Review Category : Poltics

Obamas Worth Between $2 and $7 Million in 2013

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Obama and the first lady had assets worth between $2 and $7 million in 2013, according to the annual financial disclosure report released by the White House.

The president continues to earn substantial royalties from his books. The report reveals Dreams From My Father generated between $50,001 and $100,000, while The Audacity of Hope brought in between $15,001 and $50,000. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters pulled in between $5,001 and $15,000 in royalties.

The largest assets owned by the Obamas are Treasury notes worth between $1 million and $5 million, and they also have between $200,000 and $400,000 put away in 529 college savings plans for their two daughters.

The couple still holds a 30-year mortgage on their Chicago home, with an interest rate of 5.6 percent, the report detailed.

“Neither the President nor the Vice President have any conflicts of interest, and their reports have been reviewed and certified by the independent Office of Government Ethics,” Press Secretary Jay Carney wrote in a White House blog. “We are continuing this Administration’s practice of posting these forms online here in the interests of transparency.”

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More Than 1,300 Military Sexual Harassment Cases Filed in 2013

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Pentagon on Thursday released its first-ever report on incidents of sexual harassment in the military, detailing more than 1,300 cases filed in 2013.

Half of the 1,366 complaints involved senior, non-commissioned officers committing sexual harassment, the same leaders responsible for stopping such acts. One in three women and one in five men reported that their attackers sexually harassed them before and after the initial incident, according to the data from the Department of Defense.

As a result, officials suggest the military needs to improve punishment and enforcement.

Thursday’s report differs from the recent Pentagon account on military sexual assault. In early May, the department reported 5,061 cases of sexual assault for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, marking a 50-percent increase over the previous year.

This time around, the DoD gives a specific definition on sexual harassment: an unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that can affect a career or job performance or create an abusive workplace.

Similar to sexual assault, harassment often goes underreported.

“We want a climate where everybody reports whenever they’re offended,” one official said in a statement.

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Hillary Clinton Revising History of Her Iran Sanctions Role, Senator Claims

Brendan Smialowsk/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — In what is being called a “blatant revision of history,” one Republican senator claims Hillary Clinton is exaggerating her previous role in imposing sanctions on Iran.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk made the accusation Thursday, one day after Clinton told the American Jewish Committee about her efforts as former secretary of state to get United Nations sanctions in response to Iran’s nuclear program.

“I worked for months to round up the votes [in the U.N. Security Council],” Clinton said. “In the end we were successful….And then building on the framework established by the Security Council, with the help of Congress, the Obama administration imposed some of the most stringent, crippling sanctions on top of the international ones.”

Those sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table earlier this year.

“Secretary Clinton’s comments are a blatant revision of history,” said Kirk, who with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) co-sponsored several sanctions bills in recent years. “The fact is the Obama administration has opposed sanctions against Iran led by Senator Menendez and me every step of the way.”

In 2012, the White House openly opposed Kirk and Menendez’s efforts to add an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act that would have blacklisted several of Iran’s industrial sectors.

At the time, White House spokesman Tony Vietor told Foreign Policy, “As we focus with our partners on effectively implementing these efforts, we believe additional authorities now threaten to undercut these efforts.”

Menendez did not return ABC News’ request for comment.

A spokesperson for Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a proponent of additional sanctions on Iran and a potential 2016 rival to Clinton if they both run for president, also noted the administration’s opposition to previous sanctions legislation.

“The truth is that Hillary Clinton’s State Department fought tooth and nail against the very congressionally imposed sanctions that she is now boasting about,” Rubio spokesperson Alex Conant said in a statement.

Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, noted that the primary objections to more sanctions came from the White House, not the State or Treasury departments tasked with implementing its policies. And, he added, Clinton’s State Department does deserve credit for getting the United Nations Security Council on board with tough sanctions.

But she isn’t giving Congress enough credit for its work, Dubowitz said.

“It significantly understates the pivotal role that Congress played in originating and passing some of the most effective energy and financial sanctions,” he said of Clinton’s comments.

Former congressman Howard Berman, a Democrat from California who co-sponsored the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, praised Clinton’s corralling of the U.N. Security Council, and applauded the administration’s sanctions push as “a masterful performance” which brought Iran to the nuclear negotiating table.

Referring to Clinton’s assessment of her role, Berman said, “There’s some almost automatic human tendency in politics to think that one’s role was the critical additional factor in making something happen.”

Dubowitz said he hoped that over time, recognition for the Iran sanctions will also go to “unsung heroes” like Stuart Levy, the first Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the Treasury Department, as well as others in the State Department and on Capitol Hill.

