AARP in bed with Obama Care

Editor’s Note – Reliancing on plausible deniability, many organizations have supported Obama and his endeavors in the hope that over time, busy Americans would overlook much. Thanks to the internet though, it is becoming more difficult to hide such relationships. There is also that wonderful FOIA Law (Freedom of Information Act), and watchdog groups forcing communications to be made public. Here is just one more case:

Strassel: The Love Song of AARP and Obama

Newly released emails reveal the ‘nonpartisan’ group’s stealthy White House alliance on health care.

By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL – Wall Street Journal

When Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan address the AARP on Friday, good manners will no doubt keep them from asking this question: How can that lobby claim to speak for American seniors given its partisan role in passing ObamaCare?

Thanks to just-released emails from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we now know that AARP worked through 2009-10 as an extension of a Democratic White House, toiling daily to pass a health bill that slashes $716 billion from Medicare, strips seniors of choice, and sets the stage for rationing. We know that despite AARP’s awareness that its seniors overwhelmingly opposed the bill, the “nonpartisan membership organization” chose to serve the president’s agenda.

The 71 pages of emails show an AARP management taking orders from the White House, scripting the president’s talking points, working to keep its board “in line,” and pledging fealty to “the cause.” Seniors deserve to know all this, as AARP seeks to present itself as neutral in this presidential election.

The emails overall show an AARP leadership—Policy Chief John Rother, Health Policy Director Nora Super, Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond, Senior Vice President David Sloane—that from the start worked to pass ObamaCare, before crucial details pertaining to seniors had been addressed. This crew was in constant contact with Mr. Obama’s top aides, in particular Nancy-Ann DeParle and Jim Messina.

As early as July 2009, Mr. Sloane was sending the administration—”as promised”—his “message points” on Medicare. Ms. DeParle assured him “I think you will hear some of your lines tomorrow” in President Obama’s speech—which he did. Mr. Rother advised the White House on its outreach, discouraging Mr. Obama from addressing seniors since “he may not be the most effective messinger [sic] . . . at least to the McCain constituency.” Better to manage these folks, he counsels, through the “authoritative voices of doctors and nurses.”

AARP had long lambasted cuts in fees to Medicare doctors because reduced payments would mean fewer doctors who accept patients with the insurance. Yet in its campaign for ObamaCare, it argued the money the health law strips from Medicare—by imposing price controls on hospitals—would improve “care.” When the organization tried to sell the line to its own people, it didn’t go well. Ms. Super told Obama officials in June 2009: “It was actually a heavy lift for us to convince many at AARP that Medicare ‘savings’ (which they read as cuts) is not bad for beneficiaries.” Note the “savings” quote marks.

Even in November 2009, as the ObamaCare debate progressed, Ms. LeaMond worried that the Medicare spin wasn’t working against public criticism of the bill. She emailed Mr. Messina and Ms. DeParle that she was “seized” with “concerns about extended coherent, strong messaging by Republicans on the Medicare savings.” To pull off the legislation, she mused, “we”—the White House and AARP—will need a “concerted strategy.”

In August 2009, AARP had already unveiled a national advertising blitz for ObamaCare, to ensure that “every member of Congress knows the 50-plus community wants action to fix what’s wrong with healthcare.” The group made this claim despite weeks of daily tracking showing its members in revolt against the president’s plan.

July 23, 2009: AARP reported to the White House that 1,031 members called in against the proposed health-care changes; 77 called in support. July 28, 2009: 4,174 opposed; 36 in support. July 29, 2009: 2,656 opposed; 23 in support. Mr. Sloane told the White House that AARP lost 1,897 members in a single day “in disagreement over our position on health reform.” All the reports to Team Obama were accompanied by AARP’s request to keep the information “close,” apparently so word didn’t leak that seniors hate ObamaCare. And the ad blitz went on.

Was AARP sending these tracking reports to its outside board of directors—its governing body? Maybe not: AARP staff seemed to view the board as a problem. In June 2009, Ms. Super emailed Obama budget guy Keith Fontenot: The AARP board is meeting, she said, and we “need to get their buy-in on several proposals,” including the president’s Medicare cuts, which “as you might imagine, they are a bit concerned about.” Could he share ideas with her? “It would really help get them on Board.”

When Mr. Rother was asked in December 2009 by the White House to attend an event with Mr. Obama, he declined. “I am presenting to my Board on health reform” on the same day,he wrote. “I think you want me to keep my Board in line, so please understand my need to regret.”

