NYT: Justice Dept. Sets Record In Penalties For Fraud
The Justice Department collected a record $24.7 billion in penalties from fraud and other cases in the 2014 fiscal year, the agency said on Wednesday, as fines against banks for financial misconduct soared. Collections from civil and criminal actions, including money collected on behalf of other agencies, was $8 billion in 2013, and $13 billion in 2012. Collections in 2014 were bolstered by multibillion-dollar payouts from JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup to resolve claims they misled investors about the quality of mortgage bonds in the run-up to the financial crisis, and include $11 billion in payments made to federal agencies or states. Payouts in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, also include hundreds of millions of dollars in fines levied on UBS and Royal Bank of Scotland.
10:55: President Obama meets with Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand
1:0 Josh Earnest briefs the press
Parade: The President and Michelle Obama on Work, Family, and Juggling It All
… On Monday, June 23, the President and Mrs. Obama will host a Working Families summit in Washington, D.C. to discuss the need for affordable childcare and paid family leave, raising minimum wage, and achieving equal pay for all. In an interview conducted by Parade, the Obamas opened up about their personal connection to these issues and what they hope to accomplish during their remaining time in the White House.
President Barack Obama and wife Michelle have never been your typical working stiffs. With four Ivy League degrees between them, they’ve enjoyed high incomes and strong job security. But before and during college, they each worked minimum-wage jobs. And there was a time when they felt the same kind of financial aches and marriage strains that today’s dual-income families know all too well. As a young married couple in Chicago, they were mired in student debt, juggling multiple jobs and two kids, and bickering over who did what housework. “I wouldn’t fold,” remembers the president. “I didn’t separate, and Michelle’s point was, that’s not laundry.”
TPM: Obama Administration To Extend Family Leave To Same-Sex Couples
The Obama administration announced that it would direct the Department of Labor to begin issuing regulations to extend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to same-sex couples, according to a White House official.
After the Supreme Court’s struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act last year, Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the administration began to reviewing relevant statutes and laws to extend federal benefits to same-sex couples. The administration said that its extension of FMLA is simply part of that process. The new regulations will clarify that an employee is eligible to take leave to care for a same-sex spouse in the instance of an illness, regardless of whether that employee lives in a state where same-sex marriage is legal.
Paul Krugman: Veterans and Zombies – The Hype Behind the Health Care Scandal
…. it’s important to understand that the Veterans Affairs scandal, while real, is being hyped out of proportion by people whose real goal is to block reform of the larger system.
…. A scandal is a scandal, and wrongdoing must be punished. But beware of people trying to use the veterans’ care scandal to derail health reform.
And here’s the thing: Health reform is working. Too many Americans still lack good insurance, and hence lack access to health care and protection from high medical costs — but not as many as last year, and next year should be better still. Health costs are still far too high, but their growth has slowed dramatically. We’re moving in the right direction, and we shouldn’t let the zombies get in our way.
Ukraine announced Friday that it has regained full control of its border with Russia, which the government has set as an important precondition for a unilateral ceasefire in its conflict with pro-Russian separatists in the east.
The sealing off of the border, which could not be independently verified, would be significant because it would rob the rebels of an important supply route for new fighters and weapons.
The announcement that troops had recaptured the border area near the village of Izvaryne in the Luhansk region comes as President Petro Poroshenko is set to unveil the details of his 14-point peace plan.
For years black academics criticized the Obama administration for not targeting programs to the African American community. Obamacare didn’t count – even though it has disproportionately affected people of color. All of his talk about income inequality didn’t matter, neither did his proposal for universal pre-K. What they wanted to see were initiatives that directly (and only) affected African Americans.
Then along came the announcement about President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” program targeting boys of color. It didn’t take long for many of the same critics to go after that one because it didn’t include girls. As I see it, this is what most efforts to target a specific community will eventually face…the “what about me?” syndrome.
That’s not to say that its wrong to initiate and promote targeted programs. Sometimes they’re needed. Its more about the fact that when they are proposed, we need to remember WHY they’re targeted and – by definition – will exclude.
