July 22, 2014
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The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has been very busy over the last few months dealing with spectrum and net neutrality. They have also been busy with another issue, government broadband. In April, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler made his intentions clear to ensure that government broadband would not only be here to stay, but that under his FCC, would flourish. The latest development that began much of the renewed discussion was an amendment that passed the House last week. The amendment was introduced by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) meant to rein in the FCC’s power in their attempt to force states into government broadband expansion. Reacting to Rep. Blackburn’s amendment, there are some who chimed in on this issue siding with Wheeler saying that expansion is important and that critics are wrong. For example, Brian Fung in the Washington Post wrote last week warned of a possible ban on “public internet.” That’s nonsense because nobody is trying to ban anything from the public. The real problem here is that government broadband is a lackluster substitute for a private sector product that not only works better, but actually ends up costing less for the consumer (and taxpayer).
July 21, 2014
This article originally appeared in Breitbart London on July 15, 2014» Read More
Ireland's government recently took steps toward becoming the first EU country to require plain packaging for tobacco products, and the UK would like to follow its lead. In light of recent reports coming out of Australia, the only country to enact the measure, showing the law is not achieving its intended effects, it is paramount these governments reconsider. Free market and taxpayer groups are concerned about the consequences of such extreme laws, not just in terms of health and safety of consumers, but their impact on national treasuries. As reported in the Sun newspaper the UK Government faces a potential compensation bill of between £9-11 billion if it proceeds with the removal of internationally protected trademarks and intellectual property. Already Indonesia is threatening to introduce plain packaging for beers, wines and spirits. And if other countries followed their lead this could have a significant effect on the Britain’s £38 billion alcohol industry which directly employs around 650,000 people. But the Ireland and the UK still have a chance to stop this bad policy.
July 17, 2014
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Whether it is the Environmental Protection Agency ‘s (EPA) ‘sue & settle’ or the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) proposed rules on ‘net neutrality’, it seems that the only way that this administration knows how to get things done is through increased regulation and power grabs. Now, Congress is taking aim at one of the more unsettling examples of this abuse of executive power being run through the Department of Justice (DOJ) with Operation Choke Point. In 2013, the DOJ began the program known as Operation Choke Point as an expansion of an existing program born out of the financial crisis designed to tackle fraud in the financial services sector. However, few details were known before this year. But, back in January, Michael Patrick Leahy with Breitbart broke the story wide open and that’s when Congress and the press started to pay attention. More importantly, more questions were asked. More information is being uncovered regarding Operation Choke Point and it isn’t pretty, in fact it’s disconcerting to anyone who is concerned with the types of targeted power that other federal agencies have been employing under the Obama administration.
July 15, 2014
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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler with President Obama (courtesy WhiteHouse.gov)
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has long been warning against ‘net neutrality’ and increased regulatory initiatives on the Internet stressing the belief that a light regulatory footprint by the government is what has allowed for such innovation and expansive commerce and economic output by way of the Internet. Today, TPA President David Williams submitted a public comment (view here) regarding a draft proposal for new rules on open Internet policy from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) including the possibility of a reclassification of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) under Title II, which would most certainly result in more regulation and more government control over the Internet. The FCC has received such a massive amount of feedback from the public on this issue that the comment period has been extended and TPA strongly encourages our supporters to go to the FCC’s website here and submit their own comment for the #14-28 proceeding.
Click 'read more' below to see TPA's comment submission
June 13, 2014
This article originally appeared on Pennlive.com on June 12, 2014
Fiscally responsible states look for ways to balance their budget without raising taxes. With Pennsylvania struggling to make its budgets balance, the state Legislature's consideration of a proposal to legalize online poker in the state has been welcomed by many residents who see it as a way of funding key priorities without raising taxes. The Legislature is expected to make a decision by the end of the month, but if some in Congress have their way, Pennsylvania could be stripped of the right to make this decision for itself. Federal legislation has been introduced at the behest of Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson that would outlaw all online gaming in America. The bill is an egregious overreach of federal authority that would trample states' rights, setting a dangerous precedent that would block important consumer protections and choices. Adelson, a Nevada resident, doesn't think that Pennsylvania has the right to govern itself and make its own decisions. Powers that are not expressly granted to the federal government in the Constitution are reserved for the states. The regulation of gaming is not a federally enumerated right, leaving each state to make its own determination about and to regulate gaming within its own borders. This has long been the case for brick and mortar casinos and online gaming should be no different.
