Entries in House (11)


Senate, House Races Boosted by Outside Money Lose More Than Win

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If the super-rich tried to buy Senate and House seats in this election, they didn't have much luck, at least when it came to some of the most expensive U.S. congressional races.

Wealthy millionaires such as casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, Donald Trump and Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg took advantage of the ability to contribute tens of thousands, even millions of dollars to congressional super PACs in 2012, with mixed results.

Of the 10 most expensive Senate races in the country, only three were won by the candidate who had the most well-heeled outside groups backing them, according to data from the Campaign Finance Institute analyzed by ABC News.

Preliminary results in the House seem to indicate no real advantage for the candidate with the outside money advantage.

Of the 46 races in 2012 where more than $2 million was spent, the candidate with the outside spending advantage lost 21 times and won 16 times, with nine races still outstanding by mid-afternoon Wednesday, according to the CFI data.

Take the Florida Senate race, which pitted incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson against Republican Rep. Connie Mack.

Super PACs supporting Mack spent $15 million backing his Senate bid, more than three times the spending by outside groups that supported winner Nelson. Taking all spending on the race into consideration -- candidate fundraising, party spending and outside groups -- Nelson was outspent by more than $4 million.

Mack lost the race despite the backing of several deep-pocketed Republican donors, including Adelson, who donated $2 million, and former managing general partner of the San Francisco Giants Peter Magowan, who donated $1,000 to a super PAC supporting Mack.

In both chambers, but especially the House, Democrats did more in 2012 to compete but not match the number of Republican races in which their candidate outspent their opponent.

The result might have been an effective "draw" in terms of how money affected some races, Michael Malbin of the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute said.

"The last time the independent spending totals significantly favored the Republicans, this time there was more of a party balance," Malbin said.

Although the sheer amount of money that poured into each House race didn't come close to the amounts spent in the Senate, House candidates in some cases were effectively dwarfed by their opponents' outside money advantage.

Outside groups spent more than $5 million working to elect Illinois GOP Rep. Joe Walsh, compared with the $500,000 spent by opponent Tammy Duckworth's outside allies. Coupled with Walsh's campaign's fundraising, the added cash gave him a nearly $3 million advantage over Democrat Duckworth, who won comfortably.

In Colorado's sixth district, Republican Mike Coffman was outspent 7-to-1 by outside groups supporting Democrat Joe Miklosi, who lost the race despite $1.9 million spent on the effort by outside groups.

The amount of money spent did match the outcome of the race in at least three big races in the Senate, however.

Endangered Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill outspent her opponent, embattled Rep. Todd Akin, by close to $1 million and eventually pulled out a win, although arguably more because of Akin's abortion comments than her own campaigning.

In this election, the Campaign Finance Institute's Malbin said, the money still mattered, but only to a point.

"Once you have substantial amounts of money on both sides and both candidates are well known in their districts," he said, "then the incremental effect of more money goes down."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Versailles in Florida: Will It Be the Largest Home in America?

ABC News(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- A home under construction in Florida could hold the distinction of being the largest house in the United States if it is completed.

The American Versailles, at 90,000 square feet, is bigger than a 747 airplane hangar and includes amenities like a bowling alley.  Other features include nine kitchens, 30 bathrooms and two movie theaters.  The home's mahogany doors and windows alone cost $4 million.

The owners, vacation time-share mogul David Siegel, 77, and former beauty queen Jackie Siegel, 46, said they had originally planned for the home to be smaller.

"We didn't start out having a 90,000 square foot house.  It was more like a normal 60,000 square foot house," David Siegel said with a chuckle.

"...But then I said, 'I want a bowling alley,'" Jackie Siegel continued.  "And then he said, 'Well, I want a health spa.'  You know, so we just kept going back and forth and adding on things."

Construction on the home, which was modeled after the Palace of Versailles in France, began in 2003, but was stopped for four years when the recession hit.  But now that business is good again, the Siegels intend to continue building.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


House Passes Small Business Tax Cut

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass a $46 billion small business tax cut that Republicans hope will lead to economic growth by enabling entrepreneurs to deduct 20 percent of their income. Democrats condemn the cut as another giveaway for the richest American taxpayers.

