U.S. Ambassador Susan E. Rice Owns Stake in Companies That Have Done Business with Iran

New questions are being raised over the possible nomination of Ambassador Rice to secretary of state due to the stakes her and her husband own in companies that have recently done business with Iran. In 2010, the U.N. Security Council approved sanctions on Iran, developed by Rice, which were described by diplomats as one of the toughest sanctions efforts in the the history of the organization.

The companies in question are global conglomerates and some have stopped doing business with Iran in order to comply with international sanctions. One of the biggest of Rice’s holdings, between $50,000 and $100,000,according to a disclosure statement for 2011, is Royal Dutch Shell. The international oil giant stopped buying crude oil from Iran early this year. Rice and her husband also own between $15,000 and $50,000 of stock in ENI, an Italian international oil company. ENI says that it no longer does business with Iran, but it has been granted a waiver from sanctions to allow it to collect oil as payment for about $1 billion Iran owes the company from earlier business deals. The company had been purchasing crude oil and developing natural gas fields.

“With respect to Iran, Ambassador Rice worked to impose the toughest U.N. sanctions regime ever on Iran for its continued failure to live up to its obligations,” said Rice’s spokeswoman, Erin Pelton. “Iran is more isolated than it has ever been and facing the toughest economic pressure ever mustered.”

Rice is one of the richest members of the Obama Cabinet. She and her husband, Ian Cameron, were worth between $23.5 million and $43.5 million in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Her late father was a World Bank director and governor of the Federal Reserve.

 

 

FEMA Ignoring Small Town Ravaged by Tornadoes?

In April of 2011 tornadoes struck Cordova, Alabama killing 250 people while destroying thousands of homes and businesses. A year and a half later the town still looks like the disaster happened yesterday.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised the small town, which has a population of just over 2,000, that it would provide the monies needed to demolish the damaged buildings, but after waiting for a year and a half, city residents are growing increasingly frustrated with the broken glass littering the streets, roofless buildings barely still standing, and the downtown area sealed off by a chain-link fence because it is considered unsafe. The tornadoes left behind $1 billion in damages.

FEMA has made numerous requests for documentation of the damage, but has still not provided the necessary funds. Cordova officials are asking for an estimated $933,000 to demolish the structures.

It’s very frustrating,” Mayor Drew Gilbert told the Associated Press. “You would think it’s been touched and seen now by everyone who needs to touch and seen it.”

Elizabeth Brown, preservation officer for the Alabama Historical Commission, said FEMA has never provided information as to when they would begin the much-needed demolition process of the ruined buildings.

FEMA officials told the AP that they are still gathering details about the damage before providing the money, which is a time-consuming process.

“This project involves demolition of multiple historically significant structures and requires that FEMA consider all pertinent environmental and historic preservation laws before funding the project,” the agency said.

FEMA’s procrastination has taken a huge toll on the local economy and employment opportunities. The damage wiped out businesses, leaving few available jobs for residents. Only schools, one bank, a pharmacy and a health clinic are open for employment. The town’s only grocery store was destroyed by the twisters, but unless the skeleton buildings are demolished, no new structures can replace them.

FEMA recently told city officials that their review of the city will be finished by Jan. 4, according to Cordova Fire Chief Dean Harbison, but funding for the demolition likely won’t be granted until the two-year anniversary of the tornado strike passes.

Our entire economy is gone, and it’s like they’re just doing nothing,” Mayor Gilbert said.

Meanwhile, FEMA announced Monday that it has provided $500 million to disaster areas ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, 10 percent of which went to individuals and families in Staten Island. The death toll due to the Alabama tornadoes was more than twice the death toll due to Sandy, but residents in this small town said they felt forgotten just a few weeks after the disaster. Cordova officials have asked for less than $1 million, but it may take them many more months before FEMA hands it over.

Businesses Reducing Worker’s Hours to Compensate for Obamacare

Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter says he will pass on the mandated costs of President Obama’s health insurance reform onto his workers. Schnatter said he will likely reduce workers’ hours, as a result of President Obama’s reelection. He estimates that the new law would cost his business $5 to $8 million annually.

Schnatter made headlines over the summer when he told shareholders that the cost of a Papa John’s pizza will increase by between 11 and 14 cents due to Obamacare.

“I got in a bunch of trouble for this,” he said inside a small auditorium at Edison State College’s Collier County campus in Naples. “That’s what you do, is you pass on costs. Unfortunately, I don’t think people know what they’re going to pay for this.”

