Sunday, December 20, 2009

Calendar among lobbyists’ foes

INDIANAPOLIS – A short legislative session won’t deter lawmakers from pushing significant policy changes related to two of Indiana’s largest vices – gambling and alcohol.

But the compressed 10-week period could reduce the likelihood of success.

“Because it’s a short session, and we are going into a big election year, it’s going to be probably difficult to get a lot done,” said Mike Smith, president of the Casino Association of Indiana and a former lawmaker himself.

But others believe the severe economic recession could help pave the way for change at Indiana casinos.

“We always make difficult policy decisions when we have an economic pistol to our head,” House Republican Leader Brian Bosma said. “When we need money, we come to the trough time and time again.”

When lawmakers convene Jan. 5, one of the biggest decisions facing them is whether to allow existing riverboat casinos to move to land-based operations, possibly after paying a fee to the state.

Other gaming issues include holding a referendum in Fort Wayne to gauge support for a casino and changing state tax structure for the state’s two racinos, which are at its two horse tracks.

The debate comes as the state faces an onslaught of competition from Michigan and other states including Ohio, where voters last month approved four casinos that are expected to open in just a few years. That means some legislators are concerned about protecting the state’s gaming tax revenue as much as growing it.

“My colleagues would rather not interact with gambling this session, but we are regulators of an industry that gives $900 million a year to the state,” said Rep. Matt Bell, R-Avilla. “We don’t have the luxury of saying this is uncomfortable to deal with.”

Although a special legislative committee recently made findings in support of some of the gambling issues, a similar group looking at the alcohol industry was divided.

That panel approved a few smaller provisions, such as allowing alcohol sales on Election Day and moving to a uniform ID verification system.

But the panel voted against the most significant alcohol proposal – allowing groceries and other retailers to sell carry-out alcohol on Sundays. Regardless, at least one bill on the subject has already been filed, and the issue could receive the first floor vote on the subject that anyone can remember.

Matt Norris, director of Hoosiers for Beverage Choices, said if lawmakers were creating regulations for the alcohol industry from scratch, there would be no question about allowing Sunday sales.

But because alcohol laws evolved over time, legislators fear the change would put locally owned liquor stores out of business because those stores currently aren’t open on Sunday and would see increased administrative costs compared with groceries.

“We are encouraging our members to push the effort locally and talk to their legislators,” he said. “More contentious issues are harder to pass in election years. And a short session makes it more of an uphill climb.”

Rep. Trent Van Haaften, D-Mount Vernon, chairman of the alcohol study committee, said he doesn’t expect the Sunday sales issue to pass.

That leaves gambling as one of the prime issues of the session.

“Anybody that tells you that something isn’t going to happen in the gambling arena doesn’t understand the hundreds of high-powered lobbying interests out there,” Bosma said.

“I don’t discount any possibility in this short session. They wield such dramatic power that there is always a possibility that it would pass. It is now a way of life in the General Assembly.”

House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said gambling bills usually start in the House, and he hopes the Senate would step forward if bills are to advance this session.

He said House Democrats were “clubbed” last session when they considered a bill to level out the tax structure for racinos. But it was often termed a bailout and died.

The casino association’s Smith said some small changes might have success, such as removing marine navigation requirements for riverboats, including having a captain aboard; freeing up the use of promotional alcohol for special events; and clarifying that the casinos won’t shut down in the event of a state budget impasse.

But all the heat will be on the major issues.

Land-based gaming
Now that the state essentially has two land-based casinos at its two horse tracks, this once-reviled option is gaining favor. But there is some confusion about what going land-based would mean.

One option is allowing riverboat casinos to expand onto land at their current location. Another is letting them move – perhaps closer to highways.

That is what Gary officials want to do with one of the two licenses there. In exchange for the change, the second license would revert to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

“Gaming is a billion-dollar industry in Indiana, and it provides tax revenues to the state and to our local communities,” said Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who has already filed a bill authorizing land-based gambling. “The commitment we’re offering is to keep the burdens low so Indiana’s industry can compete amidst the changing dynamics.”

Gov. Mitch Daniels said he has always found Indiana’s riverboats – which stopped cruising on the water years ago – to be “amusing fiction” and isn’t particularly bothered by going land-based so long as there is no expansion of gaming.

Local referendum
Since early this year, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry has been pushing state officials, so far unsuccessfully, to allow him to have a referendum on casino gambling.

And the recent gaming committee findings don’t help his cause much since they oppose expanding casino gambling to any new counties or cities.

But with a Gary license possibly available, there will be pressure to put that license somewhere.

Bell said Fort Wayne’s chances are hurt because there is not a consistent message coming from the community. In fact, Henry is the only public official in favor of it, with many residents and officials publicly against having a local vote.

“Governments shift the burden down to gamblers,” Fort Wayne resident Charlie Wilson said. “And gamblers shift the burden to those they love the most.”

Henry argues that a recent study found a casino in Fort Wayne would make additional revenue for the state and that the committee agreed in general that a community should approve casino gambling through a referendum before moving forward.

But Van Haaften said an “argument could be made that a casino in every county in the state could increase revenue. Until there is a license available, it’s a moot discussion.”

Tax structure
Another key finding of the gambling study committee is that the tax structure set up for racinos is unfair. Each racino is required to give money off the top of its gross receipts to horsemen groups for breeding development and race purses.

But the state requires the racinos to pay taxes on the total gross receipts even though the racino doesn’t get to keep that money.

Changing the structure would cost the state millions of dollars in tax revenue annually at a time when revenue shortfalls have forced Daniels to cut education spending and lay off state employees.

“This provision is important to address the disparity of tax treatment between the racinos and the riverboats,” said Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.

“The change will maintain support for the state’s horse racing industry but alleviate some of the unnecessary tax burden on the racinos. The jobs provided by both of these industries are critical to our local economies.”

But Van Haaften and others believe any changes that will negatively affect state revenue have no chance. Daniels is also against giving a bailout or tax break to companies that voluntarily entered into the industry.

County set to leave statewide lobbying effort

Jackson County commissioners have given notice they will drop out of a 105-year-old lobbying organization for Oregon counties because of a growing rift over legislative direction.

This is the only county in recent memory to have left the Association of Oregon Counties. Of the 36 counties in Oregon, Jackson will be the only one that won't be part of the association.

Commissioner C.W. Smith had resigned from the association's board of directors this summer because of radiation treatment for cancer and was in line to be selected president of the association's board of directors next year.

He said Jackson County wanted support from the association to back legislation that would help compensate county assessors offices throughout the state for taxes collected for other agencies.

"We did get at cross purposes over some legislation," Commissioner C.W. Smith said.

The county tried to get a letter sent out through the association in support of the legislation, but failed to get it in a timely manner, he said.

Smith said the general lack of support means the county will not renew its membership in January.

The county sent a letter Dec. 14 stating the association has forsaken the counties to maintain relationships with other groups such as the League of Oregon Cities and the Oregon School Boards Association.

Jackson County pays $31,000 annually in dues, representing about 5 percent of the total dues collected from all counties by the association.

Commissioner Jack Walker said the association has had a history of not helping counties in Southern Oregon.

In 1996, he remembers trying to get support on land-use issues. They weren't willing to help us at all," he said.

The county not only spends money for dues, but also incurs significant travel expenses going back and forth to Salem or Eugene. With teleconferencing, he said there is no reason for that anymore.

Walker said the county wanted support from the association to create a tax base for assessors' offices throughout the state that collect for a number of agencies. Every time a new agency is created, it gives the Assessor's Office additional work but no extra revenue.

Walker said the proposed legislation would likely step on somebody's toes, but he said he sees the association's job as sticking up for the counties.

In general, the association appears to have more allegiance to counties in the northern part of the state, he said.

"There hasn't been, in my estimation, a good effort to communicate with the rural counties," he said.

Mike McArthur, executive director for the association, said he was surprised to get the letter Thursday from Jackson County.

He said there have been differences of opinion of legislation, but with an association that is comprised of 36 counties that's nothing new.

"I'm hopeful about clearing up a misunderstanding about some sequence of events that happened during the last legislative session," he said. "We've got a failure to communicate."

McArthur said he thinks the association didn't react fast enough to get behind the legislation Jackson County was pushing. He said it is difficult to get that kind of support quickly because it has to through various committees in his organization, but ultimately it was supported.

Commissioners may not be aware of all the issues the association is currently grappling with, including trying to get agreement from the counties of the tax initiatives, Measure 66 and 67, he said.

"With C.W.'s physical problems, and Jack's too, and Dave's busy schedule, they have a tough time staying up on what's going on here," McArthur said.

McArthur disagreed that the association was showing more support for other special interest groups.

He said it is sometimes necessary to reach a compromise with other groups, which have the power to kill legislation. Paying the assessors' offices would take about 2 percent from tax revenues that are badly needed by schools, he said.

McArthur said Commissioner Walker has often criticized his organization for not taking a tougher stand on some land-use issues.

However, he said the organization will be pushing for legislation that might provide some relief for those who sought relief from property rights laws under Measure 37.

