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February 16th, 2017 at 6:05 pm
What Happened to the Millions of Dollars Raised by Standing Rock Protesters?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Over the past seven months, millions of dollars have poured into online crowdfunding accounts associated with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s unjustified crusade against the Dakota Access Pipeline.  To date, the violence-plagued protest has cost North Dakota taxpayers more than $33 million dollars, and diverted countless resources to assist local law enforcement.

Through February 14, over $13.5 million has reportedly been raised for the protesters through at least 350 different online accounts setup on sites like GoFundMe and FundRazr.  While the list represents some of the more serious fundraising efforts, it’s estimated that upwards of 20,000 individual campaigns exist, likely equating to millions in additional income.

So where is all of that money going?  Nobody really knows.

There’s little to no accountability or transparency on how the money raised is allocated and spent.  For example, the Sacred Stone Camp boasts of GoFundMe balance of over $3.1 million dollars, but where has that money gone?  The camp’s founder, LaDonna Allard, says the organization is a registered 501 (c) (3) charity, but at least one exhaustive search of state and federal nonprofit registries produced no evidence to support claim.

Other six and seven figure campaigns include, “Tattoos in Support of Standing Rock” ($150,826), “Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund” ($2,924,705), and “Veterans for Standing Rock #NoDAPL” ($1,155,780).   Again, where did this money go?  Has $13.2 million now just joined the abandoned mountain of trash left by protesters now threatening to contaminate the Cannonball and Missouri rivers?

Fortunately, all of that questionable funding isn’t just raising the eyebrows of everyday Americans.  It also grabbed the attention of the North Dakota tax authority who recently told the Washington Times that he plans to launch an investigation if income tax forms reflective of these earnings are not submitted.

There’s one thing of which we can be sure: This disturbing story isn’t going away anytime soon.

February 13th, 2017 at 4:22 pm
Poll: Right Track/Wrong Track Positivity Under Trump Continues Near Record High Levels
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Whatever your opinion of Donald Trump, one must admit that this stunning new survey result scores a point toward the idea of “Making America Great Again”:

Forty-five percent (45%) of likely U.S. voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending February 9.  That’s down a point from the previous week and down two points from the week before that, which was the highest level of optimism in over 12 years of regular surveying.  By comparison, the weekly finding was in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016.”

February 13th, 2017 at 3:20 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.” Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CST/5:00 pm EST:  David Adesnik, Policy Director at the Foreign Policy Initiative – National Security;

4:15 CST/5:15 pm EST:  Peter Cove, Nationally-Acclaimed Advocate for Private Solutions to Welfare Dependency – “Poor No More: Rethinking Dependency and the War on Poverty”;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST:  Andrew M. Grossman, Partner in the Washington, DC office of Baker & Hostetler – SCOTUS Nominee Neil Gorsuch;

4:45 CST/5:45 pm EST:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs – An Update on Dakota Access Pipeline, Cuomo’s Green Energy, and the EPA;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST:  Quint Studer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist and Mentor – Studer Community Institute and Pensacola-Early Learning City; and

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST:  Greg Brown, Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser – News and Developments from SRCPA.

Listen live on the Internet here. Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

February 10th, 2017 at 2:49 pm
New York: Even the Albany Times Union Excoriates Gov. Cuomo’s Green Energy Subsidy Boondoggle
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Things are going from bad to worse for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s crony capitalist green energy subsidy boondoggle.

For readers who remain unaware of this catastrophe, last August the state’s Public Service Commission (appointed entirely by Gov. Cuomo himself) rushed through a “Clean Energy Standard” requiring 50% of state power to come from green sources by 2030.  It forces healthy power companies to buy “Zero Emission Credits” from a state bureaucracy, whose proceeds in turn go to struggling upstate plants.  And here’s the kicker.  In addition to costing New York citizens and businesses $1 billion in its first year and an estimated $8 billion over the course of the scheme, all of those subsidies go to plants owned by a single company named Exelon.  In other words, a state-level Solyndra.

The plan is so objectionable that even environmentalists and those on the political left have turned against it, and the Cuomo Administration has already been forced to dramatically scale it back.

