Billy Gribbin

Former Trial Lawyer Appointed to Oversee Industry He Sued for a Living


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010, 2:03 PM PERMALINK


In an open letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, called for the removal of J. Dudley Butler as head of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA).  Mr. Butler’s tenure as Administrator has come under scrutiny for recent regulatory changes he supervised.

The rulings in question would lessen the evidence required in establishing “undue preference” claims against companies under Sections 202(a) and (b) of the Packers and Stockyards Act, making it easer for trial lawyers to bring, and win, frivolous suits against the American meat industry.  Before running GIPSA, as a trial lawyer Mr. Butler made a career out of suing companies under these exact regulations; he stands to profit from the reworked regulations upon his expected return to the private sector.

“These changes make it much easier for trial lawyers to squeeze money from the American meat industry with little proof of actual wrongdoing,” Norquist advised Vilsack.  “There is no reason to believe that Mr. Butler will not revisit this sort of litigation after his term at GIPSA.” 

Mr. Butler himself has made no secret of the “big money” that will result from the new rules.  Neither the USDA (GIPSA’s parent department) nor the Obama administration has yet made a move to curtail these regulatory malefactions.

“Today, tort reform remains a pressing issue, with attorneys making millions off of frivolous lawsuits across the nation. Taxpayers are unintentionally funding these suits by paying Mr. Butlers salary.  If Mr. Butler is allowed to continue at GIPSA, your administration will be aggravating an already serious situation,” wrote Norquist.

Click here for ATR's press release.

Click here for ATR's letter to Mr. Vilsack.

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New GIPSA Administrator is the Fox in America's Henhouse


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Thursday, November 18th, 2010, 4:02 PM PERMALINK


J. Dudley Butler, Administrator of the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA), is the latest in a string of Obama appointees to draw scandal to their posts. A former trial lawyer who made his living litigating against poultry processors, Mr. Butler is now in charge of altering the very regulations he wrestled in the private sector.  The Obama administration has yet to address this serious conflict of interest.

As a regulatory arm of the USDA, GIPSA is tasked with overseeing the trade of various meats, grains, and other agricultural products.  As an attorney in the Butler Farm and Ranch Law Group in Canton, Mississippi, Mr. Butler filed multiple lawsuits against poultry companies for alleged irregular and illegal business practices.  These suits met with limited success because of pre-existing GIPSA regulations.  Now, having been made Administrator of GIPSA by President Obama, Mr. Butler is changing the troublesome regulations to favor plaintiff’s attorneys, whose ranks may well again include him after his stint in public office.  This underhanded policy scheme was shoehorned into a GIPSA rulemaking mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill; straying from the proposed content on “undue preferences,” Mr. Butler wedged language into the final rule that opens the door to broader and more profitable litigation in the future.  Mr. Butler, to his credit, has been quite open as to what this regulation will accomplish:

“When you have a term like ‘unfair, unreasonable or undue prejudice,’ that’s a plaintiff lawyer’s dream. We can get in front of a jury with that. We won’t get thrown out on what we call summary judgment because that’s a jury question.”

And that’s not all:

“There are only certain things a violation of the regulation, if you will, written regulation, that they can fine on, I think a maximum is $11,000 that they can fine $11,000 a day, but the real money that you are talking about comes from the section dealing with damages, compensatory damages, to other types of damages that DOJ can either seek or you can seek in a private right of action.”

“Real money?”  Real corruption.  Calls for Mr. Butler’s resignation have been increasing in number and volume.  The funny thing is, neither Mr. Butler nor Mr. Obama is willing to seriously tackle accusations of these shenanigans, transparent though they may be. In the words of former congressman Bob Barr, “Butler is actively pushing to expand the scope of the decades-old Packers and Stockyards Act — which will make it easier for trial lawyers (such as Mr. Butler) to successfully sue meat and poultry companies.”  It’s easy to see why Mr. Butler wants to ram his rule through and skip all the way to the bank, but Barack Obama’s silence is perplexing. What are you, Mr. President…chicken?

