Katie McAuliffe

The Courts Are Cooked - EU Targets American Companies for Budget Shortfalls through Lawsuits

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, November 19th, 2020, 12:16 PM PERMALINK

The European Commission is about to propose a “revolutionary” overhaul of digital regulation. They say it is to protect competition, and the little guy, but it is actually about using fines to fill budget shortfalls. 

These so-called revolutionary digital regulations will specifically target American tech companies, and we can be sure these new rules will be a pathway to target all successful American companies. Today all business is in some part digital. 

The EU through its Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, says it wants to make tech giants more responsible for the content on their platforms, and ensure that competitors have a fair chance to succeed against the big firms. This is supposedly being achieved by numerous antitrust proceedings against primarily American companies. This is in combination with an eminent December announcement of the new Digital Services Act, which is expected to overhaul the management of content on platforms like Google and Facebook.

The EU claims to have the interest of fair competition at heart. But we don’t have to look very hard to find the true motives. Money. American money.

In a deal between the European Parliament and the German Council of the EU presidency, instead of requiring EU leaders to reopen a €1.074 trillion budget agreement reached in July, they found a creative way to top-off some programs at a price tag of €15 billion rather than the roughly €110 billion that MEPs had initially demanded. 

How did they get creative? Of the €15 billion, €12.5 billion will come from funding gained through competition fines imposed by the bloc on… American companies. 

This means Vestager has been directed by the EU to fill a budget gap with fines and fees resulting from competition investigations. Any company targeted by an EU competition proceeding can be sure that the proceedings won’t be fair – they are already guilty – and the fines will be high.  

Its no small coincidence that the same day of the agreement, Vestager announced two investigations on Amazon.

This isn’t the first time the EU looked to American companies to fund their budget shortfalls. Back in 2012 they planned to use nearly €3 billion in antitrust fines to fund part of their €11.7 billion budget shortage. Soon thereafter Microsoft lost their long-standing appeal on cases dating back to 1998 and 2008 with fines totaling out at €1.64 billion. At the time these were the largest fines the EU had ever issued, but they are on a serious upward trajectory. 

In 2017 the EU began a three-year series of investigations into Google. The initial fine in 2017 of €2.4 billion is greater than what 18 other countries contributed to the EU’s budget that year. In fact, Google’s fine would contribute more to the EU’s budget than the bottom 9 contributing countries combined.

But it didn’t stop there. Google saw another record breaking fine of €4.3 billion in 2018 and another antitrust fine of €1.5 billion in 2019 for a total of €9.3 billion in fines over three years. All fines are being appealed. 

The EU budget is unsurprisingly convoluted. Transfers from member states are one element of the budget. Fines, when collected, are used to offset transfers from member states. Overall, many states receive more back from Brussels than they contributed, making them net recipients.

The perverse incentive is clear, and the fairness of these proceedings is certainly in question. If these fines contribute more to the budget than most member states and fines are accounted for on the front end to fill budget gaps, no company can expect a fair hearing in the EU. They just want the money and will craft their laws however they need to fleece American companies.

It’s not new behavior either. The EU has been using its courts to fund its budget for decades. The EU levied 38 individual fines totaling €364 million on companies for breaching competition law in 2015. Uncontested fines from 2015 along with penalties collected from earlier cases that were upheld provided €1.4 billion in revenue in 2015, according to the European Commission.

With a total budget of around €165.8 billion in 2019, member states contributing meagerly, and in the wake of a global pandemic, we can be sure that rather than balance their budget or look to their own population and member states, the EU will be heaping on the competition fines for American companies.

Europe desperately crafts their laws for ill-gotten financial gains. They have been pushing a highly predatory digital tax structure that was written in such a way to only hit American companies after numerous European companies, including automotive manufacturers, pointed out that all companies are digital and that European “champions” would be swept up in the cull. This was confirmed when the OECD admitted that it would impossible to separate the digital economy from the rest of the economy for tax purposes. The digital tax structure, which in varying forms has passed in some countries but not EU wide, was revamped to specifically write out European companies. 

We can be sure the “revolutionary” Digital Services Act expected in December will be just another crafty legal avenue for Europe to fill its budget holes.

It doesn’t matter how you feel about any company. What’s alarming is that Vestager has a budget gap she has been directed to fill, meaning fines and settlements with these companies is a forgone conclusion and few of the companies targeted will be European.  

Photo Credit: European Parliament

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ATR Leads Coalition Protecting Satellite Broadband Deployment

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Friday, October 16th, 2020, 5:29 PM PERMALINK

Today Americans for Tax Reform led a coalition of conservative groups asking the Federal Communications Commission to deny a request that would revive a dead petition for rulemaking that would allow two-way use in the 12.2 – 12.7 GHz spectrum band. 

