We’re Waiting … Will Sen. Heller Vote NAY on Yet Another High Profile Female?

Senate Republicans Must Stop Delaying Attorney General Confirmation

— by CAP Action War Room

It has been 124 days since Loretta Lynch was nominated to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General. In that time, the 50th anniversary of Selma reminded us that we have a long way to go to achieve equal voting rights; Ferguson re-entered the news with a report detailing egregious racism in the police department and its repercussions; a new coalition of groups working on criminal justice demonstrated a bipartisan commitment to reform; and a moving tribute at the Grammy awards proved that these issues go far beyond politics.

In all of these issues, the Department of Justice plays a vital role. And its head, as the top law enforcement officer in the United States, leads the way. Ms. Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, is a highly qualified nominee for the position. While some Republicans used her confirmation hearing as a chance to voice their out-of-touch views on President Obama’s recent immigration action or the departing Attorney General, she excelled in answering questions and impressing a bipartisan group of Senators.

So what is the hold up? Here are 5 reasons to quit delaying and confirm Loretta Lynch as Attorney General.

  1. She has been more than fully vetted. On top of her confirmation hearings, Lynch submitted detailed responses to 900 written questions and met individually with at least 59 senators.
  2. She is a proven, well-qualified leader. Lynch has a proven record of prosecuting hate crimes and corruption, and a reputation of being committed to protecting human rights and ensuring equal opportunity.
  3. She has a wide array of support. Senators from both sides of the aisle support Lynch, along with 25 former U.S. Attorneys from Republican and Democratic administrations. Rudy Giuliani said, “if I were in the Senate, I would confirm her.” Rudy Giuliani!
  4. She has waited longer than any other Attorney General nominee. Loretta Lynch’s nomination has been pending for 124 days, more than a month longer than any other in history
  5. She would make history. Loretta Lynch would make history by being the first African-American woman to become Attorney General. What better way for the Senate to celebrate Women’s History Month and the legacy of Selma than to confirm Lynch.

Bonus: The movie Goodfellas was based on one of Loretta Lynch’s cases. She’s got what it takes.

BOTTOM LINE: When issues of racial inequality, voting rights, criminal justice, and more are front and center in our nation’s dialogue, it is no time to be playing games with our nation’s top law enforcement officer. Loretta Lynch has proven herself, and the Senate has had ample time to deliberate. Now its time to bring the nomination to the floor, and vote to confirm.

 


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.  Like CAP Action on Facebookand follow us on Twitter.

Finally, a Republican Who Makes Sense—Sensenbrenner

Rep. Sensenbrenner

Yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder asked a Federal court in the state of Texas to subject the State of Texas to pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. While the US Supreme Court may have struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, they did not repeal the law as a whole. That means the remaining sections of the law are in full force and actions can and may be exercised by the Attorney General of the United States.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) told The Hill on Thursday that critics of the Justice Department’s actions related to the Texas redistricting and voting laws were misrepresenting the facts. “The [Justice] department’s actions are consistent with the Voting Rights Act,” he said, noting that Voting Rights Act still allows challenges to changes that would suppress minority voters.

“Increased litigation will be one of the major consequences of the court’s decision as courts will have to litigate more allegations of voter discrimination under Section 2 and whether jurisdictions should be ‘bailed-in’ to pre-clearance coverage,” he added.

Read the full article at ThinkProgress

Pay Attention Folks — It Was the GOP that Demanded AP be Investigated!

— by Vickie Rock, NV Rural Democratic Caucus, 2013-05-14

Have you been paying attention?  The GOP doesn’t think so and they’re trying to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes with this “AP phone records” announcement, as though their fingerprints weren’t anywhere near this “fiasco.”  Let me refresh your memory by referring back to a few items of note, that happened just about one year ago, when GOP legislators were up in arms about security information published in the media — by the AP — that was way too accurate for their comfort.  In fact, were claiming treasonous breaches in security had been committed and that the security leaks led all the way to the White House.  Thus, they were demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed and that maybe, just maybe, impeachment of Obama was in order for this egregious act :

“This administration cannot be trusted to investigate itself,” Sen John Cornyn (R-TX), said during a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday. “You cannot investigate yourself and not have a conflict of interest.” Sen John McCain (R-AZ) declared:  “I continue to call on the president to immediately appoint a special counsel to fully investigate, and where necessary, prosecute these gravely serious breaches of our national security.”

Here’s a couple of articles to refresh your memories:

Thirty-one GOP senators call for special counsel to investigate security leaks
— by Alexander Bolton, The Hill  – 06/26/12 11:09 AM ET

“The numerous national-security leaks reportedly originating out of the executive branch in recent months have been stunning,” they wrote to Holder.

