Archive for the ‘U.S. Senate’ Category

Harkin: Report Reveals Troubling Realities of For-Profit Schools

July 31, 2012 Comments off

Harkin: Report Reveals Troubling Realities of For-Profit Schools

Source: Senator Tom Harkin

Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, unveiled a report on the findings of the Committee’s two-year investigation of the for-profit higher education industry. The report outlines widespread problems throughout the sector, as evidenced by the thousands of pages of never-before-released internal documents that education companies submitted to the Committee at Harkin’s request.

“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of overpriced tuition, predatory recruiting practices, sky-high dropout rates, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on aggressive marketing and advertising, and companies gaming regulations to maximize profits. These practices are not the exception — they are the norm; they are systemic throughout the industry, with very few exceptions,” Harkin said.

“Justice Louis Brandeis famously said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. As a result of this investigation, a wide range of Americans – including taxpayers, prospective students and their families – are waking up to the troubling realities of this industry. I hope that for-profit colleges will be moved by this final report to reform and focus on students’ success instead of just their financial aid dollars. But that will not be enough — real, bold legislative reforms are critical. We need to know how every student is faring. We need to ensure that resources intended for education are spent productively. We need colleges to provide the services that students need to succeed. And for companies so reliant on taxpayer revenues, we need to start requiring they demonstrate results for students, not just shareholders.”

Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism

February 28, 2012 Comments off

Zachary Chesser: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism (PDF)
Source: Majority and Minority Staff, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
From press release:

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued a staff report Monday detailing the internet radicalization of a homegrown terrorist to violent Islamist extremism and the inadequacy of U.S. policy to counter online radicalization.

The report presents a classic case study of how quickly online radicalization can occur compared to the traditional process of face to face contact between an aspirant and an established terrorist group.

In the case of Zachary Chesser, a young Virginia man now serving 25 years on terrorism related charges, the trajectory from high school graduate to incarcerated felon occurred in just two years.

“Chesser represents a growing breed of young Americans who have such comfort and facility with social media that they can self radicalize to violent Islamist extremism in an accelerated time period, compared to more traditional routes to radicalization,” the report said.

Chesser’s “prolific online writings and written correspondence with Committee staff provide a window into his thinking, and in turn, may shed light on the thinking of other like-minded individuals who may follow in his destructive path of radicalization toward violent Islamist extremism.”

Committee staff corresponded with Chesser over a three-month period from August through October 2011 and included four of those hand-written letters in the report.

U.S. Senate — Staff Report on Unauthorized Charges on Telephone Bills

July 14, 2011 Comments off

Staff Report on Unauthorized Charges on Telephone Bills
Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation
From press release:

Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV today revealed the findings of a yearlong Committee staff investigation into a nationwide epidemic involving mystery fees being placed on consumers’ landline telephone bills without their knowledge or consent.

The investigation shows that this practice could be costing Americans $2 billion a year, that the nation’s largest telephone companies are profiting from it, and that third-party landline telephone billing has largely failed as a legitimate method of payment.

“This report is a stark picture of a billing system that is hurting consumers and making profits for phone companies,” Chairman Rockefeller said. “Despite industry promises to end this fraudulent practice years ago, hundreds of third-party billing companies have continued to place unauthorized mystery charges on consumers’ phone bills for services they do not want or use. In exchange, they reap tens of millions of dollars a year in profit. This fraud against millions of American consumers, businesses and even government agencies is utterly reprehensible. It’s time for us to take a new look at this problem and find a way to solve it once and for all.”

Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico

June 17, 2011 Comments off

Halting U.S. Firearms Trafficking to Mexico (PDF)
Source: U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control

“Military-style weapons are arming Mexico’s brutal drug trafficking organizations at an alarming rate. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has consistently found that the overwhelming majority of firearms recovered at crime scenes and traced by Mexican officials originate in the United States.

These guns have contributed to Mexico’s dangerous levels of violence. Since the start of the administration of President Felipe Calderon in December 2006, according to Mexican government estimates, 34,612 people have died in organized crime-related killings in Mexico. The killings reached their highest level in 2010, increasing by almost 60 percent to 15,273 deaths from 9,616 the previous year.

As the U.S. partners with Mexico to combat drug-related violence, we must enhance our efforts to curb firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico. This report provides background information on firearms trafficking and makes recommendations to Congress and the Obama Administration on key next steps.”