See the letter below and linked to here

Allowing this petition to move forward could disrupt the development of certain satellite networks that have the potential of providing high-speed broadband across the entire country. 

Proponents of the petition believe freeing up this portion of the spectrum would speed-up America’s deployment of 5G technologies. However there are no current standards for 5G technology in 12.2 – 12.7 GHz spectrum and it could take the International Telecom Union – the body that allocates spectrum globally – almost a decade to give us 5G access.  

The deployment of 5G technology is critical to American success at home and abroad, but granting this petition would create confusion and actually slow our deployment. 

The opportunities and innovation that will come from providing every American with high-speed broadband outweigh any benefit that could come from allocating this spectrum for 5G. 

You can read our full letter to the FCC below and here.   

October 16, 2020

VIA ECFS 

Marlene H. Dortch
Secretary 
Federal Communications Commission 
445 12th Street, S.W. 
Washington, DC 20554 

Re: Petition for Rulemaking to Permit MVDDS Use of the 12.2-12.7 GHz Band for Two-Way Mobile Broadband Service, RM-11768

Dear Chairman Pai,

The undersigned have a fulsome record supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s efforts to expand access to spectrum that will allow 5G services; however, we respectfully request that the Commission deny the Multichannel Video and Data Distribution Service (MVDDS) petition for rulemaking and calls to move forward with their NPRM regarding two-way use in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band. 

The FCC has made leaps and bounds in connecting the unconnected in unprecedented times. One of the ways the Commission has pursued these goals is by approving novel provisions of broadband service. As such, in 2018 the FCC licensed several Low Earth Orbit (LEO) non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite constellations that will utilize the 12Ghz band, which is shared with Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), in order to provide high-speed broadband internet to rural and remote users to help close the digital divide. 

Just two years following FCC authorization in 2018, the U.S. is leading the world with nearly 800 satellites deployed, billions of dollars in private capital invested, thousands of U.S. jobs created, and initial service started.  While satellite broadband service has been available for years this new generation of satellites employs updated technologies that promise to cover the nation with true high-speed broadband, including gigabit speeds, and latency acceptable for a wide variety of uses, including Internet of Things (IoT) which provide exciting opportunities and applications that can only be deployed via satellite.

With the success of these networks, the Commission could achieve at least two of its goals:
1)    Universal high-speed broadband access – the opportunity to connect the unconnected in unserved areas.
2)    Increased competition in the market for the provision of high-speed broadband services, that may drive down consumer costs.
 
In an effort to connect all Americans, this Commission has unanimously supported the deployment of low earth orbit satellite networks. These networks may very well be the solution for closing the digital divide and connecting rural areas without service. While the petitioners’ goal is providing more options and new entrants for 5G, that goal comes at a cost of severe interference to the latest generation of satellite broadband networks that are a year out or less from providing full service.

IP traffic will dramatically increase in the coming years  and these satellite networks will add to the options and opportunities families and businesses have to access the internet and offload mobile traffic. Any arguments citing the expected dramatic increases in internet traffic highlight the need for these new competitive broadband options, not for interfering with them. The Commission should not hamstring these efforts just as they are about to become available to millions of Americans.

Changing the rules now would pull the rug out from U.S. NGSO systems just as broadband service is starting. It would negatively impact investment and materially degrade the ability for these systems to provide service to consumers, especially in remote and rural areas  where 5G is a very very distant reality. 

Competition drives down prices. Research from US Telecom published on September 16, 2020 shows that speeds are increasing and prices are dropping. “The most popular tier of broadband service in 2015 is now priced 20.2 percent lower and offers 15.7 percent faster speeds in 2020,” and “the highest speed offerings in 2015 are now priced 37.7 percent lower and offer 27.7 percent faster speeds in 2020 on an average.”  This is only among residential fixed broadband competitors.

Joining the mix, at least one satellite provider will offer speeds of up to a gigabit per second and latencies from 25 milliseconds to 35 milliseconds.  These speeds will compete in a very real way with fiber, cable, DSL, satellite, 5G, and other broadband offerings. All types of broadband services compete with each other and having more providers in the market drives down prices for everyone – in rural and urban areas. Relegating this service only to rural areas, because of the new interference proposed by Petitioners, could rob the satellite sector from attracting sufficient customers to justify full deployment.

