Katie McAuliffe

Free Market Groups Ask Congress to Rescind FCC Privacy Rules

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, January 26th, 2017, 12:00 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform along with a coalition of other free market groups sent a letter to House and Senate Leadership asking them to use their Congressional Review Act Authority to rescind the FCC Privacy rules.

Please see the text of the letter below and a link to the letter on ATR's website here

January 26, 2017

The Honorable Paul Ryan
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi 
Democratic Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Democratic Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Speaker Ryan, Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi and Leader Schumer:

We urge you to use the authority provided in the Congressional Review Act to rescind the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Privacy Order.

Congress is fully justified in rescinding these rules both because the Order lacks proper legal grounding and because of the need to ensure real consumer privacy across contexts of user experience.

The FCC’s approach is inconsistent with that of the Federal Trade Commission for nearly two decades, and will likely render harm unto consumers.

The FTC focuses on what data are held, the level of data sensitivity, and how consumers are affected if the data are misused. This outcomes-based approach takes consumers’ preferences into account while preventing actions that harm consumers.

The FTC’s approach rests on well-established standards of Unfairness (preventing substantial consumer injury) and Deception (enforcing material promises). Consumers generally agree on what constitutes financial and physical injury. Consumers deem data that could lead to these types of injuries more sensitive, and expect higher security for these data.

The sensitivity of other “private” information is, as the FTC rightly recognizes, often subjective, depending on its use. Some people might choose to post everything about themselves online — details that others might find invasive or embarrassing if made public — while others chose not to join social networks. Some might find value in an application using data about their geolocation in a particular way, while others decline participation because they consider the benefit of the service outweighed by its privacy cost. None of these approaches to privacy is incorrect. Each is a personal decision about tradeoffs. Taking varying consumer preferences into account, the FTC’s standards functioned reasonably well, requiring opt-out in most instances and opt-in only for particularly sensitive kinds of data.

The FCC approach focuses on who holds the data, rather than what — and how sensitive — the data are.  This hinders services that consumers want while failing to protect sensitive data across contexts.

The FCC's questionable ability to regulate privacy standards, and its narrow view on what constitutes privacy protection, make its rules counterproductive to actual consumer privacy protections. In contrast, the FTC's approach to privacy does a better job of balancing protection of consumers’ privacy online with economic incentives to innovate in consumer products and services.

There are many reasons for Congress to negate these rules: The legality of the Open Internet Order, which these rules are based on, is questionable; the FCC's expanded interpretation of customer proprietary network information from section 222 is incorrect, as it applies specifically to voice services; and sections 201, 202, 303(b), 316 and 705 of the Communications Act also do not give the FCC the authority to enter rules of this nature.

Rescinding the Privacy Order would promote both innovation and effective, consistent privacy protections in over-the-top, application, wireless and wireline markets. It would also send a clear signal that the FCC has lost its way in interpreting the statute Congress gave it. Doing so would not create a gap in privacy protection because the FCC would retain the ability to police privacy practices of broadband companies on a case-by-case basis.

If Congress fails to use the CRA in such a clear-cut case of agency overreach, the statute will fail in its original goal: encouraging regulatory agencies to respect the bounds of Congressional authority.


Americans for Tax Reform

Digital Liberty

American Commitment

American Consumer Institute

Caesar Rodeny Institute

Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Center for Individual Freedom

Competitive Enterprise Institute


Frontiers of Freedom

International Center for Law & Economics

Institute for Policy Innovation

The Jeffersonian Project

John Locke Foundation

Less Government

The Main Heritage Policy Center


Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Taxpayers Protection Alliance



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A 2-2 FCC is a Loss for the Trump Administration and Republicans

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, December 8th, 2016, 2:47 PM PERMALINK

Our previous article pointed out Wheeler's bad behavior and his likelihood of staying on the FCC, but the primary point is that a Rosenworcel re-nomination deadlocks the FCC and delays forward progress. 

Without Rosenworcel's re-nomination there is still hope for a 1-2 FCC.

Chairman Wheeler does not get to negotiate with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over who will be on the FCC.  Playing into Wheeler's game where  he will step down "if it helps Rosenworcel get renominated" means Wheeler is still deciding the outcome. 

If commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel is re-nominated and confirmed before president-elect Trump takes office the FCC will definitely sit at a 2-2 dead lock.  This split slows down the ability of the new Commission to pursue its deregulatory vision.

This is a real midnight move to control the Internet.  If Rosenworcel is re-nominated, the best Trump and the Republicans can hope for is a 2-2 FCC. The worst is a 3-2 democrat controlled FCC.

