Tag Archives: @RepDianeBlack

You’re Not Listening

Hey Congress: You’re not listening. Or maybe you’re just choosing not to hear me, and him, and her, and them… all of them. Well, Congress. If you hear only one thing, hear this…

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ The Baucus #BigTobacco bailout is a FRAUD on US free enterprise. Remove it from the highway bill http://bit.ly/NewTax

We are at DEFCON 1.

Good morning on Wednesday, June 26, 2012. It’s day THREE of make or break week and the danger is still imminent. Thank you for GREAT participation last night. We raised our voices and shattered some glass using Facebook and Twitter to go nuclear on members of Congress who are sitting on their thumbs, chattering their teeth and nervously hiding in the corner, afraid to confront the Big Tobacco bailout. We sounded the alarm because we are in condition critical. U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) believes he has won with his favor to Big Tobacco intact. We must spur House Republican negotiators to STRIP the Baucus provision before they agree to the overall bill.

Hey Congress, there is NO reason to be afraid of Big Tobacco! Hit the bully in the nose, HURRY!

CONGRESSIONAL STAFF: PLEASE REMOVE THE FOLLOWING PROVISION FROM THE HIGHWAY BILL. Here is the provision inserted into the Senate’s version of the highway bill through S.Amdt1825 on March 8, 2012 (Senate roll call vote 29). There were dozens of pages and hundreds of lines in the amendment, but this was the very last piece:

===============================================

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.”

===============================================

That’s it. That’s the language that is a fraud on free enterprise, a lie on paper in black and white, and something apparently so radioactive even the most conservative, freedom-loving members of Congress won’t touch with a ten-foot intern.

GUESS WHO SUPPORTS THE BIG TOBACCO BAILOUT AND LOST THEIR RE-ELECTION BID?

U.S. Rep John Sullivan (R-Oklahoma) lost his primary race last night in part because he supported the same-old-same-old Washington BS, including the Big Tobacco bailout.

CONGRESSPEOPLE, HERE ARE YOUR TALKING POINTS: Big Tobacco spent millions this year alone to put this provision in the bill. We want this provision out. Why?

  • Only the Big Tobacco companies will benefit under the Baucus provision in the U.S. 2012 highway bill.
  • The Big Tobacco companies spent more than $3 million in 20 days hiring 60 lobbyists urging inclusion of this provision.
  • The Baucus provision will “reclassify” 1,000 small retail tobacco shops as “tobacco manufacturers” crushing them with huge new taxes and regulations.
  • The Congressional Budget Office has already determined under the Baucus provision, these “reclassified” businesses will be forced to close.
  • A retail shop is NOT a “manufacturer” and must not be drowned with the same taxes and regulations as one.

OUR MISSION: This Baucus bailout stinks. It’s a dirty power grab by the Big Tobacco companies and the members of Congress who’ve been paid off. It must be stopped. Target the folks below on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and phone calls. Dial the Capitol Hill operator at 202-224-3121 and ask for one of these members. There’s also TOLL FREE numbers you can call to reach the Capitol Hill switchboard. Try a Google search for “call your member of congress toll free”.

-GR

Transportation Committee Republicans / Leadership Members

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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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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:

TV SCRIPT

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.

-GR

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TGIF

Thank God it’s Ferris.

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

Ferris Bueller. The kid took a day off school and they made a movie about it. It’s a pretty funny film, I admit. Skirt the authorities; eat at a fancy restaurant; sing in a parade; and wreck a classic Ferrari… How couldn’t it be fun? But take that same thing and put it on Congress. Lawmaker sleeps in; eats at a fancy restaurant; sings at a karaoke bar; and wrecks 1,000 small businesses… Not fun.

Good morning and happy Friday, June 15, 2012! Today is the last zodiac day of Taurus and tomorrow is the first day of Gemini, the summer solstice is just around the corner, and apparently, Justin Beiber is STILL popular among the female pre-teens. Big Tobacco is still breathing down our necks in Congress and we have to stay vigilant against their attacks.

TODAY’S MESSAGE: Speaker Boehner and @LawmakerXYZ You have the power to STOP the #BigTobacco bailout! Save #jobs. http://bit.ly/NewTax

Friday Q & A: I looked back at our posts on Facebook and Twitter over the last few weeks and noticed a few recurring questions. I thought today would be good to recap some of those and post them for congressional consumption and comments. If you’re a Federal lawmaker, please feel free to send us any questions you might have and we’ll ship out answers asap.

QUESTION: What is the Big Tobacco bailout?

ANSWER: The Big Tobacco bailout currently takes two forms. It is a provision in the Senate-approved highway bill, and it is a piece of legislation introduced by U.S. House Representative Diane Black (R-Tennessee). Both of these pieces of legislation seek to “reclassify” small retail tobacco stores as “manufacturing facilities” if they provide services allowing customers to roll their own cigarettes. Both of these provisions are dangerous, wrong-headed, and supported by the Big Tobacco companies.

QUESTION: What is the status of the highway bill and what does that mean for the bailout?

