Saturday, December 27, 2014

Speech regulators fine woman over Facebook post


Never in a million years did Diana Hsieh think she could be fined by the state of Colorado for a political Facebook post.
However Orwellian that sounds, had Hsieh posted in Texas she wouldn’t have faced a fine but a felony conviction. In casting their regulatory nets across the country in an attempt to capture “dark money” and blunt the political influence of billionaires, legislatures and regulatory agencies are ensnaring ordinary citizens.
Photo by Mark Stevens
Photo by Mark Stevens
CAUGHT IN THE FLOOD: Diana Hsieh is just one person caught up in the rising tide of campaign regulations.
As an individual, you still enjoy broad constitutional protections to speak your mind. But when the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling in 2010 erased a line separating corporate money and political speech, frustrated state officials set out to draw their own lines for defining political groups.
Colorado’s lines put Hsieh and her 18-page paper defending a woman’s right to an abortion on the wrong side of the law.
Hsieh originally posted her paper in 2008 on her Facebook page. The paper included a line discouraging people from voting for an abortion-related ballot measure. After being warned by a friend about her state’s far-reaching campaign finance rules, Hsieh, who found it impossible to figure out if she was doing anything wrong, registered with the state anyway, just to be careful.
Hsieh and a friend formed a nonprofit corporation, Coalition for Secular Government. The Coalition didn’t solicit or accept donations at first. Hsieh spent a few hundred dollars to print and distribute the paper to media and activists in Colorado.
The paper was a hit, being downloaded more than 12,000 times. Grateful readers made small donations in support of her writing.
State law, however, requires that any two people who spend more than $200 related to a ballot measure must register with the state, record their activities, and report on them to the state every two weeks. Those little donations had to be reported, too.
Even though each report took hours to complete, Hsieh kept up with the requirements for a few years, until her house flooded. When her campaign finance report came in a day late, the state fined her $50 (although the fine was later reversed).
Not long after that, she sued.
“Unfortunately, it’s an uphill battle to convince people that campaign finance laws aren’t all sunshine and rainbows,” Hsieh said.
Campaign finance laws are often compared to sunshine, but they cast a long dark shadow over activists and grassroots groups. The Supreme Court recognized as much when it held 28 years ago that “detailed record-keeping and disclosure obligations … require a far more complex and formalized organization than many small groups could manage … (and) it would not be surprising if at least some groups decided that the contemplated political activity was simply not worth it.”
While federal appeals courts have ruled them unconstitutionally burdensome, Colorado’s Democrat-controlled Legislature has refused to bring the reporting requirements into compliance with the Constitution.
In October, U.S. District Judge John L. Kane found Colorado’s justification for the rule “so minimal as to be nonexistent, and certainly insufficient to justify the burdens compliance imposes on members’ constitutional free speech and association rights.”
“This conclusion is so obvious, moreover,” Kane said, “that having to adjudicate it in every instance as the Colorado Supreme Court implies is necessary itself offends the First Amendment. By setting in stone the uncertainty that precipitated this litigation in the first place, the Court’s interpretation chills robust discussion at the very core of our electoral process. I am without authority, however, to undo the damage done …”
In its two most important campaign finance cases — Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo in 1976 — the Supreme Court held that the justification for disclosure and regulation is to “avoid the risk or appearance of quid pro quo corruption — the exchange of a contribution for political favor.”
Where there’s a high potential for corruption — a $1 million donation, say, or an “independent” ad run at a politician’s request — the courts uphold regulations. Where the greater danger is to free speech, they don’t. Who, after all, would Hsieh be buying when she put her abortion paper on Facebook?
The gray area — the battleground — is speech by independent groups. Individuals are mostly free and politicians are regulated, but what about the thousands of groups with an interest in politics, whether corporations, committees, parties, front groups, institutions, or just informal groups of friends?
The general rule since 1976 is that political communications are covered by campaign finance law when they use the “magic words” expressly advocating for a vote one way or another.
AP file photo
AP file photo
THEY DIDN’T LIKE WHAT THEY HEARD: Demonstrators in 2013 gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. as the court heard arguments on campaign finance.
On the other side of the line are issue ads, including ones likely meant to affect an election, but which avoid using the magic words. The Supreme Court realized in 1976 that closing this apparent loophole would mean bringing almost all political speech under government control, even pure policy discussions involving no candidates. That’s just what the so-called reformers want to do now.
In practical terms, it’s often impossible to separate policy debates from politicians. Take the landmark battle in 2011 that ended collective bargaining for government workers in Wisconsin, both sides saturated the media with ads mentioning state lawmakers by name.
If ever there was a case in which the candidates mattered only in relation to how they voted on a single issue, it was the Wisconsin union fight. Those issue ads were issue ads, no ironic quotes needed.
So the question then is when independent groups engage in public debate over the issues, may the government obligate them to disclose their donors and members? The Supreme Court itself is unclear about the answer.
In a 1958 case protecting the NAACP from official harassment, the court recognized the right of “all legitimate organizations” to maintain the privacy of their supporters.
The court cited that case two dozen times in the Buckley case, deciding “that compelled disclosure, in itself, can seriously infringe on privacy of association and belief guaranteed by the First Amendment.” The court found the term “political committees” too broad, and “could be interpreted to reach groups engaged purely in issue discussion.”
The court in Citizens United, however, rejected without explanation the idea that “disclosure requirements …  must be confined to speech that is the functional equivalent of express advocacy” of candidates.
Federal appeals courts in Washington and Maine have seized on that line to force donor disclosure on a ballot issue committee, and on a national nonprofit, merely forspeaking out on a state’s ballot measure on gay marriage.
Citizens United, widely blamed for the rise of “dark money,” is actually the avant-garde of the legal case against it. But even Citizens United can’t be stretched beyond a ballot issue to be applied to any private group with an interest in public issues.
And so until the next major Supreme Court ruling clarifies or further darkens American campaign finance law, Diana Hsieh and others who want to speak on the issues are at the mercy of their sometimes capricious state governments.
Contact Jon Cassidy at or @jpcassidy000.