By a mostly ideological vote of 235-173, the House approved the cut, which was a top priority for Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp. Just 18 Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the GOP majority, although 10 Republicans voted against it.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the cut takes “the opposite approach of the stimulus” by empowering employers to make decisions on how more of their hard-earned money is spent. The bill faces a tough road ahead, with overwhelming opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Still, Boehner called on President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get behind the legislation, instead of “pushing for higher taxes to fuel more government spending.”

“This week, Democratic leaders in the Senate demonstrated their desire to continue the spending binge that’s hurting our economy by punting on a budget for the third straight year,” Boehner stated. “With millions of Americans still asking, ‘Where are the jobs?,' I hope the president and Senate Democrats will relent and work with Republicans to find common ground so we can help the private sector put people back to work.”

Most House Democrats voted against the measure, decrying the measure for providing further breaks to the wealthy and adding to the deficit.

“You have to give [Republicans] credit. They are consistent, and they stick with the guy that [brought] them to the dance, and that’s the wealthiest people in America,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference following the vote. “Fifty-six percent of this tax giveaway goes to the top three percent earners in our country. It gives an average of $58,800 -- $58,800 to the 125,000 millionaires, and they don’t have to create one job. They can create them overseas.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate Passes JOBS Act With One Change

(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate passed the JOBS act by a vote of 73-26 on Thursday.

The Senate made one change to the House-passed bill, adding to it the crowdfunding amendment passed with bipartisan support. The amendment addresses the difficulties small businesses, young businesses and start-ups face in securing capital, compared with larger companies, by allowing them to raise capital from individual investors online and through social media. The amendment allows entrepreneurs to raise up to $1 million a year through an SEC-registered crowdfunding portal, providing investor protections.

“Crowdfunding will allow small businesses to bypass Wall Street and go straight to Main Street for financing, freeing every American to invest in a local business or the next great idea,” Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., said following the vote.

Since this amendment was added to the House-passed bill the amendment does not go straight to the president’s desk just yet. The bill must go back to the House of Representatives for final passage.

Following the vote, Majority Leader Reid called this a “small step” towards creating jobs and then quickly pivoted to call on the House of Representatives to take up another jobs measure that is stalled between the two chambers: the Senate’s bipartisan transportation bill.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bidding for Arizona Home Starts at a Penny

Courtesy Todd Talbot(GLENDALE, Ariz.) -- A 4-bedroom, 2-bath Arizona home with wood-burning fireplace, appraised at $125,000, is being auctioned for bids of a penny each, in what the promoter believes is the first auction of its kind on the Internet.

Penny auctions for electronic and other kinds of consumer goods are already common, but this appears to be the first such auction for real estate.

Bidding opened last week.  An open-house on Sunday sent offers skyrocketing from Friday's high of 5 cents to Monday's 15 cents.

Todd Talbot, creator and owner of the website, describes the 1,749-square foot property as a completely remodeled, "turn-key" home, just waiting for the winning bidder to move in.  He bought it at foreclosure in January for $81,000, then put in $20,000 of improvements.  The home has new carpet in the bedrooms and living room, new paint, new fixtures and, in the kitchen, new cabinets, granite counter tops and appliances.  It sits on a corner lot at 6214 West Acoma Drive in Glendale, Ariz.

Asked if he isn't a little disappointed that the high bid is 15 cents, Talbot says, "Well, it's early in the process."

Bidding closes Tuesday at 5 p.m., Arizona time.  Most of the action, he says, will come late.

"We have people signing up to bid from all over the country," Talbot says.

At 5 p.m. on Tuesday, he explains, "Open bidding will end, and 20-second extended bidding will begin.  At that point a 20-second timer clock will start a countdown.  If someone bids during that time, the clock automatically re-sets for another 20 seconds.  This will happen until no one bids during the 20-second period."

The auction is then over, and the last registered bidder will be the winner.

There's a reserve price of $2,750 on the home (meaning that's the minimum for which it can sell).  Talbot expects the winning bid could as little as $5,000.

Because of the reserve, he says, "I was a little afraid nobody would bid."  So, he initiated some incentives.  The person who places the highest number of bids during the reserve period automatically gets $15,000; the person with the second highest number gets $5,000.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Homeowners Rent Out Driveways for Money

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Anthony Eskinazi, CEO and founder of wants to bring convenience to drivers and dollars to driveway owners across America.

More than 150,000 people in the U.K. have earned more than $5 million from the site, Eskinazi said. Its marketplace is supposed to allow anyone with an address or geographic point with a latitude and longitude to list their parking space, whether in Antarctica, Australia or Africa.