ThinkProgress: Governor Scott Walker Accused Of ‘Criminal Scheme’
New federal court documents released Thursday reveal that Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) is the subject of a “Joe Doe” investigation. Prosecutors allege Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to circumvent state election laws. While the courts are still mulling a motion by the dark money outside groups at the center of the allegations to stop the investigation, the facts of the case are yet another demonstration of the folly of the Supreme Court’s assumptions in the infamous Citizens United ruling.
The documents show that prosecutors believe illegal coordination occurred in the 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and Gubernatorial recall elections and that groups like the Wisconsin Club for Growth worked with Scott Walker’s campaign arm (“Friends of Scott Walker”) to arrange undisclosed spending by an array of pro-Walker tax-exempt organizations. They note that several individuals were working both for Friends of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Club for Growth at the time, and that Walker himself boasted of the coordination in an email to Karl Rove.
Esquire: Prosecutor Is Closing In on Gov. Christie
Indictments against four cronies are near certain, sources say. Only question is if David Samson, Christie’s longtime mentor, will flip.
“It’s over, it’s done, and I’m moving on.” – Chris Christie, reassuring potential donors in Utah on June 14th
Back on planet Reality, meanwhile, Paul Fishman, the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, wades through the sewage of Christie’s stewardship. Two sources with intimate knowledge of the case say Fishman’s pace is quickening – he has empaneled a second grand jury, and the U.S. Justice Department has sent assistant prosecutors and FBI agents to work the case.
“What’s taking the most time,” according to one source, “is separating what’s viable from all the bad stuff they’re finding that may not be viable.”
In an exclusive interview, the MSNBC anchor Lawrence O’Donnell reveals how he survived a head-on car crash, and why afterwards he cut himself off from the negative litany of the news cycle.
“What a stupid way to die,” Lawrence O’Donnell thought to himself.
A split-second earlier, the host of MSNBC’s 10 p.m. program, The Last Word, had been gazing down at a map on his iPhone, following the progress of his taxi, a Chevy van, as he and his older brother Michael rode to dinner on the resort island of Tortola. It was around 7:45 p.m., Saturday, April 12, the start of what promised to be a lovely vacation in the British Virgin Islands with his big brother, a Boston lawyer.
The vacation didn’t happen. Instead, O’Donnell, 62, underwent a life-altering crucible that he’s still trying to make sense of, while figuring out how to explain it to viewers when he returns to his show on Monday night after two-and-a-half months off the air.
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with National Security Staff in the Situation Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama talks with Vice President Biden on the Colonnade of the White House outside the Oval Office, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with a bipartisan group of mayors to discuss the economy and local efforts to create jobs and spur economic growth, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, June 20, 2011 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama claps along with students as they sing during her visit to Burgess-Peterson Academy in Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 9, 2011 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The Week Ahead:
Sunday: The President has no public events scheduled.
Monday: The President welcomes President Hollande of France to Washington for a State Visit. They will tour Monticello, the residence of Thomas Jefferson, one of the United States’ earliest envoys to France.
Tuesday: The President and First Lady will officially welcome President Hollande with an arrival ceremony, after which the Presidents will have a bilateral meeting and press conference. That evening, the President and First Lady will host a State Dinner for President Hollande.
Wednesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Thursday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Friday: The President will deliver remarks at the House Democratic Issues Conference in Cambridge, Maryland. Following the conference the President will depart for Rancho Mirage, California, for a meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan at Sunnylands, the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Estate.
Bob Christie: Victory For Brewer: Judge Tosses GOP Suit Challenging Obamacare Medicaid Expansion In Arizona
A lawsuit challenging Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s Medicaid expansion plan that was filed by fellow Republicans in the state Legislature was dismissed in a ruling released Saturday, handing Brewer a major victory in her battle against conservative members of her own party.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper agreed with Brewer that the lawmakers challenging the law don’t have the right to sue, saying their argument that a hospital assessment included in House Bill 2010 that passed in June required a supermajority vote of the Legislature under Arizona’s Constitution was incorrect.
Cooper’s ruling said it is the Legislature itself that determines if a 2/3 vote is required under a voter-approved constitutional amendment called Proposition 108.