“If true, they reveal details of some of our nation’s most highly classified and sensitive military and intelligence matters, thereby risking our national security, as well as the lives of American citizens and our allies. If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it,” they wrote.

GOP lawmakers even went so far as to name just ‘who’ might be responsible — National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon.  Among those signing the letter circulated by Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) were Senators:  John McCain (AZ), Mitch McConnell (KY), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelley Ayotte (NH), Roy Blunt (MO), John Barrasso (WY), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Susan Collins (Maine), Jim DeMint (SC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and John Thune (SD).

GOP senators press Holder for special prosecutor into potential national security leaks
Published June 26, 2012, FoxNews.com

Fox’s take on just exactly ‘who’ might be at fault was a bit higher on the food chain, claiming that GOP senators were urging “AG Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the White House is responsible for national security leaks.”

Oh, and let’s not forget — the GOP’s letter to AG Eric Holder was sent right around the same time that the GOP-led House was “expected to vote on whether to hold him in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoena requests to provide more documents regarding the Justice Department’s failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.”

Holder launches probe into possible national security leaks
— b
y David Jackson, USA TODAY, 2012-06-09 6:15 AM

AG Eric Holder Friday appointed two U.S. attorneys [Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland] to lead a pair of criminal investigations into possible national security leaks of classified information.  For Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), that wasn’t quite good enough, he wanted a special counsel who could pursue impeachment, if they could snag enough evidence.

So now, advance forward to today, when some of the fruits of their demand for an investigation have reached fruition — and once again — they’re playing yet another game of “pin the blame on the donkey.”

Under sweeping subpoenas, Justice Department obtained AP phone records in leak investigation
— by
Sari Horwitz, Published: May 13. 2013

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of journalists working for the Associated Press as part of a year-long investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a failed al-Qaeda plot last year.  The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material. Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.

You’d think the GOP would be jumping for joy.  NOPE!  They’re pissed that the Administration, particularly, that other black guy, you know, Eric Holder, actually managed to get the job done.

“We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations,” said a statement from Bill Miller, spokesman for the office. “Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media.”

The story at issue included details of a CIA operation in Yemen that foiled an al-Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to set off a bomb on an airplane headed to the United States. The April and May 2012 phone records of the reporters and editor of the story were among the material seized by the Justice Department.

But, those phone records aren’t all that were pursued in the leak investigation.  Numerous senior government officials have been interviewed in connection with the investigation into the AP story. Among those questioned was John O. Brennan, who served as Obama’s counterterrorism adviser before becoming CIA director this year.

The GOP is hoping you won’t remember their fingerprints are all over this one.  So now they’re going to jump up and down, screaming that journalists 1st Amendment rights have been rudely violated as a smokescreen to cover up what they themselves demanded.  And then, they’ll look to see what other impediments they can enact and throw out there to prevent him and any other attorney general from being able to get their jobs done so they can appease their base.

Darrell Issa (R-CA),chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was particularly displeased, saying:  “Coming within a week of revelations that the White House lied to the American people about the Benghazi attacks and the IRS targeted conservative Americans for their political beliefs, Americans should take notice that top Obama administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone,”

Pardon me, but, the Administration (meaning President Obama) didn’t lie about Benghazi and in particular, in the Rose Garden, on nationwide TV actually characterized the events occurring in Benghazi as “acts of terror.”  But apparently the the GOP Dictionary, “acts of terror” and “TERRORISM” are two totally unrelated terms describing events.  In addition, the IRS was merely doing it’s job.  501c3 and 501c4 social service agencies are tax-exempt agencies that do NOT have to disclose their donors.  Given the proliferation of the number of applications the IRS was receiving with either “TEA PARTY” or “PATRIOTS” in their official organizational NAME, and given that the TEA PARTY is a official sub-division of the REPUBLICAN PARTY, the IRS had and has and obligation to assess whether those organizations should be exempted from our nation’s tax laws because of the nature of the social services they provide to our society.  Frankly, in my personal opinion, I believe they erred in a large number of cases, as I’ve seen NO social services being offered, but one helluva lot of partisan-biased political advertising pass across my television screen.

The AP story is related to  just one of the investigations demanded by the GOP  The second “leak investigation” ordered by AG Eric Holder, at their request, involves a New York Times report about the Stuxnet computer worm, which was developed jointly by the United States and Israel to damage nuclear centrifuges at Iran’s main uranium-enrichment plant.

So standby … it ain’t over yet. I can hardly wait to hear what the GOP has to say should one of their precious donors or propagandists are found to have “leaked” sensitive security information and are prosecuted for, of all things, treason!

Too Big to Jail?

