Jorge Marin

Twist: DOJ gets it Right on Civil Asset Forfeiture

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, April 7th, 2015, 1:45 PM PERMALINK


Last week the Justice Department issued new rules which seek to address some of the problems with civil asset forfeiture. It may seem like just another Band-Aid on a hopelessly broken system, but the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) new procedures on civil asset forfeiture announced Tuesday show real progress. Prior to these new rules, federal authorities were free to confiscate bank accounts if they suspected the owners to be making “structured deposits,” or deposits designed to avoid reporting requirements.

Small businesses are especially susceptible to asset forfeiture since they make numerous deposits that come just under the $10k reporting threshold.

The DOJ rules reconcile federal policy with more traditional understandings of due process and property rights. Federal authorities will now only seize bank accounts when and if they have determined that a defendant “has been criminally charged or has been found to have engaged in additional criminal activity.” This gives regular Americans an important layer of protection from facing the confiscatory wrath of federal attorneys.

 According to the announcement, if there is not enough evidence to convict an individual of a crime, prosecutors can seek a warrant from a judge if they can prove a probable cause. This apparent loophole in the incentive-fix is addressed by forcing authorities to return confiscated property within 150 days of the appropriation if authorities do not file an indictment.

All of these are excellent developments, but the last line of the press release puts a wet blanket over otherwise great news: “The policy applies to all Department of Justice Attorneys,” meaning the new rules only apply to federal authorities. While it is unreasonable to expect comprehensive and complete reform of the civil asset forfeiture regime, that line reminds the public that only one facet of the problem has been addressed. It will take the combined efforts of the state and federal governments to put this blemish on the national justice system to rest.

The Federal Asset Forfeiture Fund was $2 billion in 2013. For that amount of money they could buy 13 brand new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from Lockheed Martin and become a military power over-night. But while having half the budget of Argentina’s military seems like a much-needed boost to crime fighting, most Americans can recognize the problems with collecting such vast sums of money through a mechanism like civil asset forfeiture. Hopefully, this showing by the DOJ will be followed by more smart reforms at the state and federal levels.

Looking at you, New Mexico

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New Mexico Closing in On Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

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Posted by Sven Werner, Jorge Marin on Tuesday, March 31st, 2015, 11:07 AM PERMALINK


On March 30, 2015, Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez urging her to sign HB 560 into law. The Land of Enchantment is on its way to becoming a role model for reforming the nation’s broken civil asset forfeiture laws. HB 560 would transfer funds obtained through civil asset forfeiture into the state’s general fund and require a criminal conviction in order to confiscate your property.

The bill passed the state legislature unanimously and is waiting to be signed by Gov. Martinez. These changes would bolster the credibility of law enforcement with their local communities, in addition to assuring law-abiding citizens that there is no danger of their property being confiscated. The following is the text of the letter sent to Governor Martinez:

 

March 30, 2015

Dear Governor Martinez,

I write to you today in strong support of HB 560, a bill passed on March 21 that reforms the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws. The bill would transfer funds obtained through civil asset forfeiture into the state’s general fund. Additionally, under the new rules, a criminal conviction would be required to confiscate property under civil asset forfeiture. It is my view that you would be doing New Mexico a service by signing the bill into law.

Having passed all committees and subcommittees unanimously, HB 560 enjoys strong support from both sides of the isle. These votes from the State legislature show the far-reaching appeal of reform, but it isn’t limited to the Senate and House, in fact, according to Rasmussen, 70% of Americans believe that you should be convicted of a crime in order for the police to seize your property.

We ask that you help put an end to a regime that allows authorities to take and keep property from individuals not charged with a crime. By signing the bill, civil asset forfeiture is changed into criminal asset forfeiture; thereby ensuring that criminals, not law-abiding civilians, pay the price for broken laws.

This new regime takes into account the need to punish law-breakers and the rights of citizens. Simply put, criminals should not enjoy the fruits of their bad behavior, and by requiring proof of wrongdoing we ensure that those who break the law pay up.

