Archive for the ‘Congressional Oversight’ Category
To those of us who’ve paid attention to the corruption happening at MnSCU universities, the question about whether the legislature, specifically the House and Senate higher ed committees, are doing their job is a troubling question.
I’ve forwarded both commitees information about specific instances where, at minimum, SCSU’s decisions are creating difficulties for the University today and in the future.
Specifically, President Potter fired Mahmoud Saffari for not putting together an enrollment retention program. That’s part of the documentation Dr. Saffari received from Provost Malhotra. Dr. Saffari’s termination happened in the fall of 2011. There are a multitude of reasons why that’s troubling, starting with the fact that SCSU enrollment is dropping off a cliff.
That’s bad enough but it doesn’t stop there. Since Dr. Saffari’s termination, the administration hasn’t put a plan together. I know they haven’t because they recently asked for help in putting a plan together.
Have either of the higher ed committees looked into this? Of course they haven’t. They’ve told me that “it’s a local issue.” Which it isn’t and they know it. That’s their way of saying that they aren’t interested in holding real oversight hearings.
Five years ago, St. Cloud State enrollments were increasing. SCSU was the flagship university within the MnSCU system. They aren’t anymore. In fact, Mankato has sailed past SCSU in FYE enrollment. (FYE enrollment is the number that matters because that’s the enrollment that determines tuition revenue.)
That’s before talking about President Potter signing a contract with the J.A. Wedum Foundation that virtually guarantees their apartment complex a profit for the next 20 years. The first two years that the apartments existed, SCSU had to send the Foundation all of the rent they collected from students plus checks totalling $2,250,000. The figures haven’t been released for the third year but reports have it that the University is hoping they only lost $950,000 this time.
Again, have either higher ed committee looked into this? Nope. A university with shrinking enrollment and losing money on its other ‘investments’ isn’t enough to get the commitees’ attention. Apparently, they think that it isn’t a big deal because it isn’t their money.
Let’s be clear about some things. First, the blame rightly belongs to the committee chairs. They’re the only people with the authority to gavel an oversight hearing into existence. Committee members can’t ask questions until the meeting starts. Second, the time for status quo committee hearings has passed. Lots of things are happening that need addressing. Financial mismanagement at St. Cloud State is running rampant. Third, if higher ed committees don’t take their oversight responsibilities seriously, it sends the signal that universities can pretty much do whatever they want with impunity.
The committee chairs carry the big stick. They can get the universities’ attention if they’re intent on being the taxpayers’ watchdog. When they aren’t willing to be the taxpayers’ watchdog, then they’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Finally, legislators in positions of power are in a position of vulnerability because taxpayers take it seriously when they turn a blind eye towards corruption and financial mismanagement. Legislators should know that, while taxpayers don’t care about every penny of wasteful spending, they care if legislators ignore a ton of corruption mixed with financial mismanagement.
Committee chairs aren’t irreplaceable, especially when they ignore their essential responsibilities.
Technorati: Higher Education, Committee Chairs, Oversight, Taxpayers Watchdog
Financial Mismanagement, Corruption, J.A. Wedum Foundation, St. Cloud State, Declining Enrollments, University of Minnesota-Mankato State
If we know anything about this administration, it’s that a) they’re highly ideological, b) they don’t hesitate in ignoring laws and c) they’re utterly incompetent. Now that it’s confirmed that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is refusing to testify, it’s time to subpoena her and force her testimony.
The Affordable Care Act’s botched rollout has stunned its media cheering section, and it even seems to have surprised the law’s architects. The problems run much deeper than even critics expected, and whatever federal officials, White House aides and outside contractors are doing to fix them isn’t working. But who knows? Omerta is the word of the day as the Obama Administration withholds information from the public.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is even refusing to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in a hearing this coming Thursday. HHS claims she has scheduling conflicts, but we hope she isn’t in the White House catacomb under interrogation by Valerie Jarrett about her department’s incompetence.
The department is also refusing to make available lower-level officials who might detail the source or sources of this debacle. Ducking an investigation with spin is one thing. Responding with a wall of silence to the invitation of a duly elected congressional body probing the use of more than half a billion taxpayer dollars is another. This Obama crowd is something else.
Secretary Sebelius is acting like she’s above oversight. That’s unacceptable at any time but it’s especially unacceptable when she’s overseeing the biggest trainwreck in recent history. This paragraph is telling:
No doubt a hearing would be a spectacle—with TV cameras on hand—but Mrs. Sebelius can’t hide forever. Even pro-entitlement liberals want to know about what went wrong and why, how much if any progress is being made, and whether the ObamaCare website Healthcare.gov will be usable in a matter of months—or years.
Let’s summarize what we know and don’t know. First, it’s indisputable that the federal health insurance exchanges don’t work. Second, we don’t know how long it’ll take to get the federal health insurance exchanges fully functional. Third, we aren’t certain that people purchasing insurance through the federal exchanges are eligible for federal premium support payments. Thanks to this federal lawsuit, it’s anything but certain that people purchasing health insurance through federal-run health insurance exchanges will get premium support.
Fourth, we know that Kathleen Sebelius has time to attend a gala the night before the committee hearing. Fifth, we know that IT experts have stated that they’d be ashamed if their work was this big of disaster:
LUKE CHUNG: It wasn’t designed well. It wasn’t implemented well. It looks like nobody tested it.
JAN CRAWFORD: Luke Chung’s company builds online database programs. He supports the new health care law. He says it’s not demand that’s crashing HealthCare.gov. The entire website needs a complete overhaul.
LUKE CHUNG: It’s not close. It’s not even ready for beta testing from my book. I would be ashamed and embarassed if my organization delivered something like that.
Despite all that we know that’s disturbing and all that isn’t known that we need to know, Kathleen Sebelius apparently thinks she’s beyond congressional oversight questioning. It’s time she learned, harshly if needed, that she isn’t.
Technorati: Kathleen Sebelius, Health Insurance Exchanges, Glitches, Congressional Oversight, Premium Support, Federal Health Insurance Exchanges, Federal Lawsuit, HealthCare.gov, IT Professionals, Lawlessness, Incompetence, Democrats
This op-ed is written by one of the victims of the IRS’s misconduct. It’s both compelling and infuriating. This part is especially infuriating:
In order to raise money, I filed an application with the IRS in January 2011, seeking to obtain 501(c)(3) status as an educational organization. The IRS processes more than 60,000 non-profit applications annually and it typically takes two or three months for an organization such as mine to be granted status as a public charity.
I have been waiting for 27 months.
In the interim, I lost a $30,000 grant, multiple thousands of my own money and had to cease any further activity for fear the IRS would target me for harassment.
I wrote here that the IRS attacks have high-ranking political operative written all over them. Kim Strassel wrote eloquently and expansively about the Obama campaign’s targeting of their political opponents in this article:
On Aug. 21, 2008, the conservative American Issues Project ran an ad highlighting ties between candidate Obama and Bill Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground. The Obama campaign and supporters were furious, and they pressured TV stations to pull the ad—a common-enough tactic in such ad spats.
What came next was not common. Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, “its officers and directors,” and its “anonymous donors.” Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a “knowing and willful violation” of election law, and wanted “action to enforce against criminal violations.”
While this isn’t proof that the administration is behind the targeting, it’s ample proof that the Obama campaign didn’t hesitate to attack its political opponents through powerful government agencies.
This is outrageous:
While seemingly reluctant to grant my non-profit status, the IRS has been quick to wield all the intimidating power of a federal agency, demanding answers to an invasive, 95-point inquisition, including, for example, that I provide a list of my members and donors and that I state for the IRS my political position on virtually every issue of importance to me. Where does one begin? For good measure, I was asked to identify those whom I train and that I inform the federal government, in detail, about what I am teaching my students.
What does this information have to do with the tax code? This is what an all-powerful and unchecked federal government can do. The old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely certainly is fitting in this instance. Mr. Kookogey shouldn’t have been subjected to this type of uneven-handed scrutiny.
The good news is that their attempt to cover up their disgusting, capricious and criminal behavior will land people like Lois Lerner, Douglas Schulman and Stephen Miller in prison. The bad news is that patriots like Mr. Kookogey and Catherine Engelbrecht have been subjected to disgusting, possibly illegal acts of threats and intimidation.
In a stunning statement this morning, President Obama insisted that the Benghazi investigation is much ado about nothing:
“And suddenly three days ago this gets spun up as if there’s something new to the story,” Obama said in response to a question about Benghazi. “There’s no there there.”
The president continued, “Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice, five, six days after the event occurred, pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing.”
There’s plenty that’s new here. Prior to Wednesday, I didn’t know that Hillary Clinton talked with Gregory Hicks while the Benghazi attacks were happening. Prior to Hicks’ testimony, I didn’t know that Hicks told Hillary that there was an attack going on.
In addition to new information from the testimony, there’s also tons of new questions to get answers to. First, who eliminated the FEST option? Next, why was the FEST option eliminated? Third, who gave the orders to Lt. Col. Gibson to not rescue Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods? Fourth, why was this order given? Fifth, why did the State Department’s objections to the CIA’s report take precedence over the truth? After all, the CIA got it right the first time. Sixth, why did Beth Jones send out an email calling the Benghazi attack a terrorist attack? Seventh, why was the truth the final casualty of the terrorists’ attack?
As for President Obama saying that the “talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice” “pretty much the assessments” he was receiving during his PDBs, that’s BS. It’s insulting. The CIA’s initial report talked about a terrorist attack, with members of Ansar al-Shariah participating in the attack. The CIA’s initial report also talked multiple warnings from the CIA of mounting terrorist threats to foreign interests in Benghazi. That was deleted from the State Department’s talking points. Make no mistake, either, about the talking points. What started as a CIA intelligence report was eventually turned into a State Department CYA talking points memo.
True to their waste-aholic history, the DFL legislature voted against government accountability:
A commission designed to judge whether state agencies, councils or boards have outlived their usefulness may itself cease to exist.
The Democratic-controlled House and Senate have voted to abolish the Sunset Advisory Commission, a 12-member commission championed by Republicans as offering greater accountability and efficiency in state government.
“I think they’re (Democrats) scared,” Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, said of taking tough votes on the commission.
A product of 2011 legislation, the Sunset Advisory Commission is patterned after a 30-year-old commission in Texas, one billed as having saved the Lone Star State almost $1 billion at a cost of about $33 million.
Minnesota’s Sunset Commission reviews state agencies and recommends whether a given agency should continue to exist.
Rep. Peppin is right. DFL legislators don’t want to vote on wasteful spending. DFL legislators don’t want to admit that their pet agencies, councils and panels are actually patronage positions.
The DFL is spinning their vote:
The idea of duplication was voiced by another commission member, Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park. “One of the tasks of the sunset commission is to get rid of duplicative government functions,” he said. There’s already the Office of the Legislative Auditor.
Why have both? Nelson asks.
Rep. Nelson, we need both because it’s apparent that there’s a ton of bloat in state government, things that the OLA hasn’t discussed.
As for Rep. Nelson’s assertion of duplication, I’d love hearing his explanation on what it’s duplicating. I’d love hearing him cite the times when the OLA has recommended the sunsetting of a commission, panel or council.
Sen. Bonoff’s statement needs ridiculing:
Bonoff, like other Democrats, argues the commission is itself duplicative. “If committee chairs are doing their jobs, they should be doing this kind of detailed oversight,” she said.
There’s a simple explanation for Sen. Bonoff: the chairs have never gotten into this type of detailed oversight. The Sunset Advisory Commission would’ve been a great tool that forced the legislature to deal with commissions, councils and panels that outlived their usefulness.
Furthermore, does any thinking person think that the DFL would investigate the importance or relevance of these hideouts for their political cronies? Let’s get serious. When Keith Downey proposed reducing the state workforce by 15% by not replacing retiring workers, Eliot Seide accused him of waging war “against working families.” What DFL legislator will vote for sunsetting these commissions, councils or panels knowing that they’ll get primaried by an AFSCME-endorsed candidate?
That’s why the Commission is essential.
Finally, this DFL legislature has repeatedly proven that they oppose accountability. The GOP legislature passed a bill that required teachers to pass a basic skills test, which Gov. Dayton signed. The DFL wants to repeal that law. The GOP legislature passed the Sunset Advisory Commission, which Gov. Dayton signed. The DFL legislature just voted to repeal that essential accountability legislation. Will Gov. Dayton reverse himself & say no to government accountability? If he does, he should prepare for getting labeled as a) a hypocrite, b) a cheap politician who does what’s popular, not what’s right and c) the unions’ puppet, not the public’s servant leader.
This week, the DFL legislature voted for higher pay for themselves, higher taxes on the middle class and less accountability within government. I don’t think that’s the bumper sticker they’ll want to deal with in 2014.
Tags: Terry Bonoff, Mike Nelson, Tom Bakk, Paul Thissen, Mark Dayton, Eliot Seide, AFSCME Council 5, Public Employee Unions, Cronyism, DFL, Sunset Advisory Commission, Accountability, Government Oversight, Reforms, MNGOP
The most explosive, hotly-contested part of yesterday’s Benghazi cover-up hearing came when Hillary lost it. When Sen. Ron Johnson questioned her on why the State Department didn’t investigate what happened in Benghazi, Hillary asked why it mattered. Today, Sen. Johnson’s op-ed in USA Today explains why this collossal failure shouldn’t have happened. This part cuts to the heart of why it matters:
When I questioned her about the misinformation disseminated for days by the administration, most notably by Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice on Sunday news programs five days after the attack, she asked, “What difference does it make?”
If you don’t expeditiously debrief the people who witnessed the attack, how can you understand who initiated it, what weapons they used and who may have been involved? How do you initiate a proper response if you don’t know what transpired? How do you move properly to protect other American assets and people in the region? How do you know what failures occurred, so that you can immediately correct them, if you have not debriefed the very victims of those failures? And lastly, how do you tell the truth to the American people if you don’t know the facts?
Our diplomatic forces in Benghazi were denied the security they repeatedly requested for many months before Sept. 11, 2012. Secretary Clinton stated that she was not told of those desperate requests in the most dangerous region in the world. As a result, our people in Benghazi were ill-prepared to repel or avoid that attack, and four Americans were murdered. For many days after the event, the American people were also misinformed as to the nature and perpetrators of that attack.
Hillary’s faux outrage about being questioned about her failure wasn’t convincing. She helped cover up the murder of 4 American patriots who deserved better from the nation they loved.
Yesterday’s hearings weren’t about learning lessons so we don’t repeat them. It should’ve been about exposing this administration’s lies about what happened in Benghazi. It should’ve been about highlighting for the American people the fact that this administration was more worried about maintaining their political viability than about doing the right thing.
Sen. Johnson’s crossexamination of Hillary went a long ways towards that goal. Sen. Johnson’s op-ed takes it a few steps further.
Thank God for patriots like Sen. Johnson.
In a shocking statement after the House hearing, Rep. Peter King confirmed that Gen. Petraeus testified that the CIA’s original talk points were edited:
Here’s a partial transcript of Rep. King’s statement:
REP. KING: How did the final talking points emerge? He said it went through a long process involving many agencies, including the Department of Justice and the State Department. No one knows yet who came up with the final version of talking points other than to say that the talking points that the CIA had put together were different than the talking points that finally emerged.
Later, Rep. King said “The original talking points were much more specific about al-Qa’ida involvement.”
