Over 40% Of Federal Student Loan Recipients Aren’t Making Payments On Their Debts

Shocking Statistic: Over 40% Of Student Borrowers Don’t Make Payments – Zero Hedge

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Over 40 percent of those in student loan programs have stopped making payments. Many borrowers have never made any payments.

The department of education (a useless body that I would eliminate in one second if given the chance), cannot figure out why this is happening.

“We obviously have not cracked that nut but we want to keep working on it,” said Ted Mitchell, the Education Department’s under secretary.

The Wall Street Journal reports More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Payments.
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More than 40% of Americans who borrowed from the government’s main student-loan program aren’t making payments or are behind on more than $200 billion owed, raising worries that millions of them may never repay.

While most have since left school and joined the workforce, 43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with federal student loans weren’t making payments as of Jan. 1, according to a quarterly snapshot of the Education Department’s $1.2 trillion student-loan portfolio.

About 1 in 6 borrowers, or 3.6 million, were in default on $56 billion in student debt, meaning they had gone at least a year without making a payment. Three million more owing roughly $66 billion were at least a month behind.

Meantime, another three million owing almost $110 billion were in “forbearance” or “deferment,” meaning they had received permission to temporarily halt payments due to a financial emergency, such as unemployment. The figures exclude borrowers still in school and those with government-guaranteed private loans.

Navient Corp., which services student loans and offers payment plans tied to income, says it attempts to reach each borrower on average 230 to 300 times – through letters, emails, calls and text messages – in the year leading up to his or her default. Ninety percent of those borrowers, which include federal borrowers as well as those who hold private loans, never respond and more than half never make a single payment before they default, the company says.

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Crisis Easy to Explain

Carlo Salerno, an economist who studies higher education and has consulted for the private student-lending industry, noted that the government imposes virtually no credit checks on borrowers, requires no cosigners and doesn’t screen people for their preparedness for college-level course work. “On what planet does a financing vehicle with those kinds of terms and those kinds of performance metrics make sense,” he said.

I could easily come up with numerous reasons off the top of my head.
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1. Being in the workforce and having a job are two different things.

2. Having a job and making enough money to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars is yet another thing.

3. Some feel cheated by the system, as well they should.

4. Many have figured out the consequences of default are small. The worst that can happen is wage garnishment. Should that happen, one can always find another low-paying job, buying time until they are discovered again.

5. Some never intended to pay back the loans in the first place. To those borrowers, it’s all free money for a few years. They will stay in school as long as they can. If by some miracle they actually graduate (or are kicked out), they never make a payment.

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Blame Bush!

A large portion of the blame for this mess goes to George W. Bush. Seriously.

The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act enacted April 20, 2005 made it much more difficult to discharge debts in bankruptcy.

Among other things, “BAPCPA amended the law to broaden the types of educational (“student”) loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy absent proof of “undue hardship.” The nature of the lender became irrelevant. Even loans from “for-profit” or “non-governmental” entities are not dischargeable.

The Deflation Guarantee Act of 2005

I predicted this mess when Bush signed the bill. As proof, I offer The Deflation Guarantee Act of 2005.

Here are my lead paragraphs as I wrote them at the time.
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Today Congress passed the “The Deflation Guarantee Act of 2005” currently known as the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005”. Twenty years from now economists are going to be studying legislation from this Congress and signed by this administration and be wondering: “What the * were they thinking?”.

Consumer Protection Act? LMAO

Anytime this administration passes a law with the “protection” in it, assume it will do just the opposite.

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Student Debt Highly Deflationary

I have wanted to refer back to that post on numerous occasions.

I had not done so previously because I strongly dislike my writing style in those days. I frequently used chat room talk like “LMAO” (laughing my ass off), in those early posts.

There are other aspects of my 2005 post that I dislike as well. However, I nailed the idea correctly. Student debt is a hugely deflationary force.

In the wake of that act (albeit with a bit of a delay), we saw massive amounts of seemingly reckless lending to students. Because of government guarantees, lenders did not give a damn who they lent to.

For profit universities flourished. Abuses at the University of Phoenix became rampant. And because of various lending programs that followed, education costs soared as well.

Those debts cannot be paid back, and household formation has gone into reverse. Students moved back home after graduation, and attitudes on debt have changed.

These are all debt deflation forces.

Modest Fee Request

The Department of Education will no doubt waste millions of taxpayer dollars studying this issue, only to come up with the wrong answers because students will lie.

Will anyone realistically admit “I never intended to pay back these loans”?

My modest fee for this analysis is a mere $250,000. Of that amount, I pledge $249,999.99 to the Khan Academy.

All I ask is a penny for my thoughts, saving taxpayers countless millions in useless department of education studies.

For more on the Khan Academy please see Teaching Revolution: Online, Accredited, Free; Start Learning Now!

Obama’s Role

President Obama does not escape criticism for his efforts to fuel the problem.

Here’s my blast at Obama: For Profit Schools Turn Students Into Debt Zombies; It’s Time To Kill The Entire Pell Grant Program.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but I have not seen a single person take this crisis back to the logical origin, the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005” making student debt non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.

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Your Daley Gator Why-Isn’t-Hillary-In-Jail-Yet Story O’ The Day

Bombshell: Clinton Foundation Donor’s Flight From Justice Aided By Hillary Allies – The Observer

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Recent news reports indicate that the FBI is investigating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for granting favors to her family’s foundation donors and for its systematic accounting fraud. In January, the Sunday Times of London cited former Judge Andrew Napolitano, a conservative libertarian and frequent Fox News guest, as saying that the FBI was taking evidence “seriously” and that Hillary “could hear about that soon from the Department of Justice.”

It’s hard to believe that the Obama administration and its hideously politicized Justice Department would ever indict Ms. Clinton, given that President Barack Obama picked her for secretary of state and its clear favoritism toward her in the presidential race. But there is massive evidence that shows financial abuses – including money laundering – at the Clinton Foundation and overwhelming evidence that donors were helped by Ms. Clinton.

To take one of so many examples, there’s the case of Clinton Foundation donor Claudio Osorio – who is now housed at a federal prison serving 12 years for fraud – who in 2010, with Ms. Clinton’s (and Bill Clinton’s) help, won a $10 million loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

The loan was granted to an Osorio firm called InnoVida, which was supposed to build houses in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Instead, Osorio pocketed the money and used it to underwrite his lavish lifestyle and to pay off politicians. For political muscle, Osorio – who also had close ties to Jeb Bush, who sat on the board of a bank he owned – paid a lobbyist and major Hillary fundraiser named Jonathan Mantz.

And that leads me to another Clinton Foundation donor Ms. Clinton helped out who happened to use Mr. Mantz (who now runs Ms. Clinton’s presidential campaign Super PAC) and apparently with the same great effect: Gonzalo Tirado, a crooked Venezuelan financier.

Mr. Tirado was president of and ran Venezuelan operations for the famously corrupt Stanford Bank, which was headquartered in Antigua and was named for its American founder, Allen Stanford. He and Mr. Stanford came to be extremely close and “were like father and son,” one well-placed source told me.

