Monthly Archives: May 2012

Big Tobacco’s Stone Wall

This is a stone wall. Congress is familiar with this structure.

Welcome to Thursday, May 31, 2012. We find ourselves today at the base of a stone wall. Pretty, isn’t it? I imagine stone walls have been around for nearly as long as there has been the concept of boundaries. Good fences make good neighbors, right? In American politics, the stone wall imagery was invoked frequently during President Nixon’s Watergate scandal for the blunt, non-answer answers White House officials gave to cover up the debacle as long as possible.

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE: Supposedly, House and Senate staff members continue privately walking through their two different transportation bills, identifying areas of agreement and areas of disagreement. Remember that the Senate bill contains the Big Tobacco bailout (HR4134), AND that the Big Tobacco bailout provision is NOT in the House bill. That means the lawmakers have to decide whether or not to include the bailout in the final bill that must ultimately be presented to all members of Congress. If the negotiators are forced to open the curtains, let the sunshine in, and take a public vote on the Big Tobacco bailout, that’s good for us because only the slimiest members of Congress would DARE do such a crooked favor for Big Tobacco while the cameras are on them.

HOWEVER, just yesterday, a member of the 2012 highway bill conference committee accused U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) of “stonewalling” during what are supposed to be open negotiations. This unidentified member of the House Republican caucus says Sen. Boxer is not negotiating in good faith, that she’s not been “straight up.” and, “She’s been overly optimistic.” He said, “If they’re not willing to negotiate… …I don’t see how we can move forward.”

That doesn’t sound good. In fact, it sounds as if Senator Boxer might have a trick up her sleeve to try and roll right over the top of House Republicans. To date, there has been exactly ONE public meeting on the 2012 highway bill negotiations and reportedly WEEKS of PRIVATE meetings among staff. Remember the one public meeting? That was where everyone said, “Roads good. Waste bad.” and not one word about the Big Tobacco bailout? And, since we don’t know exactly what’s been said in the PRIVATE negotiations since then, we need less stonewalling and more public light shed on this issue.

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ We need highways, not a #BigTobacco bailout. STOP the #jobs killer HR4134 http://bit.ly/NewTax

Speaking of things not happening in the “public” arena… This Big Tobacco bailout provision has lived in the dark for its ENTIRE life, much like a vampire.

Things that never see sunlight: Vampires and dirty legislation.

DARKNESS: Not one committee hearing.

MIDNIGHT: Not one minute of floor debate.

BLACKOUT: Not one news conference where news reporters could ask questions.

STONEWALL: Not one minute of testimony from small businesses impacted.

SECRET: Not one second of explanation as to WHY small business “retailers” should be reclassified as big time “manufacturers.”

SCANDAL: And yet, Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) slipped this legislation into the highway bill.

Around here, we call that dirty pool.

Someone has polluted the water with a Big Tobacco bailout.

OUR MISSION: Let’s keep up the pressure! Every day that we expose the Big Tobacco bailout is another chance more members of Congress are going to have to explain it. Whatever you do, don’t relent! That only gives members of Congress comfort that we won’t notice what they’re up to ENSURE every day you are talking (Tweeting and Facebooking) with your local members of Congress. Remember, local voices carry the most weight!

Today’s focus: In addition to touching leading members of the House of Representatives and members of the news media, let’s encourage the following members to STAY STRONG and REJECT the Big Tobacco bailout that’s hidden in the highway bill. They’re all on the negotiating committee, they ran for office on platforms that say they’ll protect small business, and at one time or another, they’ve stated publicly they are against bailouts for big corporations (twitter handle then Facebook page):

Example: @LawmakerX Stay STRONG and STOP HR4134, the #BigTobacco bailout hidden in the highway bill. http://bit.ly/NewTax

Thank you for your hard work and keep it up!

-GR

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Stop H.R.4134, the Big Tobacco Bailout

Small Business Champion, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH)

Happy Wednesday warriors! It’s May 30, 2012 and above, you can see the face of a champion for small business and fair competition. U.S. Representative Steve LaTourette from the 14th congressional district of Ohio has personally sent a letter to every other member of the House of Representatives asking them to STOP the Big Tobacco bailout in the 2012 highway bill.

As we reported yesterday, Congressman LaTourette wrote:

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in urging the members of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Conference committee not to include an onerous provision in the final Highway bill.  The Senate Surface Transportation Reauthorization contains a provision that would eliminate competition from small businesses. It is imperative this provision not be included in the final Highway bill as over one thousand small businesses and their customers across the nation will suffer harmful effects.

Included in the Senate Transportation Reauthorization is a provision that would classify retail establishments that offer roll-your-own tobacco machines as large scale manufacturers of tobacco.  With this classification comes higher taxes which will impose a crushing burden on these establishments. This provision is in opposition to the spirit of this legislation which is to create jobs and to bolster the economy, not to impose further regulation.

