A panel of titans looks ahead to the battle of November, 2014, at the West Coast Retreat.
Editor’s note: Below are the video and transcript of the panel Midterm Elections: Retribution? at the Freedom Center’s West Coast Retreat, held at the Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes, California from March 21-23, 2014:
Catherine Engelbrecht: I started True the Vote in 2009. We filed nonprofit paperwork in 2010, and prior to that my husband and I had a small oilfield services company. We make machine parts and had never seen hide nor hair of the federal government's interest in us. We filed our taxes and that was it. I filed our non-profit paperwork and in short order that all changed.
Cut to the punchline to date, we've had about 25 different either audits or investigations or inquiries into both my personal affairs, as well as nonprofit and the corporate stuff that we do with the manufacturing company. How that took form was initially through FBI visits to True the Vote and to, we have a small community Tea Party-type group also called King Street Patriots and the FBI continued to show up, five separate visits. Then the IRS began to make its way into my world. We had two consecutive audits of our businesses, followed by audits of our private returns for two consecutive years. Then OSHA showed up, then Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms showed up twice. The Texas branch of the EPA showed up, because an anonymous complaint had been called in the day after the election in 2012, and all the while, our nonprofit applications continued to swirl, and the thing that is of note in all of it is that, and I think it really speaks to the stories that you'll hear from all of us up here on the panel today, this administration counts on silence.
They want to play this out so that you are so overwhelmed and so scared, that you dare not speak out. That's where they derive their power from, and the miscalculation has been that people are waking up and standing up and saying, "We're not going to be silent any longer." After three years of keeping my head down, thinking that that was going to be the best way to protect my family, I finally said, "Enough is enough. I'm going to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to the American people, and I think that they're going to embrace it," and the response has been overwhelming, but ladies and gentlemen, we are absolutely and without question in times unlike we've seen in this country for, arguably, maybe forever. This is the weaponization of government. It is exactly as it seems, and we would all be very wise to gird our loins, because it's going to be a fun midterms, and there will be opportunity for retribution, but we've got to stand up. Thank you.
Josh Brewster: Catherine, tell the audience for just a moment about your experience with Representative Elijah Cummings of late, and then I'll invite other panelists to jump in. The IRS intimidation of citizens is something I'm wondering -- is it going to gain traction with the larger public, and then, of course, another question is, if this had happened under Bush, what would have been the reaction then? So, tell me about your experience with Representative Cummings.
Catherine Engelbrecht: Sure, well, Elijah Cummings is the ranking minority member of the House Oversight and Government in Reform Committee. He's a Congressman from Maryland. I live in Texas, so I'm not a constituent of his. Nonetheless, beginning in September or October 2012, on the heels of Barbara Boxer's similar assault, which didn't get quite the attention that Cummings did, but nonetheless, I got a call from a reporter of the LA Times who asked what my response was to Congressman Cummings' appearance on MSNBC where he declared that he was opening an investigation of True the Vote, and I said, "I don't know. I haven't heard about this." Well, a few days later, we received our first letter from Congressman Elijah Cummings, who had gone on to say that he was, as a singular member of this committee on committee franking privileges, declaring a one-man investigation of us. He was trying to subpoena all of our documents, and one thing led to the next and there was quite a rapid fire of letters between myself and Congressman Cummings that ended up with my attorney having to get involved because he was, in fact, what I believe was doing defamation per se. He was all over MSNBC accusing us of all kinds of racial bias and voter suppression and nonsense.
So, I had an opportunity early in February to testify before Congress. Earlier than morning, I filed an ethics complaint against the Congressman, and that, we hope, will open up an opportunity to take a closer look at what he was doing in the middle of things, and frankly, why some of the questions he was asking were, in fact, so similar to the things that the IRS was asking and how he would have known that.
Josh Brewster: Would any of the other panelists like to chime in on the IRS intimidation of citizens?
Katie Pavlich: I'll chime in a little bit on. Okay. Watching Catherine's kind of journey with the IRS, I've see Elijah Cummings' work on a lot of different scandals and topics, which obviously there are lot of them within the Obama Administration. He sits on the Oversight Committee, so he gets to see all of those things. The issue specifically with the IRS scandal and Elijah Cummings, he, since the beginning, has been running interference for the Obama Administration and trying to distract away from the real issues of IRS targeting with the media, throwing tantrums in the committee rooms, where the media focuses on his tantrum rather than on, maybe, Lois Lerner, pleading the Fifth for a second time, but he is not only running interference for the Obama Administration. He's also trying to distract away from the fact that he did target people like Catherine and he doesn't want the Oversight Committee to reveal that. He doesn't want them to reveal the collusion between himself and the IRS, and one of the biggest issues with this particular scandal is not that it's just the Obama Administration, it's that you have Democrats and liberals in the Senate and in the House standing up and saying Tea Party groups, Patriot groups, and constitutional groups need to be targeted and scrutinized.
This is something that many of them called for. In January, Chuck Schumer from New York, who's a Democrat, stood in front of Think Progress at an event and said that the IRS needed to continue to do their scrutinizing. This is after we had the hearings, and so I think with voters, they're going to see that and go, "You know, I don't think it's appropriate for one party to try and discriminate and intimidate against certain people just because they disagree with them politically," so I do think that will have an impact on the midterm elections.
