- The GOP Just Won The First Obamacare Era Election, And They're Salivating About What It Means For November
(Politics - March 12 2014 - 1:27 AM:)
Republicans have won the first election of the Obamacare era.
GOP candidate David Jolly narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the Florida 13th district's special election Tuesday night. With almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Jolly had 48.5 percent of the vote to Sink's 46.7 percent, according to The Associated Press. Sink conceded shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Both parties painted the Florida 13th as an important testing ground for the midterm elections later this year. It is the definition of a "swing" district — the late Rep. Bill Young, a Republican, had held the seat since 1971. But President Barack Obama won the district in both 2008 and 2012.
"Despite being heavily outspent by Democrats, David won in a district that President Obama carried in the 2012 election," RNC Chair Reince Priebus said in a statement.
"His victory shows that voters are looking for representatives who will fight to end the disaster of Obamacare, to get Washington to spend our money responsibly, and to put power in the hands of families and individuals. In November, voters all across the country will have the chance to send the same message that Pinellas County voters have sent: Democrats’ policies are not working for America."
Even on Monday, Democrats weren't exactly bullish about their chances. The district had built-in advantages for Republicans. It was a special election, which plunged turnout levels compared to 2008 and 2012. And it is a Republican-leaning district.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spun the loss as one showing Democrats could compete in a Republican district.
"Ultimately, the overwhelmingly Republican composition of the special election electorate — expected to be 13 points more Republican than Democratic — paired with nearly $5 million in spending from 11 Republican groups made for a far steeper challenge than any midterm battleground district will be in November, including in FL-13," the DCCC said in a memo.
The race was a clear sign special interests are set for a monstrous spending campaign in 2014. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the parties and outside groups spent almost $9 million in the Florida 13th. In total, more than $11 million was spent on the election, according to The Sunlight Foundation.
One of those groups — Crossroads GPS, the spinoff of Karl Rove's American Crossroads super PAC — said this race served as an important test case for November.
"A lot of us rolled up our sleeves after 2012, studied the Obama playbook and invested in targeted voter turnout and more effective messaging," spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in a statement.
"The Florida CD-13 special was an important test market and there was unprecedented cooperation among outside groups. We intend to keep refining these lessons as we prepare for the fall elections."
- 696,749 Reasons New Jersey Sided Against Tesla
(Politics - March 12 2014 - 12:46 AM:)
Here was the score after Tesla Motors spent more than a year attempting to establish a direct sales operation in New Jersey: 0 to 696,749.
It was a blowout.
The luxe electric car company was outraged Tuesday when the The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission approved a proposal banning auto manufacturers from selling cars directly to consumers. In a blog post and series of tweets Tesla blamed the move on bad faith negotiating by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie and "attacks" from the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. However, if Tesla was indeed under attack, it looks like the company didn't make any attempt to fight back against the car dealers' lobby on a crucial political front -- the company didn't give any money to local politicians.
Campaign finance records show, the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers' political action committee, CAR PAC, has made hundreds of political donations as the group lobbied on behalf of car dealers in the Garden State. In contrast, records show no donations to any politicians in New Jersey coming from Tesla, its employees, or the company's co-founder and CEO Elon Musk.
According to the National Institute of Money In Politics, the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers and its employees gave a grand total of $696,749 to politicians and campaign committees in the Garden State from 2003 through 2009. This included contributions to both Democratic and Republican officials and organizations in both houses of the Legislature. Beneficiaries of CAR PAC's largesse included the current Democratic president of the state senate, Stephen Sweeney, the state senate's current Republican minority leader, Thomas Kean Jr., and the Democratic majority leader of the New Jersey General Assembly.
The New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. However, one of the organization's websites makes clear influencing the Legislature is a core part of its mission.
"A major responsibility of NJ CAR is to represent New Jersey’s automotive retailers in legislative matters," the site says. "The Coalition has been active at every session of the New Jersey Legislature in defending the industry against adverse legislation, as well as initiating and supporting legislation favorable to franchised New Jersey new car and truck retailers."
Tesla may have engaged in its own lobbying efforts, but it doesn't seem like the company put any financial muscle behind them.
After Tesla blasted the governor's office, Christie administration spokesman Kevin Roberts sent a statement to Business Insider arguing Tesla was told as soon as it set up shop in the Garden State that it "would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law."
If the way to win hearts and minds in the Legislature was paved with gold, Tesla let the car dealer's lobby push them off the road.
- France's Ex-Prime Minister Earned $138,500 For Just One Day's Work [Report]
(Politics - March 12 2014 - 12:39 AM:)
France's Socialist government allowed conservative ex-prime minister Dominique de Villepin to return for one day's work in order to qualify for a 100,000-euro retirement windfall, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.
