The union that represents U.S. diplomats threatened Wednesday to sue the State Department unless it releases documents attesting to the qualifications of ambassadorial nominees amid a fierce debate over the credentials of several recent nominees.
The American Foreign Service Association said it would ask a court to compel the production of the documents, known as “Certificates of Demonstrated Competence,” if the department does not do so voluntarily by the end of Thursday. It said the department had ignored previous requests to have the documents released under Freedom of Information Act.
“AFSA remains concerned about the qualifications of several recent nominees,” the organization said in a statement. “AFSA’s goal is to ensure that the nation has the most qualified persons serving as ambassadors. AFSA believes that the President and the American people deserve nothing less.”
The lawsuit threat comes as the White House faces harsh criticism about a handful of ambassador nominees who have scant knowledge or expertise about the nations where they would serve. Several of those nominees were high-dollar campaign fundraisers and donors for President Barack Obama, raising concerns they were rewarded for their lucrative political support.
At least three recent ambassadorial nominees — George Tsunis for Norway, Noah Bryson Mamet for Argentina and Colleen Bell for Hungary — have raised concerns after poor performances in their confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. None has extensive experience with the nations where they would be stationed if confirmed.
Last month, AFSA, which represents about 16,000 current and retired diplomats, said it does not object to nominees who have little or no official diplomatic experience. But the group also unveiled a set of guidelines it said should be considered by the White House and Senate when choosing and confirming ambassadors.
Those include leadership, interpersonal and managerial skills, the ability to formulate high-level policy and knowledge of the foreign area.
An AFSA survey has found that 37 percent of ambassadors during President Barack Obama’s presidency are or have been political appointees.
That is the highest rate since former President Ronald Reagan’s administration in the 1980s and higher than the historical average of about 30 percent.
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday, sent two letters to the Senate, seeking its confirmation of 12 ministerial nominees, as well as the consideration and approval of the newly appointed Chief of Defence Staff and three other service chiefs.
Senate President, David Mark, read out the list of the ministerial nominees, as contained in a letter dated January 20, 2014, but which he received from Jonathan shortly before the commencement of plenary session.
Those on the list included Senator Musiliu Obanikoro (Lagos); Aminu Wali and Hadjia Jamila Salik (Kano); Mrs Lawrencia Laraba Mallam (Kaduna); Mrs Akon Etim Eyakenyi (Akwa Ibom); Honourable Mohammed Wakil (Borno); and Abdul Jelili Oyewale Adesiyan (Osun).
Others were Dr Khaliru Alhassan (Sokoto); Tamuno Danagogo (Rivers); Mrs Asabe Asmau Ahmed (Niger); General Aliyu Gusau (Zamfara) and Mr Boni Haruna (Adamawa).
Danagogo, a former Commissioner for Urban Development in Rivers State, left the Governor Rotimi Amaechi-led administration in a controversial move late 2013.
He was reported to have told members of PDP at Abonema, Akuku-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, that he remained a member of PDP, adding that he was more confortable in PDP that joining the All Progressives Congress (APC) with Amaechi.
President Jonathan, in the letter to the Senate, said he sent the list to the Senate in compliance with the provisions of Section 147 (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
In his second letter, the president also asked the Senate to confirm for immediate appointment Air Marshal Alex Badeh as Chief of Defence Staff; Major General Kenneth Minimah as Chief of Army Staff; Rear Admiral Usman Jibrin as Chief of Naval Staff and Air Vice Marshal Adesola Amosu as Chief of Air Staff.
Meanwhile, the Senate resumed plenary session on Tuesday, after one month recess without the anticipated tension, following the threat of defection by some aggrieved Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members.
Noticeably, known arrowheads of the planned defection into the All Progressives Congress (APC), including Senators Bukola Saraki (Kwara Central) and Mohammed Jubrilla (Aldamawa North), were seen in their usual seats in the two PDP rows in the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
Briefing newsmen immediately after the session, which lasted more than two hours, chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Public Affairs, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe, said there was no tension of defection in the Senate as being speculated.
“We have our plenary without any mention of defection, but the point is that all matters that are brought to the Senate will be dealt with on the floor, in accordance with the laws and rules that guides debates in the Senate,” he said.
Abaribe also said notwithstanding the fact that political activities in the build up to the 2015 elections would be heating up the polity, the Senate would not allow itself to be distracted from its primary responsibility to Nigerians.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan has appointed former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, as the chairman of Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Pius Anyim, conveyed the appointment in a statement made available to newsmen in Abuja, on Tuesday.
Anyim, in the statement, also announced the appointment of Dr Ghaji Ismaila Bello as Director-General, National Population Commission (NPC), with effect from January 8, 2014.
