Two federal judges on the U.S. Sentencing Commission said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder stepped “outside the legal system” and exceeded the authority of the executive branch by sending “improper instruction” to federal prosecutors to reduce drug sentences before they were officially approved by either the commission or Congress.
“I have been surprised at the attorney general’s steps taken to proceed with this reduction outside of the legal system set up and established by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984,” Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, the commission’s vice chair, said during a public hearing in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington.
“As you all know, the commission in the act is given the authority to promulgate and amend guidelines on a yearly basis. And in the act itself, Congress has preserved its right to reject any potential promulgation of, or amendment to, any guidelines made by the commission itself after the commission has acted.
“Meaning that if Congress does not reject a guideline amendment, it will not go into effect until November 1st of this year if we vote in favor of this amendment.,” said Hinojosa, who is also the chief judge of the Southern District of Texas.
“When the attorney general testified before us, he failed to mention that the night before, at around 11 pm, the department had ordered all of the assistant U.S. attorneys across the country to (and it’s not clear to me whether it was supposed to be not oppose or to argue for, in fact the U.S. attorneys in front of my court have said they’ve been asked to argue for) the two-level reduction in all drug trafficking cases before the commission has acted and before Congress has had the opportunity to vote its disapproval of the commission’s actions, if Congress is so inclined, which is certainly the right that they have preserved for themselves in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984,” Hinojosa said.
“It would have been nice for us to have known and been told beforehand that this action had been taken, so any of us who would have liked to have asked the attorney general under what basis under Title 18… the courts were being asked by the Justice Department to follow this request.
“If it was because the attorney general had spoken in favor of this proposal ,that is a dangerous precedent because attorney generals in the past have consistently expressed opinions to the commission on guideline promulgation and amendments, many times for an increase, and sometimes for a lowering of the penalties.
“But none have ever then asked the courts to proceed with increases or decreases simply because the attorney general has spoken in support of them before the commission has acted and before the Congress has exercised its statutory right not to act,” the vice-chairman said.
Judge William Pryor, who sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, also rebuked Holder for preempting the commission.
“Like Judge Hinojosa, I regret that, before we voted on the amendment, the attorney general instructed assistant United States attorneys across the nation not to object to defense requests to apply the proposed amendment in sentencing proceedings going forward,” Pryor said.
“That unprecedented instruction disrespected our statutory role ‘as an independent commission in the judicial branch’ to establish sentencing policies and practices under the Sentencing Reform Act and the role of Congress, as the legislative branch, to decide whether to revise, modify, or disapprove our proposed amendment.
“We do not discharge our statutory duty until we vote on a proposed amendment, and Congress, by law, has until November 1st to decide whether our proposed amendment should become effective. The law provides the executive no authority to establish national sentencing policies based on speculation about how we and Congress might vote on a proposed amendment.
“I appreciate the attorney general’s personal appearance before the commission last month, and his helpful comments in support of this amendment,” Pryor added. “But I hope that we can avoid int the future the kind of improper instruction that he sent federal prosecutors before we voted on the amendment.”
Pryor also pointed out that a previous amendment to the Fair Sentencing Act included a “safety valve” that allows low-level offenders to plead guilty and receive reduced sentences. The Justice Department estimates that lowering sentences will reduce the federal prison population by 6,500 inmates over the next five years.
The commission had been deliberating since last summer on recommendations to amend federal sentencing guidelines in an effort “to reduce the costs of incarceration, and reduce prison populations without endangering public safety.”
Commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend the reduced sentences the Justice Department supported, which would shave an average of 11 months off the prison terms of some drug offenders. Both Hinojosa and Pryor voted for the amendment, which Pryor pointed out “maintains all statutorily mandated minimum sentences” and “respects the primary role of Congress in establishing the boundaries for sentencing drug offenders.”
Several other amendments, which were published in the Federal Register on Jan. 17, 2014, were also passed, but the one reducing sentences for drug offenders, who make up nearly half of the federal prison population, elicited more than 20,000 responses from the public, commissioners said.
Holder testified at the commission’s previous hearing on March 13th, telling commissioners that low-level, non-violent offenders should “face sentences appropriate to their individual conduct, rather than strict mandatory minimums.” (See sentencing cmsn.pdf)
“The system was not perfect as it existed before, and it is not perfect as it exists now and under the reforms that I have implemented,” Holder testified. “But what we want to do is to work with the commission,” he said a day after sending his sentencing memo to federal prosecutors.
“For those committed to the rule of law, the question now goes beyond whether reducing sentences for dealers in dangerous drugs is wise. It’s whether the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, is committed to following the law as it exists, or, instead, as he wants and speculates it might become,” said William Otis, adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.
Under federal law, Congress, has six months to vote the amendments down. In the absence of congressional action, they will become law on November 1st.
A two-decades-old battle between a Nevada rancher and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has resulted in officials armed with machine guns surrounding the ranch and forcibly removing the owner’s cattle, according to the rancher’s family.
Cliven Bundy, the last rancher in Clark County, Nev., has been fighting a “one-man range war” since 1993, when he decided to take a stand against the agency, refusing to pay fees for the right to graze on a ranch run by his family for centuries.
After years of court battles, the BLM secured a federal court order to have Bundy’s “trespass cattle” forcibly removed with heavy artillery, the family said.
“The battle’s been going on for 20 years,” Bundy told the Washington Free Beacon. “What’s happened the last two weeks, the United States government, the bureaus are getting this army together and they’re going to get their job done and they’re going to prove two things. They’re going to prove they can do it, and they’re gonna prove that they have unlimited power, and that they control the policing power over this public land. That’s what they’re trying to prove.”
Bundy said the government has brought everything but tanks and rocket launchers.
“They’re carrying the same things a soldier would,” he said. “Automatic weapons, sniper rifles, top communication, top surveillance equipment, lots of vehicles. It’s heavy soldier type equipment.”
His wife, Carol Bundy, said that roughly 200 armed agents from the BLM and FBI are stationed around their land, located about 75 miles outside of Las Vegas. Helicopters circle the premises, and the airspace and nearby roads remain blocked.
“We’re surrounded,” Carol Bundy said. “We’re estimating that there are over 200 armed BLM, FBI. We’ve got surveillance cameras at our house, they’re probably listening to me talk to you right now.”