Sources at the French foreign ministry told the paper that the charismatic former minister returned to the diplomatic service -- which he left in 1993 -- in September in order to receive the pay-off, equivalent to $138,500.
The British paper said it was unclear exactly what entitled Villepin to the payment and that "the exact details are shrouded in a French bureaucratic device called the 'career termination mechanism'."
The sources added that the move was likely approved by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
According to the Daily Telegraph, officials are angry at the pay-off, which comes amid President Francois Hollande's unpopular austerity drive.
A spokesman for Villepin told paper there had been an "administrative error which Mr Villepin has already asked to be rectified by the relevant authorities as soon as it was noticed", but did not explain what that error was, or whether the money had been returned.
A ministry spokesman added there had been "no discretionary or preferential treatment" for Villepin, who served as prime minister from 2005 until 2007 under the leadership of Jaques Chirac.
Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.
- Rand Paul Dismisses Mitch McConnell's Threats Against The Tea Party
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 9:46 PM:)
Senator Rand Paul is beloved by the Tea Party, but he doesn't seem to be worried about Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's prediction the GOP establishment will "crush" primary challengers supported by conservative groups. When he was asked about McConnell's recent comments in an interview with Blaze Radio Tuesday, Paul suggested his fellow Kentucky Republican didn't really mean his vow to crush Tea Party insurgents.
"I think, in the middle of the campaign sometimes, things are said that may not be intended," Paul said of McConnell's remarks.
Paul, a likely 2016 presidential candidate whose strong support among the base was displayed in his landslide victory in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll last week, also addressed the idea the Tea Party's strength is waning.
"I think the Tea Party still is a huge part of the Republican Party and really the energy of it," Paul said, later adding, "I still believe the Tea Party is a big factor and will be a big factor in the elections."
Paul was also asked about whether primary challenges against McConnell and other establishment candidates supported by Tea Party-linked groups are productive for the Republican Party.
"For the most part, primaries, I think, are a good thing. I think we need to try to keep the debate on a civilized plain so we don't damage each other so much that the Democrats take advantage," Paul said. "While there can be contention, it can't be so bitter that, in the end, you want the Democrats to win or you don't show up in the fall to win if your guy didn't win in the primary, because there truly is a difference. For all of our squabbles up here, there is a big difference between Republicans and Democrats."
- Congress Is Going To War With The CIA
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 8:31 PM:)
It started with a remarkable statement Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein's made from the Senate floor Tuesday morning, and it continued amid a barrage of angry statements from senators later in the afternoon.
Congress is going to war with the Central Intelligence Agency, spurred by Feinstein's allegation the agency may have broken the law and violated the U.S. Constitution by searching a stand-alone congressional computer network.
Feinstein's scathing comments, which Vermont Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy said were among the most important in Senate floor history, opened up a public chapter in a long simmering dispute.
"The CIA did not ask the committee or its staff if the committee had access to the internal review or how we obtained it," Feinstein said in her blistering remarks. "Instead, the CIA just went and searched the committee's computer."
The CIA provided Congress with the computer network to allow the Senate Intelligence Committee to review classified documents at CIA headquarters as part of an investigation into the CIA's Bush-era detention and interrogation programs. The incident in question occurred in December, when Intelligence Committee investigators got ahold of an internal agency review casting a particularly bad light on the interrogation and detention programs, which were ended by President Barack Obama.
According to Feinstein, CIA officials then searched the computers to try to determine how the congressional investigators gained access to the information, Feinstein. Feinstein emphasized that the committee did nothing improper to gain access to the internal reports.
During an event at the Council on Foreign Relations, CIA Director John Brennan denied the allegations, saying "nothing could be further from the truth." However, numerous Senate power players, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, backed up Feinstein's charges and called for increased scrutiny on the CIA.
"I believe in the separation of powers. I support Sen. Feinstein unequivocally," Reid told reporters in Capitol Hill on Tuesday. "And I'm disappointed that the CIA is apparently unrepentant on what I understand they did."
Other senators from both parties also supported Feinstein's accusations.
"I applaud Chairman Feinstein for setting the record straight today on the Senate floor about the CIA's actions to subvert congressional oversight," said Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Udall went on to say the CIA was "trying to hide the truth from the American people about this program and undermine the Senate Intelligence Committee's oversight role." Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, another member of the Intelligence Committee, called the CIA's actions an "unprecedented invasion." Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, said Congress should declare "war" if the allegations are true.
Feinstein's criticism is particularly important because she has been one of the staunchest defenders of intelligence agencies. This includes full-throated defenses of the National Security Agency amid detailed revelations of surveillance programs from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last summer. She called Snowden a traitor for leaking the documents.