Mr. Stanford’s name may ring a bell as he was sentenced to prison for 110 years for committing an $8 billion Ponzi scheme. In 2006, the Hugo Chavez government was asked to investigate Mr. Tirado by scandal-plagued, pro-Wall Street New York Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, a member of the House Committee on Financial Services and a major recipient of cash and perks from jailbird Allen Stanford. Mr. Tirado was charged with tax evasion and theft, The Hill newspaper reported.

As I’ll detail below – and I uncovered this story with help from the National Legal and Policy Center, a Virginia-based watchdog group – Tirado soon fled for Miami to avoid prosecution and petitioned the State Department, through Mr. Mantz, for political asylum. It’s not clear if he won asylum – and he doesn’t seem to merit it as he had no record of political opposition to the Chavez government – but it is clear that he was allowed to remain in the U.S. and live a life of luxury.

(Mr. Tirado, who did not reply to a request for comment, has kept a low profile as of late. His last reported sighting came in 2014, when he unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide, or at least claimed he intended to kill himself.)

Incredibly, the Obama administration not only failed to help the Chavez government investigate Mr. Tirado, but it also indicted a legendary former DEA agent named Tom Raffanello, a one-time head of the DEA’s Miami office and the agency’s chief of congressional affairs during Bill Clinton’s first term as president.

Mr. Raffanello’s subsequent prosecution, which ended in abysmal failure, almost surely was prompted and abetted by Mr. Tirado, a secret FBI informant. Unsurprisingly, the vindicated Mr. Raffanello had few kind words for Mr. Tirado or Ms. Clinton during a recent interview.

“Tirado believed in buying influence,” Mr. Raffanello said of the crooked financier. “He wouldn’t give away 10 cents that he didn’t think he’d get back a dollar on. That was his entire philosophy.”

As for Ms. Clinton, he said that during her years in the Obama administration the “prevailing wisdom in Miami at the time, among people in high profile civil and criminal defense circles, was that giving money to the Clinton Foundation was very helpful. She was secretary of state and a potential future president. I’m sure that’s the same thinking now.”

(Ms. Clinton’s presidential campaign did not reply to a request for comment.)

Up until 2006, life was cushy for pampered, wealthy, jet-setting Gonzalo Tirado, who was running the Stanford Bank’s Venezuela operations. Events took a turn for the worse when an internal Stanford Bank audit discovered that he had fleeced about $5 million from the company.

Mr. Tirado’s actions did not sit well with Stanford, and the Venezuelan beat a hasty exit from his job. He soon opened a bank of his own and lured in a few local investors. His new enterprise went down the tubes, and the defrauded locals, who were very close to the Chavez government, looked to it for help, leading to an investigation of Mr. Tirado.

At the same time, the Chavez government was investigating Mr. Tirado at the behest of Stanford, through his hand-picked emissary, Congressman Meeks. (See this Wikileaked cable for more on the topic and on Mr. Tirado’s feud with the Venezuelan government.) That led to the filing of criminal charges against Mr. Tirado, as noted above. (The Venezuelan embassy in Washington did not reply to a request for comment.)

Mr. Tirado, apparently a conscienceless paranoid who felt no remorse for his actions, became convinced that Stanford Bank was monitoring his activities and tapping his phone and was the source of all of his troubles. Perhaps sensing he was in deep trouble, he fled Venezuela for Miami.

Mr. Tirado began spending money like a drunken sailor. He purchased at least two luxury estates in the Miami area. He also became a major investor in several companies, including a security firm called Command Consulting Group for which he recruited as a front man W. Ralph Basham, a former senior official with the Department of Homeland Security under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Command Consulting Group, “an international security and intelligence consulting firm that provides advisory services to governments, corporations, and high net worth individuals,” according to its website, and whose top officials include a number of other former senior government terror and security veterans, is currently run out of an office in Washington. (Mr. Basham did not reply to a request for comment.)

As 2009 dawned, life could hardly have been better for the pampered Mr. Tirado. There was just one small problem: He needed to stay in the U.S. to avoid being sent back back to Venezuela, where he was sure to face trial and imprisonment. To stay in the U.S., Mr. Tirado needed the continued indulgence of the U.S. State Department.

Fortunately for Mr. Tirado, the U.S. government had been hostile to Venezuela ever since the South American nation of 31 million moved to the left in 2002, when Chavez was elected to the first of his three terms.

(Note and disclosure: Chavez died in 2013, and the country is now led by his former vice president, Nicolás Maduro. Despite its flaws, the country’s socialist government has made remarkable strides in bettering the lives of Venezuela’s poor majority. In 2004, I met Chavez as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and I consider him to be the greatest force for democratic change in modern Latin American history with the possible exception of Che Guevera.)

The George W. Bush administration had regularly conspired with the rancid political opposition, which Chavez displaced from power, and had sought to destabilize and overthrow the Chavez government with the help of local Venezuelan surrogates. Incoming President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, were rabid opponents of Chavez’s as well, but Mr. Tirado didn’t want to count on that alone.

Knowing how the corrupt U.S. political system works, he hired an American lobbyist, Jonathan Mantz, to game the asylum process for him while he took it easy and spent his loot in America.

Mantz then worked at BGR, the firm of Republican Haley Barbour, the famously overweight former Mississippi governor and one of the most prominent of all GOP lobby shops. He had previously worked as finance director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and for the laughably corrupt New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine.

Mr. Mantz, who had no real qualifications to be a lobbyist other than his ability to raise money – and who did not reply to a request for comment – had drummed up cash for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. Currently Mr. Mantz chairs Hillary’s 2016 Super PAC, Priorities USA Action. Mr. Tirado paid BGR $350,000.

Now sufficiently motivated, Mantz went to work lobbying Hillary’s State Department to let Tirado stay in Miami. Meanwhile, the crooked Mr. Tirado donated between $5,000 and $10,000 to the Clinton Foundation, according to its website. As is its custom, the foundation does not state when the donation was made and declined to answer questions about the money it took from Mr. Tirado.

Coincidentally or not, Mr. Tirado was one four of Mr. Mantz’ clients who donated to the Clinton Foundation during his brief 16-month career as a lobbyist.

Now let’s discuss the story of former DEA agent Thomas Raffanello, at which point this story becomes even more outrageous.

Mr. Raffanello worked for the DEA for more than three decades. He left in 2004 and went to work as the head of security for the Stanford Bank. “We set up cameras to prevent bank robberies and generally provided security at bank offices and functions,” Mr. Raffanello told me last weekend during the course of several lengthy phone interviews. “I was based in Miami but had offices in Caracas, Quito, Antigua and a few other places.”

Mr. Raffanello said Allen Stanford “couldn’t balance a checkbook” and described him as “a spoiled billionaire.” When I asked him why he went to work for Stanford in the first place he said, “I did due diligence. I called several associates, including the former head of DEA in Miami before me and several former assistant U.S. attorneys who worked for him. No one ever gave me a bad word; they said he was eccentric but a straight shooter. Madeleine Albright worked for him, and the former president of Switzerland was one of his board members.”

Stanford Bank collapsed and was put into receivership in 2010, at which point Mr. Raffanello left the company. But well before then Mr. Tirado – who, a source told me, had become an FBI informant – had become convinced that Mr. Raffanello was the source for all of his problems with the Chavez government and its investigation into him. Hence, he began a smear campaign against Mr. Raffanello in Venezuela and the United States.