A Republican majority FCC is still possible sooner rather than later as long as Rosenworcel is not re-nominated.

If Rosenworcel returns to the Commission now, the next most likely scenario is that the new Republican nominated to the FCC will be held up until July when Commissioner MignonClyburn’s term ends.

If Republicans don’t nominate their new pick as a pair, it will be easy for the “clicktivist” left to turn the nomination into a circus.  The next nominee will be framed as the decider of the future of the Internet.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot let this go through.  This is no time to be negotiating with Harry Reid and Obama as they walk out the door.

No midnight nominations. 

President Trump should have both a Democrat and a Republican spot open for nominations when he takes office.

ATR Calls for House Vote on Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (HR 1643)

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, 4:30 PM PERMALINK

Today President of Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, sent Speaker Paul Ryan, and House Judiciary Chairman, Bob Goodlatte, a letter requesting House leadership to bring the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (HR 1643) to the House floor for a vote:

Numerous states have expanded the definition of a good or service through the various departments of revenue or other administrative bodies, bypassing the elected state legislators altogether. There must be a mechanism in place to hold these policymakers accountable to their constituents.

This bill protects American consumers and taxpayers from predatory double taxation measures and holds elected representatives accountable to their constituents.

Over 87% of Americans access the Internet through various media, and over 200 million Internet users made online purchases in 2015.

Because the advancement of technology is progressing faster than reforms to our tax code, the law surround digital goods and services is outdated and leaves the door open to a single transaction being taxed numerous times.

This threatens the economic stability of consumers and businesses across the nation.

States that impose sales tax on online sales, or sales that take place across state borders harm our democracy. These laws create scenarios for consumers, where their purchases of digital goods could be taxed many times.

For example, a customer based in Nebraska, who purchases a digital good from California, where the transaction goes through a server in Wyoming, could be subject to taxation from three different states. There is no precedent for this harmful behavior.

These digital taxes are already appearing across the country at an alarming rate. States like California are levying taxes on streaming services like Netflix. States like New MexicoVermont, and South Dakota are also planning such taxes, which will harm consumers in those states.

Thankfully, HR 1643 clarifies the requirement for tax jurisdiction, and eliminates the patchwork of legislation that makes it impossible to navigate the current digital tax code. This bipartisan piece of legislation establishes a road map to ensure that digital goods and services are treated fairly around the country.

Read the full letter.

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist Statement on FCC Set Top Box Rule Delay

Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Friday, September 30th, 2016, 2:51 PM PERMALINK

The Federal Communications Commission has repeatedly designed rules that will allow them to insert themselves in between consumers and their video content.  

The FCC has tried to justify its rule-making by arguing that cable television "set top boxes", drive up costs, saying that we need more competition.  But the FCC overreach went beyond this claim. The FCC is demanding part of the control of the program licensing process.  Ominously, no one has yet seen the actual rules that would grant them this power.  

As the FCC final vote has drawn closer the opposition among Americans has intensified.

Still, no one has seen these rules that were about to become regulation.  Under increasing pressure, Chairman Tom Wheeler was forced to delay the vote; delayed, not rejected.

Even with the uproar, Chairman Wheeler insists that the vote will still happen and without public comment.

The following can be attributed to Grover Norquist:

It is good news that the FCC has announced it will "delay" a vote on its regulations regarding 'set top box' rules.  This delay is the result of public opposition and anger at the lack of transparency.

The demand for transparency is non-negotiable.

It is the law that the public have time to comment on proposed rules before a vote, and significant change requires public comment as well.

It hard to believe the proposed rules haven't changed drastically from the first round put out for public comment.

The call for transparency isn't just a request; it is the law.  I hope the FCC decides to follow the law this time.


Sign the petition asking the FCC for transparency here:  

Stop The Federal Government from Getting between You and Your TV

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Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: The Mobile Workforce State Income Simplification Act

Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Monday, September 19th, 2016, 2:43 PM PERMALINK

On Friday, September 6th, Americans for Tax Reform sent a letter to Congressmen in support of the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, HR 2315. ATR urges Congress to vote in favor of this bill to establish clear boundaries and presence standards based on a state’s physical border. As the digital world makes us increasingly more mobile, this bill will prevent states from taxing out-of-state residents.

The full letter can be found below, and here.

Dear Congressmen:

On behalf of American taxpayers, I write in support of the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, H.R 2315, which establishes a clear and consistent physical presence standard for employee income tax reporting.