"When you've lost Dianne Feinstein," one congressional source told Business Insider, "you're in trouble as an intelligence agency."
Committee staffers have for four years been sifting through the 6,000-plus page CIA report on the Bush-era programs. Part of the report cites information from the document detailing the "Panetta Review," which was named after former CIA Director Leon Panetta. CIA officials said through press reports they did not make the document available to Congress, something Feinstein denied. She pointed to the press reports as the reason for giving her speech.
"Our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled this sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the Panetta Review by the CIA itself," Feinstein said.
Thus far, the White House has tried to walk a fine line between the two warring factions by offering signals of support for both Feinstein and Brennan. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters President Barack Obama has "full confidence" in Brennan, though he also noted the White House supports the declassification of the report.
Some senators, too, were careful not to rush to judgment. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Bloomberg there should be an "impartial investigation." Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat from Maryland, simply called for "more facts."
- Here's How Funny Or Die Landed Obama As A Guest On 'Between Two Ferns'
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 7:27 PM:)
The 6-minute video passed more than 2 million views after just three hours online.
Today, "Ferns" executive producer Mike Farah is explaining how the low budget web show — which has been visited by Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Justin Bieber, Natalie Portman, among many others — landed its most powerful guest ever.
Last summer, Farah tells Variety that he was "among the industry figures to attend a meeting with White House advisers where the topic was how Hollywood could help get the message out about healthcare reform."
It was here he came up with the goal of getting Obama on the show — but he didn't approach the president directly.
Instead, Farah broached the subject with Obama's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, when she was visiting Los Angeles in September. And she liked it, they just had to wait until the timing was right.
Fast forward to Obama wanting to promote enrollment in the Affordable Care Act to a younger, social media savvy audience ahead of the March 31st deadline to sign up for coverage.
From there, Farah says the zinger-filled script — that included jabs about Obamacare and his "home country of Kenya"— “came together pretty quickly. I can’t say it was a very belabored process.”
Farah tells Variety he thinks he was able to land the POTUS as a guest because in D.C., “People are so used to going to meeting after meeting, and nothing ever happening,” but Funny or Die allows for a speedy turnaround time.
It also doesn't hurt that the White House was already familiar with Funny or Die thanks to previous political satire skits about healthcare reform, including one starring Jennifer Hudson.
“We built a great working relationship with the White House,” Farah said. “I think it is a smart move [on the White House's part], and hopefully it helps in some small way."
Overall, Farah calls the whole "Two Ferns" experience “surreal” and tweeted that it was "a great day."
- New Jersey Just Drop-Kicked Tesla
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 7:24 PM:)
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission approved a proposal banning auto manufacturers from selling cars directly to consumers. The move was a setback for the luxe electric car company Tesla Motors, which wants to sell its cars directly without working with separate dealers.
A spokesperson for the Commission said the new regulations would take effect April 1. They referred all further questions about the matter to the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Tesla shares are off about 2.5%.
On Tuesday, Tesla launched a preemptive strike against the proposal and accused the Christie administration of having acted in bad faith. In a blog post on the company site and series of tweets from its official account, Tesla said it had been negotiating with officials in New Jersey to be allowed to directly sell its cars there in the face of "attacks" from the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers. Tesla argued the governor's office promised to handle the question of allowing direct auto sales in New Jersey "through a fair process in the Legislature" and instead "decided to go outside the legislative process by expediting a rule proposal that would completely change the law."
The company also encouraged supporters to protest the Commission's meeting on the proposal Tuesday afternoon. Tesla currently operates two stores in New Jersey including one in the Short Hills mall (pictured at left).
Prior to the meeting, Christie administration spokesman Kevin Roberts responded to Tesla's attack with a statement sent to Business Insider saying it was the company, not the governor's office, that was attempting to bypass normal procedures. Tesla Vice President of Business Development Diarmuid O’Connell subsequently countered with his own statement to Business Insider disputing the Christie administration's assertion Tesla was aware the governor's office believed the company "would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law" since negotiations on the issue began.
"The statute in New Jersey plainly allows Tesla to be licensed to sell cars there. Indeed, the Motor Vehicle Commission has licensed Tesla under that statute ever since October 2012, and any suggestion that Tesla was told 'since the beginning' about any problem with its ability to be licensed there is false," O’Connell said. "The only thing that has changed is the Christie Administration’s sudden decision to go around the Legislature in an attempt to enact a rule that the statute doesn’t permit. Worse, it has done so without any reasonable notice or even a public hearing."
CNBC first reported on the outcome of the meeting. Neither Christie's office nor Tesla immediately responded to a request for comment about the reported result of the meeting.
This post was updated at 3:46 PM with confirmation the proposal was approved.
