Senators float bipartisan bill requiring warrants for drone surveillance

Law enforcement nationwide will have to begin obtaining search warrants to conduct aerial drone surveillance, if a bipartisan Senate bill succeeds.

The Protecting Individuals From Mass Surveillance Act, a bill introduced Wednesday by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), would forbid the government from any surveillance activity employing drones and even manned aircraft, without a judge’s authorization.

While the bill applies to all federal enforcement agencies nationwide, it does not address the surveillance activities of state and municipal agencies. It also provides a “border carve-out exemption of 25 miles,” an ACLU representative told The Intercept. “For people who live within that 25 mile border zone, like Tuscon [or] San Diego, these protections wouldn’t apply.”

The bill does, however, take a broad approach to a bevy of relatively recent technological innovations that have presented new 4th Amendment questions. In addition to addressing aerial surveillance, the bill also takes aim at “cellphone tracking gear,” according to The Hill.

“Technology has made it possible to conduct round-the-clock aerial surveillance,” Wyden wrote in a statement on his Senate web page. “The law needs to keep up. Clear rules for when and how the federal government can watch Americans from the sky will provide critical certainty for the government, and help the unmanned aircraft industry reach its potential as an economic powerhouse in Oregon and the United States.”

Any evidence captured by federal law enforcement without a warrant would, under provisions in the bill, be inadmissible in criminal court. In addition, the government would not be authorized to identify innocent bystanders captured by warrant-authorized surveillance footage “unless there is probable cause to believe such persons have committed a crime.”

Crucially, the bill would also curb a favored law enforcement practice that engages contractors to conduct surveillance activity that, were it carried out by the state, would require a search warrant.

“The bill prohibits the government from soliciting to commercial/private operators to conduct surveillance that the government itself is not authorized to do,” Wyden noted.

Hillary believed the children were her future

Lots of politicians cynically jump at the chance to grab a media moment by donating their time and resources to children’s charities.

But Hillary Clinton, a philanthropist herself, hasn’t got time for that. If a kids’ charity wants her speechifying services, all it has to do is ask – and pay.

Back in March, Clinton spoke at a invite-only fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Long Beach, Calif., a service for which she asked – and received – $200,000. The annual event draws out affluent Long Beach denizens, who hobnob with high-profile speakers and open their checkbooks for a worthy cause.

It’s customary for big-name speakers at such charity events to return some or all of their speaking fees to the charity for whom they’re speaking. When Condoleezza Rice accepted $60,000 to speak at the same event in 2009, reports POLITICO, she “donated almost all of it back to the club, according to multiple sources familiar with the club’s finances.”

Hillary did things a little differently, though: she took the $200,000 – an exorbitant amount, even by the club’s standards – and donated it to the Clinton Foundation.

“Clinton collected $200,000 to speak at the same event five years later, but she donated nothing back to the club, which raised less than half as much from Clinton’s appearance as from Rice’s, according to the sources and tax filings,” POLITICO reports.

“Instead, Clinton steered her speaking fee to her family’s own sprawling $2 billion charity.”

Locals involved with the event said Clinton’s appearance didn’t yield the same high fundraising returns that other, less expensive (and less parsimonious) speakers had delivered – In part because her fee was so high; in part because she kept the money.

“A Boys and Girls Club supporter said that, comparatively, Hillary Clinton’s speaking fee was ‘a little less offensive’ than ‘writing a check to them and having them profit from it,'” the report states.

“[Hillary] did acknowledge what we do for the community, but it felt like a little bit of hypocrisy because her speaking fee was higher than anyone we’ve ever had, and she didn’t donate anything back,” another club volunteer said.

 

Obama admits Healthcare.gov has been a ‘disaster’

President Obama admitted this week that the federal Obamacare website has been a “well-documented disaster,” but he said that the failure has motivated his administration to make technological excellence in government a top priority.

Speaking with Fast Company magazine about the federal government’s continuing improvement in implementing technological approaches to improving people’s lives, Obama said there are “very specific areas where, if we leverage the best technology teams in the world and we pair them up with some really effective government managers, then we can get a really big payoff.”

The spectacular failure of the Obamacare rollout led the president to this epiphany, serving as a “catalyst,” he said, to “revamp how we do things.”

Here’s how Obama explained it to Fast Company:

You know, the federal government is full of really smart people, with a lot of integrity, who work really hard and do some incredible stuff. And it’s on par with the private sector on all those measures. But technology [has been] terrible. And for me, given that our campaigns both in 2008 and 2012 were built on being at the very cutting edge of social media and technology and empowering people and speed and nimbleness, to see how lumbering this thing was, that was pretty distressing.

So I started working fairly quickly to say, This wasn’t good enough, how do we make it better? We started putting more emphasis on technology and IT in each department. But I’ll be honest with you. With all the crises we were dealing with — the economy collapsing, the auto industry on the verge of collapse, winding down wars — this did not get the kind of laser-focused attention until Healthcare.gov, which was a well-documented disaster, but ended up anyways being the catalyst for us saying, “Okay, we have to completely revamp how we do things.” The results there were so outstanding, and because we discovered that there are folks at Google and Facebook and Twitter and all these amazing firms who really wanted to find some way to engage in public service — and many of them could afford to do so because they had done very well …

Obama’s interview posted online on June 15, so it’s not clear whether Fast Company had enough information on tap during their interview to ask him how he frames the recent, devastating hacks at the Office of Personnel Management.

The interview also took place ahead of another hit to the technical and ethical integrity of the Obamacare website. The Associated Press reported Monday that Obamacare enrollees, as well as those who share information with the site but never buy an insurance plan, can expect their personal data to live on in the government’s MIDAS database “forever.”

Court allows D.C. to keep ‘good reason’ firearms law in effect while lawsuit proceeds

Despite a federal court ruling declaring its firearms permitting ordinance unconstitutional, Washington, D.C. will temporarily be allowed to continue requiring applicants to prove they really, really need a weapon.

A federal appeals court granted the city’s request last week to continue operating under the current ordinance until a lawsuit challenging the law has been resolved. The city, which dropped its appeal of the “unconstitutional” ruling, nevertheless was awarded a stay against a preliminary injunction that would have forced it to cease operating under the “good reason” guideline.

That provision, which was declared unconstitutional in May by Judge Frederick J. Scullin, places the burden of demonstrating the right to bear arms on the citizen.

