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Bailing Out Topeka

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Back in August, the city council in Topeka, Kansas, voted to expand a redevelopment district and purchase Heartland Park Topeka, a “multi-purpose motorsports facility” featuring drag racing, dirt racing and more.

Chris Imming wasn’t keen on the notion. He put together an initiative petition calling for a public vote. Topeka townspeople eagerly signed it.

Taking this as a cue, did the city officialdom welcome this vibrant exercise of basic American democracy? Did they ready themselves for that election?

Afraid not.

Instead, the city sued to block a vote on the issue.

A local judge sided with the insiders, ruling in the city’s favor. The development decision was administrative in nature, the Robed One determined, not legislative. That made it beyond reach of the citizen initiative process.

Both the judge’s designation of “administrative”  and his rationale for exemption from a citizens’ veto seem more than dubious. Clearly, “the people” should be able to overrule any decision made by the city council, which is established for the express purpose of representing the views of “the people.”

Kudos to Mr. Imming for appealing that lower court decision. Thank goodness for folks like him, folks who stand up against the powerful public and private forces always looking for a bailout or a subsidy.

“We’re bailing out the city,” argues Doug Gerber, Topeka’s administrative and financial director. He cites the city’s previous redevelopment district, which annually costs a cool million dollars in bond service, while bringing in only a fifth of that in sales tax revenue.

So politicians want to double down, to cover their past rotten wheeling and dealing by . . . expanding it.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Keep Targeting the IRS

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

We’re still unraveling the IRS’s prolific crimes.

I mean, those pertaining to its ideological targeting of conservative applicants for non-profit status.

I’m satisfied that the various individuals and organizations suing the IRS or publishing commentaries on this still-unfolding scandal (Day 552 now) will keep on keepin’ on. I’m a little worried, though, about Congress.

Granting that congressional investigators have been reasonably if imperfectly diligent, my hope is that they’ll prove even tougher in the coming session.

Some chairman must step down soon because of the GOP’s term limits on committee chairs; these include Darrell Issa of the Oversight and Reform Committee. TaxProf Blog’s Paul Caron, scandal tracker par excellence, says Issa’s successor should be one who “has done as much as anyone to shine a light on IRS abuse of the President’s philosophical opponents, both in hearings and behind the scenes.”

The man he means is Representative Jim Jordan. Long before we ever heard of pivotal IRS malefactor Lois Lerner, Jordan had been “seeking answers from the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations chief on political targeting allegations.”

Indeed, Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer for victims of the IRS, believes that without Jordan there would have been no Treasury investigation to get the ball rolling “and no public admission that, indeed, conservative groups were being subjected to unprecedented scrutiny and mistreatment.” (Plus, see the congressman’s recent press release lamenting a dismissal of charges against the IRS.)

I’m convinced; let’s have Jordan. And let’s pursue this investigation to the bitter end.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Burkina Faso and Arkansas

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Maybe Burkina Faso, in northwest Africa between Mali and Niger, isn’t the easiest “Jeopardy” question for most of us in the U.S. But any place that’s seen massive protests because the head of state tried to escape term limits becomes pretty memorable to me.

In fact, the first region that pops into my head as a point of comparison and contrast is my own home state of Arkansas.

There are big differences in the respective battles over term limits, of course. In Burkina Faso, thousands clogged the streets after the 27-year presidential incumbent, Blaise Compaore, schemed to evade a constitutional term limit on his office. Facing unrelenting pressure, Compaore soon stepped down, not even awaiting the next election.

The furtive attempt to water down state legislative term limits in Arkansas hasn’t gotten as high on the radar there as the machinations in Burkina Faso. But the folks at Arkansas Term Limits (“vote AGAINST Issue #3”) have done much to publicize the scam, taking a wooden Trojan horse from town to town to vivify the point that the politicians bearing the “gift” of suspiciously eager self-reform have hidden a bomb at the bottom of the package: a doubling (or more) of their maximum permitted stay in a single legislative seat.

The media has started to pay attention. The story has gotten out.

Has it been enough? Have enough voters been reached to fend off the assault? When Tuesday’s results come in, we’ll know.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Paying Yourself with Money You Stole

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Did Viking raiders hire attorneys to stipulate, before each raid, that plundering English monasteries and churches would be hunky-dory?

No. The Vikings just raided and looted. They didn’t also assure their victims, “Hey, we talked to the lawyer and he said it was fine.”

Thanks at least for that, Scandinavian marauders. Because why add insult to injury?

Yet U.S. Senator Kay Hagan hired some high-priced barrister to bleat that looking the other way while her husband scooped up hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars is “appropriate.” Yep. According to senatorial spokesman Sadie Weiner: “Kay . . . had no part in helping [her husband’s company JDC] receive these grants. Her only involvement was when she made sure that a respected ethics attorney was consulted to ensure that it was appropriate. . . .”