News Observer: Saturday’s Big Protest In Raleigh Reflects Mainstream Not Fringe
The protesters came to Raleigh on Saturday by bus and car and on foot. They came from various parts of North Carolina and from nearby states. They came from many places on behalf of varied causes, but they were driven by a single imperative – to stand up. There were the usual protesters – labor and civil rights supporters – and some unlikely ones, school teachers. Teachers’ jobs often involve keeping order among the unruly, but they’ve learned there is no virtue in keeping quiet about pay that’s near the lowest in the nation. To see the long ranks of protesters was to wonder how much longer North Carolina’s Republican leaders can dismiss them as a rabble, as outsiders, as “takers,” as agitators, and not see them for who they are: The People.
Their issues include labor conditions, pay for public employees, environmental protections, voting rights, fair taxation, help for the unemployed, gay rights, abortion rights and civil rights. But another of their issues is one they hold in common: They feel they are not being heard. And the deafness of the state’s political powers is deliberate. Legislative leaders and the governor can’t hear above the sound of the corporate money that steers their agenda. And even if they could, they wouldn’t listen. The people in the streets holding signs and chanting are not people they consider “the mainstream” or “real Americans.”
Bloomberg: U.S. To Add New Legal Protections For Same-Sex Couples
Same-sex married couples will receive many of the same federal legal protections and benefits as their opposite-sex counterparts under Justice Department guidelines to be issued Feb. 10, Attorney General Eric Holder said. The moves will affect procedures in U.S. courtrooms and the aid provided surviving spouses of slain law officers, among other matters. The policy will “formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful same-sex marriages full and equal recognition, to the greatest extent possible under the law,” Holder said in remarks
Doing more for LGBT rights than any other President and Attorney General in the United States of America.
The change will apply to same-sex couples residing in states where such marriages are not recognized. It also represents the first time the Justice Department has officially interpreted the words “spouse” and “marriage” in federal laws it enforces to apply to same-sex couples. “As attorney general, I will not let this department be simply a bystander during this important moment in history,” Holder said. Under the policy, the Justice Department will recognize that same sex couples are entitled to the same rights as their opposite-sex counterparts in civil and criminal cases, according to Holder. As a result, Holder said, federal prosecutors won’t object if a same-sex spouse declines to provide testimony that might incriminate his or her partner.
Election supervisors and the League of Women Voters have a new complaint with Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature over early voting. After years of complaints by supervisors who struggled with historically long lines at the polls in 2012, lawmakers last year expanded the list of early voting sites to include fairgronds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings, stadiums, convention centers and government-owned community centers. But when the city of Gainesville — which is heavily Democratic — asked if it could use the University of Florida student union for early voting in next month’s municipal elections, the state said no.
“I’m very upset about this,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, president of a statewide supervisors’ group. “I just can’t understand why they feel the need to be so restrictive about where people are allowed to vote … This is strategic. They’re worried about young people voting.” The union, named for former UF President J. Wayne Reitz, is used as a regular voting precinct in county, state and national elections. About 50,000 students attend UF, and the city said the request to use the Reitz Union for early voting came from a group of students. With the UF student union now off limits, the city plans to use two early voting sites for the March 11 election, assistant city attorney Nicolle Shalley said. One is about 1.5 miles away and the other about three miles away
AOL Inc.’s Chief Executive Tim Armstrong said Saturday the company would reverse a recent change to its employee 401(k) policy and he apologized for remarks used to explain the rationale for the initial change in the benefits policy. The company had recently moved to a policy in which employees get an annual lump sum 401(k) contribution from AOL at the end of the year, rather than matching contributions each pay period.
On Thursday, Mr. Armstrong had caused a stir with employees and on social media when he said that care for two staffers’ “distressed babies” in 2012 cost the company about $1 million each. He used that example to help explain the rationale for changing the 401(k) policy. Mr. Armstrong was accused of using the infants as cover for the unpopular policy change and was criticized for singling out the two mothers.
IAEA: IAEA And Iran Joint Media Statement In Connection With Implementation Of Framework For Cooperation
Following talks between IAEA and Iranian experts in Tehran, the two sides today released the following joint statement: On 8 and 9 February 2014, the Agency and the Islamic Republic of Iran (Iran) held constructive technical meetings within the Framework for Cooperation that was agreed between the parties last November. During the meetings, the two sides reviewed progress on the implementation of the six initial practical measures that were agreed three months ago. Iran has taken the initial practical measures that were foreseen.
