Kagan, Thomas to recuse themselves from Obamacare case?

Court announcement raises recusal questions for Kagan, Thomas
By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Supreme Court’s announcement Monday that it will hear challenges to President Obama’s health care law put a spotlight on Justice Elena Kagan, who worked in the administration while the law was being written and, conservatives argue, helped craft its legal defense.

“Before the Supreme Court case is heard, we need to know if Justice Elena Kagan helped the Obama administration prepare its defense for Obamacare when she was solicitor general. The Justice Department must answer serious questions about whether Justice Kagan has an inherent conflict of interest, which would demand that she recuse herself from the Obamacare case,” said Rep. John Fleming, Louisiana Republican.

At the same time, liberal groups and Democrats in Congress have been pushing for months for Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself, citing his wife’s stated opposition to the law as an indication that he cannot rule impartially.

At stake in the case is the fate of the president’s massive health care overhaul, which passed Congress on the strength of Democratic votes last year and has a checkered record in lower courts.

The case likely will be argued next spring. Although the justices could recuse themselves at any time, legal analysts doubt it will happen.

James Sample, a law professor at Hofstra University School of Law who studies recusal issues, said the outside groups’ calls are misplaced.

“I am generally one of the most pro-recusal scholars you can find, and yet I think in this instance those who are trying to argue for the recusal of Justice Kagan and Justice Thomas alike are opportunists who are trying to use a mechanism that just doesn’t fit,” he said.

The standard for recusal is whether a judge’s or justice’s impartiality can be reasonably questioned.

Mr. Sample said Justice Thomas‘ judicial approach is well-known and it’s unlikely that his wife’s associations would influence him in this case. As for Justice Kagan, he said her “extraordinarily limited exposure to the health care policy when she was in government service is, I think, just a nonissue.”

Justice Kagan was solicitor general at the time the health care legislation was signed in March 2010, and when states sued to block it.

During her confirmation process last year, Republican senators asked Justice Kagan whether she would recuse herself. She replied that she had no role in crafting the government’s response to the lawsuits.

She said she attended a meeting where the cases were discussed, but that she wasn’t involved in the government’s filings.

Outside groups have obtained documents that they say show Justice Kagan was enthusiastic about the law’s enactment during her time as solicitor general. The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group, argues in a white paper that the Justice Department is withholding other documents under the deliberation exemption to the Freedom of Information Act – which the Judicial Crisis Network said signals that she was involved in those deliberations.

House Republicans on the Judiciary Committee tried to obtain additional documents, but a committee aide said the Justice Department on Friday declined to turn them over.

Hans A. von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group, said the incentive for Justice Kagan to stay on the case may be great.

“If I was put in this position, there’s no question I would recuse myself,” he said. “But I suspect the White House and others don’t want her to recuse herself because they have a huge amount of politics and everything else riding on this case and having it come out the right way.”

The choice to recuse is entirely up to each justice, though public pressure can raise the profile of the decision.

In the case of Justice Thomas, several dozen congressional Democrats signed a letter this year saying that his wife’s stated opposition to the health care law and her work for the Heritage Foundation should disqualify her husband.

“Given these facts, there is a strong conflict between the Thomas household’s financial gain through your spouse’s activities and your role as an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court,” the lawmakers said. “We urge you to recuse yourself from this case. If the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is to be viewed as legitimate by the American people, this is the only correct path.”

The justices did not recuse themselves in the court’s decision Monday to hear the case.

Mr. Sample said that “hints” that there won’t be a recusal later, but that it’s not definitive because a justice can decide any time between now and when a ruling is issued in the case.

“I’m not a betting man, but, I guess I’d say I’d be very surprised if any of the justices recuse in this case,” Mr. Sample said. “It is going to be a major issue, but it’s going to be a major issue outside the U.S. Supreme Court building.”


