Entries in Chuck Grassley (4)


GOP Blasts Million Dollar Judicial Conference in Hawaii

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In a scolding letter, two Republican senators blasted the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for holding a lavish tax-payer funded judicial conference scheduled for this August in Maui, Hawaii, that “reads more like a vacation than a business trip.”

“We are concerned that using the tax dollars of the American people to pay for a conference of this sort is not the most appropriate use of funds,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., wrote in a letter sent last week to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.

The court, which is based in San Francisco, has jurisdiction over nine states, including Hawaii.

The judicial conference is scheduled for Aug. 13 to Aug. 16  and features sport fishing, a golf tournament, yoga, surging lessons, stand-up paddle board lessons, Zumba dance classes, tennis, a day trip to the Upcountry Maui, a snorkel trip and an activity called the “Aloha Experience.”

The senators’ complaint comes after the General Services Administration was embarrassed for spending more than $800,000 on a conference in Las Vegas.

In light of the GSA scandal the senators call this “tone deaf” for the government to “throw lavish events on the taxpayer dime.”

The Ninth Circuit defends the conference as essential and not wasteful.

“As part of the Third Branch of government, the Ninth Circuit is fully aware of its responsibilities as a steward of public funds,” Circuit and Court of Appeals Executive Cathy A. Catterson said in a statement to ABC News Monday. “The conference is authorized by law ‘for the purpose of considering the business of the courts and advising means of improving the administration of justice within the circuit.’ The conference fully adheres to these goals, providing an exceptional educational program and the opportunity to conduct numerous business meetings that further circuit governance.”

The website for the conference makes clear that “government funds are not used for any recreational or sporting activities,” and Catterson emphasized that any sporting and recreational activities, “are paid for by individuals and are not reimbursable.”

The senators note this in their letter, but question the seriousness of the conference given the heavy schedule of recreational events.

“While the site makes clear that government funds are not to be used for any recreational or sporting activities and that court-related matters will be substantively considered, the program reads more like a vacation than a business trip to discuss the means of improving the administration of justice,” they wrote.

The senators question the location choice, with Maui being such a pricey vacation destination.

“We do not believe that discussions about the administration of justice would be less successful were they held somewhere other than a spa and resort in Hawaii,” the letter says, pointing out that taxpayer funded airfare and hotel stay may be better spent were the conference held in another location like Billings, Mont., or elsewhere on the mainland.

“Technology is so advanced that people are earning college degrees online and soldiers serving halfway across the world use Skype with their families at home,” Grassley said. “Likewise, a judicial circuit court should be capable of using technology to share information without requiring a trip to an island paradise … the court should re-examine whether this is the best use of tax dollars.”

“Costs for lodging and air travel to attend the conference are comparative to those found at mainland venues,” Catterson responded.

A previous Ninth Circuit conference also held in Maui cost taxpayers more than $1.1 million in travel and accommodation expenses.

The senators outline specific questions about the conference, such as a detailed list of swag, a breakdown of hotel rooms, transportation, and meal rates, an explanation why the venue -- the Hyatt Recent Maui Resort & Spa -- was chosen, what costs are associated with having spouses attend, and why the conference could not be done via teleconference instead.

Grassley and Sessions requested a full reply to their questions by June 15. The Ninth Circuit is reviewing the letter from the senators.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Sen. Grassley’s Twitter Account Hacked by SOPA Protesters

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Twitter account was hacked Monday by the group “Anonymous,” which is protesting the anti-piracy bills being considered in Congress.

The Senator’s account tweeted, “Dear Iowans, vote against ACTA, SOPA, and PIPA, because this man, Chuck Grassley, wants YOUR internet censored and all of that BS.”

Then a few minutes later, more hacked tweets: “And yes, I am an Anonymous follower,” his twitter account posted, “uh-oh looks like Chuck is online too.”

Grassley is a supporter of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The group Anonymous has protested the bill fiercely, targeting websites of members of Congress who have supported the bill.