The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope

June 14, 2011 Comments off

The National Science Foundation: Under the Microscope (PDF)
Source: U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK)

The good news for taxpayers is there is no question NSF has contributed significantly to scientific discovery.

The bad news is a significant percentage of your money is going to what most Americans will consider fraud, waste and abuse, and there are many areas where NSF could contribute far more with better management and smarter targeting of resources.

This report identifies over $3 billion in mismanagement at NSF. This includes tens of millions of dollars spent on questionable studies, excessive amounts of expired funds that have not been returned to the Treasury, inadequate contracting practices that unnecessarily increase costs, and a lack of metrics to demonstrate results. Additionally, a significant portion of the agency’s budget is spent on efforts duplicating missions performed by other government agencies and a number of NSF officials and grantees have been caught engaging in inappropriate behaviors, but face little or no consequences.

Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan

June 11, 2011 Comments off

Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan (PDF)
Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

This report takes a close look at how the United States is spending civilian aid dollars in Afghanistan to make sure we are pursuing the most effective strategy in support of our national security objectives. We spend more on aid to Afghanistan than any other country and the environment in which the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operate is difficult and dangerous. With the upcoming transition to an Afghan security lead in 2014 and the increased responsibilities our civilians will absorb from the military, we have a critical planning window right now to make any necessary changes to support a successful transition.

This report is meant to continue a close working relationship be- tween the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Obama ad- ministration on ensuring that our assistance programs in the re- gion meet their objectives. Given this committee’s jurisdiction to conduct oversight of the State Department and USAID and the lev- els of funding in Afghanistan, I asked the committee’s majority staff to conduct a thorough review of U.S. civilian assistance. This report is the product of two years of staff research and travel. It is intended to provide constructive and timely guidance for administration officials at every level who are working to guarantee that our taxpayer-financed aid to Afghanistan is spent in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

Understanding the Economy: State-by-State Snapshots — May 2011 (based on April 2011 Data)

May 30, 2011 Comments off

Understanding the Economy: State-by-State Snapshots — May 2011 (based on April 2011 Data)
Source: Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress

The U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee released the fourth installment of its “Understanding the Economy: State-by-State Snapshots” 2011 series,  which provides easy access to the major economic indicators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the areas of jobs, unemployment, personal earnings and housing (click to read the Executive Summary).

Key economic statistics for each state include:

•    Jobs created or lost since the start of the recession;
•    Jobs saved or created by the Recovery Act;
•    Unemployment rates;
•    Per capita earnings; and,
•    The condition of the housing sector.

Background And Selected Issues Related To The U.S. International Tax System And Systems That Exempt Foreign Business Income

May 26, 2011 Comments off

Background And Selected Issues Related To The U.S. International Tax System And Systems That Exempt Foreign Business Income (PDF)
Source: Joint Committee on Taxation, United States Congress

The House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a public hearing for May 24, 2011 on the rules in certain foreign jurisdictions for taxing foreign income. This document, prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, describes the U.S. international tax rules applicable to foreign income of resident taxpayers, provides a general overview of a territorial system of taxation, including a brief discussion of basic design considerations, and summarizes the rules of nine selected countries for the taxation of foreign income.

End Tax Breaks For Big Oil: Reduce the Federal Deficit Without Increasing Prices At The Pump

May 23, 2011 Comments off

End Tax Breaks For Big Oil: Reduce the Federal Deficit Without Increasing Prices At The Pump</strong> (PDF)
Source: Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress

Congress is currently searching for efficient ways of reducing the deficit. Democratic members of the 112th Congress, along with the Obama administration as evidenced in the fiscal year 2012 budget, propose repealing certain tax benefits for the major integrated oil companies. Eliminating these tax preferences, which subsidize fossil fuel production, will both reduce the federal deficit and expedite the transition to a cleaner‐energy economy.

Critics of repealing these subsidies argue that the targeted tax breaks spur production and lower energy prices. In reality, most of the so‐called incentives have no impact on near‐term production decisions, and thus repealing them would have no effect on consumer energy prices in the immediate future. Even in the longer term, the current proposed changes to these tax provisions would have little impact on global production and a negligible effect on consumer energy prices. More importantly, these subsidies failed to prevent spikes in the price of gasoline, such as the spike that occurred in 2007‐08. At the same time, these tax breaks may have discouraged investment in other industries, including alternative energy sources or energy efficiency, by distorting the effective tax rate on investments in oil and natural gas.