ANSWER: Highway bill talks have stalled; members are playing the blame game; and an extension of the current program is likely. The duration of that extension is unknown but lawmakers have talked about six months to two years. Will the bailout be part of that extension? We certainly hope not, but you can bet Big Tobacco will try to put it in.

QUESTION: When will we be safe from Big Tobacco?

ANSWER: Never. Big Tobacco is an industry and they’re here to stay. Big Tobacco is competing for market share, and competition in itself is okay. What’s NOT okay is Big Tobacco trying to crush roll-your-own competition by using Congress to kill free enterprise. Look, I smoke custom smokes because Big Tobacco doesn’t offer a product I like. When I roll my own smokes, I get a better product! If Big Tobacco wants to tailor their smokes to my liking, fine. But using taxes and regulation to kill competition, crush my ability to roll my own smoke, and try to force me into buying their product is anti-competitive and anti-free enterprise. Big Tobacco had better change their mindset.

QUESTION: Why do you always put a picture of a water buffalo next to Rep. Diane Black, the person who introduced H.R.4134 at the behest of Big Tobacco’s lobbyists?

ANSWER: C’mon. Be nice.

U.S. Rep Diane Black telling a herd of people she’s against big government, but secretly counting the campaign cash she’ll get after sponsoring a Big Tobacco bailout.

An innocent water buffalo sporting the latest jewelry accessories available at Marshall Fields.

QUESTION: Why do all of the co-sponsors of H.R.4134 have Big Tobacco cash campaign contributions in their hands?

ANSWER: (sigh) You’re really asking this?

QUESTION: Are the anomalies surrounding H.R.4134 and the Big Tobacco bailout enough to trigger a House or Senate Ethics Committee investigation?

ANSWER: Several Big Tobacco companies spent millions lobbying for H.R.4134 in a period of 20 days. I don’t know about you, but I can’t coordinate who’s buying the next can of coffee at work more than a day out. Whether the money, coordination, lobbying, and intensity of the Big Tobacco bailout campaign will trigger an Ethics investigation is unclear. Someone has to first file a complaint with the committees and ask them to investigate. What I do know is some Washington, DC watchdog groups have been alerted to this situation and they have responded that they’re “researching the matter” and that it is definitely on their radar. That’s good news for us because the more sunlight shined on how laws are made, the less likely Congress is going to do something as dirty as the bailout.

QUESTION: How will we ultimately be successful in defeating the Big Tobacco bailout?

ANSWER: We will defeat the bailout by exposing it to the public light. The more people hear about this crazy attempt by Big Tobacco to use Congress to solidify a monopoly with unnecessary taxes and regulations on small business, the more progress we make. Sunlight kills bad things. It kills vampires, some types of bacteria, and all kinds of Big Tobacco scams. Let the sun shine in my friends, and we will win.

QUESTION: Another lawmaker who has taken more than $24,000 in cash from Big Tobacco and supports the Big Tobacco bailout is U.S. Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee). Does she have a problem breaking too much wind, or is she just really concerned about the public’s perception of her age?

ANSWER: Pictures say a thousand words. By the way, she’s originally from Mississippi and her real name is Marsha Wedgeworth. Isn’t it funny both Black and Blackburn are originally from other states and don’t have any real ties to the Tennesseans they supposedly represent?

U.S. Rep Marsha Wedgeworth Blackburn: “I eat small businesses and love Big Tobacco campaign cash.”

QUESTION: Why do you mostly pick on Republicans supporting the Big Tobacco bailout instead of Democrats?

ANSWER: Republicans tell us they want to reduce taxes and regulations on small business, but contrary to their words and stated principles, some are supporting the Big Tobacco bailout. Plus, House Republicans have the majority and hence the power to strip the Big Tobacco bailout from the 2012 highway bill. That’s why we’re focused on them. We focus on Democrats, too, especially those sympathetic to NOT letting Big Tobacco grow bigger with this kind of bailout. The whole thing’s difficult because, again, most members of Congress have taken a few thousand dollars in cash from Big Tobacco’s campaign treasure chest.

QUESTION: Will you have a good Father’s Day weekend?

ANSWER: YES! And you will, too because we’re making friends and exposing enemies in our fight against the Big Tobacco bailout. Keep it up on Twitter, Facebook, online news story comment areas, bulletin boards, message in a bottle… As I’ve said before, our strength is our persistence. Frankly, Congress wants us to shut up. The more we talk, the more chance we have to pull back the curtain and expose the rotten eggs. So keep talking and keep pulling back the curtain. It’s working!

– GR

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Okay, I’ll write the damn news story FOR you

It’s amazing what gathers the news media’s attention.
Unconventional sex? Yes. Big Tobacco bailout? No.

I’ve been amazed at how little the news media has paid attention to the abnormalities surrounding the Big Tobacco bailout. Maybe they’re afraid if they write something about Big Tobacco they’ll be challenged by herds of lawyers or dragged off to the Guantanamo Detention Facility never to be heard from again. Or maybe they believe the other side who’s saying, “Oh it’s just a technicality. Nothing to see here!” OR MAYBE they’re on the take, too? Who knows, because when you dive into the nexus between the news media, members of Congress, congressional staff and the people working directly for Big Tobacco, you will find incestuous relationships.