McArthur said he plans to draft a letter responding to Jackson County with board president Steve Grasty. He hopes to meet with local commissioners in the near future to help resolve some of the differences.

McArthur said no county has dropped out of the organization since he's been executive director in 1992.

"That doesn't mean we haven't had people upset with us," he said. "But we've always managed to work through that."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail

Lobbying on in BJP for vacant positions

The newly elected chairman of BJP Parliamentary Party L.K. Advani blesses Sushma Swaraj after she was appointed as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party were on Friday lobbying hard with Ms. Sushma Swaraj, the newly anointed Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, for several positions that are lying vacant.

After Mr. Jaswant Singh resigned as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the most prestigious parliamentary committee, several senior MPs have made it known they would like to be considered for the position. With Ms. Swaraj’s elevation, the position of chairman of the standing committee attached to the Ministry of External Affairs that was held by her is also vacant.

In the parliamentary party, all positions are to be filled afresh, including the positions of Deputy Leaders of Opposition in the two Houses, till now occupied by Sushma Swaraj in the Lok Sabha and S.S. Ahluwalia in the Rajya Sabha.

For the deputy’s post in the Lok Sabha, the buzz is around the names of Ananth Kumar and Gopinath Munde. With the party becoming “Brahmin-heavy”— Mr. Jaitley and Ms. Swaraj and the next party chief, Nitin Gadkari, are Brahmins. On that score Mr. Kumar, also a Brahmin, is likely to lose out to Mr. Munde with his backward caste credentials.

On Saturday, the BJP Parliamentary Board is expected to announce its “choice”— Nitin Gadkari — for the position of next party chief at the end of tenure of Rajnath Singh. He will take charge by mid-January or February and set up his own team of office-bearers, for which hectic lobbying has begun.

Keywords: Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, lobbying

Rory Reid wants stricter lobbying, ethics rules

Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid said state government needs to be more transparent and loopholes in state ethics laws closed "so that Nevadans have faith in their government."

During stops in both Northern and Southern Nevada on Thursday, Reid, a Democrat who is running for governor, outlined his policy plan to tighten state ethics laws and impose tougher penalties on those who violate them.

"There's obvious deficiencies in existing Nevada law," Reid said. "(For example), a legislator could pass an agency's budget while at the same time lobby that agency for a private party. That doesn't engender confidence."

He said he would work to extend the period for legislators who leave office to two years before they could lobby their former colleagues.

Another example Reid cited is that even if an elected official is found to have violated state ethics laws, there is virtually no penalty unless the violation is determined to be "willful." He said he would mandate ethics education for elected officials, state employees and lobbyists and said any violation of state ethics laws should come with a penalty.

"If they violate it, there should be strict liability," he said. "There are all kinds of loopholes that need to be closed."

That includes members of the governor's staff, he said.

"I want my administration to be open and transparent so people understand why I'm doing what I'm doing," Reid said.

To that end, he said, his schedule would be posted on the Internet daily, he would hold weekly press conferences and periodic town hall meetings across the state.

He said any individuals he appoints to boards would be required to sign "a code of responsibility" and disclose any instances where they have a potential conflict of interest.

Reid said he also wants to tighten rules for lobbying.

"To get Nevada back on track, we need to create a foundation of trust," he said.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

True competition

Dr. Bruner’s letter of Dec. 17 makes an incorrect assumption. He infers that by providing a government option or a Medicare buy-in option it will provide the “competitive pressure” necessary to drive down the costs of health care insurance premiums.

What is needed is more insurance companies being able to do business in more states. This would provide true competition to drive down premiums. Pay attention everybody: The government can’t run anything correctly. The government has never completed anything for the original estimated costs. The government has never run anything efficiently. The government does not create jobs or wealth. The only thing the government can do is take something from one person and give it to another. That’s it!

The government is not the answer! Private industry and small business that are allowed to flourish create a healthy economy. If you are curious about where the liberals in this world are trying to lead us, take a hard look at what Hugo Chavez had to say in Copenhagen. He quoted Karl Marx, railed against capitalism and received extended ovations for his “inspiration.” There is our future if we allow it and this health care bill to proceed

Senators Add the Ornaments and Trimmings

The term “Christmas tree” has its own special meaning on Capitol Hill. It usually refers to a bill that has been decorated with “ornaments,” loaded up with special goodies for the folks back home.

But the term is particularly apt this week, as Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, works to have a vote on a heavily festooned health care bill by Christmas Eve.

They decorations include these:

The “Louisiana Purchase,” as it is being called, a provision for Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, who obtained an extra $300 million in Medicaid funds for her state.

The Hawaii exemption, a measure that allows the state to keep its own health care system.

A break on the excise tax on so-called Cadillac health insurance plans for people in the 17 states where premiums are the highest. (The measure was initially intended to apply to the 10 states with the highest premiums, a Senate aide said, but some other senators wanted in and the number was bumped to 17.)

An exemption for small makers of medical devices from a new tax — relief that was sought by Democratic senators from states including Indiana, Massachusetts and Minnesota, where such device makers are based.

Favors for Nebraska as yet undescribed, sought by Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat, for his home state as he demanded that the bill contain strict anti-abortion language.

Supporters of the bill say these sugar plums are a small price to pay to round up the necessary votes to pass landmark legislation that will result in most Americans having health insurance, many with subsidies, and will end some of the insurance industry’s most discriminatory practices.

Lavish Lobbying

But these ornaments are mere baubles compared with some of the neon measures that some lawmakers and lobbyists have fought to keep out of the bill.

Most prominent was the demand by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, that leaders drop two provisions that the insurance industry and big business had been lobbying vociferously against.

One, of course, was a government-run insurance plan, or public option, which would have competed with private insurance companies. The other was an expansion of Medicare to include some people ages 55 to 64, a change that hospitals and doctors fought because it would have meant taking care of more patients at lower Medicare rates.

Insurers also beat back an attempt to strip the industry of a partial antitrust exemption that it has long enjoyed.

To achieve these goals, the lobbying campaign on health care legislation has been lavish, even by Capitol Hill’s inflated standards.

Final spending amounts for the year will not be known until mid-January. But in the first nine months of the year, health care lobbyists spent at least $396 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money on elections and policy.

Because the lobbying intensified in the fourth quarter as both the House and Senate prepared their final bills, the year-end total is likely to shatter the previous record for money spent on a single issue in a single year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, that record was set just last year, when health care lobbyists spent $486 million in anticipation of the legislative action this year.

“If spending this quarter remains on pace with the first three quarters — just on pace — lobbying in the health care sector will obliterate the high-water mark that it set last year,” said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the center.

But even those figures do not give the full picture of the flood of cash funneled into lobbying on health care in 2009.

For example, the center’s health care figures do not include lobbying by the insurance industry. Mr. Levinthal said the center could not isolate the amount the industry spent only on health insurance, as opposed to other forms of insurance.

Nor do the figures include spending by groups like the United States Chamber of Commerce, which has multiple issues pending before Congress but led the effort to kill the public option.

Some of the lobbying, especially in the early days, was done on behalf of remaking the health care system. But over all, more has been spent against it. Because Democrats control both houses, they have received more money than Republicans.

Corporate Glee

The insurance companies were probably among the merriest of industries last week. Because the legislation mandates that everyone buy insurance, those companies stand to gain 30 million new customers — and there will be no government plan to compete with.

But the drug companies were certainly joyful too. So far, they have kept intact a deal with the White House to bar the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada and elsewhere. In exchange, the drug companies agreed to give up $80 billion over 10 years through discounts and rebates.

Some Senators fought the pharmaceutical deal, noting that $80 billion represents only about 2 percent of the $3.6 trillion that Americans are expected to spend on drugs in the next 10 years. But the Senate effectively voted last week to keep the drug pact in place.

The pharmaceutical industry has spent more money by far than any other on lobbying in the first nine months of the year, laying out $199 million. That is also the single highest amount that any industry has ever spent on lobbying in a nine-month period, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Citizens who do not normally pay attention to Congressional gift exchanges may have been galled at the process, particularly with the health care of the nation’s citizens and one-sixth of its economy at stake.

But they will see more maneuvering in the weeks ahead, as lobbyists seek to ensure that the measures they kept out of the Senate bill will also be excluded from the final bill that the Senate produces in conference with the House.

On Capitol Hill, decorating the Christmas tree is always in season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Yudhoyono busy lobbying counterparts in climate talks

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is actively lobbying a number of world leaders to support Indonesia’s stance on climate change he promoted in the national statement read at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen on Thursday.

Presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said the President had met with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd soon after reading out the statement.

He is scheduled to meet with chairman of the ASEAN and Thai Prime Minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva later in the day as the climate conference is nearing its end.

“The core (of the talks) is to bridge the different interests between developed and developing countries to ensure a new consensus will be produced (at the climate summit),” Dino briefed reporters before the meeting with Abhisit.

On Wednesday night, Yudhoyono met with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg upon arrival in Copenhagen.

Prior to his Copenhagen stop, the President also met with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during which they agreed to ensure the success of the climate change summit.

