Tag Archives: aaron schock

Wednesday Noon Update

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) holding a news conference today telling reporters (in code) the highway bill is done, all that’s left to do is twist arms until all the GOP get on board.

HIGHWAY BILL UPDATE: U.S. House Speaker John Boehner just held a news conference on Capitol Hill to give an update on the highway bill. He basically said the highway bill isn’t finished yet, but they’re close, and they’re working to tie the student loan interest rate issue into it.

TRANSLATION: The bill is finished and leadership is working to round up support on the House GOP side. According to CQ-Energy reporters (people who live and breathe this stuff and KNOW the important staff members in the negotiating room) OUT of the bill is Keystone XL. Also OUT of the bill is the Coal Ash stuff. Probably still IN the bill is the RYO provision.

WHAT NOW: The vulnerable people are the House Republicans sitting on the negotiating committee. The less time they’ve been in Washington, the more empathetic they are to our cause. Concentrate on the list of lawmakers on the blog this morning http://bit.ly/NewTax because IF THEY WANT TO, they can say NO to signing the bill unless the RYO provision is stripped.

SPECIAL FOCUS: Make sure you’re talking to Lankford, Ribble, Southerland, Herrera-Beutler, and Camp.

Keep going strong. Don’t let the wet-behind-the-ears intern answering the phone give you any grief, comfort, or false advice. We can win, but we have to keep pushing.


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Make or Break Week

If you’re a member of Congress, or work for a member of Congress, we are asking you to learn about the provision we call the “Big Tobacco bailout.” It’s a provision U.S. Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) slipped into the highway bill without anyone knowing, and we want it stripped from the bill because:

  • The Congressional Budget Office says it will result in the closure of >1,000 small businesses;
  • Reclassifying “retailers” as “manufacturers” for no other reason than to shut down retail tobacco locations is bad government;
  • Giving Big Tobacco companies a monopoly on cigarette sales vs. the 99% market they have currently is anti-competitive; and
  • It takes away our freedom to roll our own smokes.
Here is the actual provision Sen. Baucus sneaked in under piles of pages of an “education” amendment:


(a) In General.–Subsection (d) of section 5702 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new flush sentence:

“Such term shall include any person who for commercial purposes makes available for consumer use (including such consumer’s personal consumption or use under paragraph (1)) a machine capable of making cigarettes, cigars, or other tobacco products. A person making such a machine available for consumer use shall be deemed the person making the removal as defined by subsection (j) with respect to any tobacco products manufactured by such machine.”



We don’t know, so we wait. While the political world watches in breathless anticipation of a United States Supreme Court ruling on whether the President’s crowning achievement health care law is constitutional, we’re waiting to hear what congressional negotiators have done with the highway bill.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the Big Tobacco bailout provision eventually ends up in arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court as a breach of the U.S. Constitution.

Good morning and welcome to Monday, June 25, 2012. Congressional staffers worked like hungry vermin over the weekend on the highway bill and we still haven’t heard if they’re finished, whether they stripped the Big Tobacco bailout from the bill, whether they’ll shoot for the big burrito this week, or whether they’ll punt through another extension.

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ MAKE NO DEAL until the Baucus #BigTobacco bailout is stripped from the highway bill! http://bit.ly/NewTax

First, let me commend those of you who dedicated a great deal of time this weekend to getting our message out. We spray-painted our words all over Twitter and Facebook constantly! Publicly, lawmakers like to tell you they haven’t noticed our messages. Privately, they see us all the time and they have no clue what to do with us! Some members have taken to blocking our messages from their Facebook pages, for instance U.S. Rep. Diane Black. She had us blocked from both her official Facebook page and her campaign Facebook page. Why? I suppose it’s because we’ve been anxious to tell the truth about her sellout to Big Tobacco to all of her constituents.

U.S. Rep. Diane Black has shut down free speech on her Facebook pages. I wonder if she burns books, too.

This is how water buffalo cool down in the hot summer. Is she wearing Coco Chanel?

Second, if you don’t believe in the power of your efforts, let me remind you we’ve used social media to find out where a whole bunch of lawmakers stand on HR4134. The most recent member to publicly oppose the Big Tobacco bailout was U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), and he communicated his opposition via Twitter! Thank you, Congressman and we sincerely hope you will communicate your concerns to your colleagues sitting on the highway bill negotiating committee, Rep. Dave Camp and Rep Fred Upton. They have the power to strip the Big Tobacco bailout provision (similar to HR4134) from the highway bill and save thousands of jobs!