As I mentioned above, it was Congressman Meeks – who currently supports Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and who took in more money from Stanford than any single member of Congress other than Charles Rangel and Pete Sessions of Texas – who prompted the Chavez government to look into Mr. Tirado.

But the paranoid Mr. Tirado, certain Mr. Raffanello was to blame, paid Venezuelan writers to place stories saying Mr. Raffanello worked for the CIA, Mr. Raffanello told me. That led to the Chavez government questioning Mr. Raffanello for alleged corruption involving the Stanford bank, though it determined the allegations were groundless and never charged him.

“Venezuela is like Casablanca,” Mr. Raffanello said. “If you tell a story twice it becomes the truth. It became impossible for me to go to Venezuela because I feared I’d get picked up by law enforcement.”
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“I thought I was going to get Shanghaied, but you can’t make something out of nothing.” – Thomas Raffanello.

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Meanwhile, Mr. Raffanello said, Mr. Tirado told the FBI and the Justice Department that he was trying to arrange Mr. Tirado’s kidnapping and was spying on him. “The guy knows how to play the game, and he played it at a high level because he had plenty of money,” Mr. Raffanello said.

About a year after Mr. Raffanello left Stanford Bank, he was indicted by the Obama Justice Department for allegedly shredding Stanford Bank documents. The case went to trial in Miami in 2010. On February 10 of that year, as the jury was deliberating, Judge Richard Goldberg interrupted its deliberations and unilaterally acquitted Raffanello (and another defendant), saying the evidence against him was “substantially lacking.”

It is highly unusual for a person to escape conviction after being indicted by a federal grand jury, let alone for the government to be humiliated in court as it was in the Raffanello case. Stunned federal prosecutors begged the judge to at least allow the jury to render a verdict because the acquittal would prevent them from appealing a verdict.

The judge dismissed their plea, and Mr. Raffanello’s ordeal was over. “I thought I was going to get Shanghaied, but you can’t make something out of nothing,” he said.

To sum up here, a corrupt Venezuelan banker hired a lobbyist close to Hillary Clinton, made a donation to her family’s foundation and has been allowed to live in the United States without fear of prosecution in his homeland. At a time that Hillary Clinton was secretary of state, the Obama Administration staged what can only be described as a political prosecution of an honest man and long-time government employee.

Mr. Raffanello has concluded this about Hillary Clinton’s campaign: “I learned a lot about her and her family when I was in the government, and how they are put together,” he said. “She is a person who will say and do anything in order to get elected president. I don’t think she’s going to win, but there’s nothing she won’t do while trying.”

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Thanks Barack… Federal Government Flushed $1.2B Down Failed ObamaCare CO-OPs

Feds Flushed $1.2 Billion Down Failed ObamaCare CO-OPs – Moonbattery

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The long election season that has already degenerated into a circus is a boon for Democrats. It keeps most people distracted from how ObamaCare is unfolding:
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More than half of the government-funded nonprofit health insurers created by Obamacare have failed, sticking taxpayers with a $1.2 billion tab and leaving hundreds of thousands of people in more than a dozen states scrambling for medical coverage, a new federal audit reveals. The nonprofit insurers are known as Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan Program (CO-OP) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has pumped $2.4 billion into them under the president’s hostile takeover of the nation’s healthcare system.

Congress initially allocated $6 billion for the Obamacare CO-OP program, with the goal of establishing CO-OPs in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. Thankfully, subsequent legislation slashed funding for the ill-fated experiment. In all, HHS has funded 23 of these dubious enterprises and 12 have already gone under after losing an astounding $1.2 billion that’s unlikely to ever be recovered. As a result 740,000 people in 14 states must search for new medical coverage they thought they had under the disastrous Obamacare plan. Every resident of the United States who pays taxes should be outraged by this monstrous failure, exposed in great detail in a scathing report published by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The committee’s probe reveals that, even when the CO-OPs showed clear signs of financial failure, HHS kept giving them huge amounts of money in the form of “loans” the agency knew would never be repaid.

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Statists believe that anything can be made to work if you infuse it with enough of other people’s money. But as Margaret Thatcher observed, eventually you run out of that.

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University Of Missouri Losing 1,500 Students And Facing $32M Budget Shortfall After Caving To BLM Protesters

Shocker: After Caving To Protests, Mizzou Has Huge Budget Gap – Daily Caller

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The University of Missouri (MU) is losing about 1500 students and is facing a huge $32 million budget shortfall four months after it attracted national attention as the site of massive race-based campus protests.

“I am writing to you today to confirm that we project a very significant budget shortfall due to an unexpected sharp decline in first-year enrollments and student retention this coming fall. I wish I had better news,” said MU interim chancellor Hank Foley in a Wednesday letter to school staff that was obtained by Fox Sports.

According to Foley’s letter, MU will have about 1500 fewer students in fall 2016 compared to last year, an unexpected drop that is in turn causing a big dip in the school’s tuition income.

Because of the abrupt and unexpected nature of the shortfall, Foley is taking immediate and severe steps to fix the situation: The school budget is being cut 5 percent across the board, all hiring is being frozen (barring exceptional circumstances), and annual raises have been canceled. He has also announced a new, more intensive effort to recruit potential Mizzou students by phone, email, and even via Skype.

Even with all these measures, Foley anticipates MU having a deficit of about $1o million,which he said would be made up using the school’s reserve funds.

In November 2015, MU was rocked by major protests led by the Concerned Student 1950 group, which accused President Timothy Wolfe of not doing enough to address racial tensions on campus. After black players on the school football team announced a strike, Wolfe resigned and the school caved to a host of other protester demands. Meanwhile, the same day of Wolfe’s resignation, communications professor Melissa Click grabbed headlines for attacking a student journalist who tried to cover the ongoing protests.

Now, while Click and Wolfe are gone, the consequences of that turbulent November continue to reverberate, not the least because Concerned Student 1950 continues to engage in very public protests while demanding even more concessions from the school.

It was already known that MU had seen a drop in applications following the protests, but Foley’s letter drives home just how big a blow the school has been dealt.

Foley doesn’t break down the 1,500 lost student by class year, but the bulk of the decline comes from a major dip in the size of the entering freshman class. How major? In 2015, MU had 6,200 freshman undergraduates, meaning its freshman class size may have shrunk by 20 percent or more, an incredible swing for a single year.

Notably, Foley’s letter makes no mention of the protests as a potential factor in Mizzou’s declining appeal.

Foley also is unlikely to have much luck in turning to Missouri lawmakers for support. Disgusted by the university’s actions last fall, Republicans have refused to increase its budget and have even been considering making a big cut to the school’s state support.

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Leftist Crime Update: Billionaire Clinton Donor From Switzerland Gave Dozens Of Illegal Contributions To U.S. Political Campaigns

Foreign Clinton Donor Made Donations To US Campaigns – Daily Caller

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Hansjorg Wyss, a billionaire Swiss citizen and multi-million dollar Clinton Foundation donor, gave 30 contributions to American political campaigns over a nine-year period, according to an investigation by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Federal law has imposed a strict, across-the-board ban since 1966 on foreign nationals giving to U.S. political campaigns. The ban was later included in the 1974 Federal Election Campaign Act. The only exception is for foreign nationals who possess a green card. The ban applies to all levels of political campaigns.

Wyss donated $41,000 to seven congressional candidates and to four national political action committees from 1998 to 2003, according to Federal Election Commission records under the name of Hansjorg Wyss.

