Apr 18, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon

Congress

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11Whether They Like It or Not, Every Member of Congress Receives a Monthly Copy of Hustler

Every year since 1983, Hustler founder Larry Flynt has sent 535 copies of his monthly magazine to Capitol Hill – one edition for each member of Congress.

Only members of the executive branch are exempt from Flynt’s routine mailing list.

The magazine and its array of naked women, vulgar comics and articles ranging on topics from politics to sex, arrives in the mail in a plain manila envelope.

It didn’t take long for Congress members to complain about receiving the adult magazine: they first complained about the mailings in 1984, prompting the U.S. Postal Service to ask the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the mailings.

Two years after the complaint, however, the court ruled that they could not order that the mailing be stopped.

In its decision, the court wrote, “Receiving Hustler once each month would not unduly burden a Member of Congress. Members are not forced to read the magazine or other of the mail they receive in volume.”

“We cannot imagine that Congressional offices all lack wastebaskets,” the court continued.

Flynt saw the printing and sending of the magazine as within his First Amendment rights; the court agreed.

“Moses freed the Jews, Lincoln freed the slaves, and I just wanted to free all the neurotics,” Flynt told The Hill in 2011.

The magazine’s monthly arrival in Congressional offices has been received with just about all imaginable reactions. Some, such as Utah Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson, have been outraged.

“It’s insulting behavior on the part of the publisher, but not surprising,” Matheson said in 2006.

Others have reacted more lightheartedly. One staffer remembers telling interns to save every copy of Hustler the office received.

“We eventually gave a coworker the whole year’s supply for Secret Santa and then she would mail them to her boyfriend in Iraq. Certainly one of the least-heralded ways the office supported our troops,” the anonymous staffer explained.

“I ‘forget’ to mention it to interns and wait to watch the look of horror on their face when they open it in a congressional office,” said another worker, who also remained anonymous.

Most of the time, however, the magazine simply ends up in the trash, a fact that comes as no surprise to the people behind Hustler.

As Arthur Sando, a Hustler spokesman, said, “We assume, at this point, that staff members are either reading it or tossing it.”

Sources: http://www.nationaljournal.com, http://www.mediaite.com, http://rt.com

Photo Sources: http://www.reuters.com, http://patdollard.com


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11House Passes Bill To Force President To Enforce Federal Drug Laws

Wednesday, House Republicans passed a bill designed to curtail the Obama administration’s unilateral moves to circumvent laws. The “Enforce the Law Act” passed the House mostly along party lines by a 233-181 vote. 

According to the Rawstory.com, the bill calls into question decisions by the Department of Justice not to challenge states’ marijuana legalization laws. 

Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he will not intervene in states that have legalized marijuana, provided those states maintain an “appropriately strict regulatory system.” Colorado and Washington state both legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012 and 20 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana although federal law still considers the sale of marijuana to be a crime.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., was among four Republicans to introduce the bill that allows Congress to sue the president for failing to execute laws. 

“The Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to write the laws and the Executive to enforce them,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “We don’t pass suggestions. We don’t pass ideas. We pass laws.”

A committee report submitted by Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., another supporter of the bill, specifically addressed the concerns over enforcing drug laws. The report claims that the directive by Holder to U.S. Attorneys amounts to “selective non-enforcement” of an Act of Congress.

“This infringes on Congress’s lawmaking authority by, in effect, amending the flat prohibitions of the [Controlled Substances Act] to permit the possession, distribution, and cultivation of marijuana so long as that conduct is in compliance with state law. This crosses the line between permissible discretionary decisions made by prosecutors on a case-by-case basis and an impermissible suspension of the law by executive fiat,” the report argues.

The bill, though, was passed not just because of concerns over drug laws. Rather it is a reaction by the Republican controlled House to President Obama’s broad use of executive powers recently.

The president has chosen to selectively enforce many laws concerning immigration, marriage, welfare rules, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) according to the Washington Free Beacon.  

The story cites Obama’s decision to move ahead with the “Dream Act” which created a deferred action program to allow young immigrants to stay in the U.S. It also calls attention to the administration’s decisions to delay certain parts of the controversial ACA as the roll-out of mandated healthcare hit snags in implementation. 

Now that it has passed the House the bill doesn’t have much of a future. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said it would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate. President Obama has said he would veto the bill should it make it to his desk.

Sources: Raw Story, Washington Free Beacon

 


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11Congress Has Worked Only 28 Days So Far In 2014

As Congress remains hard at work trying to reform the … wait, scratch that. Congress isn’t hard at work on anything.

Washington Post writer Ed O’Keefe recently decided to see how many days Congress has worked so far this year. He found that legislators have worked about as many days this year as you would expect to see from a part-time employee working a second job.