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Anti-Employer, Pro-Trial Lawyer Legislation Fails in Senate


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, November 17th, 2010, 3:50 PM PERMALINK


Failing a cloture vote today in the Senate, the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.3772) was designed to close a purported “pay gap” between male and female workers. The Paycheck Fairness act looked to achieve this goal by facilitating litigation and levying small businesses with new paperwork—two policies which discourage hiring new workers.

“The misleadingly named Paycheck Fairness Act was a solution for a non-existent problem,” said Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom. “While proponents of this bill claim women make twenty percent less than men, when hours of work, overtime, education, and experience are accounted for, the difference between men and women’s wages is about five cents on the dollar.”  

Many groups were opposed to S. 3772 for the detrimental effect its enforcement would have on the already frail U.S. economy. The time and cost of complying with reporting requirements would make it prohibitively expensive for some small businesses to hire more workers.  The threat of litigation under the proposed law would have resulted in fewer women being hired, especially those in low-skill sectors.

“The Paycheck Fairness Act could have been the nail in the coffin for many struggling small businesses. Obamacare’s 1099 reporting provisions raised taxes on small businesses and levied endless paperwork. Coupled with the 2011 Obama tax increases if current rates are not extended, the Paycheck Fairness Act would have been devastating for businesses and the American economy.” Prandoni added.

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Alliance for Worker Freedom Opposes Misnamed Paycheck Fairness Act


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Tuesday, November 16th, 2010, 12:55 PM PERMALINK


The Alliance for Worker Freedom has issued a letter to U.S. Senators urging them to vote against S. 3772, the so-called "Paycheck Fairness Act." If passed, the iniatiative would vastly impede the growth of private American businesses.  Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director for AWF, had this to say:

"The Paycheck Fairness Act would place onerous reporting and compliance requirements on small businesses and open the door for a wave of unwarranted lawsuits. The bill would require all employers with more than two employees and $500,000 of gross revenues to submit data on sex, race, national origin, and earnings of employees to the EEOC.

These administrative costs coupled with the threat of litigation will discourage hiring, especially of new female employees. Under this law, small businesses would be able to justify pay differences between male and female employees only on the grounds of education, training and experience. These metrics are incomplete and do not fully explain a worker’s compensation as they discount productivity, effort, and many other intangible attributes. "

Click here to read AWF's full letter.

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AWF Supports Resolution Against State Bailouts


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Monday, November 8th, 2010, 2:29 PM PERMALINK


Rep. Jason Chaffetz is proposing a resolution for the House of Representatives to refrain from bailing failing state employee pension funds.  The resolution notes that the federal government should not prop up such underfunded plans with the federal deficit itself out of control.  Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom, has written letter of support for Rep. Chaffetz's initiative:

"A key factor in the underfunding of government employee pensions is the inflated benefits promised to individual workers. On average, government workers with defined benefit plans are owed $2.85 in retirement benefits per hour worked. Comparatively, a private sector worker with a defined benefit pension plan receives $0.41 in pension benefits per hour worked. This iniquitous pay disparity favors politically connected government workers while taxpayers foot the bill.

Taking a federal bailout off the table will force governors and state representatives to make difficult but necessary reforms. If insolvent pension plans are to be fixed, solutions should originate within statehouses

For the Alliance for Worker Freedom's letter, click here.

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Zombie Congress Staggers Back to Washington


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Friday, November 5th, 2010, 3:58 PM PERMALINK


Last Tuesday’s election was a loud rebuke of the tax-and-spend governance our country has endured for the last few years.  The change of power in the House, as well as greater equalization in the Senate, are clear signals that Americans want fiscal responsibility, smaller government, and a departure from the hyper-partisanship displayed by the majority in achieving its goals.

The change that Tuesday promised will come in January, when the new Senators and Representatives take their seats.  Before this happens, however, the nation faces a last ditch attempt by the ruling party to push expensive and contentious bills through congress in a lame duck session.  Among them are the Card Check, Renewable Energy Standards, and other major legislation for which the electorate has so recently shown its distaste.

While it is not unusual for lame duck sessions to deal with routine, noncontroversial bills, or to legislate in times of national emergency, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid are convening congress with the explicit intention of ramming their noxious initiatives through while they still have the votes to do so.  They are relying upon the votes of their colleagues who will not be returning next year due to massive public distaste for these very schemes.   These defeated representatives are the walking dead, rising once more from the political graves they dug for themselves to feast upon the tax-dollars of the living.  On November 15th, less than two weeks after their “demise,” they will return for the lame duck session becoming known as the “Zombie Congress.”