The last sentence above is particularly striking. The provision is “in opposition to the spirit” of creating jobs and positive economic activity. It is also a provision that will “impose further regulation.” Those points are exactly right. The Big Tobacco bailout provision will heap unproductive and unnecessary government crap all over small business, all in an attempt to unfairly crush competition. Rep. LaTourette also notes the Big Tobacco bailout will crush more than 1,000 small businesses all across our great country.

TODAY’S MESSAGE: @LawmakerXYZ Oppose the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134 in the highway bill. It’s a job killer! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Thank you, Rep. LaTourette for standing up for small business and taking this fight against this Big Tobacco bailout public. We stand with you and will continue encouraging your colleagues to show the same grit.

JUST SO THE WORLD IS AWARE, this same provision that currently exists in the Senate’s highway bill is also the EXACT same language of H.R.4134, a bill authored by U.S. Rep. Diane Black. She and about 60 Big Tobacco lobbyists have been pushing H.R.4134 like a dope fiend pushes heroin after Sunday church. In fact, here are the suckers who’ve signed on to support H.R.4134 (coincidentally, all of them have taken THOUSANDS of dollars from Big Tobacco in the form of campaign contributions):

Big Tobacco Sellouts (alphabetical):

Rep Alexander, Rodney [LA-5] – 5/8/2012
Rep Barrow, John [GA-12] – 3/27/2012
Rep Blackburn, Marsha [TN-7] – 4/24/2012
Rep Boren, Dan [OK-2] – 4/18/2012
Rep Boswell, Leonard L. [IA-3] – 3/26/2012
Rep Boustany, Charles W., Jr. [LA-7] – 4/18/2012
Rep Buerkle, Ann Marie [NY-25] – 3/28/2012
Rep Butterfield, G. K. [NC-1] – 4/24/2012
Rep Canseco, Francisco “Quico” [TX-23] – 4/16/2012
Rep Capps, Lois [CA-23] – 4/16/2012
Rep Carnahan, Russ [MO-3] – 4/16/2012
Rep Carter, John R. [TX-31] – 5/16/2012
Rep Chandler, Ben [KY-6] – 5/16/2012
Rep Cleaver, Emanuel [MO-5] – 4/24/2012
Rep Coble, Howard [NC-6] – 3/21/2012
Rep Cole, Tom [OK-4] – 3/26/2012
Rep Connolly, Gerald E. “Gerry” [VA-11] – 4/16/2012
Rep Costa, Jim [CA-20] – 5/16/2012
Rep Crowley, Joseph [NY-7] – 3/7/2012
Rep Dingell, John D. [MI-15] – 5/10/2012
Rep Ellmers, Renee L. [NC-2] – 3/8/2012
Rep Farr, Sam [CA-17] – 4/18/2012
Rep Flores, Bill [TX-17] – 4/16/2012
Rep Gonzalez, Charles A. [TX-20] – 5/7/2012
Rep Griffin, Tim [AR-2] – 4/24/2012
Rep Hall, Ralph M. [TX-4] – 4/19/2012
Rep Hanabusa, Colleen W. [HI-1] – 4/25/2012
Rep Harper, Gregg [MS-3] – 4/18/2012
Rep Hastings, Alcee L. [FL-23] – 3/28/2012
Rep Holt, Rush D. [NJ-12] – 5/7/2012
Rep Hurt, Robert [VA-5] – 5/9/2012
Rep Johnson, Eddie Bernice [TX-30] – 4/19/2012
Rep Jones, Walter B., Jr. [NC-3] – 3/26/2012
Rep Kind, Ron [WI-3] – 3/20/2012
Rep Kinzinger, Adam [IL-11] – 3/27/2012
Rep Latham, Tom [IA-4] – 4/18/2012
Rep Lummis, Cynthia M. [WY] – 4/18/2012
Rep Marino, Tom [PA-10] – 3/21/2012
Rep Matsui, Doris O. [CA-5] – 3/28/2012
Rep McIntyre, Mike [NC-7] – 3/30/2012
Rep Meeks, Gregory W. [NY-6] – 4/24/2012
Rep Nunes, Devin [CA-21] – 3/27/2012
Rep Owens, William L. [NY-23] – 3/29/2012
Rep Pastor, Ed [AZ-4] – 4/16/2012
Rep Poe, Ted [TX-2] – 4/25/2012
Rep Rangel, Charles B. [NY-15] – 3/16/2012
Rep Rehberg, Denny [MT] – 3/27/2012
Rep Rokita, Todd [IN-4] – 5/7/2012
Rep Rooney, Thomas J. [FL-16] – 3/29/2012
Rep Sanchez, Linda T. [CA-39] – 4/16/2012
Rep Sanchez, Loretta [CA-47] – 4/24/2012
Rep Schock, Aaron [IL-18] – 4/24/2012
Rep Schrader, Kurt [OR-5] – 3/22/2012
Rep Scott, Austin [GA-8] – 4/17/2012
Rep Scott, David [GA-13] – 4/24/2012
Rep Sessions, Pete [TX-32] – 4/16/2012
Rep Shuster, Bill [PA-9] – 4/16/2012
Rep Smith, Adam [WA-9] – 4/19/2012
Rep Speier, Jackie [CA-12] – 4/19/2012
Rep Stivers, Steve [OH-15] – 4/19/2012
Rep Sullivan, John [OK-1] – 3/26/2012
Rep Terry, Lee [NE-2] – 5/16/2012
Rep Thompson, Bennie G. [MS-2] – 3/28/2012
Rep Thornberry, Mac [TX-13] – 4/24/2012
Rep Walden, Greg [OR-2] – 4/16/2012
Rep Waxman, Henry A. [CA-30] – 3/29/2012
Rep Welch, Peter [VT] – 4/18/2012
Rep Wilson, Joe [SC-2] – 5/7/2012
Rep Womack, Steve [AR-3] – 4/24/2012
Rep Yoder, Kevin [KS-3] – 3/26/2012