Use of this spectrum would not significantly enhance American’s position in the race to 5G. The 12GHz Band is not optimal for 5G.  The need right now is mid-band spectrum in the range of 2GHz to 6GHz. The 12GHz spectrum clearly has utility, but, due to well-known propagation and capacity constraints, telecom companies actively building and deploying networks have not made it a primary target, especially for deployment into rural areas.

There are no 5G technology standards in the pipeline for this band and receiving new ITU allocations for global 5G access could take nearly a decade. Many in the record have argued that – were the FCC to grant this petition – the spectrum should go back up for auction under the new allocation,  which would further delay deployment for any of the suggested technologies such as, fixed broadband, mobile and IoT. These are all technologies that MVDDS is not likely to deploy quickly since it is not itself a 5G technology nor it has not developed methods of broadband connectivity in the last 15 years.

Deploying 5G technologies is not incompatible with the nation’s goal, and this Commission’s goal, of connecting all Americans to high-speed broadband. However, creating harmful interference with these new satellite networks is incompatible with the nation’s goal of every American having the opportunity to connect to high-speed broadband, if they choose. Satellite systems must be part of the critical infrastructure for delivery into rural areas.

For these reasons, the undersigned request you deny the MVDDS modification petition.

Respectfully,

 
Grover G. Norquist
President
Americans for Tax Reform

Steve Pociask
President / CEO
American Consumer Institute

Krisztina Pusok
Director of Policy and Research
American Consumer Institute
Tom Schatz
President
Citizens Against Government Waste

Jeffery Mazzella 
President
Center for Individual Freedom

Matthew Kandrach
President
Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Katie McAuliffe
Executive Director
Digital Liberty

Jason Pye
Vice President of Legislative Affairs
FreedomWorks 

Brandon Arnold
Vice President
National Taxpayers Union

James L. Martin
Founder/Chairman
60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
President
60 Plus Association

Jim Dunston
General Counsel
TechFreedom

Photo Credit: Steve Jurveston


ATR Statement on House Democrat's Radical Antitrust Report

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, October 8th, 2020, 1:42 PM PERMALINK

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week the Democrats of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law released a partisan report discussing their findings and recommendations regarding an investigation into competition in digital markets. While they tout the number of hearing as and witnesses, Democrats already had their conclusions before investigation began. The report amounts to nothing more than a radical attempt to completely reshape long-accepted antitrust law to the detriment of American consumers and companies.  

The Democrat report is not bipartisan. These proposals and prescriptions are so extremely devastating to Americans that not a single Republican joined the report.

ATR stands in opposition to both the findings and recommendations of this report which recommends restricting tech companies from operating in multiple markets and altering how antitrust enforcement can be brought against suspected violators.  

ATR President, Grover Norquist said the following: 

These recommendations pursue political prerogatives rather than consider what is truly best for all Americans. It is not good for all Americans if breaking up a firm means prices go up 20%. Nor is it good if those experiencing food insecurity are cut off from innovative food delivery services. Small business is not better off without a digital main street to compete with Big Box retailers physical and digital store fronts. Smart phone users could choose a fully open system, but most think they are better off when their devices and app stores secure their payment data. We were not better off when GPS systems led our car to a dead-end road or the edge of a lake. 

The report further argues that Courts judging antitrust enforcement on the “narrow” basis of consumer welfare have significantly weakened antitrust laws over the past decades. One proposed solution is to rewrite existing laws to essentially nullify the consumer welfare standard.  

Katie McAuliffe, Executive Director of Digital Liberty defends the consumer welfare standard by stating: 

Allowing subjectivity for political leanings or personal feelings moves us away from the rule of law and does not make anyone better off. The consumer welfare standard does not consider the industry and these law makers are using general populist anger at tech companies to up-end the rule of law for all industries. Not just the ones we are mad at. Legislation should not be pushed to punish enemies and promote friends. It should be consistent across the board for all competitors. That is what the consumer welfare standard has achieved for decades. 

This report is offering solutions to problems that do not exist. If some of these recommendations like the ones mentioned above were implemented, the damage done to businesses and consumers would harm the American economy. We urge lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reject the findings in this report.  

Photo Credit: April Brady/Project on Middle East Democracy

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Grover Norquist Statement on Senate Letter Opposing Nationalization of 5G Networks

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Wednesday, September 30th, 2020, 5:43 PM PERMALINK

WASHINGTON – The following can be attributed to Grover G. Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform 

Thanks to Senator Thune and 18 other Senators for writing to the President praising his steadfast free-market leadership in 5G and asking him to stay the course. We have already seen that government run broadband networks fail and end up costing taxpayers millions of dollars for inferior service. A military run 5G network would be no different - it would cost taxpayers billions after the private sector has already invested decades of research, their own billions, and has already deployed 5G service across much of the nation.