Now even the left-leaning Albany Times Union is excoriating this debacle in a new piece entitled “A Surprise Tax on the Way”:

By its own account, 2016 was a ‘monumental year’ for Exelon, for good reason.  It’s not every year that a company gets a $7.6 billion boost courtesy of New Yorkers.

Exelon is slated to reap that windfall over the next 12 years through a fee on just about anyone who gets an electric bill in New York, all to support its nuclear power plants in the state.  That’s an energy tax by any other name, but as a fee levied by a state commission, it has drawn far less attention that, say, an income tax increase of that scale would receive…

One might be tempted to say, fine, let communities make up their own minds about nuclear power, except for this:  The entire state will have to foot the bill for a $7.6 billion economic development program to pay for 2,100 jobs for just a dozen more years and directly enrich one of the nation’s wealthiest power companies.  All this was decided by the governor and three members of the Public Service Commission (which will shortly be down to only two).  Hardly taxation with representation.”

The good news, as the Times Union notes, is that the state legislature can quickly remedy the situation:

Lawmakers, however, will have a chance to take a closer look at this huge corporate subsidy for a company with an annual net income of more than $2 billion…

With the fee due to take effect in April, and the legislature next week scheduled to review the energy and environment portions of the governor’s budget, it’s a good time for lawmakers to consider if this is the best route to a clean energy future, the best way to help upstate communities, and the best use of the public’s money.  They may agree this is a reasonable short-term strategy.  Or they may conclude there are far better investments the state could make in these areas and in clean energy, at far less cost to hard-working New Yorkers.”

For the sake of New York consumers and businesses, hopefully legislators will heed that advice and put an end to a program that has already proven a disaster, and will only get worse if allowed to continue into the next decade.

February 2nd, 2017 at 12:33 pm
Image of the Day: Obama’s Legacy = Worst Economic Growth Record
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

The  Obama Legacy:  the worst economic growth rate of any president since official recordkeeping began.

Obamas Economic Legacy

Obama's Economic Legacy

January 30th, 2017 at 2:59 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.” Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CST/5:00 pm EST:  Aparna Mathur, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute – Paid Family Leave;

4:15 CST/5:15 pm EST:  David North, Fellow of the Center for Immigration Studies – 180,000 New Jobs with the Stroke of a Pen;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST:  Matthew Clark, Senior Counsel for Digital Advocacy with the American Center for Law and Justice – SCOTUS Nomination;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST:  Lt. Col. David Glassman, USMC (ret.) – Fishing for AHERO; and

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST:  Sandi Eubanks, Treasurer of Citizens for Education – Santa Rosa School District Half Cent Sales Tax Renewal.

Listen live on the Internet here. Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

January 24th, 2017 at 11:39 am
CFIF Applauds Trump Order Granting Approval to Dakota Access Pipeline
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Today, President Trump signed executive actions advancing the Dakota Access Pipeline, thereby helping restore faith in due process of law.   Company officials followed the letter of the law in their completion of the approval process, and it is a relief to see that diligence recognized by President Trump.

CFIF anticipates a timely completion of Dakota Access, which paves the way for safe, reliable access to critical energy resources across the region.

January 23rd, 2017 at 3:43 pm
Intellectual Property: Trump Administration Can Reverse Eight Years of Erosion Under Obama
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In Forbes today, intellectual property (IP) attorney Howard Hogan highlights the importance of IP to the American economy (38% of GDP and 30% of jobs) and considers the opportunity for positive change under a Trump Administration after eight years of poor leadership under Barack Obama.

Hogan highlights the pernicious influence of Google during the past eight years, given its self-interest in weakening America’s historic protection of IP rights and free-riding off of others’ creations:

Arguably, no company has been more influential than Google in setting policy in America in recent years…  White House officials met with employees of Google or related companies 427 times – an average of more than once a week, while approximately 30 Google personnel have taken positions in the Obama Administration, and about 20 former members of the White House staff have landed at Google…

One of the consistent goals of this political machine has been to promote policies that have the effect of weakening legal protections for IP rights.  The reason for these policy preferences lies in Google’s role as content distributor and advertiser.  Google does not create the overwhelming majority of the content that its users seek;  it generates much of its revenue by displaying ads while connecting users to content created by others, or by selling platforms to access such content.  For Google, the ability to distribute popular third-party content or sell rights to use other companies’ trademarks with few strings attached is tantalizingly profitable.”

