iPod

Despite Sequester, High-Level Federal Executives Slated to Get Bonuses

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) speaks during a press conference in May, 2011.  McCaskill introduced a bill Friday that would eliminate bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service during sequestration.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) speaks during a press conference in May, 2011. McCaskill introduced a bill Friday that would eliminate bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service during sequestration.

From where I stand, this is absolutely outrageous!

Truthout

An elite group of federal employees is set to receive cash bonuses despite this year’s automatic budget cuts, according to a report that a Senate subcommittee issued Friday.

The report revealed that members of the government’s highly paid Senior Executive Service – who make up less than 1 percent of the federal workforce – had received more than $340 million in bonuses from 2008 through 2011. The bonuses came on top of annual salaries that ranged from $119,000 to $179,000.

In a process known as sequestration, $85 billion in across-the-board federal spending cuts took effect March 1, forcing the government to slash services and furlough workers. A month later, the Obama administration froze bonuses for the vast majority of federal workers.

But by law, agencies still must pay bonuses to Senior Executive Service employees who meet certain performance criteria, the report said.

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, introduced a bill Friday that would eliminate bonuses for members of the Senior Executive Service during sequestration. McCaskill leads the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, which produced the report.

“The idea that some of the highest-paid federal government employees could be getting bonuses while others are being furloughed is outrageous,” McCaskill said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Created by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, the Senior Executive Service is made up of leaders who serve in key positions just below top presidential appointees, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management website. They oversee the day-to-day activities of about 75 federal agencies.

Friday’s report found that the federal government had handed out more than 6,300 cash awards to members of the Senior Executive Service in 2011, for a total of $78 million. Most Senior Executive Service employees – 81 percent – received bonuses that year, the report said.

The agencies that spent the most money on Senior Executive Service bonuses were the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which paid more than $16,000 per employee; the National Science Foundation, which paid more than $14,000 per employee; the Department of the Navy, which paid $13,000 per employee; the Department of Health and Human Services, which also paid $13,000 per employee; and the Department of Commerce, which paid more than $12,000 per employee.

The report singled out the General Services Administration as doling out the most performance awards on average. The agency spent $1.1 million on bonuses in 2011, and each Senior Executive Service employee received an average of 1.6 bonuses, the report said.

The GSA is responsible for acquiring real estate, technology services and other big-ticket items for the federal government.

A GSA spokesman said in an email that the agency had cut executive bonuses by 85 percent last year and hasn’t paid any such bonuses this year. The agency also cut its Awards Stores program, in which employees could choose prizes such as iPods and digital cameras.

New leadership at the GSA is working to overhaul the entire performance awards system, said the agency’s spokesman, Dan Cruz. “Under this administration, GSA bonuses are coming down to their lowest levels in five years,” Cruz said.

A separate report published Thursday by auditors at the GSA’s Office of Inspector General criticized the agency, saying it violated many of the legal requirements for awarding bonuses.

The GSA is the same agency that came under scrutiny in Congress last year for a lavish conference in Las Vegas in 2010 and other such spending of taxpayer dollars, including exorbitant bonuses.

 

Steve Jobs – Gone Too Soon

Steve Jobs has touched all of our lives in some way…

My friend Gilligan says it best:

Because of Jobs’ genius, I don’t know anyone whose life wasn’t touched by his vision and innovation.

And as an Apple stockholder for a number of years, I know that because Jobs had received his final diagnosis, he planned well for his company’s future. But it’s his family, his wife and children, who will grieve the most at the loss of their husband and father.

Here’s a little Michael Jackson….

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New York Times Smacks Down Rep. Darrell Issa’s Demand For A Retraction

Darrell Issa

Image via Wikipedia

Think Progress

On Thursday, the New York Times responded to a demand for a retraction from Oversight Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) office regarding a major piece published two weeks ago about Issa’s many conflicts of interest between his congressional work and his vast financial holdings. In the letter, Dean Baquet, the assistant editor of the paper, debunked claims of factual inaccuracies listed by Issa spokesman Frederick Hill.

In two instances, the Times acknowledged that its reporter Eric Lichtblau made mistakes. In one case, a county assessor provided faulty information. In another, Lichtblau simply used Issa’s own family foundation disclosures; he could not verify their accuracy with Issa because his office refused to respond to three weeks worth of requests by the Times.

The letter, worth reading in its entirety, demolishes what’s left of Issa’s demand for a retraction:

#1) Issa Claim: “Directed Electronics is, in fact, not a supplier to Toyota.”

NYT Response: Issa not only calls himself an “auto supplier” to Toyota on multiple occasions, but his Directed Electronics company has licensing agreements with Toyota for aftermarket parts including car alarms, an iPod adapter, and a remote start interface. The Times then lists Issa’s continued financial ties to the company he once led as an executive.

#2) Issa Claim: A golf course is not visible from one of Issa’s corporate office towers.

NYT Response: The office building overlooks the Shadowridge County Club only a quarter a mile away, and Issa’ realty agency for the building advertises “direct views to golf driving range.”

#3) Issa Claim: “Rep. Issa does not have investments dependent on Goldman Sachss (sic) performance.”

NYT Response: “Your interest in Goldman’s performance is borne out by, among other factors, your extensive holdings in its mutual funds, your investigation into the lawsuit brought against the firm by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2008, and the concerns raised in your July 2011 letter about the impact on Goldman of capital requirements. As was noted in afollow-up column by one of our news columnists, Floyd Norris, Goldman Sachs also underwrote DEl’s initial I.P.O., another indication of the ties between you and the firm.” (ThinkProgress has also reported on Issa’s extensive ties to Goldman Sachs herehere, and here.)

#4) Issa Claim: The discussion of earmarks on West Vista Way “fails to mention that at the time he sought funding for his district he did not own this property.”

NYT Response: As the story noted, you secured two earmarks for the road, before and after you bought the property. (ThinkProgress debunked Issa’s claim about his earmark in April, but Issa continued to try to deceive the press.)

Notably, the Heritage Foundation blog, one of the few outlets still questioning the Times’ reporting, has received donations from Issa’s charity foundation.

View the New York Times response to Issa below:

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