Moreover, the proposed reforms serve to bolster the credibility of law enforcement with their local communities. If law-abiding civilians are assured that there is no danger of their property being confiscated, confidence in the rule of law will be strengthened and officers will find it easier to gain the cooperation of their communities.

Reforming civil asset forfeiture is a major issue for voters across the United States. By acting now, New Mexico stands to be in the vanguard of states bent on modernizing police practices. Law enforcement should not have to be seen by the public as opportunistic profiteers, this HB 560 ensures the continued safety of civilians, the prosecution of the guilty, and the rule of law in New Mexico.

Sincerely,                               

Grover G. Norquist                                                    

President                                                                   

Americans for Tax Reform                                        

 

 

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New Mexico Fights for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, March 23rd, 2015, 4:32 PM PERMALINK


The New Mexico legislature passed a bill on Saturday which will change the way authorities are able to seize property under civil asset forfeiture rules. HB 560, introduced by Representative Zachary J. Cook (R-N.M.), is designed to curtail the practice of civil asset forfeiture and ensure that it is only used against criminals while applying strict rules of due process.

Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which authorities are permitted to confiscate the property of an individual suspected of a crime. The key word being suspected, meaning no conviction, warrant, or proof is required to take control of the property. This property, once taken, goes to the department that performed the confiscation, thereby padding their budget.

A person who has their property taken in such a way must engage in lengthy and often times expensive legal proceedings in order to prove the property had no connection to a crime.

Things may soon be different in New Mexico.

Under the new law, authorities will first have to convict an individual of a crime or prove the property was used in a crime in order to take it. Additionally, the money will go to a general state fund instead of the individual police budgets in order to remove the profit incentive.

As it stands the bill only requires the signature of Governor Susana Martinez in order to become law. Given the short legislative sessions in New Mexico, this will likely be the only opportunity to pass such a reform for the next few years. If it passes, HB 560 will become a milestone in the nation-wide effort to change civil asset forfeiture laws.

Billions of dollars have been taken under civil asset forfeiture since the eighties, when the rules were expanded. Though it will take the combined efforts of the state and federal governments to rectify the problem, measures like the one passed over the weekend will go a long way to protect individuals from government overreach.

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ATR Endorses Senate 2016 Budget Plan

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie, Jorge Marin on Friday, March 20th, 2015, 5:11 PM PERMALINK


ATR President Grover Norquist today released a letter of support for the recently released U.S. Senate Budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016. This budget balances the budget by promoting fiscally responsible solutions that reins in the bloated federal deficit. In particular, this proposal repeals Obamacare and its numerous job killing regulations, reforms the healthcare system, and protects seniors through strengthening Medicare and Medicaid.

Perhaps most importantly, this budget proposal also maintains the spending restrictions mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which will lead to $1.79 trillion in savings through 2021.

See the full letter below: 

Dear Chairmen Enzi,

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, I write in strong support of the U.S. Senate budget proposal. The budget blueprint authored by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) will ensure that Washington lives within its means by balancing the budget in less than ten years and cutting $5.1 trillion in federal spending over a ten-year period.

The budget proposal calls for reforms to struggling entitlement programs, clamps down on inefficient and ineffective government programs, and lays the groundwork for strong economic growth. The plan also empowers the states to make their own decisions by applying federalist principles.

Notably, the Senate budget repeals Obamacare in its entirety and reforms the health care system to increase access to affordable care while providing patients with better medical choices. Repealing Obamacare would eliminate numerous job killing regulations including the employer mandate and the individual mandate. In place of this complex system, the Senate budget prioritizes a patient-centered approach that gives power back to the individual.

In order to protect our seniors, the Senate budget ensures the solvency of the Medicare trust fund by five years. It applies the savings dictated by law to the program as it repeals the harmful Independent Payment Advisory Board. Moreover it keeps to the savings goals proposed by the president but maintains ultimate financial decision-making agency with congressional committees working with beneficiaries.

Finally, the budget implements improvements to Medicaid. Specifically, it repeals the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and instead expands the Children’s Health Insurance Program to protect our most precious charges.

