Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Cruising the Web

The NYT reports that Hillary Clinton exclusively used a personal email account while Secretary of State in violation of federal regulations.
Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act....

Her expansive use of the private account was alarming to current and former National Archives and Records Administration officials and government watchdogs, who called it a serious breach.

“It is very difficult to conceive of a scenario — short of nuclear winter — where an agency would be justified in allowing its cabinet-level head officer to solely use a private email communications channel for the conduct of government business,” said Jason R. Baron, a lawyer at Drinker Biddle & Reath who is a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, Nick Merrill, defended her use of the personal email account and said she has been complying with the “letter and spirit of the rules.”

Under federal law, however, letters and emails written and received by federal officials, such as the secretary of state, are considered government records and are supposed to be retained so that congressional committees, historians and members of the news media can find them. There are exceptions to the law for certain classified and sensitive materials.

Mrs. Clinton is not the first government official — or first secretary of state — to use a personal email account on which to conduct official business. But her exclusive use of her private email, for all of her work, appears unusual, Mr. Baron said. The use of private email accounts is supposed to be limited to emergencies, experts said, such as when an agency’s computer server is not working.
Typically, she behaved as the rules that bind others didn't bind her. Does anyone think it is a coincidence that she would have chosen to violate regulations in order to keep her emails private? As the author of the NYT story, Michael Schmidt, writes,
The revelation about the private email account echoes longstanding criticisms directed at both the former secretary and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for a lack of transparency and inclination toward secrecy.

And others who, like Mrs. Clinton, are eyeing a candidacy for the White House are stressing a very different approach. Jeb Bush, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, released a trove of emails in December from his eight years as governor of Florida.
How many of these stories about the Clintons skirting the line of corruption and dishonesty will there be before the Democrats reject the second coming of this family?

And, as Mary Katharine Ham points out, what is Hillary's position on Democrats boycotting Netanyahu's speech?
When a Democrat says something or takes a position that’s potentially problematic, rarely are other leading Democratic candidates asked about the outrage du jour incessantly. Republicans, on the other hand, must answer for every potentially problematic thing said by every member of the party who ever existed.
Why isn't Clinton being inundated with questions on Netanyahu and the negotiations with Iran? After all, her calling card for the nomination is supposedly her expertise in foreign policy. Yet she is totally silent on these questions.

As Howard Kurtz writes, the liberal media are getting a bit fed up with Hillary. Kurtz points out that the story of how the Clinton Foundation was taking money from foreign powers as well as domestic lobbyists first emerged in the liberal press. Of course, the story has already disappeared in the MSM. This is what happens with stories of corruption concerning Democrats. There will be a flurry of stories and condemnations and then the story disappears. For Republicans, the stories stay around forever while the media go dumpster diving to see if the candidate did anything condemnable in high school.

Sean Davis reminds us that what the Clinton Foundation has done in accepting money from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State is actually banned by the U.S. Constitution.
The constitutional ban on foreign cash payments to U.S. officials is known as the Emoluments Clause and originated from Article VI of the Articles of Confederation. The purpose of the clause was to prevent foreign governments from buying influence in the U.S. by paying off U.S. government officials. Here’s the text of the clause:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
Various statutes and rules have been promulgated to effect the constitutional ban on foreign cash. The U.S. House of Representatives bans cash payments from foreign governments. The U.S. Senate, of which Hillary was a member from 2001 to 2009, bans cash payments from foreign governments. And the U.S. State Department bans cash payments from foreign governments.
The Foundation accepted money from governments such as Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Algeria that had issues with the U.S. while she was head of the Department of State. And don't buy the dodge that this money was all going for charitable purposes.
If only that were true. When anyone contributes to the Clinton Foundation, it actually goes toward fat salaries, administrative bloat, and lavish travel.

Between 2009 and 2012, the Clinton Foundation raised over $500 million dollars according to a review of IRS documents by The Federalist (2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008). A measly 15 percent of that, or $75 million, went towards programmatic grants. More than $25 million went to fund travel expenses. Nearly $110 million went toward employee salaries and benefits. And a whopping $290 million during that period — nearly 60 percent of all money raised — was classified merely as “other expenses.” Official IRS forms do not list cigar or dry-cleaning expenses as a specific line item. The Clinton Foundation may well be saving lives, but it seems odd that the costs of so many life-saving activities would be classified by the organization itself as just random, miscellaneous expenses.

Now, because the Clintons are Clintons (“It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is…”), their fallback defense will likely be that they didn’t technically run afoul of the law. After all, Hillary didn’t officially take control of the foundation until after she left the State Dept. And the Constitution doesn’t ever say that foreign governments can’t bribe the impeached and disbarred spouses of government officials. Sure, the Constitution says current officials can’t accept dirty cash from foreign government, but it never says that jetset spouses who fly to sex slave islands with convicted sex offenders aren’t allowed to collect under-the-table foreign cash.