Tukur, it will be recalled, resigned his position as national chairman of PDP last week and had since been replaced with ex-Bauchi State governor, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu.
The position of NRC chairman was formerly held by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, former factional chairman of PDP, who had since led his faction to fuse into the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Baraje resigned as chairman of the corporation in the height of the PDP crisis late 2013.
It will be recalled that President Jonathan, at a meeting where Tukur’s resignation as national chairman of PDP was announced, said “Tukur is not guilty of any offence and I am going to give him an assignment that is tougher than PDP chairman.”
In another development, Tukur has congratulated the new national chairman of PDP, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, describing his appointment as “a call to serve the fatherland.”
Tukur, in a message he personally signed, in Abuja, said the emergence of Alhaji Mu’azu was a manifestation of his unique leadership abilities.
In 2010 millions of American Tea Party constitutionalists, to include the GOP’s Christianbase, united in a remarkable grassroots effort to rein in our unbridled federal government and return it to its expressly limited constitutional confines. As a result, an unprecedented number of counter-constitutionalist lawmakers (read: liberal Democrats) were swept from office.
The Obama administration wasn’t going to take this lying down. Whether it was by tacit approval or via direct order remains largely immaterial. The president quickly and unlawfully politicized the Internal Revenue Service, using it as a weapon against his political enemies. In an explosive scandal that continues to grow, the Obama IRS was caught – smoking gun in hand – intentionally targeting conservative and Christian organizations and individuals for harassment, intimidation and, ultimately, for political destruction.
Not only has Obama faced zero accountability for these arguably impeachable offenses, he has since doubled down. With jaw-dropping gall, his administration has now moved to officially weaponize the IRS against conservatives once and for all.
Despite the furor over the IRS assault on conservative groups leading up to the 2012 elections, this man – a despotic radical who’s turned our constitutional republic into one of the banana variety – has quietly released a proposed set of new IRS regulations that, if implemented, will immediately, unlawfully and permanently muzzle conservative 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations and their individual employees. (The 501(c)(4) designation refers to the IRS code section under which social welfare organizations are regulated).
The new regulations would unconstitutionally compel a 90-day blackout period during election years in which conservative 501(c)(4) organizations – such as Tea Party, pro-life and pro-family groups – would be banned from mentioning the name of any candidate for office, or even the name of any political party.
Here’s the kicker: As you may have guessed, liberal lobbying groups like labor unions and trade associations are deliberately exempted. And based on its partisan track record, don’t expect this president’s IRS to lift a finger to scrutinize liberal 501(c)(4)s. Over at a Obama’s “Organizing for America,” the left-wing political propaganda will, no doubt, flow unabated.
These Orwellian regulations will prohibit conservative 501(c)(4) organizations from using words like “oppose,” “vote,” or “defeat.” Their timing, prior to a pivotal election, is no coincidence and provides yet another example of Obama’s using the IRS for “progressive” political gain.
Although these restrictions only apply to 501(c)(4) organizations for now, under a straightforward reading, they will also clearly apply to 501(c)(3) organizations in the near future.
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel Action – one of the many conservative organizations to be silenced – commented on the breaking scandal: “One of the core liberties in our constitutional republic is the right to dissent,” he said. “But desperate to force his radical agenda on the American people, Barack Obama and his chosen political tool, the IRS, are now trying to selectively abridge this right, effectively silencing their political adversaries.”
Specifically, here’s what the proposed regulations would do to conservative groups and their leaders:
Prohibit using words like “oppose,” “vote,” “support,” “defeat,” and “reject.”
Prohibit mentioning, on its website or on any communication (email, letter, etc.) that would reach 500 people or more, the name of a candidate for office, 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election.
Prohibit mentioning the name of a political party, 30 days before a primary election and 60 days before a general election, if that party has a candidate running for office.
Prohibit voter registration drives or conducting a non-partisan “get-out-the-vote drive.”
Prohibit creating or distributing voter guides outlining how incumbents voted on particular bills.
Prohibit hosting candidates for office at any event, including debates and charitable fundraisers, 30 days before a primary election or 60 days before the general election, if the candidate is part of the event’s program.
Restrict employees of such organizations from volunteering for campaigns.
Prohibit distributing any materials prepared on behalf a candidate for office.
Restrict the ability of officers and leaders of such organizations to publicly speak about incumbents, legislation, and/or voting records.
Restrict the ability of officers and leaders of such organizations to make public statements regarding the nomination of judges.
Create a 90-day blackout period, on an election year, that restricts the speech of 501(c)(4) organizations.
Declare political activity as contrary to the promotion of social welfare.
Protect labor unions and trade associations by exempting them from the proposed regulations.