AARP was, however, on 24-hour alert to do the White House’s political bidding. Typical is a March 2010 email exchange about Rep. Larry Kissell, a North Carolina Democrat who remained a “no” vote as ObamaCare neared its endgame. Labor boss Andy Stern emailed Mr. Messina—”Kissel [sic] a Problem”—and advised bringing in the AARP guns. Mr. Messina forwarded the note to Ms. LeaMond, with the word “Help.” “On it,” she quickly responded. Soon after: Does Mr. Messina want AARP to have its board chairman arrange a meeting, or just call the congressman “right away?” “Both?” Mr. Messina asked. “Will do,” she assured him. Rep. Kissell voted no.

In an interview, AARP spokesman Jim Dau and Legislative Policy Director David Certner noted that the lobby was committed to health-care reform long before Mr. Obama’s election, that it pushed for policy additions to the bill that were crucial for seniors, and that it did not endorse legislation until AARP’s priorities were met. They said that the board was kept informed and that AARP faced similar criticism when it worked with the GOP on a drug benefit in 2003.

“We get criticized, but we never take our eye off the ball when it comes to pursuing things that are good for our members,” says Mr. Dau. “We make no apologies for our advocacy.”

AARP’s ardent efforts on behalf of ObamaCare bear a resemblance to the work of the drug and health industry in 2009—with one significant difference. Those industries’ backroom dealing was motivated by financial self-interest. What motivated AARP, given that its membership of 37 million people 50 years old and older was clearly opposed to ObamaCare, since they recognized that it would hurt them? The answer appears to be: pure ideology.

In October 2009, Ms. Super expressed frustration that the Senate might strip more spending from the bill. She declared to colleagues: “I’m heading up to the House now where at least Democrats are Democrats (sort of).” Ms. Super is now working for Mr. Obama’s Health and Human Services Department.

In November 2009, Mr. Rother declined a White House request to have an AARP person take part in a roundtable. “I think we will try to keep a little space between us and the White House,” he explained, adding that AARP’s “polling” shows the organization is more “influential when we are seen as independent.” He wanted “to reinforce that positioning,” said the man working daily to pass ObamaCare, since “the larger issue is how to best serve the cause.” Mr. Rother has left AARP and now leads the liberal National Coalition on Health Care.

When the health-care reform bill passed the House in March 2010, Ms. LeaMondexuberantly emailed Mr. Messina: “This is the new AARP-WH/Hill—LeaMond/Messina relationship. . . . Seriously, a great victory for you and the President.”

But not one for America’s seniors, who had looked to AARP to oppose ObamaCare’s cuts and rationing. That’s worth remembering come the next AARP bulletin to seniors offering its “balanced” view on issues.

DOJ sued for not responding to FOIA – Illegal alien amnesty

Editor’s Note – Selective enforcement of the law through policy edicts is tantamount to breaking their oaths of office. The excuses are lame at best, and the harm appears to be much worse than the resource allocation savings they claim. Then why the policy change – votes, plain and simple.

Judicial Watch sues DOJ for records of the Illegal Alien Amnesty program

by TOM FITTON

Many citizens in the cities of Baltimore and Denver might be surprised to learn that they provided a “testing ground” for the Obama administration’s dangerous (and unlawful) policy of suspending the deportations of illegal aliens last year.

But that’s exactly what happened. And Judicial Watch has initiated an investigation of the matter. On June 11, we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking records pertaining to this six-week pilot program designed to test the Obama administration’s new “standards” for the dismissal of immigration charges against certain illegal aliens. The Obama administration tested the program first in the cities of Baltimore, Maryland, and Denver, Colorado, beginning on December 4, 2011.

Here’s what we’re after specifically pursuant to our original November 23, 2011, FOIA request to the Executive Office of Immigration Review (“EOIR”), a component of the DOJ:

i. Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the six-week pilot program in Baltimore and Denver that is scheduled to begin on December 4, 2011 and under which the immigration-related charges against certain undocumented residents may be subject to dismissal. This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all policy guidelines, implementation plans, training materials, and directives regarding the pilot program.

ii. Any and all records of communication between any official, employee or representative of the Executive Office for Immigration Review and any official, employee or representative of any other government agency, office or department (including, but not limited to, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Executive Office of the President, the City of Baltimore, and the City of Denver) regarding concerning or related to the pilot program.