Dino added that Yudhoyono had also sent Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to lobby Sudan, which chairs the G77 economic group.

“There are high mistrust and big different (interests)… Presently countries are intensively lobbying one another to create a new consensus. And this might lead to a prolonged conference,” Dino said.

Yudhoyono unveiled five points in his statements at the high-level segment of the climate change summit, which was attended by some 110 world leaders.

Among the points are that he urges developed countries to cut their emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and to provide bigger amount of funds to mitigate the climate change.

Reid would seek tighter lobbying, ethics laws

CARSON CITY, Nev.—Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Rory Reid says he would tighten Nevada lobbying and ethics laws if elected.
In a policy statement issued Thursday, Reid said if Nevada wants to attract new businesses and restore its economy, it needs to create a foundation of trust.

Among other things, Reid says he would work to end lobbying by legislators, extend Nevada's "cooling off" period to two years, require ethics training for all state employees and lobbyists, and impose penalties for violations.

Reid also pledged "transparency" in state government, saying he would make his official schedule public and hold regular news conferences and town hall meetings.

Skabar lobbying for remand centre

AMHERST – Brian Skabar is well aware of how people in this part of Nova Scotia feel about the loss of the area’s lone correctional centre and he’s working to try to minimize the impact.

The Cumberland North MLA said he is as disappointed as everyone about his government’s decision to build one new correctional centre to replace aging jails in Amherst and Antigonish, and he’s working with Justice Minister Ross Landry to put something in place that will handle the immediate demands of the system.
“I have spoken to the minister about concerns with the maintenance of the justice system in the Amherst area after the jail is gone and have been given every assurance that arrangements will be in place,” Skabar said Wednesday.
“There should be a press release from the minister’s office soon on that.”
Skabar said a remand centre is something he is hoping the province will commit to so that offenders don’t have to be shuttled across northern Nova Scotia between court appearances.
Soon after the province announced its plan to build a new jail somewhere between Truro and Antigonish, the local legal community and law enforcement agencies expressed concern with the administration of justice if offenders had to be shipped back and forth to another part of the province.
Skabar has made those concerns known to the justice minister and feels a remand centre in the area would alleviate those problems.
Since Landry’s decision, Skabar has taken a lot of heat from his constituents. Skabar understands the frustration, adding that as much as he understands the decision, it hasn’t made it easier to accept.
The MLA said that during the spring election campaign, he advocated making the jail decision on the best business case. At that time, he figured the plan was to build two jails and that Amherst would probably be an economical choice over the previous government’s proposed jail in Springhill.
But now that the province’s financial picture was clarified, he understands the decision to build one jail instead of two. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.
“Do I support the government's position on this matter? I do. Do I like it? No,” Skabar said.
“As someone from Amherst and the Cumberland North MLA, I don’t like the decision, but as a Nova Scotian I have to support saving over $5 million to build it and saving over $1 million a year in operating it.”
Skabar, who has yet to see the business plan on which the decision was based, said he has had several discussions with Amherst Mayor Robert Small, but could not attend a news conference held last week by area municipal leaders because he was not notified about it until the night before.

Review Due On Lobbying Effort, Riverfront

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:16 AM CST

A year-end review of the city’s lobbying efforts and a progress report on a riverfront opportunity analysis are in store when the Fort Smith Board of Directors meets for a special study session Thursday evening.

According to a memo from Deputy City Administrator Ray Gosack, two representatives from Watts Partners, the city’s Washington lobbying agency, will report on current lobbying activity and plan future efforts in Washington, D.C.

The lobbyists will be seeking clear direction on funding priorities for the coming year.

Federal budget requests will likely be due in February, and requests for the next highway authorization bill will likely be due some time in 2010.

“It’s important for the board to reaffirm that the existing priorities are still current,” Gosack wrote.

Although the order can be rearranged and new priorities added, he cautioned against sending “confusing signals” to the congressional delegation or making wholesale changes that could undo efforts on several multi-year initiatives.

The top five previously established funding priorities are:

• Interstate 49 between Interstate 40 and U.S. 71 South.

• Industrial site improvements at Chaffee Crossing.

• May Branch flood control project.

• Wet-weather sanitary sewer system improvements.

• U.S. Marshals Museum.

Also Thursday, property owner Bennie Westphal and consultant John Castro with the Dallas-area firm Cushman & Wakefield will report on progress in the yearlong analysis of riverfront development opportunities.

Westphal, whose family owned an 80-acre tract along the riverfront and adjacent to the property they donated for the future U.S. Marshals Museum, approached the city in January seeking a private-public partnership to help pay for the analysis.

He envisioned a development that would include a minor league baseball park, a concert and hockey arena, restaurants, retailers, a hotel, a pair of condo and office towers, a park and a wedding chapel.

In early February, directors agreed to contribute a third of the cost of the analysis, about $62,000. The city entered into a contract with the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, which in turn contracted with Castro for the study. Westphal was a third party to the latter contract.

Castro said in January that the opportunity analysis would help define what the property could be and would also identify the kinds of things needed to create jobs, attract people and meet the “live-work-play” ideal of mixed-use development.

Directors ranked riverfront and economic development at the top of their budgeting priority list in January, followed closely by quality of place. In October, they prioritized a number of quality-of-place initiatives, putting a $20 million riverfront sports venue high on the list. However, they put off a decision about funding sources in the face of tough economic conditions.

On Dec. 1 the board passed a no-frills budget that allowed no funding for quality of place.

The special study session is 6 p.m. Thursday at Elm Grove Community Center, 1901 N. Greenwood Ave.

Lobbyists Rule

Some enterprises signal what’s going on inside by hanging a red light outside. Mayor Jerry Sanders has revealed what’s going on inside his administration by setting up a group of committees to carry out his goals. Officially, the name is “Mayor’s Civic Leadership 2009–2012.” It should be named “San Diego Belongs to the Lobbyists.”

Verily, the Sanders committees are so loaded with registered lobbyists — mainly working for the real estate development industry — that there should no longer be any doubt about who runs the City.

There are 51 members of committees pushing community projects such as a new stadium for the Chargers. Of those, no fewer than 20 are registered lobbyists. (Some serve on more than one committee.) And those who aren’t registered lobbyists are long-term corporate-welfare mendicants. Most significantly, I don’t see even token representatives from community planning and environmental groups, or even labor. “In other cities, these committees are balanced; they put environmentalists on them, union people. I don’t see that in this town,” says activist Mel Shapiro.

Councilmember Donna Frye, political scientist Steve Erie, and former state legislator Jim Mills express the same sentiment: Sanders’s committees are almost wholly made up of downtown boosters who want to use taxpayer money to pay for splendiferous structures instead of repairing the rotting infrastructure or helping the needy. Redevelopment, which was intended for truly blighted areas, “has been totally subverted to corporate welfare,” says Erie, a professor at the University of California at San Diego. Other California cities use redevelopment funds for “affordable housing, undeveloped neighborhoods — for public purposes. As the City’s financial situation becomes ever more precarious, the grandiose plans of downtown boosters grow ever greater.”

And that’s what Mayor Sanders’s committees are all about: grandiose structures such as a football stadium and convention-center expansion that line the pockets of real estate developers and their lobbyists while stealing money that should be used on necessities.

Observe the mayor’s committees. One of them is devoted to studying a new civic center, which the mayor is pushing. There are 13 people on the committee. Nine are registered lobbyists.

Here are the lobbyists and their affiliations:

• Sherm Harmer, chairman of Urban Housing Partners, whose clients include downtown’s struggling Smart Corner and Navarra Property Management. Harmer is a longtime leader of the Downtown Residential Marketing and Builders Alliance.

• Shirley Horton, former state legislator who now heads the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

• Donna Jones, of the law firm Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, whose lobbying clients include Black Mountain Ranch, Irvine Company, Lennar Communities, and McMillin Land Development.

• Craig Benedetto, of California Strategies, whose lobbying clients include the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and BOMA San Diego, an outfit that provides information on office development and leasing.

• Paul Robinson, a lawyer whose firm does lobbying for Shea Homes and Shea Properties.

• Robert Lankford, of the development firm bearing his name and a member of the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

• Keith Jones, representing the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and a principal of Ace Parking Management.

• Tom Sudberry, of Sudberry Properties, a big developer.

• Lani Lutar, a lobbyist for the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, which does not represent the average taxpayer but does flak work for well-heeled members who seek taxpayer money for real estate projects that ought to be financed with private capital.

And what of the four members on the civic center committee who are not registered lobbyists? Well, Mike LaBarre of Fehlman LaBarre is an architect (now planning a building at 11th and B) and Greg Mueller is a principal of the architecture firm Tucker Sadler. Lee Burdick is a lawyer with Higgs Fletcher & Mack and a commissioner of the Port of San Diego. Reid Carr is with an advertising company that works for such clients as Sempra Energy. His firm brags that visitors can watch Padres games from the company’s balcony.

It is no secret that the City of San Diego is on the financial brink. Does anyone think that the members of this committee, all with a stake in downtown development, will carefully weigh the City’s fiscal condition when deciding if a civic center is really necessary? Silly boy/girl.