“The ‘good reason’ clause, which was ruled unconstitutional by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on May 18, lets D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier decide whether applicants have a good reason to carry a firearm,” The Washington Free Beacon explained Monday. “The city has said it does not consider high crime rates or a general desire for self-defense applicable reasons under their law.”

Although the stay temporarily allows the city to continue enforcing the “good reason” provision, the court that issued it was clear that its decision was not a reflection on the merits of the case, which is still very much alive.

“It is absolutely not a surprise and not a big deal, except that considering the District’s lackadaisical approach to the appeal it was undeserved,” the Second Amendment Foundation’s (2AF) Alan Gottlieb told the Beacon. “This stay is only temporary.”

The 2AF and a handful of D.C. residents sued the city in March after it became clear that municipal leaders were doing everything they could to slow-walk their compliance with an earlier court ruling that had overturned an outright ban on handguns.

The city had been ordered to craft a new ordinance that would provide a pathway for residents to obtain a handgun, but the ordinance it produced made it so difficult for anyone to obtain a permit that 2AF and local residents brought the current lawsuit.

Lerner email investigation continues its devolution into a complete joke

The IRS has revealed the rediscovery of more than 6,000 previously missing emails from Lois Lerner’s trashed work computer, but it’s not allowing an inspector general’s investigation to see any of them.

The Daily Caller reported Sunday that the tax agency had found 6,400 of Lerner’s elusive emails — long suspected of holding answers to investigators’ questions about how, and on whose orders, the agency discriminated against conservative nonprofit groups during President Obama’s re-election campaign.

But, reported the Caller, the agency won’t share the emails with investigators from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), because, it claims, they might all be duplicates.

Of course, they might not be duplicates as well — but who’s keeping track anymore?

From The Daily Caller:

The Internal Revenue Service found 6,400 more Lois Lerner emails — but they’re not handing them over in court.

The IRS’ latest excuses are nothing short of infuriating.

Department of Justice lawyers Geoffrey J. Klimas and Stephanie Sasarak, acting as counsel for the IRS, submitted a U.S. District Court filing June 12 in the case Judicial Watch v. Internal Revenue Service. The court filing, provided to The Daily Caller, claims the IRS received new Lerner emails from the Treasury Department’s inspector general (TIGTA) but can’t fork over the emails to Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group suing to get the emails. Why? Because the IRS is busy making sure that none of the emails are duplicates — you know, so as not to waste anyone’s time.

The report insinuates that the IRS’s diligent poring over of the 6,400 emails is essentially a way for the agency to buy time while the court waits for disclosure. The agency has “discovered” something the TIGTA investigation already has, and it’s claiming it needs time to go through all this new-but-not-really information.

“[T]he inspector general already made sure that none of the emails were duplicates, so the IRS’ latest excuse falls flat,” the Caller reports, noting that “TIGTA [already] gave the IRS 6,400 Lerner emails that they recovered from backup tapes” and that “TIGTA already checked for duplicate emails.”

Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton, at the center of a lawsuit demanding FOIA-requested information relating to the scandal that the IRS has consistently refused to supply, described the IRS’s latest delaying tactic as another example of the agency’s “flagrant abuse of power.”

“Even though TIGTA already identified and removed emails that are duplicates, the IRS is in ‘the process of conducting further manual deduplication of the 6,400′ emails, rather than reviewing them in response to Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests that are more than 2 years old now,” Fitton told the Caller in a statement. “Our legal team will continue pursuing all necessary and available legal options to hold the IRS accountable for its flagrant abuse of power.”

Clinton bans pool reporter in tightly scripted, ‘dystopian’ relaunch

Hillary Clinton’s campaign do-over junket shut out a pool reporter Monday, even though the print media had vetted his news organization to provide on-the-ground coverage for the Clinton campaign.

David Martosko, the U.S. political editor for British tabloid the Daily Mail, was turned away from a Clinton event in New Hampshire, with Team Hillary struggling to explain its reason for denying him access. Martosko, who works in the U.S., at first speculated that it might have something to do with his organization’s foreign base of operations (which, for Clinton, would be an odd reservation indeed), but Hillary’s staffers assured him — eventually — that wasn’t the case.

Instead, it appears to come down to Clinton’s effort to emulate the structure of the White House press pool, which is subject to much greater scrutiny and control than pooled coverage of private-sector institutions.

After some initial back-and-forth with Team Hillary, Martosko “then spoke with Clinton press aide Nick Merrill for 10 minutes and learned that the campaign would not be allowing the designated print reporter to cover Mrs. Clinton today,” the Mail reported:

Merrill offered varied and contradictory reasons for this decision.

First he confirmed that the concern had to do with the Daily Mail’s status as foreign press, saying; “We’ve been getting a lot of blowback from foreign outlets that want to be part of the pool and we need to rethink it all, maybe for a day, and just cool things off until we can have a discussion.”

Martosko then informed Merrill that the [British-based] Guardian is part of the pool, and that the pool does not discriminate on the basis of media ownership.

Merrill said that the campaign’s position is that the Daily Mail does not qualify because it has not yet been added to the White House’s regular print pool — something Martosko informed him was a timing issue, not a White House choice, since Francesca Chambers, the Mail’s White House correspondent, has been vetted and has a hard pass.

“We’re just trying to follow the same process and system the White House has,” said Merrill.

Merrill then insisted that the decision had “nothing to do” with the campaign considering the Daily Mail foreign press.

“We don’t consider you foreign press,” he said.

Merill then added; “This isn’t about you. It’s about a larger …” and did not continue his sentence.

It’s not clear how many other presidential campaigns, involving candidates from either party, use White House pool standards as their bases for granting or denying access.

The whole incident, Politico’s Dylan Byers wrote, has renewed “reporters’ longstanding concerns about the [Clinton] campaign’s commitment to running an open and transparent campaign.”

Instead of traveling with the Clinton campaign, as his peers in the print media had expected him to do, Martosko ended up having to drive himself to Clinton’s campaign event Monday morning while hoping Team Hillary would, in the meantime, sort the matter out.

Instead, when he arrived at the venue in Rochester, New Hampshire, Clinton’s Secret Service detail barred him from entering and even told him he’d have to pee in the woods.