Josh Brewster: Would anyone else like to chime in before I move on to Katie? Go ahead.
Ben Boychuk: I just actually had a question for you, because you had mentioned something that I don't think has really been discussed all that much. I mean, the IRS, everybody is terrified by the IRS, but you also talked about visits from the FBI, the ATF. What were they asking, and does that kind of fit into this idea about Tea Party groups as potential terrorist organizations? Is that sort of the tenor of the inquiry or just what exactly?
Catherine Engelbrecht: That I even have a response, all of this is just still a little bit surreal. Yes, in fact, the FBI was looking for domestic terrorist issues. Who would have thought that three years ago I'd be on a panel saying, "Yes, in fact, the FBI was looking for domestic --" So, when the FBI came out, they sent out their Domestic Terrorist unit. Of note, it's kind of cute, later we FOIA'd for our own files, and when we got some heavily redacted stuff by the FBI back, they characterized it as just being neighborhood outreach. So, coming soon to a neighborhood near you, your Domestic Terrorist Unit of the FBI. So, anyway, that's sort of the premise that they came to us under. Everybody else came because of what we did on the business side. Engelbrecht Manufacturing, we have a secondary company that has an FFL license. We have a license to make gun parts. Now, we've never made them, not a one, and Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms knows that because of the way you have to file reports. There are all kinds of peculiar things.
OSHA came out and did an inspection of our facility based upon an incorrect SIC code, which if any of you are in the industry, then you know the SIC codes sort of govern all of the standards by which you must adhere, and so there were all of these peculiar things, but to a fault, everybody that came out, all the analysts were always very professional and they were always very courteous and many times would say, "We don't know why we got sent out here. You guys look fine." But they were just doing their jobs. I mean, to me the bigger question has always been who's pulling those strings? Who knew what, when? Because the statistical probabilities of having an alphabet soup of agencies show up in rapid succession one after the next, after the next, after the next does not make rational sense. Something was afoot.
And to the greater question, I just think that all of this, I hope that voters remember what it is that is happening here, because this administration will put a full-on media assault to try to convince the American people that if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth, and that it is okay to target people if they're a danger, and that's what I think that they're going to try to do.
Josh Brewster: All right. Very good. This is what you get for nonpartisan efforts, huh, Catherine? Okay, next, I think this gives us an opportunity now to move on to Katie Pavlich. Katie, I want to talk to you about, of course, you have your book out about Fast and Furious, and I think a lot of folks, folks in this room in particular, would be curious as to why or whether Fast and Furious and other Obama scandals would or wouldn't gain some traction. Why don't you tell us.
Katie Pavlich: Well, I know that we only have a limited amount of time, so I'm going to talk about two main things here. Fast and Furious, the overall issue there is that there has been little to no accountability for what happened. The short version of that story is that the Department of Justice, through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, trafficked 2,500, what Barack Obama would call assault military-style weapons to Mexican drug cartels in Mexico, and then blamed U.S. gun dealerships for the murders happening in Mexico at the hands of the cartels that they armed. Hundreds of people died in Mexico. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona. He was killed by a man who was using one of those firearms that was given to those cartels through this ATF program. Nobody has been held accountable.
Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt, the first time in the history of our country that a sitting Attorney General was held in contempt, and as soon as that contempt charge, because the Republicans don't have the Senate, it couldn't get followed through there. As soon as that contempt charge moved to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Attorney in Washington, D.C. dropped the case, even before it came to his desk to take a look. He outright, because of political reasons, because he's on the same page as the Justice Department and the Administration, decided not to even consider looking into those contempt charges and why maybe the Attorney General was voted in contempt on a bipartisan basis.
In terms of the IRS targeting scandal, which is also a Justice Department issue, nobody is actually sending FBI agents out to investigation what happened to these Tea Party groups. They're not sending people out to question what they went through. That is also a failure of people at DOJ, not asking questions to hold people accountable. Benghazi, the FBI is not investigating who the perpetrators were in Benghazi, and they're certainly not tracking them down wherever they are, despite the President promising that they would be held accountable. We have four dead Americans, and not a single person has been killed or arrested as a result of that terror attack on 9/11. That is also a Justice Department issue.
Monitoring the phones and emails of reporters; Catherine talked about how the Administration doesn't like it when people speak out. That includes the media. When we found out that the Department of Justice was not only monitoring the phone lines of reporters from the AP, Fox News, and the White House and in Congress, we also found out that they were monitoring the phone lines of Fox News reporter James Rosen's parents. They had tapped the phones of his parents, who were living out in Long Island. So, they've gone beyond just intimidating reporters and talking to sources in the government to get really important information out to the public, but they've also intimidated their families as a result. Was there any really accountability for that? No. The Justice Department investigated itself, and said that they cleaned up their practices, whether they know that or not.