Jon Cassidy is the Texas bureau chief for He also writes a weekly column on politics for The American Spectator. He was formerly a reporter and editor for The Orange County Register in California and a reporter at The Hill in Washington, D.C. His work has been published by Fox News, Reason, The Federalist, Human Events, and other publications. He is a 2014 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow and a graduate of the University of Southern California. He and his wife Michelle live just outside Houston with their two children.


Will Lawsuits be a Side Effect of Obamacare?: Easton Hospital agrees to $662,000 federal settlement


Payment resolves health care fraud allegations

Albert Castro/69 News EASTON, Pa. - Operators of Easton Hospital have agreed to a $662,000 settlement with the government to resolve allegations of health care fraud arising under the False Claims Act.

 The U.S. Justice Department contends Easton Hospital billed Medicare for procedures performed by Dr. Thomas Walden that were not performed, were only partially completed or were medically unnecessary. Dr. Walden tells 69 News he never performed procedures that were unnecessary. 

Nor has he billed for procedures he has not performed.  He says he is not involved with what Easton Hospital bills to Medicare.  Quick Clicks Medicare fines area hospitals for high re-admission rates.

Those procedures included extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, cystometrogram, green light laser and transurethral resection of the prostate. 

Easton Hospital denies the allegations.

The government maintains that, while employed at Easton Hospital, two former employees discovered a Medicare fraud scheme perpetrated at  the hospital.

 In specific, the employees observed urologic procedures and tests performed by Walden for which the government should not have been billed by Easton Hospital.

 The two employees filed a complaint in the Justice Department's Eastern District of Pennsylvania under whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which permit private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the United States.

 The settlement was announced Monday in Philadelphia by U.S. Atty. Zane David Memeger.

 Under the parties’ settlement agreement, Easton Hospital will pay $662,000 to the United States.

The two whistle-blowing employees will receive a share of the settlement payment. 

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania places a high priority on criminal and civil enforcement in cases involving health care fraud,” said Memeger in a news release.

“Health care fraud wastes tax dollars, harms patients, and drives up medical costs for everyone.

We encourage our citizens to report potential health care fraud so that we can effectively investigate and prosecute this type of wrongdoing.”