Read the full letter here

Photo Credit: Christoph Scholz


Trump's FCC: Promises Kept

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, September 17th, 2020, 10:20 AM PERMALINK

In a House hearing with the title “Trump FCC: Four Years of Lost Opportunities,” we all know this is a set up for political grandstanding.

The title is bogus. Completely false.

Americans for Tax Reform joined a coalition letter sent to the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Chairman, Congressman Mike Doyle, and Ranking Member, Bob Latta, describing the long list of accomplishments from this FCC’s commissioners and staff.

These are hardly lost years.

Read the letter below.

 

September 17, 2020

Dear Chairman Doyle and Ranking Member Latta:

As the American economy continually demands more and faster internet connectivity, the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Ajit Pai took that demand seriously even before the global pandemic struck. This is why the title of this hearing “Trump FCC; Four Years of Lost Opportunities” is a serious disappointment. We understand this is an election year, but there is no reason to politicize telecommunications and technology issues in an attempt to deny the Federal Communications Commission staff and all five commissioners rightful acknowledgement of their significant accomplishments.

Chairman Pai instituted unprecedented transparency by releasing orders three weeks ahead of open meetings. Prior to this FCC, the regular practice was for commissioners to vote on items, but the public had to wait until publication in the Federal Register before seeing the final text – text, which previously was often leaked to key lobbyists and friends of commissioners who could then lobby for changes while the rest of the public was left out of the loop. The launch of the transparency dashboard provides the public a better understanding of the interworking of the FCC and its process, limiting the power of insiders and democratizing the system.  Other process reforms included the creation of the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment and creation of Office of Analytics and Economics.


At a time when America is rethinking the role of law enforcement, this FCC was already making tangible steps for change. They instituted 988 as the national suicide hotline, which will be staffed by mental health professionals. Of utmost importance, this FCC legally limited the rates that federal prisons can charge inmates for calling services, dropping the per minute rate from $0.21 to $0.14 for debit, prepaid, and collect calls, capped for international call rates, and disallowed most ancillary charges, while imploring state authorities to do the same for intrastate rates in their prisons and jails.


During the pandemic, internet access is more important than ever. The FCC worked with providers to Keep Americans Connected, a hugely successful public-private partnership that enabled struggling Americans to remain online, even if they are unable to pay their bills. They opened up emergency use of spectrum to carriers and tribal nations on an unprecedented timeline and moved at an equal pace to make telehealth more widely available and transition to the connected care future.


Because of policies instituted prior to the pandemic by the FCC, American networks proved resilient, despite unexpected increases in internet traffic. While the Title II version of “net neutrality” has been a pet project of activists on the Left, time and data demonstrated that these policies would have harmed U.S. networks. In 2018, after the repeal of the very short-lived Title II regulations, investment in broadband networks shot up to $80 billion. New research released by US Telecom shows that the “most popular tier of broadband service costs 20.2 percent less and is 15.7 percent faster in 2020 when compared to 2015.” The U.S. jumped from 12th place globally to 7th in terms of internet speed after the implementation of the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. Further evidence of the success of this FCC’s approach to broadband is clear when examining the performance of US networks in contrast to the slower speeds and congestion Europe’s heavily regulated networks are currently experiencing during the pandemic.


Today, 94 percent of Americans have access to high speed internet. The goal of this FCC is 100 percent, but that is not a license for waste or political favoritism. Recent reforms targeting waste fraud and abuse have flushed out companies with no intent of providing service, and streamlining the permitting process allows both wireline and wireless to deploy more efficiently. Updating the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund with a reverse auction will increase the usefulness and availability of broadband subsidies, resulting in more Americans connected without budget increases.


The FCC has also considered novel approaches to provision broadband service that may be better suited than traditional means for connecting the unconnected in rural regions. Some of these methods include opening up TV whitespaces and licensing new satellite networks.


Finally, and most impressive of all, is the progress made on the 5G FAST plan. In the last four years available spectrum has entered the pipeline at an extraordinary rate, including the largest swath of unlicensed spectrum, 1200 MHz, released in 20 years. There is a bipartisan consensus that American leadership in the 5G arena both in standards setting and deployment, will significantly grow our economy. The mix of mid and high-band spectrum will be crucial for American innovation in the 5G space. The FCC’s 5G FAST Plan is a forward-thinking roadmap for the US to fully realize the promise of the 5G future.