OUR MISSION: It looks like it’s make or break week for us in Congress. The highway bill is the most immediate threat. If lawmakers approve the Big Tobacco bailout in the highway bill and it gets signed into law, we have another helluva fight to undertake at a whole new level. SO in order to avoid that, let’s make some noise for the people who can fix things. Here are the House Republicans on the negotiating committee. They need to hear our opposition to the bailout provision. Tell them what this means to you. It’s personal and tell them so. Stay civil; encourage them to protect free enterprise and preserve jobs. Most importantly, tell them to strip the Big Tobacco bailout from the highway bill.

Be good. Be online.

– GR

Transportation Committee Republicans / Leadership Members

Senate Republican conferees (and their Twitter handles):

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What’s a Co-Sponsor, and how much do they cost?

If it isn’t a Big Tobacco bailout, then why did the Big Tobacco companies spend more than $3 million in just 20 days lobbying Congress to approve H.R.4134? I know, sometimes the obvious is right in front of our noses, but we just can’t see it. Maybe people haven’t yet grasped the sellout occurring here because they want to believe “innocent until proven guilty.” I get it. Some people don’t want to believe that some folks in Congress really are “bought off” by special interests. It’s like that guy who said, “I can’t see the forest through these darn trees.”

Can you see the forest? Or are those trees in the way…

Good morning and welcome to the Wednesday edition of TaxTracker! We’re revved up and ready for another busy mid-week crush toward legislative armageddon, brought to you by the U.S. House and Senate. Today, let’s look at how neatly things line up between Big Tobacco and H.R. 4134 (and the similar provision already stuffed in the Senate’s highway bill).

U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) introduced H.R. 4134 on March 5, 2012. Her bill “reclassifies” small retail tobacco shops where you can roll your own smokes as tobacco product “manufacturers” and subject to a whole heap of new taxes regulations. The Congressional Budget Office looked at the whole “roll your own” smokes issue and concluded if these retail shops are reclassified as “manufacturers,” they’ll be forced to shut down because they won’t be able to bear the new costs. Rep. Black’s H.R.4134 was such an immediate hit, there were no fewer than 60 lobbyists dispatched to Congress to lobby for its passage. Check it for yourself, it’s in the lobbyist disclosure database. In just 20 days between March 5 and March 31, the Big Tobacco companies ALL disclosed they spent millions urging Congress to act.

Question: What’s a cosponsor? 

Answer: After a bill is introduced in Congress, the author typically wants to show leadership there’s enough support to pass the bill in the House or Senate, so he or she gathers “co-sponsors.” These cosponsors are people who agree enough with the bill to sign their name on to it for all the public to see. Signing on as a cosponsor is easy; you just tell the bill’s author, “put me on!” But, getting off a bill is difficult and exposes ALL SORTS of problems. To remove your name from cosponsoring a bill, you have to go the the House chamber and publicly ask the Speaker controlling debate to remove your name from a bill. Imagine all the questions a reporter wants to ask a member of Congress who changes their mind about something like that!

Question: Who’s a cosponsor of H.R.4134? 

Answer: On H.R.4134, there are a lot of cosponsors. Last time I checked, it was about 74. Who are they? Well, let’s take a look.

Rep. Joe Crowley

The first cosponsor was U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley (D-New York). I took a look at his Federal Elections Commission disclosures and imagine my surprise to find out he’s taken in excess of $30,000 in campaign contributions from the Big Tobacco companies!

Rep. Renee Ellmers

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers (R-North Carolina) joined H.R.4134 on March 8, 2012. Looking at her Federal Elections Commissions reports, she’s taken more than $22,000 from the Big Tobacco companies in the form of campaign contributions. By the way, the first dollar of that >$22,000 rolled into her account WAY BACK in the year 2010.

Rep. Charles Rangel

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-New York): More than $54,000 in recent years taken in campaign contributions from Big Tobacco companies.

Rep. Tom Marino

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania): He’s a freshman who just got into office. >$5,000 from Big Tobacco (plus some other groups pushing for HR4134).

Rep. Tom Cole

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma): This former top official at the Republican National Committee has more than $20,000 in Big Tobacco campaign cash.

Rep. Kevin Yoder

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas): >$15,000 from Big Tobacco

Rep. John Sullivan

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma): >$30,000 from Big Tobacco

Rep. Bill Shuster

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania): >$55,000 from Big Tobacco and the convenience stores PAC that supports HR4134.

Rep. Marsha (don’t call me Jan) Blackburn

Another cosponsor, U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee): >$24,000 from ONE Big Tobacco company alone!!

And let’s not forget the original “author” of the Big Tobacco bailout bill, U.S. Representative Diane Black (R-Tennessee).