The coming Zomb-gress raises the danger that Americans could awake on Thanksgiving morning facing a newspaper full of putrid laws, thinking “didn’t we kill these bills on November 2nd?” Fortunately, the outlook isn’t all bad. The Senate has enough pro-business, small government votes to hold out against the hordes via filibuster, if necessary. In the words Sen. Jim DeMint: “we shouldn’t let a flock of lame duck legislators – who’ve been rejected at the ballot box and can never be held accountable again – to burden our children with a mountain of new debt.”  In addition, a lame duck will have the unintended consequence of giving Republicans an opportunity to extend the Bush tax cuts for households of all incomes; this is one of the few remaining issues of the year that enjoys vast public support, and should be done as soon as possible.

Whatever the final outcome, it is clear that Tuesday’s fight is by-no-means over, and that the American people must remain vigilant in the coming weeks.  

To help combat the Zombie Congress, please visit http://novemberspeaks.com/.
 

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Nevada Unions Accused of Illegal Election Practices and Voter Intimidation


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Friday, October 29th, 2010, 2:41 PM PERMALINK


Whistle blower Babette Rutherford has accused various unions throughout Nevada of engaging in “voter intimidation, coercion, bribery, undue influence, and violations of the rules governing poll watchers.” In her complaint filed with the Nevada Secretary of State, Rutherford highlights three early voting stations where unions bussed workers to the polls and proceeded to “escort” and “watch” members vote. At the Boulevard Mall, Las Vegas early voting station, the registered poll watchers questioned the legality of the occurrences only to be told by the Election Board Team Leader that “union personnel were watching members vote because that’s the ‘whole point’ of busing them there.”

“The systematic violation of election law in Nevada is an affront on the democratic process. It is apparent that Nevada unions united and put forth a concerted strategy to ensure that workers voted the way the union saw fit. This carefully coordinated activity makes you wonder how pervasive this type of intimidation is,”said Christopher Prandoni, Executive Director of the Alliance for Worker Freedom.

The formal complaint has been submitted to the Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller’s Nevada Election Task Force which was created to investigate instances such as this. Having not heard back from Secretary Ross, it remains to be seen whether or not he will employ his Task Force. 

“The Nevada Senate race could be decided by a few thousand votes, the current polling is within the margin of error. These potentially illicit activities, depending on how wide-spread they are, may very well decide the election. Secretary Ross would do well to investigate these well-founded claims,” Prandoni added. 

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EPA and NHTSA Release New Emissions Standards


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Monday, October 25th, 2010, 4:51 PM PERMALINK


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have released a joint plan detailing new greenhouse gas emissions standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks, vans, and busses.  The proposed standards are designed to cut emissions for industrial and vocational vehicles by 10 to 20 percent, starting with 2014 models; they follow on the heels of similar standards announced for light-duty vehicles last spring. 

While the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality (OTAQ) has styled this as a “win-win situation for the country, the economy, climate change, and energy security,” those responsible have done little to allay fears that the new standards are yet another instance of the federal government throwing regulation at the private sector to satisfy “climate-change” ideology.

Manufacturers are supposed to lower vehicular emissions through increased aerodynamics, engine performance, and better tires; although the EPA and NHTSA are technically correct in touting the lower cost at the pump of more fuel efficient vehicles, they neglect to address the other ways in which Americans will end up paying for them.  While buying gas for one’s truck may be cheaper under the new standards, the cost of the truck itself will be increased by however much more is spent by the manufacturer in making it Obama administration-friendly.

Earlier this year, American Truck Dealers and the Owner Operated Independent Drivers Associations wrote to DoT Secretary Ray LaHood voicing their opposition to EPA input on emissions standards.  Previously, the issue had solely been the bailiwick of NHTSA, which is obligated to take economic factors into consideration.  The EPA, on the other hand, has no such requirement.

