Tag Archives: politics

This is it

This is it. Today we find out. Did the President hear us? Does the President stand with us? Do we retain our freedoms? Or did Big Tobacco get to the White House, too?

Good morning and hello Friday, July 6, 2012. Today, President Barack Obama continues his campaign bus tour in Ohio and Pennsylvania. There are reports that after he’s done this afternoon, he’ll amble back to the White House and sign the highway bill (HR4348) into law. In that highway bill is the poisonous, barbaric and corrupt attack on free enterprise, Section 100122.

Today’s Message: IMPORTANT Use signing statement to VOID SEC.100122 of HR4348. #BigTobacco is stealing our jobs! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Mr. President, we are the faceless fighting for our jobs. We are fighting for our freedom to roll our own smokes. We are American entrepreneurs and enterprising individuals fighting for our niche in the marketplace, to provide a service where no one else has succeeded. We are moms and dads, veterans and retired couples, people who’ve been laid off in a bad economy, and we’ve invested everything pursuing the American Dream.

President Obama, we call on you to do the right thing. When you see our signs today in Ohio and Pennsylvania “We Are Retailers, NOT Manufacturers,” know that we are talking directly to you. We require your action. This is the pressure moment. This is it. Do the right thing.

President Barack Obama and advisors: Please exercise your power to interpret SECTION 100122 of H.R.4348 as unconstitutional and an unbearable burden on a particular group of small businesses across the United States, and therefore you will instruct your Administration to avoid the unintended consequences of implementing this portion of the law, and work with Congress to find redress focused on a real solution to the perceived underlying issue.

SECTION 100122 of H.R.4348 is unconstitutional because it singles out one group of individuals for punishment. It arbitrarily reclassifies small retail tobacco shops as tobacco product “manufacturers” and by doing so it subjects them to an unbearable number of new taxes and regulations. This isn’t the closure of a perceived tax loophole; it’s the complete destruction of a legal business model that happened to be in competition with the biggest, multi-billion dollar corporations in the world. Our U.S. Constitution won’t stand for this. Article I, Section 9 specifically prohibits using the power of the Federal government to arbitrarily crush people or groups. But we need someone to raise their hand. We need someone to speak up. We must have a President willing to tell Congress, “I see what you did there…”

OUR MISSION: Hit it harder than you’ve ever hit it. Leave N-O-T-H-I-N-G on the field! Tear it up. Tweet. Facebook. Online forms. Do it all.

Warriors, at the end of this battle, no matter the outcome, we’ve learned and we’ve seen. We’ve learned who will stand with us next to the Constitution and we’ve seen what the other side is willing to do to buy a monopoly. Bloody as we are, we can gather ourselves out of the dirt and gravel, stand up, and say, THIS is our fight for freedom. We will continue.

***TARGETS***

TWITTER:

  • @whitehouse
  • @WHLive
  • @blog44
  • @BarackObama
  • @AskObama
  • @DavidAxelrod
  • @PressSec
  • @StefCutter
  • @JesseCLee44
  • @macon44
  • @joncarson44
  • @pfeiffer44
  • @VP
  • @ks44
  • @vj44
  • @Brundage44
  • @DavidAgnew44
  • @ChrisLu44
  • @StevenVDC
  • @opengov
FACEBOOK:

http://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse

http://www.facebook.com/barackobama

PHONES:

Call to leave a comment: 202-456-1111

Tell the President: “When you sign the highway bill H.R. 4348, please issue a signing statement to make Section 100122 null and void. It’s nothing more than a favor to the Big Tobacco companies, it will close my business and people will lose their jobs immediately! I’m a retailer, not a manufacturer. This isn’t good government. Please tell Congress you can’t in good conscience interpret Section 100122 as a fair way to conduct government.”

ONLINE COMMENT FORM: 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

Go. Be. Heard.

– GR

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Mr. President, Defend the Constitution

Exactly WHO is responsible for teaching phone manners at the White House? When a person calls the White House to express his or her opinion about something, there’s a pretty good chance that “something” is very important to them. Hey, we all have pressures in our lives. It just so happens we are pressuring the President to preserve freedom!