U.S. Rep. Diane Black

Non-Party Affiliated Water Buffalo

TODAY’S MESSAGE: @LawmakerXYZ The #jobs agenda does NOT include a #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Comparing the cosponsor sheet for H.R.4134 to who has given to each member’s campaign coffers could go on for DAYS, and maybe it will. I am not contending that just because Big Tobacco and other self-interested groups gave HUGE sums of cash to each individual above that they received any special treatment; I mean, WHY would any office immediately grant a meeting with tobacco company lobbyists to discuss a bill that was barely a few days old, hadn’t had a hearing, smelled like a Big Tobacco bailout, and had nothing to do with job creation or saving small puppies and kittens?

If we can get along, why can’t Congress stop the Big Tobacco bailout?

OUR MISSION: Spread the word! The Big Tobacco bailout is alive and it won’t be dead until it is. Like those pouty vampires from that Twilight series that won’t go away, the Big Tobacco companies are swarming Capitol Hill, telling members of Congress they HAVE to do this. Well, we’re the people. WE the people of these United States demand Congress protect free enterprise and REJECT any attempts to use the Federal government to unfairly heap taxes and regulations on small businesses. Let’s STAY LOUD on the Twitter-verse, in the Facebook, on that sign-in sheet at the town hall meeting, phone, telepathy, and stick marks in the sand. Go be heard! See you online.


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Cat Fight

We have voices. We have voices in our local communities and through the world wide web. We have voices on Twitter and Facebook. We have voices on television, radio and newspapers. We are getting our message out that the Big Tobacco bailout is wrong, unfair, and not what government ought to do. Witness what I found written about the big tobacco bailout in a letter to the editors of the Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pennsylvania:

Squeeze play by big tobacco

Editor: I am increasingly convinced nothing in Washington happens for the greater good; it only happens for special interests. Congress constantly talks about helping small business, but behind the scenes they’re hurting us.

In the 2012 highway bill expiring June 30, the U.S. Senate inserted a provision that will put retail locations like mine out of business. Three years ago, I opened my first store in Scranton where people can roll their own custom-blended tobacco cigarettes. Since then, my business has expanded in size and number of employees. I fill a market niche because my customers prefer their own tobacco blends over what’s commercially available.

But because I’m taking away a fraction of market share, Altria, Lorillard, R.J. Reynolds and other “Big Tobacco” interests are urging Congress to “reclassify” my retail stores as “tobacco manufacturing facilities,” subjecting my business to an unbearable regime of taxes and regulations no retail location could ever meet.

I know “Big Tobacco” is behind this from the U.S. Senate’s lobbying disclosure database. In 20 days, Altria, Lorillard and R.J.Reynolds spent more than $700,000 on at least 15 firms to help them lobby Congress for this provision. This doesn’t even include the millions these companies spend each quarter on in-house lobbyists. I opened stores in my native Pennsylvania because the business climate promotes success. Everything I have was built on the backbone of free enterprise, but that’s in jeopardy if this provision becomes law. Unfortunately, as a sponsor of H.R.4134, U.S. Rep. Tom Marino supports this bad provision despite my repeated requests to oppose it. The same is true of Sen. Bob Casey. I’m asking them to strip this legislation from the 2012 highway bill and stop it from moving any further. I hope Congress stops this.


Kudos to Mr. Fadden for speaking up and telling it like it is for people to see! Rep. Marino and Sen. Casey, please take note your people are watching…

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ Strip it and forget it! The #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill is a #jobs killer! http://bit.ly/NewTax

We have a voice, so let’s use it against Big Tobacco!

Good morning! It’s June 19, 2012 and the House and Senate are talking about the highway bill. Today, a meeting is scheduled between House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative John Mica (R-FL). The four are gathering to trade notes and possibly make a decision on whether they can revive the big burrito 2012 transportation bill and move it forward, OR whether they should extend the current bill for a few months. As one of the news articles pointed out this morning, there isn’t a lot of time or opportunity left in this month for huge new pieces of legislation to get through both houses of Congress, and June 30 is when the current transportation authorization expires. It will be the judgement of the four individuals meeting today whether they continue down the path of destroying more than 1,000 small businesses, or letting them live to fight another day. If they move toward the latter option, an extension, then they’ll immediately cat fight about how long that extension is: six weeks or six months.

The Big Tobacco cat fight, coming soon to an arena near you.

When I think about Congress just throwing their hands up and deciding, “Yah, let’s just do a bill and be done with the matter for six years,” I’m troubled. That’s what Sens. Boxer and Reid are pushing. But it’s that kind of thinking that reminds me of the maxim, “Haste makes waste.” Of the hundreds and thousands of pages in the highway bill and the code it references, I can’t imagine lawmakers wouldn’t be more careful about the potential impact of their actions. But, that’s what we’re guarding against today: Hasty actions that would give Big Tobacco their bailout and sell us down the river.