I openly admit, that is a LOT of support for the Big Tobacco bailout. It is AMAZING what Big Tobacco’s money can buy. Is your member of Congress on this list? If they are, tell them to jump off this bill. It might be that they didn’t really understand the provisions of H.R.4134 before signing onto it. Or it might be they understood the provisions, but had no idea we would see what they were up to, trying to slip an anti-competitive, middle of the night, Big Tobacco bailout into law. Either way, they can take their name off this list any time they want when the House is in session. NOTICE: If you happen to be a member of Congress and your name is on the list above, we will happily recant giving you the title of “Big Tobacco Sellout” when you remove your support for HR4134 (Yes, Diane Black. That includes you, too).

Washington Watchdog Groups have taken notice of the Big Tobacco bailout.

Have I mentioned Washington, DC’s public watchdog groups have taken notice of Big Tobacco’s support for H.R.4134? Just like you and me, the watchdogs smelled something funny when lobbyist disclosures for the period covering January 1, 2012 to March 31, 2012 included MILLIONS of dollars and DOZENS of lobbyists assigned to lobby for H.R.4134. What’s especially bizarre is HR4134 was only INTRODUCED on March 5 and didn’t get a bill number (4134) until later that week! So in the period of less than 20 days, Altria, R.J.Reynolds, and others associated with Big Tobacco spent MILLIONS in support of H.R.4134. WOW, WAS THAT COORDINATED? Gee, if I were a Washington bureaucrat looking to break out of the box, I might look into whether there was any collusion between the Big Tobacco guys aimed at using Congress to crush competition and further enhance a monopoly. But I digress…

OUR MISSION: Continue to press this issue issue with our local members of Congress! STOP the Big Tobacco bailout; STOP H.R.4134. Rep. Steve LaTourette gets it, and you know others do, too. Let’s keep educating people about this Big Tobacco bailout attempt and why it’s wrong. To the Twitter, the Facebook, the emails, phones, online news story comment sections, the Batmobile and beyond! Together, we have taken many steps in our journey and made great progress. Let’s continue increasing the pressure, continue spreading the word, and by all means, continue tearing down this Big Tobacco bailout.

-GR

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Tuesday Midday Update: HERO IDENTIFIED

How great is this?! At long last, we can identify a member of Congress who is STANDING UP for the little guy in our fight against Big Tobacco! U.S. Representative Steven C. LaTourette from the 14th congressional district in Ohio has sent a letter to his colleagues URGING THEM TO DROP the Big Tobacco bailout from the 2012 highway bill! Our insiders on Capitol Hill report to us his letter is being circulated to ALL offices on the Hill, educating each and every lawmaker about the evil provision, and how wrong it is.

[UPDATE 1:29pm ET]

We now have TEXT of Congressman LaTourette’s letter! Read on fellow warrior…

 

Dear Colleague:

Please join us in urging the members of the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Conference committee not to include an onerous provision in the final Highway bill.  The Senate Surface Transportation Reauthorization contains a provision that would eliminate competition from small businesses. It is imperative this provision not be included in the final Highway bill as over one thousand small businesses and their customers across the nation will suffer harmful effects.

Included in the Senate Transportation Reauthorization is a provision that would classify retail establishments that offer roll-your-own tobacco machines as large scale manufacturers of tobacco.  With this classification comes higher taxes which will impose a crushing burden on these establishments. This provision is in opposition to the spirit of this legislation which is to create jobs and to bolster the economy, not to impose further regulation.

