(NEW YORK) -- In what was one of the 2012 election cycle’s most important battleground states, “voter fraud does exist,” Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted acknowledged in a report on Thursday. “But it is not an epidemic.”
Husted, a Republican and the state’s chief elections official, said at a news conference and in an accompanying report that was based on a survey of all of Ohio’s 88 counties conducted in the wake of last November’s election, 625 possible voting irregularities were reported across the state and 135 of them have been sent to law enforcement for further investigation.
Of the 135 investigated instances of fraud in Ohio, a state where President Obama beat Mitt Romney by some 166,214 votes, 20 of them involved voters who cast ballots in both Ohio and another state and will be referred to the Ohio attorney general.
“Our effort to look into irregularities and root out voter fraud sends a strong message that no amount of fraud is acceptable,” Husted said in a statement. “If you cheat, you will be caught and held accountable.”
Other “irregularities” that surfaced in the post-election survey included double voting, standing in for another voter, and voting from an address from which an individual was not eligible, according to the secretary of state’s report.
Before Election Day in 2012, a federal judge blocked new voting laws proposed by Ohio Republican lawmakers that were aimed at reducing voter fraud by restricting early voting. Ohio requires voters to provide proof of identity at polling places such as a driver’s license, bank statement or utility bill.
No instances of voter suppression were reported. In Ohio, more than 5.6 million ballots were cast in the 2012 election.
The results of Ohio’s review come on the heels of President Obama’s appointment of members to his Presidential Commission on Election Administration earlier this week. The commission is tasked with identifying ways to solve the problem of long lines and inefficient polling locations during the 2012 election. Members of the commission include former top lawyers for both the Obama and Romney campaigns.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/24/2013 00:14:59 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- Congressional and administration sources confirm that IRS director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner has been placed on administrative leave.
Lerner came under fire this week when she chose to invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself rather than testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee.
Earlier Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee, announced that he believes Lerner waived her right to refuse to testify when she read a statement and authenticated a document for the record during the hearing.
National Review Online first reported that the IRS had placed Lerner on paid leave.
According to NRO, Lerner emailed colleagues shortly before the news broke, announcing, “Due to the events of recent days, I am on administrative leave starting today. An announcement will be made shortly informing you who will be acting while I am on administrative leave. I know all of you will continue to support EO’s mission during these difficult times. I thank you for all your hard work and dedication. The work you do is important.”
IRS acting commissioner Daniel Werfel announced that Ken Corbin, currently the deputy director, Submission Processing, Wage and Investment (W&I) Division, has been selected to be the acting director, Exempt Organizations, Tax Exempt/Government Entities Division.
“Ken is a proven leader during challenging times. He has strong management experience inside the IRS handling a wide range of processing issues and compliance topics as well as taxpayer service areas,” Werfel stated. “Combined with his track record of leading large work groups, these skills make him an ideal choice to help lead the Exempt Organizations area through this difficult period.”
During her brief statement at the hearing on Wednesday, Lerner declared her innocence before Issa dismissed her from the proceedings.
“I have not done anything wrong,” she said. “I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
Issa, R-Calif., announced Thursday that he is considering recalling Lerner before the committee for additional testimony.
“After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner’s Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid. She remains under subpoena,” Frederick Hill, communications director for Issa, said. “The committee is looking at recalling her for further testimony.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 18:03:10 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Making sure that more Republican women run for office and that they get the support they need is the focus of “Right Women, Right Now,” a new initiative by the Republican State Leadership Committee to encourage and mentor GOP women considering a run for office.
Ed Gillespie, chairman of the RSLC, said the goal of the program, which was started last year but relaunched Thursday, was to grow the Republican Party and “foster up-and-coming diverse voices, and to get new women to the table from the state level."
“We believe one of the ways to grow our Republican Party is by creating a strong pipeline of diverse leaders to put some new voices and fresh faces on the escalator to higher office, and we believe the first step to that is some of these state offices,” he said.
Of course, that’s not all. With more female candidates, there might be less chance of some of the damaging incidents that hurt the Republican Party in 2012 by male candidates such as Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, who made insensitive comments about rape and abortion.
Gillespie noted that “women candidates maybe have a better ear for how to talk about some of these issues and the right tone without compromising principles, for example, on the issue of life, but address them in a way that I think is more resonant with voters and less alienating of women.
“There have been times where how the issue was discussed had a negative impact on Republicans up and down the ballot, and I do believe that women candidates have demonstrated a greater ability to talk about the issue in a way that doesn’t alienate but is more persuasive and builds by attraction,” Gillespie said, answering a question raised during a conference call to relaunch “Right Women, Right Now” about how this initiative could possibly limit those kind of comments in the next election cycle.
The main backers of the initiative include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell and Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman.
Harwell said she “understands” the issue of abortion “is a very emotionally high-strung issue” and “it touches people’s personal lives directly,” but approaching the "issue with a great deal of kindness” is what “earns the respect of voters.”
“I will say that what I’ve found in the female candidates that are running for office…is that they hold firm to their own personal convictions because this is a value vote,” Harwell said.
Kleefisch had another view, saying the “war on women is alliteration and fits great on a masthead.”
“In reality, it is basically asking women to be transparent and one-dimensional and vote on a single issue, and I’ll tell you that women are a lot more complex than a single issue,” Kleefisch said. “We care about the war on unemployment and that’s the one that the women in this group are fighting, the war on poverty, the battle of making sure ends meet every day in this country."
"I think it’s kind of insulting to say that women care only about a single issue and care about that most as opposed to making sure that their families are healthy and happy,” she continued, “and that they can pay their bills.”
Bondi, the first female attorney general of Florida, said the campaign would “spend unprecedented resources to elect a record number of women to state level offices."
“We need to take upon ourselves to encourage other women to say yes to leadership and that’s not always an easy thing to do and you put yourself on the ballot and we know the challenges faced when you say yes to this commitment and it’s up to us to ensure that other women have the support and encouragement to do the same,” she said.
Kleefisch said the group was doing more than just encouraging more women to run at the state level and would actively mentor women and provide support to help with work and family-life balance, saying she knows that “sometimes you feel like your entire life is spent going back and forth between Lincoln Day dinners and carpool obligations, but that’s the life that many women who have chosen to step forward and serve in this way are looking at."
One thing the group will not be doing is getting involved in primaries, even if it is a Republican woman who’s running. “We don’t engage in primaries as a rule,” Gillespie said, when asked about the number of Republican women who ran in 2010 but were defeated in their primaries by Republican men.
“One of the things we try to do is to work with the state party chairs and legislative caucus leaders and coordinate with them and try to identify qualified and quality women candidates and get them into the process,” Gillespie said. “We don’t want to recruit for women to run for seats where they can’t get the nomination [and] can’t win [or] have a credible chance at winning a general election for that matter.”
Republicans are not the only ones working to get more women to run. Earlier this month, Emily’s List, known for backing female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, launched its "Madam President” campaign to get an early start on electing a female president in 2016. It backed its first gubernatorial candidate of the 2014 election cycle Thursday, endorsing Rep. Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 17:41:39 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama is a little uneasy with the way journalists have been dragged into the Justice Department’s aggressive pursuit of national security leak investigations. In fact, he has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct a 45-day review of the department’s guidelines on the issue.
That bit of news was buried in the middle of the president’s hourlong speech Thursday at National Defense University.
“Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs,” President Obama said. “Our focus must be on those who break the law.”
And then the news: “I have raised these issues with the attorney general, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the attorney general to report back to me by July 12th.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 17:19:09 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- In a wide-ranging speech at the National Defense University, in Washington D.C., Thursday, President Obama launched a spirited defense of his administration's efforts to pursue terrorists overseas, even while he outlined a more limited path forward in the fight against terror.
"We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war -- a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense," Obama said. "And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America's legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion."
In the first major foreign policy speech of his second term, Obama addressed head-on some of his administration's most passionate critics from both the opposite end of the political spectrum and his own party.
"These are tough issues and the suggestion that we can gloss over them is wrong," Obama said when a protester repeatedly interrupted his hour-long remarks.
Obama said that on Thursday he signed a Presidential Policy Guidance that outlined not only his administration's guidelines for the use of force against terrorists but for more oversight and accountability for those actions.
He called on Congress to close Guantanamo Bay, and he encouraged the use of diplomatic power to address the ideology that produces terrorists domestic and abroad.
Yet in the speech, Obama insisted that his administration's strategies were proactive and effective, despite questions about the legality of some of the actions.
He spoke pointedly about intelligence gathered in Osama bin Laden's compound that proved that al Qaeda operatives knew that drone strikes were working.
"In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden's compound, we found that he wrote, 'We could lose the reserves to the enemy's air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives.' Other communications from al Qaeda operatives confirm this as well," Obama said. "Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bombmakers and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan."
"Simply put, these strikes have saved lives," Obama said.
He also acknowledged that drone strikes have resulted in civilian deaths and, like in any conflict, may have had a negative impact on public perceptions of the U.S. abroad. But Obama said that the strikes, and the civilian casualties that they have resulted in, are preferable to the alternative.
"To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties," Obama said. "Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes."
Ahead of Obama's speech, Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday disclosed publicly for the first time that four American citizens had been killed in drone attacks.
The administration says that only one of these people, Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior al Qaeda official, was targeted. One of the other three was killed with al-Awlaki; another was al-Awlaki's son, killed in another strike.
Obama said that he does not believe the U.S. government can target and kill American citizens without due process, but that American citizenship cannot be used as a "shield."
"His citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a SWAT team," Obama said. "That's who Anwar al-Awlaki was, he was continuously trying to kill people."
The revelations come at a time when the U.S. has already begun drawing down the number of drone attacks it carries out, which a senior administration official said Thursday is partially a result of a months-long process of refining the requirements for carrying out a strike.
Obama's liberal allies have also not forgotten his 2008 campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay.
Obama said that he remains committed to closing the facility but he urged Congress to repeal its restrictions on transferring detainees away from the prison, and he called on lawmakers to close it.
"No person has ever escaped from one of our super-max or military prisons in the United States-- ever," Obama said. "Given my administration's relentless pursuit of al Qaeda's leadership, there is no justification beyond politics for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened."
But, speaking with ABC News, Andrea Parsow, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, said that by not moving immediately after taking office to close Guantanamo, Obama may have missed his window in 2008 when there was some bipartisan support for closing the prison.
"I think he was convinced by his advisers that doing so would be a politically risky move at the time. But by not acting, he opened up the space to make things like closing Guantanamo political," Parsow said.
With pressure to close the prison mounting, critics of the administration are unlikely to be satisfied by Thursday's speech.
For more than 100 days, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been on a hunger strike and some are now being fed through tubes, which has only further outraged opponents of the prison.
In the speech, Obama also addressed two scandals that have dogged the administration, particularly in the past several weeks: the attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and reports that the Justice Department seized phone records of several journalists in the course of investigating leaks of classified information.
Obama reiterated his pledge to implement the recommendations of the Accountability Review Board, which found "unacceptable failures" in Benghazi. And he also expressed concerns that the Justice Department's investigation of leaks may have gone too far.
"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," Obama said. "Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law."
The speech featured a litany of items Obama would like added to Congress's agenda, from repealing the "authorization to use military force" (signed into law just after 9/11 and authorizing the use of the armed forces against those responsible for the attacks) to the closing of Guantanamo Bay.
"If you're going to get anything done in your second term it's really got to be in the first year, because the next year is an election year. That's what's really dictating it," said Larry Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.
Obama has also faced mounting pressure on both sides of the political aisle to explain the U.S.'s policy around drone attacks and when he believes the government is justified in targeting U.S. citizens.