Gingrich takes the lead

He won’t stay there but a pretty good come from behind.
November 14, 2011

Gingrich takes the lead

Newt Gingrich has taken the lead in PPP’s national polling.  He’s at 28% to 25% for Herman Cain and 18% for Mitt Romney.  The rest of the Republican field is increasingly looking like a bunch of also rans: Rick Perry is at 6%, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul at 5%, Jon Huntsman at 3%, and Gary Johnson and Rick Santorum each at 1%.

Compared to a month ago Gingrich is up 13 points, while Cain has dropped by 5 points and Romney has gone down by 4.  Although a fair amount of skepticism remains about the recent allegations against Cain there is no doubt they are taking a toll on his image- his net favorability is down 25 points over the last month from +51 (66/15) to only +26 (57/31). What is perhaps a little more surprising is that Romney’s favorability is at a 6 month low in our polling too with only 48% of voters seeing him favorably to 39% with a negative opinion.


Gingrich’s lead caps an amazing comeback he’s made over the last 5 months.  In June his favorability nationally with Republican voters plummeted all the way to 36/49. Now he’s at 68/23, representing a 58 point improvement in his spread since then. As recently as August Gingrich was mired in single digits at 7%, and even in September he was at just 10%.  He’s climbed 18 points in less than 2 months.

There’s reason to think that if Cain continues to fade, Gingrich will continue to gain.  Among Cain’s supporters 73% have a favorable opinion of Gingrich to only 21% with a negative one. That compares to a 33/55 spread for Romney with Cain voters and a 32/53 one for Perry.  They like Gingrich a whole lot more than they do the other serious candidates in the race.

Cain’s base of strength continues to be with Tea Party voters, where he gets 33% to 31% for Gingrich, and only 11% for Romney.  This is where you can really see that Gingrich will be the beneficiary if Cain continues to implode- Gingrich’s favorability with Tea Partiers is 81/14. Romney’s is 43/45. There’s a lot of room for Gingrich to build up support with that key group of Republican voters.

Cain’s continuing to benefit from doubts about whether the allegations against him are true- 54% of primary voters think they are ‘mostly false’ to only 24 who believe they are ‘mostly true.’ Painting himself as a victim of the media is proving to be a good strategy for Cain so far- 61% think it has been ‘mostly unfair’ to him compared to 26% who say it has been ‘mostly fair.’ Only 26% of Republicans say they have a more negative opinion of him now than before the accusations surfaced, and just 27% think he should drop out of the race.  All of that’s fine but here’s the bottom line- Cain’s favorability numbers are declining and so is his support. If those trends continue he will fade as a candidate.

The other Republican coming off a bad week is Rick Perry and his numbers have continued on their downward trajectory.  Just 35% of GOP primary voters see him positively to 49% with a negative opinion. That’s a 18 point drop compared to a month ago when he was at 42/38. And he’s gone from 14% to 6% in the horse race, a bigger decline than Cain’s.

If there’s any sign of hope for Perry and the other non-Gingrich/Cain/Romney voters it might be the rise of Gingrich. Gingrich has gained 18 points in only 2 months, suggesting that someone else might be capable of gaining 18 points in the 2 months before Iowa as well. And Perry’s national favorability of 35/49 is pretty much identical to the 36/49 Gingrich had in June- Newt obviously came back and perhaps Perry can as well, although there’s no doubt the clock is ticking.

As for Romney he has not shown any ability to take advantage of the trouble his fellow candidates keep getting themselves into. In July Romney was at 20%, in August at 20%, in September at 18%, October at 22%, and now in November at 18%.  He’s been at 20 +/-2% for the last five months in our polling. While the flavor of the month has gone from Trump to Bachmann to Perry to Cain to Gingrich, Romney hasn’t had a turn in that seat- he can only hope that his chance in that role will come in January, which is certainly the best time to have it.


Full results here

Actors, sports stars get govt subsidies

Your Tax Dollars Subsidizing Scottie Pippin, Ted Turner, and Jon Bon Jovi?

by Trish Turner | November 14, 2011

If ever there was a populist blueprint for deficit reduction, this has got to be it.