— an Op-Ed by Senator Bernie Sanders

We are supposed to be a country of laws. The laws should apply to Wall Street as well as everybody else. So I was stunned when our country’s top law enforcement official recently suggested it might be difficult to prosecute financial institutions that commit crimes because it may destabilize the financial system of our country and the world.

“I am concerned,” Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute — if we do bring a criminal charge — it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

The attorney general was talking about some of the same financial institutions that received billions, and in some cases trillions, of dollars in taxpayer bailouts after their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior plunged the country into a terrible recession. Over my opposition, Congress approved a $700 billion taxpayer bailout of financial institutions that were on the brink of collapse which some in Congress considered “too big to fail.”

In addition, the Federal Reserve provided over $16 trillion in total financial assistance to these same institutions during the financial crisis (which only became public after an amendment I inserted into the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requiring the Fed to disclose this information).

The attorney general’s view seems to be that if you are just a regular person and you commit a crime, you go to jail. But if you are the head of a Wall Street company, your power is so great that a prosecution could have destabilizing consequences with national or even worldwide implications.

In other words, we have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail. That view is unacceptable.

The attorney general’s troubling acknowledgement has revived interest in an idea that is drawing more and more support. It is time to break up too big to fail financial institutions.

The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger today than they were before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis.

U.S. banks have become so big that the six largest financial institutions in this country (J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) today have assets of nearly $9.6 trillion, a figure equal to about two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product. These six financial institutions issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards, over half of all mortgages, control 95 percent of all derivatives held in financial institutions and hold more than 40 percent of all bank deposits in the United States.

I will soon introduce legislation that would give the Treasury secretary 90 days to compile a list of commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and insurance companies that the Treasury Department determines are too big to fail. The affected financial institutions would include “any entity that has grown so large that its failure would have a catastrophic effect on the stability of either the financial system or the United States economy without substantial government assistance.” Within one year after the legislation becomes law, the Treasury Department would be required to break up those banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions identified by the secretary.

Breaking up the too big to fail financial institutions is a notion that has drawn support from some leading figures in the financial community. Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, wrote this: “The safer the individual banks, the safer the financial system. The ultimate destination — an economy relatively free from financial crises — won’t be reached until we have the fortitude to break up the giant banks.” James Bullard, the head of the St. Louis Fed, also weighed in. “I do kind of agree that ‘too big to fail’ is ‘too big to exist.'” Thomas Hoenig, the former Kansas City Fed president, was an early supporter of the idea of breaking up big U.S. banks. “I think [too big to fail banks] should be broken up. And in doing so, I think you’ll make the financial system itself more stable. I think you will make it more competitive, and I think you will have long-run benefits over our current system, which leads to bailouts when crises occur.”

In my view, no single financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of American jobs or to our nation’s economic well-being. No single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure could send the world economy into crisis. And, perhaps most importantly, no institution in America should be above the law. We need to break up these institutions because of the tremendous damage they have done to our economy.

If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.

Medicare Fraud Task Force Nets $452M

OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 2, 2012
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Medicare Fraud Strike Force charges 107 individuals for approximately $452 million in false billing

Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that a nationwide takedown by Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations in seven cities has resulted in charges against 107 individuals, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes involving approximately $452 million in false billing.

Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius were joined in the announcement by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Deputy Director Sean Joyce, Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Gary Cantrell of the HHS Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Dr. Peter Budetti, Deputy Administrator for Program Integrity of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

This coordinated takedown involved the highest amount of false Medicare billings in a single takedown in Strike Force history.

HHS also suspended or took other administrative action against 52 providers following a data-driven analysis and credible allegations of fraud.  The new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, significantly increased HHS’ ability to suspend payments until an investigation is complete.

The joint Department of Justice and HHS Medicare Fraud Strike Force is a multi-agency team of federal, state and local investigators designed to combat Medicare fraud through the use of Medicare data analysis techniques.  More than 500 law enforcement agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG, multiple Medicaid Fraud Control Units, and other state and local law enforcement agencies participated in the takedown.  In addition to making arrests, agents also executed 20 search warrants in connection with ongoing Strike Force investigations.

“The results we are announcing today are at the heart of an administration-wide commitment to protect American taxpayers from health care fraud, which can drive up costs and threaten the strength and integrity of our health care system,” said Attorney General Holder.  “We are determined to bring to justice those who violate our laws and defraud the Medicare program for personal gain.  As today’s takedown reflects, our ongoing fight against health care fraud has never been more coordinated and effective.”