The Senate Budget maintains the spending restrictions mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011, ensuring the continuation of the savings from discretionary spending. In contrast to the White House budget, which ignores 2011 spending caps and raises spending through misleading promises, the Senate budget abides by federal law.

It is important to keeps the caps in place that have stabilized federal spending since 2011 and will lead to $1.79 trillion in savings through 2021. You should be congratulated for proposing a more fiscally responsible solution despite the urging of some of his more reckless colleagues to break spending caps and undo years of fiscal restraint.

We urge the Senate to support this bold pro-growth proposal. It returns power to states and localities while making great, positive strides in the tax code.

Sincerely,                                           

Grover G. Norquist                                                                        
President
Americans for Tax Reform           

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ATR Supports House 2016 Budget Proposal

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie, Jorge Marin on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015, 5:13 PM PERMALINK


Today, ATR President Grover Norquist released a letter in support of the US House of Representatives budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016. This budget proposal puts forth a set of fiscally responsible solutions that balances the budget and reins in out of control federal spending by cutting trillions of dollars. At the same time the resolution preserves the landmark caps on spending which have kept government largess under control.

The budget proposal also calls for the full repeal of Obamacare, strengthening and securing Medicare and Medicaid, introducing lower and more competitive taxes, creating and protecting jobs and funding national security in a responsible way. See the full letter below:

Dear Chairmen Price:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, I write in strong support of the recently released U.S. House of Representatives budget proposal. The budget blueprint authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) will ensure that Washington lives within its means by balancing the budget in less than ten years and cutting $5.5 trillion in federal spending.

The budget proposal calls for a fairer, simpler tax code, reforms struggling entitlement programs, clamps down on inefficient and ineffective government programs, and lays the groundwork for strong economic growth. The plan also empowers the states to make their own decisions by restoring the principle of federalism.

By keeping to the proposed reforms, Congress stands to secure America’s economic prospects, protect jobs, and accelerate economic development to levels which would be unattainable given the current spending policies. Lower, flatter taxes plus a competitive international tax regime would enshrine our place as the world’s number 1 destination for entrepreneurship. Simply put, asking taxpayers to pay $160 billion per year is an undue burden that we can do without.

Notably, the House budget repeals Obamacare in its entirety and reforms the health care system to increase access to affordable care and provide patients with better medical choices. Repealing Obamacare would eliminate numerous job killing regulations including the employer mandate and the individual mandate. In place of this complex system, the House budget prioritizes a patient-centered approach that gives power back to the individual.

Repealing Obamacare will also put a stop to the raiding of the Medicare trust fund. In turn, this will help secure and strengthen Medicare so the program can continue to provide retirees with the care that they deserve. The budget will also build a new premium support program for Medicare that will further empower seniors to make their own choices.

Finally, the budget implements improvements to Medicaid. Specifically, it repeals the Obamacare Medicaid expansion and grants increased flexibility to the states, which will allow the states the opportunity to build a strong and sustainable system of Medicaid that suits their needs.

The House Budget maintains the spending restrictions mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011, ensuring the continuation of the savings from discretionary spending. In contrast to the White House budget, which ignores 2011 spending caps and raises spending through misleading promises, the House budget abides by federal law. The budget allocates funding to the DOD’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to meet the complex and dangerous global threats, balanced by cuts to mandatory spending.

It is important to keeps the caps in place that have stabilized federal spending since 2011 and will lead to $1.79 trillion in savings through 2021. You should be congratulated for proposing a more fiscally responsible solution despite the urging of some of his more reckless colleagues to break spending caps and undo years of fiscal restraint.

We urge the House Budget committee to support this bold pro-growth proposal. It returns power to states and localities while making great, positive strides in the tax code.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist
President
Americans for Tax Reform

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Don't Kill The Sequester

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015, 9:45 AM PERMALINK


Congress is at a pivotal crossroad. The chairmen of the House and Senate Budget panels are preparing to unveil their plans for the nation’s budget this week; at stake are the $1.79 trillion dollars in savings scheduled through 2021.