Iran and the Agency reached agreement on seven practical measures to be implemented by Iran by 15 May 2014. The agreed measures are: Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Saghand mine in Yazd; Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Ardakan concentration plant; Submission of an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the IR-40 Reactor; Taking steps to agree with the Agency on the conclusion of a Safeguards Approach for the IR-40 Reactor
Tom Boggioni: Missouri Governor Facing Impeachment Over Order Allowing Same-Sex Marriage Tax Returns
A member of the Missouri House of Representatives has filed articles of impeachment against Governor Jay Nixon (D) for ordering Missouri’s Department of Revenue to accept joint tax returns filed by same-sex couples who have been legally married in other states. According to Missourinet, Representative Nick Marshall (R-Parkville) has filed two articles of impeachment charging that Gov. Nixon issued an executive order that is a “direct violation” of Missouri’s Constitution.
Further, Marshall says Nixon “misstates and misrepresents the meaning and requirements under Missouri’s constitutional and statutory law and thereby misleads the citizens of this state.” In November of last year, Gov. Nixon issued an executive order stating that Missouri must accept such joint returns because Missouri’s tax code is tied directly to the federal government, and the state requires married couples who file joint returns to also file state taxes jointly. The office of Attorney General Chris Koster (D) has stated that Nixon’s order appears to comply with Missouri law.
The Star Ledger “blew” its fall endorsement of Gov. Chris Christie’s (R-N.J.) reelection campaign, a member of the Newark, N.J., newspaper’s editorial board wrote on Sunday. “An endorsement is not a love embrace. It is a choice between two flawed human beings. And the winner is often the less bad option. But yes, we blew this one,” Tom Moran wrote.
“Yes, we knew Christie was a bully,” he added. “But we didn’t know his crew was crazy enough to put people’s lives at risk in Fort Lee as a means to pressure the mayor. We didn’t know he would use Hurricane Sandy aid as a political slush fund. And we certainly didn’t know that Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer was sitting on a credible charge of extortion by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.”
TIME: 2014 Midterm Elections: NRCC Websites Not What They Seem
Hardball politics and campaign trickery are as American as apple pie, but even in that rough and tumble world, some rules apply. A new Republican fundraising tactic reminiscent of “spoofing” telemarketing scams has some asking where the line is these days between clever campaigning and fraud. At first glance, AnnKirkpatrick.com looks like any normal campaign website. A big picture of the smiling Arizona Democrat stands next to a “Kirkpatrick For Congress” banner above a fat “DONATE” button, all in the same colors as those used by the real website for Kirkpatrick, who’s fighting to keep her House seat. Read closer and the text of the site reveals lines like “Kirkpatrick is a huge embarrassment to Arizona,”
but anyone who didn’t bother to read the site closely (or who couldn’t due to bad eyesight) before trying to make a donation to Kirkpatrick’s campaign would find that they’d just contributed to the coffers of the National Republican Congressional Committee—the House GOP’s campaign arm backing Kirkpatrick’s opponent. Annkirkpatrick.com is one of a series of websites (TIME has found 16, so far) the NRCC has set up that are clearly designed to trick the viewer—at least at first—into thinking they’re on a legitimate campaign website. In at least one instance, reported by the Tampa Bay Times on Monday, a Florida doctor accidentally donated to the NRCC through a spoofed website for Democrat Alex Sink (that site has since been taken down and the NRCC gave the doctor his money back).
CBO score says the unemployment bill that Republicans filibustered shaved about $1.2B off the deficit. cbo.gov/sites/default/…
Joe Conason: Deficit Of Truth: What Republicans Hope You Don’t Know And Never Find Out
Listening to Republicans in Congress wailing incessantly about our spendthrift culture raises a nagging question: What would they do, besides talking, if they actually wanted to reduce federal deficits and, eventually, the national debt? First, they would admit that President Obama’s policies, including health care reform, have already reduced deficits sharply, as promised. Second, they would desist from their hostage-taking tactics over the debt ceiling, which have only damaged America’s economy and international prestige. And then they would finally admit that basic investment and job creation, rather than cutting food stamps, represent the best way to reduce both deficits and debt, indeed the only way — through economic growth.
