessive oil speculation significantly increases oil and gasoline prices.
The chairman of the commodity commission has stated that Wall Street oil speculators now control more than 80 percent of the energy futures market, a figure that has more than doubled over the past decade. This excessive oil and gasoline speculation is clearly causing major market disturbances that prevent the market from accurately reflecting the forces of supply and demand.
To read the amendment on price fixing, click here.
To read the amendment on emergency action by the CFTC, click here.
Click to watch this very important issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=lRkKfGr_TWw