That defense makes sense if you think the Founders opposed the practice of foreign governments directly bribing U.S. officials, but wholeheartedly supported the practice of foreign governments indirectly bribing U.S. officials by paying off their spouses. Are we to believe that Hillary was so divorced from the goings-on of the foundation that she was just randomly given official control of it (including having her first name added to the tax-exempt organization’s official name) immediately after leaving the State Department? Are we to believe that poor Hillary just had no clue what was going on at her family’s tax-exempt slush fund?

Please. “I did not have fiscal relations with that government” isn’t going to fly this time. There is most definitely a controlling legal authority here, and it’s the U.S. Constitution.

The latest foreign payola scandal is just the latest chapter in the Clinton corruption novel. They played games with dirty cash in Arkansas. They played games with dirty cash literally in the White House. And now we know they were playing games with foreign cash while Hillary Clinton was serving as Secretary of State. The Founding Fathers who wrote the Constitution knew what could happen if U.S. officials put cash before their own country, so they banned the practice.

In other words, the Founders were Ready for Hillary.

It seems that there is a lot of blocking of the legal requirements transparency going around this administration.
A U.S. District Court judge on Monday condemned the Environmental Protection Agency's destruction of emails sought by the conservative Landmark Legal Foundation in a 2012 Freedom Of Information Request.

Though Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied the request for sanctions against the EPA by Landmark, which is run by conservative talk show host and former Reagan staffer Mark Levin, she [sic] lambasted the agency over its actions in response to Landmark's 2012 FOIA request.

"Either EPA intentionally sought to evade Landmark's lawful FOIA request so the agency could destroy responsive documents," Lamberth wrote in his decision. "Or EPA demonstrated apathy and carelessness toward Landmark's request."

"Either way," Lamberth added, it "reflects poorly upon EPA and surely serves to diminish the public's trust in the agency."

Neal Dewing has some good advice for Republicans. Deny Donald Trump any place on a Republican stage. Why should anyone be listening to him?
As I write, Donald Trump has concluded his latest Conservative Political Action Conference speech to somewhat muted cheers, and the odd scattering of boos. The speech itself does not merit critical study, as it contains no new ideas and no particularly eloquent defense of any old ones. It was boilerplate, full of applause lines with little thought behind them.

Between a call to “take our country back” and the shocking claim that “Washington is broken,” it became painfully obvious that Trump was not going to offer any interesting policy prescriptions. So the speech is mainly important for the question Trump did not answer: What the hell is he doing here?

The simplest answer—pimping his TV show—has in times past been the surest explanation for why Trump uses a bit of his valuable time to bray like an ass at CPAC. True to form, earlier in the week he reappeared in the news, a human canker sore issuing a vague threat to run for the presidency.
Stop granting him a place on the stage. All he does is diminish more serious candidates.

The WSJ explains how ludicrous the administration's claims in King v. Burwell are. It is quite clear from the history of the law and the law's text that it was never planned for the federal government to fund subsidies for states that did not create their own exchanges. The Democrats didn't think that governors would act in such a way to deny their citizens those subsidies.
To take one example, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was empowered to grant unlimited sums of money to states to establish exchanges. But the law appropriated not a penny for the federal exchanges, and HHS raided internal slush funds to build them. If there is no legal difference between the federal and state exchanges, why did HHS need this budget ruse?

The Administration also suggests no textual basis for the IRS rule. Instead, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli claims “established by the State” is a “term of art” that must be read in an ambiguous context and that the Administration’s reading is owed judicial deference. The SG is laboring to create confusion where none exists—but what is not ambiguous, he argues, is that Congress’s purpose was to create national health care and that overturning the subsidies would disrupt this policy result. Most liberals have dumped even this legal subtlety, dismissing King as a drafting error.

In fact, ObamaCare’s history shows Democrats made a deliberate choice. As they tried to assemble 60 votes in the Senate, holdouts like then Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson intensely desired state partners. Because the federal government couldn’t commandeer the sovereign states by mandating participation, the subsidy bait was Congress’s constitutional option to encourage buy-in.

As the Mountain States Legal Foundation and other amici briefs point out, previous versions of the Affordable Care Act extended subsidies to the federal exchanges too. But that language was deleted in the secret negotiations to combine various Senate bills. After Scott Brown ’s Massachusetts special election ended the Democratic supermajority, Democrats accepted and President Obama signed the final Senate bill as the last helicopter out of Saigon.

The President cannot now unilaterally revise those details because they are politically inconvenient. Blessing this lawless behavior sets a dangerous precedent, handing the bureaucracy a license to reshape statutes without the consent of Congress. King is an opportunity for the Court to rebuke this growing merger of legislative and executive power.

“It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices,” Chief Justice John Roberts famously observed in the 2012 ObamaCare case. It is also not the Court’s job to protect Democrats from the consequences of their political choices: The underlying statute worked as designed, albeit not as they preferred. State by state, duly elected representatives of the people debated the law’s instructions and made an informed choice not to involve themselves, in part to repudiate ObamaCare’s coercion.

