Lorenzo Montanari

GOP Senators Investigate Taxpayer Funding of Soros-linked, Left Wing Macedonian Political Organization

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee, Lorenzo Montanari on Monday, March 20th, 2017, 3:24 PM PERMALINK

Six GOP senators have written a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, imploring him to investigate claims that the federal government is channeling millions of taxpayer dollars to left wing organizations that interfere in Balkan domestic politics. The signatories - who include Mike Lee and Ted Cruz - believe one of USAID’S partner organizations used taxpayer dollars to “push a progressive agenda and invigorate the political left” in Macedonia.

The organization in question is the Foundation Open Society Macedonia (FOSM), an offshoot of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation. In Macedonia, the VMRO-DPMNE party (one of Macedonia’s two major political parties), has accused FOSM of inciting violent protests in which 50 police officers were injured

Since 2012, USAID has awarded multiple grants totaling $5 million to FOSM, and has granted aid to as many as 61 FOSM affiliates. In 2015, USAID named FOSM as one of their top partners in the region, and recently earmarked $9.5 million to be spent by FOSM and its partner organizations.

According to the FOSM website, “the foundation has worked with young people to express their frustration with poverty and corruption through increased mobilization and activism on social and political issues.” Government officials speculate the “political issues” around which FOSM mobilizes young people are part of a liberal political effort to influence the party dynamics of Macedonia and other Balkan states. In particular, the self-avowedly Eurocentric FOSM may be working to counteract Eurosceptic political groups like the VMRO-DPMNE party.

Last month, members of the House of Representatives sent their own letter to the U.S. Comptroller General, demanding an investigation into the use of taxpayer dollars to influence Macedonian politics. Signed by seven Republican representatives, the letter asked, “What percentage of US aid money in the fields of democracy, civil society and media is funded through FOSM? Was any organization . . .  that receives US funds directly or indirectly, through FOSM or otherwise, reported to have been involved in violence, either against persons or property destruction, and have any police or security officers been wounded in connection to that violence?” So far, these questions have not been answered.

Macedonia is not the only Balkan state in which American taxpayers are funding one of Soros’s organizations. Foundation Open Society Albania (FOSA) also received funds from USAID during the Obama administration, and these funds, too, may have gone to serve a political purpose. In their letter, the senators suggest that FOSA used taxpayer dollars to enact legal reforms that “aimed to give the [Albanian] Prime Minister and left-of-center government full control over judiciary power.”

If these allegations are true, USAID is funneling money to Soros-backed organizations that work to foment political unrest in Macedonia and other Balkan states. This wasteful and destructive pattern of spending on the part of USAID undermines international conventions on diplomatic relations and state sovereignty - all at the expense of the taxpayer.

There is no justifiable reason why American citizens and businesses should be bankrolling Macedonian political activists. The budget request for the State Department and USAID jointly totals $50.1 billion for FY2017; not a penny of that should be used to interfere in Balkan domestic politics.

 

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The Rich Irony of Using the Sony Hack to Attack Efforts to Fight Online Theft

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Posted by Lorenzo Montanari on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015, 6:02 PM PERMALINK

Without getting into a thorny discussion about the various problems of the much-pilloried “Stop Online Piracy Act” and its senate cousin back in 2012, it’s worth looking at how the detractors of intellectual property rights are using the results of the Sony hack to thwart any ongoing efforts by content creators to protect their property under current laws.  The stunningly ironic story goes something like this: various hackers steal documents at Sony that show movie studios (and the Motion Picture Association of America) are working with state attorneys general to try to prevent their stuff from getting stolen.  You’d think that A proved the need for B, even if you don’t like the particular approach of the movie companies. Instead, those who take a dim view of intellectual property--or at least its robust protection--have now taken to calling this strategy (again revealed by stolen data) “zombie SOPA” in a reference to the breathlessly maligned “Stop Online Piracy Act” of several years ago which set a new record for irritating anyone who uses the Internet.

Predictably, many news outlets then breathlessly reported on the resurrection of the Internet’s favorite law to hate. But, before you get swept up in the “iIndignation”, note that The New York Times was forced to print a correction on December 29, stating:

An article on Thursday about Sony Pictures’ release of “The Interview” online following terror threats misstated the nature of efforts by the Motion Picture Association of America to push for new antipiracy measures. The industry group is currently seeking to enforce existing laws to thwart piracy, rather than pushing for passage of a bill on the issue.

The NYT has to print a correction? I wish I could I say that I’m shocked….

This is a classic example of something done in Washington every day; attempting to staple something some interest groups oppose to something everybody hates.  No one at MPAA or Sony is looking to resurrect SOPA or PIPA.   Pretty much uniquely in Washington, we know this to be a true fact because everybody has seen all their emails.   They are pursuing an effort (love it or hate it) through state attorneys general to defend their property more aggressively using current law.  It’s not SOPA.  Or zombie SOPA. 