Colorado campaign finance records also report that Wyss gave $50,000 to Coloradans for Responsible Growth in March 2000, a statewide environmental political action committee that closed its doors only two years later, in part because it reportedly never filed the required financial statements.

In April 2006, Wyss gave $10,000 to Jim Baca, a Democrat running for New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands, according to the State of New Mexico Ethics Administration.

Wyss has a long-term relationship with Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as with John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s present national campaign director and former White House Chief of Staff for President Clinton. Wyss committed $5 million to the Clinton Foundation’s “No Ceilings” program to empower women and girls in December 2013.

Wyss paid Podesta $87,000 for “consultant” services when the latter served as a top aide to President Barack Obama. Wyss is a major contributor to the Center for American Progress and a member of its board of directors. The center was founded by Podesta and has received $5.1 million from Wyss since 2011, according to Internal Revenue Service filings.

Lawrence M. Noble, general counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, told TheDCNF contributions by a foreign citizen are a “serious violation.” Noble was general counsel at the Federal Election Commission for 13 years.

“If he doesn’t have a green card and he’s not a U.S. citizen, then he can’t give to U.S. elections,” Noble said.

Former FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith told TheDCNF that if Wyss gave the donations knowingly and willingly, “the FEC is pretty aggressive in referring this kind of violation to the Department of Justice as a criminal matter.”

Although Wyss has maintained multiple residences in the United States since the 1960’s, he’s never sought U.S. citizenship. He said in a 2014 speech in Bern, Switzerland reported by the Swiss news organization Blick, “I only have a Swiss passport as a proof of identity. No Green Card. No American passport. So here I stand, as a true Swiss, in my homeland,” according to the Swiss media outlet Bite.

Documents obtained by TheDCNF show that Wyss is an E-2 visa holder, and does not have a green card. A Feb. 8, 2010, letter prepared by Wyss lawyer Joseph M. Sedlack said “HJW is lawfully in the U.S. pursuant to a ‘E-2VISA’” and “is not a permanent resident of the US under a ‘green card.’” Sedlack is with the Reed Smith LLP law firm.

TheDCNF also asked Carolyn Short, another Reed Smith attorney who represents Wyss, if Wyss was a U.S. citizen. She did not reply.

Noble said some foreign nationals might plead ignorance but “given his sophistication, he should he have known” that he was not permitted to give to political campaigns. Smith, the former FEC Commissioner, agreed, saying “the guy’s got access to some of the top lawyers in the country.”

In a related development, the Justice Department earlier this month refused to turn over documents sought by Citizens United under the Freedom of Information Act in seeking to understand why Wyss’ top four executives went to jail but he didn’t in a medical scandal in which five patients died as a result of an illegal drug testing program run by his former company.

Wyss was named in 2009 by a federal grand jury as the “Person No. 7” who directed the four jailed executives to ignore federal safety rules requiring the FDA’s prior approval of drug tests on humans. Wyss was CEO of the company, Syntheses, which paid a $22 million fine under the 2011 settlement that sent the four executives to prison.

Justice Department officials claimed release of documents, “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” They also declined to “acknowledge the existence of such records pertaining to this individual.”

Citizens United president David Bossie denounced the rejection, telling TheDCNF “the American people deserve to know what’s going on inside their government, particularly the activities of political appointees at the Justice Department.”

Wyss also now faces racketeering charges in a Washington State civil suit that claims he profiteered in the drug testing scheme that caused the death of 67-year old Reba Golden and four other people.

Additionally, he was at the center of a nasty sexual scandal that allegedly resulted in a private $1.5 million settlement with a former employee. The settlement came to light after Wyss made a $5 million commitment to the Clinton Foundation’s “No Ceilings” project designed to protect women and girls.

Dave Skinner, a researcher with the Hydra Project, noted that Wyss preferred giving funds through his private foundation rather than highly visible political donations. “He’s always been low profile. He’s always operated under the radar,” Skinner said.

Wyss has a penchant for secrecy, claiming in a May, 2011 Swiss newspaper interview that “nobody knows me, and I hope that it stays like this.”

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Commie Swine Update: Feds Say Thousands Of Bernie Sanders Contributions Violated Campaign Finance Laws

Feds Flag Thousands Of Illegal Bernie Sanders Contributions – Washington Free Beacon

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Thousands of contributions to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign in January violated federal campaign finance laws, election regulators said on Thursday.

The Federal Election Commission sent a letter to the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign committee on Thursday with a 90-page spreadsheet listing 3,457 “excessive, prohibited, and impermissible contributions.”

The campaign’s January financial disclosure filing listed contributions from foreign nationals and unregistered political committees, the FEC said. Other contributions came from donors who exceeded the $2,700 per-election limit.

“Although the Commission may take further legal action concerning the acceptance of [excessive or prohibited] contributions, your prompt action to refund the prohibited amount will be taken into consideration,” the FEC told the campaign.

Sanders’ campaign has relied on small-dollar individual contributions to a far greater extent than any other presidential campaign, including the Super PAC– and dark money-fueled efforts of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The Vermont Senator and self-described socialist is running on a platform of transparency and campaign finance reform, contrasting his grassroots support with Clinton’s high-dollar donors and use of loopholes in federal election laws that allow her campaign to coordinate with outside groups that can accept unlimited contributions.

However, Sanders’ donors have also run afoul of federal campaign finance laws, and his financial disclosure reports have been riddled with errors.

The FEC sent a letter to the Sanders campaign earlier this month flagging an additional 1,316 “excessive, prohibited, and impermissible contributions” in the fourth quarter of 2015.

The commission also noted disbursements from the campaign that failed to include required documentation.

The Sanders campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some of the campaign’s legal problems stem from enthusiasm for Sanders’ candidacy from foreign nationals, many of whom have publicly revealed donations to the campaign in violation of U.S. election laws.

“I am German, live in Germany and just donated to Bernie Sanders’ campaign on BernieSanders.com simply using my credit card – Is this illegal in any way?” asked a user on the website Quora.

“UPDATE: Donation rescinded based on your answers,” the user later added.

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RINO Update: Bush Campaign Believed To Be Out Of Money

Jeb’s tailspin: ‘I’m Told Bush Team Out Of Money’ – WorldNetDaily

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Jeb Bush’s campaign insists it is not imploding before primary voters’ eyes despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

The former Florida governor now finds himself in a situation where his own supporters say he isn’t firing on all cylinders, his polls are sagging, Republican insiders claim he is running out of cash, and key endorsements are going to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

And now campaign officials and a top fundraiser are pushing back aggressively against claims the Bush campaign will stop paying staff on Saturday due to lack of funds.

Citing “sources close to the Bush campaign,” conservative commentator and Red State editor Erick Erickson wrote that there was a phone call on Wednesday night in which the news leaked out that the Bush campaign was out of cash.

“Pay for campaign staff will end on Saturday. The campaign is all but over,” Erickson wrote Thursday at the Resurgent. “Additionally, after having hundreds of millions of dollars on hand, the Bush Super PAC has less than $15 million from what I am being told.”

Erikson said Bush could be a “king-maker” if he got out of the race before South Carolina’s primary voters head to the polls on Saturday, but the campaign “vehemently” denied having cash-flow problems.

