July 1st, 2014 at 4:23 pm
Yesterday’s OTHER Supreme Court Ruling
Posted by Troy Senik Print

Lost in all of the media hyperventilation about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision yesterday (where the left is truly embarrassing itself over an extremely narrowly tailored decision) is the equally good news that came out of the case of Harris v. Quinn, which challenged Illinois’ requirement that home care workers had to contribute dues to the SEIU even if they didn’t want to join (an arrangement that was set up through a back room deal with now-imprisoned former Governor Rod Blagojevich). From The Hill:

The Supreme Court on Monday chipped away at the power of organized labor by ruling that some state workers cannot be forced to pay union fees.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices struck down a requirement that home care workers in Illinois contribute to a branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), even if they choose not to join.

“A state may not force every person who benefits from this [union's] efforts to make payments to the [union],” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority’s decision.

It’s always the same story with big labor: their supposed benevolence relies on coercion. If people don’t want to join the union, by what right should they still be forced to pay them? And if the unions think the lack of dues leaves them vulnerable to free riding, then why not limit the terms of collective bargaining only to those workers who are actual members? The answer, of course, is that labor negotiates deals far better than they could receive in a competitive market, leading them to attempt to lock out anyone who might be willing to work for a lesser rate.

Expect to see the same outcome in Illinois that you did in Wisconsin when workers there got out from the unions’ thumbs: dues payers rushing for the exits. If big labor wants a viable future, they’ll have to start standing on their own two feet. The days when they can live off of others are quickly coming to a close.


July 1st, 2014 at 2:51 pm
Hobby Lobby Hypocrisy? Not So Fast
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Criticism of yesterday’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision is already pioneering new realms of intellectual dishonesty and irrationality.  In one commentary that seems to be maintaining particular inertia on the Internet, Mother Jones labels the Hobby Lobby organization hypocritical because its retirement plan invests in contraceptive manufacturers.

Fortunately, Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform provides a welcome antibiotic.  Specifically, he rebuts the Mother Jones commentary, explaining in clear terms the nature of such retirement plans and the weakness of the Mother Jones assertion:

401(k) plans are directed and invested by employees, not by employers. It’s the Hobby Lobby employees that would be disenfranchised by the twisted logic employed by Redden and Ungar here.  They are the ones–not their bosses–who choose which mutual funds to invest in.  This is true both of the employee’s elective deferral and the employer’s match.  The menu of choices is primarily provided not by the Hobby Lobby employers, but by the 401(k) plan administrator, who helps select a wide menu of mutual fund (and, increasingly, exchange traded fund) choices so that the fiduciary obligations of the plan are met.”

It’s a brief, straightforward piece that is well worth taking a moment to read and share with others.


June 30th, 2014 at 2:08 pm
Obama Goes Outside Military Brass, Medical Community for New VA Chief
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Robert McDonald, former CEO of Procter & Gamble, is President Barack Obama’s nominee to run the scandal-ridden Department of Veterans Affairs.

McDonald’s nomination is catching some in the veterans’ community off-guard. Unlike previous VA Secretaries, he’s not a general – though he did graduate from West Point and serve for five years as an Army paratrooper before jumping to P&G.

He’s also neither a medical doctor, nor does he have experience administering a hospital; traits that some think would be useful for a person stepping into the nation’s largest health system with 1,700 facilities.

Indeed, the case being made for McDonald is that his background in brand management and customer service signals that Obama thinks the main problem at the VA is bad leadership.

Which brings us to an interesting question – Is McDonald’s job just to make the VA’s public face more attractive, or is it to get the sprawling department into tip-top, customer satisfaction shape?

The answer depends on how much latitude President Obama is giving McDonald to operate. For example, in places like Phoenix where staff and administrators falsified records to get performance bonuses, does McDonald have the authority to fire and hire political appointees as well as career civil servants? Does he have the flexibility to outsource patients to private medical providers in regions where the VA hospitals are overbooked?

Senate Republicans should ask McDonald these and other questions during his confirmation hearings. Veterans and their families deserve to know whether the VA’s new chief has the power to be a turnaround artist, or just a place warmer.


June 30th, 2014 at 11:15 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Rip Van Media
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


June 27th, 2014 at 6:17 pm
Cover Oregon Offers Bonuses to Staff Not to Leave
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

Oregon’s failed ObamaCare website is so fraught with failure the state is offering to pay employees bonuses just to keep them on the job.

After spending over $250 million – and retaining more than $50 million in federal grants – to build an ObamaCare health insurance exchange that failed to enroll a single person, Oregon decided to switch to Healthcare.gov, the federal equivalent.