Here’s more from the Mail:

After some confusion about the location of the morning’s early childhood education summit in Rochester, Martosko arrived to the event around 10:20am.

Secret Service at the main entrance then refused to let him in and advised he go in through another entrance.

Visiting that doorway, another agent asked for Martosko’s name and outlet.

When he responded, a voice from behind the door, the head of Mrs. Clinton’s Secret Service detail, was heard saying “Oh. No.”

The first agent then sent Martosko back to the front door, advising that the head of the detail insisted. At the front door again, he was asked to wait while the first agent on duty checked to see if he would be admitted.

The answer: “No. You can’t come in.”

Martosko was advised by that Secret Service agent that he had contacted someone “with the campaign” named “Pollard,” who personally said he could not enter the event.

When he asked if he could at least use the restroom, the Secret Service agent advised that the area had been swept already, and suggested he “hit the woods.”

Maybe Secret Service agents should get credit for one thing: They’re not in the paid PR business — and they act like it.

Cops raid pot dispensary, try to disable security cams, eat the merchandise and joke about kicking disabled owner where she’s handicapped

The Internal Affairs division of the Santa Ana, Calif. police department is investigating a bizarre incident involving a number of officers who behaved…strangely…at a medical marijuana dispensary after they allegedly attempted to disable its security cameras.

Failing to identify all of the cameras, a portion of the officers’ behavior was captured on video. From what’s so far been made public, the officers appear to systematically disable security, partake in some of the dispensary’s offerings and begin playing darts in the facility’s office. Then a female officer allegedly makes fun of the dispensary’s handicapped owner, joking that it would be fun to kick the amputee in the “nub.”

From OC Weekly:

 

The dispensary – called the Sky High Collective – had drawn the proverbial short straw in a local lottery that selected which of several area pot facilities could continue their operations, under a law that limits their number to 20.

Owners Marla and David James were present when the raid occurred, and were understandably perplexed by the cops’ alleged behavior – especially considering how cordial they were to the police, whom they understood would likely be coming to ensure the dispensary was abiding by the terms of the lottery.

“You know what, I was really nice to that woman,” said Marla James, who is confined to a wheelchair. “I even complimented her on her hair. I treated that woman with respect and I have no idea why she wanted to kick my stump.”

Santa Ana police say the video does not present a complete portrayal of the May 27 raid.

“I’d like to see the unedited video to get a clearer picture of what is happening,” Cmdr. Chris Revere told OC Weekly. He did not elaborate on the footage that’s so far been seen by the public, citing the ongoing investigation.

Bernie Sanders gives career starters something to shoot for – a 50 percent tax rate

When he’s wrong, Bernie Sanders – unlike many of his progressive contemporaries – at least appears to be genuinely wrong, instead of cynically wrong.

Sanders (I-Vt.), who’s contending for the Democratic presidential nomination, told news reader Charlie Rose on Friday that he’s all for hiking income taxes for high wage earners to more than 50 percent of their earnings. In fact, he said, he’s currently backing a piece of legislation that would seek to do just that.

“We’re working right now on a comprehensive tax package, which I suspect will – for the top marginal rates – go over 50 percent,” Sanders told Rose.

Sanders explained the rationale for raising taxes on the highest earners by invoking income inequality as an American problem in need of a fix.

“It is time to redistribute money back to the working families of this country, from the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and tax policy is one of the ways we do that,” he said, referencing a wealth disparity he described as “grotesque.”

While yet another tax-the-rich proposal may strike conservatives as an especially tired and formulaic progressive trope, credit Sanders for appearing to be among the true believers. He’s been hitting Clinton hard for her evasiveness and timidity on answering any question of concern to Democrats (or anyone else).

“If she’s against” the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, Sanders told the Christian Science Monitor last week, “we need her to speak out, right now.”

Florida couple charged with felony neglect after getting stuck in traffic while kid waited at home

An 11-year-old kid playing basketball in his own front yard piqued the interest of a neighbor, who evidently thought there’s something wrong with spending 90 minutes shooting hoops by yourself.

So the neighbor called the police … out of concern. The cops came. Sure enough, the kid was home alone.

Where were the parents? Stuck in traffic. In Florida — a state that doesn’t have a minimum age law for unattended children. The kid, who didn’t have a key to the house, had arrived at home to find his parents — who were supposed to be arriving around the same time — weren’t there.

Unfazed, he occupied himself with the ball. The police got there before his parents did, and when his folks arrived, things went south quickly.

From Reason:

One afternoon this past April, a Florida mom and dad I’ll call Cindy and Fred could not get home in time to let their 11-year-old son into the house. The boy didn’t have a key, so he played basketball in the yard. He was alone for 90 minutes. A neighbor called the cops, and when the parents arrived — having been delayed by traffic and rain — they were arrested for negligence.

They were put in handcuffs, strip searched, fingerprinted, and held overnight in jail.

It would be a month before their sons — the 11-year-old and his 4-year-old brother — were allowed home again. Only after the eldest spoke up and begged a judge to give him back to his parents did the situation improve.

… The children were placed in foster care for two days while the state ran a background check on a relative who was willing to take them in. “Our first choice was my mother,” said Cindy. “But she lives in another state and so the kids would have been in foster care even longer until they cleared her.” The parents decided to have them placed with a slightly problematic in-state relative instead.

… The boys went off with the relative. As Cindy and Fred were charged with a felony, they couldn’t cross the county line to go see them and the relative refused to bring them to visit. But after a few weeks, she got tired of taking care of the kids. “Unbeknownst to us,” said Cindy, “she was putting them back in state custody.”

That’s when Child Protective Services asked the court to place the boys in foster care.

All this because of traffic and rain, and a neighbor whose sharp eye helped rescue a perfectly safe child from his parents in the nick of time.

The state claimed the 11-year-old was bereft of basic necessities during the 90 minutes he was at home by himself. But his mother, in an exchange with Reason’s Lenore Skenazy, pointed out some flaws in the state’s position:

The authorities claim he had no access to water or shelter. We have an open shed in the back yard and 2 working sinks and 2 hoses. They said he had no food. He ate his snacks already. He had no bathroom, but the responding officer found our yard good enough to relieve himself in while our son sat in a police car alone. In his own yard, in a state, Florida, that has no minimum age for children to be alone.