Among the destructive agenda items pushed by Google?  The “set-top box” proposal within Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which we at CFIF continue to emphatically oppose:

A recent example was the so-called ’set-top box rule’ proposed by the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.  The proposal would have used a statute designed to promote competition among cable television set-top boxes as a vehicle to force cable companies to give tech companies like Google free access to raw video and data feeds that cable companies provide to their customers.

While much about the proposed rule remains controversial, there is no doubt that it would have benefited the Googles of the world, who could sell devices and advertising based on content that they had not licensed from copyright owners, without paying royalties, and with little fear that the owners would be able to enforce the licensing restrictions that led them to offer the video content to cable companies in the first place.  Google and its allied advocacy groups all filed comments in support of the proposal.  Even President Obama threw his support behind the rule, prompting some to question whether he was exerting undue pressure on a supposedly independent agency.”

As Howard concludes, companies like Google contribute a great deal to the American economy and our lives, but we must also do a far better job of protecting American IP rights, which may be our greatest comparative advantage over other nations in an increasingly competitive global information economy.

January 16th, 2017 at 2:12 pm
Stat of the Day: Terrible Deterioration of Race Relations Under Obama
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In our Liberty Update commentary last week, we noted the many failures of Barack Obama as president over the past eight years.  Today, as the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a Washington Post-ABC News survey shows just how disastrously race relations have declined under his watch:

In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans think race relations are ‘generally bad.’ Shortly after Obama took office, that number was 22 percent. In the same time period, those who think race relations are ‘generally good’ plummeted from 66 percent to 32 percent.”

Of his failures and disastrous legacy, this may be the most depressing.

January 11th, 2017 at 4:04 pm
Image of the Day: Over Half of Military Members Hold Unfavorable View of Obama
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Ouch.  According to a new Military Times survey, approximately 52% of military members surveyed hold a “very unfavorable” or “somewhat unfavorable” opinion of Barack Obama after eight years of his leadership, while only 36% hold a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of him.

Military Times Poll

Military Times Poll

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January 9th, 2017 at 1:57 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CDT to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.” Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CST/5:00 pm EST:  Genevieve Wood, Senior Fellow in Communications and Senior Contributor, The Daily Signal at The Heritage Foundation – President Obama’s Legacy;

4:20 CST/5:20 pm EST:  Carrie Severino, Chief Counsel and Policy Director of the Judicial Crisis Network – Trump’s Potential SCOTUS Nominee;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST:  Clark Neily, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Justice – Sharing Economy;

4:45 CST/5:45 pm EST:  David Adesnik, Policy Director at the Foreign Policy Initiative – Foreign Policy in the New Administration;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST:  Michael Auslin, Resident Scholar and Director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute – US-Asian Relations;

5:20 CST/6:20 pm EST:  Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs: In the News – TV Blackouts, Climate Alarmists and Nominees; and

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST:  Sally Pipes, President and CEO of Pacific Research Institute – The Fate of OmamaCare.

Listen live on the Internet here. Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

January 3rd, 2017 at 9:56 am
Amid Other Failed 2016 Predictions, Don’t Forget Climate Alarmists’
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Amid the wreckage of failed political predictions last year, we shouldn’t overlook another year of failed global warming predictions.  One year ago, Cambridge University professor and global warming alarmist Peter Wadhams predicted that in 2016, Arctic ice would either disappear or decline to “record low” levels:

‘My prediction remains that the Arctic ice may well disappear, that is, have an area of less than one million square kilometers for September of this year,’ he said.  ’Even if the ice doesn’t completely disappear, it is very likely that this will be a record low year.  I’m convinced it will be less than 3.4 million square kilometers [the current record low].  I think there’s a reasonable chance it could get down to a million this year, and if it doesn’t do it this year, it will do it next year.’”