Apparently, though, the crisis isn’t over. Since April, 27 staff members of Cover Oregon have left, taking with them valuable skills that can’t easily be replaced in time to transition to the federal website. To staunch the bleeding, Oregon is making a total of $650,000 in bonuses available to the remaining 163 employees, if they stay on till the end of the job.

As I explained in my column this week, state officials are primarily responsible for the costly disaster that is Cover Oregon. This news is just one more reminder that simple, avoidable mistakes by politicians and bureaucrats have huge and prolonged consequences.

H/T: NRO


June 27th, 2014 at 12:38 pm
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

June 26th, 2014 at 1:02 pm
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June 25th, 2014 at 2:25 pm
Isn’t Not “Following” the Law the Same as Breaking It?
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

No one wants to be David Ferriero right now.

He’s the U.S. Archivist, the man in charge of keeping all of the federal government’s records for posterity.

Apparently though, no one told the IRS. Twelve days ago the agency revealed that it has conveniently lost two years’ worth of emails from Lois Lerner, the former IRS supervisor at the center of a scandal that targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

“Any agency is required to notify us when they realize they have a problem,” Ferriero told a House Oversight committee panel. One imagines that an alleged hard drive failure vaporizing thousands of emails qualifies as just such a problem.

By law, the IRS is supposed to alert Ferriero within days. He wasn’t notified until earlier this month – about three years after the crash occurred.

When pressed, all Ferriero would say is that the IRS did not “follow” the law. He would not say the agency broke the law.

It doesn’t matter. The truth is obvious. Every new revelation in the IRS scandal only serves to harden the perception that so-called public servants abused their positions.


June 24th, 2014 at 6:42 pm
Oregon v. Oracle ObamaCare Brawl Heating Up
Posted by Ashton Ellis Print

There is a nasty fight brewing between Oregon’s governor and Oracle, the software company the state hired to create its doomed ObamaCare website.

Earlier this year Cover Oregon, the state board that contracted with Oracle, decided to scuttle the project after spending upwards of $300 million for a website that failed to enroll a single person.

When Oregon nixed the deal in April, Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber blamed the entire fiasco on Oracle, suggesting the state should consider suing the company to recover its losses.

But at a House Energy and Commerce hearing last week in Washington, D.C., Oracle hit back.

“The website was operational in February,” Oracle said, but “the state of Oregon pulled the plug on it for political reasons.”

The company had previously written to state officials that “Cover Oregon executives have stated to Oracle that application functionality is sufficient to support individual enrollment. However, Cover Oregon has not agreed to give individuals direct access to the application. Thus Cover Oregon, not Oracle, made the decision to keep the exchange closed to individuals even though the functionality has been delivered by Oracle.”

Kitzhaber may face a surprisingly difficult reelection campaign due to the spectacular failure of Cover Oregon. The governor embraced ObamaCare early, so any negative fallout from the law’s poor local performance could sink him.

To be fair, though, Oracle isn’t totally without blame. Saying that the website was functional in February when the enrollment period began in October – and ended in March – is hardly prompt performance. Does anyone seriously think that one of Oracle’s private sector clients wouldn’t be threatening legal action under the same circumstances?

Whatever the outcome of the ongoing investigation, Oregon’s ObamaCare debacle is sure to cost taxpayers even more money as lawyers, tech consultants and political strategists get their part of a never-ending spending spree.


June 24th, 2014 at 3:52 pm
RESPECT Act: Rectifying a Legal Anomaly, Providing Equity for Digital Broadcast of Pre-1972 Recordings
Posted by Timothy Lee Print

Is it fair that digital radio broadcasters pay royalties for the privilege of playing songs recorded after the arbitrary date of February 15, 1972, but not for pre-1972 recordings?

By way of perspective, no fewer than 305 of Rolling Stone’s 500 “Greatest Songs of All Time” were recorded before 1972, including 9 of its top 10.  Additionally, 65 of its 100 greatest artists recorded songs prior to 1972, including all 10 of its top 10.  Further, the overwhelming majority of artists inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame also recorded before 1972, as were 83% of the recordings in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Yet due to a legal quirk, digital broadcasters decided they would stop paying royalties for music recorded before 1972, believing that they’re entitled to play them for free.

Recordings predating 1972 remain protected by a patchwork of state laws, whereas recordings after February 15 of that year going forward are covered under federal law.  That amounts to a historical idiosyncrasy, without any prevailing substantive logic.  But digital radio stations, some of which center entirely upon pre-1972 music, have capitalized on the legal aberration to simply stop paying for performance of the pre-1972 songs still covered by state laws.  Estimates of royalties lost as a result reach $60 million per year.