A National Park Service spokesman denied there were armed guards rounding up the cattle in a conference call on Tuesday. However, she confirmed that there was “security” in place, citing threats to the contractors who are removing the cattle.
“Contractors are here and they are in place to round-up the cattle and to bring them to the impound area,” Christie Vanover said. “As for security, there [is] security in place, but that is merely to protect the contractors.”
“As you know, we have received threats and the contractors have received threats,” Vanover said. “Our personnel here and throughout the park service and throughout the BLM have received threats, as well. So security is in place to merely protect the contractors so that we can complete this operation.”
As of Monday, officials have seized 234 of Bundy’s 908 cattle. Impounding the cattle alone could cost the government as much as $3 million.
“They just brought a load down today,” she said. “They kind of harass us as well. When we leave they follow us.”
This afternoon eight helicopters surrounded the family after they began taking pictures, according to Bundy’s daughter, Bailey. Their son, Dave Bundy, was arrested for taking pictures on state road 170, which has been closed, and is being held by BLM.
The BLM said they took Dave Bundy into custody following his “failure to comply with multiple requests by BLM law enforcement to leave the temporary closure area on public lands.”
Carol Bundy said five officials took Dave and “threw him on the ground.”
“One put his knee on his head, the other put his boot on his head and pushed him into the gravel,” she said. “He’s got quite a bruised head. Just bruised him up pretty good.”
Environmentalists are praising the government’s forceful actions, which are being taken to protect the “desert tortoise.”
“We’re heartened and thankful that the agencies are finally living up to their stewardship duty,” said Rob Mrowka, a Nevada-based senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Gold Butte area has been officially designated as critical habitat for threatened tortoises – meaning the area is essential to their long-term survival as a species.”
“[Cliven] Bundy has long falsely believed that Gold Butte is his ranch,” added Terri Robertson, president of Friends of Sloan Canyon.
The BLM designated 186,909 acres of the Gold Butte off-limits for the “critical desert tortoise” population in 1998. Bundy had already lost his grazing permit five years earlier for refusing to pay fees for the land, which his family has ranched since the 1870s.
The “federal grazing fee” is $1.35 per “Animal Unit Month,” or the amount of forage needed per animal, each month. Bundy said he owes roughly $300,000 in back fees, while the BLM asserts he owes over $1 million. The BLM defended the removal because Bundy did not “voluntarily” give up his cattle.
“We’ve tried to do this through the legal and we’ve tried to do it through the political, and what we’re at right now, I guess we’re going to have to try to stand,” Cliven Bundy said. “We the people have to stand on the ground and get our state sovereignty back, and also take some liberty and freedoms back to where we have at least access to this land.”
“The story is a lot about the cattle, but the bigger story is about our loss of freedom,” Carol Bundy added. “They have come and taken over this whole corner of the county. They’ve taken over policing power, they’ve taken over our freedom, and they’re stealing cattle.”
“And our sheriff says he just doesn’t have authority, our governor says he doesn’t have authority, and we’re saying, why are we a state?”
“I’m a producer,” Cliven Bundy said. “I produce edible commodity from the desert forage, and all of these things are governed under state law. So, in other words, this type of government has eliminated all of our state law, eliminated our state sovereignty, and has took control over our public lands and even took control over our Clark County sheriff. They’ve taken the whole county over. The whole state, almost.”
“This is just about power of the government,” Carol Bundy said.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R.) voiced his concern about so-called “First Amendment Areas,” designated locations set up by the BLM where citizens can protest the removal.
“Most disturbing to me is the BLM’s establishment of a ‘First Amendment Area’ that tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
“To that end, I have advised the BLM that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the ‘First Amendment Area’ should be dismantled immediately,” he said. “No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”
Sandoval also said his office has received numerous complaints about the BLM’s conduct, including road closures and “other disturbances.”
Last week, we reported that the state of Idaho passed emergency legislation that would take effect immediately that nullifies all future federal gun control in the state. That bill was just signed into law by Governor Butch Otter. This is a huge victory for the Second Amendment.
Idaho joins states like Arizona, Missouri, Kentucky, and others who have passed or are considering substantive legislation that would nullify federal gun control by outlawing it in the state outright or preventing the state from cooperating with the feds in the enforcement of gun control measures.
The strategy the Idaho law and similar laws use is one that uses the anti-commandeering doctrine, which was set down by the Supreme Court to protect the Tenth Amendment by preventing Congress from commandeering state officers in the enforcement of a federal regulatory scheme.
From Ben Swann:
On Thursday, Idaho Governor Butch Otter (R) signed a bill, which would effectively nullify future federal gun laws, by prohibiting state enforcement of any future federal act relating to personal firearms, a firearm accessories or ammunition.
S1332 passed the house by a vote of 68-0 and the senate by a vote of 34-0. Alaska and Kansas have also passed similar laws.
Erich Pratt, Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America, cheered the governor’s action. “By signing this nullification bill into law, Idaho has joined an elite class of states that are telling the feds to ‘get lost’ – especially when it comes to unconstitutional gun control infringements”
The key text of the legislation provides that:
any official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision thereof who knowingly and willfully orders an official, agent or employee of the state of Idaho or a political subdivision of the state to enforce any executive order, agency order, law, rule or regulation of the United States government as provided in subsection (2) of this section upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition shall, on a first violation, be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) which shall be paid into the general fund of the state…
This is fantastic news. States are openly rebelling against federal gun control, and their refusal to cooperate in enforcing it will render it ineffective in many areas. The feds need states to participate in the enforcement of these kinds of laws, because there simply aren’t enough federal resources to do so. If we get enough states on board with this type of legislation, we can beat back federal gun control just by default.
Please share this article on Facebook and Twitter if you agree with Idaho’s attempt to nullify federal gun control. Let’s fight back.
In Fiscal Year 2013, the official federal deficit was $680 billion. Liberals have cheered this drop while subsequently ignoring how this deficit is both larger than all of Bush’s pre-recession deficits and is expected to grow dramatically over the next several decades.
However, the Treasury Department’s annual report on the finances of the U.S. federal government shows that not only is $680 billion an incomplete measure of the federal government’s finances, it’s off by nearly a factor of five.
The U.S. Treasury has just released its annual “Financial Report of the United States Government,” which provides an account of the federal government’s finances using accounting standards like those that the government requires of large corporations. Because the federal budget is not bound by these standards, it does not have to account for all of its fiscal obligations.