When my book came out a couple of years ago now, a FOIA request revealed that the Department of Justice was working with reporters at George Soros's Media Matters to smear myself and to try and discredit my reporting, along with other reporters. There were emails going back and forth between the Department of Justice, and the nonprofit group, Media Matters, that sure got their nonprofit status really quickly, trying to intimidate and write bad things about reporters so that they would go silent on the issue, so the main issue there is that the Justice Department, which is in charge of investigating a lot of wrongdoing and is supposed to bring accountability to people, really hasn't been doing its job, and that feeds corruption, and it also intimidates people into not wanting to do the right thing.
The second issue on that, when it comes to, Catherine also mentioned, whose pulling the strings? Who was pulling the strings at the top? Now that President Obama is in his second term and he's been a little bit pushed back by the House, maybe not as much as we wish that they would push back, but at least a little bit, President Obama is now going back to his personnel, his policy tactic of putting in very radical people into very high positions inside the government. So, for example, one of his most recent nominees, Debo Adegbile, a couple of years ago, he voluntarily took on the case of the most notorious cop-killer in the United States, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and not only did he take on his case during his time as the leadership of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, his attorneys were seen at rallies for this guy who was convicted by a jury of his peers unanimously and given the death penalty. They were seen at rallies saying, "It was an honor to represent him," despite the fact that he had been convicted of brutally murdering a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Luckily, Democrats in red states and other Democrats who were close to the issue voted him down, and he got blocked in a pre-Harry Reid non-filibuster Senate, but that would only happen in an election year, because people in those states would have seen that issue and the vote for that nominee as something that maybe they would want to consider when they cast their vote at the ballot box.
Another radical nominee that President Obama wants to put in charge as the Surgeon General is Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has said in the past that guns are a healthcare issues. He's looking like he's going to get blocked as well, and that's a good thing, but again, it's an election year, so it's very important to consider when voters go to the polls, we tend to focus on candidates rather than once those candidates get into office, who they're going to vote for and who they're going to put into these powerful positions in government. Once the elections are over this year, people like Debo Adegbile and people like Dr. Murthy will get green-lighted through unless Republicans take back the Senate, and that means that you have these bureaucrats that President Obama appoints in these radical positions doing whatever they want. At that point, the vote is gone, so the only time that constituents have to vote for the personnel that goes into these positions is at the ballot box.
So, while we tend to focus on issues and topics that are in the news cycle when it comes to voting, I think it's important to also point out to people the kind of people that the people they elect vote to put into these positions, so I would hope that that's something they consider when it comes to the elections.
Josh Brewster: Okay, Katie, thank you. So, folks, I also want to remind you, we'll have a Q&A at the end, but right now I want to ask if any of the other panelists want to chime in on what Katie is talking about? Anybody? I can move on.
Yeah, well, I'll also just ask, just incredulously, between NSA, Benghazi, IRS, we're in a bizarro world, because this would be a major, major scandal if this had happened under Bush, but I guess I think everybody in the room knows that. Why don't I move on now to Mr. Steve Milloy. Steve is the founder of junkscience.com, a very cool site, and Steve, global warming, etc., and its impact on taxpayer, its impact on our choices in life. I'm no longer allowed to go to Ralph's supermarket and get a plastic bag anymore, because it's wrong, but it's not wrong if I give them 15 cents, you see? So, it's good for the environment if I give them 15 cents. Why don't we start there, Steven. Tell me whether any of the fossil fuels issues, issues like global warming, will this gain traction, and could this impact Obama in a negative way in 2014 midterms that it didn't in 2012?
Steve Milloy: Okay, first let me say that while I was the founder of junkscience.com, I now actually work for a coal company, actually, the third largest company in the U.S., and we're one of the largest underground miners in the world, and my job there is to push back on global warming, and especially the Obama Administration. At Victor's talk, the last question focused on how the lead Japanese pilot was very disappointed to have missed the oil tanks at Pearl Harbor. Obama is not missing energy supplies, and he has targeted coal first. In 2008, President Obama said that under his administration or his policies, anybody that wanted to build a coal-fired electricity plan, well, they could. They would just go bankrupt, and five years later or six years later, that is exactly what is happening. He has proposed rules to do that.
Since he has been president, he has issued rules that have already shut down or will shut down by 2016 about 20 percent of coal-fired electricity in this country, and although coal-fired electricity is essentially illegal in California, it is going to come and affect this state, because coal is being replaced in the East by natural gas. That is forcing natural gas prices up all over the country. That could really hit California, particularly this summer, because you guys have had this drought. A lot of your hydro power is going to go away during the summer. The California grid operator is worried about the possibility of brownouts and blackouts in California this summer, and these are all traceable back to the Obama Administration and his targeting of coal. Of course, naturally he's going to target natural gas next.
Now, is this an important issue for the election? Well, of course. It's a vitally important election. People get really exercised about healthcare, and rightly so, but let's keep in mind that healthcare is only 16 percent of the economy. The other 84 percent is dependent on energy, and 40 percent of the electricity in this company comes from coal. Without electricity, nothing works, not even healthcare. So, I think that people, even in California, you really do need to focus on what's happening to the coal industry. Now, we're fortunate that through activism and, you know, I'm one of the original global warming skeptics, through the work we've been doing, we've been able to get all Republicans, even people like John McCain, on our side. Everybody is united against Obama. Well, you've got to remember, six or seven years ago, John McCain teamed up with Joe Lieberman to propose this essentially cap and trade legislation.