While there are many more accomplishments we could list, we will stop here and urge you to thank all five FCC Commissioners, Chairman Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, Commissioner Brendan Carr, and Commissioner Geoffery Starks, and the entire FCC staff for their valuable work that should not be dismissed as “lost opportunities.”


Respectfully,

Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

Doug Holtz-Eakin, PresidentAmerican, Action Forum*

Jennifer Huddleston, Director of Technology and Innovation Policy, American Action Forum*

Steve Pociask, President / CEO, American Consumer Institute

Krisztina Pusok, Director of Policy and Research, American Consumer Institute

Brent Wm. Gardner, Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity

Andrew F. Quinlan, President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Thomas Schatz, President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Ashley Baker, Director of Public Policy, The Committee for Justice

Jessica Melugin, Associate Director, Center for Technology & Innovation, Competitive Enterprise Institute

James Edwards, Executive Director, Conservatives for Property Rights

Matthew Kandrach, President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Katie McAuliffe, Executive Director, Digital Liberty

Ian Prior, National Spokesperson, 5G Action Now

Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks

George Landrith, President, Frontiers of Freedom

Mario H. Lopez, President, Hispanic Leadership Fund

Carrie Lukas, President, Independent Women’s Forum

Heather R. Higgins, CEO, Independent Women’s Voice

Tom Giovanetti, President, Institute for Policy Innovation

Seton Motley, President, Less Government

Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President, National Taxpayers Union

Lorenzo Montanari, Executive Director, Property Rights Alliance

James L. Martin, Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis, President, 60 Plus Association

Karen Kerrigan, President & CEO Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

David Williams, PresidentTaxpayer, Protection Alliance

James Dunstan,General Counsel,TechFreedom

*Individual signatory. Organization listed for identification purposes only.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Coalition Urges Passage of Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Friday, July 31st, 2020, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today released a coalition letter with 20 signers supporting the Helping Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020. The full letter can be read below:

 

July 30, 2020

RE: S.3733 and H.R. 6988, the Helping Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020

Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Majority Whip Thune & Senator Cornyn: 

The undersigned organizations, representing millions of taxpayers, thank you for your insistence that the next COVID-19 relief bill include liability protections for businesses, schools, and nonprofits in compliance with public health guidelines. Unless Congress acts, a tidal wave of frivolous lawsuits could dampen our already fragile economic recovery. 

In particular, we are grateful that Senate Republicans have embraced protections for app-based platform companies that work with independent contractors. Senators Braun, Cassidy, Loeffler, and Scott, and Representatives Miller and Cuellar have introduced S.3733 and H.R. 6988, the Helping Gig Economy Workers Act of 2020, and Senate Republicans included similar protections in the SAFE TO WORK Act for joint employment and independent contracting, which is also included in the HEALS Act. These measures would provide app-based platform companies that provide PPE and other worker protections with a safe harbor for the length of the pandemic.  

As families increasingly rely on delivery and ride-sharing platforms to access supplies, groceries, take-out meals, and prescriptions, app and internet-based businesses have proven critical throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. These platforms have also provided flexible earnings opportunities for hundreds of thousands of Americans during these challenging economic times. 

During the pandemic, many app-based platform companies – like countless others across the country – have proactively provided workers with sick pay, personal protection equipment like masks and hand sanitizer, and access to health services. Without tailored legal protections, we are concerned that opponents of these companies will sue and seek to use these actions as evidence of an employer-employee relationship under federal law. Special interests have utilized state laws like the disastrous AB5 in California to try and eliminate the app-based platform business model entirely. Congress should not follow California’s path at the federal level. 

In addition, we believe Congress should focus on protecting the freelance economy in the face of sustained attacks on the left.Independent contracting has been in the crosshairs in state capitals around the country. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to force companies to reclassify independent contractors as employees. If other states follow California's lead and erect barriers that impede commerce, Congress may need to step in and create a federal standard. Without robust protections, both independent contractors and the millions of Americans who depend on them will be harmed as these goods and services disappear forever. 

