Krebs Daily Briefing 30 September 2015

Thomas L. Krebs, Securities Litigation, Regulation and Compliance Attorney Lawyer (c)2014 Brandon L. Blankenship
Thomas L. Krebs
(205)401-2383

International

Russian Pilots Launch First Airstrikes in Syria, Officials Say

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia escalated the stakes in his contest with the West over influence in the Middle East on Wednesday, as Russian pilots carried out their first airstrikes in Syria. Russian warplanes dropped bombs near the central city of Homs, according to American officials in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to make a public statement. Moscow informed American officials in advance, they said. The attack came hours after Mr. Putin pushed a measure through the upper house of Parliament approving the use of Russian military forces abroad. Russian officials and analysts portrayed the move as an attempt both to fight Islamic State militants and to try to ensure the survival of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Russia’s main ally in the Middle East. But Russian intervention would most likely prolong and complicate the war, as it would keep Mr. Assad in office and would add Russian forces to the already complicated patchwork of forces deployed there. Sergei B. Ivanov, Mr. Putin’s chief of staff, appealed to the upper house, the Federation Council, for the measure, describing it as an open-ended deployment of the Russian Air Force to support Mr. Assad — at his request — in his fight against the Islamic State. “We’re talking exclusively about operations of Russia’s Air Force, as our president has already said, the use of armed forces on the ground theater of military operations is excluded,” Mr. Ivanov said in remarks to a closed session of the council that were broadcast after the measure was approved unanimously 162 to 0. Eight members were absent. “It will be air support for the Syrian forces in their struggle with ISIS,” Mr. Ivanov said, using another term for the Islamic State.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/01/world/europe/putin-military-syria.html?emc=edit_na_20150930&nlid=53476364&ref=cta&_r=0

ISIS’s Foreign Fighters: Maxime, Peter, and Emilie

The Treasury and State Departments announced Tuesday the designations of 30 individuals and groups for sanctions. The list includes “terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism,” all accused of operating at the behest of ISIS. If anything relating to the terrorist group still has the capacity to surprise, it would be the diversity on the two lists. Individuals who were sanctioned on Tuesday hail from places like Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, but also France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Indonesia. Some of those named include Sally Jones, a British national who is accused of recruiting women to join ISIS and conduct attacks within the United Kingdom, as well as Maxime Hauchard, Emilie Konig, and Peter Cherif, three French nationals all accused of traveling to Syria to fight with ISIS. One senior administration official commented that the actions announced Tuesday “highlight the truly global nature of the threat.” However, the selection and timing of the designations also carry a strategic import. With the United Nations in session, the United States is working to fortify a global anti-ISIS coalition.  According to administration officials, the announcements precede both the United Nations’s naming of individuals and groups for sanctions as well as the Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism, which will take place on the sidelines of the UN on Tuesday.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/09/isis-latest-foreign-fighters-sally-peter-and-emilie/407962/

Saudi royal writes letters calling for regime change

An anonymous Saudi royal has made a remarkable move and signaled the need for a potential changing of the guard in Riyadh. The royal, identified as a “senior Saudi prince” by the Guardian, has penned two letters in Arabic that the British newspaper published on its Web site. The royal, who is apparently a grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, has his identity protected for security reasons. The current Saudi monarch, King Salman, 79, is a son of ibn Saud, who is reputed to have sired dozens of offspring. The prince decries Salman’s handling of the country since coming to power in January and is clearly opposed to the ascension of Salman’s 30-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, as the country’s deputy crown prince and putative heir to the throne. The Guardian claims the letters “are unlike anything that has happened since King Faisal deposed King Saud in a palace coup in 1964.” “The king is not in a stable condition and in reality the son of the king [Mohammed bin Salman] is ruling the kingdom,” the prince told the Guardian. “So four or possibly five of my uncles will meet soon to discuss the letters. They are making a plan with a lot of nephews and that will open the door. A lot of the second generation is very anxious.” “The public are also pushing this very hard, all kinds of people, tribal leaders,” the prince goes on. “They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster.” The Guardian cites a number of factors roiling Saudi Arabia at present and fueling the disquiet that surrounds Salman’s rule. Critics say last week’s grisly stampede in Mecca showcased the mismanagement and corruption among Saudi elites; the custodianship of the mosques in Mecca and Medina — the holiest sites in Islam — are central to the monarchy’s political legitimacy. Saudi Arabia has also been hit by slumping global oil prices, which have forced the Saudis to withdraw billions of dollars in overseas funds to buttress their domestic position. The economic unease is compounded by internal dissent over the Saudi-led war in Yemen, an extended operation that has come to define Salman’s tenure and is overseen by Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the Saudi defense minister.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/09/29/saudi-royal-writes-letters-calling-for-regime-change/?postshare=4071443549014541