Now, although I say that people should really worry a bit more about energy than healthcare, I like healthcare as an issue, because healthcare is really what made the 2010 elections happen. We re-took the House. Healthcare is going to be another hot button issue, and I'm hoping it's going to drive us to take the Senate. I sit here and say, "Well, people should be more interested in energy," but, of course, I'm realistic. I know that that's not really going to happen any time soon, of course, until you get a brownout or a blackout and trace it back to the Obama Administration. So, I think healthcare is a great issue, and I hope it gives us control of the Senate.
Josh Brewster: Okay, would any of the other panelists like to chime in? Okay, because I would like to talk for a moment. Steve, the word denier, of course, as we all know, is coming out. If you're a global warning denier, as though you're a Holocaust denier. This is the frame where they want to inject doubt into the room, and this is complete nonsense, of course. The head of Apple comes up and he says, "If you're a global warning denier, don't buy our stock." He didn't mention don't buy our tablets or phones, but does this game, I mean, the public, it seems to me, just cynically, that the public has so bought global warming hook, line, and sinker, Steve, that I wonder if it could gain traction and work against Obama, but then again, I talk to a lot of people in my daily life and they're like, "We should drill. We have to talk about coal," all these things. Where do we stand in terms of the masses, Steve? Do they understand that skepticism is not denial? Things like this?
Steve Milloy: Well, that's a good question. Just last week there was a Gallop poll that showed that only 24 percent of the public was really concerned about global warming. It's no longer 2007. The Inconvenient Truth era of global warming hysteria is over. We have successfully pushed back. The last 17 years there has been no trending global temperatures, even though CO2 emissions continue to go through the roof and will get even greater. As far as being called a denier, that is something that's straight out of the old Communist playbook. Demonize your opponent. I guess the best example of that is everyone's heard of the term McCarthyism. McCarthyism is not what Senator McCarthy did to people who were actually Soviet agents and Communists in the U.S. Government. McCarthyism is actually what they did to him, because he was largely correct in pointing out how Soviet agents had infiltrated the U.S. Government into the White House.
So, being called a denier, I mean, yes, they are trying to demonize us and it has not worked out for them. We're at the point now where it's kind of a joke. I say I'm proud to be a denier, because it's just not working for them. Nothing they're saying is working for them. The reason that global warming is only alive today as an issue in the United States is because President Obama can veto any legislation and nothing can even get out of the Senate because of Democrat control. So, if he didn't have that political power, global warming would really be history.
Josh Brewster: All right, very good. Okay, let's move on right now to some foreign affairs issues, in particular, the Middle East, Israel. Mr. Adam Kredo is here. Adam, why don't you talk a little bit about Obama's foreign policy deeds and misdeeds, and whether any of these might gain traction in the midterms in a way that perhaps they didn't in 2012. Why don't you go ahead?
Adam Kredo: Absolutely. Well, I think it's interesting to look at, not just the Middle East issue, but the defense issue as a whole when we look at the midterms and why it's critical to really pay attention to these votes. That can get lost. So, what do we look at? Iran talks. The President has been engaging for months and months in talks with Iran, and what have we gotten back? The collapse of sanctions. Over years and years, Congress built up a regime of sanctions to choke the Iranian economy and actually bring it to the table, and we're rolling back those sanctions now. So, you ask what can Congress do?
Well, Congress can provide oversight. Congress is actually responsible for the sanctions and making sure that they continue to be strong, and the Administration has been having conversations about how do we work around Congress? How can we unilaterally circumvent Congress to remove sanctions from Iran? So, when you look at the midterms, having people in there that understand this issue and understand how vital sanctions have been to our foreign policy with Iran, I think, is critical, and one of the perfect examples of this that nobody's really talking about, and I've covered quite a bit, is the fact that over this interim deal, these six months where we've loosened sanctions with Iran, giving them billions of dollars, we're also seeing contractors that work with the DOD, with the Pentagon, try to start doing business with Iran. These are companies that have billions and billions of dollars in lucrative contracts with our government, with the Pentagon, and now they're trying to move to Iran. Again, this is a place where Congress can provide oversight; can tell these companies, "You need to make a decision. You do business with the U.S. or you do business with Iran, and you can't have it both ways." That's, I think, another critical piece of the oversight that Congress can provide, and if the landscape in Congress changes, these issues could become really critical and, in the larger sense, providing oversight over the deal in general. You know, this interim deal that was signed with Iran has been covered a lot in the media, but nobody's actually seen the deal. The text of this nuclear deal is being hidden, and members and staffers who have security clearance have to go to a secluded room, give up their cell phone, look at a copy of the document, take no notes, and then give it back, so, again, this is another area where Congress can provide oversight.
On the Middle East issue, the peace negotiations that we're seeing collapse, I think that's another issue that could come back to haunt vulnerable Democrats. So, there's one in particular that I wanted to note. A fellow named Brad Schneider in Illinois, a supporter of the group J Street, which has a very far left foreign policy, has been pushing these talks trying to make Israel take painful concessions, so I think these are one of the races where that issue could actually haunt a vulnerable Democrat, and that is, at least according to the Cook Report on one of those vulnerable races.