On the one hand, there are the members of Congress who would like to get rid of the sequester caps on military spending; on the other are the legislators who wish to maintain the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) intact.

It looks like the Republican leadership will opt to preserve the budgetary restraint and save the American taxpayer trillions of dollars in the near future. Yes, that is correct, trillions. It all has to do with the stunning flat-line which the Sequester imposes on discretionary spending.

As a way to keep the folks on The Hill accountable for spending, the BCA placed hard caps on the amount of money that could be allocated for certain budgetary items. These were to come into place if lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement over a way to reduce federal deficits. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you are content with the Sequester), lawmakers failed to do so and the result was a sudden reduction in discretionary spending for the ten years following the BCA’s passage in 2011.

CBO projections reveal the effectiveness of the Sequester in halting spending:

                                               (Source: Congressional Budget Office)

Over time, discretionary spending was projected to continue rising in perpetuity; but thanks to the BCA, discretionary spending was brought under control.

That is one third of the national budget stabilized with no tax hikes needed. What is even more miraculous is that all of this was achieved while Republicans controlled only one chamber in Congress.

This key victory has already saved taxpayers $670 billion, but according to CBO projections an additional $1.79 trillion dollars in savings is set to occur through 2021. In other words, the best of the benefits is yet to come.

At the current trend line, the United States is slated to spend a record low amount on discretionary spending as a percentage of GDP at 5.5 percent by 2021. Overall this must be considered the seminal achievement of the conservative movement of the last five years. This gives our national finances breathing room for legislators to look for further reforms down the line.

Should Congress turn away from the Budget Control Act, they would trade $1.79 trillion dollars over the next five years for a couple billion dollars now. Let us hope that Congress has better math sense than to allow for that to happen.

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Kurt Zellers Makes Passionate Case for the Taxpayer

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014, 4:53 PM PERMALINK


Today is Minnesota’s gubernatorial primary and the fight for the Republican nomination has been heated. Voters have clearly contrasting choices when it comes to who is standing up for taxpayers. Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Kurt Zellers opted to make a case for his candidacy in a column in the Star Tribune. The former speaker of the Minnesota House is the only candidate who has made a personal written commitment to oppose higher taxes. Given the massive tax hikes signed into law by Democrat Governor Mark Dayton, Zellers has demonstrated he understands the problems of hardworking small businesses and families in Minnesota. In his column, Zellers explains that

 “In 2013, Gov. Mark Dayton and his DFL-controlled majorities in the Legislature raised taxes on hardworking Minnesotans by more than $2 billion. According to Dayton’s own Revenue Department, the tax increases forced every Minnesotan to pay more for government, and his tax bill actually hit the poorest Minnesotans hardest.”

With this he demonstrates an understanding of the past mistakes of Minnesota’s leaders, for this reason, he states

“That’s why I made a commitment not to raise your taxes, and my plan will move Minnesota out of the top 10 in taxes…

“There is a good reason for the Star Tribune’s Aug. 4 endorsement of Republican Jeff Johnson in the upcoming primary election. Johnson has said in numerous debates and forums that he is open to extending the sales tax to clothing and food, something I am unwilling to do.”

Zellers also has the necessary experience to make the much-needed changes to Minnesota’s tax system,

“When my colleagues elected me speaker of the Minnesota House in 2011, our state was in recession and faced an unprecedented $6 billion deficit. As speaker, I led efforts to turn that record deficit into a $3 billion surplus without raising taxes during tough economic times.”

Lastly, he explains the high stakes of the upcoming elections,

The next governor will have the opportunity to reform a union-centered education system that is failing low-income and minority students; bring billions of dollars and jobs to support responsible mining in northeastern Minnesota, and make our state globally competitive for building careers.”

Kurt Zellers is the candidate most committed to standing up for the Minnesota taxpayers. As the only Republican to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, he has acknowledged that something must be done about the deep-seated spending culture in Saint Paul without increasing the tax burden on Minnesotans. Voters should remember this when they cast their vote in today’s primary.