 The case was investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services- Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management-Office of Inspector General.

 Within the United States Attorney’s Office, the case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Veronica J. Finkelstein and Joel M. Sweet.



A man wanted for two violent rapes in Pennsylvania has been returned to Philadelphia after being arrested in Mexico.

A man wanted for two violent rapes in Pennsylvania, including one near the headquarters of the Philadelphia Police Department, has been returned to our area after being held in Mexico.

Alberto Issac Navarrete Suarez, 37, was arrested by the FBI and Mexican authorities in April, 2012.

Suarez, aka Dario Lopez, had been held in Mexico City awaiting extradition.

He was returned to Philadelphia last night by members of FBI Philadelphia's Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force and turned over to the Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit.

Suarez is the suspect in the rape of a woman in Philadelphia as she waited for a bus in August, 2010.

Police say Suarez grabbed her by the throat and forced her into the Ridge Avenue Spur of the Broad Street subway, which is across the street from Philadelphia Police Headquarters. That's where the woman was sexually assaulted.

He was caught on surveillance video fleeing the scene without his pants.

The woman was nearly strangled during the attack, police said, but a passerby called police and scared off Suarez.

Police say they tracked Suarez to Pittsburgh, where he has relatives, down to West Virginia, then to Texas where he also has family.

They finally tracked him down in Mexico City, where he was arrested.

"While it seems like a long time and in our system in the United States that process would go a lot quicker, in Mexico the system and the judicial process works much, much slower," Edward Hanko of the FBI said.

Police say Suarez's alleged victim has had an emotional reaction to his capture and
Incarceration back here in Philadelphia.

"She had four years of trying to get some closure, some relief, now unfortunately the wounds are going to be reopened again, but there's even more closure because now she knows he's in custody and he will never harm anybody every again," Lt. Anthony McFadden of Philadelphia Police Department said.

Suarez was also identified as the suspect in the rape and kidnapping of a teenage girl in March, 2010.


Eminent Domain: A Communist act used by Government to Trump an American's Constituional Right to Property (Happiness)


Family Fights Narberth City Hall Over Possible Use Of Eminent Domain

NARBERTH, Pa. (CBS) — The owner of a former gas station in Narberth, Montgomery County wants to keep the property in the family. But the borough is taking steps to seize it for public use, if the town can’t buy it.
The Corl family and the borough of Narberth both want the former gas station property at 100 Forrest Avenue. The borough council has introduced an ordinance allowing it to seize the small property through eminent domain if it can’t negotiate a deal to purchase it. The town says it needs the centrally-located parcel as a staging area for public events.
“It has been so incredibly useful and important to downtown events in the past years,” says borough solicitor Marc Jonas. “So, it’s not so much the size as its location.”
But Kenneth Corl, who today is going to settlement to buy the property from his niece, says he’s already invested $100,000 to convert the building to a gym. He says the family has always allowed the town to use it.
“I already give them the option to use that place for a staging area,” Corl says. “So why would they buy it so they could use it?”
A public hearing is scheduled at council’s January 12 meeting.


Like It Or Not: Accused Serial Sexual Predator's Constutional Right Were Knowingly and Willfully Violated


Child molester stigma makes it the only crime to justify constitutional violations...

Serial child molester can't dodge 959-year prison term, Pa. court rules

It has been nearly two years since Walter Frank Meyerle was sentenced to up to 959 years in prison as a serial child molester.

This week, a panel of state Superior Court found no reason to cut him slack on even a single second of his jail time.

walter meyerleWalter Frank Meyerle 
It rejected Meyerle's appeal of the 479 1/2- to 959-year state prison term he received after being convicted of molesting 15 children, both boys and girls, over at least a 12-year period. His victims ranged in age from 4 to 17.

A Bucks County judge hit him with the massive prison sentence in January 2013 after convicting Meyerle of nearly 190 child molestation charges.
On appeal, Meyerle, now 38, claimed investigators seized some of the key evidence against him, including files from his laptop computer, by using search warrants that weren't valid. He contended that prosecutors should have been barred from using that evidence during his nonjury trial before county Judge Diane E. Gibbons.

