Tag Archives: Special Interests

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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You Asked For It

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

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

Congress… are you listening, yet?

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

-GR

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I Smell a Rat…

Today’s Message: @LawmakerXYZ I smell a rat in the highway bill. Save my job. STOP HR4134 and the #BigTobacco bailout. http://bit.ly/NewTax

(You’ll want to replace “@LawmakerXYZ” with your local congressman’s Twitter handle)

This is a rat. Rats are part of the animal kingdom, they’re mammals, and if you really want to know, they’re members of the rattus genus. Personally, I don’t like to think about rats except for in the rare moments when I find one out in the garage after he’s tangled with a trap, and lost. If you’ve ever had a rat take up residence in one of your outbuildings, you KNOW how tough they are. They have huge teeth, big claws, and oily fur. They’re also crafty, tireless, and big eaters.

So the reason I bring up rats is because I think there might be one or two (or more) involved in the Big Tobacco bailout that’s moving through Congress hidden in the 2012 highway transportation bill. To recap: Big Tobacco convinced Senator Max Baucus’s staff to slip a provision into the highway bill that reclassifies places where you can “roll your own” smokes as “tobacco manufacturing facilities” making them subject to a whole new set of taxes and regulations. Unfair? Yes. Uncommon? Not if you’re a rat. By the way, Senator Max Baucus has been taking thousands of dollars from Big Tobacco for years. Just looking at his campaign disclosures filed with the Federal Elections Commission, he’s taken more than $20,000 from ALTRIA GROUP, INC’s political action committee. You remember Altria, right? They’re the Big Tobacco company that just reported bringing in a billion dollars for the first quarter of 2012.

Another disturbing thing about rats is, they attract more rats.

I know, it’s disturbing. But it’s there. The rat pack mentality says, “Let’s do things in groups. We’re safer that way.” This same thing happens on Capitol Hill, too. For example, people from all across the country belong to “JOE Association” (that’s made up). Once a year, JOE Association members fly into Washington, DC to meet up with others from the JOE Association, and they swarm around the Hill, visiting members of Congress, asking for their top two or three agenda items. They might also hold a campaign fundraising reception for their favorite members of Congress and give them a few thousand dollars. It’s a slick system and lawmakers appreciate the input from their constituents. They also appreciate the campaign support.

ENTER: The American Wholesale Marketers Association. This is a group of rats business owners whose association is paid for mostly by Big Tobacco. All the Big Tobacco firms kick in a bunch of money for the Association, and in return the association members carry Big Tobacco’s agenda around Capitol Hill. AND… they’re doing it again this week. Please read or skim the quoted material below taken directly from AWMA’s website:

[BEGIN QUOTED MATERIAL]

AWMA Members to Lobby Congress on Key Issues

Publish Date: May 10, 2012

AWMA members from across the nation will meet with members of the U.S. Congress next week during AWMA’s annual Day on the Hill, which will take place Wednesday and Thursday. Several key issues are on the agenda and AWMA members will express their views and concerns regarding them to lawmakers and their key staff members when they visit with them on Thursday.

Those issues include:
  • AWMA’s support for legislation to codify the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) ruling classifying retailers who own roll-your-own machines as “manufacturers,” a move that would subject them to the same governmental requirements as other cigarette manufacturers.
  • AWMA’s support for the Small Business Tax Cut Act, which would allow small businesses to take a tax deduction equal to 20% of their active business income.
  • AWMA’s opposition to the use of federal funds to lobby any government official for new laws and regulations promoting excise tax increases on soft drinks and tobacco.
The event will open with a reception and dinner Wednesday evening sponsored by Altria Group Distribution Company, where attendees will be briefed on political and legislative developments. Thursday morning, Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) will be guest speaker at a breakfast at the Capitol Hill Club sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Tiberi is a member of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee. Following the breakfast, AWMA members will begin their meetings with lawmakers in their Congressional offices.
“At a time like this, with the Presidential elections looming and a still lagging economy, it is more important than ever to remind our lawmakers of the many contributions our businesses bring each and every day to their districts and states,” said AWMA Chairman Chad Gummer, Gummer Wholesale, Inc., Heath, OH.

