NLPC “blows the whistle” on government officials and interest groups engaged in questionable activities. NLPC has filed formal Complaints with a variety of authorities and regulators, including the Federal Election Commission, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Congressional Ethics Committees.
NLPC supports government integrity in two additional ways: by promoting the First Amendment as the basis for campaign finance reform, and by promoting use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The past year was a dismal one for the passé idea that government would use taxpayer dollars responsibly, and that was nowhere more evident than with President Obama’s initiatives to promote “clean” energy technology companies and projects with so-called “stimulus” funds and other public money. NLPC reported extensively on some of the most egregious examples.
Solar Favors Don’t Stop Fizzle
Solyndra went bankrupt in 2011, and the reverberations over $535 million in lost taxpayer money were felt throughout 2012. Money still flowed out from the Department of Energy and its stimulus stash, but Congressional Republicans’ scrutiny of big projects – especially in the Loan Program Office –paralyzed some new projects.
I was interviewed in a report that aired last night by Scott Bronstein, Joe Johns, and Rahel Solomon of CNN’s Special Investigations Unit. The text of this very well done story appears below. One point not made in the report is that without the Office of Congressional Ethics, our exposé of Rep. Charles Rangel’s acceptance of corporate-funded Caribbean junkets may have been ignored.
In November 2008, NLPC President Peter Flaherty tagged along on a Rangel trip to sunny St. Maarten. He snapped photos and made audio recordings evidencing that big corporations like Citigroup, in violation of House Rules, underwrote the festivities. Based on media coverage we generated, OCE took up the case. It produced a detailed report based on Flaherty’s materials, and referred it to the Ethics Committee for action. The Ethics Committee “admonished” Rangel who was soon after forced to resign his Ways and Means Chairmanship.
Amidst its ongoing financial problems and search for a “strategic alliance” that it says is not an attempt to sell the company, Fisker Automotive continues to make its current business partners extremely nervous.
In particular are those “investors” that represent the taxpayers of Delaware, who foolishly committed $21 million in public money to the California-based company, in exchange for a promise to take over a former General Motors manufacturing plant to build its next electric car, the Atlantic. But rather than generate thousands of “green jobs,” instead the factory sits dormant while Gov. Jack Markell and the state’s economic development officials stew. And now the state has learned that if Fisker goes belly-up or fails to operate in Delaware, the repayment of the funds it has outlaid is subordinate to the rights of other lenders to get their money back, including the U.S. government.
General Motors moved quickly to complete its buyback of 200 million shares from the US Treasury Department before year end. It is a welcome sign that the Obama Administration is finally beginning to exit taxpayers’ GM stake, a move that could have been made a year and a half ago when share price was closer to $30. While some felt it was never the place of Government to gamble taxpayer money on Wall Street by market timing the exit of Treasury’s GM stake, others argued that taxpayers would be better served by waiting until GM share price rose to at least over the $33 IPO price of two years ago.
Of course, the presidential election affected the politically-sensitive decision as well, as no one in the Obama Administration would suggest locking in losses for American taxpayers prior to Election Day. Now the question must be asked, what drove the decision … Read More ➡
Congressional overseers seek to determine whether the cabinet agencies under President Obama (specifically the Environmental Protection Agency), who promised “an unprecedented level of openness in government,” have hidden communications about official business with the use of private and alias email accounts.
Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), wrote in a Dec. 13 letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson “that you describe fully the nature and extent of this practice.” Chris Horner, author of The Liberal War on Transparency, first discovered the existence of the accounts as he researched the book. He and his colleagues at the Competitive Enterprise Institute have sued for records from the alias accounts.
At the moment the concern is over transparency, although there are countless potentially embarrassing issues that could have been addressed by Jackson and others … Read More ➡
Today the House Ethics Committee announced that it was taking no action against Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) who secretly took a $40,000 payment from an individual who subsequently pled guilty in a multi-million-dollar mortgage scam.
In 2007, Meeks received $40,000 from a “businessman,” Edul Ahmad. Under the Ethics in Government Act, Congressmen are required to disclose such financial transactions on their annual Financial Disclosure Reports. Meeks failed to disclose the transaction on his reports for 2007, 2008 and 2009.
In 2010, the New York Daily News reported, “Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks made no payments for three years on a secret $40,000 personal loan – and repaid the cash only when the FBI started asking questions, the Daily News has learned.”
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) investigated the matter and found that the claim by Meeks that the $40,000 was a loan was questionable since there was no indication … Read More ➡
Let’s all rejoice! The Treasury Department is finally beginning to unload the taxpayers’ stake in General Motors after a three and a half year stint of government involvement in the company. While the decision to get taxpayers out of the private sector is the correct one, the move is hardly a cure-all for what ails GM. And despite reports to the contrary, this does not bring closure to all groups that were involved in the unprecedented intrusion of government into the private sector that saw politically-powerful groups like the UAW receive favorable treatment over other classes.
Let’s start by reviewing the GM buyback deal that was just announced. Of the $50 billion or so of taxpayer money that went to GM, about $40 billion went towards the purchase of approximately 800 million shares of stock in “New” GM. That comes out to roughly $50 a share paid by taxpayers. GM … Read More ➡
A top Nissan official has said the company was “arrogant” in its marketing and sales approach for the all-electric Leaf, which received a $1.4 billion stimulus loan guarantee from President Obama’s Department of Energy.
Not that the company is going to return taxpayers their money, since the premise upon which Nissan received the loan were ridiculously high production estimates. Too much in expenses would have to be eaten otherwise.
“We were a little bit arrogant as a manufacturer when we went to the 50-state rollout,” said Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president for sales, to Automotive News in late November. “We had assumed that there were people just waiting for the vehicle who would raise their hand and say, ‘Give me a Leaf, give me a Leaf, give me a Leaf.’”
Considering there weren’t many people “raising their hands” in the few states where Nissan did roll out the … Read More ➡
But that didn’t prevent the recipient of $193 million out of President Obama’s green stimulus from laying off another 40 workers. According to the Orange County Register, Fisker spokesman Roger Ormisher said the company – which had been awarded a $529 million loan guarantee by the Department of Energy only to see it halted due to unspecified shortcomings – had to halt production because its bankrupt supplier, A123 Systems, left them with a low battery inventory. Ormisher said Fisker has laid off about half its employees since February.
On Wednesday, I took part in a press conference with leaders of other ethics groups to show support for the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), which should not be confused with the House Ethics Committee.
OCE was established in 2008 and is slightly more independent that the Ethics Committee because its board is comprised of former members of Congress and private citizens, rather than sitting members. OCE cannot sanction members but can only make referrals to the Ethics Committee.
Its role and importance were demonstrated in the Charles Rangel case. NLPC President Peter Flaherty tagged along on a Caribbean junket in November 2008 to sunny St. Maarten. He snapped photos and made audio recordings evidencing that the event was underwritten by big corporations like Citigroup, in violation of House Rules. OCE took up the case, produced a detailed report based on Flaherty’s materials, and referred it to the Ethics Committee … Read More ➡