There is, of course, a problem more general than the simply the cost of these vehicles, namely, that Washington insists on poking its regulatory finger into private business again and again in the midst of an ongoing recession.  What the public needs now isn’t the promise of a clean-green conscience with every car purchased: we just need a cheaper car.  These latest regulations have done the opposite, and are symptomatic of an all-too-common attitude in the current administration, one that blithely skips over the prerogatives of states to make blanket declarations on the federal level. 

Once the proposal is published in the Federal Register, the public will have a 60-day comment period to voice its concerns.  To learn more about and comment upon the new standards please visit: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/climate/regulations.htm#1-2

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Steven Malanga Shakes the Boat with Shakedown


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Thursday, October 7th, 2010, 5:09 PM PERMALINK


Steven Malanga, author of The New New Left: How American Politics Works Today has released a new book.  Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer details the shameful people and politics behind the crushing debt and runaway taxes plaguing many states.

At a recent lecture at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, Mr. Malanga gave a compelling case for classifying an alliance of public welfare advocates and service unions as the basis of our nation’s current tax-and-spend woes.  According to Malanga, those at fault present a self-interested left wing, always benefiting from a growing public sector, a bigger government, and rising government spending. 

This new-new left grew from the collusion of the stewards of the War on Poverty (activists who constructed social service empires for themselves) and public service unions.  Due to the combined efforts of these lobbies, state governments have been spending money they don’t have on increased social aid, then suffering from the demands of unionized labor (like the SEIU) running these programs.  For everyone but the poor, poverty is where the money is. 

For these groups, the road to success runs through public welfare, and Healthcare has proved to be a successful issue for them.  When service labor is union labor and the management is activist, the two are no longer opposed: both sides want the government to spend more on healthcare.  Now, states such as California and New Jersey, having lost the economic prosperity which previously pushed them to budgetary liberalism, are unable to stave off bankruptcy.  The all-powerful unions insist that their benefits, as well as the rate at which they are accrued, are sacrosanct.  Maintenance of Effort agreements (MOEs), routinely attached to federal funding bills, prevent the recipient state from cutting its own expenditures in the funded area.  Many state legislatures don’t even bother to develop their own alternatives to federal aid, lest they be ultimately weaned off of it.  All of these factors create an arm of the downward financial spiral much of the nation is currently facing.

It’s good that we have a writer like Steven Malanga to tell it like it is.  It would be better if we had more elected officials who would listen to him.

Click here for video of Mr. Malanga’s Heritage Foundation lecture.

Click here to look at Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer.

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Gulf Oil Spill Response Demonstrates Inefficiency of Big Government


Posted by Billy Gribbin on Wednesday, September 29th, 2010, 3:31 PM PERMALINK


A post-spill analysis concludes that our current morass of government agencies and bureaucrats impedes the very goals these agencies were established to achieve. In short, our government is too big to succeed—an axiom validated by the recent disaster off the Gulf Coast.

A mish-mash of overlapping agencies advised and run by federal experts resulted in the absence of a clear chain of command with which local authorities could cooperate.  That this should happen at a time of national crisis, environmental or otherwise, is worrying.  As recently reported by The Hill, certain gulf communities were left out of the loop during clean-up efforts, preventing them from protecting vulnerable marshlands.  According to Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish on the Louisiana coast, “this late in the game, I still can’t tell you who is in charge.”

Nor has the confusion been limited to local leaders.  Even the vast effort by BP to curtail the spill’s effects was at times stymied by having no streamlined method of communication.  One incident in late May featured a flotilla of boom-laying ships attempting to protect Barataria Bay from incoming oil.  They anchored, however, on the wrong side of the bay. Although BP officials were desperate to inform workers of the error, there was no way to get in touch with them, all for lack of an efficient federal response. 

Calls aren’t being answered, plans aren’t being executed, and the consensus in the Gulf States is that the feds are the source of the problem. According to Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), “The information is not flowing. The decisions are not timely. The resources are not produced. And as a result, you have a big mess, with no command and control.” Commissioners in Oskaloosa County became so frustrated with the situation that they granted response teams emergency powers: “We made the decision legislatively to break the laws if necessary,” said Chairman Wayne Harris.

No one questions the Federal government’s commitment to serving American citizens and protecting their home ground.  But as redundant intelligence agencies, a convoluted tax code, bloated federal payrolls, and now the recent oil spill have shown, bigger isn’t better in Washington.

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