What happens if Big Tobacco wins its provision to reclassify small retail smoke shops as “manufacturers” subject to huge new taxes and regulations? Small business goes out of business. Members of Congress, need we remind you who will suffer from your approving a Big Tobacco bailout??

OUR MISSION: Remind our lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives that we do not agree with leaving a Big Tobacco bailout in the highway bill. We don’t like government picking winners and losers and crushing thousands of small business jobs just as a favor to Big Tobacco.

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Draft Campaign Script

It’s a tight deal. You have an objective, a goal and you see your path to getting there. You have some friends or coworkers who share your vision and so you all band together to support each other’s desire to achieve your goal. So you start down the path knowing there are consequences for straying from your objective. All of a sudden, along comes huge Big Tobacco gust of wind and…

Today’s Message: Stay on creating #jobs, not killing them with a #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill http://bit.ly/NewTax

Good Morning! It’s Monday, June 18, 2012 and Sir Paul McCartney turns 70 today. The U.S. House of Representatives is back in session and both the House and the Senate are scheduled to stay in session until the July 4 break. In that time period, they have a lot of legislation on their agenda including some expiring student loan interest rate provisions, the farm bill, Food and Drug Administration reform, and the notorious, Big-Tobacco infiltrated, small-business, job-killing-if-they-approve-the-Senate-version, highway bill.

If you think Congress can get to agreement on ALL of those issues before July 4, God bless your optimism. From what I’ve seen, these jokers have a hard time approving bathroom breaks. Each member of each party has their own custom objective in their sights, but they also perceive a great deal to lose if they stray from the path that got them this far. Some members of Congress are walking the line on reducing taxes, regulations and government spending; others are walking the line of creating new government programs to help folks who might be in crisis; still other folks are calling for an investigation and then dismantling of the Federal Reserve. They all have their goals, and all along their paths little gusts of wind come along in the form of legislation.

That’s why it is SO aggravating when I hear members of Congress get on the television and TALK about the dire need to reduce Federal taxes and regulations, but then go around and support a Big Tobacco bailout, H.R.4134 and the version that’s been stuffed into the Senate’s version of the 2012 highway bill. If we’re going to keep our form of representative government, there is no more treacherous breach of trust than telling voters you’re going to fight for small business, but then you take a dive when Big Tobacco throws the first punch.

Can you imagine a campaign ad where U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) stands up and tells people what she’s really about and what she does in Congress?

I can. Here’s a sample script for Rep. Diane Black’s consideration. This is only a draft script; we anxiously await Ms. Black’s edits:


Time: 60 SECONDS

Title: “Black for Congress: Elect Me and I will…”

Diane Black: “I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, the birthplace of bureaucracy and self-preserving government jobs. After 34 years, I moved to Tennessee to follow my wealthy inventor husband. In my spare time I made a goal of getting back to the nation’s capital city and, working with tons of campaign cash from the Big Tobacco companies and other special interests, I did. [voice continues after banjo riff]

“Once in Washington, I started telling Tennesseans I was working hard for them. I made speeches, sent out news releases, held town halls, and even met one-on-one with voters to promise them I will fight for lower taxes and fewer regulations. But on March 5 of this year, I introduced a bill that will heap a lot of new taxes and regulations on small retail tobacco shops. [voice continues after trombones start loud marching-style melody]

“My legislation will shut down more than 1,000 U.S. small businesses and force thousands more out of work. The Big Tobacco companies like my legislation so much they spent more than THREE MILLION dollars in 20 days lobbying my colleagues for it’s approval. If you re-elect me, I won’t talk about this bill or why I introduced it, but I will keep working for those interests that contribute to my campaign, no matter how many jobs are lost or how many promises I have to make and break. I’m Diane Black and I approved this message.” [voice ends; music trails off]

Photo: At Taste of the Country in Springfield this morning. Come down and visit our booth!

Can you imagine? I’ll bet you a shiny new penny Congresswoman Black will have at least a couple of edits to the script. We understand. First of all, what’s the bumper sticker line? Every campaign needs a bumper sticker slogan… You know, something like, “Vote Black, because she’ll sell out” or “Black is back, with Big Tobacco” or maybe “Diane Black for Congress: I’m Listening 2 Big Tobacco”

Oddly enough, Ms. Black is a member of the U.S. House Republican Policy Committee. This is a committee formed back in 1949 and the current charter is to, “work diligently on common sense solutions that speak for the American people remove barriers to economic growth, balance the budget, reduce the size and scope of government, implement patient-centered health care reforms, and keep the country safe.” We think it’s only a matter of time before Ms. Black is excoriated at the Policy Committee’s meetings for introducing the tax hikes and regulation increases contained in H.R.4134. If she’s developing these kind of ideas for the rest of the Republican members of the House, it doesn’t seem she’s going to keep her membership card to this particular club.