National

How Elizabeth Warren picked a fight with Brookings — and won

The hero of the country’s liberal movement launched a surprise attack Tuesday against Washington’s most revered Democratic-leaning think tanks — and drew blood. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, stepping up her crusade against the power of wealthy interests, accused a Brookings Institution scholar of writing a research paper to benefit his corporate patrons. Warren’s charge prompted a swift response, with Brookings seeking and receiving the resignation of the economist, Robert Litan, whose report criticized a Warren-backed consumer protection rule targeting the financial services industry. The episode underscored the growing clout of Warren (D-Mass.), who has resisted calls for a presidential run but is positioning herself as a leading critic of corporate interests and their power over the Washington establishment. And it marked the most dramatic response yet from Brookings, an icon of that establishment, amid criticism and internal debate over the influence of corporate sponsors. “I learned there was discomfort with the Warren letter, and I did not want to add to it,” Litan said in an interview. “I said, ‘If it will make Brookings more comfortable, I’ll resign.’ ” Litan rejected Warren’s criticism, saying that the company that sponsored his research, the Capital Group, a leading mutual fund manager, had no influence over his findings. But Litan, an unpaid “resident scholar,” acknowledged that he had violated a new think tank rule prohibiting researchers with such status from citing their Brookings affiliation when testifying before Congress. Brookings President Strobe Talbott said Tuesday that Litan “made a mistake in not following Brookings regulations designed to uphold the independence of the institution.” A Brookings spokesman added Litan’s work on the rule came “in his private capacity, not connected with Brookings in any way.” Warren leveled her criticisms in letters sent Tuesday to Brookings leaders and the Obama administration, citing the $85,000 combined fee that Litan and a co-author received from the investment firm. Warren called the report “highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion.” Her complaint pointed to a relatively new form of influence peddling in the nation’s capital, with industry groups and even foreign governments paying think tanks and scholars for research papers that support lobbying goals. Brookings over the past decade has embarked on aggressive fundraising drives to pay for major expansions. Investigations last year by The Washington Post, the New York Times and others found that donors had gained the ability to influence Brookings’s events and research agenda. In resigning Tuesday, Litan said that he had not been aware of Brookings’s new rules put in place following the Post and Times reports. Litan, who was a senior official in the Bill Clinton administration, once led Brookings’s economic studies division and has been affiliated with the think tank for four decades. He said that he repeatedly disclosed his funding sources in both the original study of the proposed consumer protection rule and when he appeared on Capitol Hill for July 21 testimony. “I think it’s unfortunate that, even when I disclosed the funding, people spent their time discussing who funded my work rather than discussing the merits of it,” he said. Tom Joyce, a spokesman for the Capital Group, said his company was following standard practice. “It is typical for organizations to sponsor academic studies,” Joyce said, noting that in this case, “no preconditions or predetermined conclusions were imposed.” Brookings’s action Tuesday could have implications for industry lobbyists who advise clients to fund think tank research to influence policymakers. Scholars have opened private consultancies, attracting fees from corporate sponsors at least in part because their studies could enjoy the Brookings imprimatur. Litan, for instance, works with a firm called Economists Incorporated, where his bio describes him as a “Non-resident Senior Fellow” at Brookings. He used the same description when he testified before Congress. For Warren, Litan’s departure represents a small victory in her quest to rein in big banks. The proposed rule, written by the Labor Department, would prohibit retirement plan brokers from receiving enticements from big investment houses that can distract them from the best interests of consumers. Litan concluded that the rule, while well-intentioned, would be too costly. “Some advisers and brokers recommend investments based on the free vacations, cars, bonuses, fees and other kickbacks that the adviser can earn from selling a lousy product,” Warren wrote.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/how-elizabeth-warren-picked-a-fight-with-brookings–and-won/2015/09/29/bfe45276-66c7-11e5-9ef3-fde182507eac_story.html?tid=sm_fb

How Congress Helped Save Goldman Sachs From Itself

In October 2011, things were looking bleak at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s commodities business. Revenue was down, competition was up, employee attrition was at an all-time high and new regulations were on the horizon. Beyond the usual rivalries with Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs executives saw an upstart doing deals they couldn’t do and throwing lots of cash at traders: Glencore Plc. The commodities company wasn’t tied down by rules that applied to banks and had become even more of a presence since a $10 billion initial public offering earlier that year. It boasted strong growth and higher stock multiples than Goldman Sachs was receiving for its commodities unit. “Glencore competes with GS Commodities but has a broader business mix, including significant production, refining, storing and transport activities,” Goldman Sachs executives said in a presentation that month to the bank’s board later made public by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. “May be model for evolution of commodities trading.” Four years later, that envious assessment is looking wrong, and Goldman Sachs executives are probably breathing a sigh of relief. Glencore shares plunged 29 percent Monday, extending their decline to 78 percent in the past five months. The Baar, Switzerland-based company is seeking to sell assets and cut debt to avert a credit-rating downgrade. It has sold new stock and scrapped its dividend as part of a $10 billion debt-reduction program amid a broad commodity rout spurred by China’s economic slowdown. Last week, Goldman Sachs analysts said the company’s efforts were inadequate, sending the stock lower.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-29/how-congress-helped-save-goldman-sachs-from-glencore-envy

Tom Krebs is a securities attorney in Birmingham, Alabama.

UBS Fined $34 Million Over Investments in Puerto Rico Funds

WASHINGTON — Puerto Rican officials seeking a way out of more than $72 billion of debt were told by a Senate panel on Tuesday that the numbers they were using to make their case were too sketchy to persuade lawmakers that help was warranted — or that the money would be well spent. Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said that while he sympathized with the island’s plight, Congress needed more detail about the causes and structure of its debt, and whether help from Washington would benefit the island in the long run. “We’d better get the right information, or nothing’s going to be done,” warned Senator Hatch. The Puerto Ricans who appeared included the head of the powerful Government Development Bank, which oversees the island’s borrowing and cash needs. They came before the Senate panel to argue for changes in various federal laws which, they said, currently discriminate against Puerto Rico. It was the first such appearance before Congress since Gov. Alejandro García Padilla laid out a five-year plan earlier this month for a debt moratorium and structural reforms of the island’s economy. Puerto Rico has large debt payments due in November and December, and has warned it will not have enough cash to pay them while still providing an acceptable level of government services. None of the officials asked for a bailout, but they said the United States had a moral duty to help Puerto Rico, and identified a number of federal laws and programs that they said were discriminatory and ought to be changed. “I want to help you,” Senator Hatch told them. “I don’t think Puerto Rico is treated fairly. But we have to get really good information in order to help you.” Melba Acosta Febo, the head of the Government Development Bank, told Senator Hatch that the lack of financial data reflected Puerto Rico’s antiquated computer systems, which the government wanted to replace. She promised to gather as much information for the senators as possible. As the hearing was underway on Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, known as Finra, took action on behalf of a group of Puerto Rican investors who had lost money in the purchase of mutual funds containing risky Puerto Rican bonds. Together, the agencies levied fines and restitution of $34 million against UBS Puerto Rico and two of its officers for their handling of the funds and failure to disclose the risks.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/30/business/dealbook/puerto-rico-debt.html?ref=dealbook