So how did that turn out?  Ice levels actually grew by a significant amount:

Dire predictions that the Arctic would be devoid of sea ice by September this year have proven to be unfounded after the latest satellite images showed there is far more now than in 2012…  [W]hen figures were released for the yearly minimum on September 10, they showed that there was still 1.6 million square kilometers of sea ice, which was 21 percent more than the lowest point in 2012.  For the month of September overall, there was 31 percent more ice than in 2012, figures released this week from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) show.  This amounts to an extra 421,000 million square kilometers of sea ice.”

Oh, well.  Although the  climate alarm industry believes that there won’t be a next year, there’s always  next year.

December 16th, 2016 at 6:54 pm
Empire Center: Gov. Cuomo’s Green Energy CES Boondoggle Already Beginning to Collapse
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

For months now we’ve been exposing an inexcusable, costly, climate alarmist, crony capitalist, green energy boondoggle imposed upon New York state citizens by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) composed entirely of his appointees.

Specifically, the PSC rushed through their “Clean Energy Standard” (CES) last August, which requires that 50% of power generated in the state come from carbon-neutral sources by 2030.  The CES works by forcing power companies to buy “Zero Emission Credits” (ZECs) from a state bureaucracy on behalf of financially struggling upstate nuclear energy plants.  In the first two years of the plan alone, the cost is an estimated $1 billion.  For the entire span of the CES scheme, the estimate is approximately $8 billion.

Crony capitalism enters the stage in the sense that those subsidies will benefit Exelon, a single company that owns all of the struggling plants standing to benefit.  Think of it as a state-level Solyndra, with costs ultimately hitting New York businesses and consumers, as usual.

These are just some of the reasons that citizens and groups spanning the political spectrum have spoken out against the scheme.

But there’s positive news to report.  Confronted with the CES’s inherent contradictions and flaws, the Cuomo Administration is already drastically scaling back the plan, as reported by the Empire Center:

The State Public Service Commission has quietly reduced the amount of renewable energy that utilities will have to purchase next year by 94 percent, according to PSC documents.

In August, as part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Clean Energy Standard, the PSC ordered utilities and others to next year purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) equivalent to 0.6 percent of their electricity usage.  This amounted to a total of 974,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of RECs, which are generated when a renewablee plant such as a solar farm or wind turbine sells power into the electrical grid.  The governor’s ultimate goal is for 50 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewables by 2030, and 2017 was to be the first year in which the PSC incrementally required these ‘load-serving entities’ to financially support increasing amounts of renewable energy.

But in an ‘Order Providing Clarification’ issued on November 17, the 2017 amount was slashed from 974,000 to 56,142 MWh – a 94 percent reduction – after the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) determined few renewables would actually qualify to issue the credits. Load-serving entities will now have to purchase RECs equating to just 0.035 percent of their total usage.”

And just as the costs of the plan ultimately hit New York consumers and businesses, scaling back the plan’s ambitions benefits those consumers and businesses, as the Empire Center notes:  ”For starters, the move will collectively save ratepayers $19.4 million in 2017 as utilities and others aren’t forced to buy as many credits as anticipated.”

The entire boondoggle was transparently destined to fail, but even skeptics didn’t anticipate it would begin collapsing under its own weight this quickly.  But New Yorkers shouldn’t relent until the entire CES is consigned permanently to the policy ash heap.

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December 2nd, 2016 at 4:24 pm
ATSC 3.0: What Could It Mean for American Consumers?
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Next month’s arrival of a new Trump Administration, alongside a Congress ready to hit the ground running, promises a flurry of corrective activity after eight years of Barack Obama.

However, Americans should remain vigilant against regulatory mischief that some are trying to push through unnoticed at the outset of the new Administration and Congress.

Exhibit A:  An effort by broadcasters to convince Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve an entirely new broadcast television standard known as ATSC 3.0.

In a nutshell, the ATSC 3.0 standard amounts to yet another new federal action upon a private marketplace and a handout to a favored industry that could inflict significant and unnecessary costs, ultimately to be paid by consumers.

Under current law, cable and satellite television providers must carry local television stations, so the regulatory scales are already tipped in broadcasters’ favor.  The proposed new mandate could extend the scope of providers’ obligations requiring them to transmit broadcast signals in the new standard to the public.