While this kind of conflation, as noted above, is standard operating DC PR procedure, in this case it’s almost too much to bear, because the whole basis for the effort is again, documents illegally stolen.  This means that there is now a campaign online  (“#zombieSOPA”!) being run by consultants and the usual detractors of copyright and other intellectual property opposing the enforcement of current laws, entirely based on stolen data.

“These guys are trying to stop people stealing their stuff!! How outrageous…by the way we know this because someone stole all their stuff.”

ATR didn’t endorse SOPA/PIPA and recognized its problems.  But the fact is that there are problems with the incentives that exist today for creating content when everything in the Internet age is so easily stolen.  If there is one thing that the Sony hack (just like the Apple hack before it) proves it’s that.  The last thing the Sony hack proves is that there is no problem with people stealing stuff online.  To use the hack itself in claiming such a thing almost crosses into self-parody.

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ATR Signs an International Coalition Letter against Global Taxation

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Posted by Lorenzo Montanari on Friday, October 10th, 2014, 2:10 PM PERMALINK

On October 13, the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet behind closed doors in Moscow to once again consider mandating expansive excise taxes that degrade national sovereignty. In response to the numerous attempts by global institutions to implement regional and international taxes, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and Property Rights Alliance together with 23 taxpayer and free market groups from 18 countries has released an international coalition letter promoting tax competition and outlining firm opposition to transnational taxation and to any increase and harmonization to excise taxes.

Excerpt from the letter:

 We, the undersigned taxpayer, free market groups and individuals support tax autonomy and oppose any regional or international tax changes that include “harmonizing” tax rates or introducing new taxes. Such schemes have been proposed through the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

 Tax competition can be a key factor driving countries to lower tax rates and increase economic activity.” […] Tax Competition, by contrast, is a natural dynamic that allows people to move economic resources from high tax areas to low tax areas. […]

 A much-discussed tax is the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT), also known as the Tobin Tax, which has been proposed in various guises by different bodies over the past few years including the EU. One model, proposed by the UN, is a world tax imposed on all financial transactions, with the goal of funding a global model of social services including basic income, free healthcare, education and housing to those the UN deem in need. […]

There have been attempts by the EU and by the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish uniform excise taxes on products such as sugary drinks, tobacco, and alcohol.  This would represent a dangerous precedent, and such excise taxes could be easily extended to all other consumer products.

Please click the link to read the full letter.

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Ireland's Proposed Tax Changes Could Destroy Its International Competitiveness, Push Business Away


Posted by Lorenzo Montanari on Monday, September 8th, 2014, 4:43 PM PERMALINK

Since the 1950s, Ireland has used its corporate tax rate to attract business, which at 12.5% is much lower than the OECD average of 25% and the US rate of 35%. Now, international pressure has forced the Irish government to review modifications to its corporate tax system ahead of a planned international overhaul of global tax rules.

The review was prompted after the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) began a review of global tax rules because of concerns amongst world leaders that corporations were deploying aggressive strategies to minimize their taxes. The OECD review will conclude in November 2015, at which point a binding multilateral proposal to overhaul global business taxation will be considered.

Central in Dublin’s review is a proposal to phase out the “double Irish” tax mechanism, beginning in the upcoming October budget. The mechanism attracted controversy in the U.S. after a Senate hearing on Apple’s use of the system to minimize its corporate income tax rates. Although the Irish government has defended its corporate tax system in the past, increasing political pressure from Washington and elsewhere has begun to take its toll. Several groups including the Irish Tax Institute, the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies and Washington-based Tax Executives institute have contacted the Department of Finance to express their concern over the proposed changes. A change in tax policy would see a reduction in foreign investment, as corporations that have structured their business models based on assumptions around the current policy are forced to make changes and downsize their presence. Ireland, which has long benefited from its pro-business tax policy, would seriously damage the vitality of its economic recovery and threaten the jobs of the 130,000 Irish that are employed by foreign corporations.


According to American Chamber of Commerce, Ireland Chief Executive Mark Redmond, ‘Ireland has for a very long time identified a corporate tax regime as being really important to attracting direct foreign investment.’ The policy has caused significant economic benefits, by promoting an entrepreneurial culture in the country, and being a source of significant tax revenue to the government– US based companies alone contribute between €3 and €5 billion a year to the Irish Exchequer.

Despite these concerns, critics of the current tax system are increasingly anxious about Ireland’s international reputation and want to begin a gradual phasing out immediately. Just last week, EU officials hinted that their commitment to providing a package for Ireland’s debt repayment is linked to a removal of pro-business tax mechanisms and an Irish trade mission to Australia faced criticism over perceptions that Ireland encourages tax avoidance.

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