How McConnell outfoxed Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz called out Mitch McConnell seven times by name on Monday night. Afterward, the Senate majority leader barely uttered a word about his chief Republican adversary. Asked about Cruz’s diatribe on the Senate floor, during which the Texas Republican suggested McConnell is a puppet for Democratic leaders and a foe of conservatives, McConnell couldn’t conceal his smile on Tuesday. “I have tried very hard to stay out of the presidential race, and I think that’s probably a good rule for me,” he said with a chuckle. McConnell may not like to talk about Cruz, but he and his leadership lieutenants have quietly and methodically worked to isolate the conservative senator and minimize his effect on the critical fall spending debate. The end result, in spite of Cruz’s invective toward Republican leaders, is music to McConnell’s ears: no government shutdown. “We had to be prepared,” said John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 Senate Republican. “He’s running for national office. He’s got a different endgame than we do. There are things we have to do here. We’ve got to fund the government every year.” By moving to quarantine Cruz from the rest of the conference over the past three months, the majority leader demonstrated that he’s learned the lessons of the Cruz-backed government shutdown in 2013 and the Texas senator’s rogue strategy last winter that helped Democrats confirm a raft of judges in the lame duck session. In doing so, McConnell cemented his position atop the Senate GOP, dashing any hopes among House Republicans, or conservative activists, that his future might be in doubt. The message is clear: McConnell isn’t going anywhere, and everyone in the Senate knows it. Even Cruz won’t say he should resign. Still, that doesn’t mean controlling Cruz has been or will be easy, as the Texan tries to parlay his battles with GOP leadership into momentum for his presidential run. Congress is sure to face another shutdown cliff this winter, and Cruz has indicated he will once again try to blockade McConnell’s plans. But in the latest shutdown scare, which will end on Wednesday, the leader and his team executed a coordinated strategy to box Cruz out, according to interviews with GOP leaders and aides.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/mitch-mcconnell-ted-cruz-214233#ixzz3nB0N4t2Z

John Boehner’s Not Done Yet

The most immediate consequence of John Boehner’s decision to resign as House speaker likely will be felt in federal offices throughout the country on Thursday morning: They will open as scheduled. Before announcing his departure, Boehner had been under heavy pressure from conservatives to shut down the government if Democrats did not agree to defund Planned Parenthood. They’d even threatened to throw him out if he didn’t go along, using the possibility of a coup as a “sword of Damocles” over the speaker’s head. With Boehner’s decision to exit on his own, the House and Senate are expected to pass a stopgap bill on Wednesday to extend federal funding through December 11, avoiding a shutdown that would have begun at midnight. This was, as Molly Ball wrote on Friday, John Boehner’s “last deal.” But it turns out he might not be done quite yet. The speaker won’t leave office for another month, and he has said he wants to “get as much finished as possible” before  he goes. “I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn,” Boehner said Sunday on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there.” So what does Boehner mean by cleaning up the barn? Congress must confront a number of hot-button issues over the next several months, including raising the dreaded debt limit, refilling the Highway Trust Fund, and deciding whether to revive the Export-Import Bank, which lawmakers allowed to shutter earlier this year. Addressing all three of those problems will require bipartisan support, and Boehner’s lame-duck status gives him more room to negotiate with Democrats. On Tuesday, the speaker wouldn’t rule out passing a debt-limit bill in the next month, which he’d have to do over the opposition of a vast majority of House Republicans. And he has been trying for years, without much success, to get a longterm transportation infrastructure package through the House. More:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/john-boehners-not-done-yet/408049/

 

U.S. private sector adds 200,000 jobs in September: ADP

 U.S. private employers added 200,000 jobs in September, beating economists’ expectations and suggesting there might be enough jobs growth for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates later this year, a report by a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday. Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP NationalEmployment Report would show a gain of 194,000 jobs.

Private payroll gains in August were revised down to 186,000from an originally reported 190,000 increase. The report is jointly developed with Moody’s Analytics. The ADP figures come ahead of the U.S. Labor Department’smore comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday, whichincludes both public and private-sector employment. Economists polled by Reuters projected U.S. employers hired 203,000 workers in September, improving from August’s 173,000 increase which was the smallest in five months. The unemployment rate was forecast to hold at 5.1 percent, a near 7-1/2 year low.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/30/us-usa-economy-idUSKCN0RU1ID20150930?feedType=nl&feedName=businessNews

Bipartisan Criminal Justice Overhaul Proposal Expected As Soon As Thursday

A bipartisan group of senators on the Judiciary Committee is preparing to unveil a criminal justice overhaul proposal as early as Thursday, two sources familiar with the deal told NPR. The plan follows months of behind-the-scenes work by the staffs of Sen. Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who is chairman of the committee, and several other lawmakers representing both political parties. Senior members of the Obama administration, including the second in command at the Justice Department, also have been nudging senators on the sentencing plan, viewing the proposal as one of the capstones of a legacy on criminal justice issues for this president. Barack Obama famously became the first sitting president to visit a prison in July. An unusual left-right coalition formed earlier this year to drive action in Congress and in statehouses across the country. The Coalition for Public Safety, which includes Koch Industries, the American Civil Liberties Union and others, is said to support the goals of the proposal as well, a third source said. The proposal will not go as far as some reform advocates may like, the sources say. For instance, the plan would create some tough new mandatory minimum sentences, after pressing from Grassley. It stitches together proposals that would allow inmates to earn credits to leave prison early if they complete educational and treatment programs and pose a relatively low risk to public safety along with language that would give judges some more discretion when sentencing nonviolent offenders. Earlier this month, religious leaders used the opportunity posed by the visit from Pope Francis to signal their desire for changes to the justice system. Despite the optimism among advocates and lawmakers, it’s unclear whether the full Senate has the time to act before the presidential election intensifies.

http://www.npr.org/2015/09/29/444559400/bipartisan-criminal-justice-overhaul-proposal-expected-as-soon-as-thursday?live=1

GOP full throttle on Obamacare repeal

Congressional Republicans have agreed on a plan to use a fast-track budget procedure to send an Obamacare repeal to the president’s desk, a largely symbolic move – given an expected veto – but one conservatives have been pushing for since the GOP took control of Congress. House Republican leaders are planning to put the bill – which is being crafted in three committees this week – up for a vote as early as next month, according to House aides. After it is approved, Senate leaders are expected to put the legislation on the floor in the upper chamber. Unlike other legislation that needs support from 60 senators to overcome a filibuster, this bill will be passed under budget reconciliation rules, meaning it only needs 51 votes to advance. With 54 Republicans in the Senate, it’s likely the measure will head to President Barack Obama’s desk for a certain veto.

http://www.politico.com/story/2015/09/republicans-obamcare-repeal-veto-214244?cmpid=sf#ixzz3nAtaMvcb