Congress has worked on just 28 of the 69 days in 2014. The House has met or voted on 22 days, and the Senate on 26.

As terrible as that is, it’s actually an improvement from this time last year, when the House and Senate had must just 19 and 18 times, respectively.

We’re only two and a half months into 2014, and Congress has already taken two week-long breaks. Another break is scheduled for next week. In the three months since Congress cut the unemployment benefits that so many families depend on, they will take three week-long vacations. Must be nice.

A “full” work week for legislators isn’t exactly overwhelming, either. They don’t meet until late Monday afternoon and are done for the week by around 3 p.m. on Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday are their only full work days.

Now might be a good time to contact your representatives and tell them how much you appreciate their tireless work on your behalf. 

Source: Washington Post


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11Poll: John McCain Least Popular Senator In Country

A new Public Policy Polling survey revealed Thursday that Sen. John McCain is the least popular senator in the country, with an approval rating of only 30 percent among Arizona voters.

McCain scored low with both Republicans and Democrats.

Some 44 percent of Arizona voters disapprove of McCain’s job performance and 16 percent aren’t sure, according to the left-leaning poll.

Among fellow Republicans, McCain has only a 35 percent approval rating. Among Democrats, his approval rating is only 29 percent.

Though the Republican senator isn’t up for reelection until 2016, the poll suggests his time as a congressman is up. While he hasn't announced another run, McCain said he is still considering reelection.

McCain has served in the U.S. Congress since 1982. He was elected to the Senate in 1986.

PPP conducted the poll among 870 registered Arizona voters.

Sources: Politico, The Blaze


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11Sen. Mark Warner Wants Justin Bieber Deported

Even though the White House petition to deport Justin Bieber has already met its threshold of 100,000 signatures, Sen. Mark Warner said Tuesday he wanted to add his name to the list.

Warner repetaedly insisted that he had previously not known about the petition but would be willing to add his name.

“As a dad with three daughters, is there some place I can sign?” Warner said in an interview with Rumble in the Morning.

Warner then tweeted a link to the interview, noting that he was definitely not a Belieber.

More than 240,000 people have already signed the petition to deport the Canadian pop star, who was arrested in Florida on charges of a DUI and resisting arrest.

Opposing petitions to keep Bieber in the country have yet to reach the 100,000-signature threshold.

According to a 2013 survey from Public Policy Polling, working to deport Bieber is a smart move for someone running for reelection. The survey showed that 54 percent of voting-age Americans held an unfavorable view of the pop star.

Sources: National Journal, Politico


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11Sandra Fluke Considering Run for Congress

Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student who became an instant celebrity when she was denied the opportunity to testify at a hearing on Obamacare’s contraception requirements, is strongly considering running for Congress.

“I’m flattered that I’m being discussed as a potential candidate,” Fluke said. “A number of folks I respect very deeply have reached out today and encouraged me to run. I am strongly considering running.”

Fluke would run for Henry Waxman’s House seat, as the longtime Democrat announced he would retire this year.

“A sincere thank you to liberal champion @WaxmanClimate for 40 years of service to our community in LA,” Fluke tweeted.

Democrats have received the news favorably, including strategist Hillary Rosen who expressed support on Twitter with the hashtag #RunSandraRun.

After her raise to fame, Fluke earned a speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention in 2012.

Sources: The Blaze, Politico


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11New Polls Reveal Majority of Americans Believe Most of Congress Should Be Fired

Now that the State of the Union speech is out of the way, America can get down to the business of the mid-term election season. While the narrative surrounding the speech was that the President had to address his critics, the campaign trail is where Congress is going to address theirs. A recent poll from YouGov and The Huffington Post found “that most Americans don’t think that most members of Congress should be reelected.” This is great news for challengers and seems to have very little to do with their representatives’ political ties.

A recently released Gallup Poll shows similar results. For the first time since 1992, 46 percent of people polled said that their representative deserved to be reelected. Still, this is only two points lower than the previous record in 1993. Even more telling is the number of Americans who think “most members deserve re-election” which is also at a record-low of 17 percent. The previous nadir also came in 1993, but was twelve points higher than now.

These numbers are more drastic than even the 2010 mid-term election in which the Democrats lost the House of Representatives. Yet, where those mid-terms and the 2006 mid-term election in which the Democrats took the House differ from now is that the public animus closely followed party lines.

However, close to a quarter of the respondents to the YouGov poll don’t even know to which party their representative belongs. Instead, these numbers may suggest a general malaise amongst the electorate towards Congress as an entity. Voters may simply want “fresh blood” in Congress and—if a “wave” of challengers win general elections—may be sending a message to politicians that Americans are finally tired of partisan chicanery.