The last thing I want to touch on that I think is really critical are defense cuts. We are absolutely devastating our military and our fighting forces, and the world is, by no means, becoming safer. We talked earlier about what's happening in Crimea and Putin's moves, and the Middle East is certainly a region that's not getting any safer, not just with the Iranian nuclear threat, but the threat of terrorism, I think more generally. So, I think on the defense front, what we're seeing are severe cuts to our missiles, the amount of missiles that we have; AWACs, which are a surveillance-type of helicopter actually we used in Europe recently. Those are to be slashed, so, here again is another place where Congress, I think, can provide oversight and try to fight back against what the administration is doing on this run.
Josh Brewster: Okay, well, let me just ask you this. Do you think that the American public will view Obama, you know, this is the public that voted him in. We're asking about the midterm. They voted him in twice. We're asking about the midterms now, so let me ask you this. Between Putin and another, how do I say this without using foul language? This BS peace process nonsense with Israel, and it goes on and on, and then, as Kissinger said, we're moving into an age of acceptance when it comes to a nuclear Iran, and this is an acceptance path. We're on an acceptance path. Do you think any of this could resonate enough with, let's just talk about, the center of the aisle enough to make them vote against Obama this time; that when you look at Putin and again with Kerry in Israel, etc., do you think that maybe some of the center will go and click for the Republicans?
Adam Kredo: I do think we'll see this, and it's tough to look at the defense issue and the Middle East issue in an isolated sense from race to race, because that often focuses a lot on local issues, domestic issues, but we need to look at it holistically, bringing people into Congress when I see that we have at least 13 Democratic tossups. This is, again, according to the Cook Report, 27 competitive Democratic races. There's really an avenue to make headway in this issue, and when you talk about the peace process, the President recently hosted Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, at the White House, and they did a joint press conference together, and I think this was lost on a lot of people, but the President, and this is his quote, said that, "Abbas has consistently renounced violence." This is a Palestinian president whose political party just took credit for firing scores of rockets at Israeli civilians in the south of Israel, a man who awarded himself, Abbas, the highest honor in Palestinian society, to one of these released terrorists that Israel was forced to let out of prison just to talk about having a peace process. These, all, hundreds of people, terrorists were released, and Abbas also said at the White House that he's not willing to talk any more about peace until Israel releases another round of prisoners who are terrorists. So, I think this really shows you the President ignoring this issue. The rockets did not come up at all in his comments, and I do think people are noticing. I really do.
Josh Brewster: And not to mention that, of course, we have Kerry indicating recently that it's okay if they don't want to accept the Jews --
Adam Kredo: Don't have to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. It's odd that he –
Josh Brewster: A new low. It's a new low.
Adam Kredo: Well, it's odd that the U.S. is taking this position. I mean, that has always been the case that the Palestinians must recognize Israel for what it is and what it stands for. You can't have a peace process when the person you're trying to negotiate with doesn't recognize you as a human being.
Josh Brewster: And do you think that there will be any kind of a push with regard to this issue? Will it change at all, do you think, in terms of voting. Do, do you think it'll change?
Adam Kredo: Look, we can hope. Israel in particular is always one of those threshold issues in races that is that people feel a certain level of comfortability with a candidate, and they can put that issue aside and then vote. In this case, with everything that's going on, we're seeing the rockets, and we're seeing violence, renewed calls for violence in Israel. This could be an issue that has greater play, I think, in these races because of that. People are watching, paying attention, and seeing no response from the U.S. to continued acts of terrorism.
Josh Brewster: Okay, anybody else want to chime in? Go ahead, yeah, Katie, please.
Katie Pavlich: So, we saw recently, as of this week, John Kerry also saying to President Putin, "Don't take this personally." He actually said that. That's a quote, when he was announcing sanctions. Second my question is in response to the sanctions that the U.S. has put on Russia. Russia has now, in return, said, "Well, we're going to renegotiate our stance on Iranian sanctions." Can you talk about that a little bit and what that actually might mean?
Adam Kredo: They have, and that's key, because, the sanctions that we've had in place are not just U.S. based. You can't have sanctions unless the rest of the world goes along with you, and one of the big issues was convincing Russia to go along with this, and also play an active and productive role in these nuclear negotiations, which are continuing to go on into oblivion. So, I think that on that front, we're seeing and access for them with what's happening with Russia. They're aligning with Iran. Russia just signed an agreement to build another nuclear reactor with the Iranians, and they're responsible for the Arak reactor that's currently become a sticking point in the debate. So, when Russia pulls out and aligns itself closer with Iran, closer with China, I think those are the three big ones, we could see problems on multiple fronts from Iran talks, to sanctions collapsing, to all of these other issues that we need the Russians' cooperation with.
Josh Brewster: All right, let's move on now to Mr. Ben Boycheck. California used to be cute and weird. Now it's just weird. So, Ben, let's talk about the messages of California please. Go for it. You explain where I'm living, please. Go ahead.