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May 30, 2014
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The FCC recently held an open meeting and The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) reiterated our problems with ‘net neutrality’ and increased regulatory measures on the Internet in a post you can read here. One point that TPA continues to focus on is that the Internet has continued to thrive as government has kept a light regulatory touch on the Internet. Keeping that concern in mind, TPA signed onto a coalition letter sent by Americans for Tax Reform and signed by American Commitment, American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Center for Individual Freedom, Digital Liberty, FreedomWorks, Institute for Liberty, Institute for Policy Innovation, Less Government, MediaFreedom, National Taxpayers Union, and NetCompetition urging Congress to do their part in making sure the FCC not rush any new proposals on Net Neutrality going forward. As the failure of just one website was the crowning achievement of the federal government’s work on Obamacare, it is frightening to think what the government could do with regulatory power over an entire Internet complete with over 800 million working websites.
Click 'read more' below to read the letter
May 20, 2014
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FCC Commissioners (L-R: Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler,
Jessica Rosenworcel & Michael O’Rielly)
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) held an open meeting and made news by voting to move forward on a proposal for Net Neutrality that opens the door to a government-regulated Internet. The proposed rules risk harming innovation and incentives that have helped the web thrive for nearly two decades. Unfortunately, the new proposal on regulating the Internet wasn’t the only poor decision to come out of the FCC’s open meeting last Thursday. The rules for the upcoming spectrum incentive auction were voted on, and in another 3-2 decision the vote could not have been worse for those hoping the FCC would take a free-market approach regarding the auction because the FCC limited who could bid for what spectrum. Any spectrum auction should be open to all who want to bid and the spectrum should go to the highest bidder so taxpayers can reap the biggest benefit from the sale. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been examining the issue of wireless spectrum for some time. The underlying fact about spectrum is that the government owns most of the wireless spectrum that is available right now, and they really don’t need to have as much as they do for public safety and emergency purposes. TPA has always recognized the role that the FCC and the Congress must play when it comes to wireless spectrum and how it would be best made available to consumers in order to service wireless customers better, encourage growth in business, and ultimately benefit taxpayers when the spectrum is sold in auction. Just last month, TPA submitted acomment to the House Energy & Commerce Committee discussing these very concerns.
May 14, 2014
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President Obama announces nomination of Tom Wheeler to run the FCC
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has warned against ‘net neutrality’ and increased regulatory measures on the Internet and stressed the point that the Internet has continued to thrive as government has kept a light regulatory touch on the Internet. Quick reacting business and free market forces will continue to keep the Internet thriving, and slow unresponsive government bureaucracies are clearly not the way forward as innovation continues to be a hallmark of the Internet. A new regulatory regime for the Internet would stifle that innovation and cost taxpayers millions of dollars tied up in a newly-created bureaucracy. With the abysmal failure of the federal government to create one website for Obamacare, there is no reason why taxpayers should think that the federal government would do any better regulating the whole Internet, that currently has more than 800 million websites. Just a few months ago, TPA applauded major parts of a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Verizon vs. the FCC, which threw out the net neutrality rules imposed by the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, it appears the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Obama Administration were not going to give up on net neutrality simply because they lost in the courts. The current chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, recently announced that he is drafting a new set of rules for net neutrality and is seeking approval from commissioners and comments from the public, all while promising that these new rules will pass the test in the judicial system.
May 2, 2014
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This article originally appeared in The Daily Caller on April 30, 2014
President Obama has broken many promises during his first and second terms in office. But, in a sad twist of irony for taxpayers and energy production, the president is intent on keeping one of his 2008 campaign promises, to bankrupt coal plants and force electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.” After legislative attempts to pass cap-and-trade failed in the Democrat-controlled Congress in 2009, the president made clear that “cap-and-trade was just one way to skin the cat.” The other way: have unelected bureaucrats and attorneys at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate coal out of business.The EPA has since taken measures to stop coal plant production by requiring new plants to use cost-prohibitive carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology – tech that is only affordable with large taxpayer subsidies. The only plant currently under construction with CCS will receive $400 million in grants and federal tax credits to offset the more than $1 billion price tag for what is unproven technology. That model is unsustainable. Now, the EPA is working on round two of its regulatory assault, which “would put limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants.” Already, the Department of Energy estimates that EPA’s earlier power plant rule could force several hundred coal-powered electricity plants to close. The result: 32 million households would find themselves without a reliable source of energy production. By 2025, the situation will become more dire as nearly all coal plants will be forced out of business, robbing 33 states of 44,000 megawatts of electricity.
