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  • RICO 20 Ringleader's Implausible Denial of Intent to Silence Skeptics

    May 17, 2016 10:30 AM

    After a recent victory in a FOIA lawsuit, Horner and CEI v. GMU, a Richmond court allowed the  Competitive Enterprise Institute to release records on Friday that showed George Mason University’s Ed Maibach and Jagadish Shukla, both taxpayer-funded instructors, organized a campaign calling for prosecution of those who disagree with their views on climate policy.

    In one of the many documents released, Shukla denies he and his collaborators were attempting to silence dissent on climate change.

    Some quick background. Early last September, Shukla, Maibach, and 18 other climate advocates sent a letter to President Obama, Attorney General Lynch, and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Holdren, urging the administration to launch a “RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupted Organizations Act) investigation of corporations and other organizations that have knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, as a means to forestall America’s response to climate change.”

    In one of the just-released documents (#000033, dated October 2, 2015), Shukla insists that he and his comrades never asked for a RICO investigation of “contrarian scientists or bloggers” for “expressing their views about climate change.” Well, of course they didn’t—openly. Only a fool would do that.

    However, the RICO investigation they propose would unavoidably extend to people whose only ‘crime’ is questioning climate orthodoxy.

  • Air Traffic Control Reform Opponents Still Miss the Big Picture, Repeat Errors

    May 16, 2016 6:06 PM

    Air traffic control is in dire need of reform and modernization, and there is a great plan in the House FAA bill to do just that. But a handful of conservative activists have launched a campaign to roil reform. Last week, I published two posts debunking false claims made by critics. While the vast majority of free market advocates familiar with the issue support the air traffic control corporatization plan contained in the House’s AIRR Act, a small group of anti-union conservative advocates opposes these reforms, citing concerns over labor unions.

    The reform plan would transfer the responsibilities of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization—currently nearly two-thirds of the FAA’s budget—to a newly created independent nonprofit corporation. As the Cato Institute’s Chris Edwards notes, “I would take a private-sector unionized company any day over a unionized federal bureaucracy. [These anti-union advocates] would apparently prefer the latter, which I find perplexing.”

  • Members-Only Unions Benefits Unions and Individual Workers

    May 16, 2016 5:41 PM

    There has been a surge in right-to-work laws over the past couple of years. Since 2012, four states (Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and West Virginia) revoked union power that requires workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

    Obviously, that does not sit well with Big Labor. Today, The Washington Examiner reported on the variety of lawsuits that unions have filed to regain their power of forced dues and how an opening to do so may have opened with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

    I’ve previously discussed the legal theory behind the lawsuits in Indiana and Wisconsin, here and here. Briefly, two lines of thought are argued. First, right-to-work laws is an unconstitutional “taking” of union property. Second, an idea pushed by Harvard Professor Benjamin Sachs and Catherine Fisk, law professor at University of California at Irvine, is that the National Labor Relations Act section covering right to work “refers only to ‘membership.’ Therefore, states can only prohibit requiring that a worker actually become a member of a union or pay equivalent dues.”

    There has never been a successfully lawsuit against a state right-to-work law. But this has not stopped labor unions from filing more challenges to right-to-work laws as they are increasingly enacted. As The Washington Examiner notes:

  • RealClear Radio Hour: Middle East & Panamanian Renaissance

    May 16, 2016 12:27 PM

    This week, I speak with two gentlemen advancing opportunity and prosperity in their respective corners of the world. Ricardo Karam, the Charlie Rose of Lebanon, is on a mission to redefine the Arab world and Surse Pierpoint is tearing down the wall between Panama’s booming Colón free zone and the impoverished surrounding city.

    First, Ricardo Karam, Lebanese talk show host, producer, and founder of the Takreem awards, shares his vision for the Middle East. In documentaries and with the Takreem awards, Ricardo combats both stereotypes and the fomenting of sectarian conflicts by celebrating unsung Arab heroes, who are leading by example in entrepreneurship, technological achievements, and elsewhere. 

  • Leave DFS Regulation to the States, But Don’t Kneecap Skilled Players

    May 16, 2016 11:01 AM

    Congress is abuzz with the issue of gambling. Last month, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) inserted language from his failed online gambling ban into the Senate appropriations bill, presumably hoping to secretly sneak his ban through the process. And just last week, the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing on Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) betting, asking the question: what should be the future of this form of online betting and is there a role for the federal government to play?

    Just a day before the hearing, CEI released a paper titled, “Game Changer: Rethinking Online Gambling Regulation in the Age of Daily Fantasy Sports.” In it, Steven Titch and I examine the wildly popular world of DFS and conclude that the best way for Congress to protect consumers would be to leave regulation of the industry where it belongs: with the states. Regardless of what body ultimately oversees the activity, regulation should merely seek to protect consumers from fraud and shouldn’t “handicap” skilled players, as my co-author Steven Titch explores in the following post:

    In the last few weeks, Last Wednesday’s congressional hearing on Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) yielded an informative discussion of the legal and technical issues surrounding these controversial contests and the degree to which they need to be regulated as a form of gambling.

    With DFS participation reaching a reported 60 million players in 2015, yet facing a backlash from numerous states which have claimed it to be a form of unregulated online wagering. The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade

  • Crowdfunding Rules: Four Years Late and Millions Short

    May 16, 2016 9:14 AM

    Today, Monday, May 16, more than four years and one month after Congress passed and President Obama signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act of 2012, the law’s Title III provisions for investment-based crowdfunding finally go into effect.