We strongly support your efforts to ensure that liability protections for innovative companies are included in any final agreement on COVID-19 relief. 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Grover G. Norquist 

President 

Americans for Tax Reform  

 

Pete Sepp 

President 

National Taxpayers Union 

 

Jessica Anderson 

Executive Director 

Heritage Action 

 

Tom Schatz 

President 

Council for Citizens Against  

Government Waste 

 

Adam Brandon 

President 

FreedomWorks 

 

Carrie Lukas  

President  

Independent Women’s Forum 

 

Heather Higgins 

CEO 

Independent Women's Voice 

 

Eli Leher 

President 

R Street Institute 

 

Krisztina Pusok 

Director of Policy and Research 

American Consumer Institute 

 

Ralph Benko 

Chairman 

The Capitalist League 

 

Ryan Ellis 

President 

Center for a Free Economy 

 

Andrew F. Quinlan 

President 

Center for Freedom and Prosperity 

 

Ashley Baker 

Director of Public Policy 

The Committee for Justice 

 

Katie McAuliffe 

Executive Director 

Digital Liberty 

 

Dave Wallace, II 

President 

FAIR Energy Foundation 

 

Andrew Langer 

President 

Institute for Liberty 

 

Karen Kerrigan 

President & CEO 

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council 

 

James L. Martin 

Founder / Chairman 

60 Plus Association 

Saulius "Saul" Anuzis 

President 

60 Plus Association 

 

Dick Patten 

President 

American Business Defense Council 

 

CC: Senators Braun, Cassidy, Loeffler, Tim Scott, Congresswoman Carol Miller, Secretary Mnuchin, Mark Meadows

Photo Credit: Lara Eakins


ATR Supports Senator Tim Scott's "JUSTICE Act"

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020, 4:34 PM PERMALINK

Today, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist released a letter in support of S. 3985, the JUSTICE Act, sponsored by Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) 

You can find the full letter below and linked to here

Dear Senator Scott,

I write in support of your bill S. 3985, the JUSTICE Act, and urges all Senators to support this legislation. This legislation will improve relationships between police and their communities by providing commonsense solutions to transparency and accountability issues.

The practice of “precinct shopping” by officers who violate the rights of citizens must end. Accurate and transparent reporting of an officers’ conduct, disciplinary actions, and uses of force, will properly inform other law enforcement agencies, who may be considering a new hire.

Transparency measures outlined in the JUSTICE Act will expose abuses of power that destroy public faith in the police. Tensions between police and their communities are a detriment to the safety of both. By requiring reporting on no knock warrants, weapon discharges, and use of force, this legislation will improve police transparency and help restore public faith.

The bill requires federal, state and local units to report use-of-force incidents to the FBI’s National Use-of-Force Data Collection. This includes use of police force resulting in fatality or serious bodily injury to a civilian, as well as events in which a firearm is discharged by a civilian towards an officer and any deaths or serious injuries of law enforcement officials caused by civilians. Accurate, transparent and publicly available data on these incidents will shed light on departments and individuals that fail to provide equal justice.

The JUSTICE Act ends the use of police chokeholds, increases body camera use, and provides training and hiring resources to police departments. The bill will put more body cameras on the streets, which has been shown to reduce violent encounters, and also requires that departments are properly using and storing their body camera data.  

The JUSTICE Act is a very strong first step in reforming police behavior towards citizens. Much more needs to be done.  For example, police officers must be able to do their jobs and they cannot if their local governments turn them into tax collectors through abusive fines and fees measures and civil asset forfeiture exercised on individuals who have not been proven guilty. That said, this bill is an excellent place to start.

I urge all Senators to support this legislation. Should you have any questions or concerns please reach out to me or Katie McAuliffe, kmcauliffe@atr.org.

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Norquist Slams ‘Policing for Profit’ in Chicago Tribune Op-Ed

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, June 18th, 2020, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist published an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, calling for an end to ‘policing for profit’ that has led to conflict between local communities and police. 

Norquist pointed out that many cities have turned police officers into tax collectors, where police spend more time collecting fines, fees, forfeitures and traffic tickets than they do keeping the community safe. 

This was fully exposed in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of police. 

Norquist said:

“A key reason Ferguson police were despised is that the politicians had turned the police into tax collectors for the city. Not sales taxes and income taxes, but fines, fees, forfeitures and traffic tickets.

The reports released by the Department of Justice and the Commission on Civil Rights confirmed that officers’ primary use of arrests and tickets were not for public safety, but as revenue generators.”

However, the problem is not confined to Ferguson. As Norquist goes on to say:

“this tendency of cities to derive a substantial portion of their annual revenue from citations and fines handed out by law enforcement agencies is poison nationwide. Access to courts and due process should not depend on race or income, and court-imposed financial penalties should consider a person’s ability to pay.”

The practice of suspending drivers licenses for unpaid fines and fees, and non-driver safety-related offenses needs to stop.

“In modern America, how do we expect anyone to earn money to pay for traffic fines if one is under effective house arrest and unable to drive a car to work?”

The article includes statistics and information about the practice of policing for profit in Ferguson, Chicago, and California, and what has subsequently been done to curb this abuse.

Read the full piece here.