Called “OpDonkeyPunch,” the group claims on their chat rooms and on Twitter they are mounting the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on members of Congress, following last week’s coordinated Internet blackout on some websites like Wikipedia against the bills.

Grassley’s office confirmed that his twitter account was hacked while the Senator, who posts tweets directly from his blackberry himself, was traveling from Iowa to Washington, D.C.

Last week Grassley reversed his support for the Senate’s anti-piracy bill, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), stating that while there needs to be a way to stem Internet piracy the Senate bill needs “substantial changes.” In light of last week’s protests and numerous senators pulling their support, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Friday delayed a vote on the bill in order to resolve the problems with the bill.

All erroneous hacked tweets have been since deleted from the Senator’s account.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


GOP to FBI Director: Did Fast and Furious Gun Kill Border Agent?

U.S. Border Patrol agents salute while standing vigil over the boots and helmet of slain comrade Brian Terry during his memorial service on January 21, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. John Moore/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller Thursday, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, tried to get a definitive answer as to whether or not any of the guns from the Fast and Furious program killed border agent Brian Terry, and an explanation as to why there have been inconsistent stories about Terry’s death.

“As you know, two weapons recovered at the scene of Agent Terry’s murder have been traced to Fast and Furious,” the GOP lawmakers wrote. “Yet the FBI has released very little information about the circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting. Anonymous Justice Department sources initially told the press that the two Fast and Furious guns had been ballistically excluded as the murder weapon and that the murder weapon had not been recovered. However, we obtained a copy of the report, and in actuality, it does not exclude the Fast and Furious guns. Rather, it is inconclusive. So, apparently someone from the Justice Department attempted to deceive the press.”

Terry was killed last December, shot in the back by Mexicans suspected of being involved in criminal enterprises. Guns found at the scene have since been tied to a controversial U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program in which individuals suspected of buying guns in order to illegally traffic them were allowed to do so, in the hope that they would lead investigators to bigger fish in Mexico. Thousands of powerful guns were allowed to “walk” to Mexico, and have since been tied to crime scenes.

In ABC News' interview with President Obama on Tuesday, he said that “people who have screwed up will be held accountable....Our overarching goal consistently has been to say we’ve got a responsibility not only to stop drugs from flowing north, we’ve also got a responsibility to make sure we are not helping to either arm or finance these drug cartels in Mexico.”

“It’s very upsetting to me to think that somebody showed such bad judgment that they would allow something like that to happen,” he said. “And we will find out who and what happened in this situation and make sure it gets corrected.”

The Senate on Tuesday voted to ban funding for any future gun-walking programs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Iowa Senator Grassley: Rick Perry Would Make ‘Very Good President'

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after making his speech on energy and jobs Friday in Pittsburgh, Pa., Texas Gov. Rick Perry parachuted into Waterloo, Iowa, in the hopes of currying favor with one of the state’s most influential kingmakers.

Perry attended a fundraiser Friday evening for Iowa State Rep. Pat Grassley, grandson of Iowa’s senior U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley—a key GOP endorsement for the candidate who receives it.

“I have a great deal of respect for Gov. Perry. I think he’d make a very good president,” Grassley told ABC News in an exclusive interview.

But Grassley was quick to say his praise of the governor was not an endorsement.

 “I’m not making any sort of endorsement,” he said.

Many of the GOP candidates have met with Grassley in the hopes of earning his endorsement.

But it “could be a couple of weeks” before the senator lends his support to any of the candidates. He could after all not endorse anyone, he said.

Grassley praised Perry’s Pittsburgh speech, a seminal address in which he tied job growth to expanded energy exploration.

“The governor has a very sound energy program,” the senator said. “I think energy is very important to job creation, because the higher the cost of energy the less consumer spending there is.”

Iowa hopes to retain its first vote of the nation and is mulling pushing its caucus up to as early as November, now that Nevada plans to hold its primary exceptionally early this season.

Grassley said he hoped Iowa would not have to hold its caucuses so early, but said the state should do it what it can to go first.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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