This legislation, introduced by Congressmen Mike Bishop and Hank Johnson, passed the House Judiciary Committee with a reported vote of 23 yeas and 4 nays.

It is important to establish a physical presence standard for the American workforce particularly as technology allows us to be even more mobile.  Establishing clear borders based on a state’s physical border will be even more important as technologies take us beyond telework and towards the possibilities of telemedicine and advanced education.

When an employee travels from one state to the next, there are varying rules throughout the 50 states as to when an employee’s income tax needs to be reported by an employer and paid by the employee.  

For example, Colorado will tax any income earned within the state if an individual has worked there at least one day.  Hawaii and Arizona require withholding for work that exceeds 60 days. Other states do not use a time requirement at all, but tax based on a specific dollar figure earned while in the state.

Most individuals are not aware of the varying non-resident state income tax filing rules, and employers incur extraordinary expenses to comply with withholding requirements.  

This is especially difficult for those able to offer support in the event of a natural disaster. People with specialized skills - doctors, nurses, electricians, arborists, decontamination crews, etc. - are in high demand following these events.  These skills are not bound by location; they can mobilize to accelerate healing and repairs for a community after a disaster.

H.R. 2315 establishes a clear physical presence standard for cross-border work by keeping states from taxing most nonresident employees until the employee is present and working in the state for more than 30 days during the year.  This minimizes bureaucratic hurdles, allows employees to keep more of their own paycheck, and simplifies tax compliance.

I encourage Congress to support American workers with clear consistent tax collection boundaries based on a state’s physical borders. 

If you should have any questions regarding this issue please contact me, or Katie McAuliffe at kmcauliffe@atr.org or 202-785-0266.


Grover G. Norquist

More from Americans for Tax Reform

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: Business Income Taxes

Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Wednesday, September 14th, 2016, 1:26 PM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform sent an open letter to Congressmen in support of the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act (BATSA), HR 2584. ATR urges Congress to vote in favor of this bill to reiterate the fact that states do not have the authority to tax outside of their own borders, as well as to continue to take steps to strengthen the physical nexus standard.


The full letter can be read below, as well as here:


Dear Congressmen:

On behalf of American taxpayers, I write in support of the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act (BATSA), H.R 2584, which reiterates that states do not have the authority to tax outside of their own borders.

States are adopting policies that force new tax liability onto those with a mere “economic nexus.” Codified in many different forms across the country, the economic standard grants nebulous authority to force out-of-state, nonresidents to comply with a state’s tax code.

The gradual shift to economic nexus is an attempt by states to raise tax revenue beyond what their own economies and taxpayers can sustain. Economic nexus poses a direct threat to the principles of democracy and republican governance by the people, shifting the cost of government to non-residents.

BATSA promotes inter-state economic activity by eliminating the burden for businesses of having to comply with varying and complex state income tax laws. It establishes a clear physical presence standard for taxing multistate businesses engaged in cross-border transactions.

Congress has well-established Constitutional authority to protect against economically destructive state tax laws.

As Congress reiterates to wayward states that digital borders are no broader than physical borders, BATSA could not come at a more critical juncture. 

This legislation, introduced by Reps. Steve Chabot and Bobby Scott, passed the House Judiciary Committee with a reported vote of 18 yeas and 7 nays. 

I encourage Congress to avoid attempts to weaken the physical nexus standard, and to continue taking steps that strengthen physical nexus by passing the Business Activity Tax Simplification Act.

If you should have any questions regarding this issue please contact me, or Katie McAuliffe at kmcauliffe@atr.org or 202-785-0266.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors: The Digital Goods and Services Fairness Act, H.R. 1643

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, September 13th, 2016, 2:26 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent an open letter to Congressmen Lamar Smith (R-Tex.), Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), and Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) praising their support for the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (HR 1643) and urged all other members of Congress to do the same.

The full letter can be seen below, and here:


September 13, 2016

Dear Congressmen:


On behalf of American taxpayers, I write to thank you for your support of the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (HR 1643), and urge you to continue your steadfast advocacy for this measure. 

This legislation prevents double taxation and holds policy makers accountable for enacting new taxes by establishing digital tax borders across the fifty states. Given the interstate nature of ecommerce, it is important for Congress to clarify taxing authority.

Without a framework of digital borders for digital goods and services, the door remains open for a single consumer purchase to be taxed in multiple states. 

For example, a consumer based in Nebraska could purchase a digital good from a California company located on a server in Wyoming and could be subject to taxes from three separate jurisdictions for one purchase, if HR 1643 is not passed into law. 