April 28, 2014
Washington, D.C. – The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) joined other leading conservative and free market organizations in sending a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees opposing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (H.R. 4301). The legislation would ban Internet Gambling, a decision that should be left to the states. TPA has many concerns with the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which would essentially ban Internet gaming across the country. This legislation goes too far by interjecting the federal government in what has traditionally been a state issue. Additionally, the legislation would not stop online gambling and would instead embolden criminals to prey on consumers in a black market that is typically operated abroad with little oversight. TPA encourages the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to stand strong against this gross overreach by the federal government. This legislation is also a backdoor attempt to regulate the Internet.» Read More
click read more below to see TPA's press release & the coalition letter
April 4, 2014
The power of federal agencies has been expanding in some very troubling and controversial ways over the last several years and Taxpayers Protection Alliance has been deeply concerned with this trend and the examples that should give taxpayers great pause can be seen with the continued scandal involving Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) targeting, and increasing regulatory power from the Environmental Agency (EPA). Recently, another agency has been looking to increase their power over the public and in this case it appears to be an attack on first amendment rights. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is undertaking certain attempts at process reform and while there is some merit to aspects of what they are looking to reform, there is major problem. Hidden in the reforms is an attempt to force any outside organization (like TPA) who decides to submit public comments on FCC policy to disclose their donors. Many groups on all sides feel troubled by such a move that smacks in the face of free speech, and in a joint effort, TPA and Americans for Tax Reform sent this letter, cosigned by American Commitment, American Conservative Union, American Legislative Exchange Council - Task Force on Communications and Technology, Americans for Job Security, Center for Freedom and Prosperity, Center for Individual Freedom, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizen Outreach, Digital Liberty, Freedom Works, Frontiers of Freedom, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Illinois Policy Action, Institute for Liberty, Institute for Policy Innovation, Less Government, The Maine Heritage Policy Center, MediaFreedom.org, National Taxpayers Union, Public Interest Institute, R Street, Rio Grande Foundation, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, TheTeaparty.net, individually Kevin McLaughlin and Bruce Weber urging the the FCC to drop this piece of process reform. There have been attempts in the past by Congress to regulate political/policy speech, and we’ve seen the IRS target opponents based on ideology. This appears to be yet another attempt at silencing discourse amongst those who may feel compelled to voice their opposition regarding a change in public policy at the federal agency level. This is something that definitely does not fall under the heading of “reform” and should be halted immediately.» Read More
click 'read more' below to read the full letter
March 14, 2014
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President Obama & Taoiseach Enda Kenny
The annual celebration of one of the most famous Saints is nearing, and along with the festivities that many will enjoy, there is much to celebrate about the land that gives us the greenest of yearly holidays, St. Patrick’s Day! Ireland is to be commended for their foresight to encourage commerce and business through free-market principles, and it shows with each company that makes a move to do business in the land of Saints and Scholars. Unfortunately, for all the pro-business, pro-consumer, pro-taxpayer aspects of Ireland and their system of commerce, there is something brewing that may be cause for holding off on the weekend festivities. There appears to be a movement toward adopting an anti-business, anti-consumer, and anti-free market tactic known as ‘plain packaging’; and TPA is gravely concerned and deeply disappointed with this development. The impact felt by the United States business community at large by plain packaging is particularly important considering the timely visit to the US by the leader of the Irish government that began Thursday. Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Ireland’s Prime Minister) arrived yesterday and plans to meet with the President, Vice-President, and Congress thru the weekend. The trip is focused on several issues, including Ireland’s reinvigorating economic outlook.