“When the history of Iran sanctions is written, I hope it actually also gives credit to many of the people whose names we don’t know or who are not as famous as Hillary Clinton,” he said.

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John Ratcliffe Trying to Defeat Oldest Member of Congress

US Congress(WASHINGTON) — John Ratcliffe, a Republican candidate for Texas’ 4th Congressional district, says he doesn’t feel guilty about trying to force the House’s oldest serving member out of office.

He “stayed too long, promised too much, and became a part of the problem,” Ratcliffe told ABC News. “Public service…should be about what the voters want.”

Ratcliffe’s target, 91-year-old GOP incumbent Rep. Ralph Hall, has been a fixture on the Hill for 34 years. But for the first time since his congressional career began in 1980, Hall failed to garner the required 50 percent of the votes in the March 4 Republican primary and faces a runoff on May 27. In a staunchly conservative district, that vote will likely determine whether Hall will see an 18th term.

The Houston Chronicle calls the race the “fight of a very long lifetime.” And the headline begs the question Ratcliffe is hoping you’ll ask: Is Hall too far over the proverbial hill to continue serving on Capitol Hill?

In a recently-released ad, Ratcliffe, 48, wastes no time telling voters that Hall is no spring chicken.

“At 91, Ralph Hall has served admirably, but after four decades in Washington, the problems are getting worse…it’s time for leaders who are focused on the next generation,” he says in the ad.

True, Hall is significantly older than his colleagues: According to the Congressional Research Service, the average age of Members of the House was 57 at the start of this session. But though there’s a congressional minimum age (25 for the House, 30 for the Senate), there’s no legally-mandated maximum. And Hall is hardly the only member of congress to remain on the Hill into ripe old age.

The U.S. House’s longest-serving member, John Dingell, D-Mich., retired earlier this year at 87. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., also 87, is actively pursuing another term. And some, like Rep. Donald Millford Payne, D-N.J., who succumbed to colon cancer at 77 in 2012, stay until their death.

The Senate age records are even more impressive. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., served until he passed away at 92 in 2010. Theodore Francis Green, D-R.I., retired from the Senate in 1961 at age 93. And Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., (whose questionable legacy included vehement opposition to the Civil Rights Act) was still in office at 100.

One Texas reporter sardonically suggested Ratcliffe’s campaign adopt the slogan, “John Ratcliffe: He won’t be dead soon!”

Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, insists he’s not concerned about Hall’s age.

“It’s an issue of time [in office], not age,” Ratcliffe said. “What can he do [in his next term] that he hasn’t had a chance to do in the past 34 years?”

Hall’s office did not respond to requests for comment, but the congressman has been trying to spin his advanced years as a plus. In an ad titled, “Wrinkles,” Hall points to the lines on his face and insists they are political battle scars.

“See this one? Got it taking on the liberals when they attacked our second amendment rights. These, when we fought ‘em on Obamacare,” Hall says. “Texas values are still worth fighting for, and by gosh, I’ve still got room for a few wrinkles.”

The congressman has stated that his 18th term would be his last. But Ratcliffe, who asserts that Hall has “hinted” at retirement for years, says he couldn’t just sit back and wait for the dean of the Texas Congressional delegation to retire.

“The reason I got in the race was the $17 trillion debt,” Ratcliffe said. “Another two years — I’m afraid it will be $20 trillion … None of us can afford to wait.”

The race isn’t exactly a dead heat. In the initial vote, Ratcliffe came away with 29 percent of the vote to Hall’s 45 percent, but most pundits agree that Ratcliffe is within striking distance.

Hall’s birthday was just a few days before the primary. And no, Ratcliffe says, he didn’t send a birthday card.

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Hillary Clinton to Stump for Daughter’s Mother-in-Law

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — All eyes will be on Hillary Clinton Thursday as she makes her first campaign appearance of 2014.

Clinton will be attending a fundraising event for Pennsylvania congressional candidate, and Chelsea Clinton’s mother-in-law, Marjorie Margolies.

Hillary Clinton, who has largely shied away from political events in the past year, is making an exception for her daughter’s mother-in-law, who could use a boost in the polls. And for Margolies, who has also had the public support of former president Bill Clinton, it’s a pretty nice deal.

No two political figures seem to have as much endorsement power as the ones who bear the Clinton name.

Last month, a poll showed Bill Clinton’s favorability to be on par with Pope Francis, and this month at a health care conference, Hillary Clinton was likened to a “rock star.”