For example, the Treasury report reveals that the federal government owes $6.5 trillion in retirement and health benefits to federal employees and veterans. This legal responsibility amounts to $53,000 for every household in the United States, but none of these liabilities are reflected in the 2013 budget deficit or national debt.
During the federal government’s 2013 fiscal year, the official federal deficit was $680 billion, but this comprehensive accounting reveals that the federal government’s fiscal position deteriorated by $3.3 trillion or an average of $27,000 for every household in the U.S.
There are two basic ways the federal government calculates its obligations. The first does not account for the obligations of Social Security, Medicare, and other programs in the same way the federal government requires of private corporations.
The method the Treasury report uses is far more complete. It includes long-term obligations and liabilites unaccounted for in the deficit and debt measurements.
In this year’s report, Treasury says the government should initiate deficit reduction measures (cuts and/or tax increases) equivalent to 1.7 percent of GDP every year for 75 years. This means, just in 2014, Treasury is recommending a cut in deficits of approximately $274 billion just to prevent a fiscal crisis – and these cuts will grow in size every year for the time period Treasury examined. Waiting 10 or 20 years makes things even worse.
And even these cuts are grossly undersized. First, this would still leave America’s publicly held debt-to-GDP ratio the same as it was in 2013, which the Congressional Budget Office has said is problematic.
Additionally, Treasury assumes in its report that the Affordable Care Act will reduce long-term health care costs. And, finally, these cuts are recommended to reduce “primary” deficits, those that do not include the enormous interest payments the federal government is expected to incur.
In short, not only is the federal government in financial trouble, it’s in worse shape than we ever realized. After compiling all of the data in the Treasury Report, Just Facts found that the full obligations of the U.S. federal government total $71 trillion, or $580,000 per household.
The Massachusetts Obamacare exchange has been awarded a three-month extension from the Obama administration to fix its broken website and get customers enrolled, exchange officials announced Thursday.
Jean Yang, head of the flailing Massachusetts Health Connector, wept at a Thursday board meeting over her staff’s demoralizing struggle to prevent residents from losing coverage in the face of a broken website and mountain of paper applications to be processed, the Boston Globe reports.
The state had requested a six-month extension from the Affordable Care Act’s requirements. Massachusetts already had an exchange-based health care system similar to Obamacare.
Staff is working on a backlog of 50,000 paper applications, exchange officials announced at the board meeting, which Yang said would take two hours each to process.
The stress left Yang in tears at the board meeting as she described her staff’s malaise.
“These people came here to lead and innovate, and instead they’re doing manual workarounds, and they are embarrassed to tell friends and family that they work for the Health Connector,” Yang cried.
“We have to work harder,” Yang concluded. “That means I need to tell the staff members they’re not doing a good enough job and I’m telling them that, even though they have been doing this tirelessly for months, and they’re exhausted.”
Getting through the 50,000 application pile-up will be vital for Massachusetts official to bring their exchange up to snuff. Through the end of January, just 8,000 individuals signed up for health coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) latest report Wednesday.
Massachusetts’ original target was 155,000, putting the state at only 5 percent of their goal.
Thanks to the federal extension, Massachusetts’ enrollment for Obamacare coverage will remain open for another three months, while the exchange attempts to create a functioning online exchange.
The waiver also extends deadlines for programs that would be canceled after Mar. 31, such as the state-funded insurance program Commonwealth Care. The 124,000 program participants will keep their plans through June 30, along with another 31,000 new applicants will receive temporary coverage as well, according to the Associated Press.
The Obama administration extension didn’t, however, apply to individual private plans that will expire before Mar. 31. Those customers must purchase a new, Obamacare-compliant plan before that date in order to avoid the individual mandate penalty. Exchange officials hope to offer a “fast path” to coverage for those individuals.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is making good on his promise to sue the Obama administration over what he calls ‘precisely the kind of overreach we fought a revolution over.’ His targets are the National Security Agency, the FBI and other federal government offices that snoop on private communications at home and abroad.
With former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli as his lead attorney, Paul is filing suit Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C. federal court along with the conservative FreedomWorks organization.
The legal action, officially titled ‘Rand Paul v. Barack Obama,’ will hit the court running with at least 350,000 plaintiffs, according to a source close to the process. Paul is aiming for 10 million, judging from a message on two websites run by his political staff.
‘When we learned that the NSA was collecting the phone data of every American last year,’ the senator said in a video message Tuesday night to supporters, ‘it posed a serious Constitutional question: Do we no longer have a Fourth Amendment?’
The lawsuit will argue that the president ‘has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the Fourth Amendment,’ Paul said in a statement from his political action committee. ‘I expect this case to go all the way to the Supreme Court and I predict the American people will win.’
President Obama is named as a defendant, along with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Director of the National Security Agency Gen. Keith Alexander, and FBI Director James Comey.
A White House National Security Council Staff spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But Obama said during a lengthy January 17 speech about U.S. signals intelligence gathering – an oration that might be a preview of the government’s courtroom defense – that ‘the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people.’
‘They’re not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails,’ the president insisted.
His press secretary, Jay Carney, followed up ten days later with assurance during a daily briefing that ‘to the extent that the NSA collects information, it is focused on valid foreign intelligence targets and not the information of ordinary Americans.’
‘Look,’ he told reporters, ‘I mean, terrorists, proliferators, other bad actors use the same communication tools that others use.’
Sen. Paul’s objection focuses on the so-called bulk phone-record ‘metadata’ that the NSA gathers routinely. The data includes phone numbers, dates, times, and the durations of calls.
National security analysts say the massive tranches of data can be helpful when terrorism suspects are identified, because they allow investigators to establish who they have been talking to – and when.
Paul’s legal advisers thought about filing suit in a Kentucky federal court, MailOnline’s source said, but decided on Washington, D.C. because its judges are accustomed to sifting through the thorny issues surrounding whether a class-action group deserves to be ‘certified’–if, that is, its members have standing to sue.
He plans a press conference in front of the federal courthouse on Wednesday morning to boast that he’s protecting the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment from the White House’s national security apparatus.
‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,’ that Amendment reads in part.
The senator first forecast his legal action in late December, and told the Fox News Channel that since the Obama administration ‘has used the IRS to go after people… we wonder if they would use the NSA that way.’