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

George Stephanopoulos is ABC’s Washington news personality or “journalist” and worked as a senior advisor for Bill Clinton in the White House.

Good morning! It’s Thursday, June 14, 2012. The kids have been out of school for more than a week and they’re driving me crazy! But, not any more crazy than the news media’s lack of reporting on the Big Tobacco bailout. So I’ve decided I’ll do the work FOR the major news organizations. Attention newsroom employees, editorial assistants, and assignment folks: PLEASE feel free to use this in your publication FREE of charge and you only need to attribute this original work to cub reporter George Renome.

Cub Reporter

Headline: Big Tobacco Buys a Bailout

Subhead: Big Tobacco companies caught spending millions to crush small business competition

Body: Hidden in the highway bill approved by the U.S. Senate is a provision that has nothing to do with highways. In fact, it has nothing to do with transportation at all. Its only target is making certain the Big Tobacco companies keep a handle on more profits.

Dubbed the “Big Tobacco bailout” by some, the provision was inserted in a middle of the night maneuver by U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana). Introduced to the Senate as “Senate Amendment 1825” the Baucus language is 18 pages of mostly program reauthorizations and special little tax code revisions. The amendment description itself says, “To reauthorize for 1 year 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.” One of the “other purposes” tucked in as the very last bit of the 18 pages of legislative language was this:

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.”

Senators approved the Baucus amendment by a vote of 82 yeas and 16 nays. When asked if they were aware there was a tobacco provision in the bill, not a single Republican senator has reportedly answered yes. Similarly, not one lawmaker was aware the provision has the real potential to force the closure of more than 1,000 small businesses.

Senator Baucus’s office did not return calls for comment on this story.

The provision remains in the final Senate-approved transportation bill. That bill is currently stalled in negotiations among members of the House and Senate highway bill conference committee.

Oddly enough, a similar provision was introduced in the House of Representatives just three days earlier by U.S. Representative Diane Black (R-Tennessee). Black, a 34-year native of Baltimore, Maryland, is renowned for quietly introducing and shepherding similar anti small business legislation as a state lawmaker in Tennessee.

Black’s legislation, H.R.4134, has drawn a great deal of interest from Big Tobacco companies Altria, R.J.Reynolds, and Lorillard, as well as many Federal lawmakers who have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from those companies. According to public records filed with the U.S. House and Senate disclosing lobbying activity, the Big Tobacco companies spent more than $3 million dollars in support of H.R.4134 in the period between March 5 (the day Black’s bill was introduced) and March 31, the last day of the first reporting quarter.

Ms. Black’s effort to gather cosponsors has been intense. The freshman lawmaker who ran on a “Tea Party” platform has so far gathered 74 cosponsors for her legislation that will heap new taxes and regulations on small retail outlets. According to sources not wishing to be named for fear they might lose their job but with direct knowledge of Black’s activities, Black’s legislative operation is inexperienced and incapable of the effort that has supported her legislation. Instead, the lobbyists hired by the Big Tobacco companies have done the lion’s share of the work.

One anonymous source with ties to Black’s office noted, “They handed them the bill, they introduced it, and then they sat back and watched the thing grow.”

According to publicly available documents, Big Tobacco companies spent more than $3 million dollars and hired more than 60 lobbyists to canvas the Hill in support of H.R. 4134 just in the month of March. Second quarter lobbyist disclosures will not be available until July or August.

If Ms. Black’s legislation is approved by Congress, it would be the first such effort where so few companies have exerted so much influence in such a short period of time. Indeed, not a single hearing has been held either on H.R.4134 or the topic in general. In fact, Ms. Black herself has not posted a single word about her legislation on her official or campaign websites, on her Facebook page, or made any public comments about the matter. Ms. Black’s office has also blocked an undisclosed number of Facebook users critical of her legislation from posting on her official page.

Ms. Black’s office did not return requests for comment on this story. Responding to a question via Twitter, public watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said, “Thanks for the mention. I had sent along your post to our research dept. for a deeper look. It’s definitely on our radar.”

The anti small business tobacco provision is also on the radar of U.S. Representative Steve LaTourette. The Ohio congressman sent a letter to all House members alerting them to the fact of the provision’s existence and the damage it will do to the economy. LaTourette wrote:

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

LaTourette further noted:

“It is imperative this provision not be included in the final Highway bill as over one thousand small businesses and their customers across the nation will suffer harmful effects.”

Whether LaTourette, CREW, the House Ethics Committee, or others put roadblocks between Ms. Black’s H.R.4134 and final passage is unclear, though time might be the ultimate victor. Despite her efforts and the efforts of Big Tobacco, the legislative calendar is not working in Ms. Black’s favor. As the November elections draw nearer, Congress is less likely to move anything so controversial, especially at a time when both parties, Republicans and Democrats, are trying to champion the “jobs and economy” message as their own.

– GR, cub reporter

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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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