The largest fight in Congress has been—and still is—the implementation of the President’s health care plan, a fight that ultimately shut down the government. Each side played their expected partisan roles, but the shutdown and relative inaction from Congress may have brought about a tipping point. Earlier this summer, it seemed as if the GOP was in a good position to win back the Senate, but in these recent numbers challenge that idea. 


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11New York Times Report Uncovers Loophole for Lavish Trips for Legislators

In 2007, Congress passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act which was a bill aimed at limiting the gifts lobbyists could give to legislators. However, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that equated money to free speech, special interests have found a workaround to the 2007 law and are able to treat lawmakers to trips to posh vacation spots and fine food and drink.

In an excellent bit of reporting by Eric Lipton in The New York Times, the loophole is explained, “Political campaigns and so-called leadership PACs controlled by the lawmakers now pay the expenses for the catering and the lawmakers’ lodging at these events — so they are not gifts — with money collected from the corporate executives and lobbyists, who are still indirectly footing the bill.” So rather than pay directly for the legislators’ travel and accommodations, the special interest groups donate the money to Political Action Committee instead.

These are often profitable ventures for lawmakers. Lipton suggests that an event that cost $25,000 will often net the PAC or reelection campaign three times as much. This is a practice that transcends party lines. Extra-liberal Democrats and the most down-home Tea Partier are both equally likely to be found in a penthouse suite on some beach or a ski resort on snow-capped mountains glad-handing special interest lobbyists.

Members of Congress spend many hours of each day fund-raising for reelection and these trips offer the opportunity for a significant deposit into campaign coffers. Perhaps that is the saddest part of this whole story, not that this practice is legal but that it is necessary if a legislator wants to have any real chance at reelection. Also, since this is part of the established system, what chance does the legislator’s constituency have to be heard when their representative’s attention comes at such a high price? 


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11After Saying Kids Should Work Lunches, Rep. Kingston Reportedly Received Over $4K in "Free Lunches"

Local television news outlets have taken a bit of a metaphorical beating in the national (non-news) media lately. First, late-night host Conan O’Brien released another of a series of videos which shows local news anchors from across the country reading identical scripts. More recently, radio hosts Opie & Anthony excoriated the news for the “frozen t-shirt experiment” so many of them did during the recent cold weather that gripped the nation. However, some news stations take time between gimmicky news stories to do some real reporting, like WSAV in Georgia.

Their local Congressman, Jack Kingston, caused some controversy when at a meeting of the Jackson County Republican Party he suggested children pay five- or ten-cents “to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch.” A few days later, while appearing on CNN, Kingston backtracked, saying that he did not mean to unfairly target low-income children, but that it would be “good for all children” even though children not on the taxpayer-funded lunch program already pay for theirs with money.

WSAV pored over “thousands of pages” of documents, trying “to estimate just how many ‘free lunches’ a Congressman like Jack Kingston and his staff might receive.” Their investigation discovered that for the past three years Jack Kingston’s office has put $4,182 of meals on his expense reports. Also, while traveling abroad, Kingston received $24,313 in per diem expenses, essentially “walking around money.”

In an interview with WSAV, Kingston dismissed these claims, saying “It’s hard in today’s society to have a discussion where you wanna challenge the status quo because of the ‘I gotcha’ politics.” When asked about his own “work ethic,” especially since this is the least productive Congress on-record, Kingston suggested that keeping Congress closed down is doing the people’s business.

However, Kingston’s remarks showcase an attitude in the current Republican party that suggests that the poor are poor because they are lazy. Yet, rather than a serious social critique, perhaps this represents how out-of-touch representatives are with average Americans. A recent report from the Center for Responsive Politics found that—for the first time—the majority of those in Congress are millionaires, although the number of millionaires has hovered near 50 percent for some time. Kingston’s personal net worth is estimated to be between $2.4 million to $3.3 million. 


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11'American Idol' Runner-Up Clay Aiken Considering Run For Congress

“American Idol” runner-up Clay Aiken is considering running for office in North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district in the U.S. House, according to two Democrats familiar with his plans.

The anonymous sources reported that Aiken had made phone calls to gauge support and met with political figures in Raleigh. He is currently working with political strategist Betsy Conti, who’s worked for former North Carolina Gov. Bev Purdue and Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore, to explore a run.

A second Democratic source said Aiken met with pollsters at Hart Research Associates last month to examine polling data.

Though it is uncertain when Aiken might make a formal announcement, sources say that he is “sounding and acting” like a candidate.

Since winning “American Idol”, Aiken has had a successful Broadway and music career. According to Forbes, he made $1.5 million in 2010.

Aiken has also used his fame to promote LGBT activism. In 2010, the singer appeared on Capitol Hill to urge for the passing of the Student Non-Discrimination Act and the Safe Schools Improvement Act.

Sources: Washington Blade, News Observer


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