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After Erickson’s story reverberated through the political world on Thursday morning, Bush campaign spokesman Tim Miller tweeted:

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“I am traveling on Saturday to Nevada to help oversee that effort, and we have staff waiting for me,” Al Cardenas, a longtime Bush insider and senior fundraiser, said in a telephone interview with The Hill. “And nobody’s been notified about this information.

“It would come as a surprise to [Bush campaign] staff that Erick’s been notified ahead of them.”

And a source familiar with Bush fundraising and the campaign told The Hill the story was “complete bullshit.”

“F—ing Marco Rubio got a third place in Iowa and a fifth place in New Hampshire, and he’s trying to drive us out of the campaign. It’s ludicrous,” the source said.

“It’s a f—ing civil war [with Rubio], that’s what it is… Jeb Bush is a proud dude… We are not going to announce to the world that the campaign will finish on Saturday.”

Rumors that Bush’s campaign is about to be pulled off life-support coincide with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Rubio and a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal national poll released Thursday showing Bush capturing just 4 percent of the primary vote.

A CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday also had Bush running a distant fourth-place behind Donald Trump, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Rubio.

“It’s all been decided, apparently,” Bush sarcastically said at a campaign stop in South Carolina on Wednesday. “The pundits have made it all – it’s all decided. We don’t have to go vote, I guess. It’s all finished. I should just stop campaigning, maybe, huh? It’s all done.”

Bush’s supporters, however, seemed worried.

Edward Scott, 58, who lives in Maryland but works in South Carolina, told the New York Times on Wednesday that Bush seems to have been “knocked off center” by his opponents’ attacks. He told the paper it was important for the former Florida governor to “raise the bar” and “be beyond the bullying.”

“I think [Trump] is getting you off your message, your good message,” added David Villinger, 62, of Ridgeville.

Bush told the Summersville audience he was “disappointed” that Haley endorsed Rubio, but vowed “a role for her in the campaign” if he wins the Republican nomination.

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Leftist Louisiana Governor: No More LSU Football If Budget Isn’t Balanced – His Solution? More Taxes

Louisiana Gov. Edwards: Balance Budget Or No LSU Football Next Year – CNS

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In a televised address to the state Thursday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said that “you can say farewell to college football next fall” if the state doesn’t fix a near $2 billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year.

“If the legislature fails to act and we are forced to proceed with these cuts the LSU Ag Center and parish extension offices in every parish, and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center will close by April 1st and the LSU main campus in Baton Rouge will run out of money after April 30th,” Edwards said. “Many students will not be able to graduate, and student athletes across the state at those schools will be ineligible to play next semester. That means you can say farewell to college football next fall.”

Edwards noted in his speech, as found on NOLA.com, that the LSU system is not the only one in danger. Thanks to the $940 million budget deficit that Louisiana faces this fiscal year and the $2 billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year, the Southern University System, University of Louisiana System and the Louisiana Community and Technical College System are in the same boat.

“Without legislators approving new revenue this special session, some campuses will be forced to declare financial bankruptcy, which would include massive layoffs and the cancellation of classes,” stated Edwards.

According to Edwards, the budget deficit threatens other universities the state’s healthcare system and the New Opportunity Waiver program, a program for families with developmental disabilities.

To help bridge the gap Edwards said he plans to increase alcohol and cigarette taxes and also intends to add an extra penny to the state’s four cent sales tax, which he claimed isn’t permanent.

“I am proposing this penny as a bridge that will give us time to stabilize and restructure our state’s tax code,” remarked Edwards. “When that restructuring is complete, this penny sales tax will be removed.”

Alongside tax increases, Edwards called for reducing tax credits, suspending corporate tax deductions and making further cuts in an effort to stabilize the budget. Edwards said this would include a hiring freeze and more than $160 million in cuts in government spending.

He also proposed using $128 million from the rainy day fund and $200 million from non-coastal BP payments.

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Thanks Barack… Illegal Aliens Benefitted From Up To $750M In Obamacare Subsidies

Senate Report: Illegal Aliens Benefitted From Up To $750 Million In Obamacare Subsidies – Weasel Zippers

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Didn’t Obama say illegal aliens would not be getting subsidies?

Via Fox News:
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Illegal immigrants and individuals with unclear legal status wrongly benefited from up to $750 million in ObamaCare subsidies and the government is struggling to recoup the money, according to a new Senate report obtained by Fox News.

The report, produced by Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, examined Affordable Care Act tax credits meant to defray the cost of insurance premiums. It found that as of June 2015, “the Administration awarded approximately $750 million in tax credits on behalf of individuals who were later determined to be ineligible because they failed to verify their citizenship, status as a national, or legal presence.”

Keep reading

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Obamanomics Update: President Asshat Releasing $4 Trillion-Plus Budget For 2017

Obama Releasing $4 Trillion-Plus Budget For 2017; New Taxes And Spending – CNS

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President Barack Obama is unveiling his eighth and final budget, a $4 trillion-plus proposal that’s freighted with liberal policy initiatives and new and familiar tax hikes – all sent to a dismissive Republican-controlled Congress that simply wants to move on from his presidency.

The budget will be released Tuesday morning, the same day as the New Hampshire primary when it’s likely to get little attention. It comes as the deficit, which had been falling over the duration of Obama’s two terms, has begun to creep up, above the half-trillion mark.

The White House is countering the worsening deficit outlook with a proposed $10-per barrel tax on oil that would finance “clean” transportation projects. It also is sure to propose taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

Long gone are proposals such as slowing the automatic inflation increase for Social Security benefits and other ideas once aimed at drawing congressional Republicans into negotiations on a broader budget deal.

Now, Obama has broken out a budget playbook filled with ideas sure to appeal to Democrats: A “moonshot” initiative to cure cancer; increasing Pell Grants for college students from low-income backgrounds; renewed incentives for GOP-governed states to join the expanded Medicaid system established under the health care law, and incentives to boost individual retirement accounts.

The $10-per-barrel tax hike proposal comes as the price of crude has dropped to the $30 per barrel range.

“We’re going to impose a tax on a barrel of oil – imported, exported – so that some of that revenue can be used for transportation, some of that revenue can be used for the investments in basic research and technology that’s going to be needed for the energy sources of the future,” Obama said. “Then 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now, we’re going to be in a much stronger position when oil starts getting tight again, prices start going up again.”

Republicans, however, immediately rejected the idea after its release last week and it will meet the fate of prior dead-on-arrival proposals such as increasing capital gains taxes on the wealthy, imposing a fee on big banks, and cutting the value of charitable deductions for upper-income taxpayers. Higher cigarette taxes and a minimum 30 percent rate for wealthier filers have also gone nowhere.

Obama’s proposed tax increases also mean that he can present relatively reasonable deficit estimates without having to go for painful cuts to benefit programs such as Medicare, health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, and Medicaid health care for the poor.

The budget deficit, after hitting a whopping $1.4 trillion in Obama’s first year, dropped to a relatively manageable $439 billion last year. But a softening economic outlook, combined with a round of tax cuts and increased spending enacted by Congress last year, will make the deficit problem about $1.5 trillion worse over the coming 10 years, according to the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate.

CBO’s “baseline” deficit – what it expects would occur if Congress does nothing – would now total almost $10 trillion over the coming decade.