4 Dumbest Arguments for Defunding Planned Parenthood

At one point during Tuesday’s interminable congressional hearing over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Michigan exclaimed in exasperation, “I know my colleagues are more intelligent than this.” She was referring specifically to how her Republican colleagues were pretending not to understand that Planned Parenthood’s federal funding primarily comes from billing Medicaid for services rendered – but the quote could’ve referred to any one of the incredibly stupid arguments Republicans lobbed at Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards, who was testifying about her organization. Here are some of the dumber ones on display. One of the GOP Congress members’ favorite talking points Tuesday was that Planned Parenthood doesn’t have any mammogram machines. They considered this a killer “gotcha” line, for some reason, even though Planned Parenthood is a family planning clinic focused on sexual health care: STI tests, contraception and other services to make it easier for sexually active people, mostly premenopausal women, to have a healthy sex life. Breasts, while surely a favorite of many a Congressman, are not really part of Planned Parenthood’s core agenda, which is more focused on below-the-belt stuff. While Richards tried to get that point across repeatedly, pointing out that the group’s clinics refer women for mammograms, her Republican detractors refused to hear it. Many Republicans Tuesday invoked a variety of things they wished they could spend Planned Parenthood’s federal funding on. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah dropped giant crocodile tears during his opening statement, saying, “Cancer in this country kills about 1,500 people a day,” with the implication being that women are somehow helping kill those people by using up precious research dollars on their birth control pills. Other Congressmen recommended spending the money on “counseling” for the more or less non-existent trauma of abortion regret and, in one case, on the Boys and Girls Club. The thing is, most of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from Medicaid reimbursements, which means women go to Planned Parenthood clinics for care, and Medicaid gets the bill. No Republican was able to explain how the Boys and Girls Club was going to help Medicaid patients in need of Pap smears. As with the mammogram argument, they were implying that women shouldn’t be using the slutty health care Planned Parenthood provides in the first place. Multiple House members, including Mia Love of Utah and Paul Gosar of Arizona, zeroed in on the argument that Planned Parenthood must be making bucketloads of cash off abortion. That’s because, while abortion constitutes only 3 percent of the services that Planned Parenthood offers, it ends up providing about 15 percent of the group’s revenue (mostly because abortion is more expensive than Pap smears or birth control prescriptions). Here’s the thing, though. Their outrage over Planned Parenthood making money off abortion is at odds the anti-choice claim that’s fueling this round of attacks on Planned Parenthood: that the organization is secretly using federal money to pay for abortions. Republicans are trying to argue that abortions are being offered below cost because Planned Parenthood is illegally and secretly using money bookmarked for contraception to subsidize abortion. So Republicans are claiming both that abortions are an overpriced revenue-generating service that Planned Parenthood uses to fund the rest of its organization, and that Planned Parenthood is offering abortion too cheaply and using its other services to subsidize it. “When I look at cities around me that have a Planned Parenthood clinic,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin argued during the hearing, “usually in those cities, as a guy, I could go to many clinics locally that have all the machines that one would need. All these clinics as far as I know take Medicaid dollars, so you could go to any of those clinics to get any medical service you could.” In case you didn’t get the true meaning behind Grothman’s “as a guy” remark, he continued: “I guess what I’m getting at is if Planned Parenthood disappeared tomorrow in those towns, there would still be three or four or five clinics or hospitals providing all the… medical care you would want.” All the medical care you would want, unless you have a vagina, that is.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/4-dumbest-arguments-for-defunding-planned-parenthood-20150929

State/Local

Details of Bentley divorce settlement released

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) – Following the finalization of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s and Dianne Bentley’s divorce Tuesday, all the details of the divorce settlement are being unsealed and opened to the public for review. The Bentleys submitted a settlement agreement Monday. It was approved Tuesday. The governor requested the judge unseal the settlement, which was granted. Judge Elizabeth Hamner, a Bentley appointee who originally oversaw the divorce and sealed the record, recused herself in mid-September. While a judge declined a motion filed by multiple Alabama media outlets to unseal the Bentley divorce proceedings, the documents were, nonetheless, unsealed. It took some time, however, before the documents were made available. According to the documents, Governor Bentley agreed with his ex-wife on topics such as age, residence, and having children, but he “denies each and every other allegation contained in said Complaint.” See documents:

http://www.wsfa.com/story/30134871/details-of-bentley-divorce-settlement-released

STATE: Agencies to announce closures due to budget cuts Wednesday

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — State agencies will announce which state parks, drivers’ license offices and National Guard armories will shut down or reduce services because of budget cuts. The governor’s office said state agencies will announce plans Wednesday for dealing with funding reductions. Gov. Robert Bentley confirmed Tuesday Gulf State Park, Oak Mountain State Park and Lake Guntersville State Park would remain open. Bentley said state agencies have to work with the amount of money appropriated to them by lawmakers for the fiscal year that begins Thursday. Lawmakers earlier this month approved a general fund budget that contains about $82 million in cuts. Legislators approved a cigarette tax to minimize reductions, but rejected Bentley’s call for larger tax increases. The Alabama Legislature included language in the budget to prohibit the closure of drivers’ license offices and limit service reductions. However, the governor said he believes that language is unconstitutional.

http://www.cullmantimes.com/news/state-agencies-to-announce-closures-due-to-budget-cuts-wednesday/article_7c9020aa-66f3-11e5-83d5-4f36e025a0c6.html

Hillary Clinton to address Alabama Democratic Conference in Hoover

Hillary Clinton will speak at the Alabama Democratic Conference convention in Hoover on Oct. 17, the ADC announced today. The front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president will speak at a luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – The Wynfrey Hotel. “Hillary Clinton is right on the issues and Alabama is fortunate to have her visit us, we believe she will be the next president of the United States,” ADC Chairman Joe Reed said in a news release. [Related: Joe Biden can participate in CNN debate, but will he?] U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, who has endorsed Clinton, said, “Not only does Secretary Clinton understand the needs of working families, but she is a proven fighter for under-served and under-represented communities.” The ADC is a predominantly black political organization founded in 1960. The ADC endorsed Clinton over Barack Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.

http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/09/hillary_clinton_to_address_ala.html#incart_river_home

Judge who fired Jefferson County HR receiver won’t release $218,428 report

Jefferson County has paid a retired federal magistrate judge $218,428 for her investigation of working conditions inside the county’s human resources department and the actions of Ron Sims, the former court-appointed receiver over that department. But so far county officials say they have yet to see the taxpayer-funded report Vanzetta McPherson provided directly to U.S. District Court Judge Lynwood Smith. It was that report Smith cited as his reason for firing Sims in May. And so far the judge has continued to sit on the report. After the report did not appear in public court filings AL.com and The Birmingham News requested copies of the report from both Smith and county officials under state and federal open records laws. Smith, in a Sept. 2 response to a Freedom of Information Act request, referred to federal law that states U.S. courts are not subject to FOIA requests. In an email response Monday to requests for the report, Jefferson County Attorney Carol Sue Nelson replied that neither she nor any of the county commissioners have a copy. “While the County Manager and the other Commissioners may respond to you separately, I have personally checked with the County Manager and each Commissioner’s office and none of them have a copy of this report,” Nelson stated.  “Moreover, I do not have a copy of this report nor does anyone in my office have a copy of this report.” Smith had hired Sims in October 2013 as receiver to bring the county into compliance with a consent decree over its hiring practices. Jefferson County spent more than $430,000 in salary and expenses for Sims during his 18-month oversight of the HR department.