As a result, the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’” receives no payment, but Hall & Oats’s remake does.  The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” is not compensated, but Devo’s remake is.  The Beach Boys get paid for “Kokomo” but not “Good Vibrations.”  This situation has also led to numerous lawsuits spanning various states, adding further legal complexity and uncertainty for artists, consumers and digital broadcasters alike.

Digital radio stations operate under privilege of federal license to broadcast, but take the position that they need not pay for pre-1972 songs that remain protected under state laws.  They profit from playing those songs, but refuse to pay accordingly.  Keep in mind that unlike contemporary performers, many of those older affected artists are no longer capable of touring, and sales of their records have diminished over the years, leaving royalties for performance of their songs as their only remaining means of continuing compensation.

Now, however, some in Congress seek to rectify that unfairness.  Representative George Holding (R – North Carolina) has introduced the Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures Act – the “RESPECT” Act.  Under that legislation, digital radio stations that enjoy federal broadcast privileges would finally be obligated to provide royalty payments for songs recorded before 1972, in the same way they already pay for songs recorded after 1972, as a condition for maintaining their licenses.  Importantly, the bill does not attempt to rework copyright laws or “federalize” pre-1972 recordings, which would introduce unnecessary legal complexity and confusion.  Rather, it explicitly maintains existing protection under state laws.  It simply conditions continued broadcasting privilege upon payment to artists for pre-1972 recordings.  A long list of musicians, spanning Martha Reeves to Brian Wilson to the Allman Brothers to Al Green have signed on in support of the bill.

Digital radio has provided an amazing innovation for which we can all be grateful.  Nevertheless, it’s simply unfair for them to attempt to exploit a legal quirk to avoid paying artists for songs recorded prior to the arbitrary date of February 15, 1972.  Congressman Holding is therefore to be applauded for his effort, and Americans should contact their Senators and Representatives to voice their support.


June 24th, 2014 at 9:18 am
Must See IRS TV: Trey Gowdy Schools IRS Commissioner Koskinen
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

At a House Oversight Committee hearing last night, IRS Commissioner Koskinen was on the hot seat regarding the “lost” emails of Lois Lerner and other employees implicated in the IRS targeting scandal.  The tough line of questioning by Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is a must see.


June 23rd, 2014 at 3:56 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. CDT (that’s 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. EDT) 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 CDT/5:00 pm EDT:  Craig Shirley, Author, Historian, Conservative – President Reagan, Then and Now;

4:30 CDT/5:30 pm EDT:  Hans von Spakovsky, Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation – Lerner’s Lost E-Mails and Other IRS Scandals;

5:00 CST/6:00 pm EDT:  Robert Zarate, Policy Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative – What to do in Iraq; and

5:30 CDT/6:30 pm EDT:  Steve Soukup, Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum and Fellow in Culture and Economy at the Culture of Life Foundation – Immigration.

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


June 23rd, 2014 at 10:32 am
Ramirez Cartoon: The White House to the Rescue
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


June 23rd, 2014 at 8:29 am
Supreme Court Winding Up Current Term
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Megan Brown, a partner in Wiley Rein’s Litigation, Appellate and Communications practice, reviews several recent Supreme Court decisions and cases, including Greece v Galloway (town prayer) and McCullen v. Coakley (”buffer zones”), some First Amendment cases presently before the DC Circuit, and a percolating and timely establishment clause case in the Second Circuit over the World Trade center cross.

Listen to the interview here.


June 20th, 2014 at 11:00 am
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

June 20th, 2014 at 10:05 am
School’s Out, But Lunchroom Fight Continues
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

In an interview with CFIF, Daren Bakst, Research Fellow in Agricultural Policy at The Heritage Foundation, discusses the massive food costs of the new school lunch requirements, major declines in student participation, food waste, lack of flexibility and First Lady Michelle Obama’s criticism of the House of Representatives for considering a one-year reprieve for certain schools.

Listen to the interview here.


June 18th, 2014 at 10:26 am
Ramirez Cartoon: Missing
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Below is one of the latest cartoons from two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Ramirez.

View more of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons on CFIF’s website here.


June 13th, 2014 at 1:51 pm
Video: “Suck it Up and Salute”
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

From the squalid conditions in the VA to Obama skipping the traditional Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to go on vacation, CFIF’s Renee Giachino laments the lack of respect afforded the U.S. military by this administration.


June 13th, 2014 at 12:47 pm
Podcast: The Gov’t Should Keep Its Regulatory Hands Off the Internet
Posted by CFIF Staff Print

Timothy Lee, CFIF’s Senior Vice President of Legal and Public Affairs, discusses net neutrality and the misguided push to have the federal government regulate the Internet.

Listen to the interview here.


June 13th, 2014 at 12:41 pm
Liberty Update
Posted by CFIF Staff Print