Detectives seized Meyerle's computer and other evidence during a March 2011 search. Authorities secured a warrant to search Meyerle's Falls Township home after the mother of a 15-year-old victim reported that Meyerle had tattooed her daughter's pelvic area and was regularly engaging in sex acts with the girl.

The girl claimed, among other things, that she and another teen had engaged in phone sex with Meyerle dozens of times, police said in their application for the search warrant. Telephone records secured by court order confirmed that, investigators said in the warrant application.

Also, they cited a claim by the aunt of one of Meyerle's victims that she too had been molested by Meyerle 10 years earlier. Investigators pointed to molestation claims by several other victims as well, and noted that two of them corroborated that Meyerle had a dollar sign tattooed on his penis.

In his state court appeal, Meyerle contended that police should have known their affidavit for the search warrant contained some information he claimed was false or so old it was "stale." One victim's claim that he raped her in mid-2010 couldn't be true because he was in prison at the time, he argued.

State judge Paula Francisco Ott found no basis for any of Meyerle's challenges to the search warrants in her court's opinion on the case.

Another claim by Meyerle that his laptop computer was seized illegally because its serial number wasn't correctly listed on a search warrant, didn't gain traction with the state judges, either. Ott noted that the warrant specified only that a Toshiba laptop was to be seized and Meyerle had only one laptop of that make.

Therefore, the warrant was specific enough, she wrote.


Doing It "For The Children" (not): Pa. Union teachers want more money for enforcing nearly pointless Sandusky-inspired child protection mandate


The vast majority of sex offenders have NEVER been caught!

Sandusky-inspired child protection law burdensome for schools

new state law designed to provide an additional layer of protection for children is proving to be a bureaucratic headache, not to mention an unfunded mandate, for school officials.  

Act 153 requires anyone who has direct contact with children or are responsible for their welfare whether in a paid or unpaid position to update their criminal history background check and child abuse clearance every three years. It begins to take effect on Wednesday.

The law is a part of a package of measures put in place to address deficiencies in child protective laws that crystallized in the aftermath of theJerry Sandusky child sexual assault scandal.

Several school districts surveyed say this law, though well intentioned, carries with it some unintended consequences in making sure everyone comes into and remains in compliance.

"We want all our students and staff to be safe and doing the checks is a way of doing it," said Camp Hill School District Superintendent David Reeder. "It requires some level of infrastructure to process everything that needs to be in place."

In his district, there is no "human resources department" to maintain a database of employees and volunteers' clearances and make sure all checks are up to date. Instead, he said it falls to district office staff who already handle a myriad of other responsibilities.

"Being a small district can be a double-edged sword," Reeder said. "We don't have as many employees to track but we don't have an employee to track them."

The burden associated with tracking which the phase-in of the clearances also is a source of frustration. It requires current employees with clearances older than three years as of Dec. 31 to get new ones within a year. Those with clearances less than three years old expire need to get them on their third-year anniversary. Current volunteers who don't have their clearances have until July 1 to obtain them.

Central Dauphin School District Superintendent Carol Johnson said, "I can tell you that trying to calculate the phase-in requirement for each employee will be at least as time consuming as having them all do it simultaneously."

The law requires employees and volunteers to submit to a state police criminal history check ($10), a child abuse clearance from the state Department of Human Services ($10) and a federal criminal history check obtained by submitting fingerprints to the state police or an authorized agent for the FBI ($28.50).

Depending on district requirements, volunteers may be relieved of undergoing the FBI check if they have lived in Pennsylvania continuously for the last 10 years and sign an affidavit saying they did not commit crimes outside the state.

Who pays for the background checks for employees and volunteers is another issue that several districts continue to ponder. The law didn't come with additional state funding to cover the cost.

Pennsylvania School Boards Association spokesman Steve Robinson said the law left it open as to who pays for the clearances.

"Some districts will cover it. Some maybe never covered it," he said. "It's going to vary."

West Shore School District spokesman Ryan Argot said in his district, "responsibility for the cost of implementing these changes has not yet been determined: however, costs of a similar nature are often the responsibility of the individual seeking employment or volunteer opportunities with the district."

The district's website indicates that currently volunteers are responsible for covering the cost of their clearances.

