Congress Must Cut Off AARP’s Taxpayer Funding

AARP report coverToday I sent this letter to House Speaker John Boehner:

Republican members of Congress have asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate the non-profit tax status of AARP in light of the group’s massive lobbying operation and its significant commercial activities. We strongly support this request. In addition, Reps. Wally Herger and Dave Reichert have put out a report titled Behind the Veil: The AARP America Doesn’t Know, which we welcome.

At the same time, AARP’s tax status is determined by the IRS, not Congress. We ask Congress to take an action that is within its own authority – ending the federal subsidy for AARP.

I have enclosed our Special Report titled How the Federal Government Subsidizes AARP: Billion-Dollar Nonprofit Gets Tens of Millions of Dollars in Taxpayer Money Each Year.

Published in January 2007, this study found that federal funding accounted for $83 million, or about … Read More ➡

NLPC Calls for SEC Probe of Education Short-Selling Scheme

Shireman photoToday, I asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate the activities of short sellers, including Steven Eisman, who profited from the collapse of share prices of companies that are in the for-profit education field. Evidence continues to emerge that officials of the Education Department cooperated in the shorts’ campaign. The same request was previously made by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and other ethics advocates. My letter reads, in part:

Already, voluminous documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, related litigation and public records have demonstrated beyond debate the existence of a coordinated effort by short sellers to manipulate the stock prices of for-profit firms. These extensive activities have sought to influence government policy in such a way as to depress the share prices of shorted stocks.

A major feature of the short-seller effort has been to promote Department of Education policies that would … Read More ➡

Harkin-Orchestrated GAO Study on For-Profit Colleges Was Hatchet Job

Sen. Tom HarkinThe Government Accountability Office (GAO) is supposed to be an objective finder of fact for the U.S. Congress. Last year it weighed in on the controversy over aid to students attending for-profit colleges with a critical study which appeared to cast aspersions on the practices of some 15 for-profit colleges. The study was ballyhooed by the Obama Department of Education that supported a double standard of regulations: one for taxpayer-supported community colleges and a much tougher one for the for-profit schools.

Even more ominously, Wall Street hedge fund operators who were seeking to profit from a collapse of share prices for companies running for-profit schools also hailed the GAO report.

The GAO report was presented at a Senate hearing in August 2010 set up by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), in photo, who had drawn criticism by having short-seller Steven Eisman testify as to why the government should discriminate in funding … Read More ➡

Will FCC’s Political Favor for LightSquared Result in GPS Interference?

Phil FalconeUnder extremely unusual circumstances, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently granted a company called LightSquared the right to use wireless spectrum to build out a national 4G wireless network. LightSquared will get the spectrum for a song, while its competitors have to spend billions.

Although the technical implications of the FCC action are complicated, how it came about is not. LightSquared is owned by the Harbinger Capital hedge fund, headed by billionaire investor Phil Falcone, in photo. Falcone visited the White House and made large donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

When established regulations and procedures are circumvented for political reasons, the result is often unintended consequences. When the Obama FCC appointees did the favor for Falcone, they probably had no idea that they might be creating severe technical problems for other users of wireless spectrum.

Now the Global Positioning System (GPS) industry is up in arms. According to … Read More ➡

Did Harbinger Hedge Fund Buy Influence With White House?; Probe Asked of FCC Spectrum Giveaway

Falcone photoToday we asked the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate actions by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that benefitted Harbinger Capital Partners after its founder Phil Falcone (at right) made large contributions to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

As we describe in the letter to the Committee’s ranking members, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NJ):

The plan centered around first securing FCC approval for Harbinger’s acquisition of SkyTerra, then getting the FCC to “fast-track” approval for Harbinger to take advantage of a little-known spectrum loophole for satellite licenses.

That loophole allowed Falcone’s new company, called LightSquared, to receive spectrum for free, while competitors have to pay billions of dollars. Our letter details this arrangement, and Falcone’s efforts to make it happen. The full text appears below. Click here to download a 7-page pdf.