As a result, consumers who currently receive local stations over the air or via cable or satellite providers suddenly would face the possibility of incurring the cost of new equipment in order to receive the new signal, as current equipment does not support the new standard.  Obviously, millions of consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet could thus be forced to pay – whether through higher monthly subscription fees or direct charge – for new equipment for a “benefit” that may not be needed or even desired.

Satellite and cable providers could also face technological hurdles to accommodate the new standard, which could inevitably lead to additional costs and quality assurance issues.  Ultimately, subscribers could have to pay those costs and endure those potential technological glitches as well.

Keep in mind that all of these costs and changes could be imposed without a sober cost/benefit analysis from the FCC.  It’s precisely the sort of hasty, top-down, crony capitalist federal regulatory action that has tested the limits of American tolerance over the past decade.

Technological advance is a good thing, whether in the TV market or elsewhere.  But that’s something that should occur as the result of market forces, not through fast-tracked federal regulatory action riddled by too many uncertainties.

November 14th, 2016 at 3:18 pm
This Week’s “Your Turn” Radio Lineup
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Please join CFIF Corporate Counsel and Senior Vice President Renee Giachino today from 4:00 p.m. CST to 6:00 p.m. CST (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EST) on Northwest Florida’s 1330 AM WEBY, as she hosts her radio show, “Your Turn: Meeting Nonsense with Commonsense.” Today’s guest lineup includes:

4:00 CST/5:00 pm EST:  Jim Martin, Chairman of 60 Plus Association – ObamaCare and the New Regime;

4:15 CST/5:15 pm EST:  Evan Moore, Senior Policy Analyst at the Foreign Policy Initiative – The World Awaiting President Trump;

4:30 CST/5:30 pm EST: Craig Shirley, Author, Historian, Lecturer – Trump’s People First Platform;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EST: Bradley A. Smith, Chairman and Founder of Center for Competitive Politics – Donor and Speech Privacy; and

5:30 CST/6:30 pm EST: Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President for Legal and Public Affairs –  Post-Election 2016, the Importance of Federalism and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Listen live on the Internet here. Call in to share your comments or ask questions of today’s guests at (850) 623-1330.

November 14th, 2016 at 11:38 am
NY Times’s Paul Krugman Discredited In Record Time
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

There may be no commentator more exposed and discredited in recent years than The New York Times’s Paul Krugman.

Where to even begin?  My personal favorite might be his call for a massive spending “stimulus” when Obama entered office, which he estimated should be approximately $600 billion, to return economic health to the nation.  ”When I put this all together,” he said, “I conclude that the stimulus package should be at least 4% of GDP, or $600 billion.”  Obama ended up getting something much larger, closer to $1 trillion.  Yet when the U.S. proceeded to suffer the worst decade of economic performance in U.S. history and multiple failed “recovery summers,” Krugman just shamelessly published a later piece entitled “How Did We Know the Stimulus Was Too Small?”

Fast forward to election night, when he moped and went on record predicting that markets would never recover from Donald Trump’s victory.  You can’t make this stuff up:

It really does now look like President Donald Trump, and markets are plunging.  When might we expect them to recover?

Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty.  The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.  Still, I guess people want an answer:  If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”

So what happened immediately after Krugman’s solemn prediction?  Well, markets reached another record high on Friday.

Perhaps Krugman simply recognizes the wreckage of Obama’s legacy, and masochistically seeks to outdo him?

November 8th, 2016 at 11:35 am
Good News, Regardless of Election Outcome: Tax Relief Likely
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Regardless of today’s election outcome, here’s an encouraging headline buried deep on Page C 8 of this morning’s Wall Street Journal:  ”Tax Relief Is Likely No Matter Who Wins.”

As we at CFIF have long emphasized, the U.S. continues to suffer the developed world’s highest corporate tax rate.  In addition to suffocating domestic growth and imposing needless tax complexity on American businesses, our outdated corporate tax code also explains why corporations are forced to relocate headquarters overseas in order to survive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace.  Speaker Paul Ryan has unsurprisingly offered admirable intellectual and political leadership in promoting reform, and the good news is that oven liberals like Barack Obama understand the need for cutting rates and reducing complexity.