Photo Credit: Tony Webster

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Coalition of 36 Support President Trump's Deregulatory Executive Order

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Monday, June 1st, 2020, 9:50 AM PERMALINK

ATR today released a coalition letter signed by 36 organizations in support of President Trump’s Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery Executive Order. The coalition applauds President Trump for making deregulation the centerpiece of the Administration’s Coronavirus response and encourages him to make this deregulation permanent wherever possible.

ATR President Grover Norquist praised the executive order, saying:

President Trump’s executive order to slash red tape and directing all agencies to use their emergency powers to ‘rescind or temporarily waive damaging regulations’ is key to recovery. 

President Trump and the Republican congress brought us strong growth, job creation and increasing wages by reducing taxes and the regulatory burden.

We can return America to prosperity the same way.

The Democrat congress opposes tax reduction, but President Trump is leading on executive orders reducing the cost and unnecessary delays caused by overregulation.

President Trump’s drive for more deregulation—first to fight the virus and second to restore growth — is moving full speed ahead.

The full letter can be found below, and a downloadable copy here.

Dear President Trump, 

We write in support of your Regulatory Relief to Support Economic Recovery Executive Order (EO). As the focus turns toward restarting the economy and society, this EO will give businesses the flexibility they need to reopen their doors, create jobs, and safely get Americans back to work.

Instead of using the pandemic as an excuse to consolidate more power, you have made deregulation the centerpiece of your Administration’s Coronavirus response. This regulatory relief has streamlined our national response to the Coronavirus, leading to over 500 waived rules and regulations nationwide.

Most importantly, the Order directs agencies to review the impact of any regulations that they have waived or suspended during the pandemic and determine if they are necessary to reinstate. Permanently repealing these regulations – most of which were never necessary in the first place – will help grow our economy long after the pandemic has run its course.

Authorizing agencies to use the same emergency authority they have used to fight the Coronavirus to also waive regulations that stand in the way of our post-pandemic economic recovery will promote job creation, economic growth, and reduce the cost and unnecessary delays caused by overregulation. 

The Order not only directs agencies to temporarily waive or suspend any rules or regulations that inhibit economic growth as we recover from the Coronavirus, but also establishes a “Regulatory Bill of Rights,” to provide businesses with more certainty and direction. 

The “Regulatory Bill of Rights” directs agencies not to over-enforce when American businesses are clearly working in good faith to follow the law and keep their customers and employees safe. It is a set of ten regulatory principles that direct agencies to be fair and transparent in enforcing against any potential violations of law should there be an administrative proceeding.

Before the Coronavirus crisis, your pro-growth agenda of tax cuts and regulatory relief kickstarted one of the strongest economies in American history. We can return America to prosperity the same way.

As our country reopens, your new regulatory relief EO will jumpstart the economy and give businesses the flexibility and confidence they need to safely get Americans back to work.

We encourage you to continue removing regulations that stand in the way of private sector and government assistance during the crisis and to make as many of these regulatory waivers, suspensions, and adjustments permanent where possible.

Sincerely,

Grover G. Norquist
President 
Americans for Tax Reform

Phil Kerpen
President
American Commitment

Steve Pociask
President & CEO
The American Consumer Institute

Lisa B. Nelson
CEO
American Legislative Exchange Council

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity

Robert Alt
President & CEO
The Buckeye Institute

Garrett Ballengee
Executive Director
Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy

Andrew F. Quinlan​​​​​​​
President
Center for Freedom & Prosperity

Thomas Schatz​​​​​​​
President
Citizens Against Government Waste

Chuck Muth​​​​​​​
President
Citizen Outreach

Curt Levey​​​​​​​
President
The Committee for Justice

Clyde Wayne Crews Jr.
Vice President of Policy & Senior Fellow
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Katie McAuliffe​​​​​​​
Executive Director
Digital Liberty

Patrick Purtill​​​​​​​
Director of Legislative Affairs
Faith and Freedom Coalition

Rick Watson
Florida Center/Right Coalition

Adam Brandon
President
FreedomWorks

Annette Meeks
CEO
Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

George Landrith​​​​​​​
President
Frontiers of Freedom

Andresen Blom​​​​​​​
President
Hawaiian Values

Jessica Anderson
Executive Director
Heritage Action for America

Wayne Hoffman
President
Idaho Freedom Foundation

Seton Motley
President
Less Government

Ann Schockett​​​​​​​
President
National Federation of Republican Women

Pete Sepp​​​​​​​
President
National Taxpayers Union

William L. O’Brien
Co-Chair
New Hampshire Center Right Coalition

Jeff Kropf​​​​​​​
Executive Director
Oregon Capitol Watch Foundation

Daniel J. Erspamer​​​​​​​
CEO
Pelican Institute

Jim Vokal​​​​​​​
CEO
Platte Institute

Eli Lehrer​​​​​​​
President
R Street Institute

Paul Gessing​​​​​​​
President
Rio Grande Foundation

Karen Kerrigan
President & CEO
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Tim Andrews
Executive Director
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Sara Croom​​​​​​​
Executive Director
Trade Alliance to Promote Prosperity