- Obama Is Going To Blackstone President Tony James' House Tonight, And Tickets Will Cost $2400
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 6:59 PM:)
President Barack Obama is headed to New York City Tuesday night for a fundraiser at the Manhattan home of Blackstone Group president and COO Hamilton "Tony" James.
A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee official confirmed to Business Insider that the event will be taking place at "the home of Tony and Amie James." The official said the proceeds will benefit the DSCC and tickets cost $2,400.
James raised money for President Obama in 2012 while Blackstone Chairman Stephen Schwarzmann fundraised for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. At a fundraiser at James' home in May 2012, Obama, who spent much of the election attacking Romney for his background in private equity, assured attendees he believed America benefits from the "freedom of free enterprise." He also argued Democrats' focus on social programs is actually better for business than the tax cuts pushed by conservatives.
"There is a theory that that, somehow, is going to unleash the kind of growth that we imagine for this country," Obama said of cutting taxes. "My argument is, is that we tried it and it doesn’t work. It’s not good for the markets. It’s not good for business. It’s not good for consumers. It’s not good for our kids. It’s not good for our future."
In addition to Obama, tonight's fundraiser will be attended by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and DSCC Chairman Michael Bennett. At a press conference Tuesday, de Blasio joked that he would be the "token non-wealthy person" at the event.
- The First Election Of The Obamacare Era Is About To Reach Its Dramatic Conclusion
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 6:36 PM:)
Whoever wins Tuesday night's special election in Florida's 13th District will only be guaranteed that seat for the next eight months. But if some party strategists and political prognosticators are correct, the result of Tuesday night's election will serve as an important bellwether for November's midterm election and a clear indication of whether or not Democrats have an Obamacare problem on their hands.
The race in the Florida 13th pits Republican David Jolly, a former lobbyist and congressional aide, against Democrat Alex Sink, the former Chief Financial Officer of the state of Florida. The two are vying to replace the late Bill Young, a Republican who died last October.
Both parties have devoted heavy resources into the race, and outside groups have poured in money to to the district. If Sink wins, Democratic strategists say it's a sign their party can be competitive across the country in November, and rumors of a disastrous midterm election cycle for the Democrats have been greatly exaggerated. If Jolly wins, Republicans say, it should be taken as a sign Obamacare could doom Democrats to lose ground in Congress. The race is also an important preview of Florida's upcoming governor's race, which is set to be one of the more hotly-contested campaigns of 2014.
"If anyone tells you they know how this race is going to play out," one GOP strategist said, "they're pulling your chain."
One thing is certain — the race is a clear sign special interests are set for a monstrous spending campaign in 2014. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the parties and outside groups have spent almost $9 million on this election. That doesn't include the amount of money the candidates have spent on their own campaigns.
To both parties, the Florida 13th is the definition of a "swing" district. Though its congressional seat had been held by the Republican Young since 1971, President Barack Obama won it narrowly in 2008 and 2012. So far, it looks like it could go either way — a new Public Policy Polling survey released Monday found Sink with a narrow, 3-point lead on Jolly.
National Republicans expending their cash and energy attempting to cast the Florida 13th a referendum on Obamacare. Some of what has worked, one party insider told Business Insider, is touting the "half-true" claims 300,000 Floridians will lose coverage under some of the health-care law's new rules. Republicans have also found success in using cuts to Medicare as a messaging tool.
"I think we've found, in general, that voters are frustrated with what's happening in Washington," the Republican strategist told Business Insider. "And that benefits us, because Democrats control Washington."
But if Sink wins Tuesday night, it would represent the second consecutive competitive election where Republicans' strategy of making a the race referendum on Obamacare failed. The last such race came in November, before the law's implementation, when Democrat Terry McAuliffe prevailed over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia governor's race.
If Republicans lose, they may again blame it on their candidate — some in the party are already starting to grumble about Jolly. For their part, Democrats will take it as a sign their messaging can work in competitive districts.
"Given how Obamacare has played out and been cast as a negative for Democrats and the fact that this race is still a toss up is an interesting point of the story," one Democratic operative told Business Insider.
Sink's strategy has served largely as a preview of how Democrats will look to combat anti-Obamacare attacks later this fall. Generally, she has stressed the law is helping Floridians while also pledging to work on improving it if she wins. For example, Sink has said she's open to Republican ideas to alter the "employer mandate" that requires companies to provide health insurance for employees who work more than 30 hours a week.
At the same time, Sink has blasted Jolly for promoting "full repeal" of the law and threatening to "take us back" to a time when pre-existing conditions could be used as a precursor to insurance companies denying coverage. Still, Sink's strategy can only carry other Democrats so far — after all, she did not vote for the law, something other Democrats will have to defend.