[END QUOTED MATERIAL] 

Picture for "I Smell a Rat" blog

Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)

I bring this to your attention for a couple reasons. First, AWMA knows EXACTLY what they’re doing. They are supporting a provision that will magically turn tobacco “retailers” into tobacco “manufacturers” thereby unfairly subjecting retailers to a whole new scheme of taxes and regulation NEVER meant to be put upon retailers. Second, I bring the Thursday morning breakfast event to your attention because Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH) is the ONE AND ONLY guest speaker. Did I point out this breakfast event for Rep. Tiberi is sponsored by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company?

Remember I mentioned rats like to swarm in groups?

THE GOOD NEWS: I mentioned on the Twitter yesterday we have a hero on Capitol Hill who is helping us fight this unfair, anticompetitive, Big Tobacco bailout. I cannot yet reveal who this member of Congress is, but I can tell you he’s a Republican. AND additional good news this morning is he is being joined by a Democrat! So there is a bipartisan coalition of elected officials actively asking their colleagues to TRASH the rat Big Tobacco provision. This is fantastic news for us and I will talk more about it when I can.

YOUR MISSION: Keep going. Twitter. Facebook. Comment in online news stories involving your local congressman. Recruit some people to our cause. Send them to this blog so they can arm themselves with information. And by all means, keep asking your member WHERE they stand on the Big Tobacco bailout!

– GR

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Day Before the New Dawn

Congress meets to hammer out a 2012 Transportation Bill tomorrow.
Will Big Tobacco get their bailout?

Warriors, this is it. We are outside the enemy fortress and positioned to rush the gate. We must FULLY engage.

Today’s Message: Congress, only YOU can prevent a #jobs killing bailout. STRIP #BigTobacco OUT of the highway bill. http://bit.ly/NewTax

Congress is back in session this week, and all eyes are on the 47 members of the House and Senate who will hammer out a 2012 transportation reauthorization bill. These lawmakers will take their two competing versions of a transportation bill, vote on each differing provision, and come up with a final package. The Senate bill carries the poisonous provision to reclassify small tobacco shops as “tobacco manufacturing facilities” even though they’re not. The House bill contains no such provision. Our aim: Reach as many members of this committee and let them know, the Senate’s Big Tobacco bailout must GO!

My suggestion: Focus your Facebook and Twitter efforts HEAVILY on these members today. They are the first line of defense. They have the power to STOP Big Tobacco and save hundreds and maybe thousands of jobs. The more different voices they hear, the more they will understand. If you need more information about the Big Tobacco bailout, take a look at some of the previous posts. We can stop Big Tobacco, but only if members KNOW just how bad this bailout is. Let’s make today our BIGGEST day yet!

GO! ENGAGE! BE AGGRESSIVE!!

(But also don’t forget to space out your Tweets and remember, too many @lawmaker mentions in a row can lead to account suspension)

Talk to these members NOW on Facebook and Twitter!! For Republicans, end your tweets with #GOP. For Democrats use #DEM.

Republicans

Democrats

 – GR
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This Week: Will Congress Expose the Big Tobacco Bailout?

Good morning and happy Sunday! We’ve all played a good game of hide & seek, right? Cover your eyes, count to ten, run around and find your friends? It’s fun because you get to exercise just how clever you can be. If you can stay hidden, you’re clever. If you can find people, you’re clever. It’s a game that is SO much fun, some members of Congress are still playing!

Hidden in the Senate’s massive version of the 2012 transportation reauthorization act is a teeny weeny provision allowing Big Tobacco companies to SQUASH small businesses. You heard me. In between money for roads, bridges, airports, trains, and Amtrak is a monumental United States Government bailout for Big Tobacco.