The mayor’s finance committee crossed him up. It put out a draft study, as reported by Voice of San Diego, that actually told the truth: the City suffers from a structural deficit that can’t be patched up with onetime measures. Employment should be cut sharply, and taxes may have to go up. If such measures fail, San Diego should consider bankruptcy. Sanders angrily dismissed the report. But here’s the key: only one member of that committee was a registered lobbyist.

Other committees should be more obedient. For example, 5 of the 11 on the group looking into charter reform are registered lobbyists, including chairman John Davies, whose law firm represents numerous operations such as Kilroy Realty and the Building Industry Association of San Diego. And 9 of the 22 members of the committee looking into streamlining permit processing are lobbyists, including Marcela Escobar-Eck, the onetime director of the City’s Development Services Department. A non-lobbyist on that committee is Jim Waring, Sanders’s former real estate czar who left under a cloud.

Among other members of Sanders’s committees are the usual suspects: Ben Haddad, chairman, and Ruben Barrales, president, of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce; attorney Lynn Schenk; port commissioner Steve Cushman; and chief executive of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation Julie Meier Wright.

“It would be a good idea to broaden the membership of these action teams,” says Frye. She fears the result of these stacked committees will be more misrepresentations to voters. “We need to stop telling people that there will be free civic centers, free football stadiums. Nothing is free. Somebody will pay for it. If it comes from redevelopment money, it still comes from taxes.”

Says Mills, former president pro tem of the state senate, “The Redevelopment Agency owes a lot of money to the City of San Diego. The redevelopment money should be used for paying for the consequences of redevelopment. The infrastructure is in bad shape, but we keep building new buildings. We have cast-iron water mains over 100 years old.”

Frye and Shapiro keep demanding that redevelopment funds be paid back to the City. “I keep sending emails, asking when this will be on the agenda,” says Shapiro. “Council and the mayor won’t touch it. Councilmembers like redevelopment in their districts.”

Finally, Erie sees good omens. “This is the last gasp of the old guard desperately trying to hold on,” he says. He compares Sanders’s committees with the elite, Waspish Committee of 25, created in the 1950s in Los Angeles. It controlled hospitals, foundations, cultural institutions — almost everything. But the Committee of 25 lost its power. “Smart cities diversify the stakeholders, have labor, environmentalists, minorities at the table. They look to the 21st Century. But this San Diego crowd looks toward the 19th Century. It’s sad.”

Redevelopment funds are concentrated downtown, says Erie. “In other big cities, the money goes to the neighborhoods.” Erie’s upcoming book, due late next year or early in 2011 from Stanford University Press, is titled Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis, Growth and Governance in San Diego.

Hamas leader accuses Israel of holding up Shalit deal

Noam Shalit meeting with the Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Report: Shalit talks to be deferred until after Eid al-Adha; Hamas: Shalit swap stuck on prisoner list.

A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, Khalil Al-Hayya, accused Israel on Wednesday of holding up negotiations over a deal to secure the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.

The Gaza leader told a Hamas-linked Web site that Israel had not met the demands of the groups holding Shalit. But he did not say that the deal had been torpedoed or had failed.

Meanwhile, the Al-Arabiya TV network reported on Wednesday that the negotiations over Shalit would be postponed until after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins on Friday.

Al-Hayya's comments came after other Hamas officials said the talks between Hamas and Israel have hit a snag over some of the top militants the Islamic group wants freed in return Shalit, and a deal is unlikely in the coming days.

Israel is objecting to some of the names put forward by Hamas, a senior official of the militant group familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. He said the German mediator shuttling between the sides has presented an alternative list of names provided by Israel, and Hamas leaders are studying it.

Shalit was captured by Gaza militants in a cross border raid in June 2006, and has been held prisoner since. Contention over the names on the list of Palestinian prisoners submitted by Hamas to Israel for release has held up the prisoner exchange on more than one occasion.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian source told Fox News that a final decision on the deal that would see Shalit released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners does not rest solely on Hamas, but rather it is Israel that must decide whether to green light several of the names on Hamas' list and make the exchange happen.

As officials in Israel awaited Hamas' final answer, Gilad Shalit's father Noam was hard at work soliciting support among government officials for the potential deal. Should both sides agree upon the terms of the exchange, it would only be carried out after the deal was approved in a cabinet vote.

Noam Shalit met on Wednesday with Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Shlomo Amar, who spoke with him about the Jewish imperative of freeing captives.

"After I pray for the return of Gilad to his home, I will add a prayer for the government to come to the right decision on this matter," Amar said.

Shalit is expected to also meet with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.

Noam Shalit also met with Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau on Wednesday. At the Knesset, Shalit told reporters that "we still don't have any news, we are in the process of meeting with ministers. That is the situation right now."

Waiting on Meshal

Hamas' Damascus-based political leader Khaled Meshal was scheduled to relay to the Hamas delegation his decision on the latest compromise drafted by the German mediator. Simultaneously, Israel's security cabinet was also set to meet Wednesday afternoon on another previously scheduled issue.

The London-based Arabic language daily Al Hayat reported that the Hamas leadership was split over the Israeli compromise proposal. According to the report, senior Damascus-based Hamas officials are in disagreement: while the more extreme officials insist on the release of all the prisoners on their list, more moderate Hamas leaders contend that it is futile to expect that Israel meet all of the group's demands.

The Arab daily also said that for the first time since Shalit's abduction over three years ago, Israel has agreed to release Palestinian prisoners considered "heavy" - or having committed serious crimes. However, Hamas sources told an Al Hayat reporter in Cairo that Israel still refuses to release some of the prisoners on the list, and has even turned down a Palestinian proposal to deport those men from the Palestinian territories following their release.

Among the prisoners Israel refuses to release are Ibrahim Hamed, the former commander of Hamas' military wing and the mastermind behind the terror bombing at Moment cafe in Jerusalem; Abdallah Barghouti, a relative of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti and another mastermind of the Moment attack as well as terror attacks at Sbarro pizza parlor in Jerusalem and on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv.

The sources confirmed to Al Hayat that progress has been achieved in the negotiations over the prisoner swap, but added that the final decision will be made on Wednesday as the Damascus-based Hamas leadership reviews its options.

Earlier Wednesday, a senior Israeli official told Army Radio that the U.S. administration was opposed to the emerging understandings between Israel and Hamas surrounding the deal. "The U.S. does not support negotiations with terror organizations," the official said. "Washington knows that any release of Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank could harm Palestinian President Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) and become a victory for Hamas," he added.

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC also voiced concern over the possible prisoner swap but refrained from explicitly criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Senior AIPAC strategist Josh Block said: "This is a wrenching situation and a reminder of the kind of difficult choices Israel must make when it is beset by enemies. And it is entirely for the democratically elected government of Israel to make these decisions, not for anyone else, and that as Americans who support Israel, we have only empathy for Israel."

Palestinians need assertive leadership

The abscence of a cohesive and credible Palestinian leadership, while used in the past by Israel to justify refusal to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, can no longer be brushed aside as a specious argument

An assertive and cohesive Palestinian leadership is urgently needed. The shifting dynamics in the region, with profound implications for the regional balance of power, the strategic interest of the United States and the very future of the moribund peace process, require a visionary and daring Palestinian leadership something currently absent from the equation of power.

Consider the changing dynamics in the region. First, there is the deal the Israelis reportedly made with Hamas for an exchange of prisoners. This will surely enhance the prestige of Hamas and strengthen its standing with the Palestinians, at the expense of the Palestinian National Authority. It also validates Hamas' claim that only resistance to the occupation can force Israel to negotiate a settlement.

It also exposes flawed Israeli logic. As Israeli writer Gideon Levy perceptively put it: "Why is it permissible to talk to Hamas about the fate of one captive soldier … but forbidden to talk to them about the fate of two nations?"

Nonetheless, the absence of a cohesive and credible Palestinian leadership, while used in the past by Israel to justify refusal to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians, can no longer be brushed aside as a specious argument.

The Palestinian leadership must develop and act on a realistic assessment of how developments in the region and shifting balance of power have forced the American president to rearrange his foreign policy priorities. And the Palestine conflict, notwithstanding Obama's goodwill, is not at the top of the list.

In a recent low-key visit to Washington, Benjamin Netanyahu urged Jewish American leaders to keep up the pressure on the Obama administration to adopt a more aggressive position regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Israel lobby and Congress are sparing no efforts to achieve that goal. US President Barack Obama had indicated, following an earlier visit by Netanyahu, that he was committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the Iranian challenge, but that by the end of the year he would reassess the effectiveness of that policy which presumably may be taking place now.

Making Iran a priority of his administration may have been necessary to allay Israeli fears and to get Netanyahu to agree to a freeze on colony construction which, according to the Israeli press, Netanyahu is getting ready to announce.

The American president is facing more daunting challenges. The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan has forced him to increase American troop levels by some 30,000.