Good morning and welcome to Tuesday, July 3, 2012! Just so you know, the White House comment line is usually staffed by college interns. They’re SUPPOSED to be kind, courteous and polite. They receive calls and they’re supposed to record the topic you’re calling about and the region from where the call came. The one thing EVERY intern is told is, “These are Americans from every walk of life, every state in the union, every political party, and they are concerned enough about something to call the most powerful office in the world. Be nice, because we work for them.”

Phone Message: I am asking President Obama to issue a signing statement with HR4348 making Section 100122 void because it is unconstitutional and it punishes me and my business. Thank you.

Twitter Message: @WhiteHouse POTUS, SEC.100122 of HR4348 is unconstitutional and punishes me! VOID it in your signing statement! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Facebook Message: Mr. President, you have regularly used your signing statement authority to void, append, nullify and add interpretation to provisions of legislation forced upon you by Congress. Section 100122 of the highway bill headed to your desk is a clear violation of Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. As mentioned in this open letter to you yesterday, Congress certainly has the authority to regulate commerce, but it does not have the right to punish one group in order to arbitrarily grant monopolies to certain industries. Making the practices of small business competition illegal by virtue of setting the bar for entrance into the marketplace unnecessarily high is anti-competitive and a gross abuse of power. That is exactly what Congress engaged in by inserting language into the highway bill to arbitrarily and immediately reclassify small retail tobacco shops as “manufacturers” if they provide services allowing customers to roll their own tobacco cigarettes. This reclassification, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will force the immediate closure of more than 1,000 small businesses across the United States. THEREFORE, we respectfully request you use your signing statement powers to interpret Section 100122 as unconstitutional and unenforceable under your administration. Will you save my job and my freedom, Mr. President?

We know you have a lot on your plate, Mr. President. But which freedoms are too small to defend? Who will defend us against unconstitutional attacks launched by the corrupt in Congress? How will our children view a government which acts to protect special interests at the expense of the people?

Warriors, this has been quite the journey. We are nearing the finish line. Tomorrow is Independence Day. A day to celebrate our freedom from tyranny. Let’s keep our spirits high, our voices raised, and our fingers typing because while they might not agree with us, they swore an oath to defend the Constitution. Tell them. Keep telling them. Never let them stop hearing us.

Be great. See you online!

– GR

TWITTER TARGETS:

  • @whitehouse
  • @WHLive
  • @blog44
  • @BarackObama
  • @AskObama
  • @DavidAxelrod
  • @PressSec
  • @StefCutter
  • @JesseCLee44
  • @macon44
  • @joncarson44
  • @pfeiffer44
  • @VP
  • @ks44
  • @vj44
  • @Brundage44
  • @DavidAgnew44
  • @ChrisLu44
  • @StevenVDC
  • @opengov
FACEBOOK:

http://www.facebook.com/WhiteHouse

 

http://www.facebook.com/barackobama

PHONE CAMPAIGN:

Call to leave a comment: 202-456-1111

Tell the President: “When you sign the highway bill H.R. 4348, please issue a signing statement to make Section 100122 null and void. It’s nothing more than a favor to the Big Tobacco companies, it will close my business and people will lose their jobs immediately! I’m a retailer, not a manufacturer. This isn’t good government. Please tell Congress you can’t in good conscience interpret Section 100122 as a fair way to conduct government.”

ONLINE FORM: 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

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Something Died Today

A piece of free enterprise died today.

Well, they did it. Today, both houses of Congress passed the highway bill containing the poison pill for people who like to roll their own smokes. Effective Saturday night at midnight, this piece of the American Dream is foreclosed upon. Thank you Big Tobacco, for helping open our eyes to the ways of Washington, the ways of corrupt government, and what it takes to buy a monopoly.

To those who’ve faithfully followed this issue and done so much great work to fight this Big Tobacco favor, I encourage you to keep fighting. Keep hope alive, and think about running for public office! You’ve seen first hand how people get screwed over by the Federal government. Make a difference and get involved in local, state, federal politics and make a difference!