One Democratic operative told Business Insider that the party is looking at anything from a close victory to a close loss as a win for the party heading into November. The operative said if Sink loses by 1.5 to 2 points, it would signal it's not going to be a "wave election" for Republicans this November. The same would be true in a close loss.
Either way, a close call would be encouraging for Democrats, since public polling has shown the district's electorate leans between 8 and 13 points toward Republicans.
"If we're in an R-plus-8 or R-plus-9 electorate and within a point or two, there's nothing to be ashamed about," the operative said.
- Putin’s War Machine Relies On A Critical Ukrainian Port Outside Crimea
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 5:33 PM:)
One key reasons why the Kremlin has forcefully refused to let Ukraine cut ties with Russia is the importance of preserving access to Ukraine's Black Sea ports.
Case in point, Russia's massive arms exports are channeled through the Ukrainian port of Oktyabrsk and nearby Odessa through what is dubbed The Odessa Network in a recent report by security analysts at C4ADS. This industry not only is economically valuable to Russia but also provides an important way for the Kremlin to exert power in proxy wars like Syria.
The Soviet Union specially built Oktyabrsk in city of Nikolaev to ship weapons, and the port is still "the common port of origin for Russian and Ukrainian weapons shipments," according to C4ADS. The facilities are now managed by a former Russia navy captain, the port is owned by a Kremlin-linked oligarch, and Russian state weapons export agencies and related firms maintain offices in the city.
It's easy to see why Russia President Vladimir Putin would not want to let this city fall under Western influence.
Although Putin has only sent troops into Crimea, another important region on the Black Sea, the Kremlin's authorization of military intervention left open the possibility of moving further into Ukraine. In any case, Russia has shown that it is not willing to let its key Ukrainian assets slip away — which became a risk following the ouster of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych.
Meanwhile, the shift of international attention to Ukraine has been great for Putin's ally in Syria, president Bashar al-Assad.
As noted by Liz Sly of the Washington Post: "Assad is taking advantage of the rift between Russia and the United States over Ukraine to press ahead with plans to crush the rebellion against his rule and secure his reelection for another seven-year term, unencumbered by pressure to compromise with his opponents."
Russia's steady flow of arms supplies have also been key to Assad's advances. Putin, by air and sea, has provided Assad with guns, grenades, tank parts, fighter jets, advanced anti-ship cruise missiles, long-range air defense missiles, military officers as advisers, and lots of cash.
Consequently, Ukraine is now a key part of the geopolitical game — which Putin dominated in Syria to the chagrin of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama.
“Putin sees the world as one big chessboard on which he can play two or three moves at the same time. I am not sure the West can do that,” Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar told the Post. “I don’t see the Russians backing off their support for Assad, and I think Assad will continue to do what he has always wanted to do, which is to win militarily.”
And for Putin to continue to bolster Assad, the Odessa Network needs to be free to do its thing. That makes the potential of Russian action in south and east Ukraine all the more significant, and the international crisis even more tense.
- Here's The Proposal That Has Tesla Motors Raging At Chris Christie
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 5:19 PM:)
Tesla Motors launched an offensive on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Tuesday accusing his administration of not acting in "good faith" as the company negotiated with officials to sell its cars in the Garden State.
According to a blog post from Tesla, after promising to allow the question of whether Tesla could sell its cars directly to consumers in New Jersey to "be handled through a fair process in the Legislature," the Christie administration "decided to go outside the legislative process by expediting a rule proposal that would completely change the law in New Jersey.
The proposal that has Tesla up in arms is PRN 2013-138, an amendment to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission's Licensing Service regulations for licensed motor vehicle dealers. PRN 2013-138 was made public by the Commission in October of 2013 and is being reviewed at an NJMVC meeting today.
The element of PRN 2013-138 that would seem to be a problem for Tesla is a section that requires applicants for the licenses required to open a motor vehicle dealership to be "a motor vehicle franchisee." New Jersey law defines a "motor vehicle franchisee" as a "a person to whom a franchise is granted by a motor vehicle franchisor." A franchisor would be a manufacturer like Tesla. This requirement would seem to force Tesla to have intermediaries open dealerships and would not allow the company to do so directly.
Christie administration spokesman Kevin Roberts sent a statement responding to Tesla's attacks to Business Insider. Roberts said the company is the one attempting to bypass the Legislature. Tesla did not immediately reply to a request from Business Insider asking for a specific response to Roberts. The NJMVC also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the full proposal below. The section dealing with the franchisee requirement is at the bottom of the second page.
- Tesla Goes To War Against Chris Christie (TSLA)
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 4:25 PM:)
Luxe electric car company Tesla Motors unleashed a blog post and series of tweets Tuesday accusing the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of not acting in "good faith" as the company attempts to bring its direct sales model to the Garden State.