Please join us in opposing this provision. If you have questions or would like to sign on to this letter to the Conference Committee, please contact STAFF PERSONNEL INFORMATION REDACTED BY GEORGE RENOME in Representative LaTourette’s office.

Steve LaTourette

Member of Congress

Keep rockin’ Congressman LaTourette!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for standing up for small business and fairness! Even more, thank you for helping us FIGHT Big Tobacco and their anti-competitive bailout bill, H.R.4134. We owe you a debt of gratitude and our support. If there’s anything we can do for you, please let us know and we will mobilize for you!

Thanks for reading this mid-day update. Please thank Congressman LaTourette when you have a moment on Facebook and Twitter and keep the pressure on the other lawmakers!

-GR

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The Emperor Wore What?

Dude, isn’t that a Big Tobacco bailout?

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ What’s dirtier than a #BigTobacco bailout? Nothing. Save #jobs. Stop the sellout. http://bit.ly/NewTax

Welcome to Tuesday, May 29, 2012. You’ll see the threat level has been elevated to PINK because half of Congress is back in session this week. Though the Senate is out and senators are milling among us commoners enjoying the extreme heat, the House of Representatives is back to cause more mischief. That means more meetings among the conferees of the 2012 highway bill.

As we reported last week, faceless staff representing members of the House and Senate have been working through the differences in the House and Senate bills. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) told The Hill newspaper that 80 percent of the issues are already settled. The remaining sticky 20 percent of matters are being discussed behind closed doors. A friend of mine told me this is how the conversation between faceless staff goes:

Senate staffer: “We have a provision in our bill that raises the gas tax by a one-tenth of a penny a gallon.”

House staffer: “On behalf of the House majority and Chairman Mica, we object.”

Senate staffer: “Okay, we’ll take a vote on that later. Next item. We have a provision that crushes small tobacco shops by changing their classification from “retailer” to “manufacturer.”

House staffer: “What? Crush small business by implementing a mysterious and arbitrary reclassification? Why would you do that?”

Senate staffer: “Umm. Nevermind. We’ll come back to that one…”

And it keeps going like that. The problem is, when the issue isn’t decided in the open, our interests are not represented. Behind closed doors, members of Congress rely on their staff for information. Staff is presenting information they’ve gathered from their friends who now work for Big Tobacco…

Hey, you gotta problem with my Big Tobacco bailout?

So maybe you remember the fairy tale about the emperor who was so blinded by his own vanity, he walked through the township wearing nothing but his birthday suit. It wasn’t until a child called out “naked” that the whole village realized a streaker was parading in front of them. That’s exactly what’s happening with the Big Tobacco bailout HR4134. To you, me, and anyone else who looks at it, HR4134 is a screwed up favor specifically designed to benefit Big Tobacco. What worldly purposes is there to reclassify a retailer as a manufacturer simply because they allow people to buy their own tobacco blends and use an in-store device to roll up some smokes?

REAL WORLD: If small tobacco shops are reclassified from “retailers” to “tobacco manufacturing facilities” the real world effect is they’ll be immediately zoned out of business, or taxed and regulated out of business. Bottom line, Congress will drive small shops OUT OF BUSINESS. Oh, Big Tobacco will speak from behind the curtain and say things like “tax equity” or “tax fairness” or “campaign contributions will dry up if you don’t support our bill” but the reality is this is nothing more than a COORDINATED effort by the Big Tobacco companies to CRUSH COMPETITION. Hey Department of Justice, isn’t that illegal?? Hey Superfriends, can’t you fly in and save the day?!

So here we are, and here we go again. We’re calling this Big Tobacco bailout exactly what it is. HR4134 is a NAKED sellout to Big Tobacco. HR4134 is a standalone bill in the House, and its EXACT language is in the Senate version of the highway bill. Our mission is to draw as much attention as possible to this FRAUD, and call on ALL members of Congress to STOP the bailout. Let’s focus our love on ALL our members of Congress, including these friends on the House negotiating committee for the 2012 highway bill:

Republicans

Democrats

As always, please remain civil and share your direct message (@lawmakerxyz) thoughts under the 4, 4, 4 plan. Four in the morning. Four in the afternoon. Four in the evening. And then retweet as MUCH as you like! Have a great day and keep on ringing the bell, we are making a difference!!

– GR

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Memorial Day Edition-The Faceless People

Hello! It’s Monday, May 28, 2012 and in addition to today being a national holiday honoring our fallen military men and women, Congress is NOT in session so they can’t do TOO much damage today…

The Face of the Faceless

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ and @RepFredUpton STRIP the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134 from the highway bill. http://bit.ly/NewTax

It’s funny how we can move through society every day and see so many people with whom we will rarely interact. Think of walking through the mall, store to store and as you browse, your glance moves over, across, even through people, but in a matter of moments you won’t retain a single detail of their appearance. People essentially become faceless entities, there one moment and gone the next.