“Today’s arrests send a strong message to criminals that the consequences of committing Medicare fraud are serious,” said HHS Secretary Sebelius.  “In addition to these arrests, we used new authority from the health care law to stop all future payments to 52 health care providers suspected of fraud before they are ever made.  Today’s actions are another example of how the Affordable Care Act is helping the Obama administration fight fraud and strengthen Medicare.”

The defendants charged are accused of various health care fraud-related crimes, including conspiracy to commit health care fraud, health care fraud, violations of the anti-kickback statutes and money laundering.  The charges are based on a variety of alleged fraud schemes involving various medical treatments and services such as home health care, mental health services, psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy, durable medical equipment (DME) and ambulance services.

According to court documents, the defendants allegedly participated in schemes to submit claims to Medicare for treatments that were medically unnecessary and oftentimes never provided.  In many cases, court documents allege that patient recruiters, Medicare beneficiaries and other co-conspirators were paid cash kickbacks in return for supplying beneficiary information to providers, so that the providers could submit fraudulent billing to Medicare for services that were medically unnecessary or never provided.  Collectively, the doctors, nurses, licensed medical professionals, health care company owners and others charged are accused of conspiring to submit a total of approximately $452 million in fraudulent billing.

“As charged in the indictments, these fraud schemes were committed by people up and down the chain of health care providers,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.  “Today’s operations mark the fourth in a series of historic Medicare fraud takedowns over the past two years.  These indictments remind us that Medicare is an attractive target for criminals.  But it should also remind those criminals that they risk prosecution and prison time every time they submit a false claim.”

“Health care fraud is not a victimless crime,” said FBI Deputy Director Joyce.  “Every person who pays for health care benefits, every business that pays higher insurance costs to cover their employees, every taxpayer who funds Medicare—all are victims.  The FBI will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to address health care vulnerabilities, fraud and abuse.  We will use every tool we have to ensure our health care dollars are used to care for the sick—not to line the pockets of criminals.”

“Today more than 200 OIG Special Agents, Forensic Examiners and Analysts have deployed throughout the country to ensure that those responsible for committing Medicare fraud are held accountable,” said HHS-OIG Deputy Inspector General Cantrell.  “OIG is committed to the strike force model and will continue to use advanced data analytics along with traditional investigative methods to root out those who steal from our Medicare program.”

In Miami, a total of 59 defendants, including three nurses and two therapists, were charged today and yesterday for their participation in various fraud schemes involving a total of $137 million in false billings for home health care, mental health services, occupational and physical therapy, DME and HIV infusion.  Two of these 59 defendants were originally charged in April 2012 but were indicted on additional charges today.  In one case, 10 defendants were charged for participating in a fraud scheme at Health Care Solutions Network, which led to approximately $63 million in fraudulent billing for community mental health center (CMHC) services.  Court documents allege that therapists at Health Care Solutions Network were instructed to alter notes and other medical documents to justify CMHC services for beneficiaries who did not need the services.

Seven individuals were charged today in Baton Rouge, La., for participating in a fraud scheme involving $225 million in false claims for CMHC services.  The case represents the largest CMHC-related scheme ever prosecuted by the Strike Force.  According to court documents, the defendants recruited beneficiaries from nursing homes and homeless shelters, some of whom were drug addicted or mentally ill, and provided them with no services or medically inappropriate services.

In Houston, nine individuals, including one doctor and one nurse, were charged today with fraud schemes involving a total of $16.4 million in false billings for home health care and ambulance services.  According to court documents, the owners and operators of four different ambulance companies billed Medicare for ambulance rides that were medically unnecessary.

Eight defendants, including two doctors, were charged in Los Angeles for their roles in schemes to defraud Medicare of approximately $14 million.  In one case, two individuals allegedly billed Medicare for more than $8 million in fraudulent billing for DME.

In Detroit, 22 defendants, including four licensed social workers, were charged for their roles in fraud schemes involving approximately $58 million in false claims for medically unnecessary services, including home health, psychotherapy and infusion therapy.

In Tampa, Fla., a pharmacist was charged with illegal diversion of controlled substances.  One defendant was charged last week in Chicago for his alleged role in a scheme to submit approximately $1 million in false billing to Medicare for psychotherapy services.

The Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and HHS to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.

Since their inception in March 2007, Strike Force operations in nine locations have charged more than 1,330 defendants who collectively have falsely billed Medicare for more than $4 billion.  In addition, the CMS, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

The cases announced today are being prosecuted and investigated by Strike Force teams comprised of attorneys from the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Southern District of Florida, the Eastern District of Michigan, the Southern District of Texas, the Central District of California, the Middle District of Louisiana, the Northern District of Illinois, and the Middle District of Florida, and agents from the FBI, HHS-OIG and state Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

To learn more about HEAT, go to: www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.