OUR MISSION: After we receive Ms. Black’s edits to her campaign commercial, we’ll be very busy in production. Until then, let’s get on the Twitter and Facebook and send some messages to the folks who can make a difference. Here are the Twitter handles of some of the Republican Policy Committee members. Then should hear our message about the highway bill and the Big Tobacco bailout. They have to understand we are watching their tightrope walk, and we’re here to support them as long as they stick to their words. What member of Congress wants to conduct bad public policy or use the power of the government to pick winners or losers. Members need our help to stay on course and stay out of the water.

  • Rick Berg (ND) @RepRickBerg
  • Judy Biggert (IL) @JudyBiggert
  • Gus Bilirakis (FL) @RepGusBilirakis
  • Rob Bishop (UT) @RepRobBishop
  • Diane Black (TN) @RepDianeBlack
  • Paul Broun (GA) @RepPaulBrounMD
  • John Fleming (LA) @RepFleming
  • Cory Gardner (CO) @RepCoryGardener
  • Chris Gibson (NY) @RepChrisGibson
  • Phil Gingrey (GA) @RepPhilGingrey
  • Tom Graves (GA) @RepTomGraves
  • Morgan Griffith (VA) @RepMGriffith
  • Alan Nunnelee (MS) @RepAlanNunnelee
  • Mike Pompeo (KS) @MikePompeo
  • Tom Price (GA) @RepTomPrice
  • Tom Reed (NY) @RepTomReed
  • Jim Renacci (OH) @RepJimRenacci
  • Mike Rogers (AL) @RepMikeRogersAL

Be good! See you online.


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Everyone Has a Piece

Everyone has a piece of the pie, and no one wants to give up their slice.

Everyone has a piece of the pie. That’s one of the challenges we face in our fight against Big Tobacco. As we bring pressure on Big Tobacco and their supporters in Congress, Big Tobacco’s lobbyists start calling in more favors. Favors cost Big Tobacco political and financial capital, and they don’t like spending it. Just remember this because it’s always true: When you want to know why anyone is behaving the way they are, follow the capital.

Who are these people, and why are they on my ranch?

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, June 13, 2012 and another beautiful day in middle America. Yesterday, one of our online warriors was talking with another warrior about this whole Big Tobacco bailout and U.S. Representative Diane Black’s legislation to “reclassify” small retail tobacco shops as “tobacco manufacture facilities.” One of the warriors then relayed the story to me and I was astonished at what I heard. I’ll tell you this story but remember it’s third hand, so I apologize if I bumble a couple things, and I’m keeping names out of it at this time.

Earlier this year, February, the owner of a small business had a meeting with Ms. Black in one of her Tennessee offices. After the usual pleasantries, she asked this particular gentleman what she could do to help represent his views in Washington. The constituent had a couple different interests including issues potentially affecting a small retail tobacco store where a person can roll his or her own smokes. He talked about the costs of constantly rising Federal taxes, regulations, and other efforts coming from all sides in Washington trying to squeeze blood from a turnip. Rep. Black was empathetic. In classic Bill Clinton style, she felt his pain. She went on and on about how she was a warrior for small business, she ran her campaign on a platform built on lower taxes, fewer regulations, fighting for smaller government and all that. She would champion the constituent’s cause for small business relief! Great meeting, right?

A few days later, U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) introduced a bill that would put Mr. Businessman OUT of business.


“It’s clear that tax, spend, and regulate has not and will not be the recipe for economic recovery. To keep the American Dream alive, we must repeal Obamacare, enact pro-growth tax reform and provide regulatory relief for job creators,” said Congressman Diane Black.

BUT THEN: This is the summary of Ms. Black’s bill H.R.4134: “Amends the Internal Revenue Code to include within the definition of “manufacturer of tobacco products,” for excise tax purposes, any person who for commercial purposes makes available for consumer use a machine capable of producing tobacco products.”

U.S. Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) introduced a bill, HR4134, but won’t talk about it online, in person, on her website, or in town hall meetings. If she’s hiding her effort, maybe she’ll drop it?

This particular constituent is a rough and tumble guy and doesn’t take double-crossing lightly. He heard about Ms. Black’s bill, studied up on exactly what it seeks to do, attended a local town hall meeting, and pointedly asked Ms. Black what in the heck she thought she was doing. She was surprised by the question and her answer at this public town hall meeting was no answer at all! She got flustered; she got a little angry at the public challenge; and she didn’t really know what to say except to try and explain that the steaming pile of manure the constituent described wasn’t a manure pie at all, but in fact it was a chocolate tort!

H.R.4134 is a steaming pile of manure.