‘Everybody who has a cellphone would be eligible’ to become a plaintiff, he said.
That interview came on the same day the NSA convinced a top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act judge to green-light its metadata collection for a new 90-day period.
That program, the subject of worldwide leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has won reauthorization at least 36 times during the past seven years.
Paul’s odd mix of libertarian crusade and conservative button-pushing isn’t new, and it might become the norm on the right as more Republicans try to find common ground between what amount to warring cousins.
‘Libertarian, or liberty, doesn’t mean libertine,’ the GOP presidential hopeful told a red-meat right-wing crowd at a D.C. gala last week.
‘To many of us,’ he said, playing deftly to a room full of social conservatives, ‘Libertarian means freedom and liberty. But we also see freedom needs tradition.’
The speech came an hour after a lobbyist was heard introducing him to friends during a pre-dinner reception as a ‘Libertarian rock star.’
But Paul cautioned that ‘I don’t see libertarianism as, “you can do whatever you want”.’
Now the federal legislator is applying that message to the executive branch of government, and hoping the judicial branch will see things his way.
But while his lawsuit percolates, Freedomworks president Matt Kibbe will manage the plaintiff-lists and turn them into a political mobilizing tool.
‘If you use a phone, you should care about this case,’ Kibbe said Tuesday, adding that his group’s 6 million members stand behind the legal effort.
Names are initially collected on websites run by PaulPAC, the Kentucky senator’s Political Action Committee, and by his political campaign – presumably one now engaged in planning for the 2016 presidential race.
Both websites ask Web surfers to ‘sign below and join my class-action lawsuit and help stop the government’s outrageous spying program on the American people.’
They also ask for donations.
‘After you sign up, please make a generous donation to help rally up to ten million Americans to support my lawsuit to stop Big Brother,’ a message reads.
Tennessee State Senator Mae Beavers (R – Mt. Juliet) is on a roll this week. Along with 10 co-sponsors, she introduced “The Health Care Freedom and Affordable Care Act Noncompliance Act” to effectively nullify ObamaCare in her state. Now, she’s taking aim at federal gun-control laws.
Beavers has introduced Senate Bill 1607 to effectively nullify federal gun laws in The Volunteer State. Under the proposed law:
* Any federal enactment or enforcement actions relating to firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition would be void in the state
* Any federal enactment or enforcement action impacting or infringing upon the rights of an individual or entity relative to firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition would be void
* Agents, employees and public officials in the state and its political subdivisions would be prohibited from carrying out federal gun laws
* Any attempt to enforce federal gun laws would be considered a misdemeanor and subsequent attempts would qualify as a felony
The law, if passed, is set to take effect on July 1. Thus, residents of The Volunteer State could see their Second Amendment rights significantly strengthened in less than six months.
Other states, including Missouri, Virginia and Wyoming, have recently considered similar legislation. And Alaska and Kansas have already signed their own Second Amendment protections into law. However, Tennessee’s proposed law appears to be among the strongest out there with the potential for violators to be charged with a felony.
It seems an increasing number of states are fed up with the Obama administration’s gun-grabbing policies. Will Tennessee be the next one to successfully tell the federal government to back off?
There have been 22,260 deadly terrorist attacks carried out by Islamists since 9-11.
No other religion or ideology, including leftism, comes close to matching these numbers.
Despite these facts, Attorney General Eric Holder will not even mutter the words “radical Islam.” And, now the Holder Department of Justice will forbid federal agents from considering religion in their investigations.
The Justice Department will significantly expand its definition of racial profiling to prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender and sexual orientation in their investigations, a government official said Wednesday.
The move addresses a decade of criticism from civil rights groups that say federal authorities have in particular singled out Muslims in counterterrorism investigations and Latinos for immigration investigations.
The Bush administration banned profiling in 2003, but with two caveats: It did not apply to national security cases, and it covered only race, not religion, ancestry or other factors.
Since taking office, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has been under pressure from Democrats in Congress to eliminate those provisions. “These exceptions are a license to profile American Muslims and Hispanic-Americans,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said in 2012.
President George W. Bush said in 2001 that racial profiling was wrong and promised “to end it in America.” But that was before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. After those attacks, federal agents arrested and detained dozens of Muslim men who had no ties to terrorism. The government also began a program known as special registration, which required tens of thousands of Arab and Muslim men to register with the authorities because of their nationalities.
Let’s face it. We are being led by a group of far-left imbeciles.
A case out of Texas has a federal judge asking just which side of the law the Department of Homeland Security is working for.
United States District Judge for the Southern District of Texas Brownsville Division Andrew S. Hanen rebuked DHS for helping to deliver an illegal immigrant minor – detained at the border with her human smuggler – to her illegal immigrant mother living in Virginia.
Homeland Security “successfully complet[ed] the mission of the criminal conspiracy” to smuggle the child across the border to her parent, the judge wrote in an order issued on Dec. 13.
The mother, Patricia Elizabeth Salmeron Santos, had agreed to pay $8,500 to have human smugglers bring her child from El Salvador to Virginia.
The smuggler, Mirtha Veronica Nava-Martinez, was arrested and the child detained at a Texas border checkpoint when they were caught trying to use a birth certificate that belonged to Nava-Martinez’s daughter.
Nava-Martinez, a resident alien, also had a prior felony for food-stamp fraud in 2011.
“Despite this setback, the goal of the conspiracy was completed thanks to the actions of the United States Government,” Hanen wrote. “This Court is quite concerned with the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security (hereinafter ‘DHS’) of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the United States.”
“Customs and Border Protection agents stopped the Defendant at the border inspection point. She was arrested, and the child was taken into custody. The DHS officials were notified that Salmeron Santos instigated this illegal conduct,” the judge continued. “Yet, instead of arresting Salmeron Santos for instigating the conspiracy to violate our border security laws, the DHS delivered the child to her – thus successfully completing the mission of the criminal conspiracy. It did not arrest her. It did not prosecute her. It did not even initiate deportation proceedings for her. The DHS policy is a dangerous course of action.”
This was “the fourth case with the same factual situation this court has had in as many weeks,” Hanen wrote.
In each of those cases, Hanen explained, illegal immigrant minors – whose illegal immigrant parent or parents were paying human smugglers to bring them into the United States – detained prior to arriving at their destination were delivered to their illegal immigrant parents by DHS.