In March, Republican Tea Party-backed Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) filibustered CIA Director John Brennan's confirmation hearing for 13 hours to protest the U.S. drone program.
And on Wednesday, the human rights group Amnesty International, released a new report blasting the administration's drone program for perpetrating executions in violation of international human rights law.
By laying out publicly his administration's policy for the future of the war on terror at the onset of his second term, Obama may be looking to solidify his presidential legacy.
"I think when it comes to the drone program and the future of the war against al Queda, he's thinking of what he wants to leave in place for the next president," Parsow said. "He's a young man; he's going to have a lot of years to look back on what he has wrought."
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 17:15:00 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- If a bill that was introduced in Congress this week is passed, Amtrak will be required to allow pets onboard some of its trains.
The bill, introduced by Jeff Denham, R-Calif., states that Amtrak will designate one car of each train where passengers may transport "a domesticated cat or dog in the same manner as carry-on baggage" if the animal can be contained in a pet kennel and the kennel can be stowed in accordance with Amtrak size requirements for carry-on baggage.
"My dog, Lily, is part of our family and travels with us to and from California all the time. If I can take her on a plane, why can't I travel with her on Amtrak, too?" said Denham. "Allowing families to bring their animals with them will facilitate transportation and efficiency while also providing a much-needed source of revenue for Amtrak."
The bill would restrict passengers traveling with pets to trips fewer than 750 miles. It would require passengers to pay a fee.
Passengers with pets who are not able to travel as carry-on baggage would be able to transport their pets as cargo provided the pet kennel "can be stowed in accordance with Amtrak requirements for cargo stowage." The same rules regarding length of trip and extra fees would apply.
The bill is supported by The Humane Society of the United States. "Millions of American families have beloved pets, and allowing them to travel by train will support the human-animal bond," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO.
Service animals are already able to travel on Amtrak trains.
Amtrak did not comment on the bill, except to say they are "reviewing the proposal."
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 16:12:36 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- While Congress continues to investigate the cloud of controversy hanging over the Internal Revenue Service, House Oversight and Government Reform committee Chairman Darrell Issa has determined that a top IRS official’s refusal to testify during a hearing Wednesday is invalid.
After questions arose Wednesday surrounding the validity of IRS director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner’s assertion of her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself, Issa pledged to look into the matter, recessing the hearing rather than adjourning it in order to maintain his ability to later compel Lerner to testify.
On Thursday, a committee spokesman announced Issa had concluded that when Lerner read a statement aloud and authenticated a document for the record, she waived her right to refuse to testify.
“After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner’s Fifth Amendment assertion is no longer valid. She remains under subpoena,” Frederick Hill, communications director for Issa, said. “The committee is looking at recalling her for further testimony.”
With lawmakers heading home for the Memorial Day recess, it’s unlikely Lerner would be hauled back for testimony until at least June 3.
Lerner’s lawyer, William W. Taylor, III, did not have an immediate reaction to Issa’s judgment.
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi indicated that Lerner’s assertion of the Fifth Amendment created more questions than answers.
“I don't know that it's in the public interest [to invoke the Fifth],” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The American people deserve answers. I wish that she would have provided them. I don't know what her basis is for taking the Fifth, [but] it's her legal right.”
“Drip, drip, drip,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “Every day there's something new.”
Boehner doubted President Obama’s explanation that he found out about the IRS problem through media reports, but he expressed “full confidence” in the ability of the congressional committees and FBI investigating the IRS “to get to the truth.”
“What is most troubling in this White House is that the lights are on but there doesn't seem to be anybody at home. The IRS systematically violated the rights of Americans for almost two years,” Boehner said. “Treasury Department knew about this last year, and the White House was made aware of it last month. Yet no one -- no one -- thought that they should tell the president. Fairly inconceivable to me.”
Pelosi, however, defended the president’s apparent unawareness, excusing him for not knowing of the problems at the IRS in the midst of a presidential campaign.
“The president doesn't know about everything that is going on in every agency of government,” Pelosi said. “Should Mr. Boehner have known because this is his neighboring district...Cincinnati, where the IRS office is? I don't think you can hold [Boehner] accountable for what happened in that IRS office, but I think that obviously, the public will make its decision about it.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 14:29:38 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Four days before the nation’s veterans make their way down hometown streets in a flurry of star spangled confetti for Memorial Day, a bill to protect war heroes from impostors is making its way to the White House for President Obama’s signature.
The Stolen Valor Act of 2013, which would make it illegal to profit from lying about military honors, passed the Senate with unanimous consent Wednesday after breezing through the House of Representatives Monday.
The bill, introduced in January by Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.), is the latest attempt by Congress to push through legislation targeting military fakers.
The original iteration of the bill, the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, had been in effect for six years before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional. At the time, the law was written to say it was a crime simply to lie about military service and awards -- a broad characterization the Supreme Court said violated a person’s First Amendment right to free speech.
A new version of the bill, introduced by Heck in late 2012, narrowed the act to say the liar must be attempting to somehow materially profit from the lies, making the would-be crime more akin to fraud. Heck reintroduced tweaked legislation in January.
“Tonight marks the end of what has been a very long, challenging, and rewarding process,” Heck said late Wednesday. “It is a fitting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country that both chambers have passed this bill before Memorial Day and I am hopeful that the President will sign [it] into law as quickly as possible.”
A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to request for comment, but President Obama took a hard stance against military phonies last year when he announced a new government website to track awards for legitimate heroes.
“It may no longer be a crime for con artists to pass themselves off as heroes, but one thing is certain -- it is contemptible,” he said in reference to the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2012. "...[N]o American hero should ever have their valor stolen.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 14:29:13 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- As the people of Moore, Okla., grapple to recover following the devastating tornado that hit its community earlier this week, the head of a major weather forecasting service told a congressional subcommittee Thursday that the technology doesn’t yet exist to provide warning times of an hour or more before a tornado strikes.
“We expect people to ride out the storms in their bath tubs. That’s not acceptable. The only reason that’s the case is that we cannot yet scientifically determine far enough in advance the strength, the exact path, the location of where a tornado is going to form and where it’s going to go,” Barry Myers, chief executive officer of AccuWeather, told a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee Thursday. “The science is not there. I don’t know how we’re going to get there. I think that’s what research is required to do.”
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration issued its first tornado warning for the twister that devastated Moore 16 minutes before the tornado developed. Myers said that “with enhanced modeling, perhaps we might have known hours in advance exactly where the tornado would form, where it would touch down, how monstrous it would grow and its exact path.”
“Imagine being able to tell people an hour or two in advance to move out of the zone of danger and have them watch the tornado from miles away. Is it a pipe dream?” he said.
The hearing, which was held by the subcommittee on environment and scheduled several weeks prior to the Oklahoma tragedy, examined how to improve NOAA weather forecasting and discussed draft legislation to enhance weather-related research.
“Superstorm Sandy made clear what many in the weather community have known for years: Our model for weather prediction has fallen behind Europe and other parts of the world in predicting weather events in the United States,” Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, chairman of the subcommittee, said.
But while the hearing focused on boosting NOAA research and weather forecasting, an official from NOAA did not testify before the committee.
A committee aide said they invited Deputy NOAA Administrator Dr. Kathryn Sullivan to testify, but Ciaran Clayton, director of communications for NOAA, said they were unable to provide a witness because of “logistical and scheduling challenges,” but “look forward to working with Congress on weather forecasting and related matters.”
The committee plans on working with NOAA to have someone from the agency testify on weather prediction research in the near future.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 13:27:48 PM
(NEW YORK) -- Nearly six in 10 Americans back a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, with narrow preference for prompt action on the issue. Partisan divisions are sharp, a factor likely to be reflected in the full Senate debate ahead.
Overall, 58 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll support providing a way for undocumented immigrants to remain in the country legally “if they pay a fine and meet other requirements,” vs. 38 percent opposed. That’s similar to a 62-34 percent split last month.
A bare majority, 51 percent, also says Congress should pass a legal status law now, either alone or along with stricter border control. Forty-five percent instead say border control should come first -- as preferred by some Republicans in Congress -- or oppose action on either step.
Legal status and tighter border control both are included in a package approved Tuesday night by the Senate Judiciary Committee, with support from three of its eight Republican members and all 10 Democrats. Reflecting that outcome, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 70 percent of Democrats support a path to legal status, as do 57 percent of independents -- dropping to 42 percent of Republicans.
Further, 52 percent of Republicans say Congress should pass border control first, or not act on either element of immigration reform. Forty-seven percent of independents share that view; it declines to 35 percent among Democrats.
All else equal, potential effects of the issue in 2014 congressional races look like a wash. People who oppose a path to legal status are more likely than its supporters to call the issue a red line in their vote preference -- but there are fewer of them, equalizing the overall effect. (Of course, all else in fact is not equal, given factors including the demographic and political makeup of congressional districts; turnout, including in primaries; the quality of opposing candidates; and the potential pull of other issues.)
Among groups, apart from partisanship, support for a path to legal status peaks among college post-graduates (72 percent), liberals (70 percent), Westerners (69 percent), nonwhites (68 percent) and 18- to 39-year olds (65 percent).
On gun control, another contentious issue, this poll finds extensive unhappiness with the Senate’s recent rejection of expanded background checks for gun purchasers; 67 percent say it was the wrong thing to do, with 58 percent feeling that way “strongly.” That’s not unexpected, since 86 percent favored expanded background checks in an ABC/Post poll in March.
Notably, even among people in gun-owning households, 62 percent say it was wrong for the Senate to reject extending background checks to cover online and gun-show purchases.
Forty-one Republican senators and five Democrats voted against the measure. Criticism in this survey is focused on the GOP: Among Americans who favored the measure, 64 percent chiefly blame its rejection on opposition led by congressional Republicans, vs. 17 percent who mainly blame President Obama for failing to secure the needed votes.
But backlash against the National Rifle Association, a prime opponent of the law, is muted. Forty-four percent of Americans say the NRA has too much influence over gun laws; that’s up by 6 points from January, but to a level it’s seen before.
Compared with immigration reform, the background-check issue appears to pose clearer electoral risk. Among the many critics of the Senate action, 55 percent say they could not support a candidate who voted against expanded background checks. It’s a red line for fewer on the other side of the issue, 46 percent, and, as noted, there are many fewer of them.
This ABC News/Washington Post poll was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 07:57:28 AM
(HARRISBURG, Penn.) -- Emily’s List is backing Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) in her bid for governor of Pennsylvania, making their first endorsement of the 2014 gubernatorial cycle.
The group, known for backing female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights, is supporting Schwartz in her bid against Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
“Allyson Schwartz has an incredible track record of fighting for the women and families of Pennsylvania. Now it’s time for her to take that experience and dedication all the way to the governor’s mansion, where she will help get Pennsylvanians back to work, protect access to healthcare, and fight for seniors and veterans,” Stephanie Schriock, president of Emily’s List, said in a statement.
In her statement, Schriock noted that they have been supporting Schwartz for “more than a decade,” adding, “We’re thrilled to be a part of her campaign to become Pennsylvania’s first woman governor.”
Schwartz, the only female member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation, currently represents the 13th congressional district of Pennsylvania and is serving her fifth term. She represents Montgomery County and Northeast Philadelphia in Congress. Schwartz announced her gubernatorial campaign last month and, as Schriock noted, she would be the first female governor of the state.
Earlier this month Emily’s List launched a “Madam President” campaign with the goal of electing a female president in 2016.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 06:04:05 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama plans to address his counterterrorism policy and the controversial use of secret drones to target suspects in a speech scheduled at approximately 2 p.m. Thursday.