Ms. Black, no matter how you try to explain your Big Tobacco bailout bill, it’s still a Big Tobacco bailout, a smoking pile of manure, and it probably originated in the bowels of a water buffalo. It’s not closing a loophole, it’s a maneuver written by Big Tobacco to put small tobacco retail shop competition out of business. H.R.4134 was examined by the Congressional Budget Office and it also found this legislation does nothing more than force competition to close their doors.

Why is everybody picking on me?

Now, I know you might be reading this around meal time so I’ll spare you any more graphic details, but what happened in the story above is as wrong as rats at an outdoor wedding party. Big Tobacco is behind H.R.4134 and we know this because we checked the public lobbyist disclosures filed with the U.S. House and Senate. In just 20 days, the Big Tobacco companies combined spent more than $3 million dollars telling Congress to approve H.R.4134.

Ask yourself: WHY would well-established Big Tobacco companies Altria, Lorillard, and R.J.Reynolds spend more than $3 million dollars in just 20 days canvassing Capitol Hill to barge into congressional offices on behalf of a freshman congresswoman’s “aw shucks” legislation? Because they want a larger piece of the pie, and they don’t care who they hurt in getting it.

OUR MISSION: To the Facebook! To the Twitter! To the telephone! “Mr. Watson? Come here. I want to see you.” I know U.S. Rep Black has blocked a bunch of us on Facebook, but there are other ways to send her a message. Why not ask her colleagues to pass along our message? As large as Congress is, word travels fast through the halls of the Capitol. In fact, we kicked like a mule yesterday and made a helluva lot of noise. Let’s do it again today folks! Don’t forget: Recruit, recruit, recruit!! If someone tells you they don’t know how to Tweet or FB, mock them by telling them their children do!

TODAY’S MESSAGE: @LawmakerXYZ I’m fighting for #jobs. Join me and STOP the #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Thank you for what you’re doing, be great online, and I will see you in the trenches!!

– GR

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Big Tobacco’s Bridge to Nowhere

Ahh, summertime. Hot with thunderstorms in the afternoon and sweltering humidity. You almost feel sorry for folks who have to wear sport coats and ties in that kind of heat. But, it’s okay. Those are members of Congress and they’re used to pressure cooker conditions! See Congressman John Mica in the photo? He’s wearing the black and gray tie. He was in Volusia County, Florida yesterday, braving the heat to celebrate the ground breaking for a new commuter rail line.

What can we make of the fact that Congressman Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and lead Republican for the highway bill negotiations, is not in Washington negotiating a final highway bill? Not much. Staff are still reportedly working behind the scenes to try and cut a deal, but everyone watching says there’s not a lot of trust between the House Republicans and Senate Democrats (imagine) and even less progress toward a final bill. As far as I’m concerned, the less chance the Senate-passed highway bill has of moving anywhere, the better for all of us who like the freedom to roll our own smokes.

Hello and happy Tuesday, June 12, 2012! Without a doubt, highways, bridges and other transportation projects are important for commerce, but Congress must NOT sell out the free enterprise system while passing bills for these things. After all, free enterprise via our small businesses is the job-creating backbone of our country! Did you know small businesses represent 99.7 percent of ALL employers in our country, employing about half of all private sector employees? AND small businesses have generated 65 percent of new jobs over the past 17 years? (Thank you Small Business Administration for those stats). It’s true. Small business entrepreneurs are keeping the economy moving, employing people, paying good wages and (too many) taxes. Even in the current economy, small businesses are hanging on because the entrepreneurial spirit knows better times are ahead.

Enter Big Tobacco and the Federal government.

Big Tobacco wants ZERO competition and they’re using Congress to get their way.

Who would have thought with ALL THE TALK about creating jobs for our economy that Congress would entertain the idea of using unnecessary taxes and regulations to shut down more than 1,000 small businesses across the U.S.? But that’s EXACTLY what’s happening. Tucked into a corner of the Senate’s highway bill is a provision to “reclassify” small tobacco retail shops as “tobacco manufacturing facilities” if that shop happens to have a place where you can roll your own smokes. In the eyes of U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana), Rep. Diane Black (R-Tennessee) and others: Allow roll your own smokes = you ARE a manufacturer. Don’t allow roll your own smokes = you are NOT a manufacturer.

This is as ridiculous as it is wrong, and Congress knows it.

Why do we call this a Big Tobacco bailout? Because, according to the lobbyist disclosures filed with the U.S. House and Senate, Altria, R.J.Reynolds and other Big Tobacco interests spent more than $3 million dollars on an intense, 20-day lobbying effort for H.R.4134, Rep. Black’s version of the Big Tobacco bailout. THREE MILLION DOLLARS IN TWENTY DAYS! Why does Big Tobacco want H.R.4134 so badly? Because they’re greedy jackasses.