Eskinazi, 28, launched the website in 2006, focusing on his local area in the U.K. But Eskinazi conceived of the idea while he was a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. Eskinazi remembered one particular time when he had trouble finding parking to watch a San Francisco Giants baseball game.

“You don’t want to go to an official parking lot because it’s expensive and you have to leave a game early to avoid traffic,” he said.

But he saw a business opportunity in the nearby parking spaces reserved for residents and businesses.

The website collects 15 percent of the parking fee driveway owners take in.

Before ParkatmyHouse launches a full-scale marketing campaign in the U.S., the company is focusing on building a database of customers’ driveway locations.

“When we have enough inventory, we’re going to open up the site properly,” he said.

Eskinazi said the company plans to release a mobile app in the first quarter. The company received a round of financing from BMW i, a venture fund based in New York City under the umbrella of the luxury car company.

Eskinazi hopes to hire more sales and marketing employees, most likely in New York, to add to the current team of five.

The company is beefing up its workforce to expand globally. It’s not just homeowners who can list their available driveways. Garage and business owners can also list their available spaces. Eskinazi said a number of religious institutions, which usually have spaces available on weekdays and evenings, list their parking spots in the U.K.

One church near the busy Kings Cross Station in London has earned $180,000 from the website in the last three years, more than half of the church’s annual income, Eskinazi said. That extra income has helped boost the church’s services at its daycare and rehabilitation center.

“This has not just helped them but has helped drivers,” Eskinazi said. “We see ParkatmyHouse as a win-win situation.”

He said drivers and property owners have been using websites like Craigslist as a parking marketplace for years. But while Craiglist is a “great service,” ParkatmyHouse offers more, such as marketing your spot on the website, a payment process, a secure booking and payment system, and extra insurance.

Users do not have to exchange personal information or even communicate. All transactions for a pre-booked space can be accomplished through the website.

Eskinazi also hopes to decrease the emissions and time wasted when drivers circle around a block on the hunt for a parking space.

“It doesn’t matter if you are driving electric vehicle or gas guzzler,” he said. “Every journey begins with a parking spot. “

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Payroll Tax Showdown: What It Means to You

Steve Cole/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Since a bipartisan bill to extend the payroll tax cut that passed the Senate on Saturday is expected to fail in the House Tuesday, lawmakers in Washington are gearing up for what could be a Christmas fight over how to avoid giving the average American a lousy gift for the New Year: a $1,000 tax hike.

While both parties have already agreed that the one-year cut should be extended, the political fight revolves around how to pay for the $112 billion tax cut, which went unfunded last year and which both parties have vowed will not add to the deficit this time around.

If the temporary holiday is allowed to expire, as it is set to do on Jan. 1, every worker would see their payroll taxes, which fund Social Security, increase by 2 percentage points to 6.2 percent, meaning Uncle Sam would take an extra $1,000 from a worker who earns $50,000 in 2012.

“If it doesn’t happen, every paycheck in the country will go down on Jan. 1,” said Chuck Marr, the director of federal tax policy at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “It’s real money.  Every person you see every day has a thousand dollars less money.  That’s a lot of bucks.”

Because payroll taxes are only collected on the first $106,800 of income, cutting the rate has the greatest impact on low and middle income earners -- groups that tend to spend the largest proportion of their income.

“With the payroll tax cut, what is really at stake here is deciding whether or not to infuse $120 billion of disposable income into the economy in 2012,” said Andrew Fieldhouse, a federal budget policy analyst at the Economic Policy Institute.  “It’s not the best way to create jobs, but it is the biggest jobs measure being considered by Congress.”

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that raising taxes on middle and low income earners is a bad idea in the midst of an anemic economic recovery.  But the jury is still out on how big of an effect extending the current tax break will have on stimulating growth.

Republicans argue that the payroll tax cut shouldn't be funded with a tax increase that would be leveled at job creators, especially when the cut's stimulative effect is debatable. Democrats claim it is necessary to keep the economy growing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boehner Urges Democrats to Support GOP’s Economic Package

Chris Maddaloni/CQ-Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- As Congress wrestles over a slate of outstanding issues to settle before the end of the year, House Speaker John Boehner Monday urged Democrats to join Republicans in passing an economic package that would extend a number of expiring measures, like unemployment insurance and the payroll tax credit.

“I do believe that [the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Act] is going to pass with bipartisan support, and when it comes to jobs the American people can’t wait,” Boehner said. “We’re going to take action.”

