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Saturday, January 23, 2016

The IRS Is An Out Of Control Agency

IRS Once Again Called Out for Erasing Hard Drives in Violation of a Court Order

A federal judge had ruled that the IRS was required to preserve a hard drive that was involved in a lawsuit, but the agency destroyed it anyway. Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and committee member Jim Jordan (R-OH) Chairman wrote a scathing letter to the agency’s head in response.
The details of the case, unrelated to the years-long scandal involving former IRS staffer Lois Lerner and the government’s treatment of the non-profit status of tea party groups, have to do with a lawsuit brought against the government by Microsoft.
The software giant asserted that the tax agency acted improperly and sued in response. They then requested documents, as part of a Freedom of Information Act request, and the judge involved required the IRS to preserve the hard drive on which they were stored.
They didn’t.
Chaffetz and Jordan wrote the letter to John Koskinen, the IRS Commissioner, to require documentation of current processes to preserve documents and anything related to the hard drive in question for the case.
They also said this:
“The destruction of evidence subject to preservation orders and subpoenas has been an ongoing problem under your leadership at the IRS. It is stunning to see that the IRS does not take reasonable care to preserve documents that it is legally required to protect.”
Chaffetz had called for Koskinen’s impeachment last fall for destroying information and giving false testimony during the tea party scandal. Ultimately, the Justice Department declined to bring charges against Lerner or anyone else involved.

Trump Knows How to Get Press! Voices Strong Second Amendment Support

Donald Trump Just Became the Only Candidate to Appear at the World’s Largest Gun Show

LAS VEGAS — Not since Mitt Romney’s 2007 appearance has a more high-profile presidential candidate visited the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s annual Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor, and Trade show, otherwise known as “SHOT Show.”
But on Thursday, real estate mogul Donald J. Trump shocked attendees with an appearance on stage at the Outdoor and Sportsman Channels’ 16th annual “Outdoor Sportsman” awards.
During his appearance on stage, Trump racked up an endorsement from Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson and told the battery of gun owners and manufacturers about his commitment to preserving the right to own firearms, saying:
“My two sons, for many many years, they’ve loved hunting. They’ve loved the outdoors. I do also but I’ve been working so hard I don’t get to go out anymore.”
Of his headline-making endorsement from the Duck Dynasty star, Trump added:
“And I have to tell you, I wanna thank Willie. Willie is an amazing guy. He’s a friend of ours and just incredible.”
Prior to the appearance, Donald Trump Jr. made his father’s case at the awards show. Telling the crowd that he and Eric would hold a significant amount of influence, Donald Jr. advocated for the federal government’s retainment of large swaths of lands:
“We’re going to keep public lands public, keep them open. We’re not going to sell them to the states so they can be privatized.”
And Trump’s waltz on stage in the Venetian theater, coinciding with SHOT show, was the only one made by a presidential candidate this election cycle.
A source close to the NSSF told Independent Journal Review that all of the GOP candidates were invited to attend the weeklong trade show, except for New Jersey governor Chris Christie. “Because of his record,” the source said.
Christie spokesperson Samantha Smith later confirmed the campaign did not receive an invite.
Separate from the awards ceremony, the SHOT show annually draws thousands of attendees ranging from typical gun owners looking to see the latest firearms to hit the market, to manufacturers attempting to stand out among the competition.
Among the attendees were Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, who mingled with the crowd at the Sig Sauer exhibit Thursday morning.
While Trump’s appearance at SHOT is unique, taking strong positions on the 2nd Amendment is everything but in the 2016 election cycle.
Gun policy and gun violence have flung back into the national conversation, more so than past presidential races. Democrats are avidly debating ways to curb firearm ownership as a means of stemming the tide of gun violence, while Republicans are unveiling full-fledged position papers on how they intend to preserve gun rights.
Trump’s 2nd Amendment position paper takes some of the boldest reforms to strengthen gun rights across the United States.
His plan embraces ideas for which gun rights advocates have a tremendous affinity, such as instituting a nationwide right to carry, which would treat concealed weapons permits in the same way driver’s licenses operate by allowing the user to travel from state to state with impunity.
Another element of Trump’s gun plan includes an implementation of a program similar to Virginia’s “Project Exile,” which prevents individuals who have committed gun-related crimes from receiving parole or early release, in addition to minimum prison sentences of five years.
All of these proposals experienced some praise from attendees, despite Trump’s past support of the “assault weapons” ban.
But on stage in Las Vegas and in the midst of final stretch toward the Iowa caucuses, Trump took a simpler tone in his commitment to gun rights. “So I just wanna say the 2nd Amendment is one-hundred percent protected. One-hundred percent,” he said.