Big Tobacco’s mascot is a greedy jackass. No offense intended for the animals used in this production.

If the Big Tobacco bailout is allowed to become law, think about the impact on a small business. If you’re a run-of-the-mill retail establishment, you really don’t have a lot of Federal paperwork except for taxes and maybe some OSHA stuff. But think about all the new paperwork and regulations falling down on you like rain if you’re reclassified as a manufacturer. Are you in an area locally ZONED for manufacturing? Is your establishment in compliance with Federal regulations applied to manufacturers for worker safety and the environment? If you could even comply with the new regulations, could you afford the huge new taxes and permit fees associated with the manufacturing sector?

The answer is no. You wouldn’t be able to afford the new taxes and regulations, and everybody knows it. That’s why they wrote the Big Tobacco bailout provision the way they did. Big Tobacco wanted a provision that would SHUT DOWN their competition, once and for all. That’s forcible assault on free enterprise and that’s why we’re fighting it.

The usual suspects, including U.S. Rep Diane Black (R-Tennessee) who is sponsor of H.R.4134, the Big Tobacco bailout that will eliminate jobs at more than 1,000 small businesses across the United States.

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ I’m not a manufacturer, I’m #smallbiz! STOP the #BigTobacco bailout HR4134 http://bit.ly/NewTax

OUR MISSION: Continue talking with all your members of Congress on Facebook, Twitter, online news story comment areas, town hall meetings, email, sign language, and shortwave radio. Lawmakers don’t often do slimy stuff when they know the public is watching, so alert them that we ARE watching and we KNOW what they’re up to! Keep up the pressure, don’t relent. Recruit, recruit, recruit! Fresh meat for our campaign is essential!

– GR

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Our Strength: Persistence

Our strength is our persistence.

Members of Congress and loyal Capitol Hill staff members: We have directed you to this site to inform you about the Big Tobacco bailout, and to introduce you to the people you will hurt if the Big Tobacco bailout isn’t stopped. View this video, please:

Welcome to FRIDAY, June 8, 2012! I’m going to quickly run through a bunch of things today, so please bear with me.

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATE: The back-and-forth continues between House and Senate. Now more folks are predicting an extension of current authorization instead of passing the big burrito. Keeping a careful eye on this, but it’s difficult when the lead negotiators (Boxer/Mica) are trying to do everything private-like and behind closed doors. Our Capitol Hill moles tell us the new Senate offer proffered this week looks a lot like the bill the Senate passed with a couple tweaks. Fake effort. Boo. Stay tuned.

TWITTER NEWS: Calling out a popular tweet from yesterday coming from Congressman Justin Amash (R-Michigan). He’s active on the social media networks and took time to respond to fellow warrior Julie, agreeing to review the Big Tobacco bailout. Here’s Congressman Amash’s Tweet:

repjustinamash: .@JulieRauzan I’m taking a look at what you posted.

U.S. Rep. Amash: Speaking his mind. Keeping Congress transparent.

We anxiously await Congressman Amash’s response (hint, hint), and we are hopeful he will stick to his ideals of libertarianism and transparency. If you’ve not visited his Facebook page, please do and like it because he posts a LOT of information about what he does in Congress.


WHAT IS IT: The Big Tobacco bailout is Federal legislation attempting to “reclassify” small tobacco shops where you can roll your own smokes. The “reclassification” would instantly change the tobacco shop’s designation from “retailer” to “manufacturer” and subject these small businesses to heaps of new regulations and higher taxes. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the reclassification would put these small businesses OUT of business immediately.

WHERE IS IT: The Big Tobacco bailout exists in two forms. One form is a provision currently included in the U.S. Senate’s version of the 2012 highway bill. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) slipped it in there in the middle of the night. The other form is a bill (HR4134) introduced by Representative Diane Black (R-Tennessee). Both of these forms do exactly the same thing and the lawmakers backing them won’t talk about them publicly.

WHY IS IT: When I roll my own smoke, the Big Tobacco companies don’t make money off me. That’s why Big Tobacco companies like Altria and R.J.Reynolds spent more than THREE MILLION DOLLARS in just 20 days this year lobbying Congress to approve HR4134. Senator Baucus and Representative Black will tell you they’re doing what they’re doing to close a loophole, but the truth is they’re doing it for Big Tobacco.

WHO IS IT: Who wants the Big Tobacco bailout? Big Tobacco does. To verify this, go here: http://soprweb.senate.gov/index.cfm?event=selectfields, check the box “specific lobbying issue” and in the next screen, type in 4134 and hit enter. A bunch of records of who is lobbying Congress on HR4134 will come up. Sort by date and take a look at the army of lobbyists calling on Congress during the first quarter of 2012.