As I have said to so many of you, we are on the right side of this matter. Every freedom is worth defending. We will encounter roadblocks, but with strength and persistence, we can overcome them. This is a significant setback and will cause hardship for many. But believe in and keep looking for a solution.

I will send along any updates I receive, and if you hear something good just comment here or email me: g.renome5 (AT) gmail.com

See you online.

– GR

 

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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.

-GR

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Living in Denial

Today: Focus your energies on the Senate negotiators. They’re listed at the bottom of this post. And remember, they can block us from Facebook, unsubscribe us from their Twitter feeds, hang up the phone, burn our letters and ignore the writing on the wall, but we’re still here. We are spreading the word high and low, far and wide. Congress, please don’t sell out small businesses and their employees!

If this weren’t a favor to the Big Tobacco companies, then WHY did Big Tobacco spend more than $3 million dollars in 20 days hiring more than 60 lobbyists to lobby Congress SPECIFICALLY on this provision??!!

Good morning and hello Tuesday, June 26, 2012! If this is your first time here, we are discussing the Big Tobacco bailout that’s been stuffed into the highway bill. It essentially uses the power of the Federal government to prohibit small retail tobacco shops from providing “roll your own smokes” services, handing Big Tobacco a complete monopoly on cigarette sales (they only have 99.9% monopoly now). Now, if the Big Tobacco bailout stays in the highway bill and becomes law, more than 1,000 small businesses will be forced to close. How did we get here? Well, here’s what happened:

If this weren’t a favor to the Big Tobacco companies, then WHY did Big Tobacco spend more than $3 million dollars in 20 days hiring more than 60 lobbyists to lobby Congress SPECIFICALLY on this provision??!!

On March 8, 2012, U.S. Senator Max Baucus (pictured above) introduced amendment S.Amdt 1825 to the highway bill. If you look at the title and the first few dozen pages of language, it looks like a bill to reauthorize “the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 and to provide full funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program for 1 year, and for other purposes.”

OTHER PURPOSES: The VERY LAST provision in Max’s maxi-amendment was this (pardon the wet ink):

SEC. 40425. ROLL-YOUR-OWN CIGARETTE MACHINES.

(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.”

WHAT THE HECK do cigarettes have to do with highways? Oh that’s right, NOTHING. Nice move, Max.

So if you look at the tax code, you’ll find the provision above “reclassifies” retail shops as “manufacturers of tobacco products” and subjects them to all sorts of new taxes and regulations. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has taken a look at the situation and has determined that no small business will be able to survive the reclassification and will be forced to close, or else the jack-booted thugs will break down their doors and haul everyone to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

If this weren’t a favor to the Big Tobacco companies, then WHY did Big Tobacco spend $3 million in 20 days hiring 60 lobbyists to push specifically for this provision??!!

Esteemed members of the U.S. Congress: PLEASE STRIP THE BAUCUS BIG TOBACCO BAILOUT FROM THE HIGHWAY BILL!

The talking points in support of the Big Tobacco bailout are this: “We’re closing a tax loophole.”

Our response, “Bulls**t.”

If this weren’t a favor to the Big Tobacco companies, then WHY did Big Tobacco spend more than $3 million dollars in 20 days hiring more than 60 lobbyists to lobby Congress SPECIFICALLY on this provision??!!

Outside of this blog, the Baucus Big Tobacco bailout has never been exposed to direct sunlight. Not one public hearing. Not one minute of testimony from CBO, nothing from small business owners, nor people like me who enjoy rolling their own custom blended smokes. No public clamoring, no hue and cry for Congress to act. No Dateline NBC piece with dramatic music, pretty lighting, and a guy running from reporters. Nope, nothing. Just some lucky lobbyists who were able to buy a congressional Finance Committee staffer a couple dinners, grease the skids with a few campaign contributions, and gather up some convenience store and warehouse support (people who make money off Big Tobacco sales) as thin and transparent cover for Big Tobacco’s power play.