The judge noted that in all four cases, the American taxpayer ended up on the hook for the final delivery.
“In all cases when the Government apprehended some of the traffickers, the Government transported the children across the country to unite them with a parent (or parents) who was in the country illegally. In one situation, the Government flew a child to multiple locations in different parts of the United States. The taxpayers of the United States suffer the expense of delivering these minors,” Hanen wrote.
“This is an absurd and illogical result. The DHS could reunite the parent and child by apprehending the parent who has committed not one, by at least two different crimes,” he continued.
The judge added that “the failure by DHS to enforce current United States law” is concerning because illegal activities of this kind help fund drug cartels. It also undermines the deterrent effect of the nation’s immigration laws and lowers the moral of the men and women risk their lives to enforce the law, he wrote.
The order comes as Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and the union representing ICE officers and staff have been sounding the alarm about lack of immigration enforcement at DHS, with the Alabama lawmaker recently issuing a “Timeline of Administrative Non-Enforcement of Federal Immigration Law.”
DHS did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Read a copy of the court order:
Another appeals court has ruled that the Obama administration is violating Americans’ religious rights by demanding employers provide abortifacients for their employees, but the latest ruling, from the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, goes a lot further.
It states that the Obama administration’s understanding of the law is “unsound.”
The court accuses the White House of trying to force religious believers to practice their faith only in their homes or churches, abandoning it in public. The charge has been made against the Obama administration before. For example, it has deliberately changed the Constitution reference to “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship,” which is not the same.
The case in the Seventh Circuit was brought on behalf of Grote Industries and its owners, a family-run auto lighting company based in Madison, Ind.
The lawsuit was brought by the Alliance Defending Freedom alleging that the mandates in Obamacare force employers, “regardless of their religious or moral convictions,” to provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs.
The case, like dozens of others filed over the same issue, alleges the requirement violates the owners’ “constitutionally protected freedom of religion and conscience.”
The decision notes that the government argued that it has the right to force the owners to violate their faith because of a prior Supreme Court statement.
The Supreme Court said: “Congress and the courts have been sensitive to the needs flowing from the Free Exercise Clause, but every person cannot be shielded from all the burdens incident to exercising every aspect of the right to practice religious beliefs. When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity.”
In the current case, the court said the government “apparently reads this passage as foreclosing all religious-exercise claims arising in the course of commercial activity merely because the contact is commercial.”
“That reading is both unsound and extraordinary.
“Unsound because it would nullify the rest of the court’s opinion, which considered the Amish farmer’s claim on the merits even though his activities were for profit; the commercial context did not defeat the claim.
“And extraordinary because it would leave religious exercise wholly unprotected in the commercial sphere. At bottom, the government’s argument is premised on a far-too-narrow view of religious freedom: Religious exercise is protected in the home and the house of worship but not beyond. Religious people do not practice their faith in that compartmentalized way; free-exercise rights are not so circumscribed.”
According to ADF, the mandate “forces employers, regardless of their religious or moral convictions, to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception under threat of heavy penalties” in violation of owners’ faith.
“All Americans, including job creators, should be free to honor God and live according to their faith,” said Senior Legal Counsel Matt Bowman, who argued before the 7th Circuit in May. “The court’s decision joins the majority of other rulings on the mandate, which have found it to excessively conflict with our nation’s guarantee of religious freedom to all Americans. The decision rightly foresees the dangers of allowing government to have this kind of power. If the government can force family business owners to act contrary to their deepest convictions under the threat of fining them out of business, it is a danger to everybody.”
About 70 lawsuits have been filed over the issue. Most have ended with an order that the Obamacare requirements cannot be enforced against the company.
The latest decision “suspends the mandate for two job creators, including a family-run auto lighting manufacturer represented by Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allied attorneys.”
“We hold that the plaintiffs – the business owners and their companies – may challenge the mandate. We further hold that compelling them to cover these services substantially burdens their religious exercise rights…,” the 7th Circuit’s decision states. “On the government’s understanding of religious liberty, a Jewish restaurant operating for profit could be denied the right to observe Kosher dietary restrictions. That cannot be right. There is nothing inherently incompatible between religious exercise and profit-seeking.”
The circuit court ruling also noted that “the federal government has placed enormous pressure on the plaintiffs to violate their religious beliefs and conform to its regulatory mandate.”
The court said the real issue is not an employee’s use of abortifacients but employers’ objections “to being forced to provide insurance coverage for these drugs and services in violation of their faith.”
The judges also noted that the government “has not made any effort to explain how the contraception mandate is the least restrictive means of furthering its stated goals of promoting public health and gender equality.”
The issue already has been presented to the U.S. Supreme Court for review.
The court could soon decide whether to accept that specific case, brought by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Liberty University.
“Obamacare is a train wreck. It is hard to see how Obamacare will ultimately survive. Whether it be the judiciary or the legislative process, this law will almost certainly be overturned because it is unworkable on so many levels,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, Friday after the latest brief was filed.
The Fourth and 10th Circuits also have made rulings similar to the Seventh decision.
The Obama administration wants the high court to ignore the case, but Liberty Counsel contends the administration “fails to recognize significant differences between the employer mandate and the individual mandate that affect the constitutional arguments, and thereby fails to appreciate the extent of the conflict between the Fourth Circuit’s decision and this court’s precedents.”
The debt of the federal government, which is normally subject to a legal limit, jumped by $409 billion in the month of October, according to the U.S. Treasury.
That equals approximately $3,567 for each household in the United States, and is the second-largest one month jump in the debt in the history of the country.
In the continuing resolution deal sealed by President Barack Obama and the Republican congressional leadership last month, the legal limit on the federal debt was suspended until February 7 of next year.
The single greatest one-month increase in the federal government’s debt came in October 2008, when Congress enacted the Troubled Asset Relief Program to bail out the financial industry.
In that month, the debt subject to the legal limit climbed by about $545 billion.
At the close of business on Sept. 30, 2013, the last day of fiscal 2013, the federal debt subject to limit stood at $16,699,396,000,000. At the close of business on Oct. 31, 2013, the first month of fiscal 2014, the debt subject to limit stood at approximately $17,108,378,000,000.
Thus, during October, the debt increased $408,982,000,000 – or about $3,567 for each of the 114,663,000 households the Census Bureau estimates there are in the United States.