WHAT’S DIRTY ABOUT IT: I started blogging about the Big Tobacco bailout because I didn’t like the fact that the government wanted to take away my freedom to roll my own smokes. When I learned HOW the government was going to do it, using a backdoor, anti-competitive “reclassification” to suffocate small business with taxes and regulations, I got even more involved. Then, when I learned the Big Tobacco companies were bankrolling the bailout using millions of dollars and dozens of Capitol Hill lobbyists, I got downright angry. So the Big Tobacco companies heap THOUSANDS of dollars in campaign contributions on members of Congress, then heap MILLIONS on lobbyists, and use coordinated tactics to pressure lawmakers into acting on a measure that will kill competition… you tell ME what’s dirty about it.

ANOTHER FACT: This Big Tobacco bailout, according to the CBO, will close more than 1,000 small businesses across the United States. Multiply that figure by the number of employees at each establishment. Then add in the cascading economic impact of that many people losing their jobs. When Congress talks about a “jobs” plan, I didn’t think they wanted to eliminate them.

ONE MORE JAB: Using the Federal government to crush competition is disgraceful. When it’s Big Tobacco pulling the strings of Congress, that’s even worse. Adding insult to injury is when members of Congress go on television and talk about reducing regulation and freeing small business from the pressures of government, and then they turn around and support HR4134, well that’s just plain backstabbing and treacherous. Right, Rep. Marsha Blackburn? Right, Rep. Diane Black?

We call her “double-agent”. You can call her Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

This is a darling picture of a water buffalo.

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ Stop it. Strip it. Get rid of it. The #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill is a #jobs killer! http://bit.ly/NewTax

(Please replace “@LawmakerXYZ” with your local member of Congress’s Twitter handle. You can find it on their website or by searching Twitter.)

FINALLY: I’m fighting the Big Tobacco bailout because I want to keep my freedom and I want to help people keep their jobs. I’m also fighting it because this kind of governing isn’t representative of the people. Every day, government at some level is working to take more. You name it, they want to take it. Money, property, freedoms. Am I overstating things? Think about Mayor Bloomberg and his effort to reduce soft drink cup sizes. Talk about ridiculous. I don’t need government to make decisions for me. I can do that myself, thank you very much. Stand with me and draw the line. Don’t let them cross into any more freedoms. This is about fairness, the little guy, and standing up for what’s right. Charge on, warrior. Take our fight back to the Twitters and Facebooks and I will see you online.


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Two Critical Weeks…

I’ll be brief because we have a LOT of work to do today and in the coming two weeks.

Hello and welcome to the Thursday, June 7, 2012 edition of TaxTracker – a blog dedicated to exposing and stopping the Big Tobacco bailout.

We’re in the window. Between now and June 30, Congress will either pass a new highway bill, or it won’t. June 30 is when the current highway bill extension expires. If members fail to pass a big highway bill, Congress can approve another extension, but a lot of people want the big burrito. If Congress passes one of the Senate versions of a highway bill, it’s likely to contain the Big Tobacco bailout. That would be BAD news. Bad news for people like me who like to roll my own smokes. Bad news for more than 1,000 small businesses offering custom tobacco blends and roll your own services. Bad news for the people working at those 1,000-plus small businesses. The only people happy if the Big Tobacco bailout is approved are the Big Tobacco executives eyeing their next yacht or private jet purchase.

Published in Politico newspaper, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Congressman John Mica (R-Florida) confirms we’re in “two critical weeks.” My advice to members of Congress looking at this big mess is this: Haste makes waste. Hasty actions by Congress are dangerous. Read the bill and don’t waste your opportunity to strip the Big Tobacco bailout from the highway bill.

TODAY’S MESSAGE: @LawmakerXYZ Don’t pollute the highway bill with a #BigTobacco bailout. Save jobs. STOP HR4134. http://bit.ly/NewTax

FOCUS: These people are the House highway bill negotiators. They have the power to strip the Big Tobacco bailout from the highway bill. They are our first line of defense against the U.S. Government taking away our ability to roll our own smokes. We MUST encourage them to stand firm against letting Big Tobacco dictate terms that amount to unfair competition.



TEAM MISSION: Keep up your great actions. You are making a lot of noise, and a remarkable difference. If we relent, we lose. If we blink, Big Tobacco will swoop in like a vulture pounces on putrid road kill. Talk with your local members of Congress. Talk to the people on the list above. Report your progress. Facebook, Twitter, phone, email, graffiti on the local tavern. Encourage like-minded people to weigh in with their members of Congress. The Big Tobacco bailout is the dirtiest scheme I’ve seen in a long time, so let’s expose it AND stop it! Over and out.

– 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?


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