James L. Martin
Founder/Chairman
60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis​​​​​​​
President
60 Plus Association

Maureen Blum
Executive Director
USA Workforce Coalition

Carol Platt Liebau​​​​​​​
Yankee Institute
Connecticut

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Tax Collection Business Threatens Internet Tax Freedom

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020, 12:03 PM PERMALINK

In 2016 Congress passed the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, meaning Americans will never face the threat of internet access taxes. On April 14, Bloomberg News published an article sympathetic to taxing Internet access.

With such a decisive victory for internet freedom, and while America is heavily relying on broadband networks to maintain some semblance of normalcy through COVID-19, why would this idea rear its ugly head? The supposed news hook is that six states with grandfathered access taxes – Hawaii, New Mexico, South Dakota, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin -- must quit collection in July. But it isn’t the states, who have been preparing for this since 2016, raising the specter. It hardly accounts for 2% of their tax revenue.

The article includes quotations from left-leaning think tanks and professors and, curiously, from Avalara’s VP of U.S. Tax Policy. Avalara makes more money when the tax code becomes more burdensome and complicated. Internet access tax collection would be an opportunity to sell more tax collection software. Previously, Avalara promoted an online sales tax scheme that caused small businesses to suffer through the most complicated iteration of online sales tax collection possible.

The article did not quote any taxpayer groups.

When Congress initially passed the 1998 Internet Tax Moratorium, the internet was understood to have transformative potential and lawmakers actually practiced regulatory humility — “they knew what they didn’t know” —  and rightfully decided to hold off on regulating it at the level of other familiar technologies, like landline phones. In the past two decades, the internet delivered on its potential and now practically every action that makes the economy tick involves the internet in some form.

Allowing states to tax internet access would set a dangerous precedent and could lead to a slippery slope of new taxes. If California can tax an individual’s access to the internet, a fundamental necessity in job searches, can they tax each email an individual sends once they get a job? As unreasonable as this sounds, California attempted to tax text messages as recently as 2018.

One look at the increases in wireless taxes, surcharges and fees makes clear that the internet would suffer much the same. Private sector competition has pushed wireless prices down 24 percent since 2018, but wireless taxes have increased by 44 percent, displacing competitive benefits. In 2019, people will be subject to an estimated $17.1 billion in taxes, fees, and government surcharges, a $1 billion increase from 2018. Wireless taxes slow down network infrastructure development and disproportionately hurts the poor, 67 percent of whom live in wireless households.

The Internet Tax Moratorium is about fostering the backbone of everyday life as the COVID-19 crisis dramatically proves. Congress repeatedly acknowledges that reliable internet access is fundamental for economic growth. It is necessary for work, school, or practically anything in modern society. Since 1998, Congress reauthorized the Internet Tax Moratorium more than a half-dozen times before making it permanent in 2016. Additionally, the FCC removed short-lived so-called net neutrality rules. While these rules were in effect from 2015-2016, annual capital investments declined for the first time since 2008-2009. After the repeal, broadband providers immediately increased investment with approximately $80 billion poured into the networks in 2018 alone.

Through light-touch regulation generally, the U.S. created broadband networks that are far superior to the rest of the world. Fortunately, going in to this crisis, as of mid-2018, 98.6 percent of Americans had access to a fixed network, and 99.8 percent had access to a mobile network.

COVID-19 caused a huge uptick in internet traffic. 

Wireline broadband providers report that total traffic increased by a range of 17.3% to 37.4%, with an average increase of 25.5%. Major wireless carriers report mobile voice traffic increases during COVID-19 between 7% and 24.3%, while mobile data traffic usage has increased between 0.7% and 9.2%. For example, AT&T reported wireless voice up 28% and Wi-Fi calling minutes up 84% from the pre-crisis average usage baselines.

Our hugely successful internet connectivity comes from, among other policies, not taxing access and realizing the internet’s value increases as more people get online. It is unbelievable that Avalara, with the help of Bloomberg’s media empire, would promote the idea of increasing internet costs to Americans during COVID-19 for their own gain.

Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston (Flickr)


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