Close behind, if not equally publicly recognised as such, is the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Noted American journalist Seymour Hersh reported in the New Yorker that American officials even suggested to Pakistani counterparts the possibility of transferring Pakistani nuclear switches outside the country to guard against the threat of separatists gaining control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. An extremist, nuclear-armed Pakistan is a nightmare scenario Obama cannot ignore.

Obama displayed flexibility in the face of Netanyahu's stubbornness on the issue of colony construction. The administration has gone from "demanding" a complete stop to "all settlement [colony] construction" to praising Netanyahu for his "unprecedented restraint" before backtracking and confirming in principle what the American preference is. The White House position now is that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations should start "without preconditions".

But this apparent concession to the Israelis was coupled with a forceful rejection of the legitimacy of Israeli colonies.

In the face of this dynamic and rapidly changing balance of power, what is the position of the Palestinian leadership? It can be summed up in two words: more waiting. But waiting is not a strategy; it is a choice.

The injustice suffered by the Palestinians is undeniable. But the ability of their leadership to salvage what is left of their shattered society has been hampered by ineptitude and the substitution of a flawed choice for a strategy. A Palestinian leadership that is bold and visionary must emerge from the wreckage of old thinking. It must engage the enemy, exploit his weaknesses, cultivate friends, understand supporters and reflect a realistic and proactive understanding of the dynamics of power.

In particular, it must capitalise on Obama's goodwill before it is submerged by other priorities. Obama has gone further than many presidents before him in committing his administration to a peaceful settlement of the Palestine conflict. In declaring that peace in the Middle East is a strategic interest of the United States he has made the US a full fledged stake holder.

Because of the gross inequalities of the parties, only the sustained involvement of Washington can ensure that the final outcome of the negotiations reflect a measure of justice for the Palestinians and a viable state of their own.

Adel Safty is Distinguished Professor Adjunct at the Siberian Academy of Public Administration, Russia. His new book, Might Over Right, is endorsed by Noam Chomsky.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cap-and-Trade Comes Of Age in Europe

How industry has learned to live with (and perhaps even love) cap-and-trade in Europe.

On a dank, dark day in February 2004, thousands of worried executives from British industries filled the halls of the UK’s National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. The country was about to begin participating in the first multi-national cap-and-trade programme for capping greenhouse gases, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). Industry representatives were there to question government officials on the recently published Draft National Allocation Plan that set out the rules for allocating permits. This new system, they feared, would change the very way they had to do business, and they wanted to make sure their companies were not placed at a disadvantage.

Two years later, and a year after the EU cap-and-trade system officially began, the UK government held another stakeholder event – this time for the 2nd Draft National Allocation Plan for the 2008-2012 phase of the EU ETS. This meeting could not have been more different. In place of thousands of anxious industry representatives, there were only around 200 people. The air of apprehension had dissipated.

Once trading began, industry attitudes towards cap-and-trade started to change.
What happened? Once trading began, industry attitudes towards cap-and-trade started to change.

Industry Lobbying: A Prisoners’ Dilemma
Industry lobbying prior to the introduction of the EU ETS was intense. While some industry associations were broadly supportive of cap-and-trade as an approach – because it was the cheapest way to cut emissions – individual industry representatives were often relentless in pursuing, quite naturally, the best possible outcome for their own companies. In this case, that meant the maximum number of free allocations, or pollution “credits.”

And while industry sought allocations, European Member States understandably were implementing the new cap-and-trade legislation with their domestic economic interests at heart. There was a lot of talk by both countries and companies on the need for simplicity and transparency, but many would plead that they should be treated as ‘special cases’ or exceptions to the rules. Of course, more special cases meant less simplicity and transparency.

The initial efforts to establish the EU ETS were characterized by a “prisoners’ dilemma,” in which complexity and lack of transparency leads to a lack of trust. Without transparency, companies and countries alike suspect others of gaining an unfair advantage. But transparency makes tougher targets more acceptable, because participants can see that their competitors face the same challenges and constraints. There is a natural tendency for countries and companies to want to favor their own, when in fact they gain more certainty and stability by collaborating.

Changing Industry Attitudes
Fortunately, this lesson was not lost. By the time of the consultation for the second phase (2008-2012), trading had started, cap-and-trade had become a known commodity, and many of their concerns had not materialized. As I mentioned in my previous article, that first phase of the EU ETS now looks like it generated significant emissions reductions at far lower costs, and pain, than anticipated. The system, after some initial bumps, was working.

Companies increasingly understood the need for transparency. While lobbying did continue, the second allocation plans were marked by greater understanding and acceptance, and greater willingness to compromise in order to achieve the higher prizes of trust and transparency.

Adapting to the System
Europe has now had nearly 5 years of successful trading, and industries have adapted to the new system. Now that they are familiar with how it works, parties have agreed to rule changes that they would have found difficult to agree to at the start. For example, electricity generators will have to buy all their permits from 2013, instead of receiving at least some of them for free.

Companies have also adapted to the carbon price. In 2006, only 15% of the companies covered by the ETS were taking the future cost of carbon into account. Point Carbon and others found that a year later, about 65% of companies in the trading system were making their future investment decisions based on having a carbon price.

Recent studies1 show how industries have adapted to the trading system and realized that many of their initial concerns were unfounded or overstated. One found that:

The EU ETS has not resulted in significant costs to business to date, especially when compared to the impact of other facts such as energy price fluctuations and economic downturn…

So far there has been no major impact on companies’ competitiveness: they have not relocated their operations, reduced their workforce, or lost market share as a result of carbon pricing…None has cut jobs or shut down operations as a direct result of climate-related policies, and their financial performance and global market share have not changed relative to their competitors…

(An exception to this reassuring picture is the extremely energy intensive aluminum sector, which has lobbied hard to be included in the EU ETS and will now be covered from 2013. The best way for this sector to mitigate the impact of the carbon price – until such time as there is a global carbon constraint – is by some amount of free allocation, which they will get as part of the system.)

Concerns that industry would relocate to developing countries appears to be unfounded. One study finds that “the economic impact is imperceptible,” the “European economy has not been ‘wrecked’” and there has been “no evidence of carbon leakage through trade,” meaning that carbon pollution has not simply been exported elsewhere.2

In fact the Climate Group/GMF survey seems to suggest that companies adjust quickly and benefit from the new system:

Companies have improved their monitoring and reporting of emissions and realized energy efficiency gains…
and often become supportive of EU climate policy once they get their feet wet. Says one company representative:

At first, we thought the EU ETS would die quietly after 2-3 years – but it didn’t…[now] management really support the EU’s goals on climate change. Our CEO has sent a letter of support of the 20-20-20 policy 3 to the EU Commission.
A financial analyst remarked:

The main change has been in attitudes toward climate legislation. Companies aren’t saying ‘it’s a complete disaster’ anymore. We see a bit of that positioning now in the US and Australia, where similar legislation is being considered. But you don’t tend to get that response in Europe anymore. Companies see lots of opportunities to invest in new assets and create shareholder value.
Legislators in the U.S. will, I am sure, recognize the picture of that stakeholder event in Birmingham as they deal with the concerns of constituents and companies, while trying to frame legislation to tackle this most urgent issue. In Europe’s experience, however, once legislation was passed and became part of the furniture, it was easier to address issues with more objectivity and greater acceptance from industry. And while lobbying did not go away, it became less intense and industries become more willing to accept compromises that seemed impossible just a few years ago.

Senate plan is called too empowering to health insurers

By David S. Hilzenrath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 16, 2009; 6:44 PM

The Senate health-care bill could enable insurers to avoid some of the strongest consumer protections and benefit requirements adopted by state governments, Democratic lawmakers from Maine and California say.

The bill would allow insurers to sell policies across state lines, subject to the laws and regulations in a state of the insurers' choosing, 31 Democratic House members said in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"Practically speaking, insurers will domicile their plans in states with less stringent regulations and market to the population in more protective states like ours, just like nationally chartered banks have done," the House members led by Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) wrote.

The arrangement "will lead to a race to the bottom in insurance regulation and severely threaten the important and often lifesaving protections the residents of our states enjoy," the House members wrote.

The lawmakers were referring to a provision allowing states to enter so-called interstate compacts for the sale of insurance.

Advocates have said that interstate sales could increase competition and reduce premiums. Critics say any cost savings could come at a price. Consumers may not realize until it is too late that they have bought thinner coverage, members of advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said.

The Senate bill would put some hurdles in the way of any "race to the bottom."

First, states could join interstate compacts only by enacting a state law. Thus, if a state government jeopardized its own insurance regulations by entering a compact, it would be by choice. That could pave the way for future lobbying battles in state capitals.

Second, insurers selling across state lines would remain subject to certain regulations of the state in which the purchaser of the coverage resides. Those would include regulations involving "market conduct, unfair trade practices, network adequacy, and consumer protection standards," the bill says.

Jerry Flanagan, health-care policy director at Consumer Watchdog, said that language includes wiggle room for future lobbying when regulations are written to implement the bill. The language does not appear to protect requirements dictating what benefits health plans must provide, Flanagan said.

