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Taxes – we pilfer from them but we won’t pay them & other news

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One lobbyist making the rounds is Bob Livingston. He represents Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, two defense contractors that have raised their deflector shields hoping to repel cuts to defense programs dear to them.

In Livingston’s earlier incarnation as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the Louisiana Republican helped negotiate the landmark bipartisan budget agreement of 1997. That deal aimed to cut $204 billion over five years and was negotiated when the national debt was $5.4 trillion. Today, America’s tab is approaching the statutory limit of $14.3 trillion, putting the U.S. at risk of default. “The earlier debate didn’t have nearly the same impact as the discussion today,” says Livingston. “The difference is the magnitude of the problem.” (Click HERE for article)

Government Insists on Right to Censor Book
Steven Aftergood – (Secrecy News) – May 18th, 2011 – Government attorneys this week asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by author Anthony Shaffer who claimed that his freedom to publish a memoir of his military service in Afghanistan had been violated. The government said that Mr. Shaffer’s book, “Operation Dark Heart,” which appeared last September in censored form, contained properly classified information which the author has no right to publish.

What makes the case doubly strange is that uncensored review copies of the book are in circulation, along with the redacted version that has become a best seller. As a result, the case provides a unique opportunity for the public to assess the quality of official classification practices in real time by comparing the two (pdf).

The government has “unlawfully imposed a prior restraint upon the plaintiff by obstructing and infringing on his right to publish unclassified information,” author Shaffer stated in his December 14, 2010 complaint (pdf) against the Department of Defense and the CIA. (Click HERE for article)

Mark this as a win for the gadflies
Loren Steffy – (Houston Chronicle) – May 18, 2011 – Sometimes, shareholders win.

In this case, it didn’t look as if that would happen. John Chevedden, a retired California aerospace executive, was trying to get yet another public company to improve its corporate governance. This time, the target was Kinetic Concepts, a San Antonio company that makes wound care products.

KCI excluded from the proxy statement for its shareholders meeting next week a proposal by Chevedden to have all directors stand for election annually.

That may sound familiar. I’ve written about Chevedden’s earlier attempts to get similar proposals before the shareholders of two Houston companies, Apache Corp. and KBR. Both sued Chevedden in federal court, seeking a judge’s permission to exclude his proposals from their proxies.

All three companies claim that Chevedden can’t adequately prove his stock ownership. Typically, companies would ask the Securities and Exchange Commission to clarify such disputes, but because Chevedden has prevailed in the past, Apache and later KBR went to court. (Click HERE for article)

Supreme Court Makes it Harder to Hold Contractors Accountable for Fraud
Mandy Smithberger and Michael Smallberg – (POGO) – May 17, 2011 – Yesterday, the Supreme Court weakened the government’s ability to recoup money from contractors defrauding the government. In a 5-3 decision, the Court found in Schindler Elevator Corp. vs. U.S. that private citizens cannot file lawsuits under a qui tam provision of the False Claims Act that rely upon information obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Justice Department secured $3 billion in civil settlements in 2010 under the False Claims Act (FCA), and has recovered more than $27 billion since 1986.

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