But even faceless people have an impact on our lives, and that’s not good news.

In fact, we’ve been talking about the Big Tobacco bailout, H.R.4134 for a few weeks now, and it occurs to me it is the faceless people who are driving our elected officials into smashing small business. Remember? It was a faceless staff member to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) who met with the faceless Big Tobacco lobbyists and inserted the bailout provision in the 2012 highway bill. It was faceless staff members with Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) who met with faceless Big Tobacco interests, took their bailout bill and introduced it as their own.  It is at least SIXTY faceless lobbyists retained by the faceless executives at Altria and R.J.Reynolds who are canvassing Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to approve the Big Tobacco bailout. It is faceless staff members working out the details on a final 2012 highway bill so the 47 lawmakers on the conference committee can come in and approve it without their fingerprints on the actual bill.

How is it that so many faceless people are driving H.R.4134, the Big Tobacco bailout? More important, WHY are they remaining faceless?

Bono wants third world debt forgiveness.

These days, you can’t swing a gunny sack full of gophers on Capitol Hill without hitting a Hollywood celebrity lobbying Congress for something. U2 singer Bono lobbies for third world debt forgiveness, Bo Derek lobbies for an end to horse slaughter, Geena Davis fights against discrimination of women, Alec Baldwin fights for the arts, and the list goes on. They lend their public celebrity to these causes and would talk endlessly if given the chance.

But for H.R.4134, nothing. No public face. No celebrity. Just silence. Not even a peep about it on Rep. Diane Black’s website, where she regularly puts up news releases about everything under the sun including unicorns breaking wind and water buffalo skin cream. How very strange…

OR, maybe it’s not strange at all. You know who else remains faceless while doing their work? Bank robbers.

Bank robber wants cash. FBI wants bank robber.

Maybe that’s why backers of H.R.4134 are remaining faceless. Maybe they feel they’re doing something sinister like robbing a bank. They see a bunch of cash, they want it for themselves, and they don’t care how they get it. Isn’t that what Big Tobacco is doing – robbing? Wouldn’t this headline make sense?

“Faceless Big Tobacco uses Congress as a weapon to crush small businesses.”

One more time for the easily distracted: Big Tobacco is using Congress to rewrite law for their own personal gain. Altria (maker of Marlboro) and others want Congress to reclassify any small business where you can buy your own tobacco blend and use a machine to roll it into a smoke. Big Tobacco wants that reclassification because they KNOW small businesses cannot afford the costs of taxes and regulation if they’re reclassified from “retailer” to “tobacco manufacturing facility.”

Every time I write about this, I am more and more amazed the main stream media hasn’t exposed this scandal. H.R.4134 is SO important to Big Tobacco, they spent MILLIONS of dollars hiring nearly 100 lobbyists for a period of JUST 20 DAYS to urge Congress to pass the bill. Who knows how much the Big Tobacco companies have spent SINCE reporting their first quarter activities. I bet it’s going to blow the top off the millions they spent in just the first 20 days of this action.

So here we are. The faces of working America fighting the faceless people behind the Big Tobacco bailout. We knew early on this was going to be a HUGE battle, and that’s why we must continue pressing day after day after day. Fortunately for us, there are faces we can ultimately hold responsible. No matter how many dollars faceless Big Tobacco throws at HR4134, no matter how many staff members write Big Tobacco’s bailout into the highway bill, we ultimately see the faces of Congress who have the final say. Max Baucus, Diane Black, John Mica, Barbara Boxer. The list goes on and on, and each of these senators and representatives is accountable to the people who elected them. So PRESS FORWARD my friends. Let’s keep talking on Twitter, Facebook, online news stories, email, phone calls, and flyers stapled to telephone polls. Just say NO to the Big Tobacco bailout. It’s unAmerican and a job killer!

Enjoy your Monday.

– GR

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Pressure Cooker

Good morning, it’s Sunday, May 27, 2012 and still the holiday weekend, so I’ll keep today’s briefing short. Please know we’re keeping the same message for Twitter and Facebook all weekend long to drive home our point. Please share this video http://youtu.be/aVjKVNecFAk on Facebook with your favorite local members of Congress (and a few others), and please pay frequent visits to Twitter when you have a spare moment or two.

