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“Your Tax Dollars”: Family Of New GOP Senate Pork Buster Joni Ernst Pocketed Almost Half A Million In Government Assistance

Anyone who tuned in to hear the GOP response to the State of the Union address was treated to an introduction to the GOP’s newest freshman Senate star, Joni Ernst of Iowa.

You may recall Ms. Ernst’s legendary campaign commercial where she informed us all that she had grown up castrating pigs and was, therefore, uniquely qualified to cut the pork from bloated federal spending. You may also recall that, in the castration commercial, she told us about how her family had taught Ernst what she needed to know about the importance of living within one’s means—a lesson, Ernst argued, that has been lost on the federal government.

Turns out, the Senator’s family has a somewhat unusual concept of what “living within one’s means” actually involves as we now know that her father and uncle have been the beneficiaries of some of that good old government pork that the newly minted Senator has sworn to snip from the body of the federal budget.

Apparently, living within their means, inside the Senator’s family, involves including some of your tax dollars and mine as a part of the family budget.

While it may be true, as Senator Ernst recounted in her official response to the SOTU, that she had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways, when she was a kid—not really as her actual claim to feeling the pain of low income Americans is that she and her friends wore bread bags over their one and only pair of shoes to protect them from the snow—her family may well have paid for those shoes with taxpayer cash.

An examination by the Washington DC based District Sentinel website reveals that Ernst’s father, Richard Culver, pocketed $38,395 in taxpayer money in the guise of corn subsidies.

But then, Ernst’s dad can’t hold a candle to his brother when it comes to receiving government redistribution of wealth as Senator Joni’s Uncle Dallas has pocketed a cool $370,000 in government subsidies.

Somehow, as Senator Ernst castigated the federal government for all this wasteful spending and wealth redistribution, she failed to mention that her own family has benefitted substantially from the same.

I suppose we can forgive this bit of hypocrisy given Ernst’s long record of involving herself in ‘clean’ government back in Iowa, right?

Not so much.

As reported by Salon, it turns out that daddy’s construction company (and here I thought he was but a poor, struggling farmer) was awarded some $215,665 in building contracts from the Montgomery County during the years 2009 and 2010.

There is certainly nothing inappropriate in a builder winning a few government contracts—unless it turns out that the builder’s daughter Joni, who would go on to become a United States Senator, happens to be the powerful county auditor for that very same Montgomery County.

According to Iowa law, that is a “no-no.”

“The Iowa Code lays out stringent conflict of interest standards for county contracts. Chapter 331 of the code stipulates that ‘[a]n officer or employee of a county shall not have an interest, direct, or indirect, in a contract with that county.’ The provision applies if 5 percent of a company’s outstanding stock is owned by either a county employee or an immediate family member – including a parent – of an employee.”

I’m not sure how much more “on point” the statute could be.

Meet the new GOP—same as the old GOP.


By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, January 22, 2015

January 23, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, GOP, Joni Ernst | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Only A Suggestion”: Joe Ricketts Demands Massive Taxpayer Subsidies For Baseball Stadium

This week, the New York Times reported that Joe Ricketts, a right-wing billionaire and founder of TD Ameritrade, is soliciting multi-million dollar ad proposals to attack President Obama. One such proposal, leaked to the paper, was a $10 million, racially-charged campaign entitled “The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End his Spending for Good.” The proposal, which center on Rev. Jeremiah Wright, suggests hiring an “extremely literate conservative African-American” to break down Obama’s image as a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

Ricketts moved quickly to publicly reject the plan after it leaked. His spokesman said it “reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion.” (The statement seems somewhat disingenuous as the Ricketts had already given “preliminary approval” for the $10 million concept after seeing a separate ad about Jeremiah Wright.) Nevertheless, Ricketts’ spokesman confirmed his intention spend money attacking Obama through an organization he controls called “Ending Spending Political Action Fund.”

There is one area, however, where Ricketts is much more open to government spending. He’s seeking a massive government subsidy for the Chicago Cubs, which he owns with his family, to renovate Wrigley Field. Here is the deal the Ricketts family is seeking, via Crain’s Chicago Business:

That means $300 million is needed for the ballpark proper.

Half would come from the team, presumably in increased revenue from more signage inside Wrigley and retail and other entertainment in what amounts to a game-day carnival on Waveland Avenue on Wrigley’s north side and Sheffield Avenue to the east.

And half would come from $150 million or so in bonds to be retired with increased revenue from the existing city and Cook County amusement taxes on ticket sales. Specifically, debt service would get the first 6 percent in growth above a base level of around $15 million a year now.

But it’s a little more complicated than that.

The team also wants a 50 percent cut of any increase in amusement tax revenue growth above 6 percent. And unlike the bonds, which would be retired in 30 or 35 years, that would be forever.

So Joe Ricketts and his family not only want a $150 million subsidy directly from taxpayers but also a large chunk of tax revenue from the city in perpetuity. In other words, taxes from the City of Chicago would no longer go to roads, schools and police officers but also into Joe Ricketts pocket. Without this taxpayer welfare, the family will presumably let Cubs, which they acquired in a highly competitive bidding process in 2009, play in a stadium that is falling into disrepair.

Ricketts negotiating position seems completely at odds with his public stated political views. In a video posted by another organization he controls, Taxpayers Against Earmarks, Ricketts says “I think it’s a crime for our elected officials to borrow money today, to spend money today and push the repayment of that loan out into the future on people who are not even born yet.” Of course, that’s what he is attempting force the taxpayers of Chicago to do for the benefit of his team and his family.

At the same time, Joe Ricketts has plenty of disposable income available to attack Obama. A Ricketts spokesperson said future attacks on Obama would “be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy.” Joe Ricketts, however, may want to focus on the fiscal policy of his baseball team. In 2011, the Cubs were “one of nine franchises in violation of MLB’s debt service rules.”

By: Judd Legum and Josh Israel, Think Progress, May 19, 2012

May 20, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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