Accordingly, it’s refreshing regardless of one’s political leanings to read the Journal’s take:

No matter the outcome of Tuesday’s election, American companies with substantial overseas earnings, and their investors, could emerge as big winners.  Corporate tax reform that would make it easier for U.S. firms to repatriate foreign earnings has emerged as a rare issue of bipartisan consensus in Washington.  Progress on this issue is possible no matter who controls the White House and Congress next year…  Under current law, American companies with overseas earnings pay no U.S. federal tax on these profits unless and until they repatriate the money, at which time they pay the relatively high corporate tax rate of 35%.  This creates a perverse incentive for U.S. companies to house money abroad rather than reinvest it at home…

Even in a divided-government scenario, for example, with Mrs. Clinton as President and a Republican-controlled Congress, it seems likely that companies can look forward to a one-time break on repatriated earnings and a lower tax rate going forward.”

And as the Journal notes, the positive effect would likely be substantial:

The last time there was such a repatriation tax holiday was in a law passed in 2004, and the effects were dramatic.  Companies brought home $299 billion of overseas earnings in 2005, up from $82 billion the previous year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.”

Far preferable to a mere one-time repatriation tax holiday would be a permanent reduction in the corporate tax rate below the developed worldwide average around 20%, and removal of Byzantine complexity.  Regardless, the likelihood of tax reform whoever wins tonight offers welcome news as an oftentimes bleak election concludes.

November 4th, 2016 at 2:48 pm
Cronyism Within Obama’s FCC and Library of Congress Threatens U.S. Copyright and Intellectual Property Protections
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In today’s political atmosphere of Wikileaks and FBI investigation of potential collusion, the charge of government cronyism is perhaps more damning than any other.

For that reason, a blockbuster editorial in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal was particularly devastating:

Most Americans think of Google as a search engine doing unalloyed social good, but the company also wants to make money and wield political influence along the way.  So you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to notice that an abrupt change of leadership at the U.S. Copyright Office is good news for Google, which aims to pay less for profiting from the property of others.”

So what’s the backstory here?  In a nutshell, this tawdry ordeal centers on the suspicious demotion within the Library of Congress of Maria Pallante, who until two weeks ago served as U.S. Register of Copyrights.  In that capacity, Ms. Pallante advocated reorganizing the Copyright Office as an independent agency, but perhaps more significantly was too protective of people’s property rights, including copyright, for Google’s taste.

Chief among Ms. Pallante’s inconvenient heresies?  Her opposition to the malignant set-top cable box proposal from Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which we at CFIF have steadfastly criticized:

Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission proposed something known as the set-top box rule.  The thrust was to force cable companies to build a universal adapter so Google and others could broadcast content without paying licensing fees or abiding by carriage agreements.   Google supported the new rule.  Less pleased were creators, who wouldn’t be paid for their work.

A bipartisan group of House Members in July sent a letter asking the copyright office to weigh in.  Ms. Pallante replied that the rule ‘would seem to take a valuable good’ and ‘deliver it to third parties who are not in privity with the copyright owners, but who may nevertheless exploit the content for profit.’  Ms. Pallante suggested revising the rule, which the FCC did.

This prompted outrage from groups funded by Google.  Take Public Knowledge, whose website notes that Google is a ‘platinum’ supporter – chipping in $25,000 a year and probably more.  Public Knowledge’s senior counsel assailed the House letter, and in September it released a report claiming ’systematic bias at the U.S. copyright office.’  Ms. Pallante was singled out as ‘captured’ by industry for the sin of focusing on ‘enforcement’ of copyright rather than rewriting it.  Something else happened in September:  Ms. Pallante got a new boss when Ms. Hayden was sworn in as Librarian of Congress, a presidential appointment.  Ms. Hayden formerly ran the American Library Association, which takes a permissive view of copyright law and accepts money from, you guessed it, Google.  A month later Ms. Pallante was pushed out.”

It all reeks of crony capitalism on behalf of Google, whose business model depends in part on exploiting others’ copyrighted artistic creations without compensation.

As The Wall Street Journal’s editorial concluded, “The guarantee to own what you create is the reason entrepreneurs take the risks that power the economy.”  Indeed, the U.S. maintains the world’s most protective copyright and intellectual property (IP) laws, which remains the driving force in our status as the most creative, inventive and prosperous nation in human history.  Americans shouldn’t tolerate cronyism in pursuit of such bad ideas as the FCC’s set-top box proposal that threaten that status.