    While this implementation by the Securities and Exchange Commission is better late than never, the crowdfunding rules are not only years too late, but millions of dollars short. European and Asian countries have now far surpassed the U.S. in reducing their red tape to allow startup entrepreneurs to raise funds from ordinary investors, and giving both the opportunity to grow wealthy with a firm’s success.

    The limit of $1 million for a crowdfunding raise, given that legal and auditing costs under the rule may be in the hundreds of thousands, is likely too low to provide many investors and entrepreneurs the opportunity to achieve a solid return. In Great Britain, by contrast, firms can for much larger amounts.. Under the much broader UK crowdfunding rules, Camden Town Brewery did an equity raise equivalent to $3 million. Earlier this year, Camden Town was acquired by the giant brewer InBev Anheuser Busch, giving investors who participated in the crowdfunding raise an 88 percent return.

    Unfortunately, under the Title III provisions as they are, middle-class investors will likely not get this opportunity in the US. But the good news is they could get one soon if Congress and the president can once again work together and pass the Fix Crowdfunding Act (HR 4855), sponsored by original JOBS Act architect Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.).

    This bill would raise the crowdfunding limit under Title III from $1 million to $5 million. It would also allow crowdfunding firms to engage in more marketing and advertising, something severely restricted under the provisions going into effect.

  • CEI's Battered Business Bureau: The Week in Regulation

    May 16, 2016 9:11 AM

    The Federal Register broke the 30,000-page barrier last week, with new regulations covering everything from baked beans to e-cigarettes.

    On to the data:

    • Last week, 58 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 71 the previous week.
    • That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 54 minutes.
    • With 1,206 final regulations published so far in 2016, the federal government is on pace to issue 3,242 regulations in 2016. Last year’s total was 3,406 regulations.
    • Last week, 2,170 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,893 pages the previous week.
    • Currently at 30,066 pages, the 2016 Federal Register is on pace for 80,823 pages. The 2015 Federal Register had an adjusted page count of 81,611.
    • Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. 11 such rules have been published so far in 2016, one in the last week.
    • The running compliance cost tally for 2016’s economically significant regulations ranges from $1.21 billion to $2.20 billion.
    • 97 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published this year.
    • So far in 2016, 238 new rules affect small businesses; 37 of them are classified as significant. 
  • Senator Vitter Introduces Bill To Enforce Law and Stop Funding of UNFCCC and Green Climate Fund

    May 13, 2016 5:37 PM

    Senator David Vitter (R-La.) on 12th May introduced a bill, S. 2930, to ensure that federal funding of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) complies with federal law.  The law in question is Public Law 104-246, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1994.  That law prohibits the State Department from funding any UN specialized agency or affiliated organization that accepts Palestine as a full member.  Palestine was accepted as a full member of the UNFCCC on 18th December 2015 and became a full member 90 days later on 17th March.

    As I reported in an earlier Cooler Heads Digest article, the State Department replied to a letter signed by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and 27 other Senators that it wasn’t going to pay any attention to the law and the Obama Administration would continue to fund the UNFCCC.  The introduction of S. 2930 is only the first step in what is likely going to be a long effort by the Congress to force compliance and defund the UNFCCC, which includes the Green Climate Fund.  The bill has two original co-sponsors: Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee; and Senator Barrasso, chairman of the Foreign Relations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the UNFCCC.     

  • EPA Finalizes Methane Rule for New Gas and Oil Production

    May 13, 2016 5:36 PM

    The Environmental Protection Agency on 12th May released its final rule for regulating methane emissions from new oil and gas production.  The agency also announced that it was taking the first steps toward writing a methane rule for existing oil and gas production.

    The EPA press release quotes Administrator Gina McCarthy: “Today, we are underscoring the Administration’s commitment to finding commonsense ways to cut methane—a potent greenhouse gas fueling climate change—and other harmful pollution from the oil and gas sector.  Together these new actions will protect public health and reduce pollution linked to cancer and other serious health effects while allowing industry to continue to grow and provide a vital source of energy for Americans across the country.”  It should be recalled that McCarthy regularly describes the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules for power plants as “commonsense” regulation.     

    The purpose of the rule is not to reduce manmade methane emissions, which have been declining without regulation.  Methane, the principal gas in natural gas, is produced in large quantities naturally by decaying vegetation in water-logged soils.  If the EPA really thought it necessary to reduce atmospheric methane levels in order to stop global warming, then the EPA would be pushing for filling in swamps, marshes, and other wetlands.  Substantial reductions could be achieved inexpensively, and there would be significant co-benefits, such as reducing mosquito populations. 

  • Virginia Court Releases RICO 20 Documents from George Mason University

    May 13, 2016 5:36 PM

    A judge for the Richmond Circuit Court of Virginia on 13th May lifted his protective order on documents from and to Professor Edward Maibach of George Mason University regarding the RICO-20 letter.  The documents were immediately released and have been posted here by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. 

    The RICO-20 letter was signed by twenty academics and sent on 1st September 2015 to U. S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama, and White House science advisor John Holdren.  They urged that “the fossil fuel industry and their allies” be investigated under RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, on the grounds that they had “knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, in order to forestall America's response to climate change.”    

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