Ivy League Faculty, Staff Funnel Millions To Dem Campaigns

Eight universities make for a small athletic conference, but Ivy League campuses are financial and political powerhouses for Democratic candidates and campaigns.

Administrators and professors have funneled seven times more cash to federal Democratic candidates and causes than to Republicans since 1990, according to a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis of OpenSecrets.org data.

Employees at the eight prestigious schools donated $25.3 million to Democrats over the last 25 years compared with $3.5 million to Republicans, reinforcing the notion that America’s universities lean heavily left.

Cornell University faculty and staff are the most one-sided in their contributions, giving $2.1 million to Democrats versus $118,000 to Republicans in that time period. Yale University employees skewed left nearly as much as Cornell employees, giving $2.6 million to Democrats versus $173,000 to Republicans.

harvardBut Harvard University faculty and staff out-shine their competitors by donating more to Democrats than anyone else — $9.4 million total, versus $1.3 million to Republicans.

Dartmouth College faculty and staff came closest to being balanced in their political donations, but still donated twice as much to Democrats as Republicans — $618,900 versus $309,000.

Total donations from Ivy League faculty and staff may be much higher, as federal law doesn’t require donors to name their employers.

Others funneled far more cash to Democrats than Republicans over the last 25 years, too.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Public Ignorance About E-Cigarettes, In One Awful Poll

e-cigaretteThe University of Michigan is dealing bad news to vapers and e-cigarette supporters with a new poll showing stunning support for a raft of new regulations and taxes that could hamper the industry.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health showed that 92 percent of parents and 91 percent of teens think e-cigarettes should have health warnings, like traditional cigarettes.

The poll didn’t ask about the addictive nature of e-cigarettes thanks to their nicotine content, but simply whether they should be labeled the same as regular smokes.

The results will puzzle many medical professionals as there is no clear evidence about what the negative health effects of e-cigarettes are. There is, however, a strong consensus that the devices are significantly safer than regular cigarettes. A study by Public Health England concluded e-cigarettes are 95 percent less dangerous than regular cigarettes.

The poll suggested that the vast majority of parents and teens believe using e-cigarettes will encourage smoking among minors, 81 percent and 84 percent respectively. But again, there is little evidence to support this view aside from speculative op-eds.

In fact, a tougher policy on e-cigarettes could have the reverse effect, with one study suggesting states that banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors actually experienced a rising smoking rate. Every state with the exception of Pennsylvania and Michigan has introduced some form of regulation on the sale of vaping products to teenagers. According to the data, there is also little chance of adults taking up vaping and switching to tobacco.

A study published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research by Rutgers School of Public Health concluded that “e-cigarettes have not been attracting adult non-smokers or promoting relapse in long-term former smokers. Moreover, the data are suggestive that some recent quitters may have done so with the assistance of e-cigarettes.”

The Rutgers authors added that the amount of experimentation with e-cigarettes among adults who have never smoked is “extremely low.” The original National Institute of Health shows that just 0.4 percent of adults who had never smoked tobacco were current vapers, using the device either every day or some days.

One the biggest challenges facing the e-cigarette industry is a skeptical Food And Drug Administration and an outright hostile group of Senate Democrats. Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and others recently demanded stricter regulation of the industry, including an outright ban on flavored e-cigarettes. Critics claim that flavored e-cigarettes will entice children and young people to take up vaping.

A full 64 percent of parents and 71 percent of teens agreed with banning candy or fruit-flavored e-cigarettes, according to the Michigan poll. But Cynthia Cabrera, executive director and president of the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association, told The Daily Caller News Foundation the move will be counter-productive in getting people to quit smoking.

“Flavors also play an important aspect with helping cigarette smokers make the switch, with a recent study published in the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information confirming that sweet and dessert-type vapor flavors appealed much more to adults than non-smoking teens, and other studies confirming that the variance in flavors were ‘very important’ in people’s efforts to switch to e-cigs.”

But there appears to be no limit to which parents and high schoolers want to treat vapers in the same way as smokers, with 80 and 81 percent respectively supporting taxing e-cigarettes in the same way as regular tobacco.

Cabrera commented that “from a public health and policy perspective, we should be focusing on harm-reduction strategies rather than continuing to demonize a product that has the potential to improve the public health and save health care costs caused by tobacco smoking.”

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Fight for $15 Hits Setback in Unexpected City

Minimum wage1In a huge setback to $15 minimum-wage supporters, voters in Portland, Maine rejected a proposal Tuesday to enact the policy in their city.

City residents voted nearly 58 to 42 percent against the increase. The city ordinance was designed to phase in over time. The Portland Green Independent Committee fought to get it on the ballot. While advocates argued it would help low-wage workers, critics warned it could severely limit job opportunities.