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Obama Recalls Heroism of ‘Man in the Red Bandana’ at 9/11 Memorial

The White House(WASHINGTON) — At the opening of the 9/11 Museum in New York Thursday, President Obama delivered a touching tribute to the men and women who lost their lives on Sept. 11 nearly 13 years ago.

The victims’ final moments, the president said, were a testament to the “true spirit of 9/11: love, compassion, sacrifice.”

Obama recalled the actions of Welles Crowther, the 24-year-old former volunteer firefighter who worked a finance job in the south tower.

After his heroism, he became known to many as, simply, “the man in the red bandana,” who gave his life so that others might live.

“In those awful moments after the south tower was hit, some of the injured huddled in the wreckage of the 78th floor. The fires were spreading; the air was filled with smoke. It was dark, and they could barely see. It seemed as if there was no way out,” Obama said.

“And then, there came a voice: clear, calm, saying he had found the stairs. A young man, in his 20s, strong, emerged from the smoke and, over his nose and his mouth, he wore a red handkerchief. …He led those survivors down the stairs to safety and carried a woman on his shoulders down 17 flights,” the president said. “And then he went back.”

Since then, “a generation of service members, our 9/11 generation, have served with honor…[and] our SEALs made sure justice was done,” Obama added, referring to the assault on the Pakistan compound of 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.

But, the president said, ours is “a nation that stands tall and united and unafraid because no act of terror can match the strength and character of our country. Like the great wall and bedrock that embrace us today, nothing can ever break us.”

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Chris Christie Considering White House Run

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — Interviewed at an economic policy summit in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie confirmed that he was considering a run for the GOP nomination for president in 2016, but that any decision about his future will come “later.”

Christie, whose office is the focus of a scandal involving the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge last summer, claims he’s not worried about where the investigation might lead because “I didn’t do anything.”

Although there are both federal and state probes into the matter that could presumably waylay Christie’s political ambitions, the governor told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer that the controversy will wind up being a “footnote” if he enters the race for the White House in two years.

Christie also commented on other issues, including raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, saying he doesn’t feel it will help to improve the economy.

As for the upcoming midterm elections, Christie believes that if Republicans wrest control of the Senate from Democrats, it would give President Obama an opportunity to move ahead on legislation concerning trade and other fiscal matters that he currently can’t pass due to objections from his own party.

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Meet the Man Trying to Unseat Top House Republican Eric Cantor

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) | Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Meet Dave Brat, an economics and ethics professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, who has launched a long-shot bid to oust House Majority Leader Eric Cantor from his seat representing Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.

Brat, who admits that he has supported several Cantor candidacies over the years, says he mounted his improbable primary campaign because the House GOP’s No. 2 leader has lost touch with his constituents, “veering from the Republican creed.”

“Years ago he had a good conservative track record, but now he’s veered off,” Brat told ABC News during an interview on Capitol Hill. “If you go to Heritage and look at their score, I think he’s at about a 53 right now. I mean, that’s an F-minus.”

Heritage Action’s scorecard tracks Republican votes, co-sponsorships and other legislative activity to gauge how conservative members of Congress are performing. Cantor actually receives a 52 percent, which ranks seventh among eight Virginia House Republicans.

While a recent profile of the race in the Washington Post characterized Brat as “a potential threat,” the quirky challenger knows he has a tough road to victory in the June 10 primary.

“Most of these [primary] races don’t kick in until about 30 days prior,” he said. “Now everyone’s looking, what’s the race? It’s an open primary and it’s just Eric and I on the ticket.”

Brat, 49, isn’t the first primary challenger Cantor has faced. The Richmond Republican smoked primary challenger Floyd Bayne in 2012 by nearly 60 percentage points before cruising to a 17-point victory in the general election.

But with low primary turnout (just 47,000 voters turned out in the primary two years ago) and anti-incumbency fervor at an all-time high, Cantor’s team says they aren’t overlooking Brat, although they “don’t see him getting a great deal of traction.”

“We’re on the ground, running the campaign,” Cantor campaign spokesman and senior strategist Ray Allen said in a phone interview. “We take every figure seriously and do our own due diligence. It is what it is.”

Brat claims “the money is flowing in right now,” expanding an underwhelming campaign war chest that he last reported contained just $40,000.

“The race was once viewed as a long-shot, [but] it’s tightening now,” Brat said. “We’re well over double, triple what we had on the books just a month ago and so now we’re getting the national attention I always hoped.”

Brat complained that Cantor, 50, has a “crony-capitalist mentality” to take care of the corporate sector ahead of the interests of small businesses.

“On the conservative scorecard, on the free market votes, he’s doing everything wrong,” Brat said. “He’s not following what folks in his district want him to do and it’s hurting the country.”

Allen described Brat as “a weird duck” and criticized him for serving on then-Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists.

“Eric Cantor is a conservative leader,” Allen, who has advised Cantor’s campaigns since 1991, said. “[Brat] doesn’t like being called a liberal college professor, but that’s what he is and what he’s always been. Tea Party conservatives don’t serve as an economic adviser to Tim Kaine.”

Brat calls himself as a “free market guy,” and says he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. He also pledged never to increase taxes and to stick to a five-year promise not to vote to increase the debt limit.

“This isn’t a personal race. I’m not running against Eric,” he stressed. “I’m just running on the founding principles that Adam Smith and free markets — they made us the greatest nation on the Earth. All right? It’s no mystery. Our rights, tradition, along with free markets and the Judeo-Christian tradition all together made us the greatest nation on the face of the Earth. I think we’re veering off course a little bit there and I want to get us back on that course that brought us to greatness.”

If Brat ultimately wins the primary and is seated in the 114th Congress, he would not commit his vote for speaker to House Speaker John Boehner, but offered his support to any contender who’s “more free market and more fiscally responsible.”

“I’d have to take a good look at what they’re doing but I support people who follow the Republican creed, and so it doesn’t look like the leadership is doing a good job on that right now,” Brat said.

“They’re not free market at all, right? They do not take free market seriously and they’re off on fiscal responsibility.”

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Bill Clinton Warns Democratic Candidates Not to ‘Run Away’ From Obamacare

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Former President Bill Clinton offered a vigorous defense of Obamacare Wednesday, while sending a message to election-year Democrats who’re inclined to put some distance between themselves and their vote for the Affordable Care Act.

“I think it’s a terrible mistake for people who voted for the health care bill to run away from it, Clinton said at a fundraiser for the Center for American Progress at the Newseum in Washington Wednesday evening. I think it is a colossal error to be afraid to discuss policy with the American people or to think they don’t care or to think they can’t get it.

Dinging Republicans, and their repeated efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he told the crowd: I think you can trust the American people to figure out it would be far better to fix what’s wrong with this bill than to keep trying to repeal it, and I think that’s what we ought to say.

His defense of the Affordable Care Act was lengthy, with Clinton ticking off the beneficiaries of the law, prompting cheers from the audience when he mentioned people with pre-existing conditions.

Like a speech he gave at his alma mater Georgetown last month, Clinton discussed the importance of policy, and in this address to progressive activists he encouraged them to keep fighting. He said young people just getting into politics fall in love with the poetry of a campaign and are enthusiastic about politics, noting his own signature campaign song: Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.

But, he cautioned, we govern in prose, reminding the audience that you can’t forget the prose, or policy.

It was a busy day in Washington for both Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the former president and former secretary of state holding two events each in different parts of the city.

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Obama Chides GOP for Failing to Act on Infrastructure Legislation

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Standing before a crumbling New York bridge, President Obama Wednesday made an urgent plea for lawmakers to pass infrastructure legislation, saying rebuilding America “shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

“If they don’t act by the end of the summer, federal funding for transportation projects will run out. … There will be no money. The cupboard will be bare,” Obama said as he stood before the Tappan Zee Bridge, just north of New York City.

“Let’s not fight about something we all know makes sense,” he said.

The president slammed Republicans for failing to replenish the Highway Trust Fund, warning that unless they act, nearly 700,000 jobs could be at risk next year.

“Not only have they prevented so far efforts to make sure funding is still in place for what we’ve already got, but their proposal would actually cut job-creating grant programs that have funded high-priority transportation projects in all 50 states,” Obama said. “Instead of putting more workers back on the job, they’d put those workers’ jobs at risk.”

The president is backing a four-year, $302 billion transportation plan that would be paid for by ending some business tax breaks and closing corporate tax loopholes.

“We’ve gotten so partisan, everything is becoming political,” he said. “It’s time for folks to stop running around saying what’s wrong with America. Roll up your sleeves and let’s get to work and help America rebuild. That’s what we should be doing. We don’t need a ‘can’t do’ spirit. We need a ‘can do’ spirit.”

While he waits for lawmakers to embrace that call, the president announced plans to accelerate the approval process for infrastructure projects across the country.

“We’re cutting bureaucratic red tape that stalls good projects from breaking ground,” he explained.

After years of delay, the 60-year-old Tappan Zee Bridge is now being replaced after the White House helped fast-track its permitting and review process. The bridge, located roughly 20 miles north of New York City, carries approximately 138,000 vehicles daily and has seen traffic volumes increase by about 30 percent since 1990.

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