FULL TEXT OF LETTER:

Dear Chairman Issa and Congressman Towns:

As … Read More ➡

NLPC Alleges Rangel Illegally Used Leadership PAC Funds for Legal Defense

Rangel photoNLPC yesterday filed a Complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by using almost $400,000 in funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay legal bills related to the House Ethics Committee actions against him. The Committee yesterday referred a censure resolution to the entire House after earlier this month finding Rangel guilty of violating House rules on 11 counts. Click here to download an 11-page pdf of the Complaint.

As the Complaint points out:

Members of Congress may use funds from their personal re-election committees for legal expenses related to their official actions. The National Leadership PAC is not Rangel’s re-election committee but what is classified as a “leadership PAC,” the purpose of which is make contributions to other candidates.

The Complaint cites an FEC rule that states:

To the extent that leadership PACs are used

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Rangel Used Leadership PAC Funds for Legal Fees

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), whose House ethics trial is scheduled to begin tomorrow, used almost $400,000 in funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay legal bills to fend off corruption allegations. Rangel’s ability to retain high-powered lawyers helped him delay the Ethics Committee action for more than two years, and push his trial past the election.

Rangel appears to have violated House rules. Members of Congress may use funds from their personal re-election committees for legal expenses related to their official actions. The National Leadership PAC is not Rangel’s re-election committee but what is classified as a “leadership PAC,” the purpose of which is make contributions to other candidates. Up to and during his tenure as Ways and Means Committee chairman, Rangel distributed hundreds of thousands to his colleagues, many of whom donated the money to charity as Rangel became an embarrassment.

When he was not attacking NLPC during … Read More ➡

Obama Administration Hypocritical on Internet Privacy

According to a front-page Wall Street Journal story today, the Obama Administration is “preparing a stepped-up approach to policing internet privacy,” including the creation of a new watchdog agency. Ironically, this comes in the wake of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) dropping its investigation of the Google “WiSpy” operation just days after the President attended a fundraiser at the home of a Google executive.

As part of its “Street View” data collection activities, Google cars collected passwords, e-mails and other personal information wirelessly from unsuspecting people in several countries. The government should get to the bottom of this massive invasion of personal privacy before the administration talks about setting up new agencies.

Google has unusual influence in this administration. Establishing additional safeguards for internet privacy are a joke as long as present enforcement mechanisms are subject to political pressure and manipulation.

As we have documented through White House emails obtained … Read More ➡

Congressional Committee Asks FTC for Info on End of Google ‘WiSpy’ Probe

Jeff Bliss of Bloomberg reported yesterday:

A U.S. House committee chairman asked the Federal Trade Commission to provide details of Google Inc.’s collection of data from unsecured wireless networks.

The FTC on Oct. 27 announced it was ending its investigation into possible privacy violations by Google in its gathering of data for its Street View mapping project.

“I am sending a request to the FTC for a staff briefing on a number of privacy investigations including Google Street View,” House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns said in an e-mailed statement.

Bliss notes that Towns’ request appears to have been prompted by our November 9 letter asking for a congressional scrutiny of the FTC’s abrupt ending of its investigation of its ‘WiSpy’ probe:

Yesterday, the National Legal and Policy Center, a group that describes itself as an ethics watchdog, sent a letter to Towns, a New York Democrat,

Read More ➡

Congress Must Investigate Google-Obama Ties

Obama Schmidt photoYesterday I wrote Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and Darryl Issa (R-CA), the chair and ranking member of the House Government Oversight Committee, urging a thorough investigation of both Google Street View and the FTC’s recent conduct during its investigation of the program. Click here for a 6-page pdf of the letter that includes additional background on Google’s extensive and close lobbying connections with the Obama Administration.

As part of Google’s “Street View” operation, fleets of specially outfitted cars drove through multiple countries collecting photos, video and, as Google now admits, sensitive personal information from WiFi connections. Yet in late October, the Federal Trade Commission abruptly ended its investigation of “Street View” – a decision that came on the heels not only of Google’s admission that its surveillance was much more serious than previously disclosed but only days after a $30,000-a-head fundraiser for President Obama at the home of a Google … Read More ➡