The proposed changes targeted to the major integrated oil and natural gas companies include: (1) eliminating the ability to claim the domestic manufacturing deduction (Section 199) against income derived from the production of oil and gas; (2) repealing expensing of intangible drilling costs; (3) repealing expensing of costs of tertiary injectants used as part of a tertiary recovery method; and (4) modifying the foreign tax credit rules for dual‐capacity earners.5 The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates that making these four changes would reduce the deficit by $1.2 billion in FY 2012 and $21 billion by FY 2021.

A description of these proposed changes follows, along with a discussion of the short‐ and long‐ run impacts on oil production, crude oil prices and consumer energy prices.

JEC State-by-State Analysis Shows Republican Budget Doubles Out-of-Pocket Costs for Older Americans

May 23, 2011 Comments off

JEC State-by-State Analysis Shows Republican Budget Doubles Out-of-Pocket Costs for Older Americans
Source: Joint Economic Committee, U.S. Congress

A new state-by-state analysis by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) finds that in each state in the country, out-of-pocket health care costs will more than double for residents turning 65 in 2022 under the Republican budget plan passed by House Republicans in April.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that a typical 65-year-old Medicare beneficiary in 2022 would see their out-of-pocket health care costs increase from $6,154 to $12,513 under the Republican budget. Using that data along with cost-sharing data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the JEC has estimated out-of-pocket costs on a state-by-state basis. While the increase varies by state, residents in all states will see their out-of-pocket expenses more than double when they turn 65 in 2022. Residents in Florida face the largest increase –$7,383.

The report also shows that current Medicare beneficiaries will be harmed by the GOP budget, immediately losing preventive services such as mammograms and facing higher prescription drug costs.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Overview Of Selected Tax Provisions Relating To The Financing Of Infrastructure

May 23, 2011 Comments off

Overview Of Selected Tax Provisions Relating To The Financing Of Infrastructure (PDF)
Source: Joint Committee on Taxation, United States Congress

The Senate Committee on Finance has announced a public hearing to examine public financing of infrastructure. This document, prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, provides a description of present-law provisions relating to certain infrastructure trust funds and their dedicated taxes, an overview of public-private partnerships and related tax considerations, and a description of tax-exempt financing that is available for certain transportation infrastructure. The document also briefly describes the now-expired Build America Bonds program, and proposals for a national infrastructure bank.

Special Counsel’s Report of the Preliminary Inquiry concerning Senator John E. Ensign

May 23, 2011 Comments off

Special Counsel’s Report of the Preliminary Inquiry concerning Senator John E. Ensign (PDF)
Source: U.S. Senate Ethics Committee

The United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics ( SSCE or Committee ), assisted by Special Counsel, conducted a Preliminary Inquiry into certain conduct of Senator John E. Ensign. The scope of the Preliminary Inquiry included an examination into allegations that Senator Ensign violated Senate rules and federal law, including provisions of the criminal code, and/or engaged in conduct that reflecting discredit upon the United States Senate regarding the termination of Doug Hampton’s Senate employment, Mr. Hampton s post-employment contacts with the Senate, and payments made to the Hamptons, and any other matters as the Committee may direct.

On April 21, 2011, as the Preliminary Inquiry neared its conclusion, Senator Ensign announced he would resign as the 24th Senator from the State of Nevada. Senator Ensign s resignation was effective May 3, 2011, the day before his sworn deposition was scheduled to begin. Although Senator Ensign’s resignation divests the Committee of jurisdiction to impose discipline on him as of its effective date, Special Counsel, as required by the governing Resolution and Rules of the Senate, tenders this Report to the Committee for its consideration in the exercise of its continuing authority, obligations, and discretion under the Resolution and Rules.