The blog post, which was authored by the "Tesla Motors Team" said the company was under the impression it had been "working constructively with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) and members of Governor Christie’s administration" to defend its rights to sell cars directly to consumers against "attacks" from the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers.
"Unfortunately, Monday we received news that Governor Christie’s administration has gone back on its word to delay a proposed anti-Tesla regulation so that the matter could be handled through a fair process in the Legislature. The Administration has decided to go outside the legislative process by expediting a rule proposal that would completely change the law in New Jersey," the blog post said. "This new rule, if adopted, would curtail Tesla’s sales operations and jeopardize our existing retail licenses in the state. Having previously issued two dealer licenses to Tesla, this regulation would be a complete reversal to the long standing position of NJMVC on Tesla’s stores."
However, Christie administration spokesman Kevin Roberts sent a statement to Business Insider that claimed Tesla Motors is the one attempting to work outside normal legislative procedures in New Jersey.
"Since Tesla first began operating in New Jersey one year ago, it was made clear that the company would need to engage the Legislature on a bill to establish their new direct-sales operations under New Jersey law. This administration does not find it appropriate to unilaterally change the way cars are sold in New Jersey without legislation and Tesla has been aware of this position since the beginning," Roberts said.
Tesla did not immediately reply to a request from Business Insider asking for a specific response to Roberts' statement.
"Proposal PRN 2013-138 seeks to impose stringent licensing rules that would, among other things, require all new motor vehicles to be sold through middlemen and block Tesla’s direct sales model. This move comes in spite of discussions with the Governor’s staff as recently as January, when it was agreed that Tesla and NJ CAR would address their issues in a more public forum: the New Jersey Legislature," Tesla's blog post said. "Instead, rather than engage in an open debate on such a significant policy issue, the Administration has expedited the implementation of a new law that the Commission intends to stealthily approve at a meeting in Trenton today at 2:00 PM EDT."
On Twitter, Tesla's official account encouraged supporters to come to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission meeting and protest. The company also reportedly scheduled a press conference call to discuss the matter.
- Chris Christie's Approval Rating Is At Its Lowest Point Ever
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 3:50 PM:)
In the wake of the so-called "Bridgegate" scandal, a new poll showed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's approval rating is underwater for the first time during his tenure as governor. The Fairleigh Dickinson University survey released Tuesday found only 41 percent of New Jersey voters approve of Christie's job performance, compared with 44 percent who disapprove.
This poll is the first time Christie's approval rating has been a net negative. Previously, Christie's worst approval-to-disapproval split had been 44-44, in May 2011. The numbers are the latest polling indicating the "Bridgegate" scandal is taking a toll on the carefully crafted bipartisan brand Christie built in his first term and the lead-up to his landslide re-election victory last November.
"Unfortunately for the governor, the investigation appears to be turning him into a more polarizing figure," said Krista Jenkins, the director of the poll. "As recently as late last year, his approval numbers were consistently bigger than his disapproves — by a pretty big margin — and more voters liked everything about him than disliked everything about him."
Jenkins also noted Christie's slipping numbers don't bode well for his national ambitions and potential presidential candidacy.
"One of the defining characteristics of the governor that makes him a nationally sought after Republican is his widespread appeal in a Democratic state. Bridgegate continues to erode that asset," she said.
Here's a chart showing the rise in Christie's approval rating in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and the subsequent crash early this year:
According to the FDU poll, most of the decline in Christie's numbers has come from independent voters and crossover Democrats changing their view of the governor. Just 24 percent of Democrats approve of his job performance, as well as 47 percent of independents. In October, leading up to his landslide re-election victory, 47 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents approved of Christie's job performance.
Meanwhile, a new Rutgers-Eagleton poll conducted late last month but released on Tuesday found Christie's "trustworthiness" at an all-time low. Just 23 percent of those surveyed said the word "trustworthy" applies "very well" to Christie, which is down 20 points from October. Multiple other recent polls have showed Christie losing support among independents and falling behind in a hypothetical presidential election matchup against Hillary Clinton.
The two new polls were released on the same day Bridget Kelly, Christie's former deputy chief of staff who was fired for her role in the George Washington Bridge lane closures, appeared in court to determine whether she must provide documents relating to the lane closures. Lawyers for Christie's former campaign manager, Bill Stepien, also appeared at the hearing to request their client not be forced to provide documents subpoenaed by the New Jersey Legislature's committee investigating the Bridgegate scandal.
- The Senate Just Rerouted Millions Of Dollars In Campaign Funding Toward Cancer And Medical Research
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 2:57 PM:)
By unanimous consent Tuesday morning, the Senate passed the bipartisan Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which re-routs money for party conventions and presidential campaigns to pay for research on pediatric cancer, autism, and other diseases.