From May 17, when the Treasury was approaching the previous debt limit, until Oct. 17, when Congress enacted the CR suspending the debt limit until February, the Treasury reported that the debt closed each business day at $16,699,396,000,000 – or about $25 million below the then-legal-limit of 16,699,421,095,673.60.
It’s not exactly a vote of confidence in the powers that be: A sizable number of Americans think the undead would do a better job than the brain dead in Washington, D.C.
Thirty-seven percent (37%) of American Adults believe the federal government would do a better job than zombies running the country today. But the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most Americans don’t share that view, with just as many (37%) who feel zombies would do a better job running the country and another 26% who can’t decide between the two. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
These findings are no surprise, given that 64% of Likely U.S. Voters now view the federal government unfavorably, with 34% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it.
Fifty-six percent (56%) of Democrats still pledge allegiance to the federal government, but pluralities of Republicans (45%) and those not affiliated with either major political party (44%) have more confidence in zombies when it comes to running the nation’s affairs.
Only six percent (6%) of all Americans anticipate a zombie apocalypse, so supporters of the federal government can rest easy. Eighty-two percent (82%) do not, but 12% are not sure.
Among those who expect an apocalypse, 74% say they are at least somewhat prepared, with 53% who are Very Prepared.
The survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on October 29-30, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.
Forty-one percent (41%) of Americans nationwide say they have watched a movie like “World War Z” or a TV show like “The Walking Dead” about a zombie apocalypse.
But only five percent (5%) think the recent boom in zombie-based books, films and TV shows is good for society. Thirty-five percent (35%) see this recent popularity as bad for society, while 51% say it has no impact.
Most adults 65 and older think the zombie craze is bad for society. Most younger adults say it has no impact.
Americans ages 18 to 64 express slightly more confidence in zombies to run things than in the federal government. Seniors have more faith in the government.
Men are more likely than women to think zombies would do a better job running the country. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites and other minority Americans to believe the government would do a better job than zombies.
Americans who expect a zombie apocalypse express a lot less confidence in the federal government.
Just 25% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, although that’s up from 13% during the recent federal government shutdown.
Fifty-four percent (54%) want a long-term budget deal that cuts federal spending, but 64% expect another shutdown soon because Congress can’t reach such a deal.
Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters consider the federal government a threat to individual rights rather than a protector of those rights.
Green energy is supposedly the future. Why, solar energy will break out and become a major energy source any year now, or any decade now. Or maybe never. It has been the subject of national attention ever since President Obama made it a cornerstone of his 2008 presidential campaign. Of course, what Obama claims is in energy policy has worked out to be more a of a growth-constraining, government money-wasting endeavor than anything else.
The Denver Post carried the original story on Thursday of how the federal government’s first attempt at a solar auction went. The headline was accurate: “1st auction of solar rights on public lands in Colorado draws no bids.” That’s right. Zero. Post reporter Mark Jaffe’s first sentence was charitable but acceptable: “The plan to auction rights to federal land across the West for solar-power plants got off to a rocky start Thursday when no bidders showed up for the first auction in Colorado.” Too bad that two establishment press outlets which were in a position to communicate this news to the nation failed to adequately do so.
From all appearances, the Associated Press failed completely, treating the the matter as a local story. Searches on “solar auction” and “solar Colorado” (each not in quotes) at the APs national site returned no results and no results, respectively, even though those those words are in that locally carried story:
As was the case in August when it minimized the significance of almost no activist interest in promoting “Action August” agenda items at the permanent Obama administration campaign’s Organizing For Action, Alex Guillen at the Politico apparently felt the need to downplay the completeness of the failure. So in his Morning Energy report, he went with a deceptive headline:
BLM’S FIRST SOLAR AUCTION GETS CLOUDY RECEPTION: The Bureau of Land Management’s first-ever competitive lease auction for parcels in two Colorado Solar Energy Zones yesterday drew no bids, even though five developers expressed interest in the land.
According to the Post, those five developers “filed preliminary applications for the three San Luis Valley parcels.” Given their failure to bid, whether those entities ever had genuine expressions of interest is debatable.
Jaffe at the Post relayed the pathetic excuses (bolds are mine):
Uncertainties about the solar market and federal rules probably were major factors in the auction’s failure, industry officials said.
…”We are going to have to regroup and figure out what didn’t work,” said Maryanne Kurtinaitis, renewable-energy program manager for the BLM in Colorado.
“It is always tough to be the first out of the chute. This is a learning experience,” Kurtinaitis said.
The parcels are in solar-energy zones – areas designated for fast-track development because they have access to transmission and are not in environmentally sensitive areas.
The bureau has created 19 solar zones in six Western states covering about 300,000 acres.
…The tepid response probably was the result of market uncertainties, said Ken Borngrebe, environmental-permitting manager for Tempe, Ariz.-based solar developer First Solar.
…”It may come down to the lack of confidence in the market for solar today,” Borngrebe said.
The Obama administration’s failed attempts to force-feed alternative energy to a nation which mostly doesn’t want it or need it have been legion. Though this exercise doesn’t seem to have cost taxpayers large amounts of money like the legion of failed green energy loans, it is humiliating – which is why the AP and Politico engaged in the protection efforts.
A federal judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss a case that could fatally cripple the Obamacare health insurance law.
The Affordable Care Act forbids the federal government from enforcing the law in any state that opted out of setting up its own health care exchange, according to a group of small businesses whose lawsuit got a key hearing Monday in federal court.
The Obama administration, according to their lawsuit, has ignored that language in the law, enforcing all of its provisions even in states where the federal government is operating the insurance marketplaces on the error-plagued Healthcare.gov website.
Thirty-six states chose not to set up their exchanges, a move that effectively froze Washington, D.C. out of the authority to pay subsidies and other pot-sweeteners to convince citizens in those states to buy medical insurance.
But the IRS overstepped its authority by paying subsidies in those states anyway, say the businesses and their lawyers.
The subsidies serve as a trigger that determines who has to comply with the now-famous individual and employer mandates. So, the lawsuit claims, the Obama administration illegally enforced the Affordable Care Act – suddenly making millions of taxpayers and small employers subject to paying fines if they don’t play ball.
The Affordable Care Act authorizes subsidies only for policies purchased ‘through an Exchange established by the State.’