Ben Boychuk: Sure. So, my subject is supposed to be why California matters in the midterms, and California doesn't matter when it comes to, obviously, the U.S. Senate. California doesn't matter as far as Republicans gaining or consolidating their hold on the House of Representatives. We'll probably end up losing a Republican seat in November. California matters because if the Republicans take the Senate, and if Republicans consolidate or expand their house in the House of Representatives, the consolation prize, I submit, is Jerry Brown, and here's what I mean by that.
There's been a narrative that has developed over the past year or so, and it started immediately after the 2012 election when California voters, in their wisdom, passed Proposition 30, which was an initiative to raise the state income tax and the state sales tax temporarily, although we amended our Constitution to do it, and Brown, when he campaigned and he campaigned like never before to get this measure passed, he did a couple of things when he campaigned for it. He said, on the one hand, "I don't want people to think I've got a gun to their head, but ..." The other thing he said was, he would use biblical illusions. He would say we need seven years of taxes so we can have reserves for the bad times that are likely to come around. So, the measure passes. Two or three months later, you start seeing stories in the New York Times about California's turnaround. Adam Nagourney had this piece on the front page of the New York Times, Paul Krugman starts writing columns about the great things that are happening here in California. Timothy Egan, who is an opinion columnist there, had just a crazy column a year ago this weekend. He bylined it from San Simeon, where there's Hurst Castle, and he was talking about California gleaming. Then again, about a week ago, Egan came back and he wrote in the New York Times how it wouldn't be fair, exactly, to give Jerry Brown all of the credit for what's happening in California, but he deserves most of it. The narrative that is developing is this: Tax increases saved California from the brink of fiscal catastrophe, and the State has a $5 billion budget surplus after years of multi-billion dollar deficits, and is this not a wonderful thing. Superficially, yes, it's a great thing. Jerry Brown, to his considerable credit, will talk about the wall of debt that California has. What he's talking about is about $24 billion that the legislature "borrowed" from special funds we have in our byzantine budget in this state.
What he won't talk about, what he rarely talks about – he'll talk about pensions, but what he won't really talk about is the much larger wall, which, depending on whose numbers you believe, is anywhere between $300 billion and $600 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, unfunded healthcare liabilities for state retirees, and bonds. He doesn't talk about that. So, all of a sudden, when you start talking, when you're lauding a $5 billion budget surplus, well, that's nothing. That's nothing in comparison to a massive debt that threatens to crush California prosperity.
Egan in this New York Times piece talked about how even mother nature is helping Brown out, because we had a rainstorm here a few weeks ago, in the midst of this historic drought we've been having. Well, no, actually. I mean, yeah, it was good to get the rain, it's helpful, but he has nothing to say and proponents of this view of this California renaissance have very little to say about the devastating effects that policy, state policy and federal policy, is having on the farmers in the Central Valley. Now, this is drastically important to the nation, because California's Central Valley is literally the nation's bread basket. I mean, 98 percent of our nuts, the nuts the nation consumes come from California. Half of the fruits and vegetables. I mean, so, by summer, when we likely have water rationing and people are starting to pay double for produce at their grocery stores, whether they're in California or whether they're in the middle of the country, that's because, yes, drought is a natural phenomenon, but it has been exacerbated by terrible laws.
The narrative of the California renaissance talks about jobs, and we have this wonderful rivalry with Texas, and there's this, Governor Rick Perry will, from time to time, he'll have these radio ads here about luring business to Texas, and there's a lot of mockery of those ads. California still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. We're growing jobs, about 27,000 jobs a month. We should be growing them by about 40,000 jobs a month, according to Bill Watkins, who's an economist down at Cal Lutheran in Orange County. We should be doing better, but we're not, and the reason why we're not is because of policy. One third of the nation's welfare recipients are in this state, but when you talk about a California renaissance, nobody talks about welfare recipients. Nobody talks about how we have the most millionaires of anywhere in the nation, but we also have the highest poverty rate in the nation.
San Bernardino, which is bankrupt, is the second poorest place in this country, after Detroit, but they don't talk about that when they talk about a California renaissance. Instead, they talk about taxing our way out of the hole.
Josh Brewster: And I'm going to, on that note, let me ask you to finish up, because I got to get moving.
Speaking of taxing us, finish with this. My kids are in the LA Unified Schools. $40 billion a year. They blow. $40 billion. B, with a B, and he asked for more taxes. Can we get that out there at a national level? I mean, this really rang with me, when they blow $40 billion on education and it's still not enough to run elementary schools.
Ben Boychuk: Yeah, no, education is a great issue. It's sort of one of my beats. Brown essentially sold the tax increase, the Prop 30 tax increase to restore cuts to education, but really what happened with that tax increase was, the California teacher's pension system has about a 4½ billion dollar annual deficit, so a lot of the money that's supposed to go to classrooms is going to the pension fund. So, people need to understand that pensions are going to eat us alive. This wall of debt that I referred to earlier, is going to kill us.
Josh Brewster: Excuse me, Ben, what concerns me is that you're not allowed to talk about that. Channel 2, 4, and 7 won't even talk about pensions, won't talk about where this money goes. No one ever talks about where the money goes. They just talk about, that it's gone. And I think that that may be something that resonates with voters across the country. I just don't trust the media to actually talk about where it went, because it's not politically correct to talk about where it went, because it went to pensioners, which means if you're concerned about that, you're against retirees, or something silly like this.