Byron York writes about how the GOP battle for the 2016 nomination is a fight between the old and the new in the Republican Party. While Scott Walker is the hot new guy at this point, he's still facing questions from the GOP establishment who are seeing him as not quite ready for prime time.
At the same time, Walker could be headed for trouble with the establishment, Washington-based wing of his party. Look for GOP insiders to begin whispering, and then saying out loud, that Walker needs to raise his game if he is going to play on the national stage. On the one hand, they'll have a point — Walker needs to come up with clear, crisply-expressed positions on a variety of national and international issues. On the other hand, Walker's way-outside-the-Beltway method of expressing himself might resonate with voters in primary and caucus states more than Washington thinks.

For example, in our conversation Saturday, I asked Walker what Republicans in Washington should do in the standoff over funding the Department of Homeland Security. "Not just Republicans, I think the Congress as a whole needs to find a way to fund homeland security going forward," Walker answered. He explained that he recognized the concerns lawmakers have about giving up their ability "to push back on the president's questionable, if not illegal, actions." Walker noted that he was part of the states' lawsuit against Obama's action. "I think they're right that the president is wrong," Walker told me, "but I also think we've got to make sure that homeland security isn't compromised."

After a little more along those lines, I said I was still a little unclear on where Walker stood.
Clearly, there are many public issues that a state's governor hasn't concerned himself with, but that is why candidates have to think long and hard before throwing their hats into the ring. And when they do, they better be prepared.

David Harsanyi explains how the objections to Netanyahu's speech aren't about protocol, but about substance.
So the question is: What does the United States gain from entering a deal like this?

Netanyahu may mention some of these apprehensions. Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice says the visit is “destructive of the fabric of the relationship.” It seems unlikely that Rice would ever use the word destructive to describe Iran’s obsession with obtaining nuclear weapons … but “partisanship,” now, that’s really corrosive. The fact is that the alliance with Israel has never been much of a partisan issue in the United States. Not until now. And even today only a handful of reliably anti-Israel politicians and a few Obama loyalists are skipping the speech so far. According to Gallup, 70 percent of Americans still have a favorable view of Israel.

What’s truly unprecedented isn’t only the partisanship or the speech, it’s what Abraham Miller perfectly articulated in the New York Observer:
Barack Obama will go down in history as the American president who enabled the Shi’ite theocracy to become the region’s hegemonic power and looked the other way while Iran developed the bomb.
So while there is plenty of criticism aimed at the aggressive methods of Netanyahu in Israel, there will also be widespread agreement among nearly all political denominations in the Jewish State regarding the substance of his speech and the warnings about a nuclear Iran. Surely, hearing out the case of an ally that is persistently threatened by Holocaust-denying Iranian officials doesn’t need to come with this much angst from Democrats. But if it does, it’s worth asking why.

Here's a very depressing story of overt anti-Semitism at my alma mater, UCLA. A Jewish student, Rachel Beyda, was applying for a position on the school's Judicial Board. Powerline has the video of how certain members of the board explicitly questioned whether she could be unbiased in her deliberations on the board given that she is a member of Jewish organizations and is active in the Jewish community. As the school newspaper, the Daily Bruin, editorialized, it is very disgusting that a student would be objected to joining the Judicial Board solely due to her religion.
The main objection to her appointment was Beyda’s affiliation with Jewish organizations at UCLA and how they might affect her ability to rule fairly on cases in which the Jewish community has a vested interest in the outcome, such as cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That objection is confounding both for its vast shortsightedness and for its flat-out discriminatory nature.

Barring the dubious legality of not appointing someone based on his or her religious identity, the controversy over Beyda’s appointment makes little logical sense. The extent of Beyda’s involvement in Jewish community groups is irrelevant to her ability to execute her job on the Judicial Board. Suggesting otherwise implies that any person with any kind of community identity cannot make objective decisions on the board.

If Beyda cannot make decisions about issues that affect her community, can a Muslim student in the Muslim Students Association or a black student in the Afrikan Student Union do so? A Latino student in MEChA?

For a council seemingly obsessed with celebrating diversity in student positions and advocating against discrimination, the proceedings of Tuesday’s meeting were particularly hypocritical.

Several councilmembers asserted that while Beyda was more than qualified for the role, they were uncomfortable appointing her to the position specifically because cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can come before the board, and they felt that Beyda would not be able to judge such cases fairly.

And yet, in recent years, the only case related to the topic that went before the board had to do with the issue of councilmembers’ Israel trips, which is unrelated to the conflict itself. Not to mention that it is not the purpose of the Judicial Board to rule on cases related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only on cases related to “cases of actions taken among the officers, commissioners and funding bodies to ensure compliance with the (USAC constitution) and bylaws.”

It is obvious that the objections to Beyda’s appointment are not only political, but also discriminatory. To hold an applicant to a standard higher than others simply because of his or her ethnic or religious identity instead of his or her ability to rule fairly in accordance with USAC regulations is illogical and immoral.
Remember that this took place on a Board that is supposed to be the highest decision-making body for the student organization. Can anyone imagine someone being questioned because he or she was a member of any other minority? Yet these students were willing to speak out publicly about their discomfort with having a Jew on their board. It is yet more evidence of the anti-Semitism that exists on our nation's campuses.