The passage of the bill came at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, after the legislation had been stalled in the Senate for more than two months. The legislation, which was made a priority last year by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, was named for a 10-year-old girl from Virginia, who died last year of an inoperable brain tumor.
"Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that there would be any objection to moving these funds to something we can all agree is a high priority – pediatric research," McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
In a statement, Cantor applauded McConnell, along with Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and Democratic Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine in smoothing passage through the Senate.
"Putting pediatric research over politics was the entire point of this bill, and we have achieved that in more ways than one," Cantor said. "Gabriella Miller’s amazing spirit stirred the Capitol into action, and I hope it continues to do so for years to come."
The bill terminates funding from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund for the party conventions, which will save approximately $126 million over the next 10 years. The $126 million is then authorized to be spent on pediatric medical research activities at the National Institutes of Health.
The bill received almost 300 votes in the House last December. More than 100 Democrats voted against it, citing it as a cynical attempt by Republicans to restore too-little funding to the NIH after $1.5 billion in recent cuts through sequestration.
Members of both parties issued statements praising Senate passage of the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the funding will be "extremely helpful" to the NIH, but urged Congress to restore even more funding.
In a statement Tuesday morning, Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell's Democratic campaign opponent in Kentucky, accused McConnell of trying to jump at taking credit. She had blasted him on the issue Saturday for a letter he sent to a constituent, Angela Goodwin, whose son died of a rare form of cancer in 2012. Grimes suggested Saturday he did not support the legislation.
"Unsurprisingly, just as we've seen before, McConnell is now attempting to take credit for passing a bill he utterly ignored," Grimes said Tuesday. "I'm glad Mitch McConnell is following my lead, but his refusal to champion issues important to Kentucky families has now reached an all-time high."
For more on Miller's story, watch CNN's report from December:
- Senator Dianne Feinstein Rips The CIA, Says It May Have Violated Constitution By Spying On Congress
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 1:58 PM:)
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said during a stunning speech the Senate floor Tuesday morning that the Central Intelligence Agency may have broken the law and violated the Constitution by searching a stand-alone computer network established for Congress.
Feinstein accused the CIA of searching the congressional network in January, during the Senate Intelligence Committee's ongoing investigation into the agency's detention and interrogation programs under President George W. Bush.
Feinstein said the matter has been referred to the Department of Justice for possible criminal prosecution.
"I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation of powers principles," Feinstein said. She added that she was "not taking it lightly," insinuating it was an attempt at intimidation.
The CIA provided Congress with the computers as part of the investigation so the committee could review classified documents at CIA headquarters. Each side has accused the other of spying. But the incident in question arose in December, when Intelligence Committee investigators got ahold of an internal agency review casting a particularly bad light on the interrogation and detention programs, which were ended by President Barack Obama.
CIA officials then searched the computers to try to determine how the committee investigators had gained access to the information, Feinstein said. She added that the committee did nothing improper to gain access to the internal reports.
"The CIA just went and searched the committee's computers," Feinstein said, breathlessly.
Later on Tuesday, CIA Director John Brennan disputed the allegations, saying "nothing could be further from the truth."
"That's just beyond the scope of reason," Brennan said during an event at the Council on Foreign Relations.
After Feinstein's speech, Vermont Sen. Pat Leahy called it historic and said he couldn't think of a more important one in Senate history.. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid commended her for outlining "one of the most important principles we must maintain — separation of powers."
Feinstein opened the Senate's Tuesday session after an all-night session during which 30 Democratic senators waged a "talk-a-thon" on the topic of climate change. She repeatedly said she was speaking "reluctantly," because of inaccurate press reports over the past few weeks.
Feinstein spoke for more than 40 minutes.
Here is Feinstein's full statement:
- Ukraine Is Building A National Guard 'From Scratch' In Face Of Russian Aggression
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 12:10 PM:)
KIEV/SEVASTOPOL (Reuters) - Ukraine will raise a new national guard force among military veterans in response to Russian attempts to annex Crimea, the acting president told parliament on Tuesday.
Oleksander Turchinov said mismanagement of the armed forces under his ousted predecessor meant that the Ukrainian military had to be rebuilt "effectively from scratch". The acting defence minister said the country had only 6,000 combat-ready infantry compared to over 200,000 Russian troops on its eastern borders.
Turchinov, who warned against provoking further Russian action, said the National Security and Defence Council decided to establish a National Guard, using the existing Interior Ministry forces as a base. The goal would be "to defend citizens from criminals and from internal or external aggression".
A partial mobilisation of volunteers drawn from those with previous military experience would begin, he said.
- Assad's Sinister Plan For Retaking Syria's Largest City
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 12:05 PM:)
For the last three months, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been dropping steel barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel on various rebel-held areas, including parts of the country's largest city of Aleppo.