TODAY’S MESSAGE: Enough hide and seek. Tell Congress REMOVE the #BigTobacco bailout from the highway bill. It’s a job killer. http://bit.ly/NewTax

If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you already know this. But, we’re getting new readers every day so here it is again:

Big Tobacco has bought some lawmakers. These lawmakers have introduced legislation reclassifying small tobacco shops where you can roll your own smokes as “tobacco manufacturing” facilities. This throws small, roadside tobacco shops into the same tax and regulatory category as mammoth cigarette manufacturing facilities. Unfair, right? Well, the pain doesn’t last long for Mom & Pop tobacco shops. They pretty much go out of business immediately.

Why is Big Tobacco doing this? Because 99 percent market share isn’t enough. They make no money off people who roll their own smokes. If they can eliminate our ability to roll our own, Big Tobacco thinks they’ll pocket more money. Which, they probably will if they’re successful.

That’s where you come in.

You can help by reaching out to members of Congress. Scroll through some of my previous posts for lists of folks to hit.

Today: Engage a few members in the morning and a few members in the afternoon. Take a few minutes for Facebook. And if you have time, take a few minutes to post in the comments section of online news stories. Members of the news media appreciate heads’ up on how their member responds to your inquiries!

Tuesday, Congress reconvenes to hammer out a final 2012 transportation reauthorization act. Let our voices be heard!

Ready or not, here they come…

– GR

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Hanging Paper on Wacker Drive

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

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

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

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

WAIT. A big tobacco monopoly? Yes.

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

Why do I keep mentioning Illinois?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-GR

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

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Welcome to Big Tobacco’s Pay Day

SATURDAY MESSAGE: Good Morning Twitteristas! Since it’s Saturday, I’ll keep it short. Members of Congress just went on a week-long recess. That means most of these lawmakers will be in their home town areas, holding town hall meetings, attending public civic events, visiting businesses, and conducting downtown tours. This is your PRIME opportunity to tell your member of Congress to STOP the BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill. It’s a money grab by Big Tobacco, a tax hike on small business, and a job killer.

YOUR MESSAGE: If you’re up to Tweeting and Facebooking, it’s time to talk to every member of Congress (your member, members listed below, other members) and tell them:

NO new taxes. NO job killing regs. NO special favors. Tell Congress: STOP the BigTobacco bailout in the highway bill. 

Here’s an excerpt from a blog item posted on The Hill newspaper talking about the people whose staff members are ALREADY WORKING on the details of a final Federal highway bill. We must mount pressure on them to drop the Senate provision reclassifying small smoke shops as “manufacturing facilities.” Letting Big Tobacco pull that kind of move on a highway bill is disgusting and wrong. And if Big Tobacco succeeds, we’ll all be forced back into filling their pockets with our hard-earned money, paying for their crappy, tasteless product.

The people closest to the highway bill right now (from The Hill newspaper):

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is one of 14 senators who were appointed to the conference committee this week. She will be joined by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), David Vitter (R-La.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).The House has appointed 33 lawmakers to the highway bill conference committee, including Republican Reps. John Mica (Fla.), Don Young (Alaska), John Duncan (Tenn.), Bill Shuster (Pa.), Shelley Moore Capito (W-Va.), Rick Crawford (Ark.), Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), Larry Bucshon (Ind.), Richard Hanna (N.Y.), Steve Southerland (Fla.), James Lankford (Okla.), Reid Ribble (Wis.), Fred Upton (Mich.), Ed Whitfield (Ky.), Doc Hastings (Wash.), Rob Bishop (Utah), Ralph Hall (Texas), Chip Cravaack (Minn.), Dave Camp (Mich.) and Patrick Tiberi (Ohio).

Those GOP members of the transportation conference committee will be joined by 13 House Democrats: Reps. Nick Rahall (W.Va.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Jerry Costello (Ill.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Corrine Brown (Fla.), Elijah Cummings (Md.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa), Tim Bishop (N.Y.), Henry Waxman (Calif.), Ed Markey (Mass.), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.).

***End of excerpt.***
So have a good weekend loyal Twitterista and good luck finding out where your members of Congress stand on the BigTobacco bailout. I’ll see you online. – GR
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