Congress Lets Children Sled On Capital Hill!!

Last Year Police Tried to Stop Children 

From Sledding on Capitol Hill — This Year 

Had Quite a Twist

Last year in the nation’s capital, Americans stood against the Capitol Hill police officers enforcing the law that made it illegal to sled on the snow-covered hill outside the United States Capitol building.
But on Saturday, the sledders returned only to find that it is now legal to slide down the southwest lawn of where Congress does their business.
Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
The reason that sledding on Capitol Hill became legal this year was the result of a small provision House appropriators tacked on to the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package.
And due to its legalization, the sledders came out in full force to enjoy the first major snowfall courtesy of winter storm Jonas.

One man brought a football to play with while he sledded.

Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal

Some sledders emphasized speed.

Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal

Others took it slow.

Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal

Some sledders literally could not control themselves.

Hiking back up is the hard part.

Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal

This dog stayed put at the bottom of the hill.

Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
Image Credit: Joe Perticone for Independent Journal
The omnibus spending package, while heavily-criticized by the conservative wing of congressional Republicans for its other content, at least made a bunch of children and adults in Washington very happy.
Editor’s note: This piece was updated after publication.

Trump And Hillary Bringing On New Competition. Will He Run Or Is This All Publicity For Him


Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, was honored at a charity event at Carnegie Hall in December. CreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

Michael R. Bloomberg has instructed advisers to draw up plans for a potential independent campaign in this year’s presidential race. His advisers and associates said he was galled by Donald J. Trump’s dominance of the Republican field, and troubled by Hillary Clinton’s stumbles and the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the Democratic side.
Mr. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City, has in the past contemplated running for the White House on a third-party ticket, but always concluded he could not win. A confluence of unlikely events in the 2016 election, however, has given new impetus to his presidential aspirations.

Mr. Bloomberg, 73, has already taken concrete steps toward a possible campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it, according to people briefed on his deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his plans. He has set a deadline for making a final decision in early March, the latest point at which advisers believe Mr. Bloomberg could enter the race and still qualify to appear as an independent candidate on the ballot in all 50 states.

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Graphic: 2016 Primary Calendar and Results

He has retained a consultant to help him explore getting his name on those ballots, and his aides have done a detailed study of past third-party bids. Mr. Bloomberg commissioned a poll in December to see how he might fare against Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton, and he intends to conduct another round of polling after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 to gauge whether there is indeed an opening for him, according to two people familiar with his intentions.
His aides have sketched out a version of a campaign plan that would have the former mayor, a low-key and cerebral personality, give a series of detailed policy speeches backed by an intense television advertising campaign. The ads would introduce him to voters around the country as a technocratic problem-solver and self-made businessman who understands the economy and who built a bipartisan administration in New York.
Mr. Bloomberg would face daunting and perhaps insurmountable obstacles in a presidential campaign: No independent candidate has ever been elected to the White House, and Mr. Bloomberg’s close Wall Street ties and liberal social views, including his strong support for abortion rights and gun control, could repel voters on the left and right.
But his possible candidacy also underscores the volatility of a presidential race that could be thrown into further turmoil by a wild-card candidate like Mr. Bloomberg.
If Republicans were to nominate Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a hard-line conservative, and Democrats chose Mr. Sanders, Mr. Bloomberg — whochanged his party affiliation to independent in 2007 — has told allies he would be likely to run.
Edward G. Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and a past Democratic National Committee chairman, said he believed Mr. Bloomberg could compete in the race if activist candidates on the left and right prevailed in the party primaries.
“Mike Bloomberg for president rests on the not-impossible but somewhat unlikely circumstance of either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz versus Bernie Sanders,” said Mr. Rendell, a close ally of Mrs. Clinton’s who is also a friend of Mr. Bloomberg’s. “If Hillary wins the nomination, Hillary is mainstream enough that Mike would have no chance, and Mike’s not going to go on a suicide mission.”

In a three-way race featuring Mr. Sanders and Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Rendell said he might back the former New York mayor.
“As a lifelong Democrat, as a former party chairman, it would be very hard for me to do that,” he said. “But I would certainly take a look at it — absolutely.”
Mr. Bloomberg declined to comment on his interest in the 2016 race, and most of his associates would speak only on the condition that they not be named. Mr. Bloomberg is irked by the perception that he has toyed too often with running for national office, according to several associates, and is said to be wary of another public flirtation.
At the same time, these associates said, he has grown more frustrated with what he sees a race gone haywire. A longtime critic of partisan primary elections, Mr. Bloomberg has lamented what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s lurch to the left in her contest against Mr. Sanders, especially her criticism of charter schools and other education reforms that he pushed as mayor and has continued to support since leaving office.