Right now I’m feeling a huge sense of relief for every small business owner in Portland, and everyone who works for me,” Play It Again Sports Owners Scott Rousseau said, according to Portland Press Herald. “I think it’s great news for the future of our city.”

Critics warn businesses would have few options to offset the added cost of labor– they could increase prices or hire less workers. In some cases, the businesses could have to close. The potential problem is especially true for low-profit industries like restaurants. Supporters, however, say the increase would allow more people to afford basic necessities. The increased spending would then stimulate economic growth.

Seattle led the way in passing the $15 minimum wage back in June 2014. San Francisco and Los Angeles followed not long after. Each local ordinance phased in the new wage over the course of several years. Some Seattle businesses, though, have reported problems because of the increase.

Much of the debate boiled down to rival media campaigns. Patriotic Millionaires launched ads in support of a $15 minimum on television, as well as online. The group normally fights for minimum wage increases on the national level. Its latest advertisements latest advertisements focusing on Maine premiered Monday. The Portland Regional Chamber has been opposing the policy with its own media campaign.

Nationwide, the group Fight for $15 has led much of the effort. The group is backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Conservative opposition research group AR Squared (AR2) alleges that the push is more about helping the union as opposed to low-wage workers.

“By voting against a $15 minimum wage, voters in Portland, Maine sided with their local businesses and rejected the SEIU’s effort to increase its membership rolls,” AR2 Communications Director Natalie Gillam said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “From Portland to the Clinton HQ in Brooklyn, yesterday was a bad day for union bosses at SEIU in D.C.”

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

What Unions Really Think Of The $15 Minimum Wage

Minimum wage1The Employment Policies Institute (EPI) released multiple ads Tuesday criticizing union leaders for seeking an exemption to their own $15 minimum wage proposal in Santa Monica.

The ads included a newspaper spot and mobile billboard. They called the request for an exemption hypocrisy. Unions have been at the forefront of pushing for the Santa Monica minimum wage proposal. Union leader like Rusty Hicks have also been pushing an exemption to the proposal for unionized workers.

“Labor boss Rusty Hicks was criticized nationwide after he tried to sneak a union exemption to a minimum wage bill he pushed in Los Angeles,” the ad declared. “Now, he’s at it again in Santa Monica.”

Hicks also sought an exemption when his own city of Los Angeles voted in May to increase its wages to at least $15 an hour. This despite him leading the coalition behind getting the measure passed. Despite national criticism, Hicks has since moved on to encourage other cities to increase their wages while exempting unions.

“I think they should ask themselves what’s the motivation,” EPI Research Director Michael Saltsman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Are unions supporting this just to help themselves and boosts their own ranks.”

Hicks has defended his stance. He argued both the $15 minimum wage and an exemption for unions will help workers.

“This clause preserves and protects basic worker rights and that is why nearly every city in California that has ever passed a minimum wage ordinance has included these protections,” Hicks said back in May. “I would never do anything to undermine the rights of any worker.”

Even other union leaders have criticized Hicks for wanting an exemption while continuing to advocate for a higher minimum wage. David Rolf, president of Local 775 of the Service Employees International Union, questioned the justification behind the request.

Despite this, it is not at all unusual for unions to opt out of laws which raise the minimum wage. According to a report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last December, many labor unions are exempt from the various local minimum wage laws they support.

“Not all minimum wage increases come in the same form,” the report notes. “Some local ordinances in particular include an exemption for employers that enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union.”

The report details how these “escape clauses” are often designed to encourage unionization because they make membership a low-cost alternative for employers. This raises questions about who these minimum wage laws are actually meant to help, according to the report.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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IG: Yes, The Los Angeles VA Is Shredding Vets’ Claims

disabled-veteransIt’s been confirmed. Employees at the Los Angeles VA Regional Office shredded paperwork related to veterans’ disability claims.

A new report from the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general discovered that a tip-off received in January alleging that staff improperly shredded documents is nothing short of true.

According to investigators, it’s not clear how many documents were shredded prior to the start of the review, but they did find nine documents related to veterans’ claims discarded in the shredding bin, despite policies existing to prevent this exact practice. Five of the documents had missing signatures from both employee and supervisor.

In one case, VA staff received a letter confirming that a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was unemployable and promptly placed the document into a red box designated for shredding. Staff did not include the claim in the electronic system.

“Due to noncompliance with VBA policy, poor controls, inadequate oversight, and lack of training, the Los Angeles VARO put veterans’ claims-related documents at risk for inappropriate destruction,” investigators found. “Because the Los Angeles VARO did not consistently follow VBA’s controls, it is likely that VARO staff would have inappropriately destroyed the nine claims-related documents we found.”