[WARNING: Graphic images below]
After the bombs drop, the frantic search for survivors begins.
Most of the time, what's found are bodies ...
Sometimes, miracles happen.
But even then the survivors are scarred for life.
The civilians also must continue living in a place where their president is killing them on a mass scale.
Even though the city, which used to be Syria's commercial hub, is turning into a hellscape.
Assad is also employing starvation: This Photo Of Refugees In Syria Lining Up To Get Food Aid Is Unbelievable
- Barack Obama Appeared On 'Between Two Ferns,' And It Was Amazing
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 11:49 AM:)
President Barack Obama appeared on the hot seat of Zach Galifianakis' "Between Two Ferns," the Funny or Die series that parodies celebrity interviews.
Obama's purpose for appearing on the show was to promote enrollment in the Affordable Care Act ahead of the March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage. Ostensibly, appearing on Funny or Die had a specific target — young people.
Obama's appearance went well, and it was in keeping with the awkward, sometimes-cringeworthy nature of the series. Galifianakis asked Obama, who was introduced as a "community organizer," if he had plans to erect his presidential library in Kenya, his "home country."
Obama's best dig came after Galifianakis asked him whether he bemoaned the fact he can't run for a third term.
"No, I actually think it's a good idea. If I ran a third time, it'd be sort of like doing a third Hangover movie. Didn't really work out," Obama deadpanned.
Later in the interview, as Obama plugged the phone number to contact HealthCare.gov, Galifianakis said he was "off the grid" because he didn't want the government to look at his text messages.
"First of all, Zach, nobody's interested in looking at your texts," Obama said.
Some other questions from Galifianakis:
- "Do you send Ambassador Rodman to North Korea on your behalf?"
- "You said if you had a son you would not let him play football. But what makes you think he would want to play football? What if he was a nerd like you?"
- "Why would you get the guy who created the Zune to create your [health care] website?"
- "What is it like to be the last black president?"
Here's a GIF of their final, awkward handshake:
And here's the full video:
- Colorado Made $3.5 Million In Taxes And Fees In First Month Of Marijuana Sales
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 11:27 AM:)
Marijuana sales in Colorado brought in $3.5 million (£2.1 million) in tax revenues and fees in the first month retail pot outlets were allowed.
The figure included $2.9 million in taxes for recreational and medical marijuana in the month of January, and nearly $600,000 in fees, said Colorado's Department of Revenue.
The Rocky Mountain state had legalized marijuana in 2012, but made drug history on January 1 by inaugurating retail sale for recreational use. It levies a 15 per cent excise tax and a 2.9 per cent sales tax.
"The first month of sales for recreational marijuana fell in line with expectations," said tax department chief Barbara Brohl, while cautioning that the size of the industry might take a few months to become clear.
Initial projections had suggested 40 businesses would be up and running on January 1, but in fact only 24 were by then. By the end of January, 59 businesses had filed tax returns.
After Colorado, Pacific Northwest state Washington is set to follow suit later this year – even though, under federal law, marijuana remains as illegal as heroin, ecstasy and LSD.
In Alaska, campaigners are "very hopeful" of putting legalization to a popular vote in August. Similar efforts in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada and Oregon are under way, though in more preliminary stages.
President Barack Obama's administration told federal prosecutors last August to stop targeting individual marijuana smokers in states where legalization is in place.
Colorado said that, in the first few months of retail sales, tax and fee revenues will be "significantly affected in both directions" by various factors.
A "possible increase in initial demand" could boost sales at first, while the speed with which shops are licensed and how readily they can get supplies, may also have an impact.
"We expect clear revenue patterns will emerge by April and plan to incorporate this data into future forecasts," said Brohl.
Edited by Steve Wilson
- 3 YEARS LATER: Meet The Fukushima Children Who Are Afraid To Go Outside
(Politics - March 11 2014 - 10:14 AM:)
Three years ago today, Japan saw a trifecta of catastrophes beginning with the Tohoku earthquake, then a devastating tsunami, and finally the second-worst nuclear accident in history.
What followed is one of the largest and most ambitious cleanup efforts ever.
Families still fearful of radiation exposure have kept their children indoors for much of their short lives. One mother at an indoor Koriyama playground was overheard telling her child, "try to avoid touching the outside air," Reuters reports.
The 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan's northeast coast and set off a tsunami that swelled to more than 65 feet. The wall of water knocked out the cooling systems at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing a meltdown of three reactors.
Japan's Fukushima disaster echoed 1986's Chernobyl as more than 100,000 people were evacuated to shelters.
Residents were screened for radiation exposure at pop-up testing centers and warned not to give babies tap water due to radiation leaking from the plant.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider