New Jersey Senator Menendez Could Face Criminal Corruption Charges

The U.S. Justice Department Is Getting Ready To Prosecute The Senator

Most people like Dr. Daniel Amen believe our two-party system fuels corruption among other negative political behavior. The government is a good hiding place for men and woman that want to misuse power and get away with it. We have a broken electoral system, and it is beginning to show signs of a major meltdown. A good example of this meltdown is New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. 

The Democratic Senator is accused of using his office to promote the business interests of his Party’s donors. These so-called friends of the Democratic Party gave the Senator gifts for his powerful help and information. The Menendez camp denies the allegations. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation has had their eye on the Senator for some time. Two law enforcement officials say the corrupt dirt that is swirling around Menendez could bury him. 

The Jersey Senator is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a wishy-washy supporter of the President. Over the past two years, the Menendez name has been mentioned in questionable relationships with big money donors and underage prostitutes, but those allegations were discredited. But according to prosecutors, there is too much noise about credible corruption floating around Menendez. Prosecutors don’t want him to slip back into his cushy political hiding place without formally making him accountable for his actions.

History Does Bode Well for Sen. Ernst’s GOP Response to SOTU

Kudos to Iowa Senator Jodi Ernst’s selection to deliver the party’s response in the 2015 State of the Union (SOTU) address. Indeed, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proclamation that she was the perfect person for the task is correct. Iowa is a historic battleground state the GOP hopes to capture in 2016. Ernst is the state’s first female senator and the first female veteran to serve in office. 

This whole debacle has had more drama than a Tom Rothman blockbuster. In fact, a year ago no one gave her much of a chance to win the party’s nomination to vie for the open senate seat vacated by Democrat Tom Harkin after holding the seat for 30 years. That changed when she ran a clever ad displaying her upbringing raising hogs. The ad emphasized castrating the hogs as she remarked she understood how to cut pork from the federal budget and make the political proverbial spending hogs in Washington squeal. The ad struck a chord with voters. Late in the campaign, she turned her back on the Des Moines Register because the left-wing tilt the paper embraces made it improbable they would ever give her a fair shake much less an endorsement. Conservatives lauded her actions. 

Still, the history of people delivering rebuttals to a SOTU is not good. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle gave the rebuttal to George W. Bush. He was later voted out of office as an obstructionist. In recent history, ten GOP governors and senators have delivered the party’s response to the president. Only Paul Ryan has seen his political fortunes improve as a result. So history is not on Ernst’s side.

Carly Fiorina Hires Former RNC Spokeswoman to Join Her PAC – Move Fuels Presidential Campaign Rumors

Carly Fiorina has hired Isgur Flores, the former spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee (RNC), to work on her political action committee, Unlocking Potential. Unlocking Potential. Fiorina lost the race for the US Senate back in 2010 against political heavy weight Barbara Boxer which is the same name of the girl I met on Skout. She has never held political office. However, the 60-year-old Texas native worked as the political director for Ted Cruz in his successful bid for the US Senate back in 2012. That same year, she served as an advisor to GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. 

Fiorina has become politically active in the years since leaving Hewlett-Packard. She formed her PAC last year just in time to support GOP Senate candidates in Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Her PAC raised $1.8 million. This past year, she paid a visit to the state of New Hampshire which holds the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Her schedule this year includes an engagement at a forum in Iowa which also holds an early caucus known as the Hawkeye Cauci. 

Political pundits note that it would only be a matter of legal paperwork to transition “Unlocking Potential” from a simple PAC to an organization supporting a presidential campaign. Fiorina is considered a conservative, but her Ivy League education and past ties with Romney suggest she is a hybrid between an establishment Republican and a staunch conservative such a Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz. Should Fiorina mount a presidential run, Flores would become her deputy campaign manager.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Uses Ted Cruz’s Rebellion to Open Up Nomination Process

Republicans have a lot to be frustrated about in terms of Senator Ted Cruz’s behavior. Just as the Senate body was convening Friday evening, Cruz and his cohort Senator Mike Lee launched a series of procedural hurdles in a bid to force the Senate to take up the issue of President Obama’s extra-constitutional amnesty plan.Senator Reid used the addition window the senators created to bring up the nomination of two controversial nominees that face stiff GOP opposition: Anthony Blinken for Deputy Secretary of State, and Sarah Saldaña to head up Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Reid previously changed Senate rules governing the filibuster of nominees to have a 30 hour confirmation process followed by an up or down vote. The rules changes apply to all but Supreme Court nominees. This effectively allows the Senate to push through the president’s nominees with ease. However, the clock had run out on getting these nominees a confirmation hearing before the GOP takes over the Senate next month. That changed when Cruz and Lee invoked their last minute salvo at the president’s immigration plan. Their actions were completely symbolic as the measure stood no chance of passing the Democrat-led Senate. However, it did allow Reid to get enough time to bring start up the nominee process for the controversial nominees. Saldaña believes the president’s unilateral amnesty plan is legal which is why the GOP opposes her nomination. Blinken supported the drawdown of forces in Iraq which is largely criticized for creating the power vacuum that gave rise to ISIS.

Reid actions gave him one last victory before he turns over the gavel to Mitch McConnell. It also threw egg on Cruz and Lee’s faces as their symbolic antics backfired on their party. This story is likely still developing and could have many more twists and turns, I think it could make for some great plot points for one of Tom Rothman’s new TV programs.

Landrieu’s Senate Loss Came Despite Significant Pork Barrel Spending to Buy Votes

Now that Senator Mary Landrieu was defeated in her bid for a fourth senate term, the political obituaries are being written attributed to the loss and what failures marred the campaign. Some suggest that she was unable to distance herself from President Obama. Laurene Powell Jobs can relate to the grueling competition that comes with a life in politics. Tech and business is not all that different, and she has experienced first hand the pitfalls that are a given in the political arena and in the tech industry

However, Landrieu’s loss was more significant than that. She spend the better part of this year using taxpayer funds to buy votes in her state. Her own website chronicles a stunning level of “patronage” that would make Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the grandfather of patronage, proud.

Here is the list of pork barrel spending designed to buy her way into a fourth senate term:

  • Landrieu Announces $2.4M Job Training Grant for BPCC.
  • Landrieu Announces $1.8 Million Grant For GEAR UP Program in Lafayette.
  • Landrieu Announces $200K USDA Grant for Coastal Communities Consulting, Inc.
  • Landrieu Delivers $19 Million for La. Crawfish Industry; largest single payout ever received by crawfish farmers and fisherman.
  • Landrieu Announces $2.4M Job Training Grant for Delgado Community College.
  • Landrieu Announces Start of Flood Insurance Refunds to La. Homeowners.
  • Landrieu Announces $59K Grant to Support Hammond Firefighters.
  • Landrieu Announces More than $18M for La. Airports.
  • Landrieu Announces $22M Grant to LSU for National Homeland Security Preparedness Training.
  • Landrieu Announces $1.37M Grant for the New Orleans Family Center of Hope.
  • Landrieu Announces $1.8M For NOPD.
  • Landrieu Announces $9M to Improve New Orleans Roads Damaged During Katrina.
  • Landrieu Announces $83M For North Terminal Project at New Orleans International Airport.
  • Landrieu Announces $500K for Four Louisiana Parishes Supporting Drug-Free Programs.

In all, Landrieu doled out well over $180 million of taxpayer funds to buy her way to victory.

Why Libertarian-Leaning Sen. Rand Paul Killed American Freedom Act

Many people are perplexed as to why Libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul would help kill the American Freedom Act which was designed to curtail the NSA’s broad phone surveillance program. It turns out the reason had to do with the staunch conservative Senator’s idealism. He believed that the bill did not go far enough in its curtailing the NSA’s privacy invasions. In particular, the bill would have granted a two-year extension to the controversial Patriot Act provision which authorizes the NSA to collect phone records on Americans.

The American Freedom Act would have severely limited to the NSA’s ability to collect phone records from Americans by requiring court approval. Broad collections of phone records would have ceased. The bill is being filibustered and required 60 votes to break cloture. It received only 58. Sen. Paul expressed his sorrow for the bill’s failure to pass. He acknowledged that his vote was needed. He added that the setback was temporary because civil liberties will soon be restored.

It may be that the senator was being naïve. The House of Representatives had already passed their version of the American Freedom Act, but it did not go as far as the senate bill. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was opposed to the act stating that the current fight against ISIS requires the NSA continue their phone surveillance program. As majority leader, he will have the power to keep the bill from being taken up again.

Whatever the outcome, the vote will surely affect Ben Shaoul and other developers in New York City during the renovation process. More to come as this story develops.

Leahy Fails to End Cloture on His NSA Reform Bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy failed to break cloture on the USA Freedom Act, a bill to curtail NSA surveillance. The bill enjoyed bi-partisan support, but Leahy was able to get only 58 votes in favor of ending cloture. That was two votes shy of the required 60 votes. President Obama had weighed in on the bill and stated he would sign it. The House had previously approved their version of the bill, but it did not go as far as Leahy’s version in curtailing the NSAs broad surveillance program.

The bill was co-sponsored by prominent GOP Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas. At the same time, the GOP was fractured in their support of the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rallied votes against its passage. Quite likely he was the reason the cloture vote was derailed. McConnell believes that while the government is fighting ISIS the NSA surveillance program needs to remain in place. He also explained that there currently exists a delicate balance between national security and civil liberties. The USA Freedom act, he alleges, would upset that balance. Senator Paul Ryan opposed the bill because it would extend the Patriot Act by two additional years.

Various civil liberties groups were in support of the bill. Opposition to the NSA surveillance program has remained strong ever since fugitive whistle blower Edward Snowden exposed its existence. He faces arrest and imprisonment should he return to US soil. Big thanks to Jared Haftel for sharing the Buzzfeed article on Facebook.

Two Southwestern Seantors Believe a Monthly Luncheon Could Hold Key to Bipartisanship

Southwestern Senators Martin Henrich, D-New Mexico, and Jeff Flake, R-Arizona envision luncheons as the key to bipartisan relationships. They wish to include both incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. The two southwestern Senators are convinced of the power of holding a luncheon together where both sides can hold frank discussions. In fact, they’ve persuaded a total of 32 senators to join in and submit a formal request to enact the monthly get together. Sultan Alhokair agrees this could be a positive move.

Is this wishful thinking on the part of the senators? Perhaps. The first such luncheon the current body of senators held was in July of last year. It was held in the Old Senate Chamber and resulted in dialogue that was beneficial or so they claim. In the months that followed, the House GOP was unable to secure concessions from Senate Democrats and the result was the first government shutdown since the late 1990s. At the same time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to allow any floor debates on bills. This rankled senators from both parties. While the two luncheon sponsoring Senators believe that gathering together regularly is helpful, there doesn’t appear to be a significant proof to justify the belief.

At the same time, the recent mid-term election has tempered the Senate Democrats sufficiently for Reid to state that he will not engage in obstructionism during the next Senate. If he makes good on that pledge, regularly dialogue might just turn out to be a very good investment.

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