Speier and the other House Democrats also criticized the House bill, saying it would allow states that join a compact to decide among themselves which state's regulations will govern a plan. That "could make the regulations in the consumer-friendly state irrelevant," they wrote.

While the authors of the letter focused on the interstate compact provision, another provision of the Senate bill could achieve a similar result. It would allow insurers to offer nationwide plans, subject to the benefit requirements of only one state. The benefits would have to meet minimum federal standards established under the bill.

The bill explicitly recognizes the possibility that these nationwide plans could omit benefits required by some states. In such cases, it would require only that the insurer notify consumers "that the policy may not contain some benefits otherwise mandated."

The Senate bill would allow states to opt out of nationwide plans they find unsatisfactory.

Three key senators in the health-care debate -- Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) -- have proposed an amendment that would prevent states from opting out of nationwide plans.

By strengthening the national plans' provisions, "this amendment will guarantee American entrepreneurs have access to plans with a uniform benefit package that achieves both quality coverage and lower costs by injecting new competition into stagnant state insurance markets," Snowe said in a news release Wednesday describing the amendment.

Bank Lobbyists Launch 'Call To Action' To Crush Financial Reform

The American Bankers Association issued a "Call to Action" on Wednesday, urging its lobbyists and member banks to make an all-out effort to crush regulatory reform in Senate. As part of that campaign, it lashed out at its community-bank rival, charging it with being too soft on bank reform efforts.

In an unusually frank memo from ABA Chairman Art Johnson, the lobby group congratulates bankers for sending some 300,000 letters to Congress opposing reform, crediting the effort with killing several significant provisions.

And it takes aim at the Independent Community Bankers Association, which endorsed the final bank-reform bill to make its way through the House last Friday.

"To be successful in the Senate, we must have a united message. And that is why I am truly saddened by what I am about to report to you. I do this not to cast blame, but in the hope we can fix this and be united as we go to the Senate," said Johnson.

"Last week, I was on the daily conference call of the ABA lobbying team and the state associations when it was announced that ICBA was supporting the House bill going to the floor. I must say there was shock and disbelief because all the states had just reported that their bankers remained strongly opposed to the bill. All of ABA's officers are community bankers, as are many members of the ABA Board, which voted unanimously to oppose the bill. Many of the states had recently had similar formal votes. A number of the state associations are jointly affiliated with ABA and ICBA, and they all oppose the bill, as apparently do some of the ICBA state associations... ABA will reach out to ICBA; we will work for unity."

ICBA Senior Vice President Steve Verdier's response: Thanks, but no thanks.

"It was fascinating to read," Verdier told HuffPost of the ABA memo. "I don't think we need help from anyone else to tell us how to represent community banks. They didn't consult me when they wrote it up. It's hard to tell what exactly their motivation is."

The ABA represents both large and small banks and is competing for the lucrative privilege of lobbying against financial industry reform. Some of the trade association's massive clients, however, have different interests than the smaller ones.

We may be the only financial services representative which unambiguously wants a strong bill. Our approach on this bill is: we very much want strong legs to deal with the Wall Street crowd, the non-bank financial providers," said Verdier. "All the other folks out there who do financial services representation" -- that means bank lobbying -- "they all have some of the larger banks in their membership and the larger banks don't truly want a real bill because it will require higher capital, tougher regulations, make them pay into an insurance fund and maybe even downsize. They may pay lip service to having a strong or effective bill, but I just don't think their heart is in it."

The ABA, in the memo and in conversations with members of Congress, attempts to portray itself as fundamentally a small-bank organization. But no matter how many small banks belong to the group, just one or two giants like JPMorgan Chase make a big difference.

"They certainly have community banks involved in their membership and to some extent in their leadership," said Verdier. "With ICBA, not only do community banks have a seat at the table, they have the only seat."

Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) often argues that community banks have more power in Congress now than big banks, due to their influence in members' home districts and the diminished respect for Wall Street. Frank, indeed, credits community banks with helping kill cramdown -- a provision that would have allowed bankruptcy judges to renegotiate home mortgages.

That's one area where the ABA agrees. "An amendment to add mortgage bankruptcy cramdown to the bill was defeated on the floor by a strong majority. Given that this amendment had passed the House earlier this year, our win is a strong reflection of the hard work of the state associations and grassroots bankers last week. Since the cramdown concept has now been defeated in both the House and Senate this year, hopefully it will not be brought up again," reads the memo.

The missive contains additional praise for provisions that either made it into the final House bill or were knocked out.

Johnson speaks favorably of several developments, "including an exemption (although not a complete one) for banks under $10 billion from examinations by the Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA) and an amendment requiring that the powerful new systemic oversight agency review FASB's proposed rules. We were able to protect charter choice through the retention of the thrift charter, although we have clean-up work to do there."

The FASB amendment is the second provision mentioned by the ABA, indicating that it is of very high importance. The radical measure effectively allows bank regulators to ignore accounting rules if applying them could be dangerous to the banking system. It was largely ignored in the media.

Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), a leading New Democrat, is singled out for praise by the bankers. "On the House floor, we also had some positive results. One important change adopted on the floor was the ABA-supported Melissa Bean (D-Ill.) amendment that restored, for the most part, federal preemption for national banks and federally chartered thrifts. Your state association executive will tell you that preemption is important for all banks; if it is removed, as the Administration wants, it will set off an avalanche of state and local laws and regulations that will apply to all banks," writes Johnson.

From here, the ABA promises, the battle moves to the Senate: "Throughout this year, ABA and all the state associations have been united in our opposition to this bill and in our strategy on it. We worked night and day to improve it and to block bad amendments, with the help of grassroots bankers across the country, who we estimate have sent 300,000 letters to Congress this year. After this bruising House battle, we are ready for the Senate, where our positions seem to have stronger support, as we had thought they would."

Trade Discord Fuels U.S.-China Tension in Copenhagen

Dec. 16 (Bloomberg) -- China is demanding that a global agreement to reduce greenhouse gases prohibit nations from imposing trade sanctions, further pitting the world’s No. 1 emitter against U.S. lawmakers.

The draft accord from a United Nations-led meeting in Copenhagen to forge a climate treaty bars rich countries from adopting trade actions tied to global warming. China said such language will avert “trade wars.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sides with China.

“We will always oppose any practice of establishing trade barriers under the guise of protecting the global environment,” Yu Qingtai China’s climate-change ambassador, said in an interview.

A proposed U.S. law would impose tariffs by 2020 on imports of certain goods from countries such as China seen as not doing enough to cut emissions. American politicians and labor groups say pending legislation to cut heat-trapping gases must include tariffs on such nations because they gain competitive advantage.

The dispute between the two countries, which had a record $268 billion surplus last year in China’s favor, illustrates how trade is emerging as a central issue dividing developed and developing nations at the UN summit in the Danish capital.

“The ferocity of the trade discussion caught a number of delegations by surprise,” Jake Colvin, vice president of the National Foreign Trade Council, a U.S.-based business group that advocates for open trade, said in an interview in Copenhagen.

General Electric Co., Microsoft Corp., Boeing Co. and Wal- Mart Stores Inc.

are among members of the trade council, which opposes climate-related tariffs.

Senators’ Opposition

With just days before the UN negotiations close on Dec. 18, the U.S. and China have failed to bridge differences over key issues such as how much wealthy economies should pay poorer countries to deal with global warming, emissions-reduction goals and how to ensure that nations live up to their pledges to curb climate change.

U.S. senators such as Benjamin Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, say it’s “critical” that the U.S. retain its option to impose tariffs, or border-tax adjustments, on China and other countries. The Senate is the only U.S. body authorized to approve treaties.

Labor groups in the U.S. including the AFL-CIO say the measure is crucial to protect domestic industries that might be undercut if other countries aren’t bearing the same environmental costs to produce products.

“Goods produced in nations that do not abide by carbon emission restrictions should be subject to border adjustment tariffs to offset the loss,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in September. “I don’t see any other way to be serious” about global reductions.

Sides With China

The U.S.’s biggest business lobbying group, the Chamber of Commerce, sides with China on the issue, warning that the climate-based trade measures could start a “green” trade war.

“It’s something that certainly of concern to a lot of countries,” Stephen Eule, vice president for the chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, said in an interview. It could “invite retaliation on the part of our trading partners.”

In Copenhagen, the latest version of a proposed treaty includes language banning developed countries from “resorting” to climate-related trade measures is printed in brackets, meaning it lacks consensus agreement and must be dealt with by higher-level negotiators from 193 countries.

An earlier draft didn’t include specific language. Rather, it stated that the matter would be dealt with later in the Dec. 7-18 negotiations.

1992 Accord

Yu said China and other emerging economies simply want outlined in a new treaty what he says already exists in the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the basic climate agreement governing the current talks.

Barbara Finamore, China program director for the U.S.-based Natural Resources Defense Council, says concern about punitive trade measures is part of the reason that China is resisting calls from the U.S. and other developed countries to subject their emissions-reduction actions to international verification.

“They are afraid of the potential consequences, that if they breach at any level of independent review it sets the stage for some kind of sanctions,” she said.