Congress Watch: The Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development Act Cuts Red Tape & BureaucracyJoe Jansen on
March 10, 2014
(Joe Jansen has a decade and a half of experience working as a staff member on Capitol Hill. He has worked in almost every legislative capacity in both the House and Senate. Joe will be a frequent contributor to TPA’s blog.)Progress on most issues does not occur by leaps and bounds. It is often a series of small steps. The steps are not sexy and most major news outlets do not really consider them all that newsworthy. But, these small steps can make a big difference. By passing the Responsibly And Professionally Invigorating Development Act (RAPID), the House took a small step forward in cutting government red tape and bureaucracy that frustrates and delays many construction projects. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) declared that the Federal government cares about the environment. And, because it cares, anytime it is involved in a project, it will work with state and local governments to assess the project’s environmental impact. When federal money is provided for a project or a federal permit or license is required, an agency must review the project (a “NEPA Review”) and produce one of three documents. The most problematic is the environmental impact statement (EIS). Among other things, the EIS requires the “lead agency” to “scope” out a project, identifying all stakeholders and significant issues that will arise. It then requires the agency to consider and evaluate alternatives. Each alternative must be explored in detail and the EIS must explain why one alternative is better than the other. Before finalizing the EIS, the agency must seek comments from stakeholders and other agencies and respond to these comments in the final document. According to the Judiciary Committee’s report accompanying the RAPID Act, a study was conducted between 1998 and 2006 of publicly available EIS documents. It found that “the time to prepare an EIS . . . ranged from 51 days to . . .18.4 years. The average time for all Federal entities was 3.4 years” and “EIS completion time increased by 37 days each year.” Delays in construction projects cost more than time. These delays can add significant costs to projects and sometimes kill projects altogether. Most importantly, these delays slow economic growth and cost jobs. » Read More
Retransmission Consent, STELA Reauthorization, and the Future of Outdated '92 Cable Act Soon to Take Center Stage on Capitol HillMichi Iljazi on
March 5, 2014
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The storms that have been brewing in Washington, DC over the last several weeks have not been limited to just the weather. There are dozens of issues that elected officials are looking to take on in the coming months and with everything on the table. One issue in particular that will be taking center stage is retransmission consent. This term may not seem familiar or important, but many Americans have felt the wrath of retransmission consent when there is a threatened blackout of a sporting event because of a breakdown in contract negotiations between a network and a cable or satellite provider. Retransmission consent shows us why the video marketplace, like several other key areas in the market, is in dire need of an update when it comes to the rules and guidelines in the arena. The issue will be headed for hearing rooms on Capitol Hill very soon and it is important to understand why the update is needed in the first place. The year 1992 was 24 years ago. One of the more popular movies was The Mighty Ducks and Boyz II Men’s End Of The Road was a popular song. That same year the Cable Act was passed. The Cable Act of 1992 gave broadcasters an advantage in negotiations with monopoly cable providers, granting broadcasters the right to choose between guaranteed carriage or insisting that multichannel video programming distributors (cable and satellite providers) obtain and pay for a station’s consent to retransmit the station to local subscribers. There is no doubt much has changed in movie and music taste in the more than two decades since. Much has also changed in the cable industry. In fact, cable television is just one of many options to have video content delivered. It is time for the Cable Act of 1992, which contains an inherit advantage for broadcasters due to rules that were put in place at a time when so much was different in the video marketplace than what exists today, to be updated to fit the standards and components of today’s technologies and market forces. The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) was passed by both chambers of Congress in 2010 and renewed the blanket license allowing “satellite operators to deliver distant signals to subscribers who cannot get a viewable signal from their local affiliate.”
February 26, 2014
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Infographic above shows how LEED standards discriminate against Forestry
The Taxpayers Protection Alliance has highlighted how the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building certification system increases construction costs without guaranteeing greater energy efficiency. TPA has also explained how policies enforcing LEED standards unfairly discriminate against timber harvested from millions of acres of responsibly managed American forestland. Specifically, LEED standards award a credit for certified wood to encourage sound management of forests. LEED, however, only recognizes timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an international organization with standards that vary greatly. As a general matter, its standards are more stringent in the U.S., while significantly less stringent abroad – where 90 percent of FSC’s certified land can be found. Competing programs such as the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) enforce uniform standards, but they are not recognized by LEED, and timber harvested from forests certified by SFI and ATFS can get blocked from LEED projects. It doesn’t make sense how an organization or government agency can defend a framework that considers wood harvested in (and transported from) Russia and Brazil under lax standards more “green” than wood harvested in the U.S. under stricter standards. Taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing public building and renovation projects that use foreign timber while discriminating against American wood.
February 25, 2014
IRS HQ in Washington, D.C.
A public comment was submitted yesterday by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance regarding the new proposed rule which aims to codify political targeting that the IRS engaged in over a period of the previous two elections. The deadline for comment submission regarding this rule is Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 11:59 PM EST. TPA encourages everyone to go to this link and submit a comment. This was also the topic of discussion in the second half of TPA's podcast 'Taxpayer Watch' yesterday, you can listen here.