The Ohio Republican would not reveal whether he would dismiss lawmakers once the House concludes its business, but he said it is “important” that Congress pass the extensions to help Americans desperate for relief.

“We’re going to have to wait until later on in the week to see what the Senate does,” Boehner said. “All I can do is report to you about what the House is doing and I’m confident that we’re going to move the bills that we need to move this week, and then the Senate can do whatever the Senate has to do.”

The GOP’s proposal would extend the payroll tax credit for one year, reform and extend unemployment insurance, and implement a “doc fix” to protect Medicare physicians from large reimbursement cuts. It also accelerates a presidential decision on the Keystone XL energy pipeline, which Republicans say will create tens of thousands of jobs but Democrats have decried as a poison pill in the Senate.

Boehner said he believes the GOP’s bill will pass with bipartisan support when it comes to the floor Tuesday, citing an endorsement by Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Dan Boren, who called on Congress Monday to “come together in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation.”

But many Democrats and President Obama point to the controversial pipeline project as justification to oppose the package. Nevertheless, Boehner said he still believes there’s a “good shot” that the Senate will pass the measure with the provision included.

Boehner would not comment on the prospect of further negotiations if the House passes the bill but the Senate rejects it.

“The House is going to do its job, and it’s time for the Senate then to do its job,” he said.

Aside from the payroll tax credit, unemployment insurance and SGR/Doc Fix, which are all set to expire Dec. 31, the House must also pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government before the current continuing resolution runs out on Friday. That bill is expected to be introduced as soon as Tuesday morning, with a vote in the House as early as Thursday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


House Dems Applaud Obama for Tapping Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As the White House announced Thursday that it will release 30 million barrels of oil from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, House Democrats applauded the president’s decision as one that will bring down the price of gasoline, while the nation’s top Republican said the move “threatens our ability to respond to a genuine national security crisis” and puts a new burden on the American taxpayer to refill the reserve.

“I am pleased that the Obama administration has answered our call today by making an historic announcement,” Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said. “The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the one tool that we have that can actually provide relief to consumers at the pump this summer driving season, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve is the one weapon we have against OPEC, and it has a proven record of historically driving down prices.”

House Speaker John Boehner says that by tapping the SPR, “the president is using a national security instrument to address his domestic political problems.”

But the president was praised by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at her news conference Thursday morning.

“I must congratulate the president for putting -- releasing 30 billion [sic] -- 30 billion [sic] barrels, which is part of the 60 billion [sic] barrel release of oil which, I believe, will immediately bring down the price at the pump, which is of concern to America's working families,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

Markey, who is the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources committee, pointed to previous instances when the SPR was tapped and the price of oil fell, and attributed the lower trade of oil futures Thursday to the president’s announcement.

 “The impact on oil prices from today's announcement is already being felt. The New York Mercantile Exchange oil futures are currently trading down on oil by five percent, within several hours of this announcement. So obviously the SPRO does work,” Markey said. “SPR stands for Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but it also stands for "sudden price reduction" whenever it is used, because it drives speculators out of the marketplace for fear that they are going to lose money as they bet on inaction by the United States government. Now they know that things aren't going to get worse without a fight from the Obama administration.

“Because of the reduction in the amount of oil coming in from Libya, because of the amount of oil that's now been taken off the market in Yemen, this is the right time to strike, to make a statement that we are not going to allow the markets to be disrupted -- and not to say that that's a signal to Iran, to Venezuela and others that we are going to fight back, that they will not be able to exploit this opportunity to hold prices high,” he added.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top 10 Cities to Buy a Home in 2011

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Home values have fallen 26 percent since the market's peak in 2006 -- and as much as 50 percent in some areas.  But if you have good credit and plan to buy a home and live there for at least five years, it can be a great time to bag a real estate bargain.

ABC News partnered with real estate website to figure out the best places to buy in 2011.  Zillow looked at four regional factors to determine the top choices -- affordability based on median home costs, unemployment rates, foreclosure rates and price increases in home values.

Here are the top 10 best places to buy in 2011 after analyzing those four factors:

1. Utica, New York
2. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
3. Rochester, New York
4. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
5. Tulsa, Oklahoma
6. Albany, New York
7. Lancaster, Pennsylvania
8. Madison, Wisconsin
9. Green Bay, Wisconsin
10. Lincoln, Nebraska

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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