Ben Boychuk: But it's happening with the bankruptcies, I think. This is one thing to pay attention to with the bankruptcies. Vallejo, up in the Bay Area, went bankrupt a few years ago, because their pensions were killing them. They came out of bankruptcy. Lo and behold, they're talking about bankruptcy again. Why? Because they couldn't get their pensions worked out. The City of Stockton went bankrupt. They're trying to work out of their debt, but they're not going to be able to do it. Why? Pensions. San Bernardino is about to announce its deal to get out of bankruptcy. Again, they can't make a deal with the state pension fund. Their city charter requires them to pay their cops and firefighters what police and firefighters are making in much wealthier cities, like Huntington Beach. They're going to get out of bankruptcy, but they're going to be right back in it until which time they change their city charter and can actually pay market rates to their cops and firemen.
Josh Brewster: Okay, Ben. Very good. Folks, if you have any questions, we have a microphone set up. I would ask you to direct your question to a particular speaker, and be succinct. If you have questions, step up. I wanted to get into Obamacare. We really don't have a lot of time. I want to get into just questions and answers, if it's okay with the panel. Unless anybody has anything pressing to say about Obamacare, uh, it would take me all day, but go ahead Catherine.
Catherine Engelbrecht: Just that a little known feature of Obamacare that I think bears mentioning in light of what it might mean in an unusual sort of way for the upcoming election. A feature of Obamacare is voter registration, and make no mistake, the left is celebrating that, in fact, there have been reports written. One of my favorites was written by a group called Demos. The title of the report was How to Register 67 Million New Voters through the Affordable Healthcare Act. This election cycle is going to be a footrace and a body count based on the ability to mobilize voters. To the extent that voter apathy sets in for proliberty voters or a general malaise to the get out the vote efforts that we all need to be a part of coming up, they win, because they can mobilize. So, outside of just the implications to what it means to healthcare, they've used this as a tool to up their body count potential.
Josh Brewster: On that note, you have another. I'm going to stay with Catherine for a minute. Just hang on one sec. I swear I'm going to get to you. I have to ask you this, Catherine. Without opening too much of a can of worms, we have an illegal immigration problem in this country. This has to run smack dab into your work in the veracity of the voting polls, and so, I mean, my God. There's going to be illegals voting if they're not already, and there are going be illegals getting Obamacare. We know that.
Catherine Engelbrecht: Oh, yes, and California, you've been very generous to your community. They are getting registered for Obamacare and voting here in California. Well, I failed to mention earlier in my story, I think, is one of the things that True to Vote does. We serve to engage citizens in the election process, and talk about ways to make sure that the process is being conducted according to law. That went against the grain of this Administration that depends on smoke screens to get where it needs to get. So, yes, every weakness is going to be exploited. Citizens have to be in the polls. They have to be ready to stand their ground. At the end of the day, this situation does not correct itself through Congress. It does not correct itself in the West Wing. Where we face our greatest challenges is in reminding citizens that they are the government, and it's going to be up to us in this room to take a stand in some very difficult times.
Josh Brewster: Very good. Question.
Audience Member: So, given the soup of scandals that everyone agrees would rise to Watergate level proportions if this were a Republican administration, and the fact that it's so easily, that the congressional investigations by the Republicans are so easily discredited as partisan, why do you think there is no special prosecutor appointed to deal with any of these scandals?
Katie Pavlich: Well, a couple of reasons. I think that the main reason, to shortly answer your question, quickly answer your question is that we don't have any power in the Senate. So, even if you appoint a special prosecutor, say, the leadership in the House appointed a special prosecutor for any number of these different scandals, they can do their thing, put it together, investigate, and then where does that go? It goes right back to the Department of Justice, who, again, is not going to do much about it. The difference between a Republican and a Democratic present, well, take the Nixon situation. The Senate was willing to look into Watergate. This Senate isn't willing to look into a single thing that has happened under Barack Obama. They weren't willing to look into Fast and Furious. They weren't willing to seriously look into Benghazi. They haven't been willing to look into the IRS situation as they should, and unless you have that power in the Senate, the House can only do so much, and the good news is that the House Oversight Committee has done phenomenal work on all of these things, and so that work is done, so if only they can get that final push and get the power that they need in the Senate to start really holding people accountable, I don't think that it's going to change. So, the special prosecutor doesn't really do much when it comes to appointing them, I guess you would say.
Josh Brewster: All right, very good. Do we have anyone else who would like to step up and ask a question. I'd love to hear from you. Direct your question to a particular speaker if you can. Hello, good morning.
Audience Member: Hi there. Linda Cooper. This is for Catherine. I don't know if many of us know, but Chuck Hagel, before elected, owned a voting manufacturing, machine company, and many people feel that that is how he was elected and beat Ben Nelson. My question is, what safeguards do we have? All of this is well and good, mobilizing ourselves and all, but what safeguards do we have against voter fraud?