Finamore said her group is stressing to Chinese officials that the border tax adjustments outlined in pending U.S. legislation wouldn’t even go into effect until 2020. “That gives parties time to build up confidence so they never would go into effect.”

Gibbs whacks Dean

Robert Gibbs, in today's briefing, slammed Howard Dean for leading the charge to kill health care legislation:

"If this is an insurance company's dream, I think the insurance companies have yet to get the memo," he said. "They've spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation ... If this is such a good deal for them, I’m not entirely sure why they're fighting."

"I don't know what piece of legislation he's reading," Gibbs continued. "I think if you talk to members of the Senate, they'd represent a similar viewpoint in the political spectrum that Howard Dean does. They seem to disagree as much with Howard Dean as I think we would."

One of Obama's political advantages is his total independence from much of the Democratic party. He ran won the nomination largely without the support of labor, and without institutional endorsements. He inherited parts of Dean's movement without Dean's personal support. He ran his primary campaign without the support of many of the progressive bloggers now attacking health care legislation. And now he's demonstrating, among other things, that he feels he doesn't owe them anything.

Japan car lobby fears US market won't reach 11 mln

* U.S. market seen settling around 10.5 mln this year
Stocks Cyclical Consumer Goods
* To give Japan demand outlook after tax policy decided (Adds details, background)
TOKYO, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The head of Japan's auto-making lobby said on Thursday he feared that the U.S. market would remain weak and would not reach total sales of 11 million vehicles next year.
U.S. auto sales edged higher in November, confirming the industry is on the mend after a deep four-year downturn, but analysts cautioned that sales are coming back from historically low levels. Sluggish consumer confidence and rising unemployment could make any recovery slow and uneven. [ID:nN01511318]
"I expect the U.S. market would be slightly better than this year, but there are fears that it won't reach 11 million," Satoshi Aoki, chairman of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), as well as Honda Motor Co (7267.T), told a news conference.
U.S. auto sales are expected to end with an annual sales rate of about 10.5 million units, the lowest level since the early 1980s. Many analysts and industry executives have forecast a modest rebound next year into the 11 million to 12 million unit range.
At his final news conference for this year, Aoki said the industry lobby would announce its outlook for domestic vehicle sales for 2010 once the government had made a decision on whether to maintain or do away with an extra tax levied on car purchases.
The government is aiming to compile its budget for the fiscal year starting in April by the end of this month before submitting if for approval by parliament, which will convene in January.
Aoki said, however, that he expects the six-month extension of incentives to replace old cars with new ones to help support Japan's dwindling vehicle demand. (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Chris Gallagher)

Lobby group wants Senate removed from draft law

By LUCAS BARASAPosted Wednesday, December 16 2009 at 21:37

A lobby group has opposed the establishment of a Senate because it “will be an unnecessary expense for taxpayers.”

Instead of the Senate, the Kenya Alliance of Residents Associations (Kara) proposes annual meetings between the national government and the district representatives.

Parliament can also provide for public consultation by its committees with districts and local authorities on policy or legislative proposals likely to have special relevance for them.

Kara chief executive Stephen Mutoro said there should be only one system of government — presidential or parliamentary — adding that a hybrid system might affect service delivery and be too complex.

“It must be expressly clear on who between the President and the Prime Minister has the last word on issues of national interest,” Mr Mutoro said.
Section 184 (3) of the draft, Kara added, should provide that at least half of the ministers must be non-MPs.

All ministers ought to appoint individuals of their choice to act as MPs during their tenure, the lobby said.

Commending the composition and powers of the proposed Judicial Service Commission, the lobby, however, said that its role should be confined to the appointment and removal of judges.

Judges, Kara said, should be appointed without involving the President.

Kara said all serving judges should be vetted on the commencement of the new constitution and that instead of abolishing constitutional courts, a special division should be created.


The association said local authorities should be strengthened instead of establishing regional governments. On land, it said powers of the proposed National Land Commission should be scaled down to stem possible abuse or inefficiency.

Meanwhile, Committee of Experts director Ekuru Aukot said that today’s deadline for presentation of views will not be extended. Dr Aukot said his team was overwhelmed by views and described the one month given to people to present their views as successful

“We don’t need an extension. It is the law that defines the time frame,” Dr Aukot said in his office in Westlands, Nairobi.

He said that despite the deadline, Kenyans will still be free to continue debating the constitution as the process is ongoing.

The Maasai led by Heritage minister William ole Ntimama, the Iteso led by former assistant minister Albert Ekirapa and the Kenya Christian Churches Forum headed by Bishop Gerry Kibarabara were among groups which gave their views on Thursday.

Hobby Lobby Buys Property from Massachusetts School to Make Home for C.S. Lewis College

NORTHFIELD, Mass. - (Business Wire) Property purchased by Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. from Northfield Mount Hermon School will become the home of a new college to be established by the C.S. Lewis Foundation, the organizations announced Wednesday.

Hobby Lobby, a privately held national retail chain of more than 400 arts and crafts stores, purchased property in Northfield, Mass., from the Northfield Mount Hermon School (NMH). The property will become home of C.S. Lewis College, a college of great books and visual and performing arts.

The announcement was made on the Northfield campus by representatives from the three organizations. NMH, a boarding school with 630 students from around the country and the world, consolidated its program onto its nearby Mount Hermon campus in 2005 and has been seeking a new owner for the Northfield campus. As owner of the Northfield property, Hobby Lobby will invest more than $5 million in operations and capital improvement projects in support of the creation of the college.

For information on the transaction and the new college, visit

“This is a win for the C.S. Lewis Foundation, a win for the Northfield Mount Hermon School and a win for Hobby Lobby,” said Steven Green, president of Hobby Lobby. “Our three organizations all care deeply about education and establishing a worthwhile mission on the historic Northfield campus. We also share a vision of preserving and honoring the legacy of D.L. Moody.”

Green said Hobby Lobby has worked with NMH and the C.S. Lewis Foundation to ensure that alumni can continue to visit the Northfield campus.

The C.S. Lewis Foundation has been considering several locations throughout the United States for the college. Foundation officials plan to open the college in 2012, pending appropriate approvals and accreditations.

“Today, as never before, young people are seeking an education that fully prepares them to understand and engage contemporary culture in a meaningful and creative way,” said Dr. Stan Mattson, founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. “The scenic and historic Northfield campus is an ideal setting for such a journey. We have already begun our work with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in hopes of opening C.S. Lewis College for students in the fall of 2012.”

The college is projected to enroll 400 students and employ a faculty of 40 and a staff of 45. Within five to seven years of opening, the annual budget of the college is expected to exceed $20 million.

“This news is wonderful for our organizations and also for the town of Northfield and the local economy,” said Thomas K. Sturtevant, Northfield Mount Hermon head of school. “As a well-established center for academic and community development, NMH is excited to welcome new neighbors whose mission will attract international scholars and active members of the local community. We are also extremely pleased that Hobby Lobby plans to take great care of the campus and its buildings, which have important historic value and are rooted in the hearts of so many of our alumni.”

About Northfield Mount Hermon School

NMH is a coeducational boarding school of 630 students in grades 9–12 and a postgraduate year. The school, founded by Christian evangelist and educator D.L. Moody in 1879, engages the intellect, compassion and talents of its students, empowering them to act with humanity and purpose. At the NMH campus in Mount Hermon, Mass., 90 faculty members teach 200 major and 20 Advanced Placement courses. NMH students live and learn on more than 1,600 acres in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts. For more information, visit

About Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.

Based in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby and its affiliates, including Mardel and Hemispheres, employ more than 18,000 across the nation. Hobby Lobby was founded by David Green in 1972. The company has grown from one 300 square-foot store to more than 430 locations in 35 states. The company’s revenue in 2008 was $1.8 billion. Hobby Lobby carries no long-term debt, is open only 66 hours per week and is closed on Sundays. For more information, visit

About the C.S. Lewis Foundation

Inspired by the life and legacy of C.S. Lewis, the C.S. Lewis Foundation is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing the renewal of Christian thought and creative expression throughout the world of learning and the culture at large. Since its founding in 1986, the C.S. Lewis Foundation has pursued its mission through several initiatives including regional conferences and retreats conducted throughout the U.S., the C.S. Lewis Faculty Forum, and the C.S. Lewis Summer Institute, convened triennially in the Cities and Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, England. The Foundation also owns and has restored C.S. Lewis’s beloved Oxford home, “The Kilns,” which it operates as a Study Centre for visiting resident scholars. As a culminating objective of its mission, the Foundation has long envisioned establishing C.S. Lewis College. For more information, visit

Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.
Chad Previch, 405-487-9249
Northfield Mount Hermon School
Heather Sullivan, 617-990-6662
Rachael Hanley, 413-498-3357
C.S. Lewis Foundation
Steven Elmore, 909-793-0949
Cell: 909-253-5367

Parliament lobby hot with talk of Bung marrying actress Zizie

KUALA LUMPUR: Talk is rife that Kinabatangan Member of Parliament Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin, 50, is to marry actress Zizie Ezette, 31.