A different section of the law empowers the federal government to set up its own exchanges for each state that chose not establish one.
But government lawyers have argued that ‘Congress made clear that an exchange established by the federal government stands in the shoes of the exchange that a state chooses not to establish.’
The Treasury Department, they contend, ‘has reasonably interpreted the Act to provide for eligibility for the premium tax credits for individuals in every state, regardless of which entity operates the exchange.’
But that amounts to the federal government ignoring the letter of the law, lawyer Sam Kazman says.
And ‘without those subsidies, the employer mandate isn’t triggered,’ he told MailOnline.
And that could make the entire Obamacare system unsustainable.
Kazman is general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank that is coordinating the case.
‘The IRS cannot rewrite the law that Congress passed,’ said Tom Miller, resident fellow at another think, the tank American Enterprise Institute.
‘Its regulation expressly flouts the statutory text of the Affordable Care Act, the intent of Congress and the reasoned choices of  states.’
‘The fiscal impact’ of denying the Obamacare system millions of dollars in lost fines, ‘while sizable, wouldn’t be large enough to bring down the house,’ Kazman added. The poltical one, however, is.’
‘You’d have 34 “refusenik” states exempting their employers and many of their citizens from the employer mandate and portions of the individual mandate,’ he explained.
‘You’d have companies in participating states considering whether to move their operations’ to states where they don’t have to obey the Affordable Care Act. ‘And you might even have some of those states seeking to undo their choice to participate.’
The Competitive Enterprise Institute said in a statement that the IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services have pushed regulations that Congress didn’t authorize, forcing some employers ‘to cut back employees’ hours’ in order to dodge Obamacare’s more economically challenging requirements, ‘even though they are located in states that have refused to set up their own insurance exchanges.’
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman refused to dismiss the case, as the government requested, but also denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the IRS and HHS from granting subsidies in what lawyer Kazman calls ‘refusenik’ states.
Judge Friedman said Tuesday that he will rule on the merits of the case by February 15.
By then the Obamacare law will be in full swing, nearing the end of its open enrollment period and providing health care services to Americans who sign up for coverage by December 15.
Kazman said his organization would ‘take an immediate appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals’ in order to get a re-hearing on the motion for an injunction to stop the clock on Obamacare while the larger legal issues are worked out.
At the lawsuit’s heart is a set of distinctions that Congress drew between the 14 states – 15 including the District of Columbia – that chose to establish health insurance exchanges and the 36 that opted out.
The plaintiffs, who all hail from ‘refusenik’ states, say the federal government has invalidated their state governments’ choices.
Kazman said that the Obamacare statute does not empower the IRS or HHS to ‘give subsidy funding to people in states not authorized by Congress to receive it. That move, he agreed, had he effect of ‘gutting a choice – to participate in the exchange program or not – that states were given by Congress.’
The government is ‘asking you to interpret “north” to mean “south,”‘ plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Carvin told Judge Friedman on Monday.
The White House referred questions about the lawsuit to the Health and Human Services Department, which declined requests for comment and passed the buck to the Justice Department. The DOJ didn’t respond to emails seeking a position on the lawsuit, which its lawyers are defending.
If you had been told as little as a year ago that the feds were not only scanning your email and social websites, but had also demanded that web firms turn over your passwords, would you have believed it?
Believe it now. As reported by cnet.com, the U.S. government has demanded that major Internet companies divulge users’ stored passwords, according to two industry sources familiar with these orders, which represents an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed.
“If the government is able to determine a person’s password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user. Obtaining it also would aid in deciphering encrypted devices in situations where passwords are reused.”
Some of the government orders demand not only a user’s password but also the secret question codes often associated with user accounts. So which companies are we talking about here?
A Microsoft spokesman would not say whether the company has received such “requests.” But when asked whether Microsoft would divulge passwords and other relevant information, a spokesman replied: “No, we don’t, and we can’t see a circumstance in which we would provide it.”
Google also declined to disclose whether it had received requests. But a spokesman said the company has “never” turned over a user’s encrypted password, and that it has a legal team that frequently pushes back against requests that are “fishing expeditions” or are otherwise problematic. “We take the privacy and security of our users very seriously,” the spokesman said.
A Yahoo spokeswoman would not say whether the company had received such requests, but did say: “If we receive a request from law enforcement for a user’s password, we deny such requests on the grounds that it would allow overly-broad access to our users’ private information. If we are required to provide information, we do so only in the strictest interpretation of what is required by law.”
Apple, Facebook, AOL, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast did not respond to cnet’s questions about whether they have received similar requests for users’ passwords and how they would respond if they did.
This may not (yet) be George Orwell’s “1984,” but Big Brother would surely be proud of the “progress” being made.
A federal district court has granted Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a preliminary injunction that prevents the federal government from enforcing its Obamacare mandate that the Christian company carry health insurance that offers contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs free of charge.
Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel are suing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, arguing that to force the company to pay for health insurance that must offer abortion-inducing drugs, as well as sterilization and contraception, is a violation of its religious liberty.
“The tide has turned against the HHS mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and lead attorney for Hobby Lobby.
In an opinion read from the bench, the court today said, “There is a substantial public interest in ensuring that no individual or corporation has their legs cut out from under them while these difficult issues are resolved.”
In a press release, the Becket Fund said, “This is a major victory for not only Hobby Lobby but the religious liberty of all for-profit businesses.”
As the injunction stands now and as case moves forward in the courts, Hobby Lobby will not have to comply with the Obamacare mandate or pay any financial penalties related to non-compliance.
“Today the abortion-pill mandate took another blow,” said Ashley McGuire, senior fellow with The Catholic Association. “The courts have once again ruled that family business owners like the Green family of Hobby Lobby do not have to violate their consciences to enter the marketplace. We hope that other courts follow suit and restore religious liberty to all employers. And we hope that the Obama administration finally gets the message that the abortion-pill mandate is a blatant infringement on First Amendment rights and religious freedom.”
The more things “change” in politics, the more things stay the same. President Obama is installing measures to intimidate those who give the American people the “transparency” that was promised to them.
The White House is launching a government-wide initiative known as the “Insider Threat Program,” which is already being panned by experts as a threat to transparency and accountable government.We’re talking everything from the postal service (yes, it’s tracking Americans, too) to what President Obama might call the “Peace Corpse.”