To read the comment, click 'read more' below » Read More
February 21, 2014
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From selling wireless spectrum that is in great demand by wireless companies and consumers (which could net taxpayers billions of dollars) to trying to pursue misguided net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has quite a bit of work to do in the coming years and will be under the spotlight. Now, a recent announcement by Comcast that it would be buying Time-Warner for an estimated $45 billion is another agenda item for the FCC. The merger raised many eyebrows within the public and private sector and the fight ahead to push the merger through is one that will be filled with regulatory hoops that underscore just how deeply involved the government is when it comes to all things business. In today’s economy it is clear that we are still seeing slow growth and the most recent jobs report confirmed the worst fears about an economy stuck in neutral. Much of the problem comes from the massive amount of regulations that have been thrust upon businesses over the last several years and those regulations will no doubt have a major impact as this merger makes it’s way through the approval process. There are many experts who have looked at the deal and have concluded that the Obama Administration should not stand in the way and allow it to proceed.
February 13, 2014
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Earmarks, Obamacare, telecommunications, and taxation are just a few issues that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) deals with that are multi-layered and have an impact on many levels and affect many individuals. Internet gambling is another issue that has a multi-faceted impact; it affects consumers, taxpayers, states’ rights, the economy, and Internet commerce. TPA is concerned that any move to restrict Internet gambling at the federal level would be a detriment to states who may want to allow online gambling; and there is also the real possibility that any action taken at the federal level on this issue could lay the groundwork for increased regulatory power by the federal government, specifically regulations targeting the Internet. Now, a Nevada coalition of gambling companies are pushing for legislation that aims to “fix” the 1961 law and a new draft bill has surfaced online that may be the outline for a larger House bill on internet gambling coming soon. This legislation does contain carve-outs, and that could portend specific cases of special treatment to certain industry groups that may otherwise be impacted by an overall internet gambling ban. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is the key player at the federal level in this battle. Senator Reid is one of the most powerful people in Washington, and he represents a state that is ground zero for legalized gambling in the nation. He is no stranger to using his power to ensure that his state gets special treatment so long as it fits his interests and agenda. It’s not a coincidence that the same Senator who secured a $1, 117,125 earmark to study ‘Mormon Crickets’ may be looking for ways to pass a law that would ensure his state’s supremacy in the gambling industry.
December 3, 2013
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Several months have passed since taxpayers found out that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had been engaging in the political targeting of non-profit groups based simply on their ideology and now two major developments have put this scandal back into the spotlight. In case a refresher is needed, in May of this year, it was revealed that systematic targeting of non-profits by IRS officials in Cincinnati,Ohio was ongoing for what turned out to be political purposes. The inappropriate and possibly criminal targeting of non-profit groups had been happening under the knowledge officials in Washington, D.C., not just Cincinnati. An Inspector General’s report detailed that the IRS Agents selectively targeted nearly 500 groups simply for political reasons, completely disregarding the standards and guidelines that have been clearly laid out for these processes. Fast forward to last week, as two new tidbits into this continuing story became available to the public: the lack of any investigation into the possible illegal activity at the IRS; and the call for a troubling new set of rules on non-profits designed to hinder political speech. In a disappointing week for those concerned with the amount of power the IRS has over individuals and the fact they have clearly abused that power to the point where public confidence in the agency has cratered, it was made apparent that the Department of Justice has been slow-walking their investigation into what exactly happened regarding the political targeting of groups seeking tax-exempt status.
November 14, 2013
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It’s been more than a month since the rollout of Obamacare. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been warning taxpayers for years even before the law was implemented. The October 1st launch of the Obamacare website saw some initial ‘glitches’ but for the most part the media coverage was minimal due to the competing story in DC about the government shutdown. However, a funny thing happened on the way to November, as the website “glitches” actually became serious deficiencies and soon the problems with the website began to expose the serious flaws in the preparation of this massive overhaul as well as the enormous cost to taxpayers. Unfortunately for Americans across the country, the website was just a preview of the pain that Obamacare would inflict on the public. And now, six weeks later, that pain is being felt by millions of taxpayers and there doesn’t seem to be a happy ending anywhere near in sight. First, let’s look at the cost to taxpayers for the federal exchanges. A recent report by Peter Gosselin in Bloomberg Government shows that the cost to build, as well as the late surge before the launch, and now bringing in new experts to help fix what isn’t working right, now shows that taxpayers footed more than $1 billion for the construction and subsequent fixes to the Obamacare website.