Schnatter went on to say that “the good news is 100 percent of the population is going to have health insurance, We’re all going to pay for it.”

About a third of Papa John’s employees are covered by the company’s health insurance plan, although Schnatter said he has always wanted 100 percent of them on the plan but the rising costs of health insurance have been a deterrent.

Obamacare mandates that only employees that work more than 30 hours per week be covered under their employers health insurance plan.  Darden restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, has already begun reducing workers hours in anticipation of the legislation.  McDonald’s Corp. Chief Financial Officer Peter Bensen noted in a conference call with investors that the hamburger chain was looking at the many factors that will impact health care costs, including its number of full-time employees.  Jimmy John Liautaud, founder of Jimmy John’s sub shacks, told Fox Business News that like a lot of small businesses, his firm is considering cutting hours of workers to 28 to get under the Obamacare cap.

“We have to do that. There’s no other way we can survive it, because we think it will cost us 50 cents a sandwich. That’s just the actual cost,” he told Fox. “If you have 40 or 50 employees at a restaurant, and the penalty is $2,000, and you’re going to pay $80,000 or $100,000 penalty, there goes the profit in your restaurant,” he added.

Applebee’s has responded to the added costs of health insurance reform much harsher saying that they won’t hire new workers because of the law.

President Obama’s 27 Point Economic Plan

The Obama campaign has released a 27 point plan, just in time for the election, chock full of ideas that the president failed to get done in his first term. Entitled The New Economic Patriotism: A Plan For Jobs & Middle-Class Security the plan covers everything from manufacturing and energy to small businesses, education and taxes.

 

Lower the corporate tax rate

Obama Jobs Plan

In the plan, Obama says that his new goal is to add one million new manufacturing jobs by 2016. The first point of his five point plan on manufacturing is to lower the corporate tax rate — which now stands at a maximum of 35 percent — by a quarter for domestic manufacturers:

Reform the corporate tax code to bring down tax rates — cutting tax rates on domestic manufacturers by nearly a quarter — while closing tax preferences and loopholes to pay for it.

This would bring the tax rate for manufacturers down to 26.25 percent.

 

End deductions for outsourcing companies

Right now companies can claim a deduction on their taxes for a portion of the cost of exporting operations abroad, as the move offshore is considered a business expense.

Obama wants to end that deduction:

End tax deductions for companies shipping jobs overseas, and using the savings to create a new tax credit for companies that bring jobs home.

The new tax credit, according to the White House website, would be for 20 percent of the cost of moving business operations back to the States.

 

Fight China’ s unfair trade practices

For the third point of his manufacturing plan, Obama wants to create a new enforcement force devoted exclusively to Chinese trade by 2016.

According to the document, the president is already aggressively pursuing trade litigation against China:

President Obama brought more trade cases against China in four years than the previous president did in eight years and won every one of them that has been decided.

 

Train 2 million new workers through community colleges

One particularly unique strategy that the Obama plan has for improving the economy is to connect community colleges to companies so that the colleges serve as a training space for the employers.

 

Build 15 to 20 “manufacturing innovation institutes”

The President also wants to create a network of “manufacturing innovation institutes,” where businesses and research universities collaborate in order to design new projects.

It’s unclear what sort of model or precedent the President has in mind with this. But one example is the Los Alamos Laboratory during the Second World War, where industry and academia collaborated under the supervision of the University of California to build the atomic bomb. Other models could be any of the universities involved in the DARPA system.

 

Open up more acreage for energy resource development

Obama has opened up tracts of federal or protected land for oil, coal and mineral development over the course of his first term and is on pace to continue that throughout his second.

Point number one of his “all of the above” energy plan is:

[Open] up millions of acres for exploration and development, including undiscovered oil and gas resources in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic.

One part of this plan is to increase the domestic workforce in the energy sector. Obama specifically refers to an estimated 600,000 new jobs in the natural gas sector alone.

 

Invest in domestic energy sources

The second point of his energy plan emphasizes developing alternative energy sources, “including wind, solar, clean coal, nuclear, and biofuels. All while increasing our energy efficiency.”

 

Double vehicle fuel economy by 2025

This portion of the plan would double the average fuel economy for cars and light trucks over the next thirteen years.