The video above is from the Russia Today program “The Resident“; and it always wigs me out agreeing with RT, since it is funded by the Kremlin. Regardless, the host really nails several key points in appropriately sarcastic fashion. The left-wing outlets Democracy Now! and Young Turks also commented on the Insider Threats Program.
For those who prefer not to watch Kremlin-funded news (and trust me,the Russians know a little bit about domestic surveillance), McClatchy reports:
In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.
The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat Program, an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.
President Obama has prosecuted more people under the Espionage Act than all other presidents combined. Add recent Project PRISM leaker Edward Snowden to the list; although he wasn’t the first NSA whistleblower – there are at least three others, who generally support Snowden.
PRISM is more than is being reported by the mainstream media. It is not specifically directed at foreign threats, and it is much more than a periodical gathering of cellphone “metadata” (which is bad enough). The NSA monitors all sorts of data on an ongoing daily basis, and it even gushed it can do whatever it wants without public oversight or a warrant. Americans need to know about it.
A federal appeals court in Denver has ruled against the Obamacare abortion mandate that forces religious business owners to violate their beliefs by paying for abortifacients.
The ruling from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the case returned to the district court level for swift resolution of the request by the owners of Hobby Lobby for an injunction until the dispute fully is resolved.
The district court previously refused to allow the injunction, and even Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor told the company owners to start paying for abortifacients for their employees, in direct violation of their faith.
However, the 10th Circuit took the case with the unusual step that the full court would hear the arguments rather than a three-judge panel.
In their decision, the court said Hobby Lobby has “established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.”
The case is just one of more than five dozen pending in U.S. courts now challenging Obama’s demand that employers pay for abortifacients for their employee regardless of their religious faith and beliefs.
A five-judge majority on the court said the mandate creates a substantial burden, because if the owners do not comply with Obama’s demands, based on their religious beliefs, they would be subjected to millions of dollars in fines annually.
The judges also said the government did not satisfy the requirement to show that any burden on the religious exercise of the plaintiffs was overridden by some “compelling” government interest or that it was imposed in the least intrusive way possible.
The court pointedly noted that Obama’s administration already has exempted “tens of millions of people” from the same mandate, so to do so for Hobby Lobby hardly would create an impact.
The American Center for Law and Justice was one of the dozens of organizations that filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the dispute.
“We are pleased with the outcome of this case, especially because the 10th Circuit majority tracks the arguments we presented,” the group said. ” …These are the same arguments we have presented in the other mandate cases in which we are involved.”
The Green family, owners of the chain of hundreds of stores in 40 states, said, through the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, they are optimistic.
“My family and I believe very strongly in our conviction that life begins at conception, and the emergency contraceptives that we would be forced to provide in our employee health plan under this mandate are contrary to that conviction,” said David Green, founder. “We believe that business owners should not have to be forced to choose between following their faith and following the law.”
Hobby Lobby is the largest business so far to file a lawsuit against the Health and Human Services mandate under Obamacare. But it is just one of many plaintiffs who make up more than 60 lawsuits launched already.
Other plaintiffs include Colorado Christian University, Ave Maria University and Wheaton College of Illinois.
“We hold that Hobby Lobby and Mardel [a related company] are entitled to bring claims under [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act], have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm.”
The 165-page opinion said Hobby Lobby has standing to sue, and the Anti-Injunction Act does not apply. The opinion also said the majority holds that the district court erred in finding that Hobby Lobby had not demonstrated a likelihood of success.
The judges noted that the company owners established their work on Christian principles and continue to run them that way, refusing to open on Sundays or engage in business activities that promote alcohol use.
The company also buys newspaper ads inviting people to “know Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
The court noted that the law allows exemptions to Obamacare for religious employers, but religious for-profit companies like Hobby Lobby were deliberately targeted for the requirement.
“The plaintiffs assert that because more than 13,000 individuals are insured under the Hobby Lobby plan… [Obamacare fines] would total at least $1.3 million per day, or almost $475 million per year.”
The fines, combined with the fact the government was unable to show it had narrowly tailored the requirement, means the government’s argument must fail, the court said.
“In addition, the Supreme Court has settled that individuals have Free Exercise rights with respect to their for-profit businesses… In short, individuals may incorporate for religious purposes and keep the Free Exercise rights, and unincorporated individuals may pursue profit while keeping their Free Exercise rights.”
The court said the government has the idea that when individuals incorporate but are not tax-exempt under the IRS code, “Free Exercise rights somehow disappear.”
But the judges said religious expression and religious conduct can be communicated by individuals and for-profit corporations alike.
Several other district judges have ordered that the abortion mandate not be enforced against individual companies until the dispute is resolved, but the government is appealing the decisions.
Federal employees were given advance notice of an April 1 Medicare decision worth billions of dollars to private insurers. And in the weeks before the decision was officially announced, shares in those firms spiked, the Washington Post reports.
Naturally, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission suspect Wall Street investors and fed workers engaged in insider trading.
The April 1 decision was about increasing funding to Medicare Advantage by $8 billion
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said last week that his office “reviewed the e-mail records of employees at the Department of Health and Human Services and found that 436 of them had early access to the Medicare decision as much as two weeks before it was made public,” the report notes.
“The number of federal employees with advance knowledge is surely higher; the figures Grassley’s staff compiled did not include people at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget who also saw the information,” the report adds.
“The e-mail records of those employees have not been made available to Grassley.”
The sensitive – and valuable – information was so widely circulated among federal employees that it will no doubt make it difficult to pinpoint the source of the leak (if there was indeed a leak). Also, the fact that so many employees had access to this valuable information calls into question the government’s practice of handling of information coveted by Wall Street insiders.
“This should sound an alarm,” said the Iowa senator. “It should result in better controls to avoid unfair access to information that the average investor could never tap.”
Sen. Grassley said he he plans to introduce legislation that would require “political-intelligence consultants to disclose their activities, as lobbyists are required to do,” the report notes.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials do not question Grassley’s headcount of fed employees who were made privy to the April 1 announcement, but they stress that Medicare policy is complex and would require review.
“CMS takes the security and integrity of sensitive information very seriously,” spokesman Brian Cook said in a statement. “Our agency regularly handles sensitive information regarding payment rates, coverage decisions, and other technical policy decisions that need to be safeguarded until public release.”
Click here to read the full report.