Each year, millionaires are soaking the government, not illegally, for some $30 billion in benefits from tax giveaways and loan programs, according to a report by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The Republican senator, a staunch fiscal hawk and equal opportunity scourge of government waste and abuse, released “Subsidies of the Rich and Famous” Monday to little fanfare, saying in an e-mailed statement, “This welfare for the well-off – costing billions of dollars a year – is being paid for with the taxes of the less fortunate, many who are working two jobs just to make ends meet, and IOUs to be paid off by future generations.”

The eye-popping findings in the 36-page report include some eye-catching names, like former NBA star Scottie Pippen and billionaire media mogul Ted Turner, both of whom received farm subsidies courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer. Singer Jon Bon Jovi paid property taxes of only $100 last year on a plot of land he used to raise bees. Iconic crooner Bruce Springsteen also got in on the farm subsidy action, for property he leases to an organic farmer. And Millionaire composer-producer Quincy Jones is even singled out for receiving a $25,000 award from the federally-funded National Endowment for the Arts.

Coburn’s investigation found that from 2003 to 2009, millionaires received over $316 million in farm program payments. In one four-year period alone, the senator’s staff, reviewing tax returns found that fully 78 percent of recipients listed a city as their primary address, not exactly a location for a farm.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture regularly pays millionaires, the report found, to conserve land and protect endangered species, waving income caps for government subsidies in current law. In the past two years, Coburn’s staff counted more than $89 million paid out, as a result of this waiver authority.

The report lists two examples: “A founder and former executive of an insurance company improperly received more than $300,000 in farm program payments in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006; and a part-owner of a professional sports franchise received total of more than $200,000 in farm program payments in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006.”

“The government’s social safety net, which has long existed to catch those who are down and help them get back up, is now being used as a hammock by some millionaires, some who are paying less taxes than average middle class families,” Coburn said.

Parents are likely to be outraged when they read about millionaires taking advantage of a Department of Education low-interest loan program. Over the past four years, the average loan paid out through one program to wealthy families was $19,405. A total of more than $16 million went to rich students. Not only that, but those making more than $1 million in their adjusted gross income, from 2007 to 2009, according to the Coburn report, saved $18 million through childcare tax credits.

And perhaps one of the most egregious findings in the report, millionaires collecting home heating assistance from a program that is supposed to help the very poor. A nonpartisan General Accounting Office investigation found wealthy individuals collecting payments through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) while living in million-dollar mansions in tony Potomac, Maryland and in the Chicago suburbs. According to the report, “GAO even identified one such person living in a home valued at $2 million, who also owned a Mercedes. That same individual won a multimillion dollar settlement in the mid-2000s, which was under appeal at the time of the report.”

Taxpayers also subsidized the losses of gamblers to the tune of $20 billion over the past four years.

Coburn said his investigation, compiled using some previously-published government reports and news accounts, reveals the “sheer Washington stupidity with government policies pampering the wealthy costing taxpayers billions of dollars every year.”

But to be clear, these individuals did nothing wrong, technically. The system is the system, and these individuals operated within it, not apart from it.

No doubt, these findings will be waived about by both sides of the aisle in the ongoing fight over deficit reduction, which has a bipartisan group on the brink of failure as it grapples to find at least $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years. Republicans want tax code reform; Democrats want the rich to “pay their fair share.” The report provides ammo to both sides.

“This is not an accidental loophole in the law. To the contrary, this reverse Robin Hood style of wealth redistribution is an intentional effort to get all Americans bought into a system where everyone appears to benefit,” Coburn said. “We should never demonize those who are successful. Nor should we pamper them with unnecessary welfare to create an appearance everyone is benefiting from federal programs.”

Read more: http://politics.blogs.foxnews.com/2011/11/14/your-tax-dollars-subsidizing-scottie-pippin-ted-turner-and-jon-bon-jovi#ixzz1djfoiKw4