Hanging Paper on Wacker Drive

Today’s Message: STOP the fraud. Quit hanging paper in the highway bill. Tell Congress NO #BigTobacco bailout. http://bit.ly/NewTax

For those who aren’t aware, “hanging paper” is slang for check fraud. The essence of the crime is this: Someone promises you something of value, but instead they welch on the deal. Fraud is viewed as such a serious crime because it undermines trust and commerce, the very foundation of our nation’s economic system. So seriously viewed is check fraud, that in the state of Illinois, paper hanging is as a Class Three Felony carrying a possible prison sentence of 3 to 7 years for each instance!

Ironically, if you hang paper in Congress (promise something that you never intend to deliver) you receive applause and praise and get re-elected. God bless America.

Enter Big Tobacco and the 2012 federal transportation reauthorization bill. Members of Congress are promising this bill means jobs! It means an upgraded transportation system! Roads! Bridges! Airports! A Big Tobacco Monopoly! More Roads!

WAIT. A big tobacco monopoly? Yes.

Joker#3 U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) and Joker#2 U.S. Representative Diane Black (R-MarylandTennessee) have joined forces to put a provision in the pending 2012 transportation bill that will RAISE TAXES and heap NEW REGULATIONS on small, Mom & Pop tobacco shops where people can use machines to roll their own smokes. This single provision, which has NOTHING to do with transportation, reclassifies small, locally owned smoke shops as “tobacco manufacturing facilities.” When that happens, these shops will be forced to comply with a slew of new regulations and taxes, or shut down. Because the new taxes and regulations are so costly, hundreds and maybe thousands of jobs will be eliminated nationwide, including in the state of Illinois.

Why do I keep mentioning Illinois?

 Well. Earlier this week, U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-Illinois) and U.S. Representative Jerry Costello (D-Illinois) sent a letter to the group of negotiators hammering out the details of the final 2012 transportation bill. See their letter by clicking here. Unfortunately, both Durbin and Costello want the House of Representatives to swiftly approve WITHOUT CHANGES the Senate’s Big Tobacco Sellout highway bill. Sly move, Illinois guys…

In that letter, Prince Richard and Judge Jerry talk loftily of how the highway bill will benefit Illinois, fund the reconstruction of Wacker Drive, and “save or create” jobs all across their illustrious and beautiful state. Holy Check Fraud Batman! Congress is promising to SAVE OR CREATE JOBS again? Funny, because this Big Tobacco provision reclassifying small tobacco shops as “manufacturing facilities” is a JOB KILLER.

One more time for the easily distracted: There is a provision in the Senate’s version of the highway bill that directly benefits Big Tobacco companies, and ONLY Big Tobacco companies, by driving small tobacco shops OUT of the roll your own smokes business. 

The Huffington Post recently captured the issue pretty well. We hope they’ll revisit the matter in more detail to expose those lawmakers dealing on behalf of Big Tobacco. Read the story by clicking here.

You’re asking yourself, “How can I help?”

My suggestion: Talk to your congressman. Reach out to him or her on Twitter, Facebook, phone and mail.  Focus your main efforts on the members of your state’s congressional delegation – both House and Senate. Local voices mean the most to congress members because local folks can vote members in or out of office. Find out where each member stands on this matter by regularly asking on Twitter, “@LawmakerX Where do you stand on the #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill? http://Bit.ly/NewTax“. If you find a member who is supportive of protecting jobs at these small shops, definitely praise them, i.e., “I’m a Nebraskan thanking @LeeTerryNE for protecting my job by opposing the #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill!” If you find a member who’s opposing us, let them know you’re not happy. “@RepSteveStivers Why won’t you STOP the #BigTobacco bailout? Oppose H.R.4134. My job depends on it!”
Secondary: After you’ve focused your daily efforts on your state’s members, engage a few of the other lawmakers — both on the highway bill conference committee list and throughout the entire House of Representatives. Generating buzz on a congressman’s Facebook and Twitter feed gets the attention of their local folks and ideally, results in pressure from that congressman’s voters. Twitter example, “@ILGOP: Why is @RepAaronSchock supporting a tax hike and #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill? http://bit.ly/NewTax #tcot”.

If you have any questions about this issue, I encourage you to read my previous posts, or post a question in the comments section. Time is running short and Congress is running fast to approve this Big Tobacco bailout. Stay active and stay in front of your elected public servants.

-GR

EDITOR’S NOTE: There is at least one instance where members of Congress were held to account for hanging paper. In 1992, 22 House members (including Illinois Rep. Charles Hayes (Democrat) were singled out by the House Ethics Committee for substantially overdrawing their House bank accounts without penalty or restitution. In total, more than 450 representatives were said to have engaged in the check kiting practice, which spanned many sessions of Congress. Due to publicity, the House eventually meted out slaps on the wrists for most of the offenders.

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