The White House hasn’t revealed what, if anything, Obama will propose to address the worsening deficit picture. In its budget roll-out, the White House has instead focused on new spending initiatives. The plan is also likely to call for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws, highly unlikely in an election year.

On Monday, Obama proposed $1.8 billion to combat the Zika virus, asking for the money immediately as emergency spending on top of the $1.1 trillion catchall spending bill that passed in December. The virus is spreading rapidly through Latin America. While most people experience either mild or no symptoms, Zika is suspected of causing a devastating birth defect – babies born with abnormally small heads – and the funding is aimed at fighting its spread both abroad and in the U.S.

Obama has largely shifted his focus elsewhere. After winning a higher income tax rate in 2013 on couples earning more than $400,000 per year, Obama and Republicans have battled over relatively small increases to the less than one-third of the budget passed by Congress each year. Republicans seeking higher spending for the Pentagon have been forced to accept Obama’s demands for additional funds for domestic agencies.

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Federal Dumbassery Alert!

Congress Wants To Turn The US Postal Service… Into A Bank – Zero Hedge

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It’s news that seems ripped from the pages of The Onion. Or perhaps Atlas Shrugged.

But incredibly enough it’s actually true: earlier this week, Congress proposed a new law authorizing the US Postal Service to provide banking and financial services.

It’s called the “Providing Opportunities for Savings, Transactions, and Lending” Act, abbreviated as… wait for it… the POSTAL Act.

And it provides explicit authorization for them to provide banking services including checking and savings accounts, money transfers, and “other basic financial services as the Postal Service deems appropriate in the public interest.”

Bank of the Post Office. It’s incredible when you think about it.

The US Postal Service hasn’t turned a profit in a decade.

As a matter of fact, its total accumulated losses now exceed $51 billion, easily ranking it among the least successful companies in history.

And the only way USPS can continue to maintain its operations is with regular bailouts from the American taxpayer.

The statistics are just horrendous. Mail volume is down dramatically, which means that revenue continues to fall.

Yet the Postal Service’s expenses and pension costs keep growing, along with its debt.

Just like the US government, the US Postal Service has its own debt ceiling that’s set by Congress.

USPS reached this debt ceiling back in 2012 and has remained at that level for years.

The only way they survive is by moving liabilities off-balance sheet and regularly going back to Congress with hat in hand.

Wow, talk about a responsible financial partner – this sounds like EXACTLY the place we should want to deposit our hard-earned savings!

Seriously, why would these people even consider an idea so absurd as to let an organization with a history of failed operations take over people’s savings?

Simple. It’s a cheap source of capital.

The Postal Service desperately needs cash. So what better way to raise capital than to sucker unsuspecting Americans into opening up Postal bank accounts?

When you deposit money in a bank, you are effectively loaning the bank your money.

In exchange, they pay you a whopping 0.01% interest.

This is what almost all banks do – they borrow money from depositors and (hopefully) make credible investments and loans with other people’s money.

Except in this case, the Postal Service needs to ‘borrow’ depositors’ savings to cover losses from its other operations.

There’s a term for this. It’s called a Ponzi Scheme.

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Leftist Nightmare Update: U.S.’s Largest Insurer Reconsidering Obamacare Participation After Near Billion Losses

U.S.’s Largest Insurer Reconsidering Obamacare Participation After Near Billion Losses – Truth Revolt

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UnitedHealth Group, the nation’s largest insurer, is reconsidering its participation in the Obamacare exchanges after reporting near billion losses.

According to figures published at Fortune, UnitedHealth will lose $100 million dollars more than it projected in its financial forecasts for the 2016 Affordable Care Act enrollment numbers. Previous estimates were in the $400 million range, now rising past $500 million.

What’s worse, last year, the company reported $720 million in losses thanks to Obamacare and that number is expected to soar past $745 million in the next year.

“By mid-2016 we will determine to what extent, if any, we will continue to offer products in the exchange market in 2017,” said UnitedHealth President Dave Wichmann.

Wichmann said his company is slowing marketing efforts, withdrawing certain products, and also increasing prices in hopes to offset some of the lost revenue. But as is noted in Fortune’s report, enrollment continues to rise despite these efforts,

Fortune also points out that UnitedHealth can boast $180 billion in total revenue currently, meaning the losses are just “a small fraction of UnitedHealth’s total business.” And currently, the company’s stock prices are up, perhaps indicating that investors aren’t too worried.

While this might not have as big an impact on a giant corporation, it is yet another example highlighting Obama’s “like your doctor, keep your doctor” lie as health care providers continue to pass on losses to their customers.

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If You Think Solyndra Was A Waste Of Money…

If You Think Solyndra Was A Waste Of Money… – Investors Business Daily

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Energy: There’s no shortage of points to pick apart in the president’s final State of the Union, as we’ve done above. But one deserves close scrutiny: Obama’s claim that he “reinvented our energy sector.”

In the middle of a lengthy section of a speech spent patting himself on the back, Obama talked about how successful his energy policies have been.

“Listen,” he said, “seven years ago we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history.” Then he went on to list “the results”:

Wind power is cheaper, solar panels are a fixture on more rooftops, oil imports dropped by almost 60% and “we cut carbon pollution more than any other country on Earth.” And then he added, to self-satisfied chuckles on the Democratic side of the aisle: “Gas under 2 bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.”

But up until very recently, Obama was telling the country that low gas prices were an impossibility. “We can’t just drill our way to lower gas prices,” was his mantra for years. He was emphatic about it.

“Anyone who says we can drill our way out of this problem does not know what they are talking about, or does not know the truth,” he said at a 2012 event in New Hampshire.

The reason, he said, was that we use 25% of the world’s energy but have just 3% of the oil reserves. So the only solution was mandatory conservation and spending billions on the “energy of the future.”

Turns out it was Obama who didn’t know what he was talking about. We did, in fact, “drill our way” to lower gas prices. Thanks to fracking, oil companies are now able to produce vast amounts of previously unrecoverable oil.

In the past seven years, domestic oil production shot up a stunning 77%, according to the Energy Information Administration, making the U.S. the biggest oil producer in the world.

That’s why gas prices are low today. And why oil imports have dropped so sharply. And none of it had anything to do with Obama, who tried to hamper oil production whenever he could – blocking Keystone, restrictions on federal lands, EPA attempts to hinder fracking.

Indeed, moments after bragging about low energy prices, Obama said he’d push to raise them, “to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”

Fracking is also why we’ve cut carbon emissions, because it sharply lowered the price of natural gas, which in turn let power plants switch from carbon-heavy coal to low-carbon gas.

Yes, Obama did pour billions of dollars into wind and solar subsidies, and various state governments added still more to sweeten the pot. And what did the country get for all that money?

Solar and wind still account for just 24% of renewable energy supplies and a tiny 2% of total energy production, government data show.

And, incredibly, more than half of the gains in solar and wind under Obama were offset by declines in hydroelectric power — a clean, renewable energy source that environmentalists happen to detest.

So after spending billions subsidizing solar and wind, the share of our energy that comes from renewables is the same as it was when Obama took office.

Exactly the same.

The U.S. has a bright energy future despite Obama, not because of him.