The 11-year-old “victim” in the case eventually got the opportunity to tell a judge how things played out from his point of view. The judge arranged for the parents to admit it’s bad to leave a kid unattended and to promise to never do it again, and then he allowed the children back into their home.

But, as Reason notes, that resolution — as unsatisfying, in principle, as it is — only wraps up the civil side of the case. The parents still face the felony neglect charges.

“That was civil court,” the report states. “Next, Cindy and Fred will head to criminal court to plead ‘not guilty’ to the neglect charge. Naturally, they hope the entire case will be dropped.”

Bill Clinton says he might stop giving paid speeches — if Hillary gets to be president

Earlier this week, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who served during the Clinton administration, said Bill Clinton should stop taking money for speaking engagements while Hillary’s campaigning for the presidency.

On Wednesday, Bill Clinton sort of agreed — but he’s only willing to end his speaking gig on the condition that his wife gets elected president first.

Reich told ABC News on Sunday that Bill Clinton “has to stop the paid speeches,” suggesting that the level of scrutiny Hillary Clinton’s scandals have invited on the former first family is simply too intense to take for granted.

The Clintons must conduct themselves in exemplary fashion, Reich cautioned. “She has got to — and her husband as well — got to just put everything out. I mean more disclosure than any other candidate,” said Reich. “… She’s running a general-election campaign already, but I do think the issue of, sort of disclosure; of full disclosure, is a key vulnerability.”

By Wednesday, Bill Clinton had taken that message to heart.

Well … kinda.

From Politco:

Bill Clinton would likely not continue to give paid speeches if his wife, Hillary, were elected president, he said Wednesday.

“No, I don’t think so,” he said when asked at a Clinton Global Initiative event.

But the former president vigorously defended the work of the Clinton Foundation, which has come under fierce criticism and intense media scrutiny in recent months as Hillary Clinton has ramped up her presidential campaign.

Clinton went on to explain that much of the scrutiny his family’s charitable foundation has received owes to the hyper-diligent commitment to political muckraking that emanates from Washington media acolytes with no lives outside of politics.

“The truth is, most of us have big parts of our lives that don’t have anything to do with politics,” asserted Clinton.

He didn’t elaborate.

NRA warns Obama firearms proposal ‘as much an affront to the 1st Amendment as it is to the 2nd’

The National Rifle Association is sounding an alarm over a new regulatory proposal from the Obama administration aimed at restricting access to technical information about firearms and “firearm-related speech.”

In a blog posting on its Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) page, the NRA warns the proposal is wrong in principle — and that it could lead to a much more expansive application of free-speech restrictions than the proposal’s arcane language rather innocuously appears to indicate.

The proposal aims to “clarify” language in regulations attached to the federal Arms Export Control Act, a law that “regulates the movement of so-called ‘defense articles’ and ‘defense services’ in and out of the United States,” according to NRA. The regulations that underpin the law’s enforcement allow the government to regulate the “technical data” related to the design and manufacture of firearms.

What the Obama proposal is attempting is to include widely available information — both extant and emergent, in the form of online discussion, blog posts and good old-fashioned ink-and-paper — in its “clarified” description of technical data. “Exporting” such information — including putting it on the globally accessible World Wide Web — could, under the new rule, subject its promulgator(s) to prosecution, including fines and jail time.

From the blog:

This latest regulatory assault, published in the June 3 issue of the Federal Register, is as much an affront to the First Amendment as it is to the Second. Your action is urgently needed to ensure that online blogs, videos, and web forums devoted to the technical aspects of firearms and ammunition do not become subject to prior review by State Department bureaucrats before they can be published.

To understand the proposal and why it’s so serious, some background information is necessary.

For the past several years, the Administration has been pursuing a large-scale overhaul of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which implement the federal Arms Export Control Act (AECA). The Act regulates the movement of so-called “defense articles” and “defense services” in and out of the United States. These articles and services are enumerated in a multi-part “U.S. Munitions List,” which covers everything from firearms and ammunition (and related accessories) to strategic bombers. The transnational movement of any defense article or service on the Munitions List presumptively requires a license from the State Department. Producers of such articles and services, moreover, must register with the U.S. Government and pay a hefty fee for doing so.

Also regulated under ITAR are so-called “technical data” about defense articles. These include, among other things, “detailed design, development, production or manufacturing information” about firearms or ammunition. Specific examples of technical data are blueprints, drawings, photographs, plans, instructions or documentation.

In their current form, the ITAR do not (as a rule) regulate technical data that are in what the regulations call the “public domain.” Essentially, this means data “which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public” through a variety of specified means. These include “at libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents.” Many have read this provision to include material that is posted on publicly available websites, since most public libraries these days make Internet access available to their patrons.

With the new proposal published on June 3, the State Department claims to be “clarifying” the rules concerning “technical data” posted online or otherwise “released” into the “public domain.” To the contrary, however, the proposal would institute a massive new prior restraint on free speech. This is because all such releases would require the “authorization” of the government before they occurred. The cumbersome and time-consuming process of obtaining such authorizations, moreover, would make online communication about certain technical aspects of firearms and ammunition essentially impossible.

… Gunsmiths, manufacturers, reloaders, and do-it-yourselfers could all find themselves muzzled under the rule and unable to distribute or obtain the information they rely on to conduct these activities. Prior restraints of the sort contemplated by this regulation are among the most disfavored regulations of speech under First Amendment case law.

The punishment for ignoring such expansive restrictions on discussing gun design isn’t light. “Penalties for violations are severe and for each violation could include up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million,” writes NRA. “Civil penalties can also be assessed.”

The proposal is in the public comment phase, which last through Aug. 3 of this year. Visit the NRA’s website for other recommendations on how to make your voice heard.

A map that grades each state’s asset forfeiture laws

Only one state’s don’t-do-it approach to seizing your property receives a ringing endorsement from FreedomWorks, which has just released a map that assigns the 50 states letter grades to assess their civil asset forfeiture laws.

New Mexico, which overhauled its civil forfeiture law in a bipartisan effort earlier this year, earned the “A” — but nearly every other state has a lot of catching up to do. The Land of Enchantment earned the lone endorsement following a major reform effort in April which abolished the practice altogether.

map
FreedomWorks

FreedomWorks hailed the passage of New Mexico’s HB 560 as “the strongest protection of private property in the country” after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez signed the bill into law. “New Mexico is now a national leader on this issue and a model for other states to follow,” the watchdog declared.

