Jason Pye

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Oh, look, Mary Landrieu used a taxpayer-funded jet to attend a campaign fundraiser

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has been caught with her hand in the taxpayers’ cookie jar. CNN reports that Landrieu’s Senate office was billed $3,200 for a November charter flight from New Orleans to Lake Charles so she could attend a campaign fundraiser:

Landrieu spent more than $3,200 in taxpayer money to fly 400 miles round trip from New Orleans to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she attended a $40-per person fundraising lunch with hundreds of women, according to Senate records and Landrieu campaign information. It is illegal to spend government money campaigning.

Landrieu’s campaign spokesman, Fabien Levy, said in a statement that the charter company mistakenly billed Landrieu’s Senate office instead of her re-election campaign. Levy said the campaign noticed the error a few weeks ago and asked the company to refund the Senate office and bill the campaign, which the company did. Levy said Landrieu’s re-election campaign paid for the flight August 4, almost nine months after the November 8 trip.

Using taxpayer funds for campaign purposes is, of course, illegal. Landrieu’s office says that they noticed the error — at the end of July, some nine months after the trip. Conveniently, her office caught the indiscretion just before USA Today published a story on the $1 million worth of charter flights senators took last year. Landrieu was one of the top abusers, taking $47,000 worth of taxpayer-funded charter flights.

Although Landrieu’s office has dealt with the problem, some believe that she should still be held accountable for the “oversight”:

Global warming alarmist Al Gore doesn’t actually care about coal investors’ losses

Al Gore has made a pretty healthy living by fear-mongering about global warming. He’s written books and starred in a “documentary” about the subject and he’s invested heavily in green technology, an industry that is subsidized by the federal government (read: taxpayers). The former vice president has also won a Nobel Prize for his activism.

Gore took a different angle to his fear-mongering last week. Rather than play up the Hollywood-style apocalyptic effects of global warming, he candidly explained to coal investors that want may want to divest because they stand to lose money in the long-run:

In a Financial Times column Gore argues that it would be smart to divest from coal “for purely financial reasons,” setting aside the harmful impact he says it has on the environment.

Nancy Pelosi won’t be Speaker next year: Republicans are poised to keep control of the House, and probably pick up seats

Nancy Pelosi

Forget the annoying fundraising emails from House Democrats’ campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the talk from left-leaning pundits about the House being in play this fall. It just ain’t going to happen, folks. Because math, as USA Today notes:

In 2012, congressional district lines were redrawn, as is constitutionally required every 10 years, based on population shifts. Republicans had the upper hand in many states after the GOP won control of governorships and state legislatures following the 2010 Tea Party wave. The end result has been a precipitous drop in the number of competitive seats and a rise in the number of seats considered so safely Republican or Democratic that they are unlikely to ever switch party control.

Today, roughly 50 districts in the 435-member House make up the entirety of the 2014 battleground.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report ranks just 16 of those districts, 13 held by Democrats and three by Republicans, as competitive enough that neither party has a clear advantage with fewer than 100 days to go before Election Day.

The current House makeup includes 234 Republicans and 199 Democrats, and there are two vacant seats that are safely Democratic. That means Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats for a takeover. They’d have to pick up 17 Republican seats and lose none of their own, or make even greater gains in GOP territory to make up for any losses.

Basically, Democrats have virtually no shot of taking control of the House this year. The numbers just aren’t there. Obviously, there are some other factors in the mid-term equation as well.

Hillary Clinton’s big criticism of Barack Obama is that he didn’t go to war against Syria

Back in June, Cato Institute Vice President Gene Healy shed some light on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy record. No, we’re not talking about her cataclysmic failure in Benghazi or any of her other mistakes during her time in Foggy Bottom.

Healy’s warning was that Clinton — throughout the course of her national profile as first lady, U.S. senator, Secretary of State, and, now, Democratic presidential nominee in waiting — has never met a war she didn’t like. She helped present the case for the Iraq war and the ties between Saddam Hussein’s regime and terrorist elements — ties, by the way, that didn’t exist.

More recently, Healy notes, Clinton urged President Obama to intervene in Libya. And, of course, the Obama administration joined the NATO campaign in 2011 to depose the North African country’s dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. The intervention in Libya — which is, basically, in the midst of an internal conflict so violent that both the U.N. and the U.S. have evacuated staffers from their embassies — is generally thought to be one of this administration’s foreign policy blunders.

Clinton was also supportive of U.S. intervention against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. President Obama, however, didn’t take that step, largely due to congressional and public opposition to yet another war.

But Clinton is now criticizing President Obama’s approach to foreign policy, an approach she helped craft during in four years as his secretary of state. In an interview with The Atlantic, Clinton criticized the White House for not throwing its full weight behind the Syrian rebels fighting Assad’s regime:

Today in Liberty: CIA apologists pushing back against criticism, federal contractors plan to fight Obama’s latest power grab

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” — Benjamin Franklin

— CIA apologists pushing back against criticism: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) defended CIA Director John Brennan in an appearance on CBS News’ Face the Nation after the Agency admitted to spying on Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. “If I thought John Brennan knew about this then…certainly we’d be calling for his resignation,” said Chambliss. “But I will tell you that these five staffers that did this — if they worked for me, they’d be gone now. But the accountability board has been convened, and they will be looking into this, and they will be dealt with accordingly.” Chambliss also defended torture techniques, specifically waterboarding, and claimed that the Senate’s probe into the CIA’s use of those methods is partisan. Research, however, shows that torture isn’t as effective as the likes of Chambliss and others suggest. President Obama said on Friday that he has “full confidence” in Brennan.