Continued Staver: “We would be restricted in promoting conservative values, such as protecting our constitutional rights against these very kind of Executive Branch infringements.
“We would even be prohibited from criticizing the federal bureaucracy. If this new set of regulations goes into effect, Liberty Counsel Action – all conservative 501(c)(4)s for that matter – will be forbidden to ‘oppose’ or ‘support’ anything in the political arena and we’ll be prohibited from conducting our ‘get-out-the vote’ campaigns or issuing our popular voter guides.
“Further,” continue Staver, “individual employees of conservative groups will be banned from speaking or messaging on incumbents, legislation, and/or voting records – or speaking on the nominations of judges or political nominees being considered by the Senate. This also includes taking on state and local politicians.”
“These are the same tactics used by the Obama administration to illegally target conservative 501(c)(4) organizations during the last two election cycles, only now the strategy has been greatly intensified and formalized.
“You may recall that former President Richard Nixon was famously forced to resign for improperly using Executive Branch assets for political purposes.
“Rather than preparing a solid defense to confront these serious allegations, a brazen Barack Obama has chosen instead to reconfigure his illegal tactics into a set of ‘regulations’ on nonprofits, opening the door for an IRS crackdown on select organizations,” Staver concluded.
Indeed, once caught abusing his executive authority to target the very U.S. citizens he’s sworn to serve, even a nominally honorable man would immediately reverse course, resign and accept the consequences of his illegal actions.
Also, please sign this petition to the Senate Committee on Finance, Taxation and IRS Oversight to ensure that all 501(c)(4) organizations formed to promote conservative values will be treated fairly by the IRS.
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
Matt Barber (@jmattbarber on Twitter) is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war.
Coburn described the launching of Obamacare as one of the most devastating blows to the rule of law and he accused President Barack Obama of changing his signature achievement “according to whim” without regard to any legal or constitutional constraints that might be involved. He also wrote that the most troubling aspect of the president’s behavior in pushing the law on the American public was his promise that people would be able to keep their current insurance plans and doctors.
“We now know that the administration was aware that these claims were false, yet Mr. Obama continued to make them, repeatedly,” Coburn said.
Even though the president “apologized in part for his statements,” it sent a message to politicians that “message discipline” is the name-of-the-game if it helps “to win an election or achieve a short-term political goal.”
“When a misleading message ultimately clashes with reality, the result is dissonance and conflict,” the Oklahoma senator argued. “In a republic, deception is destructive.”
Coburn took a hard swipe at Democrats in Congress as well, calling Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid‘s successful effort to do away with the 60-vote threshold for moving most presidential nominations an outright power grab “to undo 200 years of precedent that requires a supermajority to change Senate rules.”
“To speed the approval of executive appointments and judicial nominations, Sen. Reid resorted to raw political power, forcing a vote (52-48) that allows the Senate majority to change the rules whenever it wants,” Coburn complained. “In a republic, if majorities can change laws or rules however they please, you’re on the road to life with no rules and no laws.”
Coburn concluded by noting that if Americans are truly fed up, as he is, with the way Washington works these days, then they should make use of the elections this year to make some changes.
“If you don’t like the rulers you have, you don’t have to keep them,” he wrote.
In a bid to ensure that his new party (All Progressives Congress) APC completely takes over the political structure of Imo State in the next dispensation, Governor Rochas Okorocha has endorsed business mogul, Chief Felix Idiga for the Orlu Senatorial seat come 2015.
Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State
Orlu senatorial seat is currently being occupied by senator Hope Uzodinma, of the peoples democratic party PDP, and is also the senatorial district of Governor Okorocha.
African Examinergathered that the recent endorsement of the business tycoon by the governor, has forced Secretary to the Imo State government, Prof. Anthony Anwukah, who was initially nursing similar ambition to shelve it.
Only recently, at a public forum the Imo state scribe, had openly stepped down his much touted senatorial ambition, to enable Chief Idiga clinch the seat.
Chief Idiga, will be doing battle with the incumbent senator representing the zone, Chief Hope Uzodinma, member representing Ideato State Constituency, Mrs. Eudora Igwe (Okwesilieze) as well as many others, who are also interested in the seat at the upper chamber of the National Assembly.
Speaking Monday during the grand finale of Chief Idiga’s empowerment scheme at Amaifeke, Orlu, Governor Okorocha described Chief Idiga as a genuine businessman who has used his wealth to attract developmental projects to every nook and cranny of Imo State.
Represented by his Chief of Staff, Sir Jude Ejiogu, the Governor, said, “It’s important we acknowledge our sons that are genuine. There are too many fakes who use government offices to cover up. We must not allow such people to continue.”
“Idiga, has used his personal money to develop Orlu, Oguta, Mbaise, Emekuku, Mbano, name them. If he can do much using his private resources, you can imagine what will happen when he represents you. You have to ensure absolute freedom by supporting him.
“He is the kind of people Orlu people will send to the Senate to be able to get their due share from the federal government, not those who will use your money to buy Range Rover Jeeps for big men while those who voted them into office continue to wallow in poverty”.
In his remarks, at the event, the SSG, who was former Vice Chancellor of the Imo State University (IMSU), said he decided to drop his ambition to enable a more capable person represent the zone.
According to Prof. Anwukah, as a private person, Chief Idiga had outclassed most elected representatives in terms of providing infrastructural development.
“But, some of our brothers are in Abuja, collecting our money without working for us. We definitely need a change because a bad man is a bad man any day”.
In his speech, Chief Idiga said he had attracted over 50 roads and electricity projects to the state especially, Orlu Zone.
He regretted that most of those roads had been claimed in the papers by some Abuja-based politicians as their achievements in the last three years.
Apparently alluding to Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chief Idiga said I’m a genuine businessman. I fought hard for every thing I have. “We’re not coming to dash our people dollars, but we’re coming to help them make the dollars. If God helps us, our children will be source of livelihood for their parents”.
Chief Idiga who had been empowering thousands of the people of the zone through his foundation, called JAFAC, stated that, the essence was not political, but to assist in reducing poverty in the land.
NevadaSen. Dean Heller has raised eyebrows among his Republican colleagues by putting his name to a bill to extend unemployment benefits to 1.3 million jobless Americans.
Co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the legislation fails to offset the costs of the welfare with any proposed cuts to the federal budget — so breaking GOP pledges to keep entitlements and government spending down.
Republicans have argued that they will vote against extending benefits unless other cuts are put forward to counter the cost of the unemployment benefits.
The object of the emergency bill is to give the government time to come up with a comprehensive plan to make changes to the program and find ways to pay for it.
The benefits available to workers unemployed for 26 weeks or more are set to expire on Saturday.
Democrats had hoped to include a one-year extension to the benefits, at a cost of $25 billion, to the two-year federal budget, which was negotiated by the Senate and House finance committee chairs, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
But the extension was omitted from the legislation, which was signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama during his Christmas vacation in Hawaii.
Heller and Reed have a particular interest in the unemployment problem because their two states have the highest jobless rates in the country. Extensions to unemployment benefits are given to jobless workers in states with the worst unemployment rates, with Nevadans eligible for the maximum 73 weeks, says the Las Vegas Sun.
On Reed’s official website, Heller said, “Providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government. As Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs.
“I am pleased to join Senator Reed on this legislation, which aims to help people across the nation who have fallen on hard times.”
Reed said he had introduced the “emergency spending” measure so that the unemployed aren’t “cut off, thrown off the cliff starting literally this week.” He suggested that a year-long extension of jobless benefits could be paid for by closing tax loopholes and reducing offshore tax breaks.
The legislation has already received the support of leading Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Reid said he was “pleased and proud of my colleague Sen. Dean Heller” for introducing “a good bill, and it deserves a vote.”
And White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett has declared that Obama’s administration “strongly support” the bill, adding, “We think it’s very important; we think they’ve made a very good case for it.” She also said the president would help “galvanize support for it.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is ready to take on the tea party in 2014 Senate primaries and elections with a deep-pocketed boost of establishment and business Republican candidates.
“Our No. 1 focus is to make sure, when it comes to the Senate, that we have no loser candidates,” Chamber strategist Scott Reed told The Wall Street Journal. “That will be our mantra: No fools on our ticket.”
The financial support, which The Hill reported would pour at least $50 million into the campaigns of centrist GOP candidates, is part of an aggressive approach toward tea party Republicans since the 16-day October government shutdown.
The Chamber — which hasn’t usually gotten involved in GOP primaries — is airing ads for Rep. Mike Simpson in Idaho, where he faces a tea party-backed challenger in his race for a ninth House term.
Hard-right candidates’ blunders are perceived to have cost the GOP five Senate seats in recent years, The Hill reported.
Republicans, for example, lost Senate elections in Indiana and Missouri after conservative candidates made controversial comments about abortion and rape that hurt their support, particularly among women.
The Chamber could also toss its influence into upcoming Senate races in Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina, where tea party candidates are challenging, The Hill reported.
Meanwhile, the head of Heritage Action is vowing to challenge GOP leaders on a number of fiscal issues — and to keep active with grassroots activists.
“Lawmakers do not have a monopoly on information, and we will continue to communicate directly with their constituents on important legislation as it moves through Congress,” Michael Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation think tank, told the Journal.
He said most lawmakers “will find it difficult to go back home and defend votes that increase spending, increase deficits and undermine the rule of law.”