That’s explosive testimony. Gen. Petraeus essentially said that the CIA, the people that gather the intelligence, originally identified al-Qa’ida as being involved in the attack. Equally explosive is the fact that the original CIA talking points were changed by people outside the intelligence community.
That means what’s been known up till now as “the CIA’s talking points” weren’t put together by the CIA. It includes the possibility that the talking points that Susan Rice referenced were political in nature.
The minute Rice’s talking points don’t have the heft and credibility of being from the CIA is the minute these talking points lose their credibility. It’s also the minute Ambassador Rice’s story loses credibility.
It’s time for President Obama, Secretary Clinton, CIA Director Petraeus and Defense Secretary Panetta to be grilled extensively on their decisions, or lack thereof, during the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2012. I don’t want this hearing to be about a ton of peripheral topics. Citizen journalists will sort through Susan Rice’s and Jay Carney’s spin.
This shouldn’t even be about President Obama attending a Vegas fundraiser the day after the terrorist attacks. Again, that’s something citizen journalists can sort through. Here are the things this hearing must be about:
- Who was the first senior administration official to get real time reports from the consulate the day of the terrorist attack? Did this senior administration official report this immediately to President Obama? If not, why not?
- When did President Obama’s national security team first tell him about the terrorist attack? Was this during his afternoon meeting with Defense Secretary Panetta the day of the terrorist attack?
- During his meeting with Secretary Panetta, did President Obama order Panetta to send troops to protect the diplomatic staff in Benghazi? If he didn’t order protection for these American patriots during his meeting with Secretary Panetta, did President Obama order military support later in the day? If not, why not?
- Secretary Panetta said that he didn’t send troops in because they didn’t know what they’d be jumping into. Mike Baker dispelled that myth by saying the CIA and military are receiving a “glut of information” in real time from the CIA, specifically the Global Response Staff. Did Secretary Panetta recommend to President Obama that the military jump into the firefight/terrorist attack? If he did, what was President Obama’s response? If he didn’t, why didn’t he make that recommendation?
- When did Charlene Lamb first tell Hillary Clinton about the terrorist attack? When she was told about the terrorist attack, did Ms. Clinton immediately contact President Obama? If not, why not? If she did, what time was it that she contacted him?
- President Obama was the only person with the constitutional authority to order troop deployments during an act of war. Terrorist attacks on American consulates are without question acts of war. Did he order spec-ops troops to be deployed to Benghazi to protect the diplomats from the terrorist attack? If he didn’t, why didn’t he?
These hearings need to start with focusing in on a single subject so the American people get a detailed understanding of President Obama’s national security team operations and his decisions to protect or not protect Christopher Stevens and his diplomatic staff.
Once that base of information is established and the American people understand President Obama’s failings, then the hearings can expand into other areas. Until then, they must stay focused.
Tags: Benghazi Terrorist Attacks, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Democrat Politicians, David Petraeus, Delta Force, CIA, Charlene Lamb, State Department, Christopher Stevens, Ty Woods, Sean Smith, Glenn Doherty, Patriots, Jay Carney, Susan Rice, Spinmeisters
This afternoon’s hearing on the terrorist attacks to the Benghazi Consulate have been explosive. One such exchange happened between Rep. Raul Labrador, (R-ID), and Patrick Kennedy, the Undersecretary of State for Administration. Here’s the transcript of that exchange:
REP. LABRADOR: Ambassador Kennedy, you said that, if any administration official, including any career official, had been on television on Sunday, Sept. 16, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said. The information she had from the intelligence community — I see how specific you’re being — from the intelligence community — is the same information that I had at that point. Can you explain to me how it was that, on Sept. 12, you told congressional aides that you thought it was a terrorist attack?
AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Congressman, I told them that because that was my personal opinion and that I also believed that, because of the nature of it and the lethality of it, that it was a complex attack.
REP. LABRADOR: So how can you sit here today and say that the following day, you had an idea that it was a terrorist attack, and you have said that you aren’t a security expert, how can you claim today that you would have said the same thing as Ambassador Rice said?