It just keeps getting worse for Democrats: Obamacare disapproval hits an all-time high

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a new poll this morning showing that unfavorable views of Obamacare have jumped to an all-time high since they began tracking opinions of the law in April 2010.

Kaiser’s July tracking poll shows that 53 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare, a significant jump from June’s 45 percent. Thirty-seven percent view the law favorably, down from 39 percent last month.

The crosstabs reveal that the unfavorable views of Obamacare increased across party lines, though Democrats and independent-leaning Democrats still remain the law’s biggest supporters. Republicans and independent-leaning Republicans remain the law’s biggest opponents.

Fifty-nine percent of self-identified independents, however, have an unfavorable view of Obamacare, while 31 percent have a favorable view.

Sixty percent want Congress to “work to improve” Obamacare, while 35 want to repeal and replace it. “Even among Republicans and those with an unfavorable view of the law,” Kaiser explains, “about a third would prefer to see the law improved rather than repealed and replaced (32 percent and 36 percent, respectively).”

Thanks, Obamacare!: Individual health insurance premiums skyrocketed in California, and young people were the hardest hit

Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini acknowledged this week that Obamacare plans are “really not an affordable product for a lot of people.” He wasn’t kidding. The Los Angeles Times reports that individual health insurance premiums have skyrocketed in California, in some cases doubled, over last year’s rates:

For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, [California Insurance Commissioner Dave] Jones said Tuesday.
[…]
For 2014, consumers purchasing individual policies paid between 22% and 88% more for health insurance than they did last year, depending on age, gender, type of policy and where they lived, Jones said Tuesday.

“The rate increase from 2013 to 2014, on average, was significantly higher than rate increases in the past,” Jones said in a news conference in Sacramento.

The hardest-hit were young people, he said. In one region of Los Angeles County, people age 25 paid 52% more for a silver plan than they had for a similar plan the year before, while someone age 55 paid 38% more, according to a report that Jones released Tuesday.

Here we go: Obamacare subsidies challengers have asked the Supreme Court to hear their case

Cross your fingers, folks. The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell, which, like Halbig v. Burwell, deals with the subsidies provided to consumers on the federal Obamacare Exchange, have asked the Supreme Court to hear the their case:

Their lawsuit was dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which ruled that the Obama administration can legally award the subsidies through federally run insurance exchanges — not just those run by the states themselves. The individuals behind King v. Burwell say the subsidies are being improperly awarded through Virginia’s federally run exchange.

Sam Kazman, general counsel for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the goal is to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible, since millions of Americans obtaining insurance subsidies could be affected. The conservative group is funding the litigation.

“A fast resolution is also vitally important to the states that chose not to set up exchanges, to the employers in those states who face either major compliance costs or huge penalties, and to employees who face possible layoffs or reductions in their work hours as a result of this illegal IRS rule,” Kazman said in a statement Thursday. “Our petition today to the Supreme Court represents the next step in that process.”

A very unpopular Harry Reid trails a very popular potential Republican challenger by 10 points

The 2014 mid-term election may not be the only thing worrying Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Sure, the Senate is up for grabs and, as it looks right now, Republicans stand a better than even chance of taking back the upper chamber.

But a new poll finds that Reid could be in big trouble if he seeks reelection in 2016. Not only is he very unpopular in his home state, Reid trails Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV), who get solid marks from voters, by a 10-point margin:

According to a Harper Polling survey, Reid trails popular GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, who hasn’t ruled out challenging the incumbent, by 10 points, 53 percent to 43 percent. Veteran Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston first reported the poll’s findings on his website, ralstonreports.com.

Reid’s favorable/unfavorable rating in the poll is significantly underwater (41 percent/55 percent). Sandoval’s rating, on the other hand, is stellar (58/30).

Sandoval is a virtual shoo-in to win reelection this year; he leads little-known Democrat Bob Goodman in the Harper poll, 54 percent to 39 percent.

Obviously, the 2016 election is more than two years away. That’s an eternity in politics, so be very careful in taking away too much from this poll. Yeah, Reid is in trouble, but anything can happen. What’s more, Sandoval is generally viewed as a moderate. He’s done some things in Nevada that haven’t sat well with in-state conservatives.

Today in Liberty: Obamacare disapproval hits an all-time high, Eric Cantor will leave Congress on August 18

“Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own. Nobody uses somebody else’s resources as carefully as he uses his own. So if you want efficiency and effectiveness, if you want knowledge to be properly utilized, you have to do it through the means of private property.” — Milton Friedman

— Economy adds 209,000 jobs in July, unemployment rate rises slightly: The economy added 209,000 jobs in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the unemployment rate increased from 6.1 percent to 6.2 percent. Economists had projected 233,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate would hold steady at 6.1 percent. Although the report didn’t meet expectations, this is the sixth consecutive month of 200,000-plus job growth. The labor participation rate — the percentage of Americans working or looking for work — increased marginally from 62.8 percent in June, a 35-year low, to 62.9 percent in July.

— Obamacare disapproval hits an all-time high: The Kaiser Family Foundation has released a new poll finding that unfavorable views of Obamacare have jumped to an all-time high since they began tracking opinions of the law in April 2010. The July tracking poll shows that 53 percent of Americans have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare, while 37 percent view the law favorably. Sixty percent want Congress to “work to improve” Obamacare, while 35 want to repeal and replace it. The poll also finds that Americans are evenly divided on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

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