This Weekend’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ and @JimInhofe STOP the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134 stowing away on the highway bill. http://bit.ly/NewTax

Nothing drives the United States Congress like a deadline. Unless they’re naming a post office after a wealthy donor’s mom or paying tribute to the centennial of the Caterpillar Watchers Association of America, lawmakers rarely do ANYTHING until it becomes absolutely necessary. Has Congress passed a budget? No. Do they finish their annual appropriations work on time anymore? Nope. Look at the recent debt limit negotiations. Already, members of Congress KNOW they’re going to need to raise the debt limit AGAIN in early 2013, but they won’t address it until after the November elections because… they don’t have to.

Deadline: June 30, 2012. That’s when the current national highway bill authorization expires. What that means to you and me is the green light for highway construction money turns red. That means Uncle Sam’s money spigot stops flowing to highway, road, bridge, rail, and Panda protection projects all across our great nation.

Congress likes their toy trains.

Not wanting to see toy train projects in their home states stop midstream, Congress is working to finish up the highway bill before the June 30 deadline. All kinds of pressure is placed on the members of Congress working out the details of what they hope is the final bill, and Big Tobacco would like nothing more than to see everyone just give up, pass the Senate bill, and go home.

We are committed to ensuring that does NOT happen. Why? Because there’s a BIG TOBACCO BAILOUT in the Senate’s version of the highway bill.

Without getting into all the details (if you read all of TaxTracker’s previous posts you will understand our issue) the Big Tobacco companies are colluding to SHUT DOWN any small business where you can buy your own blend of tobacco and roll your own smokes. Don’t take my word for it, look at the public disclosures from Big Tobacco’s lobbyists. In the first three months of this year, the Big Tobacco companies got together and spent MILLIONS of dollars on nearly A HUNDRED lobbyists to canvas the Hill in support of their bailout bill (H.R.4134), EVEN THOUGH that bill hadn’t even been introduced until March 5. That kind of crap doesn’t happen by coincidence. It’s a high-level, well-funded, mob-type effort designed to CRUSH competition, and they’re using CONGRESS to do it.

If this doesn’t wreak of scandal and potential jail time, I don’t know what does.

Are the Big Tobacco companies violating Federal law by colluding?

Let’s keep up the pressure. Don’t let Congress and Big Tobacco think they can get away with crushing competition, killing jobs, and murdering the American Dream. We call ’em as we see ’em and anyone who opens their eyes to the concerted effort to crush the freedom to roll your own, will see the same.

God bless and keep it up friends!

– GR

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The Fabric of Our Nation

Behind H.R.4134, the Big Tobacco bailout is… Big Tobacco.

Hello! It’s Saturday, March 26, 2012 and the start of Memorial Day weekend. This occasion used to be known as Decoration Day and it began as a way to pay tribute to Union soldiers killed in the Civil War. Southern civic organizations honored lost Confederate soldiers in a similar fashion, but on different days during the month of May. In the early 1900s, Memorial Day was formalized nationally as a day to honor all fallen U.S. soldiers of all wars. To all military men and women who are serving or have served our great nation, we thank you for your willingness to sacrifice. We especially pay great tribute to those who have lost their lives defending our freedom, our liberty, and our way of life. Thank you.

As has been said, freedom isn’t free. Military men and women have gone into battle to defend our Republic and our form of democracy. We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that guarantee within our own borders the protection of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Such sacred things must not be taken for granted. Everything that our Federal government undertakes must fall within the boundaries of our Constitution, otherwise our Republic cannot stand.

Sometimes Congress or the President overstep the boundaries. We’ve seen a great number of legal challenges to Federal laws and regulations, including some that have been decided by the highest court in the land, the United States Supreme Court. Laws abridging freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to bear arms… you name it and the Supreme Court has likely ruled on it.

So my wonder today is this: Can the Congress pass a law that uses the tax and regulatory power of the Federal government to pick winners and losers? I wonder, because that’s exactly what Big Tobacco is trying to do with H.R.4134, the BigTobacco bailout. The provision essentially says, “Big Tobacco doesn’t like that you’re helping people roll their own smokes, so we’re going to treat you differently and drive you out of business.”

The same H.R.4134 bailout provision has already stowed away on the 2012 highway bill (Senate version) and I’m hopeful the House conference members negotiating the 2012 highway bill will stand up for what’s right and strip it out.

I won’t belabor the point today because it’s a holiday weekend and I know you’re anxious to get ready for the picnic or boat ride, but please remember this: Our elected representatives in Congress often forget the foundation of what has made our nation great. People have fought and died for the freedoms our society enjoys. The American Dream is alive and well and we’re living it, despite attacks at all levels of government on our ability to prosper. As we fight off those who would unfairly benefit others, let us also remind ALL our elected representatives that it is government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and NOT government for Big Tobacco’s benefit.