Taxation of intangible goods is without precedent. As a result, a patchwork of varying laws for taxing digital goods, streaming services and apps have developed by administrative fiat rather than a vote from elected officials.  

Numerous states have expanded the definition of a good or service through the various departments of revenue or other administrative bodies, bypassing the elected state legislators altogether. There must be a mechanism in place to hold these policymakers accountable to their constituents. 

HR 1643 passed out of the House Committee on the Judiciary by voice vote.  We look forward to seeing this bill pass on the House floor.

If you should have any questions regarding this issue please contact me, or Katie McAuliffe at kmcauliffe@atr.org or 202-785-0266.



Grover G. Norquist

The Administration's Assault on Article 1

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Friday, August 12th, 2016, 9:35 AM PERMALINK

Whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, as an American, you likely care about the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches. 

The Department of Commerce, via the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is directly violating a law that forbids it from using funds to transfer the Internet Domain Name contract away from United States oversight.  

Congress should not enable an administration that picks and chooses which laws to follow. It should sue to enforce its Power of the Purse and reaffirm our system of checks and balances.

Americans for Tax Reform signed on to a coalition letter urging the United States Congress to do just that. 

The following can be attributed to Americans for Tax Reform President, Grover Norquist: 

“Congress has already won in court on the Obama Administration’s ‘inappropriate’ spending of funds to pay for the Affordable Care Act.  Congress did not appropriate the cost-sharing provisions and the Administration went ahead and spent the money - that was found to be a violation of the U.S. Constitution. 

“Suing to enforce the appropriations rider, preventing the NTIA from spending funds towards the IANA transition and extending that rider through 2017, is important.  It is a key battle in the fight to protect constitutionally separated powers. 

“Both parties should have a real interest in protecting the Congressional Power of the Purse.  If legislation is no longer binding, Congress forfeits a basic check on Executive power.”

This administration is setting the precedent for all future presidencies.  The executive had bent, indeed broken, the rules and ignore Congressional protests.  The NTIA's action is another example. 

In order to allow some pre-existing issues to be settled, Congress forbade the NTIA from using congressionally appropriated funds to go towards the transition. However, in 2016, the NTIA released a report indicating they were looking into, and dedicating resources to the transition. This is in violation of federal law prohibiting the NTIA from using funds in the years 2015 and 2016 to further the transition of the IANA contract.

Regardless of the numerous concerns surrounding IANA stewardship and the security issues with the transition, the NTIA’s action presents a threat to our democracy. The executive is ignoring a congressional appropriation. This is a signal of disrespect to the Constitution and separation of powers.

Lawmakers should unite behind suing to enforce the power of the purse, it’s most basic constitutionally enumerated check. Otherwise, legislation in Congress will be viewed as non-binding and the legislative branch’s power to check the executive will be greatly diminished. 

The full text of the coalition letter can be found here.

Financial Services Appropriations Bill Reins in Obama Government Agencies

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie, Justin Sykes, Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016, 1:10 PM PERMALINK

Later this week, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 5485, the Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) Appropriations Act, introduced by Congressman Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.). This legislation allocates 2017 federal funding for numerous agencies including the Treasury Department, the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FCC.

H.R. 5485 allocates this funding in a responsible, pro-taxpayer way and reins in out-of-control agencies to ensure they do not overstep their bounds and needlessly waste federal resources. ATR supports this legislation and urges all Members of Congress to vote for it when it reaches the floor.

Restrains IRS Overreach
H.R. 5485 contains several important policy riders to rein in the IRS. Under this administration, the agency has targeted non-profit organizations, families, and small businesses again and again in a concerted effort to limit free speech and harass taxpayers.

The legislation prohibits the IRS from implementing a new regulation on non-profit organizations, from giving bonuses or rehiring former employees without proper tax compliance measures, or from targeting individuals based on first amendment rights. In addition, the package implements extensive reporting on IRS spending to ensure the agency is wisely utilizing taxpayer resources.

Reins in SEC Funding and Improves Transparency
FSGG allocates $1.5 billion for the SEC, lowering the agency’s funding by $50 million from previous levels in fiscal year 2016. The legislation also creates new reporting requirements for the SEC, which would improve the transparency and fairness of the agency. One provision requires the SEC to report to Congress the cost associated with the regulatory burdens promulgated under the Dodd-Frank Act. 

The legislation also ensures First Amendment free speech is protected by prohibiting the agency from requiring the disclosure of political contributions in SEC filings. 