http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2015/09/judge_withholds_report_on_2184.html

UAB physicians named among the nation’s top cancer doctors

Numerous University of Alabama at Birmingham cancer physicians and specialists were named to the Newsweek Top Cancer Doctors 2015 list. Newsweek Top Cancer Doctors 2015 is a list of more than 2,600 leading cancer specialists across the country arranged by location and specialty. The list was compiled through peer nominations and extensive research that Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., the well-respected publisher of America’s Top Doctors®, has conducted for more than two decades. According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2015 an estimated 1,658,370 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States, and 589,430 people will die from the disease. “Our doctors work every day to provide the highest quality of life for people diagnosed with cancer, while advancing the world’s understanding of cancer, and translating this knowledge into prevention, detection, treatment and survivorship,” said Edward Partridge, director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. “It’s an honor to have our doctors listed so prominently on such a reputable list. We know that our physicians are some of the best in the world, but now the world knows it too.” The Castle Connolly physician-led research team makes tens of thousands of phone calls each year, talking with leading specialists, chairs of clinical departments and vice presidents of medical affairs, seeking to gather further information regarding the top specialists for most diseases and procedures. Each year, Castle Connolly receives nearly 100,000 nominations. After a careful review of credentials, the following 21 UAB physicians were selected to be a part of Newsweek’s Top Cancer Doctors 2015 list:

http://yellowhammernews.com/business-2/uab-physicians-named-among-the-nations-top-cancer-doctors/

 

Blogs/Opinions

For the loss of state services, blame greed

We’re probably going to lose some state services. Gov. Robert Bentley said Monday that he’s exploring options to meet the revenue available in the truly awful 2015 general fund budget passed by the legislature. Those options include closing a bunch of state drivers license offices, armories and state parks. People are outraged. Within minutes of the news, there was a critical post up on Facebook from state auditor Jim “Zig” Zeigler, who has taken the auditor’s office – which has up until now been the political equivalent of a high school class treasurer – and managed to turn it into a mini-megaphone that he uses to shout dumb things. Zeigler took a break from entertaining racists and trying to get portraits repositioned at the capitol to say he felt Bentley was wrong for attempting to close parks and drivers license offices. Actually, to be accurate, Zeigler called it “political vengeance,” because he says things like that, and then posted the guidelines for impeaching the governor (The state auditor did this. Do you know who the last state auditor was? That made two of us until I Googled and found out it was Samantha Shaw. She held the position for eight years, and yet, I couldn’t pick her out of a lineup with The Beatles. You know why? She was state auditor.) Of course Bentley is proposing cuts to these services. This is the price you pay for electing greedy, self-interested politicians. You get a government filled with people who only care about themselves, who only look out for those who donate to them, who only find value in the things they enjoy. If you doubt for a second that this is true, I would like to direct your attention to the most recent email dump in the state’s case against current Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. Like the first group of emails, the Speaker, who has been indicted on 23 felony counts, discusses his various financial woes with former Gov. Bob Riley, Riley’s daughter and businessman Will Brooke. Throughout the emails, Hubbard, a man hauling in well into the six figures annually and with millions in assets, searches desperately for more work – apparently illegal work. He whines about his job as speaker – a job that pays him $70,000 annually for working maybe half the year – taking up too much of his time. He and former Gov. Riley go back and forth about business ventures, ways to cash in on various businesses desiring to do business with the state and on relationships built through campaign promises. At one point, Hubbard tells Brooke that it’s ironic that he worked so hard to give Alabama a “pro-business legislature” and yet he can’t seem to squeeze any money out of that hard work. In another, Hubbard explains to Riley, in some detail, how Riley can legally subvert the lobbying laws of the state in order for them to make more money. But through it all, as the stomach-turning greed drips off of every page, it’s not so much what’s there that struck me, but what’s not there. True governance for the betterment of the state and its people. No compassion for the average workers of the state. No concern for the overwhelming poverty. Hubbard never asks for advice from Riley, his god-like mentor, on ways to keep hospitals open, care for the 300,000 residents without health care, solve the budget crisis or fix the failing schools. It’s two guys worried about two things: How they can help themselves. That sort of greed is the basis of Alabama government. If it wasn’t, how would Mike Hubbard be re-elected Speaker? The lone dissenting vote against his re-election among the House members — after his indictment — came from Montgomery Rep. Alvin Holmes. Everyone else, including every single Republican member, voted for the guy. Why? Because Hubbard controls the money. So, how could it be a surprise that the state’s budget is a mess when so many of the people elected to lead it are so corrupted by money? It’s why we have a backwards tax system, absurdly harmful corporate tax loopholes and undervalue every regulation. We can’t get a better state for all because it’s being run by people looking for a better windfall for themselves. Greed has ruled Alabama’s state government for a long time. These are the results.

http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/opinion/columnists/josh-moon/2015/09/29/loss-state-services-blame-greed/73039268/

