Government Integrity Project

Meeks Pushed for Iran Sanction Exemption After Azerbaijan Junket

There’s fallout from the July 27 Houston Chronicle exposé of a trip to Azerbaijan by 10 member of the House that violated House rules. The trip was ostensibly sponsored by nonprofit groups but was actually funded by oil companies BP, Conoco Phillips and SOCAR, the national oil company of Azerbaijan. According to the New York Post today:

Rep. Gregory Meeks pushed to let an Iran-backed natural-gas project dodge US sanctions — after attending an illicit junket paid for by energy companies.

How GM Manipulated June Sales Figures with Dealership Incentives

chart downThe Associated Press gives evidence today to how desperate General Motors is to give the appearance that the company is firing on all cylinders. GM pulled out all the stops to ensure that June sales would not disappoint when sales were slowing as a result of the company's loss of credibility during its seemingly never-ending recall saga.

At mid-June, sales for the month at GM were lagging the previous year's. The political minds at GM could not have this, and according to the piece:

Azerbaijan Trip by House Members Broke Rules

Gregory MeeksThe Houston Chronicle yesterday published an account of a 2013 trip by 10 members of the House of Representatives to Azerbaijan that violates a House rule that prohibits the acceptance of overnight travel from corporations that employ lobbyists. The trip was indirectly paid for by companies doing business in Azerbaijan through nonprofit groups.

The fact set is similar to the 2008 case involving a trip to the Caribbean by then-Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), exposed by NLPC, and investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). OCE referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which "admonished" Rangel, prompting his resignation as House Ways and Means Chairman. The head of the nonprofit that sponsored the event was eventually convicted of lying to Congress.

Court Forces Government to Release Documents in Fannie/Freddie Suit

Fannie Mae/Freddie MacThe burden carried by the holders of stock in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, each operating for nearly six years under federal conservatorship, just got lighter. On July 16, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Margaret Sweeney, in a procedural ruling, held that shareholder-plaintiffs in Fairholme Funds Inc. et al. v. United States are entitled to know material facts that the government wants to keep secret. The shareholders are seeking compensation for foregone income resulting from the Treasury Department's "sweep" rule of August 2012, which forced the companies to forward all dividends to the department in perpetuity. Government lawyers had filed a motion for a protective order on May 30 to inhibit discovery. The outcome of this case will have major implications for the future of property rights in this country.

NY Times: Cuomo ‘Hobbled’ Anti-Corruption Moreland Commission

Sampson and CuomoOn Wednesday the New York Times published an account of how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and his staff derailed the workings of an anti-corruption commission that Cuomo had established with great fanfare just months earlier.  A New York state law from 1907 named for its sponsor, Sherman Moreland, allows the governor to appoint investigators with subpoena power to seek out corruption in state government.

GM Debt Climbs to Over $40 Billion, Earnings Disappoint

General Motors reported earnings today for the 2nd quarter of 2014. The early prognosis is not good with share price falling after the report. While it is difficult for the Mom and Pop investor to sort through GM's myriad of charges, special items and various smoke and mirrors, there are some key take-aways that give a glimpse of GM's financial health. Primarily, debt continues to grow at the company, now exceeding $40 billion while earnings are propped up by special items.

Why Hasn’t NHTSA Expanded GM Brake Line Corrosion Investigation?

FriedmanIt has now been over two months since we requested that General Motors recall vehicles that are prone to brake line corrosion. The vehicles in question, GM truck model years 1999 through 2003, have been under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since 2010. The government agency has done nothing noteworthy regarding the existing GM safety concern over the four year span of the investigation.

McCaskill and Blumenthal Must Press GM's Barra for Brake Corrosion Recall

Claire McCaskillOn Thursday, July 17, General Motors CEO Mary Barra will be back as a witness on Capitol Hill, this time before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who has been an outspoken critic of GM's response to the deadly ignition switch defect, chairs the Subcommittee. Indeed, the hearing is titled, "Examining Accountability and Corporate Culture in Wake of the GM Recalls." Another subcommittee member, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), has been even more outspoken. Both deserve credit for seeking to make GM accountable, especially since some members on both House and Senate committees have pulled their punches on Barra and GM.

Lawsuit Seeks to Uncover True Costs of Green Energy Mandates

Fred N. SauerNLPC Associate Fellow Fred N. Sauer, in photo, filed a lawsuit on June 6 against the Missouri Public Service Commission to make it disclose what is happening to all the money being paid in artificially-high renewable electricity prices. The suit is an outgrowth of his 2013 Special Report titled, The Carnahan Wind Deal: Crony Capitalism is Missouri.

Here's the background on the lawsuit as explained by Fred:

On May 4, 2008, Missourians For Cleaner, Cheaper Energy filed a petition with the Missouri Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan, to put Proposition C, the Clean Energy Initiative on the November 2008 ballot in Missouri. This proposition created a renewable electricity standard in the state. The standard requires utility companies to gradually increase their usage of renewable energy annually until 15% of the energy used in the state is renewable.

New Book Exposes Attorney General Holder's Abuses of Power

book coverShould perpetuating racial grievance be the defining mission of a U.S. Attorney General? Eric Holder, who has held the office for the past five and a half years, really believes it is - and acts accordingly. A new book, Obama's Enforcer: Eric Holder's Justice Department (Broadside), presents a strong case for removing Holder from office as a corrective to his many abuses of power related to racial and other issues. In 256 pages, authors John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky pull no punches in revealing how Holder and other department officials routinely have subordinated rule of law to radical politics, all the while stonewalling Congress and punishing internal dissenters. They also, properly, point a finger at Holder's boss, President Obama.

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