You can watch the president's speech below when it happens, courtesy of ABC News.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 03:30:00 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will nominate former campaign official Katherine Archuleta as director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on Thursday, according to a White House official.
Archuleta served as national political director for Obama's 2012 reelection campaign. She was the first Latina to serve in that role on a major presidential campaign, the White House said. Former OPM director John Berry's term expired last month.
Obama's appointment of Archuleta comes after the president faced pressure from Latino advocacy groups to appoint Hispanics to serve in his second-term cabinet. More than seven in 10 Latinos voted for Obama in last year's election, but the number of Latino cabinet members is set to fall from two to one.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar both left the administration this year. Thomas Perez, a former Justice Department official, was nominated to fill Solis' position at the Department of Labor.
The position of OPM director is not a cabinet-level role. The agency, however, does oversee the hiring of federal employees and the pension and insurance plans for federal retirees. That role has become increasingly important as the federal government grapples with across-the-board sequestration spending cuts. The $85 billion in cuts this year alone have caused agencies to furlough employees.
Before serving as the Obama campaign's political director in 2012, Archuleta was chief of staff to Solis at the Department of Labor. A Colorado native, she worked as a senior adviser to Denver's first Latino mayor, Federico Peña (D), from 2005 to 2009.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/23/2013 00:10:34 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- Facing angry lawmakers before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew promised that those involved in the Internal Revenue Service scandal will be held accountable once more facts are known.
“We are going to get to the bottom of it -- anyone who is accountable will be held accountable,” Lew told the House Committee Wednesday. “I have made clear that it is an extraordinarily high priority, my highest priority to restore confidence in the IRS.”
As Lew faced the committee, in another hearing room a few doors down, Lois Lerner, the IRS’ director of the Exempt Organizations, pleaded the Fifth Amendment in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Lew was pressed if he agreed with Lerner’s personal assessment that she did “nothing wrong.” The treasury secretary refused to answer one way or the other.
“I'm going to wait to have all the facts,” he replied, “I don't have all the facts. We have to make decisions based on facts.”
Lew, who also testified before the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday, ticked through more broadly what details are still not known. These items, he said, will be reviewed by incoming Commissioner Daniel Werfel, whose first day on the job was Wednesday.
“How could the communications be so bad? How could the management be so loose? And I can't sit here today and tell you we've completed that,” Lew said, “Is there something systemic about the management structure of the Internal Revenue Service that needs to be fixed to be able to say, with confidence, that not just with regard to this area, but more broadly, we've taken the kind of look to be able to say that we can be confident that this won't happen again?”
As he did Tuesday, Lew continued to stress that he believes, backed up by the evidence of the IG report, that while “outrageous methods to determine if certain groups qualifies for tax-exempt status” were used, “this conduct was not politically motivated.”
“It was unacceptable and it was inexcusable,” Lew said, “We’re going to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.”
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., told Lew that he found his response to this scandal “disingenuous at best.”
“We can judge for ourselves whether you are really making -- trying to fix this for the future a priority,” Congressman Garrett concluded.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 23:22:38 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- The current march on Washington won’t fill the National Mall, or see an influx of buses down Constitution Avenue. But what it will do is clog your inbox.
You can only see it on your computer, or mobile device, but it’s out there: a two-day virtual march on Washington with the goal of demanding immigration reform.
“We don’t see this as exclusive of a regular march,” Jeremy Robbins, director of the Partnership for a New American Economy, told ABC News. “It’s 2013 and the way we communicate is broader and different than it was a generation ago, and we want to be able to maximize all the ways we can to push Congress.”
The event, which started on Wednesday and goes until Thursday night, is organized by Mayor Bloomberg’s immigration forces in partnership with President Obama’s OFA (Organizing for Action) and asks viewers to send their senators emails, tweets and Facebook messages demanding immigration reform.
“We tried to leverage all the different social media tools for all the different purposes,” Robbins said, in order to garner attention for the event.
President Obama even retweeted former Florida governor Republican Jeb Bush: “Delaying solutions will only make the problem grow. NOW is the time for immigration reform. Join the #iMarch…”
Twitter chats with Bloomberg kicked things off Wednesday morning. Google hangouts, Mashable and Tumblr are all resources used for the iMarch. The event will live stream music and documentaries with the goal to push people to their website, where they make it easy for users to quickly locate their senator and, with just a click of the mouse, send a message.
One of the things that make this march different, Robbins says, is the flexibility it allows.
“If you are relying just on typical ways of lobbying, physical marches, etc., those are very powerful tools and we use all of them,” he said. “One of the benefits of a virtual match is there are no hotel rooms to book, no permits to obtain…. So you can time the virtual march to when it’s going to be most effective in the debate.”
Just Tuesday the Senate Judiciary committee voted to send the immigration bill to the full Senate for debate.
The launch of #iMarch saw the biggest political thunderclap of all time, reaching over 45 million users. A thunderclap is a way for many users to coordinate their social media messages to post simultaneously.
“We don’t want to pretend that we are starting from scratch, but this is a new area and this is just a start,” Robbins said. “We are going to keep pushing, keep marching and see this through the entire Senate and then see it through the House.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 22:45:22 PM
(NEW YORK) -- Ashley Judd may not be running for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, but another possible candidate is thinking about taking on Mitch McConnell, and she has some local star power of her own: former Miss America Heather French Henry.
French Henry, who was crowned Miss America in 2000 and is married to former Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, told ABC News she is being “urged by a number of individuals in political leadership to contemplate the possibility of running for Senate” as a Democrat.
“I feel I owe them the time and consideration to listen to their position,” Henry said in an e-mail. "Is there a political race in my future? Possibly. Is it this Senate race? I am not sure … Over the past year it has become apparent to me that I may enter politics. I have become increasingly concerned about the direction and future of our country. Therefore, I have agreed to meet and discuss all options including a race for U.S. Senate.”
French Henry said her time contemplating a bid “will not be a prolonged process” and she “will make an announcement in the near future.”
French Henry says she is also weighing her responsibilities as a mother of two young children, her work as a dress designer and boutique owner, as well as a philanthropy she runs helping homeless veterans. The last is an issue she is closely involved with and would most likely be part of her platform if she does get into the race.
French Henry did not expand on who exactly she was talking to in Kentucky Democratic politics, but Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., who was Judd’s biggest backer when she was thinking about getting into the race, told ABC News that French Henry would be “an outstanding Senate candidate.”
“She is a real source of pride for the Commonwealth, and her dedication to helping Kentucky families and veterans would provide real contrast to Mitch McConnell in 2014,” Yarmuth said in a statement.
Former Kentucky state treasurer and Democratic analyst Jonathan Miller said he thinks “if she decides to run and surrounds herself with a strong national team, I think she could make a decent run at it,” but he noted he “doesn’t know what her name recognition is now.”
“I know 10 years ago, when she was Miss America and married to the lieutenant governor, it was high,” Miller said, adding, “Anyone running against McConnell will have national support because they are running against McConnell.”
No Democrat has yet stepped forward to challenge McConnell, despite local polling that shows the Senate minority leader with lower than 50 percent in some surveys. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is also considering a run for the Senate, and allies of hers say she is still actively making the decision.
McConnell has a war chest of almost $9 million and has already been running ads in the state. Those factors, coupled with the widely held belief in Kentucky and beyond that the race will be very nasty, seems to have stopped candidates from throwing their hats into the ring.
French Henry’s husband, Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for governor in 2007. Some of the controversies that he faced while in office and during his gubernatorial bid are sure to come up if she were to enter the race.
In 2009, Henry accepted a plea deal for misdemeanors related to misusing campaign funds during the 2007 gubernatorial bid. He was sentenced to over $500 in fines and 12 months in jail, but the jail time was suspended on the condition that he avoid further criminal problems for two years, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.
The newspaper also reports that in 2003 when he was lieutenant governor, Henry paid $162,000 to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged he defrauded both Medicare and Medicaid programs as an orthopedic surgeon.
And it doesn’t end there. After the Henrys were married in 2000, the state auditor found that 25 state employees used 500 hours of their own personal leave, valued at $16,000, to work on the wedding. The Henrys ended up reimbursing the state for over $3,000 in wedding expenses and more than $4,000 in trips that Henry took to the Miss America pageant and the Democratic National Convention.
Miller said he doesn’t think the “significant problems her husband has had will affect her.”
“In the same way I don’t think Bill Clinton’s issues were attributed to Hillary,” Miller said. “They are very different, but I don’t think people will blame the wife for the husband’s failings.”
In 2003, French Henry struck and killed a bicyclist and mother of four as the woman was biking across the street. She told her story on an episode of Oprah Winfrey's show detailing how distraught she was and the emotional toll it had taken on her and her family. There were no charges filed.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 21:09:01 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- After a key IRS official Wednesday invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself during congressional testimony, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa said he will review legal precedent in order to determine whether Lois Lerner, the director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS, could be held in contempt of Congress.
Although Lerner, who’s at the center of the controversy, refused to answer questions from members of the committee, she read a brief statement into the record declaring her innocence. Furthermore, at the request of Issa, Lerner authenticated a document containing her written answers for the inspector general’s investigation of the matter.
Those actions prompted members of the committee to question whether Lerner effectively waived her right to invoke the Fifth Amendment.
“She just testified. She just waived her Fifth Amendment right to privilege,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, said. “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination. That’s not the way it works.”
Although Issa dismissed Lerner, at the end of the hearing he announced that the committee would recess rather than adjourn while he determines whether Lerner should be recalled before the panel.
“Ms. Lerner may have waived her Fifth Amendment rights by addressing core issues in her opening statement and the authentication afterwards,” Issa, R-Calif., said as he brought the hearing to a close. “Although I excused Ms. Lerner subject to a recall, I am looking into the possibility of recalling her and insisting that she answer questions in light of a waiver.”
A Republican committee aide said the application of the Fifth Amendment has nothing to do with House or committee rules, but rather is a constitutional question. The aide said courts have interpreted that the Fifth must be asserted in the absolute, not partially.
“Congress is respective when witnesses assert the Fifth, but if it’s not asserted properly, you’re not refusing to testify based on constitutional protection,” the aide explained. “Because you don’t want to answer certain questions, there’s a potential contempt of Congress.”
Sources also believe Lerner’s decision to read a statement into the record while invoking the Fifth may have been unprecedented for congressional testimony.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, said he does not personally believe Lerner waived her rights with her actions on Wednesday, but he said the committee should look into the issue.
“This is not a courtroom,” Cummings, D-Md., said. “In a courtroom that might have been the case. It’s a legal question.”
Cummings added that Lerner was acting on advice of counsel, and he doubted her legal team would have permitted her to deliver a statement if it would jeopardize her right to invoke the Fifth.
One constitutional expert noted that generally people who claim the Fifth in hearings give no statement and it would be “unusual” to give a statement and still claim the Fifth.
“Most witnesses claiming the Fifth will not tempt fate by answering any questions,” said Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina constitutional law professor who specializes in the relationship between Congress and the executive branch. “I suppose the witness might argue he or she is claiming the Fifth for limited purposes but then needs to have someone spell out the relevant scope.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 20:06:18 PM
(NEW YORK) -- Bill Nye may be known as the Science Guy, but his Twitter feed reveals that he has another interest: politics.
On Tuesday Nye wondered what Oklahoma senator and well-known climate change denier Jim Inhofe thought about the tornado that devastated Moore, Okla.
Inhofe did not respond to the question on Twitter and was unavailable for comment when contacted by ABC News.
Nye tweeted, "Oklahoma City was hit hard again. Has anyone asked Oklahoma Senator Inhofe about the three large storms in the [past] 14 years?"
Although Nye and Inhofe have not directly exchanged words about the tornado devastation in Oklahoma or climate change, both men have repeatedly made their opposing opinions known.
Nye openly discussed the importance of investigating climate change as the recent tornado system developed across Oklahoma. In an interview with CNN’s Piers Morgan, Nye said that tornadoes were driven by heat, which increases the chances of more dangerous storms.
“You’ve got to figure that if there’s more heat driving the storm then there’s going to be more tornadoes,” Nye told Morgan.
At the other end of the climate spectrum, Inhofe has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated to the American people” and argued that Earth is entering a period of cooling rather than warming. During the 2010 Washington, D.C., blizzard, Inhofe and his family built an igloo on the National Mall and placed signs labeling it “Al Gore’s New Home” as part of a GOP response to talks on global warming that were happening at the time.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 19:57:38 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- The GOP's newest opposition-research group has found its first target: Terry McAuliffe.
America Rising PAC, a group devoted to researching Democratic candidates, will look to make its mark on the 2013 and 2014 election cycles, supplying the Republican Party's answer to the Democratic research-only super PAC, American Bridge. Former Mitt Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades is leading the effort.
McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman who is running for governor in Virginia, is now getting the America Rising treatment.
The group on Wednesday posted online 688 pages of emails between Virginia Economic Development Partnership officials and GreenTech Automotive, an electric car company founded by McAuliffe that sought to locate in Virginia in 2009.
The partnership is a board of Virginia business people tasked with bringing business to the state.
GreenTech eventually settled elsewhere, and McAuliffe has since stepped away, but GreenTech's rocky history in Virginia has become a political football in McAuliffe's race for governor.
America Rising has also dispatched its first "tracker" to Virginia, to dog McAuliffe at public events.
The GreenTech emails, some of which were obtained by news outlets through Freedom of Information requests and have been reported on, shed more light and lend more context to the Virginia board's skepticism about McAuliffe's company as it sought economic benefits to locate in Virginia in 2009.
GreenTech has already earned McAuliffe criticism after launching its first plant in Mississippi, not Virginia, and McAuliffe has explained that Virginia officials were not interested in the plan.
According to the emails, Virginia officials continued to entertain the company's pitch because then-Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and former president Bill Clinton, whom McAuliffe had approached about the firm, supported it.
"In short, it involves Terry McAuliffe, Bill Clinton, and of course Gov. Kaine," Economic Development Partnership vice president Paul Grossman wrote in an email dated Sept. 11, 2009.
"We have great doubts that it is a legitimate project, but because of the players involved are being responsive."
GreenTech, for its part, says Clinton was not involved in the company, except at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2010.
The emails also show more of what has already been reported: that Virginia officials were skeptical of a major prospective funding source for GreenTech, the federal EB-5 visa program, in which foreign investors giving a minimum of $500,000 can obtain a U.S. visa if their investments meet certain job-creation requirements.
GreenTech, originally a Chinese firm, planned to use that program to entice Chinese investments. Virginia Economic Development Partnership officials expressed skepticism, as GreenTech pressed for the creation of a Virginia-based EB-5 visa "regional center" -- a required third-party entity to facilitate job creation and allow the visas to go through.
The story Republicans have told about GreenTech is one of a shady firm established on shaky business footing, poised to exploit a visa program to secure funding that might not grow it into a legitimate enterprise. McAuliffe and GreenTech have posed it as a perfectly normal, ambitious business plan.
The visa program, however, is a federal policy designed to incentivize foreign investment, as laid out online by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services.
At one point, a Virginia Economic Development Partnership (EDP) official wrote that if GreenTech established the visa program in Virginia, it could give a "black eye" to the state.
"If all, or any significant portion, of the investors were to not ultimately receive the visas, that would give the Commonwealth a black eye, in the view of other companies or investors looking for possible business connections with the Commonwealth," the official wrote in an email.
In another email, Liz Povar, the VEDP vice president of business expansion, wrote that, "I maintain serious concerns about the establishment of an EB-5 center in general ... but also still can't get my head around this being anything other than a visa-for-sale scheme with potential national security implications that we have no way to confirm or discount ... I am not willing to stake Virginia's reputation on this at this juncture."
Partnership officials also raised concerns that GreenTech lacked a distribution network and had overestimated revenues.
The investment group "has no demonstrated ability to run an automotive company," VEDP official Mike Lehmkuhler wrote in an October 2009 email.
GreenTech, meanwhile, told ABC News that the economic development group simply wasn't interested in helping a startup.
"If we were where we are now, they would probably welcome us more sincerely," GreenTech CEO Charles Wang told ABC, recounting VEDP's general lack of interest in GreenTech when he met with officials in Richmond. VEDP later apologized to Wang for derogatory comments an employee made about him in emails.
McAuliffe resigned from the board in December. Wang said the company wished him well as he departed to run for governor, and while there don't seem to be any hard feelings with McAuliffe, Wang acknowledged that McAuliffe's campaign has exposed the company to political criticism.
Ultimately, GreenTech went elsewhere, launching operations in Mississippi, where it employs about 100 people. When asked about his decision to open a plant in another state, rather than the one in which he's running, McAuliffe has said that GreenTech approached VEDP and that officials were not interested in bringing the car company to Virginia.
While officials expressed initial interest, and provided GreenTech with a set of possible locations, their conclusion matches McAuliffe's explanation that GreenTech was turned down.
Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who is running against McAuliffe for governor, has used GreenTech to attack his candidacy. Now, America Rising will help Republicans dig through more of McAuliffe's past and promote the most salacious bits of GreenTech's messy history in Virginia.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 18:59:20 PM
(NEW YORK) -- The New York City mayoral race got much more interesting Wednesday with Anthony Weiner’s entry, asking New Yorkers in a video to give him a second chance and saying that he’s “learned some tough lessons.” His wife, Huma Abedin, is standing next to him with her own pitch: “We love this city. And no one would work harder to make it better than Anthony.”
The video makes it clear that the famously press-shy Abedin -- a longtime aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and friend to the Clinton clan -- is on board despite her husband’s fall from grace in 2011 when he resigned from Congress after he was caught tweeting lewd photographs of himself to other women.
But her longtime boss and former President Bill Clinton, who officiated at Weiner and Abedin’s wedding, are staying out of the race. Both of the Clinton camps told Politico that because of connections to many of the candidates, they won’t be endorsing anyone.
“Secretary Clinton knows all of the candidates, she has worked with many of them, and is close with many of them, so won’t be weighing in one way or the other,” Hillary Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said in a statement to Politico. Bill Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna told Politico, “President Clinton has too many friends in this race who have been good to him and his family. He wishes them all well, but won’t be getting involved.”
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is running and was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager for her 2000 Senate campaign, and whether Clinton is eyeing another run for the White House or not, it would make little sense picking a candidate running against Christine Quinn, who could be the first woman and openly gay mayor of New York, or the man vying to be the city’s second black mayor, Bill Thompson.
Evan Stavisky, a Democratic consultant and a partner at the Parkside Group consulting firm, said their presence could continue to hang over the race because of their connections and stature, but will have little effect if they stay on the sidelines.
“Obviously, when you have two political stars as bright as Hillary and Bill Clinton, and when those two stars are married to each other and living and working in the New York City metropolitan area, their stars shine even brighter and their shadows have an even wider impact,” Stavisky said. “However, the candidates running for New York City mayor are all well known and well defined in their own right.”
Stavisky noted that the Clintons have long held ties in New York all the way back to Clinton’s first run for president in 1992, when he won New York City, helping to win the state, aiding him in his Democratic primary fight against Jerry Brown.
“Anyone running for office with ties to the Clinton family will be defined by those relationships, but the reality is many New York Democrats have ties to the Clinton family…. It’s not going to be a determinative factor in the race.”
A former Hillary Clinton aide from her 2008 presidential run agreed, saying, “I don’t think it will play much of a role at all.”
“I don’t think they are incentivized to play a role and instead I think they are inclined to stay away as far as [possible],” the former aide said. When it comes to supporting Weiner, Hillary Clinton is “damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.”
The aide is referring to the fact if Clinton is weighing a 2016 run, she won’t want to align herself with someone as scandal-scarred as Weiner, but by not backing him she “risks upsetting one of her closest and longest-serving confidantes.”
“It’s a sticky situation when you look at Weiner alone,” the former aide said. “The Clintons are as a big of a deal in New York as anywhere else, perhaps a bigger deal, but they haven’t really weighed in to contentious or contested races like these.”
There are some exceptions where Bill Clinton has endorsed in primaries, including campaigning last month for Wendy Gruel in the Los Angeles mayor’s race. Gruel conceded to Eric Garcetti in that race Wednesday.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 16:46:23 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will travel to Oklahoma on Sunday to see firsthand the areas devastated by this week’s deadly tornadoes, the White House announced.
The president will meet with families affected by the devastation and thank first responders during his visit to the Oklahoma City area, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.
Obama has directed his administration to provide all available resources to help in the recovery.
“As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead,” Obama said in a White House statement Tuesday. “Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today, and we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.”
A massive tornado struck the suburban town of Moore on Monday afternoon, devastating schools and homes and killing 24 people.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 15:04:10 PM
(NEW YORK) -- The woman challenging Chris Christie in his gubernatorial re-election bid in New Jersey, Democratic state Sen. Barbara Buono, is out with her first television ad.
The ad begins running this week and is a more than $1 million buy, a Buono campaign aide said.
The ad’s goals are two-fold: hitting her opponent on the state of the economy and introducing herself to voters where she still has low name recognition.
Buono, 59, has had digital ads, including one released this week poking fun at the pronunciation of her last name, but this is the first one New Jersey residents will see in their pricey media markets of New York City and Philadelphia.
“To hear Gov. Christie tell it, everything in New Jersey is going just fine. Well I see another New Jersey with 400,000 unemployed. One of the worst jobless rates in the country. Working and middle class families have seen costs soar, from property taxes to college tuition,” Buono says in the 30 -second ad before introducing her story to New Jersey. “I know that struggle, because I lived it. My dad was an immigrant who worked as a butcher. Working my way through school, I was able to pull myself up. I’m Barbara Buono. As your governor, I’ll fight to give every New Jersey child the same chance I got.”
Despite the financial and polling differences between the two candidates -- Christie, 50, has wide margins in both -- Christie himself put out an attack ad going after Buono last week.
“Meet Barbara Buono. Jon Corzine’s budget chair now running for governor. Buono voted 154 times to raise our taxes,” a narrator says before naming the taxes and pivoting to Christie. “Let’s not turn back the clock. Chris Christie’s record: four balanced budgets, no new taxes for anyone, the best job growth in a decade and the most education funding ever.”
It ends as others have with Christie looking out at the Jersey Shore, a topic that has also come under some scrutiny this week as Democrats have cried foul at separate state tourism ads that feature Christie and his family.
Democrats are calling them publicly funded campaign ads, while Christie supporters point out that they are running outside of New Jersey and the company that made the ads said data research showed Christie would be the most effective messenger.
The ad controversy might be getting some heat from Democrats, but he is still beating Buono by a wide margin in recent polls. A poll out earlier this month from NBC News-Marist has Christie up 34 points over Buono, 62 percent to 28 percent.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 12:49:28 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Lois Lerner, the Internal Revenue Service’s director of the Exempt Organizations who is at the center of the controversy after the agency targeted conservative organizations for gratuitous scrutiny, invoked her fifth amendment right against self incrimination Wednesday at a congressional hearing examining the brooding scandal.
Lerner quietly took her seat at the witness table, standing and raising her right hand as she swore to tell the truth alongside other senior IRS officials testifying at the hearing. When it became her turn to speak, Lerner read a brief statement into the record, declaring her innocence.
“I have not done anything wrong,” she said. “I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
Lerner then said that while she “would very much like to answer the committee's questions” her counsel advised her to assert her constitutional right not to testify or answer questions related to the subject matter of this hearing.
“Because I'm asserting my right not to testify, I know that some people will assume that I've done something wrong. I have not,” she reiterated. “One of the basic functions of the Fifth Amendment is to protect innocent individuals, and that is the protection I'm invoking today.”
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, entered into the record written answers that Lerner provided for the inspector general’s investigation. Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee, said he had not seen the document and asked Lerner to authenticate her answers. The document was passed the Lerner, who put on her glasses to skim through it.
“This appears to be my response,” she said.
“So it's your testimony?” Issa asked. “As far as your recollection, that is your response?”
“That's correct,” Lerner answered.
Republicans on the committee quickly interjected, challenging that Lerner gave up her right to remain silent and should be compelled to answer questions from members.
“She just testified. She just waived her Fifth Amendment right to privilege,” Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., a former federal prosecutor, said. “You don't get to tell your side of the story and then not be subjected to cross-examination. That's not the way it works. She waived her right to Fifth Amendment privilege by issuing and opening statement. She ought to stand here and answer our questions.”
Members of the public watching in the committee room applauded enthusiastically.
Issa continued to quiz Lerner, who then declined to answer any further questions.
“Is it possible that we could narrow the scope of questions and that there are some areas that you would be able to answer any questions on here today?” Issa asked.
“I will not answer any questions or testify today,” she responded.
Issa followed up: “Ms. Lerner, would you be willing to answer questions specifically related to the earlier statements made under oath before this committee?”
“I decline to answer that question for the reasons I've already given,” she deadpanned.
Issa then dismissed Lerner from the hearing, and she quickly left the committee room.
When reporters caught up to Lerner in a back hallway as she made her way to her vehicle, she was guarded by a handful of U.S. Capitol Police officers and her legal team, and she ignored questions from the press about her decision to take the fifth.
The frustration over her silence was shared on both sides of the aisle. During the hearing, Rep. Steven Lynch warned Lerner that her silence could compel Congress to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct an investigation.
“If this committee is prevented, by obstruction or by refusal to answer, the questions that we need to get to the bottom of this, you will leave us no alternative but to ask for the appointment of a special prosecutor or appointment to special counsel to get to the bottom of this,” Lynch, D-Mass., warned. “I hope that's not the approach of the IRS going forward because there will be hell to pay if that's the route that we chose to go down.”
While the IG’s report found that the scandal was not the result of political motivations, Issa, R-Calif., criticized the IRS.
“We knew then that something seemed to be wrong. We knew then that there was smoke. We knew then that, in fact, something just didn't seem to be right,” he said. “Many people believe that the IRS is an independent agency. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 12:00:02 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- After the Senate Judiciary passed the Gang of Eight’s immigration legislation Tuesday night out of the committee, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised to bring the bill before the full Senate in June.
“I will bring this bill, which is a strong, bipartisan bill, to the floor in June, sometimes soon after we've returned from the Memorial Day work period,” Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.
The Gang of Eight’s bill underwent a painstaking 24-day process through the Senate Judiciary Committee during which over 120 amendments were considered. The bill passed out of committee by a 13-5 vote late Tuesday night.
Reid said with the vote the bill has momentum heading into its next hurdle, getting through the full Senate.
“Although neither Republicans nor Democrats will support each and every aspect of this legislation, it's gratifying to see the momentum behind these reforms,” Reid said, “that's how we move legislation forward, for the greater good. Compromise.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 11:10:36 AM
(LOS ANGELES) -- Eric Garcetti has won the bid to become the next mayor of Los Angeles.
The 42-year-old city councilman beat City Controller Wendy Greuel in an election on Tuesday. Results posted on the Los Angeles City Clerk’s website show that Garcetti defeated Greuel 54 percent to 46 percent.
"Thank you Los Angeles -- the hard work begins but I am honored to lead this city for the next four years. Let's make this a great city again," Garcetti tweeted early Wednesday morning.
He will replace Antonio Villaraigosa as mayor when he takes office on July 1. Garcetti will be the city's first Jewish mayor and its youngest one.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 08:07:12 AM
(NEW YORK) -- Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has finally declared himself a candidate for New York City mayor.
In an ad posted on YouTube late Tuesday night, the democrat says, "I'm running for mayor because I've been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it my entire life."
Weiner adds that he hopes he gets a "second chance to work for you," admitting that he's "made some big mistakes" and "let a lot of people down."
"But I've also learned some tough lessons," he says.
Weiner resigned from Congress in 2011 after he revealed that he sent sexually inappropriate texts and photos to women after first denying that he had. His wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to Hillary Clinton, stood by his side.
The couple, who has a 1-year-old son together, are both featured in the new ad, titled "Anthony Weiner for Mayor."
"We love this city and no one will work harder to make it better than Anthony," Abedin says in the video.
Weiner wraps up the ad by saying, "I will fight for you every single day. Thank you for watching."
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/22/2013 04:52:17 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- The bipartisan Senate "Gang of Eight" held together despite an onslaught of amendments and some efforts to kill its comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night passed the bill 13-5, largely intact, to the full Senate for a vote.
It is the first step in a series of hurdles for immigration reform that includes increased border security, a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants and reforms to legal immigration designed to streamline the process.
The committee vote was met with cheers of, "Yes, we can," by those in the room.
It took the 18 senators five days for markups and they considered 300 amendments, with many of those that passed doing so in a bipartisan nature. Overall, 48 Republican amendments passed.
"I don't think there has been a markup on such a complex bill that has been this open," Sen Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said during closing remarks.
The entire mark-up was streamed live via the committee website, with active tweeting by the senators and their staffs upon passage or failure of an amendment.
"I appreciate the work of the Senate Judiciary Committee in taking the bill my colleagues and I introduced in April as a starting point for debate," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the "Gang of Eight." "We have a historic opportunity to end today's de facto amnesty and modernize our immigration system to meet our 21st-century needs. I remain optimistic that the Senate, by improving the bill through an open and deliberative floor debate, will seize this opportunity."
Late in the day, the bill survived perhaps its most serious challenge when the Democratic committee chairman Leahy introduced and then withdrew an amendment that would have granted gay and lesbian couples the same rights as straight married couples to sponsor their foreign-born partners for immigration.
Democrats who supported the notion said they could not vote for the amendment because it would have fractured the fragile, bipartisan coalition that wrote the delicate legislation.
Republicans said they would walk away if the amendment was included, resulting in Leahy vowing to fight the battle another day.
"So, with a heavy heart, and as a result of my conclusion that Republicans will kill this vital legislation if this anti-discrimination amendment is added, I will withhold calling for a vote on it at this time," he said. "But I will continue to fight for equality."
There were few, if any, significant changes made to the original "Gang of Eight" bill.
One major addition was the biometric entry/exit at the 10 U.S. airports with the highest volume of international air travel within two years of the bill's passage.
A deal struck between Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Tuesday could triple the annual number of temporary visas for workers in highly skilled fields like engineering and technology, and was enough for Hatch to give the full bill his support to leave committee.
It will now head to the full Senate for more debate and a vote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated he wouldn't stand in the way of the immigration bill coming to the floor of the Senate after getting out of committee.
"With regard to getting started on the bill, it's my intention, if there is a motion to proceed required, to vote for the motion to proceed so we can get on the bill and see if...we're able to pass a bill that actually moves the ball in the right direction," McConnell said Tuesday at the Ohio Clock stakeout. "I think the 'Gang of Eight' has made a substantial contribution to moving the issue forward. So far, I'm told that the Judiciary Committee has not, in any fundamental way, undone the agreements that were reached by the eight senators. And so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get a bill that we can pass here in the Senate."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tuesday praised Leahy for doing a "masterful" job of moving through the bill.
President Obama also applauded the movement of the bill to the full Senate and said its principles are "largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system."
"None of the committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I, but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line," Obama said in a written statement. "I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements."
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 22:07:20 PM
(OKLAHOMA CITY) -- Republican Rep. Tom Cole, whose district took a direct hit from a powerful tornado on Monday, said the residents of the tornado-ravaged towns in Oklahoma need help, not a political battle over funding in Washington.
“Once a disaster starts, to me that’s the end of a discussion. Now we need to focus on the Americans that are in a difficult spot,” Cole told ABC News in an interview Tuesday. “They don’t need to be watching a big political battle, they need to be sure they’re getting help.”
Cole is one of only two members of Oklahoma’s seven-person congressional delegation who voted in favor of a bill funding disaster aid after Superstorm Sandy, raising questions about whether they would change their stance on emergency funding in light of a tragedy in their own state.
Oklahoma’s Republican Sen. Tom Coburn on Monday reiterated his opposition to funding disaster relief without first identifying corresponding budget cuts, if Congress is forced to allocate additional funds.
Cole said he believes that the $11 billion the Federal Emergency Management Fund has in its disaster relief fund should be enough to cover the rebuilding and relief efforts in Oklahoma. But he added that, like with Sandy, relief should come first.
“You have to remember in Oklahoma, in my district or any place, you’re one tornado away from being Joplin[, Missouri],” Cole said. “I don’t begrudge other people. I know they’re trying to do the right thing.”
But he added that he’s always felt strongly about disaster aid.
“I felt exactly the same way about [Hurricane] Katrina, and we spent as much money on Katrina as we did on Sandy, if not more,” he said.
Cole spoke to ABC News from the ground in Oklahoma, where he said the federal and local response has been “swift and robust.”
“The feds have been terrific. The resources have been there and the response has been excellent,” said Cole, who toured the devastated region along with the other members of the state’s congressional delegation.
Cole’s hometown of Moore, Okla., was nearly destroyed by the mile-wide storm. Cole said he had memories of working as a teenager at one of the local schools that was all but destroyed by the storm.
“Now you can’t think about it without thinking about the horror that happened there,” Cole said. “The school was the safest, calmest building in the immediate area. Everybody made the right choice, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
“There’s not a lot that can stand up to an F4 or an F5 [tornado],” he added.
Cole said that after speaking with President Obama on Monday night he is confident the White House and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives will do what it takes to provide assistance to his constituents.
“A Democratic president and a Republican majority leader…I think they’ll do the right thing and the congressmen will follow their lead,” Cole said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 21:47:29 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill survived perhaps its toughest challenge late in the day, as the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to approve an amendment that would have allowed gays and lesbians to sponsor their partners for immigration in the same way married heterosexual couples would be able to do under the proposed legislation.
The amendment by Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was introduced and then withdrawn after he saw that his amendment could potentially kill the bill.
Republican members of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” that co-wrote the immigration bill said they could not countenance the amendment and would walk away from the entire legislation if passed.
Democrats on the committee voiced support for what they saw as equal protection under the law, but said they would vote against the amendment to save the bipartisan compromise that held the immigration reform bill together.
“The result [if Leahy's amendment passes]: no equality [and] no immigration bill. Everyone loses,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“The security and prosperity of our nation is too vital, too rare to let [the bill] fail now,” Schumer said. ”As much as it pains me, I cannot support this amendment if it will bring down the bill.”
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., added, “It’s wrong. Discrimination is wrong, but I can’t kill this bill.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 20:20:25 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Treasury Secretary Jack Lew called the unfair scrutiny the Internal Revenue Service gave some tea party groups “outrageous methods,” adding that while the “conduct was not politically motivated it was unacceptable and inexcusable.”
“Administering the tax code without any hint of bias is a solemn obligation that must be carried out with the highest of standards,” Lew said in a Senate Banking Committee hearing Tuesday. That was why once he learned of the practice he took steps, including asking for the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, he said.
Miller was subject to a term limit that would have forced him out of the job in three weeks anyway.
Lew said he has directed incoming Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel, who begins Wednesday, to “carry out a thorough review,” including “making sure that those who acted inappropriately are held accountable for their actions,” as well as “examining and correcting any failures in the system that allowed this behavior to happen,” and “taking a forward-looking view in determining whether the IRS has systemic problems that need to be addressed.”
Werfel will report back to him within 30 days so he can report back to the president “to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Lew said.
Throughout the mostly respectful, but at times contentious, questioning, Lew denied over and over again any political motivation for the IRS’ behavior.
Lew also said he had no idea that the IRS was planning on revealing the scandal the way it did: by planting a question at an American Bar Association conference.
He said it was the “discretion of the IRS to decide how to manage the matter” and it is the “guiding principle for the Treasury Department in IRS investigations…to not interfere in any way,” but it’s not a strategy he would have supported.
“I wasn’t asked about this,” Lew told the committee. “I would have advised against doing that, but it was a decision for the IRS to make.”
Lew told the committee that he first became aware of the targeting of tea party groups on March 15, when he first met with Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, who told him there was an audit of 501(c)(4) activity and “there might be troubling findings,” but he said the inspector general “did not describe them in detail.”
“I then did not learn any more about it until it became public,” Lew said, noting that it was Friday, May 10, when he was attending the G-7 meetings in the United Kingdom. He said he was “outraged” when he found out and did not get a copy of the IG report until Tuesday, May 14, the same day it became public.
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., was one of the senators most persistent with Lew, asking him what steps he took after his initial meeting with the inspector general when he first learned of the audit.
“The practice at Treasury, quite appropriately, is when you’re notified of an IG investigation, you allow the IG to do their work,” Lew answered. “You don’t get in the way. You make sure that they have access to whatever they need access to to complete their audit. And that is what Treasury was doing. I don’t think he expected me to take any action at that time, because I was awaiting his report, which I received last Tuesday.”
Shelby noted that before Lew became secretary of the treasury he was President Obama’s chief of staff at the White House, beginning that position in January 2012.
“So when this was going on in Cincinnati, you were the chief of staff at the White House,” Shelby said, which Lew replied was correct.
“And you had no knowledge whatsoever of anything amiss dealing with the IRS approval, disapproval, delay or anything of specific groups?” Shelby asked, referring to Lew’s time at the White House. Lew answered again that he was not made aware of the scrutiny until March 15.
“I know that questions had been raised,” Lew said. “The fact is, this audit was a publicly posted audit in October 2012. So the fact that an audit was going on was a matter of public record. I had no specific knowledge.”
Shelby then asked Lew if he believes, as the IRS has said, that the targeting was done solely by the Cincinnati office or if it is “part of a culture at the Obama White House.”
“I’ve read the IG report quite carefully, and I think it’s very important to note that there’s no suggestion of any political interference with the process of making these determinations,” Lew said. “There is unacceptable behavior that happened at the IRS. That has to stop, and it can’t happen again. But there was no suggestion of any political intervention.”
When Shelby pressed again, Lew repeated his assertion.
“I have seen no suggestion of any political involvement at all,” he said. “What I’ve said and what I believe is that it was unacceptable, and whoever is responsible should be held accountable....What I think is that the Cincinnati office exercised very poor judgment and used criteria that are unacceptable. And we’ve made it clear that the IRS has to be beyond any suspicion of bias.”
Although Lew promised reform, he also stressed that he “will not cross that line into the administration of the tax system, because the cure could be worse than the disease.”
“We need to make sure that there’s no political involvement in the administration of the tax system,” Lew said. “And the management of the IRS is very much the responsibility of the Treasury secretary. The administration of the tax system has to be within the IRS and apart from politics.”
When Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., questioned Lew, he blamed the scandal on the “culture” at the White House, saying “the indignation that you showed on the front end, to a degree, is kind of laughable in that, when you have the president of the United States and the vice president and other leading folks in our administration using the type of language to describe the folks that were targeted — demonizing, villainizing — I think it’s — you would expect that bureaucrats at lower levels are going to act in a way that they acted.”
Lew answered that “the president’s reaction to this was exactly the same as mine. It was outrage” and “he has taken no step ever to condone this kind of behavior.”
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., also took exception with Lew not asking the inspector general for more details and said the “IRS has violated the trust of the American people.”
Heller ended his questioning by calling for a special counsel to investigate the scandal.
Committee chairman Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., began the hearing with an offer of condolences to the people of Oklahoma, which was struck Monday by a horrific tornado, saying his “thoughts and prayers are with the families of Moore, Oklahoma, and our colleague here on the committee, Senator Coburn. It is a difficult time as families mourn the loss of loved ones and begin rebuilding their community.”
Lew also expressed his condolences. as did others including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is originally from the state.
“I will hold them all in my prayers,” Warren said. “It’s a terrible catastrophe there.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 17:32:26 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Lois Lerner, the top IRS official who is at the center of the controversy for the targeting of tea party and other conservative groups, will refuse to answer questions at a congressional hearing Wednesday and invoke her Fifth Amendment rights, ABC News has learned.
She is set to appear before the House Oversight Committee. Congressional aides said Tuesday that they received a notice from Lerner’s lawyers that she would not answer their questions because it is now part of a criminal investigation.
“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation, but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” according to a letter that her lawyer, William Taylor, sent to Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the committee, which was first reported by the Los Angeles Times.
Taylor asked that Lerner be granted a reprieve from appearing before the committee, saying it has “no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.” A congressional aide told ABC News that she is still expected to appear Wednesday.
Lerner is in charge of overseeing requests for tax-exempt status.
Her testimony is key, members of Congress believe, because she found out in June 2011 that terms like “tea party” and “patriots” were being used to flag tax-exempt requests. The practice stopped, according to an inspector general’s investigation, but she did not alert Congress.
A spokesman for the committee said Lerner remains under subpoena to testify.
“The committee has a constitutional obligation to conduct oversight,” spokesman Ali Ahmad said. “Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify tomorrow about her knowledge of outrageous IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 16:59:16 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Douglas Shulman, the former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, said Tuesday he was “dismayed and saddened” that his agency had improperly targeted conservative groups, but declined to offer a direct apology and dismissed suggestions that he misled Congress.
The testimony from Shulman, who was making his first public appearance since the IRS controversy broke into the open two weeks ago, did not satisfy members of the Senate Finance Committee. He faced more than three hours of stern questioning from Democrats and Republicans, but said “I don’t believe I was aware” when asked why he had not informed Congress about potential problems percolating at the IRS office in Cincinnati.
“I agree that this is an issue that when someone spotted it, they should have brought it up the chain and they didn’t,” Shulman said. “Why they didn’t, I don’t know.”
Shulman, who was first appointed by President George W. Bush, acknowledged that the scandal had placed a “blemish” on the IRS. But he said the task facing the IRS was “very, very, very, very difficult,” given the rapid rise of groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Shulman, whose term ended last year, said he was aware back then that the inspector general overseeing the IRS was reviewing reports of conservative groups’ being targeted. But he said he didn’t know the details and only became aware of them recently, six months after leaving his post.
He said he was not directly involved with approving tax-exempt requests by groups. He said he thought it would be “inappropriate to get involved with cases” because he was a political appointee.
Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, chairman of the committee, ordered a second round of questioning after he said the answers had been unsatisfactory.
“The American people have every right to be outraged,” the Democrat said.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, was among the committee members who expressed outrage with Shulman.
“The buck doesn’t stop with you?” asked Cornyn, who repeatedly pressed for an apology.
“I certainly am not personally responsible for creating a list that had inappropriate criteria on it,” Shulman said.
He added, “This happened on my watch. I very much regret that this happened on my watch.”
With a stern tone, Cornyn replied, “I don’t think that qualifies as an apology.”
The senators also repeatedly pressed Steven Miller, the outgoing acting IRS commissioner who was dismissed last week by President Obama, for new details about what officials in Washington were aware of the targeting practices -- and when.
Miller said he assumed responsibility for the unusual nature of how the controversy burst into public view. A question was planted at a May 10 meeting with tax lawyers, a week before the Treasury Department’s inspector general was set to release an investigation accusing the IRS of misconduct in its treatment of tea party and other conservative groups.
“We thought we’d get out an apology,” Miller said. “Obviously, the entire thing was an incredibly bad idea.”
As he did during an appearance before a House committee last week, Miller also apologized “for the mistakes made and the poor service.” He said, “partisanship or the perception of partisanship does not belong in the IRS,” but adding that the decisions were not politically motivated.
“I think foolish mistakes were made by people trying to be more efficient,” Miller continued, “not partisan.”
Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the committee, pressed the two IRS officials on why they have not corrected their previous testimony to Congress when they denied that tea party and other conservative groups were being singled out for exhaustive reviews. He accused Miller of committing a “lie by omission.”
“Why did you mislead me?” Hatch said.
“I did not lie, sir,” Miller replied.
The inspector general overseeing the IRS, J. Russell George, said he had no reason to believe the conservative groups were targeted because of political bias by IRS agents. But he said his office continued to investigate.
“This matter is not over as far as we are concerned,” George said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 15:21:10 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- The first group that claims they were unfairly scrutinized by the Internal Revenue Service filed suit Tuesday against the agency in federal court in Washington, D.C., seeking damages and the granting of their long-delayed tax-exempt status application.
True the Vote, a Houston-based voter watchdog group, filed a complaint asking for their tax-exempt status to be granted as well as seeking damages for what they are calling “unlawful actions by the IRS in the processing of its application for exempt status.” The group was founded in June of 2010 and is affiliated with the King Street Patriots, a Tea Party group started in December of 2009.
The group says they have been waiting three years for their tax exempt status to either be granted or denied, first applying in July of 2010. During that time their president Catherine Engelbrecht told ABC News she has been personally audited and even visited by agents from the Bureau of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
They want the IRS Review Policy declared unconstitutional under the First Amendment and they are asking the court to “permanently enjoin the IRS from further implementing and applying the IRS Review Policy and any other similar policies.” Damages sought include the awarding of $1,000 for “each unauthorized inspection of its return information.”
True the Vote wants “actual damages in excess of $85,000 incurred as a result of the the IRS Review Policy and the IRS Employees’ violations of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights.” They seek the return of their attorney fees, any “other relief as the Court deems just,” amongst other financial and non-financial damages.
In the complaint, True the Vote says because of their “perceived conservative policy positions and affiliation with Tea Party organizations, the IRS and IRS Employees systematically targeted True the Vote’s application for additional review and scrutiny, whereby True the Vote was deliberately subjected to numerous unnecessary and burdensome requests for information about its operations and affiliations.”
“Consequently, True the Vote was forced to furnish to the IRS information and documents wholly unnecessary to the determination of True the Vote’s tax-exempt status, which were repeatedly accessed and inspected by IRS agents. The processing of True the Vote’s application was deliberately delayed and its recognition as a tax-exempt organization has been improperly withheld as a result of Defendants’ actions,” the complaint reads.
“After answering hundreds of questions and producing thousands of documents, we’re done waiting. The IRS does not have the power to pocket veto our application. Federal law empowers groups like True the Vote to force a decision in court -- which is precisely what we aim to do,” Englebrecht said in a statement.
Englebrecht said in her previous interview with ABC News that she was told during the application process by an analyst in Cincinnati: “I’m just following directions and the directions are coming from Washington,” which seems to contradict the IRS’ statements that the unfair scrutiny was solely coming out of the Cincinnati office.
True the Vote says they are “dedicated solely to promoting election integrity in our Republic” and they “do not pick winners and losers,” but they came under scrutiny during the election for its work monitoring polling places, with critics saying it was trying to suppress Democratic and minority voters.
True the Vote is being represented by attorney Cleta Mitchell, who has been closely involved in the case as the scandal unfolded.
“We are not going to allow the IRS to claim, as it has been doing in the past week, that the targeting of conservative groups is over and ‘everything has been fixed.’ It is not yet fixed and this litigation is a vital step both to resolve True the Vote’s status and to learn exactly what happened inside the IRS,” Mitchell said in a statement.
The suit names Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS who was forced to resign in the scandal, along with Douglas Shulman, the former commissioner of the IRS who left in November, but resided over the agency when this extra scrutiny was said to be taking place, and Lois Lerner, the director the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations.
Others named are Susan Maloney, Ronald Bell, Janine L. Estes, and Faye Ng, all IRS Exempt Organizations Specialists True the Vote says dealt with their application. They are also naming “unknown named employees of the Internal Revenue Service” who “developed, implemented, applied, approved or oversaw the unconstitutional IRS identification, review, and processing criteria and policies described herein.”
True the Vote is working with the ActRight Legal Foundation on the suit and the group says this is “just the first of several cases” they plan to file against the IRS. Another group, the American Center for Law and Justice, is planning on bringing a suit against the IRS as well. Theirs will be on behalf of at least 17 tea party groups, but possibly more.
And it’s not just conservatives. The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed their own lawsuit against the IRS Tuesday to try and force the agency to be more clear and issue guidelines on what type of organizations qualify for status as 501(c)(4) groups.
The IRS did not immediately respond to request for comment on the suit.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 14:46:10 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- A group of seven young people shared their personal struggles with the immigration system during a meeting with President Obama and Vice President Biden on Tuesday.
While senators continued to haggle over the details of a bipartisan immigration bill on Capitol Hill, Obama and Biden shied away from policy specifics during a nearly hour-long talk in the Oval Office. Instead, they heard personal appeals for a complete overhaul of the system.
"[We] told just a few of the millions of personal stories that are the real moral, political case for immigration reform," Melissa McGuire-Maniau, an Air Force veteran from Florida who participated in the meeting, told reporters.
Until recently, McGuire-Maniau's husband was undocumented and she said that, despite her military service, she "never really had to face fear until ICE came repeatedly to our home attempting to deport my husband."
He recently became a legal resident of the U.S., according to the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), the organization that helped assemble the meeting.
Participating in the meeting were two recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and five people who have legal status, but have either parents, spouses or siblings who are undocumented. The White House reached out to FIRM last week to put together the meeting, according to organizers.
Obama has received pressure from immigrant-rights groups and Latino organizations over some of the key details of the immigration bill, such as the length of time and eligibility requirements for the pathway to citizenship. Activists have also called on the president to halt deportations for those who are eligible for legalization under the Senate's plan, a plea that Obama has rejected.
But organizers said that none of those potential points of conflict came up during the Tuesday afternoon meeting.
"We didn't have that conversation, we shared stories and we sat on couches," said Kate Kahan, the legislative director for the Center for Community Change, who was present at the meeting. "It was really about exchanging stories, and the president and vice president listening to those stories."
Obama did say that passing the bill through Congress would be a "challenge," according to Kahan, but added that having immigrants speaking out about their personal stories helps.
Two of the immigrants who met with Obama and Biden said both were "visibly moved" by their stories. One of them was Mehdi Mahraoui, 22, a legal permanent resident from New York City.
Mahraoui's parents and oldest sister are currently in deportation proceedings, but another sister is a U.S. citizen.
"I can see in his eyes he felt our pain," Mahraoui told ABC/Univision.
"I am confident the bill is going to be passed because of the simple fact that people like me are at the front line of the debate," he continued. "Instead of looking at looking at the policies and the numbers, they are looking at people's stories and how it's impacting families."
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 14:33:28 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Lawmakers have pledged to send aid to tornado-devastated Oklahoma quickly, but the state's Republican lawmakers -- six of whom voted against disaster aid after Superstorm Sandy -- may be forced to reckon with their past votes against emergency disaster funding.
Oklahoma's two Republican senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, opposed a bill that provided more than $60 billion in emergency aid after Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast. In addition, three members of Oklahoma's House delegation joined with most Republicans in opposing the legislation.
Nearly all of the lawmakers have pledged that whatever assistance Oklahomans need will be provided, but the devil will be in the details.
Coburn, who opposed the Sandy bill because it did not identify spending cuts to offset the cost of the legislation, said in the immediate aftermath of the tornado that he would "absolutely" demand spending cuts in exchange for aid.
A spokesman for Coburn confirmed Tuesday that he would not change his position on demanding spending cuts in order to fund disaster aid.
Other Republicans opposed what they considered to be unrelated spending in the Sandy bill.
"When a disaster occurs in America and emotions are high, everybody all of a sudden wants to pour money on it," Inhofe said on the Senate floor in 2012.
Asked about his past vote against Sandy funding, Inhofe said that funding for tornado relief would be "totally different."
"That was totally different," Inhofe said on MSNBC on Tuesday. "They were getting things -- for instance, that was supposed to be for New Jersey. They had things in the Virgin Islands. They were fixing roads there. They were putting roofs on houses in Washington, D.C."
"Everybody was getting in and exploiting the tragedy that took place. That won't happen in Oklahoma," he added.
But the $60.4 Sandy relief bill, which languished in Congress because of opposition from Republican lawmakers, may be a cautionary tale.
The public fight over funding pitted congressional Republicans against one of their party's rising stars, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and even some members of their own caucus from the Northeast whose states were affected by the massive storm.
In the heated rhetoric over the bill, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said Republicans were betraying New Yorkers and New Jerseyans.
"I'm saying right now ... anyone from New York and New Jersey [who] contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds," King said on Fox News in January. "Because what [they] did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It's an absolute disgrace."
It is perhaps in light of that public intraparty meltdown that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Tuesday would not answer questions about whether Republicans would demand that Oklahoma relief funds also be paid for.
"We'll work with the administration on making sure that they have the resources they need to help the people of Oklahoma," Boehner said repeatedly in answer to questions from reporters.
So far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has about $11 billion in its disaster relief fund and a final tallying of the cost of rebuilding parts of Oklahoma likely won't be finished for weeks.
But already, Republicans are taking some heat.
After Inhofe's comments Tuesday, he has been the subject of a storm of ridicule.
"Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites. Apparently we have deserving and undeserving disasters," wrote Joan Walsh, editor-at-large at Salon.com.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 14:25:41 PM
(WASHINGTON) -- Offering prayers and assurances to the victims of the devastating tornado in Oklahoma, President Obama on Tuesday said he is instructing the federal government to provide the people of Moore with everything they need “right away” as they recover from “one of the most destructive tornadoes in history.”
“As a nation, our full focus right now is on the urgent work of rescue and the hard work of recovery and rebuilding that lies ahead,” Obama said in a White House statement. “Our prayers are with the people of Oklahoma today, and we will back up those prayers with deeds for as long as it takes.”
The president spoke shortly after he was briefed on the federal response in the Oval Office by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate was on his way to Oklahoma.
“The people of Moore should know that their country will remain on the ground, there for them, beside them, as long as it takes, for their home and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, their parents to console, first responders to comfort, and of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention,” Obama said, as he stood alongside Vice President Joe Biden, Napolitano and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino in the State Dining Room.
“There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms and bedrooms and classrooms. And in time, we're going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community,” the president said.
Late last night, Obama signed a “major disaster declaration” for Oklahoma and ordered federal aid to start flowing to the victims. He also spoke by phone in the Oval Office with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to express his concern and offer aid.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 11:04:09 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- A new version of a bill that targets fake war heroes easily passed the House of Representatives late Monday with a 390-3 vote.
The bill, H.R. 258 also known as the Stolen Valor Act of 2013, is the latest attempt by Congress to push through legislation that would punish people who falsely claim to have won military awards, such as the Congressional Medal of Honor, and profit from those lies.
“The awards, and the men and women who have earned them, in some cases posthumously, are worthy of the utmost respect and sanctity,” said Rep. Bill Heck (R-Nev.), who introduced the bill in January. “Benefiting from lying about receiving one of these awards is an affront to all who have worn the uniform and especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”
The original iteration of the bill, the Stolen Valor Act of 2006, had been in effect for six years before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional. At the time, the law was written to say it was a crime simply to lie about military service and awards -- a broad characterization the Supreme Court said violated a person’s First Amendment right to free speech.
A new version of the bill, introduced by Heck in late 2012, narrowed the act to say the liar must be attempting to somehow materially profit from the lies, making the would-be crime more akin to fraud. Heck reintroduced tweaked legislation in January.
It’s companion bill in the Senate, S. 210, was introduced by Sen. Dean Heller (R.-Nev.) in February with 21 bipartisan co-sponsors. That bill has been referred to committee and has not yet seen a vote on the floor.
The new Stolen Valor Act’s sweep through the House comes just a week before the nation’s Memorial Day celebrations, a time when one watchdog said fake military heroes come “out of the woodwork.”
“This is like Christmas for a phony,” former U.S. Navy SEAL Don Shipley told ABC News last Memorial Day.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 10:12:25 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama late Monday declared a state of emergency in Oklahoma after a massive tornado ripped through the city of Moore, leaving at least 24 people dead and more than 100 injured.
In a statement, the White House said the president "ordered Federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area affected by severe storms and tornadoes beginning on May 18, 2013, and continuing."
"The President's action makes federal funding available to affected individuals in the counties of Cleveland, Lincoln, McClain, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie," the statement continued.
Earlier on Monday, Obama spoke with Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to "express his concern for those who have been affected by the severe weather" and make clear that his administration, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, "stands ready to provide all available assistance," according to a readout of the call.
"The President told Governor Fallin that the people of Oklahoma are in his and the First Lady’s thoughts and prayers and, while his team will continue to keep him updated, he urged her to be in touch directly if there were additional resources the Administration could provide," the readout said.
Obama is scheduled to make a statement on the damage at 10 a.m. ET Tuesday.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 05:33:47 AM
(NEW YORK) -- Americans in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll sharply reject the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service, suspect an administration cover-up of the Benghazi incident and express substantial distrust of the federal government more generally.
Yet the national survey also finds no backlash against Barack Obama, at least at this point. His job approval rating is stable, albeit at a tepid 51 percent; he’s aided by accelerating economic optimism as well as by comparison with the much less-popular Republicans in Congress.
Longer-term impacts of contentious current issues remain to be seen, but there’s potential for significant damage to the administration. Americans by a vast 74-20 percent see the IRS’ behavior as inappropriate, with most feeling that way strongly – and 56 percent see it as a deliberate attempt to harass conservative organizations, not a mere administrative error.
The public divides on whether or not the administration is honestly disclosing what it knows about the IRS’ actions; 45 percent suspect a cover-up, 42 percent instead see full transparency. And more than a third overall in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, think these actions not only are inappropriate, but illegal.
Further, on the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last fall, suspicions of a cover-up rise to a majority, 55 percent. And in this case only a third of Americans are persuaded that the Obama administration is disclosing honestly what it knows about what occurred.
Beyond this negative view of the administration’s disclosure on Benghazi, Americans divide evenly on whether Republican criticisms on the issue reflect legitimate concerns or “political posturing.” But Hillary Clinton’s reputation thus far is largely intact: Despite criticisms of her handling of the incident, 62 percent approve of her work as secretary of state overall, down a bit from about six months ago but still a strong rating.
DISTRUST – Another result underscores the level of general distrust of the federal government. Americans by 54-38 percent say they think the government is doing more to threaten the rights of average Americans than to protect those rights. That’s not IRS-specific, however, since it was about as high in a similar Pew Research question in January.
There’s a high level of partisanship in suspicion of the government: Seventy-one percent of Republicans see it more as threatening than as protecting their rights, while just 31 percent of Democrats agree. But the balance is tipped by political independents, among whom a clear majority (61 percent) sees the government more as a threat than a source of protection.
Beyond politics, there’s an apparent economic element to trust in government, suggesting a perceived right to economic opportunity. People who see or expect economic recovery are much more likely than economic pessimists also to think that the government is protecting rather than threatening most people’s rights – regardless of their political or ideological preferences.
Beyond a sense of general distrust, there’s broad public concern about press freedoms, an issue related to federal prosecutors obtaining Associated Press telephone records in an effort to find the source of classified information about terrorism that was leaked to the news agency. Americans by 69-29 percent in this poll say they’re concerned that in trying to protect classified information the federal government will improperly intrude on the freedom of the press.
Specific to the AP issue, however, the public by 52-33 percent says prosecutors were justified in obtaining phone records via a court order, with results, in this case, similar across partisan and ideological lines. That may be because the leak related to terrorism, an issue on which the public tends to side with investigative efforts over privacy rights. Further, it’s not clear if the administration used a court order or instead a grand jury subpoena, which is not technically a court order but has a similar effect. Specifics on this issue, as well as other particulars of the case as they become known, could influence public attitudes.
OBAMA/ECONOMY – None of these issues appears to have impacted views of the president’s job performance; his approval rating, now 51 percent, has been essentially unchanged after slipping in March from a brief post-election foray into the mid-50s. An open question, though, is whether the president may have gained ground had these controversies not arisen.
In any case, strong sentiment about the president now divides evenly, after tilting slightly more negative in March and April. Moreover, the partisan gap in views of his performance, while still vast, is its smallest since December 2011, and Obama has majority approval among men for the first time since December 2010. Both may reflect the effects of an improving economy.
On that score, 56 percent of Americans now say the economy is beginning to recover, up by a dramatic 20 percentage points in the past year and a half, to the most since ABC and the Post first asked the question in late 2009. The change is broadly based, but strongest among financially better-off adults.
Additionally, more than half, 53 percent, now say they’re optimistic about the economy’s prospects in the year ahead, a majority for the first time in four years. (A steadier majority, two-thirds, expresses optimism about their own finances.)
These economic views, as noted, are closely related to political sentiment; Obama’s rating is far higher among those who see economic gains.
None of this means the economy’s in great shakes; Americans divide evenly, 48-48 percent, in approval or disapproval of how Obama’s handled it overall, with more “strongly” negative views than strongly positive ones. But that’s still one of his best scores on the economy since mid-2009. A little more than a year ago, by contrast, more disapproved than approved by a 21-point margin.
THE GOP – Obama also benefits from a comparative advantage vs. the Republicans in Congress. Regardless of his own rating on the economy, he leads the GOP in trust to handle it by 46-37 percent. That’s fluctuated; it’s a bit better for the president now than in March, but down from his wider 18-point advantage on the economy during his post-election bump in December.
Obama has a larger advantage in a more general question: Fifty-one percent of Americans say he is “mainly concentrating on things that are important to you personally.” That’s 8 points more than say the same about the Democrats in Congress – and 18 points more than say so about the Republicans.
Notably, Obama also is well ahead of his predecessor. At about this point in George W. Bush’s second term just 41 percent said he was focused on issues important to them, 10 points weaker than Obama’s score. Similarly, at that point 55 percent said Bush had done more to divide than to unite the country; 45 percent say the same about Obama now, with more undecided.
TEA TIME – In one division of interest, this poll finds a continued roughly even split in views of the Tea Party political movement, with 40 percent of adults saying they support it overall, 43 percent opposed. “Strong” support for the movement, at 10 percent, is numerically its lowest on record, and just about half the level of strong opposition, 22 percent.
Sizable majorities of Tea Party supporters and opponents alike say it was inappropriate for the IRS to single out conservative groups for extra scrutiny on their applications for tax-exempt status. At the same time, Tea Party aficionados are much more apt than its critics to think the IRS’ actions constituted intentional harassment, were illegal and are the subject of an attempted cover-up by the Obama administration.
ONWARD AND (POLITICALLY) DOWNWARD? – This survey, in sum, finds items for individuals across the political spectrum to enjoy, and others for them to worry about. After years in the tank, views on the economy unabashedly are improving, a positive result any way you slice it. That’s helping to support the president’s ratings, as are his comparisons to the long-lagging GOP. But the IRS issue, in particular, looks to pose a real risk to the administration, given the depth and breadth of criticism about it.
Most threatening, perhaps – to both sides of the aisle – is the public’s political mood more broadly. Views of the government as a threat ebb and flow, but are not new; as long ago as 1995, 55 percent in a Los Angeles Times poll said the government’s activities threatened their constitutional rights. But the return to that sentiment is a clear negative.
There are others: Even with improving economic views, 57 percent in this poll say the country continues to head “seriously off on the wrong track.” And while a majority now expresses economic optimism, when Americans are asked the likelihood that Obama and the Republicans will work together in the year ahead, the response is pessimistic by a resounding 2-1 margin.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 05:03:24 AM
(CONCORD, N.H.) -- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul made another stop in an early voting state Monday evening, continuing to feed the speculation that he will possibly run for president in 2016. Just 10 days after stopping in the first caucus state of Iowa, he visited the first primary state of New Hampshire to address a GOP fundraiser and said the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS was “un-American.”
“Any person who would use the power or abuse the power of government to go after their political opponents, I don’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, to take that brute force, that bullying force of government and to use it against your opponents, there is something distinctly and profoundly un-American about that,” Paul said at a fundraiser for the state Republican Party in Concord, N.H.
The Republican senator joked that the trio of scandals hitting the Obama administration -- the IRS’s admitted targeting of tea party groups, increased criticism and outrage at the administration’s response to last year’s attack in Benghazi, Libya, and news of the Department of Justice’s seizure of phone records of the Associated Press, as well as spying on a Fox News reporter as part of a leak investigation -- all reminded him of the children’s song “Old MacDonald.”
“Old MacDonald’s Farm of Scandals: here’s a scandal, there’s a scandal, everywhere a scandal,” Paul said. “So it’s hard to know which scandal we want to talk about, but I think they all sort of stem from one problem and that’s the government has accumulated too much power, the president has accumulated too much power. Not just this president, but maybe the last 10 presidents, because we allowed that power to go from Congress to the presidency. We’ve allowed the presidency to become too strong.”
Paul said the revelations from the IRS scandal will create “such a level of distrust” that there is “going to have to be some kind of independent commission” to investigate.
“I don’t see any way the president can gain back trust, and for goodness sake, somebody’s got to get fired or go to prison,” Paul said to cheers.
He repeated some of the themes from his speech at the Lincoln Day Dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, earlier this month, repeating his criticism of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response to the attack on the consulate in Benghazi in September that killed four Americans, blaming her for not providing adequate security and repeating that if he was president at the time he would have “relieved” Clinton “from office,” adding, “It’s inexcusable.”
“Benghazi should have be treated, and still to this day should be treated, like Baghdad,” Paul said. “It should be under military control, not State Department control.”
Paul continued his call for the GOP to broaden its outreach, saying Mitt Romney is an “upstanding” person, “but as a party we need to grow bigger.”
“If you want to be the party of white people, we’re winning all the white vote,” Paul said. “But we are a diverse nation. We are going to win when we look like America, we need to be white, we need to be brown, we need to be black, we need to be with tattoos, without tattoos, with ponytails, without ponytails, with beards, without beards. We need to look like the rest of America.”
Paul didn’t hide his libertarian streak when talking about the prosecution of the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. Although other Republicans have said Dzhokar Tsarnaev should have been held longer without being read his Miranda Rights in order to get more information for the investigation, Paul recounted a conversation with a first responder in Boston in order to prove his point.
“He said, ‘What separates us from them is that when we did finally capture him...we sent the suspect to a hospital, he’s going to be tried in a court of law, he’s going to have an attorney,’” Paul said. “If this had been their country, he would have been dragged through the streets if he were an American...and beaten to death with a tire iron. We are different than they are.”
The speech wasn’t all serious, though. He earned some laughs at the beginning when he seemed to be talking about “border control.” He was, but not the border the crowd may have been thinking of.
“We’ve got to keep those people in Massachusetts out of New Hampshire,” Paul said to cheers.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus spoke before Paul, calling him a “great leader.”
Priebus also had some tough words for the recent scandals embroiling the Obama administration.
“It’s the IRS that is going to enforce Obamacare, the same people that targeted conservative groups and it wasn’t just conservative groups it was any person or any group that had something critical to say of the current administration,” Priebus said. “A president that touts ego, power, and a hatred for dissent above everything else, that’s Barack Obama, that’s the leader of this country. I don’t think this administration realizes that the First Amendment wasn’t a suggestion. The Bill of Rights is not a wish list, it’s a set of non-negotiable limits on the federal government.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 05:03:13 AM
(WASHINGTON) -- The "Fast and Furious" gun-walking controversy is back in the headlines.
This time, a Justice Department Inspector General's report says that a former top federal prosecutor decided to get back at whistleblower John Dodson by leaking a story that Dodson also supported allowing guns to get into the hands of U.S. criminals and Mexican drug cartels.
Former Arizona prosecutor Dennis K. Burke told the Justice Department that he gave Fox News an internal memo, stating that Dodson, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) Special Agent, supported walking guns along the Southwest border.
In actuality, Dodson proposed going undercover in 2010 as a straw purchaser and delivering firearms to suspected traffickers. He later criticized the operation to Congress.
Burke said that he didn't think he did anything illegal by leaking the document implicating Dodson. Meanwhile, he also turned over documents to The New York Times that one of the guns used in the "Fast and Furious" operation was at the scene where a U.S. Border Patrol agent had been murdered.
The prosecutor and several other officials resigned as a result of the botched operation in which law enforcement officials lost track of hundreds of firearms.
Meanwhile, Burke has since joined a global security firm.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 04:42:15 AM
(NEW YORK) -- Americans say that President Obama really has his work cut out for him during his second-term, largely because of scandals involving the Internal Revenue Service, the Justice Department subpoena of Associated Press phone records and last year’s deadly attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
A new USA Today poll released Monday finds that 31 percent of respondents believe the controversies will make it much harder for the president to accomplish his agenda while 42 percent say they’ll at least make things a little harder for Obama.
Only 21 percent believe the scandals will have no effect on the president’s performance while 6 percent expressed no opinion.
In other findings, 53 percent think that politics was behind the IRS decision to scrutinize Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations despite White House denials. In addition, 50 percent contend that the president should shoulder at least a little or a lot of the blame while 44 percent say he had nothing to do with it.
As for the Sept. 11, 2012 siege in Libya that left four Americans dead, 40 percent claim the administration is covering up the facts about the attack and its aftermath but 45 percent assert there was no cover-up.
Meanwhile, the public seems overwhelmingly in the media’s corner when it comes to the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records after the AP published a story regarding the CIA foiling an al Qaeda bomb plot one year ago.
Sixty-two percent say the media should report stories that are in the national interest without government interference while 23 percent claim the government should censor news stories that potentially threaten national security.
Interestingly, there could be a partisan element involved in the response to that question. In 2006, when there was a Republican administration, 53 percent identifying themselves with the GOP said the government should be able to censor stories. Now, 53 percent believe the media should be able to report news as it sees fit.
Copyright 2013 ABC News RadioPublished: 5/21/2013 04:38:02 AM