Catherine Engelbrecht: As the people, at the end of the day, if people want to cheat, they're going to cheat, and I'm sure you all share with me in the general frustration of the discussion over photo voter identification, which is a common-sense thing to do, a common-sense reform, but this Administration is dead set on making it into a racist issue, because the more integrity we can bring to the process, the less slop there is in the system, the more it weighs against them and their interests. The only things that stands in that, in that gap are people, are citizens, and citizens, by virtue of our process, have a right to be everywhere ballots are, so you can begin. You can do, and I don't want to get into the waves of process, but there are auditing methodologies that can and should be being done at every stage of the process, all the way from when the polls open for early election all the way through to when the final ballot count is given. It is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and until we give it that kind of priority and until we fully appreciate that observation really does change things, we're going to continue to see this slide, because it's there for the taking, and they understand. They understand the states they're playing for, which is essential the control of the free world.
Josh Brewster: Yes, sir, back here at the mike.
Audience Member: A comment for Steve that I think, trying to just find a rational argument that will make people understand the global warming story is just a story, that doesn't work. It's very hard to argue science with people that can't pass freshman physics, but the cold weather they had in the East Coast this year is probably worth a thousand of those. The other thing I wanted to discuss is probably for Kate, but it's just a comment, and that is that a lot of people are very happy now to discover that Ted Kennedy can finally vote in Chicago.
Josh Brewster: Yes. I like this guy. All right, Steve, why don't we start with you, and then we'll have Katie sink her teeth into that one.
Steve Milloy: Well, I think you're right. The global warming debate is entirely irrational, and, you know, although the polar vortex events in the east are not evidence of anything, they are very valuable politically, bizarrely enough. I will say the reality that they have exposed is that it is folly to abandon coal for natural gas, because these vortex events have shown that, we've had during them, we've had natural gas pipeline failures; we've had natural gas plant failures. We've had tremendous price spikes, where electricity prices have soared 50 times higher than what they are normally because of overreliance on natural gas. The largest utility in the U.S., American Electrical Power, during the vortex events, they are scheduled to shut down a bunch of plants by 2016. During the vortex event, they were using 90 percent of those plants to keep the grid afloat. Another utility provider came within one coal plant of brownouts and blackouts during the event. So, it was very useful in two ways. It had that irrational contribution on our side, and also, but it had a reality component, which not many people know about.
Josh Brewster: Kate, did you want to jump in on that? I like that.
Katie Pavlivh: That was a good comment. I will just say that. And my response, I just want to say on the climate change thing, I always say, "I believe in climate change. Arizona used to be under an ocean. So." Kind of an easy response.
Josh Brewster: Sir, did you want to step up to the mike? Let's hear from this guy. Go, now, go ahead. You can. Can you get up there and I'll get this guy's question, and then we'll go to you. We just have a few minutes left. Yes, sir. These are the last two questions.
Audience Member: This is for Catherine. Is there much to that story in Florida where somebody took the jury duty ballots and supplied the ones where they said "not a citizen" so they didn't have to serve jury duty, and then they compared that to the voter rolls and they found, in a small sample a significant amount of discrepancy there?
Catherine Engelbrecht: Right, so what the gentleman described is a scenario that really should be playing out all across the country. When you are asked to serve on a jury, you have an opportunity to say, "Well, I can't serve on the jury, because I'm not a citizen." That, then, should trace it's way back to your voter registration. Those kinds of cross-over checks should be being done internally, as a matter of practice, but they're not, and that's one of the types of projects that True the Vote focuses on. They're trying to out these anomalies, and they're replete. You can do the same thing with felons. They're all over the place.
Audience Member: This is for Catherine, also. I understand recently that the DHA has failed to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the wrongdoings of the IRS. And I'm thinking to myself, let's say they did appoint a special prosecutor. Wouldn't that special prosecutor be aligned with the Democrats anyway, and we would get a very unfair investigation result?
Catherine Engelbrecht: That's absolutely the case. In considering all of the agencies that I've had to deal with in these past few years, it was brought to my attention that I would have an option, potentially, to file with the U.S. Attorney's Office under threat of color of law as a claim against all of the various analysts who came out with all the various agencies, and because my civil liberties had been violated, it might be something that would give further, I mean, we've already sued the IRS, but it might be a further vehicle to really crack into what happened. But the same conundrum exists, right? So, essentially, I go to the U.S. Attorney, and I say, "Please help me," which means that I'm asking Eric Holder to represent me. That would be a fun discovery in a trial wouldn't it? I mean, this is a situation where you absolutely have the DOJ, as you do the IRS, as you do all of them. All of them have been radicalized arms of an Administration bent on maintaining its own power. They are not there serving the interests of the people. They are serving the interests of the state, and citizens speaking out and standing up now, while there is still time, is the only way to reel this back.
Katie Pavlich: And just to point out on that IRS investigation, the Department of Justice appointed a woman named Barbara Bosserman to investigate what went wrong within the IRS in that targeting scandal, and she just happened to donate $7,000.00 to the Obama campaign in 2012. So, you can imagine, you know, how that investigation is going. Maybe that's what we should do. We should all collectively donate to the administration and then we can get the country back.
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