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At a dinner party late last fall at the home of Roger C. Altman, an investment banker and former deputy Treasury secretary, Mr. Bloomberg delivered a piquant assessment of Mrs. Clinton as a presidential candidate.
In the presence of Mr. Altman, a longtime supporter of Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Mr. Bloomberg described her as a flawed politician, shadowed by questions about her honesty and the continuing investigation into her email practices as secretary of state, according to two people in attendance.
The outcome of that investigation, Mr. Bloomberg said, was anyone’s guess.
Setting a March deadline for making a decision allows Mr. Bloomberg to see how Mrs. Clinton and the more mainstream Republican candidates fare in the early primaries. And because of his vast wealth, there is no downside in laying the groundwork for a possible campaign, even if he ultimately decides against it.
Even a victory by Mrs. Clinton in the Democratic primaries might not preclude a bid by Mr. Bloomberg, his associates said, if he believed she had been gravely weakened by the contest.
Mr. Bloomberg has maintained a constructive relationship with the Clintons over the years, working closely with Mrs. Clinton during her tenure in the Senate and at one point even suggesting that she run to succeed him as mayor.
One adviser said that Mr. Bloomberg’s preparations reflected the unsettled state of the race, and the perception that Mrs. Clinton was flagging against Mr. Sanders.
Mr. Bloomberg, this adviser said, believes voters want “a nonideological, bipartisan, results-oriented vision” that the early primary favorites have not presented.
“This isn’t about Hillary Clinton,” the adviser said in an email. “The fact is Hillary Clinton is behind in Iowa and New Hampshire. That should scare a lot of people — and it does.” (Public polls have shown Mr. Sanders leading in New Hampshire, a close race in Iowa and Mrs. Clinton with a solid lead nationally.)
Since the 2012 election, Mr. Bloomberg has repeatedly mused at private events about Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign as a cautionary tale for candidates from the business world. Mr. Romney assembled an impressive record as a private equity investor before serving as governor of Massachusetts; the Obama campaign branded him as a heartless corporate raider.
Social acquaintances and political and business leaders said they had been surprised to find their encouraging remarks about a possible 2016 campaign answered with intense seriousness by Mr. Bloomberg, who has stressed that he would run if he saw a path to victory.

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Mr. Bloomberg’s brain trust has examined previous third-party efforts dating to Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, giving closest attention to the campaigns of John Anderson in 1980 and H. Ross Perot in 1992.
It is unclear whether Mr. Bloomberg would be more likely to draw support from a Democrat, like Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton, or a conservative Republican.
While Mr. Bloomberg supports many of the Democratic Party’s social policies, he has been a fierce defender of the financial services industry, which is unpopular with many liberals, and enacted aggressive policing policies in New York City that are anathema to left-leaning voters.
And when he first ran for mayor in 2001, he did so as a Republican. But he has also poured energy and money into advocating policies that conservative Republicans detest, most notably gun control and immigration reform.
Mr. Bloomberg has seen the Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric on immigration as especially distasteful. But in an interview with ABC News that aired last weekend, Mr. Trump said he would welcome a presidential campaign by Mr. Bloomberg, whom he called “a friend” and “a great guy.”
Mr. Bloomberg, he predicted, would “take a lot of votes away from Hillary.”
Alan Patricof, a financier and longtime donor to the Clintons who is also friendly with Mr. Bloomberg, said it would be “a terrible thing” for the Democratic Party’s prospects of winning the White House if the former mayor ran as an independent.
“If it was President Trump or President Bloomberg, I’d certainly rather have President Bloomberg,” Mr. Patricof said. “But it certainly can’t help the Democrats.”
Some Republicans are less certain of the effect Mr. Bloomberg would have on the race. In swing states like Ohio and Virginia, suburban moderates who recoil from certain liberal policies might be more likely to support Mr. Bloomberg than a candidate like Mr. Trump or Mr. Cruz.
Representative Daniel M. Donovan Jr., a New York Republican who is a friend and golfing partner of Mr. Bloomberg’s, said that many voters “who aren’t totally satisfied with any of the people who are running right now, would welcome a Mike Bloomberg candidacy.”
Mr. Donovan said he could consider supporting Mr. Bloomberg, depending on how the rest of the race develops.
“He governed more in pragmatic ways than in ideals,” Mr. Donovan said, adding, “That may be different from some of the folks, like Senator Cruz, who are apparently doing well among primary voters.”