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ATR Releases List of 2014 State Pledge Signers Ahead of Elections in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Wisconsin

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, August 11th, 2014, 5:22 PM PERMALINK


As the next round of state primary elections approaches, Americans for Tax Reform is proud to release a new list of candidates, both challengers and incumbents, who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge for the states of Connecticut, Minnesota, Wisconsin. The candidates on this list have announced their strong commitment to the taxpayers of their states and districts and pledged to oppose any and all efforts to increase the tax burden on their constituents. ATR urges taxpayers to consider the individuals who have staked their career to protecting the interests of the American citizen when they cast their ballots on Tuesday, August 12. The list of incumbents and challengers who have signed the Tax payer Protection Pledge and will be on the ballot Tuesday can be found in the following links:

Connecticut

Minnesota

Wisconsin

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ATR Releases List of 2014 State Pledge Signers Ahead of Elections in Hawaii

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Friday, August 8th, 2014, 4:55 PM PERMALINK


As the Hawaii primary approaches, Americans for Tax Reform has released a new list of state legislative and state-wide candidates seeking office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have shown a strong commitment to their state’s taxpayers by putting their convictions against new and/or higher taxes in writing. Please show your support at the ballot boxes on Saturday, August 9.

 

The list for Hawaii is as follows:

 

Incumbents:

 

  • Sam Slom (S-9)
  • Aaron Johanson (H-32)
  • Bob McDermott (H-40)
  • Cynthia Thielen (H-50)
  • Gene Ward (H-17)
  • Faye Pua Hanonano (H-4)

 

Challengers:

 

  • Miles Shiratori (Lt. Gov)
  • Ruth A. Brown (S-21)
  • Bronson Kekahuna Kaahvi (S-6)
  • Tercia Ku (S-21)
  • Julia Allen (H-20)
  • Frederick Fogel (H-3)
  • Victoria Franks (H-16)
  • Jonathan Hoomanawanui (H-14)
  • Bryan Jeremiah (H-41)
  • Carole Kauhiwai Kaapu (H-28)
  • Sam Kong (H-33)
  • Suk Moses (H-42)
  • Richard H. Pohle (H-12)
  • Emil Svrcina (H-37)
  • Kaimanu Takayama (H-48)

 

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ATR Releases List of 2014 State Pledge Signers Ahead of Elections in Tennessee

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Posted by Jorge Marin, Will Upton on Wednesday, August 6th, 2014, 4:11 PM PERMALINK


As the Tennessee primary approaches, Americans for Tax Reform has released a new list of state legislative and state-wide candidates seeking office who have signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. These candidates have shown a strong commitment to their state’s taxpayers by putting their convictions against new and/or higher taxes in writing. Please show your support at the ballot boxes on Thursday, August 7th.

The list for Tennessee is as follows:

 

Incumbents

 

  • Mae Beavers (S-17)
  • Jack Johnson (S-23
  • Bill Ketron (S-13)
  • Randy McNally (S-5)
  • Steve Southerland (S-1)
  • Harry Brooks (H-19)
  • Kevin Brooks (H-24)
  • Glen Casada (H-63)
  • Bill Dunn (H-16)
  • Jeremy Faison (H-11)
  • Steve Hall (H-18)
  • Beth Harwell (H-56)
  • Ryan Haynes (H-14)
  • Matthew Hill (H-7)
  • Curtis Johnson (H-68)
  • Kelly Keisling (H-38)
  • Jon Lundberg (H-1)
  • Steve McDaniel (H-72)
  • Steve McManus (H-96)
  • Dennis Powers (H-36)
  • Courtney Rogers (H-45)
  • Charles Sargent (H-61)
  • Tony Shipley (H-2)
  • Mike Sparks (H-49)
  • Terry Weaver (H-40)
  • Rick Womick (H-34)

 

Challengers

 

  • James R. “Jim” Finney (S-29)
  • Matt Swallows (S-15)
  • Dan Howell (H-22)
  • Tonya Miller (H-53)

 

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