This is explosive because it’s telling us this administration used Clintonesque wording to spin the terrorist attack into a simple impromptu uprising, something it clearly wasn’t.
Lt. Col. Andy Wood and Eric Nordstrom, both security experts, said security experts knew almost instantly that this was a terrorist attack. The question then turns from why Ambassador Rice relied on the narrowest, Clintonian spin rather than telling the nation that this was a terrorist attack.
The most obvious reason Ambassador Rice didn’t say that was because that didn’t the storyline Democrats spent a week in Charlotte creating. At their convention, speaker after speaker said that we couldn’t trust Gov. Romney on national security, that President Obama had lots of national security experience and a lengthy list of national security accomplishments.
This terrorist attack happened just days after the Democratic National Convention. It would’ve demolished Vice President Biden’s line that “bin Laden is dead and GM is alive.”
The truth is that bin Laden is dead but al-Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations are regrouping. The Benghazi attack is proof of that. Another truth is that President Bush’s strategy of taking the fight to the terrorists is the only strategy that’s capable of stopping terrorist attacks long before they’re set into operation.
President Obama won’t admit it but that’s the truth.
What’s apparent from the hearing is that security experts like Mr. Nordstrom and Lt. Col. Wood painted a dramatically different picture of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the Benghazi Consulate than did the political appointees in the State Department.
Tags: Congressional Oversight, Eric Nordstrom, Andy Wood, Security Experts, Patrick Kennedy, State Department, Diplomat, Terrorist Attack, Benghazi, bin Laden, al-Qa’ida, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Coverup, Joe Biden, Democrats, Election 2012
The U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and others in the administration didn’t hesitate in using fiction to mislead the press. Their stories are changing now that they’re about to testify under oath:
Senior State Department officials, meanwhile, now say the Sept. 11 evening was a quiet one in Benghazi that became very suddenly violent about 9:40 p.m. when officials at the compound heard “gunfire and explosions.”
Within seconds, a camera monitoring the main gate of the compound revealed “a large number of men, armed men flowing” through the gates, one of the senior State Department official said on a Tuesday night conference call on the condition of anonymity.
The officials described an intense series of events in which the compound’s main building was set ablaze while a firefight ensued outside. Four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed.
People immediately knew the administration was lying or spinning about the terrorist attacks on 9/11. People understood that an anti-Muslim video that nobody had heard of wasn’t the reason for a terrorist attack, espcially on 9/11. People didn’t buy the thought that it was purely coincidental that an anti-Muslim video triggered violence throughout north Africa on the anniversary of 9/11.
The Obama administration had said the attack was a spontaneous response to the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims”; it later claimed there was a protest against the film that terrorists suspected of al Qaeda links took advantage of to launch their attack. When asked about those varying explanations, the State Department official said “that was not our conclusion” and that unspecified “others” could answer for their words.
Bit by bit, the Obama administration’s story is crumbling in public. Their fictional accounts are getting exposed as this administration’s attempt to do anything to not call terrorists terrorists. This administration’s unease with fighting to defeat the terrorists is famous.
Yes, they’ve killed bin Laden and other HVTs. Kudos to the military for their operational expertise.
The Benghazi terrorist attack proves that al-Qa’ida is adjusting and prospering. The figurehead is dead. The enterprise continues pushing their hateful ideology despite President Obama’s overtures to non-existent ‘moderates’ in the Taliban.
Apparently, this administration won’t admit al-Qa’ida didn’t get the memo that they were essentially shut down. While killing terrorists one at a time with drone strikes is great PR, it isn’t effective in diminishing the terrorist networks’ capacity.
Benghazi is another national security disaster for an administration that’s known as a foreign policy/national security lightweight. They can point to splashy headlines. They just can’t point to things that made the U.S. secure.
To steal a phrase from Joe Biden, “Bin Laden is dead and al-Qa’ida is alive and well.”