No part! Nobody involved in distributing the boodle knew he was married to a U.S. Senator! Had no way to know!


Per investigative work done by Politico and others:

In August 2010, Senator Kay Hagan’s husband Chip and their son founded a solar energy company, Solardyne.

Weeks later, in September, JDC Manufacturing — a company part-owned by Chip Hagan, the senator’s husband — paid $250,000 in federal “stimulus” dollars to Solardyne to install solar panels at a JDC building. Short version of preceding sentence: Mr. Hagan paid himself $250,000 with money taken from us (you, me, your neighbor, my neighbor).

Did I say “ugh”?

Two suggestions:

  1. end all “stimulus” taxing and “stimulus” spending;
  2. eject Senator Hagan from the U.S. Senate.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Learning Lerner’s M.O.

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

I fib. We’re not really learning anything new about Lois Lerner’s modus operandi. It’s just the same old wiping of evidence — evidence that she and others at IRS knew was relevant to congressional inquiry into IRS misconduct.

Lerner is the former IRS department head in charge of reviewing applications of non-profits for tax-exempt status. Her department targeted right-leaning applicants for special obstruction and delay. The practice began to come to light a couple of years ago.

Congress has asked for a great deal of documentation from the Internal Revenue Service that has yet to be supplied, including all of Lerner’s pertinent email. As I’ve discussed before, the IRS has claimed that her hard drives accidentally crashed in June of 2011 — and not hers alone — so that much of the relevant email is gone.

No backups on any server, either.

It all sounded pretty bogus back when the story was “hot.” And now, according to testimony of an IRS employee just filed in the case of Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service, it transpires that Ms. Lerner had a BlackBerry on which her email traffic was routinely duplicated … and that this device was wiped in June 2012, months after Congress started asking questions about the ideological targeting of applicants for tax-exempt status.

Judicial Watch, my hero, is now urging the court to require the IRS to divulge the relevant dates of the wiped data, then subpoena BlackBerry for the data. Because we all know that it hasn’t really disappeared forever into the black hole at the center of the galaxy.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

What’s Going On Here?

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Sometimes asking “What’s going on here?” (repeatedly) can keep a problem in the public eye — when many who should know better would rather sweep it under the rug. In this case, the problem is $1.6 million unaccounted for in recent Penn Forest Township budgets. The Tennessee township’s annual budget is only $4 million or so.

Former supervisor Paul Montemuro is one of those chastising the current board of supervisors. If they’d “just agree to conduct the forensic audit of the couple of years leading up to 2008, I would shut up,” he says. The board approved that audit in 2012 but has not followed through.

Another fellow not shutting up is township auditor Matt Schutter, elected last November as a Libertarian. Throughout 2014 he has demanded that the audit go forward and township spending be fully accounted for, and has also asked the state attorney general to launch an investigation.

Schutter tells Common Sense that despite sundry harassment, he won’t relax the pressure any time soon. “The board in July meeting voted that no one of the public can speak in a supervisors meeting about the money,” Schutter explains. “At the August meeting, I informed them that they were violating the First Amendment.”

He then formally advised the supervisors that he would pursue further legal action (“under 42 USC 1983!,” pertaining to civil action for deprivation of rights) if they continue violating their oaths of office.

Let’s send about 535 guys like this to Congress.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Texas-sized Trouble

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Texas Governor and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Perry has never been exactly “my guy.” But now he seems like a kindred spirit, having been indicted on two felony counts of . . . well . . . as the indictment states it, “threatening to veto legislation that had been approved and authorized by the Legislature of the State of Texas.”

The indictment is only two pages. Easy to read.

What seems hard to read is why a prosecutor would bring a criminal charge in a case like this.

Last year, Governor Perry publicly and transparently threatened a veto of the $7.5 million in funding for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office unless Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resigned her office.

Why should she resign? Lehmberg was arrested and convicted for driving drunk and still found it necessary to behave badly in the process. Which arguably, per Gov. Perry, clashed with her continuation as head of the Public Integrity shop.

Lehmberg refused to resign and Perry vetoed the $7.5 million.

Now Perry is facing two felony charges from the same prosecutor’s office that has had other high profile cases — most famously the prosecution of Tom DeLay — end in acquittal. If convicted, he could face up to a 99-year sentence.

Someone more “my guy,” former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, called the indictment “pure politics” and “a joke.”

He didn’t mean it was funny, though. It is a very serious signal of just how out of control our political process has become.

Governors have the constitutional veto power for a reason. Threatening a veto is standard politics. It’s their job.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.