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Feel The Bern: Commie Candidate And Wife Steered Campaign, Nonprofit Money To Their Family And Friends

Sanders And Wife Steered Campaign, Nonprofit Money To Family And Friends – Washington Free Beacon

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Bernie Sanders and his wife have on numerous occasions steered money from organizations under their control to friends and family members, public records show.

The payments benefitted the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate, his stepdaughter, and the son of a former colleague in city government whom Sanders has described as a close friend.

Sanders, a self-described socialist, is now running for the presidency on an anti-corruption platform, decrying public officials’ attempts to use their positions for personal financial gain.

Following 16 years as a member of the House, Sanders was elected to the Senate in 2006. His political campaigns were an early vehicle for payments to his family members.

According to Jane O’Meara Sanders, the senator’s wife, Sanders’ House campaigns paid her more than $90,000 for consulting and ad placement services from 2002 to 2004. She pocketed about $30,000 of that money.

Her daughter Carina Driscoll, Sanders’ stepdaughter, also drew a salary from the campaign. She was paid more than $65,000 between 2000 and 2004, according to her mother.

After working for the campaign, the senator’s wife would come under scrutiny for expenditures at Burlington College, where she was hired as president in 2004. While she led the school, it paid six-figure sums to her daughter and the son of a family friend.

Burlington College offered its students a study abroad program in the Caribbean, according to tax filings. It reported spending about $47,000 on that program in the tax year beginning in mid-2008.

Around that time, the son of Jonathan Leopold, a Burlington College board member, purchased a small resort in the Bahamas called Andro’s Beach Club and an accompanying hotel, Nathan’s Lodge.

Leopold served with Sanders in the Burlington city government – as mayor, Sanders appointed Leopold city treasurer – before becoming embroiled in scandal involving millions of dollars in payments to a Burlington telecommunications company.

Sen. Sanders has described Leopold as so close a friend as to be considered “family.” He reportedly discouraged Sanders’ socialist impulses early in their careers. Efforts to reach Leopold were unsuccessful.

Shortly after Leopold’s son, also named Jonathan, purchased the resort, Burlington College began writing it large checks for all-inclusive stays for its study abroad students.

The younger Leopold later said during a deposition related to a lawsuit filed by a student who was injured at the rest that he conducted boat tours and snorkeling trips “on behalf of Burlington College.”

From 2009 through 2011, when O’Meara Sanders stepped down as president of the school, it paid the resort about $68,000, according to annual tax filings. The payments stopped the year after she left the position.

Her departure was a source of controversy. She reportedly overstated pledged contributions to the school in order to secure a loan from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. The diocese lost between $1.5 million and $2 million on the deal, according to local reports.

By that time, the school had paid huge sums to the Vermont Woodworking School, which is run by Driscoll. The college eventually paid the school more than $500,000 for classes at its Fairfax, Vt., campus, about 30 miles from Burlington.

Burlington College even established a Master of Fine Arts program in woodworking with leased space at the school as its major facility.

Tax filings show that the college continued paying the woodworking school in the year after O’Meara Sanders left, but stopped doing so the year after that.

The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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Opening Federal Lands To Drilling Would Create 2.7M Jobs, Add $663B To Economy Annually

Opening Federal Lands To Drilling Worth $663 Billion Annually – Daily Caller

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Opening federal lands for natural gas, oil, and other drilling would create 2.7 million jobs and add $663 billion to the economy each year for the next 30 years, according to a new study by Louisiana State University and the Institute for Energy Research (IER).

“We’ve seen a steady decline in lease sales year over year in the Obama administration… if not for oil and gas production on private and state lands, there would be no economic recovery,” said Thomas J. Pyle, the President of IER, in a teleconference with the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The permit time it takes to drill on federal lands is over 200 days, that compares with 14 in North Dakota and 4 in Texas. As a result, production on federal lands has lagged behind.”

An executive summary of the study given to The Daily Caller News Foundation estimates that opening federal lands and waters would also lead to $5.1 trillion in new wages and $3.9 trillion in new federal tax revenue over the next 37 years, which would massively stimulate the economy. Over a 30 year period, this would create and support 2.7 million new jobs. More than 75 percent of the jobs would be in high-wage, high-skill employment, and many would be “support” jobs outside the energy industry.

The study is an update and expansion of a 2013 study that estimated that opening drilling would only be worth $450 billion over the next 30 years.

To put these numbers in perspective, the US military budget in 2015 was $598.5 billion.

Despite the lack of open drilling on federal land, the United States became the largest oil and natural gas producer in the world in 2015. This drastic change stems largely from America’s increased production of oil and natural gas due to new hydraulic fracturing techniques.

America controls the world’s largest untapped oil reserve – the Green River Formation in Colorado. Three-fourths of the formations is on federal land so it has remained largely untapped. This formation alone contains up to 3 trillion barrels of oil shale, half of which may be economically recoverable. That’s five and a half times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. This single geologic formation could contain more oil than the rest of the world’s proven reserves combined, and American oil production in 2014 was 80 percent higher than production in 2008.

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Obama’s HHS Gave Sweetheart Deal To Firm Linked To Medical Data Fraud

Feds Gave Sweetheart Deal To Firm Linked To Medical Data Fraud – Daily Caller

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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell awarded a rarely used open-ended sole-source contract to a firm whose corporate owners were embroiled in a $400 million fraudulent medical data scheme that cheated doctors and consumers, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.

The company Burwell selected is Optum Labs, which is part of UnitedHealth Group’s Optum subsidiary. Andrew Slavitt, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), was formerly a top Optum executive at the time of the fraudulent database involved in the scheme. The database enabled insurers to pay dramatically lower reimbursements to doctors and patients for out-of-network care.

Optum and UnitedHealth Group settled the landmark fraud case with then-New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in 2009 and paid out a record $400 million. Optum Labs – which is one of nation’s largest medical data analytics companies – was not a party to the settlement.

Under the contract, Optum Labs will provide HHS with 160 million administrative claim records it accumulated over 20 years and 40 to 50 million electronic medical records it collected over the last seven years, according to Optum Lab spokesman Jeffrey Smith. Some of the records to be given to HHS are part of the database involved in the 2009 settlement, Smith says.

Cuomo – now New York’s Democratic governor – said at the time of the settlement that Optum and UnitedHealth Group had “ripped off patients” by rigging out-of-network reimbursements to providers and consumers. “Too many people have been hurt,” he said.

UnitedHealth Group’s insurance division, United Healthcare, is the nation’s biggest health insurance company and warned last month it may stop participating in Obamacare in 2017 due to unexpectedly large financial losses.

Slavitt left Optum to join CMS as deputy administrator and became acting administrator when Marilyn Tavenner stepped down after the troubled launch of Obamacare. Obama nominated Slavitt as the permanent administrator July 10, 2015, but a confirmation vote has yet to be taken in the Senate.

Slavitt was granted a rare “ethics waiver” by the Obama administration that permits him to rule on issues involving past employers. American Commitment, a conservative non-profit advocacy group, recently delivered to the Senate more than 20,000 letters it generated demanding rejection of Slavitt’s nomination.

It was clear from the beginning of the award process Burwell’s choice for the contract was Optum Labs. In a May 29 public notice, she declared the contract would be awarded without any competition, declaring, “this is a notice of intent, not a request for a quote. A solicitation will not be issued and quotes will not be requested.”