Responsibly Allocates IRS Funding 
The legislation provides $10.9 billion for the IRS, reducing their funding by $236 million compared to fiscal year 2016. In addition, the legislation funds the agency $1.3 billion below President Obama’s budget, which called for more than $1 billion in additional funding for the agency.

FSGG also allocates this funding in an efficient way. Of the $10.9 billion in funding, the legislation allocates $2.1 billion to taxpayer services and provides $290 million for the IRS to improve customer service, fight fraud, and improve cybersecurity.

Given the IRS's record of ineptitude and incompetence, the last thing the agency needs is more money. The agency’s woes are due to its management problems, not because of insufficient resources and this legislation will force the agency to spend its resources in a more responsible way.

Blocks Implementation of Obamacare
FSGG also contains important provisions that restrict the ability of the federal government to implement Obamacare. Specifically, this legislation stops transfer of funds between the Department of Health and Human Services and the IRS to fund Obamacare. Since passage of the law, the Obama Administration has funneled funds across agencies to hide the true costs of the law and pay out special interests at the expense of the American people.

Most importantly, the legislation restricts the use of funds to implement the individual mandate. Under current law, anyone not buying “qualifying” health insurance – as defined by President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services -- must pay an income surtax to the IRS. This year a family in the middle class will be forced to pay 2.5 percent of Adjusted Gross income or $1,390 if they do not have insurance. The Obama administration uses the Orwellian phrase “shared responsibility payment” to describe this tax.  

Increases CFPB Oversight and Accountability 
This legislation provides increased oversight over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, by subjecting the agency to annual congressional appropriations process, something that has not occurred since the CFPB was created in 2010. By bringing funding for the CFPB under the congressional appropriations process, this legislation increases the accountability of the CFPB to congress and taxpayers. 

Further, H.R. 5485 temporarily halts the CFPB’s costly and overreaching arbitration rule by requiring the agency to study the use of pre-dispute arbitration before issuing such regulations. The CFPB has not adequately justified the need for rule, and enactment would increase the costs of products and reduce access for the very consumers it would supposedly protect.  

Restrains FCC
The FCC’s snowballing regulatory binge continues to tighten its grasp on basic functions of the Internet and the free market.  The FCC's dubious interpretations of "ambiguous" legal language, even at the protest of Congress, leave no other options but for Congress to restrain and direct FCC spending as Congress is statutorily required to do.

To enhance transparency and public participation, funds must be used for the agency to make all proposed regulations public three weeks before the final legally binding vote.  It constrains some of the agency’s overreaches on policy, by preventing the agency from using any appropriated funding for “Net Neutrality” regulations until court proceedings conclude. 

The dollars in the public pot are limited. While the agency does receive less money for operations than it asked for, and the is an overall decrease in funding of $25 million, the FCC maintains an ample budget of $315 million to aptly pursue its core functions and target waste fraud and abuse within its programs. 


ATR Response to Net Neutrality Ruling

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Wednesday, June 15th, 2016, 1:08 PM PERMALINK

The DC Circuit Court’s 2-1 decision in favor of the FCC’s Internet regulations represent a significant blow to the integrity of the Internet. The decision fails to address any meaningful issue and will serve to stifle innovation and investment in the future.

This decision also allows the FCC and the rest of the government to continue to overstep its authority and threaten the sovereignty of the private sector. 

Grover Norquist, the President of Americans for Tax Reform said:

“Treating the internet as a 19th century utility means putting it under political control, driven by backward looking bureaucrats. Such treatment will kill innovation, delay the future and abort thousands of new entrepreneurial efforts. This court decision must not stand.”

The spirit of the FCC’s regulations was to prevent Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from censoring free speech by charging different prices for different content. However, the dissent by Judge Williams makes clear that, while these rules were intended to promote growth, they will, more likely, slow innovation and investment.

The FCC’s regulations not only impose unnecessary burdens on existing ISPs by dictating their private pricing practices, it will undeniably deny smaller ISPs from being able to gain access to a greater share of the market. This will have the counterproductive effect of severely limiting competition.

As Judge Williams addressed in his eloquent dissent, the FCC’s regulations will put Internet on a trend towards incurable monopolies. Despite being created to prevent these sorts of economic conditions, the regulations will actually make them a reality. This is the “ultimate irony” of these rules.

Despite this obvious setback, we will continue to participate in the steps ahead to ensure that the Internet is able to return to a free-market approach that has fueled its thriving success. We also plan on being a voice in the coming discussion on how to ensure the Internet best serves the American people. We are optimistic that the value of the free market will shine through in this fight.

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