This Weekend’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ and @EricCantor STOP the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134 stowing away on the highway bill. http://bit.ly/NewTax

 

– GR

 

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You Asked For It — Part II

Greetings Fellow Traveler, it’s Friday, May 25, 2012! I appreciate your stopping by to check in on the latest edition of Tax Tracker. If you’re just visiting for the first time, today is your lucky day because we’re going to recap EVERYTHING that’s been going on during the past few weeks. If you’re a frequent friend, thank you for saying hi and doing all that you’re doing!

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ Real people stand to lose real jobs because of the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134! Video http://bit.ly/NewTax

RECAP: I started publishing the Tax Tracker blog for one reason: Someone threatened to encroach upon my freedom to roll my own smokes, and they’re doing it in a VERY underhanded way.

You see, I like to roll my own smokes. When I roll my own, I choose my own blend of tobacco that tastes a little like that spicy pear dessert mom used to make, and I stuff it in a paper that has a nice, slow, even burn. Every week or so, I stop by my local smoke shop, belly up to the bar, mix my tobacco, choose my paper, and roll my own smokes. On the way out of the store, I say thanks to the owner, wink at his girlfriend, and I go on my merry way.

But Big Tobacco doesn’t like that. For every smoke I roll, Big Tobacco isn’t making a sale. No sale, no profit. No profit, no Big Tobacco private jet trip to the Bahamas this weekend. Big Tobacco only makes more than A BILLION DOLLARS PROFIT EVERY THREE MONTHS. How DARE we not contribute to their shiny silk purse!

Big Tobacco holding their silk purse

In response to my rebellion against the Marlboro Man, Joe Camel, and the sick smell of Salem, Big Tobacco devised a plan to shut down small tobacco shops by using the machines of government. They’re using Congress to pass into law a simple “reclassification” provision that would magically change small tobacco shops where you can roll your own smokes from “retailers” into “tobacco manufacturing facilities.”

WHAT?!! Holy Harry Potter, how can they do that?!

My kingdom for a wand.

Well, that’s a good question. It’s also where things get a little sticky. Here’s how the story goes:

A person working for U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) communicated extensively with Big Tobacco lobbyists and the product of those conversations was a push to slip a provision “reclassifying” Big Tobacco’s roll your own competition into a bill that was nearly sure to pass Congress and get signed into law this year. That legislative vehicle turned out to be the 2012 highway bill. Everyone wants good roads and bridges, right? So, in a middle-of-the-night maneuver, Baucus’s staff member went to his boss and said, “Hey, Big Tobacco wants this amendment. They’ve lined up support from some convenience stores and some of your Democratic and Republican colleagues as cover. It looks like we’re doing good by raising tax revenue, so let’s do this. Big Tobacco will be VERY happy.” Max said, “Okay.” The rest of the coverup is written in the Congressional Record for all to see.

Senator Max the Baucus (D-Montana)

Rep. Diane “Sellout” Black (R-Tennessee)

COINCIDENTALLY (or not), at that exact same time, Big Tobacco lobbyists went to U.S. Representative Diane Black (R-Tennessee). The same thing happened. A Big Tobacco lobbyist (with CLOSE relations to a staff member in Black’s office) asked Rep. Black to introduce their bill in the House of Representatives. “Oh, we’ll give you a LONG list of supporters including convenience stores and wholesale distributors, and NOT ONE WORD about Big Tobacco’s support for this bill will ever appear ANYWHERE.” So what did Rep. Diane Black do? This tax-cuttin’, aw shucks, I’m-just-a-Tennessean-who-was-born-raised-schooled-and-retired-in-Baltimore-Maryland said “Okay.” Her bill number is H.R.4134.

Okay, as if that wasn’t bad enough. Things now get REALLY weird.

People who lobby Congress have to fill out disclosure forms. They have to say HOW MUCH they get paid by their clients, WHO exactly went to the Hill to lobby, and they have to disclose the ISSUES they’re lobbying. This is a quarterly requirement and it’s supposed to keep people honest, on the up and up, etc.

According to public records (available by searching this database) Altria disclosed they spent roughly $3 million dollars lobbying Congress to approve H.R.4134 between March 5, 2012 and March 31, 2012. That’s 20 weekdays. So simple math says Altria spent $150,000 A DAY pushing Congress to approve H.R.4134.

WOW! So between March 5 and March 30, Altria (maker of Marlboro cigarettes) spent $3 million on DOZENS of lobbyists to push a bill that was only introduced March 5?

How odd they did that. The bill number H.R.4134 didn’t even EXIST until after March 5. Yet, Big Tobacco made the decision to spend $3 million in 20 days lobbying for H.R.4134? Look up R.J.Reynolds, one of Altria’s competitors. THEY DID THE SAME THING. How curious…

HELLO?? IS ANYONE LISTENING? THIS IS A BIG TOBACCO, COORDINATED CAMPAIGN TO CRUSH COMPETITION USING CONGRESS!!!