This isn’t the first time VA has had a problem with employees wantonly shredding essential documents. Following revelations of the practice in 2008, VA established the position of Records Management Officer.

So what happened in Los Angeles?

No such position existed from August 2014 up until the time of the IG’s investigation in February 2015.

In August 2014, the person who filled the position of RMO was promoted. Those duties were passed to untrained staff from the Support Services Division, who conducted what they referred to as a “cursory review” of documents before they were tossed in the shredding bin.

Investigators soon realized that a “cursory review” just meant that they’d sit and watch as documents were dumped into shredding bins.

“We determined that SSD staff were not properly trained and their cursory reviews were inadequate to identify and separate any claims-related documents from other documents,” the report noted. “They were not familiar with claims-processing activities and lacked the knowledge needed to identify claims or claims-related documents.”

The troubling nature of document shredding at the Los Angeles office has prompted the IG to launch investigations in 10 regional offices across the country.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

FDA Regulations Could Wipe Out 99 Percent Of E-Cigarette Industry

e-cigaretteThe e-cigarette industry could be all but wiped out thanks to regulations coming down the pipeline from the Food and Drug Administration.

Most damaging of all, e-cigarette makers will have to retroactively submit marketing applications for all their products, with the costs running into the millions.

Manufacturers of e-cigarettes could also be banned from advertising the reduced risk from substituting smoking for vaping unless they can convince the FDA otherwise.

In 2009, e-cigarettes came under the purview of the FDA and may face many of the restrictions placed on the tobacco industry, such as issuing health warnings and stopping sales to minors.

The e-cig industry is still relatively young, with the first e-cigarette invented in China in 2007. Despite there being close to 20 million Americans regularly using e-cigarettes, the FDA’s regulations could bankrupt the vast majority of producers.

Speaking to The Hill, Jan Verleur, co-founder and CEO of VMR Products, said as much as 99 percent of the industry could be wiped out. “This makes it so any product released after the grandfather date would require premarket approval,” said Verleur.

He added that ”the process could cost us half a million to million dollars,” per individual product. With more than 500 e-cigarette products, VMR Products would have to pay five times the company’s revenue.

His comments echo those of the president of the American Vaping Association Greg Conley who told the L.A. Times Monday that 99 percent of the small businesses in the industry could close their doors.

There is as of yet no fixed date for when the rules come into force. The FDA has said it will give companies two years to submit their applications and they will be able to sell the products under review during that time.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Does Hillary Earn More Money Than America’s Top CEOs?

In an effort to drum up populist support for her presidential campaign Hillary Clinton is painting herself as a middle-class warrior, but the image she’s trying to build doesn’t exactly jive with the lavish fees she commands to speak at events.

Clinton’s shillary-clinton-biopics-cancelled-ftrpeaking fee of $300,000 per speech puts her hourly wage far ahead of America’s top-paid CEOs when taken into account that one speech generally runs for about an hour, the Washington Examiner reported.

Clinton makes a massively larger sum per hour than the highest paid CEO, John Hammergren of the pharmaceutical company McKesson. Hammergren makes $63,077 an hour.

She is paid per-hour more than the top five CEOs combined, and almost the 6th, which comes out to be $302,116 total, compared to her $300,000.

By this hourly measure, Clinton is slaying the salaries of America’s CEOs, who bring in a measly per-hour average of just over $54,000, which is about one-sixth of Clinton’s $300,000.

In terms of politician’s speaking fees, Clinton is topped only by Donald Trump who reportedly earned a staggering $1.5 million per speech while speaking at “real estate wealth expos” in 2006 and 2007. Her husband is typically paid around $200,000 per speech, but was once paid $750,000 for one speech in 2011.

For reference, former president George W. Bush earns between $100,000 and $150,000 per speaking engagement, and back when she was relevant, Sarah Palin asked for around $100,000.

If Clinton were to give a speech every hour for a 40-hour work week, that would net her around $624 million per year. That is larger than the annual salaries of the 10 highest paid CEOs in the country combined. Hammergren makes roughly $131 million a year, with the rest of the top 10 pulling in between $43 and $67 million.

Obviously Clinton isn’t giving speeches full-time. So, if she needs roughly four hours to prepare for and travel to a speech location, that still puts her hourly wage at around $75,000, or nearly $20,000 above the average pay of America’s top 10 CEOs.

The Democratic presidential candidate doesn’t discriminate in terms of who she is speaking to, either. She’s spoken before industry groups ranging from private-equity managers and business executives to travel agents and car dealers, but always collects more than $200,000 per appearance.