The 'news' of Bung marrying Zizie spread fast around the Parliament lobby on Wednesday after Malay daily Utusan Malaysia reported that the actress had admitted that an MP from Sabah had proposed to her and that she was ready to be his wife.

The talk was fuelled by the fact that the outspoken MP, already married with four children, had recently changed his hairstyle and started dyeing his hair.

MPs present at Parliament building on Wednesday were also keen to find out whether Bung was marrying Zizie.

Bung Mokhtar Radin is said to be marrying actress Zizie Ezette.

One of his close friends in the House Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN - Sri Gading) did not want to comment, while another MP, Datuk Ismail Kassim (BN - Arau) said this was a personal matter and he did not know about it.

In an interview with Malay tabloid Kosmo!, Zizie, who started out as a fresh-faced 13-year-old and now enjoys playing the villain, said that an MP was special in her life and she felt he was sincere in the relationship.

Zizie, who starred in Kekasih Awal dan Akhir, said she needed time to consider whether or not to accept his marriage proposal.

“Since this proposal is from a married man, I have to think seriously because I don’t want to hurt another woman’s feelings,” said Zizie, who won the Best Actress award in Anugerah Skrin 2003 for her performance in the telemovie 'Aduhai Esah'.

She also picked up the Best Aspiring Actress award at the 11th Malaysian Film Festival in 2003.

Bung, however, denied he is marrying Zizie.

“I am not handsome enough for her,” Bung said when contacted over the phone, after he seemingly disappeared from the Parliament building on the second last day of the sitting.

Bung had earlier promised to show up in the afternoon but then changed his mind, saying that he was away attending a meeting.

Later in an SMS, Bung said he would not turn up in Parliament as he was busy.

He also denied he was marrying, but when asked whether he had proposed to Zizie, there was no reply.

Supreme Court declares NRO unconstitutional

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday threw the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) into the dustbin of history for being ultra virus of the Constitution because it ensured legal cover to corruption by the privileged class.

In its landmark and the expected judgment, a 17-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry declared the NRO an instrument void ab initio, being ultra vires and violative of various constitutional provisions including Articles 4, 8, 25, 62(f), 63(i)(p), 89, 175 and 227 of the Constitution.

Former federal minister Dr Mubashar Hassan, former bureaucrat Roedad Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Chief Minister Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif had challenged the NRO before the Supreme Court in 2007.

“All steps taken, actions suffered, and all orders passed by whatever authority, any orders passed by the courts of law including the orders of discharge and acquittals recorded in favour of the accused persons, are also declared never to have existed in the eyes of law and resultantly of no legal effect,” the court ruled in its short order read out by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

The larger bench of the apex court ruled that all cases in which the accused persons were either discharged or acquitted under Section 2 of the NRO or where proceedings pending against the holders of public office had got terminated in view of Section 7 thereof, a list of which cases has been furnished to this Court and any other such cases/proceedings which may not have been brought to the notice of this Court, shall stand revived and relegated to the status of pre-5th of October, 2007 position.

The Court directed the concerned courts including the trial, the appellate and the review courts to summon the persons accused in such cases and then to proceed in the respective matters in accordance with law from the stage from where such proceedings had been brought to an end in pursuance of the above provisions of the NRO.

The Court directed the Federal Government, all the provincial governments and all relevant and competent authorities including the prosecutor general of NAB, the special prosecutors in various accountability courts, the prosecutors general in the four provinces and other officers or officials involved in the prosecution of criminal offenders to offer every possible assistance required by the competent courts in the said connection.

The SC ruled that all cases which were under investigation or pending enquiries and which had either been withdrawn or where the investigations or enquiries had been terminated on account of the NRO shall also stand revived and the relevant and competent authorities shall proceed in the said matters in accordance with law.

The short order clarified that any judgment, conviction or sentence recorded under Section 31-A of the NAB Ordinance shall hold the field subject to law and since the NRO stands declared as void ab initio, therefore, any benefit derived by any person in pursuance of Section 6 thereof is also declared never to have legally accrued to any such person and consequently of no legal effect.

“Since in view of the provisions of Article 100(3) of the Constitution, the attorney general for Pakistan could not have suffered any act not assigned to him by the Federal Government or not authorised by the said government and since no orderor authority had been shown to us under which the then learned attorney general namely Malik Muhammad Qayyum had been authorised to address communications to various authorities/courts in foreign countries including Switzerland, therefore, such communications addressed by him withdrawing the requests for mutual legal assistance or abandoning the status of a civil party in such proceedings abroad or which had culminated in the termination of proceedings before the competent fora in Switzerland or other countries or in abandonment of the claim of the Government of Pakistan to huge amounts of allegedly laundered moneys, are declared to be unauthorised, unconstitutional and illegal acts of the said Malik Muhammad Qayyum,” the court ruled.

The short order also ruled that since the NRO stands declared void ab initio, therefore, any actions taken or suffered under the said law are also non est in law and since the communications addressed by Malik Muhammad Qayyum to various foreign fora/authorities/courts withdrawing the requests earlier made by the Government of Pakistan for mutual legal assistance; surrendering the status of civil party; abandoning the claims to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland, have also been declared by us to be unauthorized and illegal communications and consequently of no legal effect, therefore, it is declared that the initial requests for mutual legal assistance; securing the status of civil party and the claims lodged to the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland are declared never to have been withdrawn.

The court ordered the Federal Government and other concerned authorities to take immediate steps to seek revival of the said requests, claims and status. The court further ruled that in view of the above noticed conduct of Malik Muhammad Qayyum, the then learned attorney general for Pakistan in addressing unauthorised communications which had resulted in unlawful abandonment of claims of the Government of Pakistan, inter alia, to huge amounts of the allegedly laundered moneys lying in foreign countries including Switzerland, the Federal Government and all other competent authorities are directed to proceed against the said Malik Muhammad Qayyum in accordance with law in the said connection.

The court expressed displeasure about the conduct and lack of proper and honest assistance and cooperation on the part of the chairman of the NAB, the prosecutor general of the NAB and of the additional prosecutor general of the NAB.

“It is not possible for us to trust them with proper and diligent pursuit of the cases falling within their respective spheres of operation,” said the short order. The court suggested that the Federal Government may make fresh appointments against the said posts of persons possessing high degrees of competence and impeccable integrity in terms of Section 6 of the NAB Ordinance as also in terms of the observations of this Court made in the case of Khan Asfandyar Wali Vs Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2001 SC 607).

The Court however, ruled that till such fresh appointments are so made, the present incumbents may continue to discharge their obligations strictly in accordance with law. They shall, however, transmit periodical reports of the actions taken by them to the Monitoring Cell of this Court which is being established through the succeeding parts of this judgment.

The larger bench also ruled that a Monitoring Cell shall be established in the Supreme Court of Pakistan comprising of the chief justice of Pakistan or a judge of the Supreme Court to be nominated by him to monitor the progress and the proceedings in the noticed and other cases under the NAB Ordinance.

“Likewise similar monitoring cells shall be set up in the high courts of all the provinces comprising chief justice of the respective province or judges of the concerned high courts to be nominated by them to monitor the progress and the proceedings in cases in which the accused persons had been acquitted or discharged under Section 2 of the NRO,” the ruling added.

The court directed secretary Law Division to take immediate steps to increase the number of accountability courts to ensure expeditious disposal of cases. Earlier, during hearing of the petitions against the NRO, the chief justice said even parliament has no right to change the basic structure of the constitution.

“In accordance to oath, we are committed to safeguard the constitution,” he remarked. The chief justice warned the NAB Chairman Naveed Ahsan about stern action if something false was detected in the list. He ordered the NAB chairman to sign the list if it was correct. On the court’s order, he signed the list.

The court also summoned the summary file of directives issued for the elimination of Swiss cases. On the excuse of acting attorney general, the court summoned principal secretary and secretary law. Secretary law while presenting the file in the court said attorney general wrote the letter for withdrawal of cases on the directives of Asif Zardari’s lawyer Farooq H Naek that was opposed by the then Law Minister Zahid Hamid.

The court also expressed displeasure on acting attorney general and said he hid the truth. The principal secretary of president Salman Farooqi informed the court that cases files are not present in the Presidency but are in the president’ camp office in Rawalpindi.

Mian Allah Nawaz, amicus curie (friend of court) in his arguments termed the NRO as filthy law and said anything, which is beneficial for some individuals, is illegal. Shaiq Usmani, another amicus curie submitted before the court that there was no legal ground of giving amenity under NRO. The president could only issue the ordinance, which will convert into law by the assembly.

During the course of the proceedings, the chief justice said how the assembly could declare corruption as legal. Other members of the bench included Justice Javed Iqbal, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan, Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday, Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, Justice Tassadduq Hussain Jillani, Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk, Justice Raja Fayyaz Ahmed, Justice Chaudhry Ijaz Ahmed, Justice Muhammad Sair Ali, Justice Mahmood Akhtar Shahid Siddiqui, Justice S Khawja, Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, Justice Rahmat Husain Jafferi, Justice Tariq Parvez and Justice Ghulam Rabbani.