October 31st, 2016 at 11:54 am
New Poll: Support for “Assault Weapons” Ban Drops to Record Low
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

In our latest Liberty Update, we highlight an extremely encouraging new Gallup poll showing that public support for our nation’s police forces jumped by a record amount over the past year.

On a different but not entirely unrelated issue, there’s similarly welcome news in the form of another Gallup release entitled “In U.S., Support for Assault Weapons Ban At Record Low.”  Gallup began polling on the issue 20 years ago, and opposition has skyrocketed from 42% to today’s 61%, while support for a so-called “assault weapons” ban has plummeted from 57% to today’s 36%:

Assault rifles have been a contentious issue in American life for decades.  Two years after President Bill Clinton signed a federal assault weapons ban in 1994, Gallup found that a solid majority of Americans favored such a ban.  By the time the 10-year ban expired in 2004, Americans were evenly divided.  And by 2011, public opinion had tilted against the assault weapons ban, with 53% opposed and 43% in favor.  In Gallup’s 2016 crime poll, conducted Oct. 5-9, opposition now exceeds support by 25 percentage points, 61% to 36%.”

Equally encouraging in today’s hyperpartisan atmosphere is the fact that opposition to an “assault weapons” ban is bipartisan, as well as shared by both gun owners and non-owners.

It’s understandable in today’s political and pop culture atmosphere to believe that the country, or the world more broadly, are descending to hell in a handbasket.  While that may be true regarding some of our political leadership and celebrity influences, the good news is that the resilient American public continues to show a welcome degree of better judgment.

October 21st, 2016 at 6:19 pm
Crony Capitalist N.Y. Utility Subsidy Boondoggle Now Facing Federal Lawsuit
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

So there’s grave new trouble for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s crony-capitalist, climate alarmist utility subsidy boondoggle:  a federal lawsuit.

Since its introduction in August, CFIF has been exposing Cuomo’s “Clean Energy Standard” (CES), a scheme approved by the state of New York’s Public Service Commission made up entirely of his own appointees.  In a nutshell, the CES creates an artificial mandate that 50% of all the state’s energy be generated by carbon-neutral plants just 13 years from now.   At a minimum, the CES will cost $1 billion in its first two years alone, and an estimated $8 billion over its 13-year existence.  And it illustrates the sort of crony capitalism that is all too common at the federal, state and local levels because the plan’s subsidies will be steered toward a single company named Exelon that owns financially struggling upstate nuclear plants.  We have nothing against Exelon in particular, but everything about this scheme smells fishy.  At the end of the day, moreover, the cost of all of this will fall upon New York residents and businesses.

Additionally, the CES program is so manifestly flawed that opposition is bipartisan.  New York environmental groups also attack what they describe as Governor Cuomo’s “$8 billion bailout of three upstate nuclear power plants.”

And now there’s even more grave trouble for CES.

In U.S. District Court, a lawsuit filed this week by the prominent law firm Boies Schiller seeks injunction against the scheme, alleging violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause and federal preemption under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, among other counts:

Several power plant owners sued New York state energy regulators Wednesday over the state’s approval of billions of dollars in subsidies for aging nuclear plants.  The suit filed in Manhattan federal court argues the bailout represents an illegal interference with the federal government’s role in regulating electric rates, and will unfairly burden the ratepayers who will pay for the subsidies, which could cost nearly $8 billion over 12 years.  ’This is a bad deal for New Yorkers, who will see their electric bills go up across the state,’ said Jonathan Schiller, whose firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner is representing the plaintiffs…  ’This subsidy will cost New Yorkers as much as $7.6 billion in payments to a single company.  This is illegal.’”

We’ll be monitoring and updating this lawsuit as events develop, but it presents another mortal threat to the CES plan.

And justifiably so.  Although we continue to support nuclear power as an energy source that should be exploited by the U.S. on the basis of both efficiency and national security, Governor Cuomo’s crony capitalist boondoggle is simply an unacceptable way to do it.  It’s not by accident that opposition is bipartisan, and now under judicial threat as well.