Blue Cross clout pays off — for millionaire Blue Cross execs

It’s good to be the king. The big blue king that rolls around on his pile of money and uses it to grab even more. Think about it. Just two years ago, the federal Department of Health and Human Services looked at the way Alabama reviewed health insurance rates, and said …Ugh. It doesn’t work. It is ineffective. And since Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama has a virtual monopoly on health insurance in the state, it meant Alabama regulatory reviews of Old Big Blue were just as …Ugh. Ineffective. And now look how far we’ve come. The top 10 executives at Blue Cross Blue Shield have been very good to themselves in recent years, doubling their own pay between 2011 and 2013. In 2013 – the last year available — they each made more than a million bucks, a combined $19.2 million. So last year when AL.com wrote about that pay and the raises – as we are wont to do of big fat corporate pay in the middle of “ineffective” rate reviews – the Blue King said tut, tut, tut. And it used the power it bought by flooding Alabama politics with cash, to get what it wanted: Secrecy. It has poured almost $700,000 — $698,750 to be exact – into Alabama’s campaign finance system since spring of 2013, and the juice pays off. For after Blue Cross execs dealt with the embarrassment of being outed as millionaires, they did what every Big Mule in Alabama has ever done. They got their bought-and-paid-for Legislature to save them from their own future mortification. Sen. Slade Blackwell, a Republican from Jefferson County, sponsored a bill during the regular legislative session this spring that – while being touted as a way to make work papers confidential for accreditation reasons, added the big blue nugget to render executive pay for insurers confidential. Holy royal treatment, Batman. It is of special significance to Blue Cross, as AL.com reporter Amy Yurkanin put it so well when she learned of the bill, because other insurers must report top salaries to the Securities and Exchange Commission or the IRS. Not Blue Cross. Execs there can pay themselves what they want, with customers none the wiser. The bill sailed through the greased Legislature with almost unanimous support from lawmakers who – let’s face it — would sooner gnaw off a thumb than thumb their noses at Blue Cross. The money is just too good. Blue Cross has not contributed directly to Blackwell. But over the last two-plus years it did give $336,000 to PACs that gave Blackwell $53,250. And it might be more. Blackwell has not been required to report contributions this year. UnitedHealth gave him another $1,500. Blackwell said “political campaign contributions have no impact on the legislation that I sponsor or the votes I cast. This legislation was approved without a single opposing vote, which reflects its strong bi-partisan support.” He said the bill protects the interest of consumers and provides adequate authority for regulators to do their jobs. It does more than that. It lets big business use big money to write their own rules.

http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2015/09/blue_cross_clout_pays_off_–_f.html

It’s time, Mike Hubbard, to quit.

Back in 2008, I covered the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul for the newspaper I worked for then. Mike Hubbard was chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, not yet Speaker of the Alabama House. As part of the swag delegates receive at such events was a medal with a nice ribbon. The medal, commemorating Alabama’s participation in the convention, was encased in a nice, clear plastic box. Hubbard, at the morning meeting shortly after the medals were handed out, cautioned delegates NOT to wear them. Put them on your walls, he said. Don’t wear them. Please, don’t wear them. You’ll look like a rube or a doofus, Hubbard warned. Well, Hubbard said something like that. A few minutes after giving that warning, then-state Attorney General Troy King came in. Wearing his medal. With a golf shirt which advertised he was Attorney General Troy King. I could not make this up. Hubbard rolled his eyes in my direction. A rube; a doofus, those eyes said. Now we’re rolling our eyes at Hubbard. He’s not a rube or a doofus, but he’s contorting himself in so many impossible positions to keep his job and to stay out of prison that we can’t help thinking: Who is this man who showed so much promise, and broke that promise into so many pieces, that he can’t survive as a serious leader. Mike Hubbard must resign. If Hubbard believes in his party, in his state, in his own personal honor, he must resign. Republican Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries John McMillan said last week that Hubbard should quit. McMillan, a respected member of his party, told Alabama Political Reporter that “I think it’s time for him to step down.” Hubbard should resign, said McMillan, “For all the obvious reasons … with all the problems facing our state, serious issues before the Legislature, his legal problem has become a distraction.” Hubbard’s legal problem is actually 23 legal problems: 23 felony counts of public corruption. Hubbard’s lawyers are doing what defense lawyers are supposed to do: They are trying to get their client off. But the way they’re doing it isn’t helping Hubbard maintain any kind of credibility as a leader. As somebody who is above corruption and the fray. They’re not helping him show he’s innocent. They’re just using every move in the playbook to keep their client out of prison. That’s fine. And Hubbard should encourage that because he doesn’t want to be sharing a cell in some prison somewhere with former Gov. Don Siegelman or other Alabama politicians convicted of corruption that some might say is much less serious than Hubbard’s. There are plenty of reasons Hubbard should quit, even if he’s acquitted of the charges against him:  What is his family going through? Why would Hubbard want to drag his wife and two sons through a trial, even if he’s acquitted? If Hubbard didn’t break the law, he broke the spirit of the law. That, in itself, is disgraceful for a lawmaker who has always espoused honesty and ethics. And speaking of ethics, Hubbard’s legal team is trying to convince the court to dismiss the charges against Hubbard because the ethics law Hubbard championed strongly and loudly is now unconstitutional. If Alabama’s ethics law is unconstitutional, what does that say about Hubbard’s ability to lead on legislation? It was Hubbard, after all, who said the ethics law he’s been charged under would make Alabama a cleaner state, one where people aren’t charged unless they’ve stepped off the reservation. And speaking of the reservation, Hubbard’s legal team is going after the state attorney general’s office, charging political prosecution. How many times have we heard this before? Yet, the “political prosecutors” are Republicans, like Hubbard. Hubbard is being charged by those within his own party, not Democrats or independents. But we’ve seen Hubbard’s capable defense team doing anything they can to muddy the waters. For the Legislature, Hubbard must resign. For the Republican Party, Hubbard must resign. And for Alabama – for our battered image, for our long list of corrupt politicians, for all that is right – Hubbard must resign. Why in the world does Mike Hubbard want to continue wearing that tarnished medal around is neck?

http://alreporter.com/archives/2015/146-state/8312-it-s-time-mike-hubbard-to-quit.html

Morning Money

BUSH VS RUBIO IN WALL STREET SMACK DOWN — POLITICO’s Ben White “Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are headed for a smackdown on Wall Street. The former Florida governor and current Florida senator have dueling fundraisers set for the week of Oct. 12th with top financial industry executives in New York as Bush looks to maintain his dominance in the industry despite low poll numbers and Rubio hopes to capitalize on recent momentum to make his case to the deep-pocketed Republican establishment. The invite to Bush’s breakfast event on October 16th — one of several he will hold that day — features a daunting array of 68 top Wall Street names including Jets owner Woody Johnson, attorney Larry Bathgate, Barclays executive Patrick Durkin and Highbridge Capital’s Scott Kapnick.

“The minimum donation to attend the event is $2,700. Those who commit to contribute and raise $27,000 get a photo opportunity with Bush in addition to the breakfast, which will take place at the Hilton Hotel on 6th Avenue. Bush supporters say the list reflects the former governor’s dominant position among the financial elite. ‘This is the varsity squad,’ one donor quipped. ‘I’m not sure Rubio’s would even qualify as the junior varsity.’ … But the battle for New York won’t wait until October.