In Northern Lebanon School District, Superintendent Don Bell said the district hadn't required its volunteers to obtain the clearances before now because the volunteers "were not specifically approved to be responsible for the welfare of a child."

However, the new law's broader definition of who must obtain clearances extends to anyone having direct contact with children. That "appears to cover almost any activity that includes children. Therefore, it appears that we must now require clearances for volunteers," Bell said.

"This is yet an other unfunded mandate underneath the Christmas tree ... and so the new year starts with the first unfunded task of 2015 to implement an albeit well-intended but definitely not-thought-through law."


Rally Pics from the Spectacle that is the LGBTQ


In Photos: LGBTQ rally to support victims of ‘police brutality’

Photographer John Penley documented the the event:

Photos by John Penley
Photos by John Penley
Activists from the local LGBTQ community rallied Dec. 11 in Asheville at the Vance Monument to show support for “victims of police brutality.” The event was originally organized as a counter-protest to a “Stop Brutalizing Our Police Rally” that had been planned by conservative activists. However, the rally to support police was cancelled by organizers Carl Mumpower and Chad Nesbitt, who issued a press release citing fear of “potential violence” if the events happened simultaneously in the same area.
The LGBTQ rally went on as planned, attracting about 30 people. There was little police presence and attendees were mostly peaceful and law abiding, although a splinter group of self-described anarchists did momentarily interrupt traffic as they started to march down Patton Avenue.


A Perfect Marriage: The War On Women Teaming Up With Anti-Police Movement


Lapel cam captures woman trying to frame APD officer for sexually assaulting her

Arrested for drunk driving, an Albuquerque woman tried to flip the script on an Albuquerque Police officer, accusing him of sexual assault. Cops say 23-year-old Deanna Griego padded her bra with something extra as she was placed under arrest for DWI earlier this month.
It turns out that's what ended up giving her away.
Griego slipped her cell phone into her bra just before she was taken into custody. Albuquerque Police say she used it to hatch a false sexual assault accusation against the cop who arrested her.
When she was stopped for DWI, Griego first tried charming the officer.
"I'm going to school for being a cop," she tells APD officer Jared Frazier, seen on his lapel cam.
Then she tried explaining.
"[I have a] speech impairment. It's embarrassing," she said.
Officer Fazier responds quickly, "Oh me too, it's no big deal."
Then Griego tried to make sure she was following directions. She asks several times if she starts a field sobriety test with her right foot, or left. Frazier answers "right" every time.
It didn't go too well.
Frazier arrested Griego for DWI. She blew a .13 blood alcohol content at the station, way over the legal limit of .08.
Then she said she had to pee.
"Bathroom's on your left," said Frazier, taking off Griego's cuffs. "Your other left. There we go."
Fraizer says he heard Griego talking in the bathroom, asking "How can I get this officer in trouble?" 
Then he remembered Griego had slipped her cell phone into her bra back at the stop. It's clear on the officer's lapel cam video.
"You're not allowed to do that," said Frazier, opening the bathroom door a few inches. "Go ahead and step out. You're on the phone; you need to step out."
From inside the bathroom, Griego argues with Officer Frazier and says he's violating her rights by opening the door. He points out he can't see her, and then comes this accusation:
"[You were] inappropriately touching me while I was waiting in the car," said Griego.  
"Please don't touch me," she said, coming out of the bathroom.
"The whole thing's on video ma'am; you can say whatever you like," Frazier responded.
Frazier tells his fellow officers.
"Now she's saying I touched her when I put her in the car," he said.
But when Griego asked for medical attention, Frazier called EMTs.
"Basically the whole thing's on video," he tells the paramedics. "She's accusing me of touching her."
APD says a sex crimes sergeant and detective conducted a full investigation and cleared Officer Frazier of the allegations.
APD union president Stephanie Lopez released this statement about the incident:
"The desire to frame officers for wrongdoing is a growing issue facing officers every day. We believe that the public should be held accountable for filing false reports against police officers. These incidents can be very damaging to an officer's career, so we hope that this individual and others face appropriate consequences for their malicious actions."
So far, Griego is not facing any additional charges for making the claim, but APD spokesman Tanner Tixier says it's not out of the question.