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by Rayne

Angry Republican Senators Fret over Koch Industries’ Privacy

10:39 am in Business, Conservatism, Economy, Government, Legislature, Politics, Tea Party by Rayne

This past week angry Republican senators demanded to know whether a senior official in the Obama administration had gone through the tax filings of an entity Politico characterized as a "privately held corporation run by some of the country’s biggest conservative political benefactors." The firm was identified as Koch Industries. You may recognize them as significant contributors to Republicans and conservative issues, including the Tea Party’s organization.

The focus of the senators’ anger is Austan Goolsbee, who’d recently been appointed as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. During a conference call with reporters Goolsbee referred to Koch Industries as an example of a corporation which doesn’t pay corporate taxes.

At no point in either of the articles in the New York Times or Politico does it say that Goolsbee admitted to accessing IRS records, yet Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and six other unnamed Republican senators are in a dither about this assumed invasion of Koch’s privacy.

What a crock.

Koch Industries is quite obviously a conglomerate of smaller firms, and the smaller firms are structured in a number of different ways, including limited liability companies (LLCs) and partnerships. And the structure of each of Koch Industries’ subsidiary entities is public information, filed with the states in which each entity organized. Oh, and this information is right there on their damned web site, if you care to poke around at Koch’s businesses’ home pages.

LLCs and partnerships in particular don’t pay corporate taxes. There’s no rocket science here, no digging through IRS filings required to determine this.

Any wet-behind-the-ears second-year business school student could tell you that LLCs and partnerships don’t pay corporate income tax. Income is instead passed through to the owners of these entities, and the owners pay personal income tax.

At least they pay personal income tax when there’s a profit — and any third-year business student will tell you how to ensure there’s no profit.

(And they’d certainly be able to tell you why an LLC is preferable to a partnership; liability is limited to the assets held by the corporation, unlike partnerships, and corporations can live forever if set up properly.)

What’s disturbing about these two articles is a lack of pushback by the journalist; why didn’t they question the complaints of the senators? why didn’t they push Koch Industries a little harder, when they replied indignantly that they paid their taxes; did they not think to ask what kind and how much tax Koch paid?

And why didn’t the senators — the men responsible for making laws related to the establishment and regulation of corporations — know that Koch Industries is no different than an overwhelming number of businesses here in the U.S. with regards to their tax payments?

Or was this really just an opportunity to do several things at once: reject and punish the Obama administration and Austan Goolsbee as a proxy while providing cover for one of their biggest donors?

Or were they anxious that the Tea Party’s largest and best-known benefactor might take issue with them should these Republican senators not come to their defense?

Or do these Republican senators not want anybody to look too closely at Koch Industries?

One might wonder why they are so upset about Koch Industries’ tax filings, when the largest companies in America share their financials as required of publicly-held entities. General Electric also paid -$1.1 billion in corporate taxes in 2009 — yes, a negative number! — as highlighted in Forbes Magazine.

And yet you don’t see these same Republican senators getting their shirts in a knot over this information.

by Rayne

Four Senators Call for SIGAR Chief’s Removal; Contractor Controls Remain Troubled

4:38 pm in Afghanistan, Countries in Conflict, Foreign Policy, Government, Iraq, Legislature, Military by Rayne

Four Senators called for the removal of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction today in a letter (pdf) to President Obama.

The Senators — Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Charles Grassley (R-IA) — appear not to have laid out all their cards when they put this letter together. One might wonder if this letter was encouraged by members of SIGIR — the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction — since those folks are looking for new jobs into which they can rotate, bringing their oh-so-special skills. You know, the ones which kept the U.S. from losing money through the nose and built a vibrant new Iraq.

Ahem.

The Senators might also be looking for someone to throw under the bus, since Afghanistan continues to be a morass and they certainly don’t want to hold anybody in uniformed leadership accountable for the misfires, including civilian-killing drones. Arnold Fields as head of SIGAR is a pretty easy nab for the impending bus. What’s truly disconcerting, though, is that the Senators hammer on the hiring of an independent investigator as a symptom of the problems with SIGAR:

We were also alarmed to learn that SIGAR has awarded a $95,000, sole-source contract to Joseph Schmitz, a former Department of Defense Inspector General, to act as an "independent monitor" of SIGAR’s performance. As you may recall, Mr. Schmitz resigned from the Defense Department in 2005 amid allegations of miscondut, including obstructing criminal investigations, quashing audits, and misleading Congress. The decision to pay Mr. Schmitz to assist in correcting SIGAR’s own failures raises serious questions regarding Mr. Fields’ judgment.

What the letter doesn’t spell out is that Mr. Schmitz was General Counsel to Erik Prince’s Blackwater and the Prince Group of companies following his stint as DOD IG but before he began his current stint as an "independent monitor" for SIGAR. Nor does this letter spell out that Sen. Grassley already knew about Schmitz’s checkered background as Grassley had worked on an extensive congressional inquiry in the possibility that Schmitz may have obstructed two criminal investigations in 2004 while serving as an IG for DOD. All of which generates a lot of questions with few answers:  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

by Rayne

Liveblogging the Final Senate Vote on Health Care Reform Bill (Update: Bill Passes 60-39)

3:53 am in Uncategorized by Rayne

We’re watching the wind-up to the vote in the Senate scheduled for 7:00 a.m. this morning. They’ve already had an opening convocation and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Vice-President Joe Biden is the president of the Senate today. Senator Harry Reid has now launched into a frenzy of thanks, spreading around his gratitude to everyone who works in the Senate.

Six minutes and counting…

Sen. Mitch McConnell now at the podium; he says that the problem with the bill is that it doesn’t do what it was supposed to do, lowering costs. If the bill was so great, it wouldn’t have needed votes in the middle of the night and even during a blizzard, or on Christmas Eve. "This fight isn’t over, this fight is far from over." They’re going to continue to fight on behalf of the American people.

Sen. Reid: This bill will reduce the deficit. We’ve had votes in the middle of the night because the Republicans wouldn’t let us. Reid now citing the example of a constituent with preexisting condition, one who will be among those who will give him an earful when he goes home.

Cites Harry Truman’s comments in 1945 in which Truman called for health care to be seen as a national concern; asks that one consider the case of a citizen born in 1945 who has never had affordable health care.

(Ed. note: that would be my mother, who was born in 1940 and who might still be waiting except that she now has Medicare, being 69 years old. Ahem.)

We may not cure this crisis to day, Reid says, but we must start somewhere.

He invokes Ted Kennedy’s quote, "The dream goes on."

Reid chastises political naysayers working against the bill.

We’re now moving to the roll call, a most stimulating obligation on the floor of the Senate. Who’s here for this historic debacle, I mean, vote?

Mr. Lieberman, Mrs. Lincoln are present.

Mr. McCain is not present.

Mr. Nelson of Nebraska is present. So far all Dems present.

There’s some laughter on the floor when Sen. Reid’s name is called, can’t see what has generated the humor other than we can’t hear his response.

Ms. Snowe is not currently present. Uh-oh…does this mean there will be no buffer, a straight party line vote?

We are hearing a lot of No (or not present) when Republican names are called.

Another No for Sen. Sessions.

Very long pause on the floor, a couple of minutes, before the roll call continues with Sen. Sanders’ name, whose Aye is audible.

It’s passed. 60 votes present.

God help us all.

UPDATE: Funnydiva2002 has the actual roll call on the vote below in thread, although the vote was strictly along party lines.

UPDATE #2: President Obama is expected to make a statement about today’s vote at 8:45 a.m., according to C-SPAN.