According to Obama, this would drastically reduce the amount of oil imported and would likewise save the average car owner a substantial amount of money.

 

Get Congress to invest in high-tech batteries

U.S. Department of Energy

According to the plan, Obama wants to calling on “Congress to build on our success in positioning America to be the world’s leading manufacturer in high-tech batteries,” which could be used by the military as well as in civilian transportation.

To accomplish this, Obama wants Congress to extend tax credits that support clean energy manufacturing.

 

Make utility companies shift to 80% clean energy sources by 2035

The Obama administration wants to make the grid green within 23 years. Here’s the fifth and final point of the plan:

[Set] standard for utility companies so that 80% of the nation’s electricity comes from clean sources by 2035. This will help create a market for American manufacturers to make the clean energy technology we need, while improving access to cheaper, more secure energy for U.S. manufacturers.

 

Cut taxes for companies that hire

With his small business plan, Obama is appealing more to a class of entrepreneurs as a whole rather than any specific subset of the economy, so it makes sense that the plan is more a strategy that a point by point goal set.

The first is to create a tax cut for businesses that hire or increase wages, and to allow businesses to continue writing off business expenses.

 

Extend tax cuts for middle class families

Obama’s plan to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle class families is included in the Small Business section of Obama’s second term blueprint, because many small businesses are incorporated as S-corps, which means that the revenue passes through the company to the shareholders without being taxed, and then the shareholders pay taxes on the revenue personally.

In these cases, most small business owners in the middle class would see their taxes remain the same instead of rising with the cuts’ expiration. Here’s the exact phrasing:

Extending the middle-class income tax cuts which would prevent 97% of small business owners from facing a tax increase.

 

Expand the health reform tax credit

The Affordable Care Act includes tax credits for small businesses that offer employer-provided health insurance. Obama wants to expand this tax credit “to cover 50% of small businesses’ health care costs in 2014.” He also wants to provide small businesses access to group rates so they “won’t continue to pay up to 18% more than large firms for health insurance.”

 

Slow the growth rate of rising college tuition

 

One of the stated top priorities for Obama’s next term is to work on the expansive rise in the cost of going to college. The goal is to cut tuition growth in half over ten years.

Via the new plan:

We can make college more affordable by continuing tax credits to help middle-class families afford college tuition, doubling the number of work-study jobs and creating incentives for schools to keep tuition down.

 

Recruit 100,000 STEM teachers

Obama’s second-term blueprint also includes a plan to aggressively seeks to recruit and maintain Science, Technology, Engineering and Math majors in the U.S. university system in the hope that many of these students go on to become teachers in the primary and secondary education spheres.

The final goal is to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers. Via the Obama plan:

“We can out-compete China and Germany by out-educating them. The STEM Master Teacher Corps and investments in research and innovation into the best ways to teach math and science will help improve math and science education nationwide.”

 

Expand Race to the Top

The final point of Obama’s new education plan is to invest in primary and secondary education through the Race to the Top initiative.

Here’s the full quote of the plan:

Because we can’t compete for jobs of the future without educating our children, we must prevent teacher layoffs. We also must expand Race to the Top to additional school districts willing to take on bold reform. The President will offer states committed to reform relief from the worst mandates of No Child Left Behind, like incentives to teach to the test, so they can craft local solutions.

The idea is to defend unions and prevent teacher layoffs. The rollback of the No Child Left Behind program will continue on pace.

 

Cut $2.50 for each $1 in revenue increases

This portion details the ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases in the Obama tax plan.

The idea is to get the right mix of government cuts and tax increases to cut the deficit without cutting essential services to the point that the economy is harmed.

Here’s the policy:

President Obama’s plan reduces the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade, including $1 trillion in spending cuts he signed into law last summer, and cutting $2.50 in spending for every $1 in additional revenue from the wealthiest families and closing corporate loopholes.

 

Implement the Buffett Rule

The second point is the boilerplate “make sure millionaires aren’t paying less in taxes than middle class Americans” — the philosophy behind the Buffett Rule.

The Buffett Rule would make the minimum effective tax rate for people who make more than a million dollars per year 30%.

 

Commit money saved from ending wars overseas to repairing infrastructure and paying down the federal debt

A construction worker makes last minute repairs to a pedestrian walkway near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Obama wants to use the money saved from drawing down U.S. troop presence in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for improving the nation’s roads bridges, airports, and schools. He would use the leftover savings to start paying off the federal deficit.