Ahh well. It’s Friday and I can’t wait for the long weekend.

OUR MISSION: Our ongoing mission is to EXPOSE the Big Tobacco bailout that’s now in the Senate’s version of the 2012 highway bill, and the EXACT same language is in the bill introduced by Rep. Diane Black HR4134. This is an unfair, unconstitutional abuse of government power to crush competition through excessive and unnecessary taxation and regulation. Stand with us and talk to your local members of Congress through Twitter, Facebook, email, phone, stunt plane, however you like! We’re making noise because those who would corrupt government for their own personal gain must NOT succeed. Join our campaign to expose the Big Tobacco bailout! Recruit your friends, too because once they’re done coming for us, they’ll come after them next.

– GR

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You Asked For It

A rare Tax Tracker mid-morning update: We had our friends in the field ask questions of REAL PEOPLE who have REAL JOBS connected to small tobacco shops where you can roll your own smokes. We put the clips together and their words and feelings come through loud and clear.

It’s about free enterprise, fair competition, and keeping a job. Please share.

Congress… are you listening, yet?

Let’s blow this up on Twitter and Facebook, okay troops?

-GR

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Farming It Out

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ Please strip the #BigTobacco bailout from the highway bill. HR4134 is a tax increasing job killer. http://bit.ly/NewTax

I love farms. I was raised on a farm. It wasn’t my family’s farm, but we had all the fun of tending to the livestock and weeding fields. We worked on the farm because the owner was an elderly man who had two grown daughters who went off to college, so he needed my family’s help. We weren’t decision makers, we were just kind of hired hands helping out with labor when the farmer needed it. We were fortunate because we enjoyed the farm, without having to bear the major responsibilities. The farmer easily could have “farmed out” his land to other farmers or even a big company.

These days, “farm it out” is a lot closer in meaning to “outsourcing.” If you have work to be done and there’s someone else who can do it cheaper, you outsource. For instance, human labor in China is a lot cheaper  than it is in the United States. That’s why everything you pick up and turn over has a “Made in China” stamp on it. To me, that’s not really an encouraging trend. I’d rather we still had more manufacturing here in the USA, but because the big companies figured out they can make more profit by shipping work overseas, they “farm it out.”

Congress is kind of the same. Thankfully, they haven’t farmed out work to the Chinese (yet), but the elected members DO farm out a lot of work to their staff. Answering phones, answering letters and emails from constituents, talking with lobbyists… you name it, and a Congressman has a staff member who will do it. That’s understandable. You want your elected lawmaker to be engaged where there are truly tough decisions to be made. You want her at the table when they’re hammering out tax rate questions, examining the principles behind initiating more or fewer regulations, and trying to foresee any unintended consequences. You and me, we want our elected officials thoroughly ENGAGED when our livelihoods are under attack by special interests like Big Tobacco, right?

Unfortunately, some members of Congress are too comfortable with “farming out” their work, even when we’re down to the brass tacks.

At a blog called “DC Streets”, is the account of SEVEN members of Congress showing up at meetings where the “final” version of the 2012 highway bill is being worked out. WHAT? Actual MEMBERS OF CONGRESS showing up at meetings where legislation is being WRITTEN and AGREED UPON?!! Crazy, right? Well I guess it’s news because so often these days, members of Congress “farm out” work they’re supposed to be doing. There are FORTY SEVEN members of Congress on the highway bill conference committee, and only SEVEN are showing up to the meetings where differences are being debated. That doesn’t seem right, does it? The funny thing is the blogger writing the piece characterized the seven lawmakers as an “obstacle” to reaching agreement. Wow.

When I go to my local community meeting to hear Candidate X and Candidate Y tell me why they’re the best person to represent me in Congress, they didn’t tell me they’d let their staff make the important decisions, did they?

OUR MISSION: In the coming day or so, I will post a video news story displaying reaction to Congress’s most recent efforts. Let’s promote that video high and low and show members of Congress WE ARE REAL PEOPLE, with real JOBS depending on their doing the right thing. We must STOP the Big Tobacco bailout in the highway bill; we must STOP H.R.4134 – the bill that reclassifies mom & pop smoke shops as “manufacturing facilities”, and we must STOP this ongoing attack on small business enterprises! Between Sen. Durbin’s tax increase, Rep. Black’s tax and regulation increase, Sen. Baucus’s middle of the night antics, and Big Tobacco spending MILLIONS on 60 lobbyists in less than a month, we are under ASSAULT! But we can win. Keep the pressure on. Let’s get to it. We’re still hitting ALL our members of Congress because the more pressure they feel, the less likely they’ll move their scum legislation forward. See you online.

-GR

 

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