TODAY’S MESSAGE: @LawmakerXYZ Don’t use the highway bill for a #BigTobacco bailout! #Smallbiz jobs at stake! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Congress: If you let Big Tobacco have this, more than 1,000 small businesses will close, throwing 10,000 people out of work. Big Tobacco already has 99.9% market share! But they’re greedy; they want more; and they’re using YOU, Congress, to get their way. STOP the Big Tobacco bailout! You have the power and you have the ability to make things right. Public policy should not be created this way. This is nothing but a dirty, lowdown, Big Tobacco sponsored favor to the bad guys.

-GR

TODAY’S FAVORITE PEOPLE ARE IN THE SENATE!

Democrats

Republicans

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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:

SEC. 40425. ROLL-YOUR-OWN CIGARETTE MACHINES.

(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.”

————-

TAXTRACKER!

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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Why Congress Must Boot the Big Tobacco Bailout

***BEGIN TEXT OF BAUCUS BIG TOBACCO BAILOUT***

SEC. 40425. ROLL-YOUR-OWN CIGARETTE MACHINES.

(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.”.

***END TEXT OF BAUCUS BIG TOBACCO BAILOUT***

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana) and President Obama. Sen. Baucus wants to ensure the Big Tobacco companies that have given him THOUSANDS of dollars have a complete monopoly.

If you’re a member of Congress, or work for a member of Congress, the above provision is the “Big Tobacco bailout” and we want it stripped from the highway 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.

Update, update, who has the update?

Right now, there are people gathered around a table in a room somewhere in the complex of the U.S. Capitol, and they’re talking to each other about the highway bill. Specifically, they’re talking about the two versions of the highway bill, the House bill and the Senate bill. They’ve been working for weeks comparing the two bills and thinking privately about what absolutely must stay, and what can go. In the Senate version is a provision U.S. Senator Max Baucus attached in a middle-of-the-night maneuver that seeks to reclassify retail tobacco shops as “tobacco manufacturers” and tax and regulate the bejeezus out of them, forcing them to close and thus eliminating Big Tobacco’s minuscule competition. No doubt when that provision is discussed, there will be an intense fight by Big Tobacco lobbyists to keep it in.

Good morning, it’s Sunday, June 24, 2012. Talks continue today among the staff of U.S. House and Senate negotiators working out a transportation authorization bill (the highway bill) and people are keeping mum about what’s going to be in the final package until they’re ready to release it to the public. When we hear, we will share with you. Until we know for certain, we must keep up the noise, the pressure, the level of engagement required to get in front of the decision-makers.

According to the Associated Press:

“…the two sides were also close to an agreement to overhaul federal transportation programs, according to House and Senate aides from both parties. Negotiations were expected to continue through the weekend, with votes expected next week on either a major transportation bill or an extension of current programs, said the aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the talks.”

SO… WHILE members of Congress are deciding the fate of our freedom to roll our own smokes, let’s help decide the fate of whether our local members of Congress will have our support when they run for re-election. Every member of the House of Representatives is up for re-election this year and the power we hold over our elected representatives is our power to vote. Further, we can influence others and how they might vote. If a politician senses he is losing votes, especially from the very base of people who should be supporting him, then he’ll likely change his behavior.

TODAY’S MESSAGE: @LawmakerXYZ MAKE NO DEAL unless the Baucus #BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill is stripped! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Be loud, be alert, bring your “A” game and let’s be seen and heard online! 

– GR

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Add U.S. Rep. Justin Amash

Great news, warriors! We’ve added U.S. Representative Justin Amash to the list of lawmakers opposed to H.R.4134, the Big Tobacco bailout!

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash is on our side!
He opposes HR4134, the Big Tobacco bailout.

Congressman Amash sent the following last night from the Twittersphere:

“@GeorgeRenome I’ve now had a chance to review #HR4134. I am opposed to it. Best of luck.”

This is great news! We sincerely appreciate Rep. Amash’s responding to our request to review HR4134 and his decision to oppose the Big Tobacco bailout. Thank you, Congressman Amash and keep fighting the good fight on Capitol Hill. You are a true champion of small business and free enterprise!