She’s spoken at events directed at both Republicans and Democrats, according to the Washington Post. Clinton gave the keynote address at an event for the Economic Club of Grand Rapids in 2013 that was honoring Amway President Doug DeVos, a prominent Republican donor. Earlier that year, Henry Kissinger introduced her at a black-tie gala for the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.

Clinton sparked a bit of an uproar in the summer of 2014 when she charged a Nevada college $225,000 shortly after officials in the state signed off on a plan to raise tuition at the school by 17 percent. The invitation-only fundraiser charged guests $200 each for a seat, with premium seating ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 for reserved tables.

Clinton attempted to quell the flames by agreeing to direct the funds to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, rather than her own pocket, but even that raises some questions, since contributions to the $2 billion tax-exempt charitable foundation could result in tax deductions for the Clintons.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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BURNING MONEY: Congressman Publishes 10 Most Atrocious Examples Of Government Waste

Sen. Tom Coburn’s legacy of exposing the worst of the federal government’s waste in his annual report may have a new man to carry the torch.

Freshman Republican Rep. Steve Russell laid out 10 of the worst instances of government waste Tuesday in his first “Waste Watch” publication, the Washington Examiner reports. The waste totaled more than $117 million and ranged across several government agencies. Coburn’s wastebook became famous for exposing government waste, but he retired at the end of the last session.

Here are Russell’s top 10 examples of terrible government waste.

1. U.S. Builds Melting Walls

The U.S. military spent $456,669 on a training facility in Afghanistan that melted when it rained. The military had the “dry fire range” built to use as a training spot with Afghan special police, but since the structure was built with bricks made mostly of sand, it only took four months for the walls to disintegrate in the rain.

2. Uncle Sam Pays For Contractors To Party Like It’s 1999

International Relief and Development, a nonprofit contractor that received about $2 billion in federal money to rebuild struggling countries, threw multiple lavish get-togethers that totaled $1.1 million. It billed the federal government for the parties – which included spa treatments, crystal chandeliers and a private zoo – saying they were for “training” and “staff morale.”

3. The Federal Government Accidentally Funded An Anti-U.S. Movie

In 2013, the U.S. embassy in Iraq paid for five Iraqi filmmakers to fly to the states for film classes at UCLA. As part of the program the students received a stipend to fund their own movie. One of the students, Salam Salman, focused his film on the 2007 shooting of 17 Iraqis by the U.S. private security company, Blackwater, an incident that hurt America’s reputation in Iraq.

4. More Explanation Needed For Big Payouts To Afghan Government

The Department of State gave the Afghan government $100 million in 2014 to help it close a budget shortfall that the Afghan leadership said was dire. Critics have blasted the department for failing to explain if the money was necessary and if the department will do it again. The funding of projects in Afghanistan has been rife with waste for years.

5. Storing Way Too Much Stuff For Way Too Much Money

The Department of Defense spent $15.4 million in 2013 to store millions of cubic feet of equipment that no one in the military needed for five years. Some of these items could be useful but much of it is outdated or costs more to store than it would cost to simply throw out and buy a new one. For example, one component of a power mast worth $391 cost the DOD more than $8,000 to store.

6. Feds Help Amateur Filmmakers Use Video Games

The National Science Foundation shelled out almost $700,000 to help amateur filmmakers create movies by using 3D characters in virtual worlds. The goal was to reduce the barriers to learning the technical skills involved. At least it sounds fun.

7. Government Teaches Conflict Resolution Skills To Moroccan Teens

The United States Agency for International Development dropped $559,000 in the last two years to teach teenagers in Morocco “public speaking, team building, and conflict mitigation techniques” in the hopes of reducing extremism. How effective this will be at reducing Islamic extremism is unknown.

8. A Lot Of Dead People Are Still On Social Security

About 6.5 million social security accounts belong to people who are at least 112 years old, which means all but a few are dead. Although the Social Security Administration sent few payments to these accounts, active accounts exemplify issues with record keeping for deceased individuals that are ripe for abuse by scammers who can continue claiming the benefits for the dead person and impersonate them to defraud other agencies.

9. The Environmental Protection Agency Spent Big To Track How Much Water You Use In Hotel Showers

The EPA spent $15,000 to create a system to track how much water each hotel guest uses during their stay. The hope is to encourage people to conserve more water when they see their consumption on a smart phone app.

 10. Missile Defense Agency Jumped The Gun And Overpayed Big Time

The MDA overpaid for a big contract by $11 million dollars even after an auditor warned it there could be problems. An auditor told the agency there was $200 million in questionable costs and needed more time to finish the audit before it should sign the deal. The audit was five days from revealing the massive waste, but the impatient agency went ahead and agreed anyway, a costly mistake.