The DOJ acknowledged receiving our FOIA request on November 28, 2011, and was required by law to respond by January 11, 2012, at the latest. As of the date of our lawsuit, however, the Obama administration has failed to turn over any records responsive to the request, indicate which records are exempt from disclosure, or notify Judicial Watch when a response is forthcoming.

And so, we filed a lawsuit to prod them into action.

If you’ve been reading this space for some time, you know that this “suspended deportation” controversy has been unfolding now for over two years.

It all began on June 30, 2010, when John Morton, Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sent a memo to all ICE employees instructing local immigration officials to use their discretion in “prioritizing” illegal immigration deportation cases. (The memo was leaked to the press and caused a massive uproar.)

On June 17, 2011, John Morton followed up with another memo to all field officers, special agents and to the chief counsel further defining the term “prosecutorial discretion,” which, in essence, asked immigration officials to focus deportation proceedings on illegal aliens convicted of crimes. However, Judicial Watch uncovered documents proving immigration officials considered suspending the deportation of illegal aliens convicted of violent crimes.

In November 2011, as reported by CNN, the Obama administration announced that on December 4, 2011, it would begin a pilot program in Baltimore and Denver to “test the process for reviewing cases pending before the immigration court.” Details regarding this program were sparse, prompting JW’s investigation.

The Obama administration has been playing games with its immigration policy from the beginning in its attempt to evade Congress and implement illegal alien amnesty. First, Obama administration officials tried to implement stealth amnesty outside of the public eye and then, when the cat was out of the bag, they doubled down on the policy in open defiance of the law.  (An alien who fails to register after 30 days with ICE and keep registration papers on their person is in criminal violation of the law – and can be jailed for up to 30 days – in addition to being deported. This administration is ignoring and condoning this mass criminality.)  We know that any number of illegal aliens who receive “get out of jail free cards” from the Obama administration will go on to commit additional crimes, including murder.  Obama’s stealth amnesty and sanctuary policies will result in the killing of innocent Americans as surely as night follows day.

And on Friday, June 15, 2012, the Obama administration announcied it would no longer deport unlawfully present immigrants under age 30 who came to the United States as children, a policy described by Politico’s Steve Friess as “a temporary, de facto implementation of a part of the stalled DREAM Act,” that sends “a loud message to Hispanic voters to remember Obama in November.”

The American people are tired of the obfuscation and gamesmanship from the Obama administration on such a serious issue: especially when they can plainly see this is all for political purposes. The message to the Obama administration is simple: No more secrecy. No more games. Obey the law. Release the records.

FOIA – We don't know, what we don't know, and it shall remain that way!

Editor’s Note – It is now policy to LIE! It is okay to lie and to hide. The Freedom of Information Act is now claw-less, toothless, and legless. An overwhelming number of requests have fallen into the category of ‘nah’ we dont think we will comply anymore. When documents are supposed to be provided, the government plays games and redacts pages upon pages, rendering the time and expense and resources even more wasteful, subpoenas are then required. The Federal government is ‘stonewalling.’ As long as We The People tolerate this, we get the government we deserve. We dont even know what we dont know, and transparency has merely become a swear word by our elected civil servants.

Government Could Hide Existence of Records under FOIA Rule Proposal

Propublica

by Jennifer LaFleur

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist – even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal – part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice – would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

Open-government groups object.

“We don’t believe the statute allows the government to lie to FOIA requesters,” said Mike German, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes the provision.

The ACLU, along with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and OpenTheGovernment.org said the move would “dramatically undermine government integrity by allowing a law designed to provide public access to government to be twisted.

The Glomar denial arose in the mid-1970s when a Los Angeles Times reporter requested information about the CIA’s Glomar Explorer, built to recover a sunken Soviet submarine and the CIA’s attempt to suppress stories about it.

But the advocacy groups propose another response: You have requested “…records which, if they exist, would not be subject to the disclosure requirements of FOIA…”

They prefer such language because a last resort is to sue to obtain the records, something people requesting information might not do if they assumed that no records existed.

Open government groups also contend that the proposed rule could undermine judicial proceedings.

In a recent case brought by the ACLU of Southern California, the FBI denied the existence of documents. But the court later discovered that the documents did exist. In an amended order, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney wrote that the “Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court.”

DOJ’s draft FOIA rule was first published in March, but DOJ re-opened commentsubmissions in September at the request of open-government groups. The new comment period ended October 19.

The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment. We will update as soon as it does.