As for everyone else, well, things are still pretty awful. Nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming — received failing grades, while the majority of the others follows closely behind (or is that ahead?)

While a handful of states have begun to address the inherent totalitarianism of laying claim to their residents’ personal property, most are still operating under laws that permit the government to implicate objects, real estate and money — but not their owners — in criminal activity, thereby allowing the government to claim these things for its own.

“Civil asset forfeiture is a unique area of law in which the government charges specific property of being guilty of wrongdoing, rather than a person,” FreedomWorks explains. “Perhaps because the property is accused of wrongdoing, and not the person, governments often place lower standards of proof needed to forfeit the property. The procedures used by the federal government and many state governments creates grave Fourth and Fifth Amendment concerns.

“Since 2008, the federal government has regularly brought in over $1 billion a year in forfeiture proceeds. Although most states lack reporting requirements that would allow us to track forfeiture proceeds, those that do report reveal that states regularly bring in millions of dollars each year.”

No wonder so many states are slow to reform or abolish civil asset forfeiture practices. Many are addicted to the take. For state-level lawmakers serious about crafting legislation to eradicate one of the most pernicious forms of government oppression in the U.S., FreedomWorks offers the following guidelines:

  1. An individual should actually be convicted of a crime before the government can seize any property.
  2. Reforms should address due process concerns in two ways. First, the burden of proof that the property was used in connection with a crime should fall on the government. Second, the standard of proof should be beyond a reasonable doubt or clear and convincing.
  3. Proceeds from seized property should be placed in neutral accounts, such as a state’s general fund, not the police budget. This would adjust the incentives driving the use of this practice.
  4. Reforms should prohibit state and local law enforcement from participating in the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program as a way of bypassing state reforms.

Check out FreedomWorks’ full report: “Civil Asset Forfeiture: Grading the States” here.

Obamacare opposition at all-time low in WaPo, ABC poll

They buried the lede in reporting on their own poll, but ABC News and The Washington Post discovered this week that people are more opposed to Obamacare than they’ve ever been: even during the fallout from the healthcare law’s infamously botched rollout.

Three paragraphs and a chart into its story, which places its greatest emphasis on public opinion on the outcome of the Burwell case, The Post offers this:

Support for keeping the subsidies comes despite the law polling as poorly as ever. The survey finds opinion on the health-care law among the worst in Post-ABC polling; 54 percent oppose, up six percentage points from a year ago. Support ties the record low of 39 percent, which was last hit in April 2012. These results, though, contrast with other recent polls finding softening opposition and support above record low levels.

Of course, “other polls” don’t always present people with only two answer options. But when they do, The Post admits, people tend to come out against Obamacare:

Polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that about three in 10 would prefer repealing the entire law, rather than just scaling back, keeping it as is or expanding it. (When polls provide only two options — repeal the law or keep it — support for repeal increases.)

At any rate, The Post poll reveals first and foremost that people don’t like, and have never liked, Obamacare. Yet many realize that it’s become entrenched enough to prove disruptive if the Supreme Court rules against federal healthcare subsidies in states that don’t operate their own healthcare exchanges, and that modifying the law is therefore likely to be less disruptive than repealing it altogether.

That “too big to fail” perception of Obamacare is an outcome the Obama administration has pined for from the start. The president has done nothing except fuel that perception in recent days, telling anyone who’ll listen that he absolutely isn’t interested in developing a contingency plan to fall back on, should the Supreme Court rule against the government in Burwell.

Politically paranoid Obama administration has lawyered the FOIA to death

The Obama administration has skirted the fulfillment of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in order to reduce potential publicity damage to the White House, typically by exercising more discretion over the president’s powers to limit information based on its “sensitivity” than the FOIA law was meant to allow.

In other words, Obama evades FOIA requests when fulfilling them might be politically damaging, and the president abuses the spirit of the FOIA law in order to justify the delays.

Since the early days of Obama’s presidency — an administration launched with a promise of transparency unmatched by any of his predecessors — the White House has freighted the process of reviewing FOIA requests involving potentially sensitive information with unprecedented new burdens.

Instead of continuing the standard practice of having FOIA requests reviewed by a team of “career FOIA officials,” as National Review’s Eliana Johnson calls them, the administration decided in 2009 to bring a bunch of politicos into the mix. The goal, of course, was to limit transparency when it was politically expedient.

Here’s more from Tuesday’s National Review story:

At the Treasury Department, the memo came down from the deputy executive secretary, Wally Adeyemo, in December of 2009. Going forward, the memo stated, “sensitive information” requested under the Freedom of Information Act was to be reviewed not only by career FOIA officials but also by a committee of political appointees, including Adeyemo and representatives from the public-affairs, legislative-affairs, and general counsel’s office, before release.

What followed was an unusual review of Treasury FOIA requests by high-ranking political officials. And it didn’t just happen at Treasury, but at the IRS and the Department of Homeland Security, too. The Current and former FOIA attorneys at these agencies say documents requested by the media have come in for special scrutiny, called “sensitive review,” often holding up release for weeks or months. At times, these officials say, political officials delayed the production of documents for political convenience.

… These actions run counter not just to the spirit and the letter of the Obama administration’s pledge to unprecedented transparency, but also to the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act itself.

If there’s any doubt about Obama’s motive for adding layers of lawyers and advisors to what had been a relatively straightforward, compartmentalized process, those “career FOIA officials” are the ones who can put it to rest.

“Though the Freedom of Information Act is intended to be a force for transparency insulated from politics, career FOIA attorneys say ‘sensitive review’ introduced explicitly political considerations into the process,” writes Johnson. “In internal documents obtained exclusively by National Review, career officials voiced their discomfort and dismay with the new, unorthodox treatment of FOIAs. One warned it was a ‘public-relations disaster.'”

The point, in each instance, has not been to withhold information outright. Rather, it’s been to stymie its release in order to weather a transitory political storm. Requested information eventually comes out of the White House — it just does so at the Obama administration’s pace, and on its terms.

Under FOIA, all governmental entities are to respond to requests for information within 30 days or less. But slapping a “sensitive” label on information and standing behind a wall of opinion promulgated by a closed-ranks team of lawyers and wonks has effectively extended that timeline indefinitely. “The sensitive-review process often pushed response times beyond this window,” writes Johnson.