Fortunately for those Republicans and sadly for everyone else, the American public has little comprehension of current fiscal realities. Most people don’t even know that the deficit is shrinking rather than growing. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, it is Republican voters, misinformed by Fox News, who most fervently and consistently insist on these mistaken ideas, with 85 percent telling pollsters that the deficit has increased. Less than a third of Democrats gave that answer. But nearly 60 percent of independent voters agree with the Republicans on that question
Washington Post: We Hit The Debt Ceiling Today. These Charts Show When We Could Default
Today, for the fourth time in three years, the nation will hit the federal debt limit, launching a mad rush to raise the legal cap on borrowing or risk an unprecedented default. The Treasury Department now will deploy “extraordinary measures” — effectively, accounting techniques — to buy time before the government is at risk of running out of cash to meet all of daily obligations. The Treasury says it can’t promise to meet all obligations past late February, and as shown in this chart, based on data from Nancy Vanden Houten of Stone & McCarthy Research Associates, the administration definitely won’t be able to make it past the first two weeks of March.
Just a few hours after returning from the town hall in Elkhart, Ind., President Obama is introduced at his first prime-time press conference at the White House, Feb. 9, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama hugs student Tammy Nguyen in the Red Room of the White House before an event announcing a campaign to combat the rapidly growing problem of childhood obesity while Tiki Barber checks his notes before they take the stage, Feb. 9, 2010 (Photo by Samantha Appleton)
After delivering remarks at the daily press briefing, President Obama smiles as he walks past Press Assistant Priya Singh through the Lower Press Office of the White House en route to the Oval Office, Feb. 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
Pete Souza: “During a spirited bi-partisan Congressional leadership meeting, both the President and House Minority Leader (soon to be Speaker of the House) John Boehner speak at the same time.” Feb. 9, 2010
President Obama, the First Family, Vice President Joe Biden and others in the audience applaud Joan Baez after her singing “We Shall Overcome” at the “In Performance At The White House: A Celebration Of Music From The Civil Rights Movement” concert in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 9, 2010 (Photo by Pete Souza)
First Lady Michelle Obama at Burgess-Peterson Academy, Feb 9, 2011
First Lady Michelle Obama arrives at Little Rock Air Force Base in Jacksonville, Arkansas to highlight the military’s efforts to improve the nutrition of food served, Feb 9, 2012
First Lady Michelle Obama kicks off a nationwide tour celebrating the second anniversary of “Lets”s Move”, Des Moines, February 9, 2012
First Lady Michelle Obama at a “Let’s Move” event attended by over 10,000 youths at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines
12:05: President Obama delivers remarks at a campaign event at Sloan’s Lake Park, Denver
1:35: Departs Denver
2:15: Vice President Biden delivers remarks at a campaign event at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs, IA
3:35: President Obama arrives in Madison, Wis.
4:40: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
6:05: Departs Madison
8:05: Arrives at the White House
NYT: Mitt Romney repeatedly questioned President Obama’s honesty at Wednesday night’s debate …. but he made a number of misleading statements himself on the size of the federal deficits, taxes, Medicare and health care……
Doubling the Deficit: Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had doubled the deficit. That is not true….
Green Energy: Mr. Romney said that half the companies backed by the president’s green energy stimulus program have gone out of business. That is a gross overstatement. Of nearly three dozen recipients of loans under the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, only three are currently in bankruptcy…..
The $716 Billion Cut From Medicare: Mr. Obama first brought up Mr. Romney’s frequent criticism that the president cut $716 billion from Medicare, by saying the cost savings were from reduced payments to insurance companies and other health care providers. But Mr. Romney repeated the claim, suggesting that the $716 billion in Medicare reductions would indeed come from current beneficiaries.
While fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked this claim, it remains a standard attack line for Mr. Romney…..
LA Times: Mitt Romney repeated a number of erroneous claims during Wednesday’s debate about President Obama’s healthcare law, including that it relies on a board that will decide “what kind of treatment” patients can get.
This is a myth advanced repeatedly by critics of the Affordable Care Act and debunked consistently by independent fact-checkers.
…. The panel of independent experts is empowered to suggest cuts to how much the federal government pays healthcare providers … but is explicitly prohibited from cutting benefits for people on Medicare.