 

Keep requiring health insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions

While Romney has sworn to gut the healthcare reform bill as soon as he walks into the office, Obama’s new blueprint promises that the law will continue to go into effect during his second term. out what will go into effect over a second term here.

The most popular provision of the law — forcing health insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions — is set to go into effect in 2014.

 

Make health care exchanges operational by 2014.

The state health care exchanges mandated in the Affordable Care Act are also set to become operational in 2014.

According to the plan, this will create “a marketplace that offers group rates and new tax credits so everyone can afford insurance.”

 

Stop health insurance companies from discriminating by gender

Another near-universally approved aspect of the health care legislation is the move to prohibit discrimination on premiums based on gender.

According to Obama’s plan women now spend up to 50% more on the same policy as men. Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies will no longer be allowed to discriminate by gender starting in 2014.

Here’s the projected extent of the bill’s effects:

“47 million women will benefit from the health care reform provision that requires health plans to cover lifesaving preventive care that women need without out-of pocket costs.”

 

Work with hospitals to reduce infections

One novel focus that the next Obama administration would “save 60,000 lives and $10 billion for Medicare’s future by partnering with hospitals to reduce inpatient infections and needless re-admissions” of seniors on Medicare.

How Obama plans to accomplish this goal is not specified.

 

Oppose plans to turn Medicare into a voucher system

According to the plan, Obama would also “stop proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher system,” a veiled shot at his opponent’s plans to overhaul the federally-funded retiree healthcare program.

 

Oppose attempts to privatize Social Security

According to the plan, Obama will:

Oppose efforts to gamble Social Security on the stock market. President Obama will fight for balanced deficit reduction, and extend the life of Medicare and Social Security, without ending guaranteed benefits or slashing benefits.

The implication here is that failing to elect Obama would make the privatization of Social Security a possibility.

25 Most Wealthy Members of Congress

No. 25: Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.)

Rep. Tom Petri had an estimated wealth of $28.1 million in 2010. Invests in: “Miscellaneous Business, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Mixed.”

No. 24: Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney had an estimated wealth of $28.6 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Mixed, Construction.”

No. 23: Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.)

Rep. Diane Black had an estimated wealth of $31.3 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Health, Mixed.”

No. 22: Rep. Rick Berg (R-N.D.)

Rep. Rick Berg had an estimated wealth of $33.6 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Mixed, Agribusiness.”

No. 21: Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)

Rep. Trent Franks had an estimated wealth of $33.9 million in 2010. Invests in: “Energy/Natural Resources, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Mixed.”

No. 20: Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.)

Rep. Mike Kelly had an estimated wealth of $34.6 million in 2010. Invests in: “Energy/Natural Resources, Miscellaneous Business, Transportation.”

No. 19: Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Nita M. Lowey had an estimated wealth of $41.2 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Lawyer/Lobbyists.”

No. 18: Rep. James B. Renacci (R-Ohio)

Rep. James B. Renacci had an estimated wealth of $42.1 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Miscellaneous Business.”

No. 17: Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)

Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen had an estimated wealth of $42.9 million in 2010. Invests in: “Miscellaneous Business, Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate.”

No. 16: Rep. Gary G. Miller (R-Calif.)

Rep. Gary G. Miller had an estimated wealth of $46 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Mixed, Energy/Natural Resources.”

No. 15: Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.)

Rep. Kenny Marchant had an estimated wealth of $49.3 million in 2010. Invests in: “Agribusiness, Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate.”

No. 14: Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho)

Sen. James E. Risch had an estimated wealth of $54.1 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Agribusiness, Mixed.”

No. 13: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

Sen. Bob Corker had an estimated wealth of $59.6 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Miscellaneous Business.”

No. 12: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein had an estimated wealth of $69 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Miscellaneous Business, Mixed.”

No. 11: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal had an estimated wealth of $73.2 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Mixed, Energy/Natural Resources.”

No. 10: Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.)

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg had an estimated wealth of $85.6 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Miscellaneous Business.”

No. 9: Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.)

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV had an estimated wealth of $99.1 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Miscellaneous Business.”

No. 8: Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had an estimated wealth of $101.1 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Miscellaneous Business, Communication / Electronics.”

No. 7: Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)

Rep. Vern Buchanan had an estimated wealth of $136.2 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Transportation, Mixed.”