TSA hired dozens with links to terror groups

On the heels of a revealing report demonstrating its ineptitude at catching would-be bombers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been targeted with a second damning report — this time for failing to properly vet new employees, several of whom turned out to be linked with the very terror groups agencies like TSA take pride in thwarting.

An Inspector General’s (IG) report Monday revealed the beleaguered agency “did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy.”

While the review found the agency’s performance in using available employee-vetting practices to be “generally effective,” it also noted that TSA’s limited ability to cross-reference potential hires with all available watchlist information allowed more than six dozen applicants with possible terror ties to be hired and receive security clearance.

The report also notes that TSA left much of the vetting process to airports, which themselves did not uniformly apply the same set of standards to weeding through the agency’s pool of job applicants.

From the report:

TSA’s multi-layered process to vet aviation workers for potential links to terrorism was generally effective. In addition to initially vetting every application for new credentials, TSA recurrently vetted aviation workers with access to secured areas of commercial airports every time the Consolidated Terrorist Watchlist was updated. However, our testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy.

TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airports areas, and 2) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States. In general, TSA relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities. Thus, TSA lacked assurance that it properly vetted all credential applicants.

Further, thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing Social Security numbers. TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting. Without complete and accurate information, TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted access to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system.

“Generally effective” indeed.

TSA took a beating in the public eye last week, with even mainstream media picking up an IG report explaining how auditors from the Department of Homeland Security were able to sneak weapons and bomb materials past TSA screeners 95 percent of the time.

SSA overpaid billions to ineligible beneficiaries like fugitives and dead people

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has overpaid more than $16 billion in benefits over the past 10 years to people who weren’t eligible to receive them, including inmates, fugitives from justice and dead people.

A new Inspector General’s (IG) report reveals SSA managed to sustain some of the erroneous payouts for the full 10 years scrutinized in the audit. The report, titled “Overpayments in the Social Security Administration’s Disability Programs — A 10-Year Study,” covered a sampling of 1,532 beneficiaries who received benefits from late 2003 to early 2014.

The audit found that 44.5 percent of that group had received overpayments of one kind or another:

Our review of 1,532 beneficiaries in current pay status as of October 2003 found that over a 10-year period (from October 2003 through February 2014), SSA assessed overpayments for 44.5 percent of sampled beneficiaries. Based on the sample, we estimated

  • SSA assessed overpayments totaling about $16.8 billion between October 2003 and February 2014 for approximately 4 million beneficiaries who were in current payment status in October 2003;
  • SSA recovered about $8.1 billion of the $16.8 billion in overpayments it assessed; and
  • SSA prevented about $8 billion in overpayments between October 2003 and February 2014 to approximately 1 million beneficiaries in current pay status in October 2003 by suspending monthly payments.

Additionally, the overpayment rate in Fiscal Year 2004 was 3.1 percent of all benefits paid that year.

Among those who received overpayments, the most common red flags that should have signaled ineligibility was the amount of money the beneficiaries already earned, as well as the fact that many were not disabled.

In the 1,532-member sample group alone, SSA improperly paid out $216,070 to beneficiaries in prison or who held “fugitive status” and another $209,643 to the deceased — a combined 14.7 percent of all overpayments doled out to the sample group.

Check out the full IG report here.

May jobs report shows correlation between unemployment rate, labor force participation

It seems there’s no way for the unemployment rate to drop while the number of people looking for a job is rising.

May’s jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicated a slight decline in the number of people who have given up on looking for a job. But that ever-so-slightly positive bit of news was attended by a sine qua non: As a meager handful of people re-enter the labor force and begin looking for work, the unemployment rate rises.

In May, 92,986,000 otherwise-eligible people were not participating in the labor force — meaning that the only thing keeping them from looking for a job is the conviction that it isn’t worth the effort. But that number — more than one-quarter of the all-ages population of the entire county — represents a decline from a month earlier, when the labor force non-participation rate stood at 93,194,000.

At the same time, May’s unemployment rate rose, inching to 5.5 percent from 5.4 percent in April. As you likely know, the unemployment rate itself is optimistically skewed, since it does not consider the 90 million-plus eligible workers who have elected not to participate in the labor force.

We write a lot of these articles about jobs — usually once a month, when the BLS report comes out — and we typically focus on the negative aspects of the reports, since so much of the mainstream reporting on the BLS data is all about positive spin. So it’s worth paying lipservice to the idea that it’s a good thing that more people are viewing the U.S. economy as an environment that might — just might — have a few more economic opportunities for them to pursue.

But the May numbers really don’t show much changing, other than the possibility that the public zeitgeist has shifted — maybe — to view the job market as a place where a few more people stand a chance at landing an actual job.

Both the unemployment number and the labor force participation rate number barely budged; and as one improved, the other predictably worsened. The actual labor force participation rate improved by only one-tenth of 1 percent in May, up to 62.9 percent.

IRS blasé when Congress inquires about Clinton Foundation disclosures

Last month, a sizable group of Republican congressmen formally requested that the IRS review the tax-exempt status enjoyed by the Clinton Foundation after learning the nonprofit had not reported itemized donations from foreign governments.

The IRS responded with a form letter.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) shared the cocky response with the Washington Examiner, marveling at the tax agency’s glibness — especially concerning its treatment of exempt organizations, which has garnered the IRS plenty of negative attention in the past couple of years.

“It begs the question — do they even take our request seriously? This is exactly why people don’t trust the IRS,” Blackburn told the Examiner.

Blackburn headed a group of 51 House Republicans in signing the letter, which asked the IRS to revisit its assessment of the Clinton Foundation in order to determine whether the foundation, which violated the disclosure rules during Hillary Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, should continue to enjoy tax-exempt status.

That so many congressmen had taken an interest in the matter should have at least elicited a personal response, said Blackburn. Instead, the agency replied with a form letter that, according to the Examiner, “starts with ‘Dear Sir or Madam.’”

From the report:

“The information you submitted will be considered in this program,” it said. The letter was from Margaret Von Lienen, director of exempt organizations examinations, but she didn’t sign it.

Blackburn said the perfunctory response is far below the level of customer service members of Congress should be getting.

“The IRS response is not acceptable and lacking in the requisite tact that should accompany a congressional inquiry,” she said. “It is unbelievably disrespectful that Margaret Von Lienen couldn’t even take the few extra seconds needed to sign the letter.”

The dismissive response invokes recent, similar responses to other congressional inquiries into the activities of Democratic politicians. Eric Holder’s Department of Justice continually punted on whether it was actively pursuing its nominal investigation into the IRS’s political discrimination scandal, which has so far produced nothing of substance to implicate or clear those allegedly involved.

“We’d expect officials at the IRS, who also work for and are paid by the U.S. taxpayer, to take the same care and effort [as we have taken] in crafting a response to our inquiry,” Blackburn told the Examiner.

Almost everyone supports voter ID

More than three-quarters of Americans support state-level voter ID laws, even though such laws have been the target of recent court challenges and politicized attacks from the left.

A Rasmussen poll released Wednesday found that 76 percent of Americans favor laws that require voters to present photo ID at the polling place. That result is consistent with similar polls dating back as far as 2006, when Rasmussen found a virtually identical proportion of Americans — 77 percent — favored a photo ID requirement.

Party affiliation plays a role in how the poll’s responses break down, but even a majority of self-identified Democrats said they favor voter ID laws. Fifty-six percent of Democrats said they favor such laws, while 92 percent of Republicans agreed. An overwhelming majority of political independents — 78 percent — also support voter ID.

Despite a majority of their base demonstrating support for voter ID, Democratic politicians (including Hillary Clinton) and their ideological supporters characterize such laws as unnecessary, discriminatory and obstructive to those who they claim lack access to the means to obtain officially recognized forms of ID.

Elections in states with voter ID laws have not confirmed such fears, however. In fact, they’ve confirmed the opposite.

While 34 states have voter ID laws on the books, only 32 states currently enforce them. Pennsylvania’s ID law was struck down and (thanks to a subsequent Democratic takeover of the governor’s mansion) likely won’t be appealed; North Carolina’s law doesn’t take effect until 2016.

The U.S. Supreme Court passed on hearing a challenge to Wisconsin’s voter ID law earlier this year, just as it did for Texas’ law in late 2014.

California Senate passes ban on under-21 smoking

California, a state where smoking is already forbidden in myriad ways, is close to passing a law making it illegal to touch tobacco until you’re at least 21 years old.

On Tuesday, the California Senate overwhelmingly approved a ban on smoking for anyone under 21 years of age, sending SB 151 to the State Assembly where, if passed, it will be only a governor’s signature away from becoming law.

The logic behind the bill follows the standard statist script: Tobacco is bad for your health; people who use tobacco when young have a tendency to stay hooked; and the government is obligated to step in to intervene before people commit, long term, to destroying themselves.

From The Los Angeles Times:

Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina) said he introduced the bill, SB 151, out of concern that an estimated 90% of tobacco users start before age 21. Raising the minimum age will mean that fewer teenagers pick up the habit, said Hernandez, an optometrist.

He cited a study done by the Institute of Medicine for the federal Food and Drug Administration that concluded that raising the smoking age to 21 would cut smoking by 12% more than existing control policies.

“It’s time to stop allowing tobacco companies to make the deadly product so readily available to our youth,” Hernandez said.

Tough spot for young soldiers who serve in California, eh?

The counterargument opponents offer is a riff on that idea, with the Cigar Association of America arguing that 21 years old is a high bar for tobacco use — especially when young people come into other basic legal rights much earlier in life.

“The cigar group argued that people are eligible to vote, serve in the military and enter into contracts at the age of 18, and therefore should be able to make their own decisions concerning smoking,” reported the Times.

The Senate is also moving a bill that would ban the use of non-tobacco e-cigarettes and vaporizers in public places where tobacco use already is outlawed. Vape use, according to Democratic State Sen. Mark Leno, “is a really serious potential health crisis.”

Scholars blast the politics of division underlying revised AP standards for U.S. History

An esteemed group of more than 50 academics — including the former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as history professors from one coast to the other — has co-signed a letter calling for fundamental changes to the College Board’s latest revision of its Advanced Placement (AP) testing curriculum for American history.

At issue is the College Board’s approval of a curriculum that, at its core, appears to evaluate the driving forces behind America’s success as exploitative and exclusionary. Trading content for emotion, the AP narrative of America’s history is a shame-inviting script filled with collective self-loathing and frequent diversions into moments that America got wrong. Historically oppressed or marginalized groups play a prominent role in advancing this narrative, serving as grist for the unrelenting mill of America’s founding principles in action.

Essentially, the scholars believe the new AP curriculum asks students to view America as a disjointed pastiche of conflicting identity groups vying for recognition, instead of a single body politic where civic ideals have the power to unite people of disparate backgrounds underneath a set of broad and common themes.

The group of 55 scholars argues that it’s a disservice to students, academicians and even the founding principles of America itself to push such a tightly formed narrative — especially one that implies America’s success must necessarily rest on an imperial, oppressive and domineering foundation.

The letter is lengthy, but it’s worth letting these scholars have their say by quoting it directly:

Letter Opposing the 2014 APUSH Framework

The teaching of American history in our schools faces a grave new risk, from an unexpected source. Half a million students each year take the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in U.S. History. The framework for that exam has been dramatically changed, in ways certain to have negative consequences.

We wish to express our opposition to these modifications. The College Board’s 2014 Advanced Placement Examination shortchanges students by imposing on them an arid, fragmentary, and misleading account of American history. We favor instead a robust, vivid, and content-rich account of our unfolding national drama, warts and all, a history that is alert to all the ways we have disagreed and fallen short of our ideals, while emphasizing the ways that we remain one nation with common ideals and a shared story.

The Advanced Placement exam has become a fixture in American education since its introduction after the Second World War, and many colleges and universities award credits based on students’ AP scores. In fact, for many American students the AP test effectively has taken the place of the formerly required U.S. history survey course in colleges and universities, making its structure and contents a matter of even greater importance from the standpoint of civic education. Many of these students will never take another American history course. So it matters greatly what they learn in their last formal encounter with the subject.

Educators and the public have been willing to trust the College Board to strike a sensible balance among different approaches to the American past. Rather than issuing detailed guidelines, the College Board has in the past furnished a brief topical outline for teachers, leaving them free to choose what to emphasize. In addition, the previous AP U.S. History course featured a strong insistence on content, i.e., on the students’ acquisition of extensive factual knowledge of American history.

But with the new 2014 framework, the College Board has put forward a lengthy 134-page document which repudiates that earlier approach, centralizes control, deemphasizes content, and promotes a particular interpretation of American history. This interpretation downplays American citizenship and American world leadership in favor of a more global and transnational perspective. The College Board has long enjoyed an effective monopoly on advanced placement testing. The changes made in the new framework expose the danger in such a monopoly. The result smacks of an “official” account of the American past. Local, state, and federal policymakers may need to explore competitive alternatives to the College Board’s current domination of advanced-placement testing.

The new framework is organized around such abstractions as “identity,” “peopling,” “work, exchange, and technology,” and “human geography” while downplaying essential subjects, such as the sources, meaning, and development of America’s ideals and political institutions, notably the Constitution. Elections, wars, diplomacy, inventions, discoveries — all these formerly central subjects tend to dissolve into the vagaries of identity-group conflict. The new framework scrubs away all traces of what used to be the chief glory of historical writing — vivid and compelling narrative — and reduces history to an bloodless interplay of abstract and impersonal forces. Gone is the idea that history should provide a fund of compelling stories about exemplary people and events. No longer will students hear about America as a dynamic and exemplary nation, flawed in many respects, but whose citizens have striven through the years toward the more perfect realization of its professed ideals. The new version of the test will effectively marginalize important ways of teaching about the American past, and force American high schools to teach U.S. history from a perspective that self-consciously seeks to de-center American history and subordinate it to a global and heavily social-scientific perspective.

There are notable political or ideological biases inherent in the 2014 framework, and certain structural innovations that will inevitably result in imbalance in the test, and bias in the course. Chief among these is the treatment of American national identity. The 2010 framework treated national identity, including “views of the American national character and ideas about American exceptionalism” as a central theme. But the 2014 framework makes a dramatic shift away from that emphasis, choosing instead to grant far more extensive attention to “how various identities, cultures, and values have been preserved or changed in different contexts of U.S. history with special attention given to the formation of gender, class, racial and ethnic identities.” The new framework makes a shift from “identity” to “identities.” Indeed, the new framework is so populated with examples of American history as the conflict between social groups, and so inattentive to the sources of national unity and cohesion, that it is hard to see how students will gain any coherent idea of what those sources might be. This does them, and us, an immense disservice.

We believe that the study of history should expose our young students to vigorous debates about the nature of American exceptionalism, American identity, and America’s role in the world. Such debates are the warp and woof of historical understanding. We do not seek to reduce the education of our young to the inculcation of fairy tales, or of a simple, whitewashed, heroic, even hagiographical nationalist narrative. Instead, we support a course that fosters informed and reflective civic awareness, while providing a vivid sense of the grandeur and drama of its subject.

A formal education in American history serves young people best by equipping them for a life of deep and consequential membership in their own society. The College Board’s 2014 framework sadly neglects this essential civic purpose of education in history. We can, and must, do better.

– Scholars Concerned About Advanced Placement History

The people behind this letter aren’t at the fringes of institutional academia, although many of them work as resident historical classicists at their respective universities.

For the full text, as well as a listing of the letter’s signees (so far), visit the National Association of Scholars’ Web page and download the .pdf file.

Explosives made it past TSA 95 percent of the time in DHS tests

A new report has found that Transportation Security Administration security fails to detect bombs and explosive materials 95 percent of the time at airports where Homeland Security has conducted dry runs.

The Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, a result of an internal DHS investigation, revealed that “undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials,” according to ABC News, which first broke the story.

DHS officers posed as passengers at a number of major U.S. airports, succeeding 67 out of 70 times in smuggling bomb materials through TSA checkpoints. “In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down,” ABC reported.

The revelation got acting TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway reassigned, and left DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson grasping for an appropriate way to spin the results.

In a statement Monday, Johnson said the results of “these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security. We take these findings very seriously in our continued effort to test, measure and enhance our capabilities and techniques as threats evolve.”

Surely he can’t be talking about TSA’s capabilities to detect security threats. Maybe Johnson’s simply talking about the agency’s capability to detect passengers’ dignity, or simply their private parts.

The Obama administration on Monday turned criticism of the TSA’s ineffectual operation back on Congress, blaming lawmakers for failing to confirm Adm. Peter Neffenger as permanent director.

“We would have more confidence if we could have a more permanent, Senate-confirmed director on the job,” press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. “We would like to see Congress act more quickly to confirm him.”

Lawmaker threatens ‘arrogant’ BLM with eventual budget cuts, staff reductions

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), one of Congress’ most garrulous lawmakers and a favorite target of the left’s gaffe-detecting brigade, didn’t sound crazy at all during a late-May hearing involving the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Gohmert took the opportunity to excoriate the BLM for what he described as “the arrogance of people on U.S. Forest Service land and [Department of the] Interior land,” suggesting that Congress could wield its power of the purse to effectively curb overly-ambitious federal land management.

“I come bearing good news,” Gohmert told BLM and Forest Service officials at the hearing. “I think if your employees keep up the arrogance, keep denying access to the land, then very soon we’ll be able to dramatically cut your employees back and start turning those powers over to the states.

At issue was the extent of access that federal employees may grant to recreational users of federal lands. Gohmert was incensed at number of complaints he’d heard about private citizens being turned away from national forests and BLM land, according to CNS News.

Here’s more from Gohmert, as reported by CNS:

“Today, I wanted to take advantage of your presence here by letting you know things I’ve been hearing,” Gohmert said. “About the arrogance of people on U.S. Forest Service land and [Department of the] Interior land — national forests — even from law enforcement, they say it’s just gotten tougher and tougher to deal with arrogant people on the national forests. Not getting access when they need it, not working with local law enforcement. And that’s been really helpful to me.

“Some of us have been pushing for a while — let’s just dramatically cut back the U.S. Forest Service, the BLM, the Department of Interior and let each state manage the federal land within its boundaries.

The hearing was assembled to discuss a House bill, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, designed to “increase opportunities for hunters, anglers, and recreational shooters; eliminate regulatory impediments and safeguard against new regulations that will impede outdoor sporting activities; and protect Second Amendment rights.”

Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) is the bill’s sponsor.