Read the full report here.

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Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Obama Warns About Sea Level Rise From Global Warming … Buys Beachfront Mansion In Hawaii

News reports indicate that President Barack Obama may have just purchased a beachfront home in Hawaii. But isn’t he worried about sea level rise from global warming?

Hawaii’s KTV4 News reports that a man connected to Obama purchased the multi-million dollar beachfront home featured in the show “Magnum P.I.” — the property was then sold to a limited liability corporation in Colorado. But if the House was bought on the president’s behalf, isn’t he worried that rising sea levels will harm his new real estate?

Obama has long warned that sea level rises caused by man-made global warming will make storm surges and flooding worse for coastal communities. In his 2015 State of the Union speech, Obama said “we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods.”

In 2013, Obama said that “seas will slowly keep rising and storms will get more severe, based on the science” — one of the reasons why he’s imposing regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants.

Obama also issued an executive order in January calling for the federal agencies to incorporate sea level rises and flood risks in planning and building along the coastlines. The order states that floods from rising seas “are anticipated to increase over time due to the effects of climate change and other threats… which affects our national security.”

And who could forget Obama’s famous line from his 2008 victory speech when he said this was “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

The “Magnum P.I.” mansion is literally right on the water. So shouldn’t Obama be concerned that sea levels around Hawaii are rising according to government water level stations. At Mokuoloe, on Oahu’s north shore close to wear the Obama’s may have bought their home, the sea level is rising at a rate of one millimeter per year, or 0.36 feet per century.

Across the island in Honolulu, the sea level is rising much the same, at about 1.4 millimeters per year, or about half a foot per century.

Obama’s alleged beachfront estate was sold for $8.7 million, and the new owner got a $9.5 million mortgage to buy the house and fix it up. Residents of Oahu, and the American public, may find out if the Obama’s are in fact the new owners of the house this December when the first family heads out on their annual vacation.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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Congresswoman Says Kids Should Be Drug-Tested Before They Can Inherit

Democratic Rep. Linda Sanchez offered a baffling defense of the death tax Wednesday during a hearing examining the sometimes unbearable burden it places on family farms and businesses.

People receiving food stamps have to pass drug tests or meet work requirements to receive taxpayer dollars, Sanchez reasoned, so it’s only fair that those “lucky” enough to inherit wealth should have to do something to earn it or, in this case, pay a tax.

“What work requirements are there to inherit up to $10 million tax free?” she asked a witness, rhetorically.

“Why is that [a single mother] should be drug tested, which is an unrelated requirement to receive food assistance, to make sure that her family has enough to eat,” she asked. “And people who are lucky enough to inherit millions of dollars are literally required to do nothing to get the federal tax benefit with their inheritance?”

Sanchez acknowledged that Americans should value hard work, but bemoaned the “paradox” that occurs when they want to work hard so they can accumulate wealth to live off of in retirement and pass on to their children.

“We don’t believe in an aristocracy, or that it’s a good societal thing for dynasties to hoard their wealth and leave the rest to fight over the crumbs,” she said. “That’s just not how this country was founded.”

“But we have a paradox here in this country, where we think you should work hard to get where you are … but by the same token, everyone wants to make enough money to where they can retire and not have to work,” she continued. “And they want to preserve increasingly larger and larger chunks of their wealth.”

Sanchez made the remarks after hearing a witness describe the heartbreak her family is going through watching her father try to find a way to pass his business along to his children without breaking it up in order to pay the death tax.

“Our whole lives we watched my dad work,” Illco, Inc. CFO Karen Madonia said. “You know, 10 to 12 hours a day … he did all of it. And we watched him struggle through all that, and to watch him figure out how he can pass it onto us and let us make our mark on it without having to dismantle part of it is really just heartbreaking.”

The government currently taxes inheritance at a rate of up to 40 percent. (RELATED: Obama Proposes A Second Death Tax)

“I understand the desire to keep things running in a family business,” Sanchez said. “I get that. I get the hardships you guys encounter. But let’s not throw the entire baby out with the bathwater and say we’re going to eliminate the estate tax altogether.”

Republican Rep. Kevin Brady introduced legislation last week that would repeal the death tax, which prompted the hearing Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Select Revenue Measures Subcommittee.

“The Death Tax is still the No. 1 reason family-owned farms and businesses in America aren’t passed down to the next generation,” Brady said in a statement announcing the bill. “It’s the wrong tax at the wrong time and hurts the wrong people.”

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

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