At least 21 Democrat candidates who are seeking election or re-election to Congress have disgorged contributions received by their campaigns from a “leadership” PAC connected to Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken. Many sent Franken’s PAC’s money to charity, the Center for Responsive Politics said. Thus far in the current 2017-18 election cycle, Franken’s Midwest Values PAC contributed $145,500 to 26 candidates, including 17 Democratic senators. Several of the recipients—Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and John Tester (Mont.)—collected maximum $10,000 gifts from Franken’s PAC.
China used Vietnam to duck punitive duties
The Department of Commerce slapped antidumping and countervailing duty orders on steel products purportedly manufactured in Vietnam, but made from ore that originated in China that was already under punitive duty orders. Prior to the imposition of duty orders against China, Vietnam shipped $2 million worth of corrosion-resistant steel and $9 million worth of cold-rolled steel. But, after the orders were imposed, Vietnam imports skyrocketed to $80 million worth of corrosion-resistant steel and to $215 million for cold-rolled steel.
DOJ seeks warrant to seize antiquities from ISIS
The Department of Justice asked a federal judge to authorize the seizure of ancient antiquities recovered during a raid of Abu Sayyaf’s residence in Syria. Sayyaf, a senior leader of the radical Islamic terrorist cult known as ISIS, was killed in the 2016 raid. DOJ claimed that Abu Sayyaf sold Syrian artifacts to raise funds for ISIS operations. One item on DOJ’s list is a gold ring which was sold for $250,000 to a Turkish antiquities dealer and was subsequently confiscated by Turkish law enforcement.
Sleep clinic owners indicted for health care fraud
Young Yi, 44, a citizen of South Korea, and Dannie Ahn, 43, of Centreville, Va., were indicted for running a $200 million health care fraud using sleep clinics they operated throughout Northern Virginia and Maryland. The Department of Justice said the pair submitted false billings to Medicare and false tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service. DOJ said Yi and Ahn used the fraudulently obtained money of buy expensive vehicles, luxury clothing, exotic vacations and a tract of land in Great Falls, Va., to construct a 25,000-square-foot home modeled after the Palace of Versailles.
Slight homelessness rise noted in 2017
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development told Congress in an annual report that 553,742 persons experienced homelessness for at least one night during 2017, an increase of 0.7% from 2016, while homelessness among families with children declined 5.4%. “In many high-cost areas of our country, especially along the West Coast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is manifesting itself on our streets,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, noting that rents are rising faster than incomes.
Judge shutters gold-silver scheme
A federal judge in California ordered the operators of a fraudulent gold and silver investment scheme to refund $6.5 million to consumers and to shut down their company, DiscountMetalBrokers Inc. U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II took the action in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission which claimed the Encino, Calif., company marketed gold and silver as investments, but failed to deliver the metals to customers who responded to television commercials that aired on CNN, Fox News, Fox Business Network, and various radio programs.
Coalition seeks Louisiana pipeline project papers
A coalition of Louisiana advocacy groups led by the New York City-based Center for Constitutional Rights is using Louisiana’s public records law to gain access to documents owned by a private company that is behind the Bayou Bridge Pipeline project. The proposed 162-mile pipeline will transport oil across the state via a route that would run through 700 bodies of water. CCR said the project’s developers should be subject to the state public records law because it has claimed it has authority to usurp the state’s eminent domain authority to acquire privately owned property.
Alabama church tests political advocacy role
An evangelical church in Alabama used its outdoor signboard to promote Republican Roy Moore’s election in next Tuesday’s special election to elect a U.S. senator to replace Jeff Sessions. The display, the Freedom from Religion Foundation said, provides a glimpse of future politicking by tax-exempt churches if a provision in pending House-passed tax legislation becomes law. The provision would repeal the present tax law’s prohibition against political and lobbying activity by tax-exempt charitable and religious groups.
Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.
The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Wednesday, December 6