No. 6: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)

Rep. Jared Polis had an estimated wealth of $143.2 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Health.”

No. 5: Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.)

Sen. Herb Kohl had an estimated wealth of $173.5 million in 2010. Invests in: “Miscellaneous Business, Mixed, Agribusiness.”

No. 4: Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.)

Sen. Mark R. Warner had an estimated wealth of $192.7 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Energy/Natural Resources.”

No. 3: Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.)

Sen. John F. Kerry had an estimated wealth of $231.7 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Communication/Electronics.”

No. 2: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.)

Rep. Michael McCaul had an estimated wealth of $380.4 million in 2010. Invests in: “Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Mixed, Miscellaneous Business.”

No.1: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)

Rep. Darrell Issa had an estimated wealth of $448.1 million in 2010. Invests in: “Mixed, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Transportation.”

 

So 7 of the top 10 richest members of Congress are Democrats, who saw that plot twist coming? They must be using Romney’s accountant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Companies Are Pouring Money Into U.S. Elections

As this election year comes to it’s conclusion, experts are forecasting that this run for the White House, and for control of Capitol Hill, will be the most extensively corporate-influenced race in living memory, and foreign corporations are playing a major role.

More than one in five of Britain’s largest corporations are funneling political donations to their preferred candidate ahead of next month’s U.S. elections. British multinationals such as HSBC, Barclays, Experian, Prudential, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, BP, Shell and BAE all have political action committees (PACs) that channel donations from employees to US politicians. The UK is now the biggest hub for non-US multinationals seeking to exert influence over American politics.

14 of the top 50 most active foreign-controlled PACs have parent groups listed in London, according to Washington group the Center for Responsive Politics. Despite this, some FTSE 100 groups continue to claim in annual reports that they do not make political donations. They are able to get away with it because PACs receive their funds from US employees and only use company funds to cover administrative costs. PACs are usually staffed by company lobbyists, who distribute contributions in line with the company’s agenda.

“The door has been pushed wide open to the abuses we had during Watergate,” says Bruce Freed, president of the Washington-based Center for Political Accountability. “Company shakedowns, massive amounts of money being given privately and much more.”

High-profile donors include Experian chief executive Don Robert, who contributed to the credit check group’s 78% Republican-leaning PAC; BP chief executive Bob Dudley, who gives to the oil major’s 71% Republican-leaning PAC; and former AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan, who, until he resigned in April, gave to the group’s 54% Republican-leaning PAC.

 

Senator Coburn Releases Annual “Waste Book” Report on Government Spending

Every year since 2010, Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn has issued his “Waste Book” report highlighting the worst 100 ways Congress wastes taxpayer dollars.  This year, the abuse of collected monies totals $17.9 billion.

For example, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the Professional Golfers’ Association each avoid paying tens of millions of dollars in taxes every year because they are somehow allowed to classify themselves as non-profit organizations. The NFL made 9 billion dollars last year and paid it’s Commissioner, Roger Goodell, more than 11 million dollars.

“We have some of the biggest corporations in America paying no taxes whatsoever,” Coburn told ABC News today. “You know something is wrong with the [tax] code.”

Another example is the researchers at San Diego State University and University of California, who spent $325,000 of their National Science Foundation grant making a robotic squirrel.

NASA is currently spending nearly $1 million a year researching food for astronauts to eat on Mars, even though there are no plans for a manned mission to the planet.

Meanwhile the FAA gives the Lake Murray State Park airport in Carter, Okla., $150,000 a year despite the fact that the airport provides a runway for just one flight a month. Oklahoma’s Aeronautics Commission which spends less than 1 percent of that funding on the Murray airport itself, admits that it only keeps the airport open so it can funnel the money to other airports and projects.

“Is there anybody in the world who would say ‘No thanks government! We don’t want this money?’” OAC Commissioner Wes Stucky told ABC News.

“We put that [example] in there to show people how stupid the federal government is,” Coburn said. “We have a system that says you can collect money because you have an airport open even though nobody uses it so you can collect money to spend on other airports.  Why wouldn’t we have a smarter system?”

Coburn says his report is proof that Congress, despite all the talk about government spending and the fiscal cliff, is still wasting as much money as ever.

“Every family in America has been struggling for the last three or four years and they’ve made hard choices. Congress refuses to make the hard choices,” Coburn said.

With no major accomplishments this year and a trillion dollar deficit, the Waste Book lists Congress itself as waste of money.