MEETING AT WOODY’S — “Bush is also in New York this week with meetings set for Thursday with potential financial industry leaders not currently aligned with any campaign. One meeting will take place Thursday morning in Woody Johnson’s office and is intended to bring on board top financiers not already aligned with Bush’s campaign. This group includes Paul Singer of hedge fund Elliott Management, perhaps the most sought after uncommitted Wall Street executive. Singer has been invited to the breakfast but people familiar with the matter said the hedge fund manager had not committed to attending.

“Other invitees to the Bush event include prominent activist investor Dan Loeb of Third Point Partners and long-time GOP fundraiser Georgette Mosbacher, people familiar with the matter said. One source familiar with the matter said Loeb had already committed to backing Bush. A spokesperson for Loeb did not immediately return a call for comment. Bush’s campaign on Tuesday also rolled out an endorsement from hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci of SkyBridge Capital, who previously backed the campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

THE MOOCH GOES WITH BUSH — “In an interview, Scaramucci, a regular presence on financial television shows and at his prominent SALT Conference in Las Vegas, cited his close ties to former President George W. Bush and others in the family’s orbit for his decision to back the former Florida governor. ‘I have nothing against Marco Rubio. I just think Governor Bush has the experience and a great record as an executive,’ Scaramucci said.

“‘It’s not Rubio’s time. This is like surfing and it’s Jeb’s wave to surf. It’s been a little shaky because of Donald Trump and the rest of the outsiders, but I do not believe the GOP is going to select a nominee for the most important political job in the world who doesn’t have political experience.” … People close to Rubio say rolling out the Scaramucci endorsement is an indication that the Bush campaign is worried about Rubio’s momentum and appeal to wealthy, establishment donors who want to back a winner who is gaining ground in the polls. They also note that the Bush team is worried about other former Walker supporters and staffers moving to Rubio’s campaign”http://politi.co/1PMQbh5

BROOKINGS ECONOMIST OUT POST-WARREN CRITICISM — POLITICO’s Daniel Strauss: “Robert Litan, a top economist at the Brookings Institution, resigned Tuesday after Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused him of publishing ‘highly compensated and editorially compromised work on behalf of an industry player seeking a specific conclusion.’ ‘It is with regret that I have accepted [Robert] Litan’s resignation today as a nonresident senior fellow,’ Brookings President Strobe Talbott said in a statement … ‘He has acknowledged that he made a mistake in not following Brookings regulations designed to uphold the independence of the institution.’

“Litan’s resignation came after Warren sent a letter to the think tank accusing Litan of failing to properly disclose financial-industry funding behind a study examining how the Labor Department planned to regulate financial advisers … Litan’s study cast a critical light on the plan, arguing it was dangerous to consumers, and he used the findings as the basis for his testimony before a Senate committee in July. The study was commissioned by Economists, Inc, a consultancy that does work on behalf of trade groups, legal counsel, and government agencies. But the study listed Litan’s Brookings affiliation, violating the think tank’s rules on how its name can be used”http://politi.co/1PMQbh5

GOP/WHITE HOUSE EYE BUDGET TALKS — POLITICO’s Seung Min Kim: “As President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders prepare to launch negotiations on a two-year budget deal, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is maneuvering to cut key Democrats out of the talks … The ambitious budget goal, outlined by McConnell on Tuesday, could help ease the threat of repeated government shutdowns until after the 2016 elections. But drama is already unfolding behind the scenes with McConnell’s private suggestion that the discussions be limited to just him, President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to Democratic sources — a proposal that the president and outgoing speaker have rejected, the sources said.

“On Tuesday, McConnell detailed the talks, which are focused on top-line budget numbers for fiscal 2016 and 2017. The discussions, which included McConnell, Obama and Boehner, began with an initial phone conversation among the three men nearly two weeks ago … The discussions are preliminary, and are likely to stretch beyond the end of October, when Boehner’s resignation from Congress takes effect. But if the talks can produce top-line numbers for domestic and defense spending, that could help the GOP-led Congress avoid future showdowns over government spending like the standoff that will loom in mid-December” http://politi.co/1VmnRJu

CLINTON BIG BANK PUSH BACK — Graham Fisher’s Joshua Rosner emails on Hillary Clinton’s comments about big banks and the financial crisis: “Hillary has demonstrated her lack of understanding of even the basics roles and functions of those global banks that have investment banks. All but the biggest … third party mortgage originators had warehouse lines of credit with the big banks. The banks … funded these operations, they then pooled, packaged and securitized the loans into MBS, sold the MBS to investors, traded these MBS and often serviced the loans. They made money each step of the way and put their own interests ahead of the interests of the investors or the public.”

GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING — Welcome to non-shutdown day. Email me at bwhite@politico.com and follow me on Twitter @morningmoneyben.

DRIVING THE DAY — Congress expected to clear a CR funding the government until Dec. 11th… House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee has a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on the DOL’s fiduciary rule … Joint Economic Committee holds a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on how to address skyrocketing student debt featuring former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels … House Financial Services has a markup at 10:00 a.m. on the “Burdensome Data Collection Relief Act” and other bills … ADP Employment at 8:15 a.m. expected to rise 190K …

VW COULD AVOID U.S. CHARGES — WSJ’s Amy Harder and Aruna Viswanatha: “A Justice Department investigation into whether Volkswagen AG should face criminal charges for cheating on emissions tests highlights what some lawmakers say is a long-standing gap in U.S. environmental law. Despite the scale of Volkswagen’s behavior — it has admitted using test-evading software in as many as 11 million cars world-wide — the German auto maker may not face an environmental crime charge here, legal experts say. If the Justice Department does pursue a criminal case, it would be the first-ever against an auto maker for skirting emissions standards.

“Car companies, with the aid of industry-friendly lawmakers, won a carve-out from criminal penalties in the 1970 Clean Air Act — a loophole that has largely escaped notice in recent years. Prosecutors now are considering alternative legal approaches, such as charging Volkswagen with lying to regulators. Prosecutors in Germany are investigating former and current Volkswagen executives for fraud in connection with the emissions scandal. Unlike in the U.S., Germany’s criminal code doesn’t provide much corporate liability.” http://on.wsj.com/1O6DG2x

B.I. SOLD FOR $343 MILLION — NYT’s Ravi Somaiya and Nicola Clark: “Henry Blodget was seen as a pariah after the dot-com boom. The digital media boom has been much kinder. On Tuesday, it was announced that Business Insider, the online publication he founded in 2007, had sold a controlling stake to the German media conglomerate Axel Springer for $343 million. Mr. Blodget declined, in an interview, to say how much money he personally made from the deal. But it was most likely more of a windfall than he could have reasonably expected 12 years ago.