Optum Labs has hundreds of rivals. There are 971 health IT companies registered with the federal government under the same service code in which Optum Lab was awarded the account.

Burwell added in the May 29 notice that the sole-source contract also was a “blanket purchase agreement,” (BPA) which means the contract will provide continuous government orders without competing bidders. No dollar amount is specified for the contract.

Federal officials aren’t required by BPA procurement rules to issue any public notice or solicitation when the contract is up for renewal. The contract is for one year, with options to renew over the following four years. It started in September of this year.

“This seems like another example of the revolving door paying off for a contractor, and more proof that who you know might be more lucrative than what you know,” Scott Amey, general counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, tells TheDCNF.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, tells TheDCNF that “sole-source contracts by their nature raise questions about whether the taxpayers are getting the best deal.”

Grassley, chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and a senior member of the Senate Committee on Finance that oversees Obamacare, demands the administration justify its decision to offer Optum Labs a sole-source contract.

“The administration should be explicitly transparent about the reasons for any sole source contracts, and especially here where the firm getting the contract has been controversial,” Grassley tells TheDCNF.

“Companies would love to get that contract because it means that there won’t be any on follow-on competition and the agency will place their orders only with them,” says a 30-year senior procurement officer in an interview with TheDCNF.

The procurement officer who requested anonymity tells TheDCNF that “when they say ‘sole- source,’ that means they’re not going to look to other people. They’re not going to consider anyone else. They’re going to go straight to who they’re going to pick.” He requested anonymity because he is barred from speaking on the record due to his governmental post.

“A sole source BPA is an instrument that any company would be probably would be happy to have. Let’s not kid ourselves,” the procurement officer tells TheDCNF.

American Commitment president Phil Kerpen says “it’s rather remarkable that a division of Andy Slavitt’s UnitedHealth Group, Optum Labs, has now gotten an open-ended contract from HHS.”

Kerpen points to the ethics waiver that allows Slavitt to make decisions involving his former employers as an especially important factor in questioning the Optum Labs sole-source award.

“I think that certainly the perception of corruption is one reason why the unusual ethics waiver from the administration is so inappropriate. You now have a top executive of a company that does business every day, both as a regulated entity and as a vendor, with a top executive right there in the building,” Kerpen says.

CMS officials insist Slavitt is not involved in the Optum Lab contract. But an HHS spokeswoman refused to make public the memorandum of understanding between the department and Optum Labs.

The Optum Lab contract is with an obscure HHS operation called the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The House Appropriations Committee zeroed-out the agency in June. The bill is in the Senate awaiting action.

Republicans charge AHRQ duplicates many other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health for which congressional Republicans have increased funding.

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Conservative Maine Government Doubles Down On Successful Welfare Reform Policies Despite Leftist Whining

Maine Doubles Down On Welfare Reform Despite Media Backlash – Daily Signal

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Mary Mayhew, commissioner of Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services, knows her politics aren’t always popular.

“I can’t stress enough what an attack campaign it has been from the media for four and a half years,” Mayhew said Thursday at an anti-poverty forum in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Heritage Foundation.

Then there are the more personalized critiques: “There is a poet, or he calls himself a poet, and he sends me poems all the time,” she added. “They are not nice poems.”

Mayhew claims that detractors – who mostly take issue with welfare reforms enacted by Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, since his election in 2011 – have gone so far as to call her “Commissioner Evil,” and her and LePage’s policies a “War on the Poor.”

The irony, according to Mayhew, lies in the fact that her and LePage’s efforts actually aim to empower Maine’s poorest citizens. She says a third of the state is on welfare.

“The welfare hurricane doesn’t just destroy one family; it destroys generations of them,” Tarren Bragdon, president and CEO of the Foundation for Government Accountability, said at the event Thursday. “This work is about giving children a better chance for a future.”

To illustrate that point, Mayhew told a story of one of her first days on the job as DHHS commissioner, spent touring a substance abuse treatment facility for adolescents:
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I was taken aback by one of the youth who came up to me – it was actually several youth, who were just completely focused on whether I could help them get disability. These were 15-year-old, 16-year-old young men clearly battling addiction, but they had decided that the answer for them was to pursue disability. And, frankly, as we all look at that pathway, that truly is committing individuals to a lifetime of poverty.

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Since LePage assumed the governorship, Maine has reduced enrollment in the state’s food stamp program by over 58,000; currently, according to Mayhew, there are 197,000 people on food stamps, down from a high of 255,663 in February 2012.

Mayhew says the decline is due to eliminating the waiver of the work requirement previously attached to food stamps, as also witnessed in Kansas. Under the new legislation, recipients would need to work 20 hours per week, volunteer for about an hour a day, or attend a class to receive food stamps past three months.

LePage and Mayhew have also rolled back Medicaid eligibility through a series of battles Mayhew called “fierce.”

With a population of roughly 1.3 million, Maine had 357,000 individuals receiving Medicaid benefits when LePage took office. Today, 287,000 people are on Medicaid, according to Mayhew.

“What we have done truly has taken the arguments to the public to underscore what has been lost as that program grew out of control, never mind that the resources that had to be devoted to Medicaid were being taken away from education, infrastructure, and reduced tax burden on the state of Maine,” Mayhew said.

In August, Maine DHHS announced they planned to redirect $3.24 million in welfare savings to fund home care services for elderly citizens as well as the Meals on Wheels program.

Lastly, Mayhew touched upon Maine’s efforts to retool the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card programs, stating that Maine had over 15,000 open TANF cases when LePage took office. That number is down to less than 5,000.

LePage’s and Mayhew’s policies, as Mayhew herself highlighted, have not been without controversy.

Earlier this week, amid an ongoing dispute over EBT cards being used to wire money abroad, critics accused the LePage administration of using last Friday’s terror attacks in Paris to justify reforms.

“This proposal is really an example of fear-mongering at its worst,” Robyn Merrill, executive director of Maine Equal Justice Partners, told MPBN News.

But Mayhew does not plan to back down – especially if it means reducing her own influence long-term, and shifting that responsibility to local non-profits.

“I can’t underscore enough that part of the issue is government is too big, my agency is too large, and people are trying to preserve their jobs,” she said.

“We have got to reduce the size and scope of these agencies if we are going to have communities really take on the responsibility of supporting these families and these individuals on those pathways [to independence].”

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5 Muslim Foreigners Caught On Ohio Turnpike With Credit Card-Making Machine

5 Foreign Nationals Arrested On Ohio Turnpike; Passports Taken – WOIO

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Five foreign nationals arrested on the Ohio Turnpike will be back in court on Thursday. The men are scheduled to appear at a pretrial hearing in Newton Falls Municipal Court at 10 a.m.

Jibril Abdiselam, 24; Mohammeddeq Hassan, 27; Mahamoud Mohamed, 26; Zakaria Warsame, 25, and Said Abu were charged with possessing criminal tools and forgery.

The arrests happened Friday, Nov. 13, in Braceville Township near Lordstown in Trumbull County.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol said troopers pulled over a car going east on the turnpike for making an improper lane change. During a search, troopers found a machine that helps create and duplicate credit cards, WKBN reported.

They are being held in the Trumbull County Jail on $25,000 bond each. The five men, who are from the Columbus area had to surrender their passports.

Police don’t know what country the men are from or where they were heading.

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