Based on the record in this matter, the Special Counsel respectfully submits that there is substantial credible evidence that provides substantial cause to conclude that Senator Ensign violated Senate Rules and federal civil and criminal laws, and engaged in improper conduct reflecting upon the Senate, thus betraying the public trust and bringing discredit to the Senate. The following summarizes the Special Counsel’s findings…

Fraud and Abuse of Global Fund Investments at Risk without Greater Transparency

May 23, 2011 Comments off

Fraud and Abuse of Global Fund Investments at Risk without Greater Transparency (PDF)
Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs (GOP)

DEAR COLLEAGUES: Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States is providing both bilat- eral and multilateral assistance to disadvantaged populations to prevent and treat people with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. As of December 2010, U.S. investment in these programs totaled more than $32 billion. The U.S. provides its multilateral assistance through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an independent entity which receives contributions from both countries and private organizations and provides medication and health services through nearly 600 grants in more than 140 countries. Although the Global Fund has demonstrated significant accomplish- ments and successes in saving lives through its antiretroviral drug programs and its prevention work, it has recently come under fire for mismanagement of grants in several countries. Following the release of several critical reports, some donors to the Fund have suspended their contributions until all mismanagement practices and abuses of funds can be rectified.

Many of the new Members of the Senate who have no direct experience with PEPFAR and the Global Fund have asked Com- mittee staff for a brief primer on these programs in anticipation of having to make funding decisions relative to the these global initiatives. I requested Senior Professional Staff Members Shellie Bressler and Lori Rowley to produce this primer. Their report examines the history and operation of PEPFAR and the Global Fund, the problems and initial improvements made to it, and the most recent challenges it faces. It also provides a series of recommenda- tions for implementation by both the U.S. Government and the Global Fund for strengthening existing systems for the distribution of supplies, medication and services in order to prevent further mismanagement and to ensure that the maximum number of peo- ple may benefit from the health prevention and treatment efforts of the Global Fund.

These tough recommendations run the gamut from withholding U.S. funds to the United Nations Development Fund (whose Development Program is a large recipient of Global Fund grants) until the organization’s internal procedures allow for greater access to their internal audit and investigation documents, to a recommendation for the development of an additional layer of protec- tion and an early warning system in those nations where insta- bility and/or government corruption are a concern.

I hope you find this report useful and that we may work together to reduce fraud, improve transparency and ensure maximum value for the U.S. investment in these global health programs.

Sincerely, RICHARD G. LUGAR, Ranking Member.

Wall Street And The Financial Crisis: Anatomy Of A Financial Collapse

May 17, 2011 Comments off

Wall Street And The Financial Crisis: Anatomy Of A Financial Collapse (PDF)
Source: Majority and Minority Staff Report, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, United States Senate

In the fall of 2008, America suffered a devastating economic collapse. Once valuable securities lost most or all of their value, debt markets froze, stock markets plunged, and storied financial firms went under. Millions of Americans lost their jobs; millions of families lost their homes; and good businesses shut down. These events cast the United States into an economic recession so deep that the country has yet to fully recover.

This Report is the product of a two-year bipartisan investigation by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations into the origins of the 2008 financial crisis. The goals of this investigation were to construct a public record of the facts in order to deepen the understanding of what happened; identify some of the root causes of the crisis; and provide a factual foundation for the ongoing effort to fortify the country against the recurrence of a similar crisis in the future.

Using internal documents, communications, and interviews, the Report attempts to provide the clearest picture yet of what took place inside the walls of some of the financial institutions and regulatory agencies that contributed to the crisis. The investigation found that the crisis was not a natural disaster, but the result of high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; and the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street.

While this Report does not attempt to examine every key moment, or analyze every important cause of the crisis, it provides new, detailed, and compelling evidence of what happened. In so doing, we hope the Report leads to solutions that prevent it from happening again.

Hat tip: Free Government Information

Hearing — Oil and Gas Tax Incentives and Rising Energy Prices

May 12, 2011 Comments off

Hearing — Oil and Gas Tax Incentives and Rising Energy Prices
Source: U.S. Senate Committee on Finance

Thursday, May 12, 2011, 9:00 AM
215 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Archived webcast and transcripts (PDFs).

Member Statements
+ Max Baucus (D-MT)
+ Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT)

Witness Testimony
+ Mr. John Watson, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Chevron Corporation, San Ramon, CA
+ Mr. Marvin Odum, U.S. President, Shell Oil Company, Houston, TX
+ Mr. H. Lamar McKay, Chairman and President, BP America Inc., Houston, TX
+ Mr. James Mulva, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ConocoPhillips, Houston, TX
+ Mr. James Mulva, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, ConocoPhillips, Houston, TX
+ Mr. Rex Tillerson, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exxon Mobil Corporation, Irving, TX


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 363 other followers