“In 2003, after leaving his job as a senior Internet analyst at Merrill Lynch, he agreed to pay $4 million to settle accusations that he had promoted some companies’ stock in public while disparaging them in private. As part of the agreement, he was barred from the securities industry for life. ‘I don’t see today as a redemption,’ Mr. Blodget, 49, said by phone Tuesday, adding that he had worked daily, with others willing to give him a chance, to rebuild trust. ‘But I did have a tremendous fall. I was very ashamed of the way I left Wall Street, and I certainly did not want to leave public life that way.’ He will stay on as Business Insider’s chief executive and editor in chief. The sale of Business Insider … represents the highest price for a digital media company since The Huffington Post was sold to AOL for $315 million in 2011” http://nyti.ms/1O0GdcV

STOCKS HEADED FOR WORST QUARTER SINCE 2011 — FT’s Nicole Bullock and Robin Wigglesworth: “US and global equities are heading for their worst quarterly performance since 2011, with investors rattled by China’s economic slowdown, uncertainty over Federal Reserve policy and growing pessimism about corporate earnings. Adding to investors’ unease, the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday warned that corporate failures were likely to jump in the developing world, after a borrowing binge in the past decade …

“With an array of sectors slumping since the start of July, beyond those directly influenced by the rout in commodity prices, the global equity bull run of recent years is now facing a major challenge. The S&P 500 has fallen 8.5 per cent, the biggest decline since the third quarter of 2011. Previously high-flying sectors that led the market earlier this year, notably biotech and healthcare stocks, have fallen appreciably in recent weeks” http://on.ft.com/1P4B4Bq

BANK OF AMERICA SLIMS DOWN — WSJ’s Christina Rexrode and Peter Rudegeair: “Thomas Montag rose to second in command at Bank of AmericaCorp. in large part by making his investment-banking units consistently among the firm’s most profitable. Now, as Mr. Montag’s group struggles through its toughest patch in years, it gets a new mandate: Do more with less. Bank of America on Tuesday announced plans to lay off about 200 employees — all in Mr. Montag’s trading and investment-banking units — as Chief Executive Brian Moynihan makes good on his pledge from earlier this month that he would further reduce costs if results didn’t improve.

“The moves highlight the pressure on Mr. Montag, a former Stanford University baseball player and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. trader who faces the difficult task of maintaining morale and competitiveness at the investment bank while enforcing the conservative and increasingly cost-conscious mandates of his boss. Bank of America’s investment-banking and trading units in recent years routinely generated as much as 40% of revenue with less than 10% of the bank’s staff.” http://on.wsj.com/1KQaSo2

NOW AVAILABLE: POLITICO PRO EUROPE BRIEF – POLITICO Pro, POLITICO’s premium subscription service, has launched a new product dedicated to making sense of European policy and politics through an American lens. Drawing on POLITICO resources in both Brussels and in D.C., POLITICO Pro Europe Brief will track and analyze European policy from taxes to trade to mergers and acquisitions, energy and financial services as well as pull back the curtain on who’s influencing who when it comes to politics and regulatory issues. Contact us to learn more about POLITICO Pro Europe Brief.

DEBRIEF INTERVIEW: DOING BUSINESS WITH IRAN. If Iran meets its nuclear goals, sanctions will start lifting and the Middle East’s largest economy will rejoin the world. Global corporations are already champing at the bit to get involved. But how does the U.S. navigate relations with a nation that still sponsors terrorism? Darren Samuelsohn sits down with Chris Backemeyer, head of the sanctions policy office at the State Department, to walk through what comes next. His crucial message for American business: Don’t hold your breath. Find out more on this week’s Debrief video from The Agenda: http://politi.co/1MTCBHj

POTUS Events

11:00 am || Receives the Presidential Daily Briefing
4:10 pm || Delivers remarks to Democratic State Legislators; Eisenhower Executive Office Building

All times Eastern
Live stream of White House briefing at 12:30 pm

Floor Action

Lawmakers are expected to pass a short-term spending bill Wednesday hours before a potential shutdown.

 

The Senate is expected to take a final vote at 10 a.m. on the spending bill that will fund the government through Dec. 11.

 

Federal funding for Planned Parenthood is also included despite Republican-led efforts to strip it from the bill.

 

While the House is expected to vote on the legislation later Wednesday, votes haven’t been scheduled.

 

Meanwhile, the House will also take up a Senate-passed bill on the Department of Veterans Affairs, allowing for a VA hospital in Colorado to be finished.

 

Announcements

How Your Income Affects Your Premium Tax Credit

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The amount of the premium tax credit is based on a sliding scale, with greater credit amounts available to those with lower incomes.  Based on the estimate from the Marketplace, you can choose to have all, some, or none of your estimated credit paid in advance directly to your insurance company on your behalf to lower what you pay out-of-pocket for your monthly premiums.  These payments are called advance payments of the premium tax credit.  If you do not get advance credit payments, you will be responsible for paying the full monthly premium.

If the advance credit payments are more than the allowed premium tax credit, you will have to repay some or all the excess.  If your projected household income is close to the 400 percent upper limit, be sure to consider the amount of advance credit payments you choose to have paid on your behalf.  You want to consider this carefully because if your household income on your tax return is 400 percent or more of the federal poverty line for your family size, you will have to repay all of the advance credit payments made on behalf of you and your family members.

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 Federal Poverty Line for 2014 Returns
  100% of FPL . 400% of FPL
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Family of two $15,510 up to $62,040
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The Department of Health and Human Services provides three federal poverty guidelines: one for residents of the 48 contiguous states and Washington D.C., one for Alaska residents and one for Hawaii residents. For purposes of the premium tax credit, eligibility for a certain year is based on the most recently published set of poverty guidelines at the time of the first day of the annual open enrollment period for coverage for that year. As a result, the premium tax credit for 2014 is based on the guidelines published in 2013. The premium tax credit for coverage in 2015 is based on the 2014 guidelines. You can find all of this information on the HHS website.

 

Use our Interactive Tax Assistant tool to find out if you are eligible for the premium tax credit. For more information, see the instructions to Form 8962 and the Questions and Answers on the Premium Tax Credit on IRS.gov/aca.