Good morning and welcome to the first Saturday of official summer, June 23, 2012. John Adams said our republic is a “government of laws, not of men.” What he meant is under the construction of our government, tyrants have no opportunity to exercise ultimate authority. That’s why we have three branches of government; executive, legislative, and judicial. If the legislative branch does something bad, the executive branch can veto it. If the executive branch oversteps its authority, the judicial branch can knock it down. If the judicial branch says the Constitution doesn’t allow something, the legislative branch can amend the Constitution, but only with the consent of the states. So even though there’s a lot of opportunity for mischief within and even across our branches of government, eventually things get sorted out. That John Adams was a pretty smart gent, right?

2nd President of the United States, John Adams

Those of you new to the blog, here is the Big Tobacco bailout provision. We’re fighting it tooth and nail. I’ll explain more in a minute.

***BEGIN TEXT OF BAUCUS BIG TOBACCO BAILOUT***

SEC. 40425. ROLL-YOUR-OWN CIGARETTE MACHINES.

(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.”.

***END TEXT OF BAUCUS BIG TOBACCO BAILOUT***

Legislating is complicated business, especially when the United States has enough Federal code, regulations and laws to sink the Titanic a couple times over, but once upon a time I looked up subsection (d) of section 5702 of the Internal Revenue Code and what this Baucus provision does is add to the definition of “manufacturer of tobacco products” any retail shop where you can roll your own smokes.

So is a retail outlet a manufacturer? Of course not. So why is Baucus pursuing this provision? Is it because manufacturers pay higher taxes than retailers and Congress is bloodthirsty for more tax revenue? Possibly. But when we looked at the Congressional Budget Office examination of the impact this provision will have on small retail tobacco shops, they found the shops will have to shut down because they can’t afford the new tax and regulation regime. So WHAT is Senator Baucus’s motivation?

Every member of Congress has taken some amount of Big Tobacco cash in the form of campaign contributions, whether directly from the Big Tobacco companies or through third-party political committees funded in part by Big Tobacco. It’s a fact.

I can’t speak to Senator Baucus’s personal motivations, but it is a fact the senator has taken at least $25,000 in campaign contributions directly from Altria, Lorillard, and R.J. Reynolds, the Big Tobacco companies. It’s also a fact that these Big Tobacco companies spent more than $3 million in just 20 days between March 5 and March 31, 2012 lobbying Congress to pass a Big Tobacco bailout provision. Hmm… When I roll my own smokes, Big Tobacco doesn’t make any money. Big Tobacco wants to put small roll your own retailers out of business. A member of Congress inserts a special provision to eliminate Big Tobacco’s competition. And Sen. Max Baucus has taken at least $25k from Big Tobacco. HMM….

OUR MISSION: This weekend, staff members for Congress are working away trying to put the finishing touches on the highway bill. Unfortunately, members of Congress don’t write bills anymore, they let their staffs do it and often times the staff make the final decisions of what goes into a bill and what’s stripped. Unless members of Congress specifically direct their staff to do something, mischief is abound. We must tell lawmakers to strip the Big Tobacco bailout from the highway bill. It’s nonsensical, anti-competitive, and will crush more than 1,000 small businesses across the U.S. at a time when our economy can least afford it.

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ It’s up to you. Save #smallbiz and strip the Baucus #BigTobacco bailout from the highway bill! http://bit.ly/NewTax

Take it to the Twitter and the Facebook. Take it to the online community and spread it wherever you see fit. Take our message to the mountaintops and roll an avalanche down the valleys below. We can make a difference if we’re loud enough and expose enough of this rotten Big Tobacco bailout. Go on the attack, my friends. This is the weekend that matters. Make your hard work over these last few weeks count! See you online.

– GR

PRIMARY TARGETS – Talk to them and the people who follow them. These people can save, or sink us this weekend.

Transportation Committee Republicans / Leadership Members

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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.

-GR

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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.

JOSEPH FADDEN

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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