WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved the Disclosing Foreign Influence Act (H.R. 4170) by a vote of 15-6. This bipartisan piece of legislation updates the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to improve the transparency and give enforcement authority to the Department of Justice. Representative Mike Johnson (R-La.) is the chief sponsor of H.R. 4170.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) issued the following statement:
“The House Judiciary Committee voted today in favor of transparency and accountability. By closing the dangerous loopholes in the Foreign Agents Registration Act, this legislation gives the Department of Justice the crucial enforcement tools it needs to investigate foreign agents, identify fraud, and hold violators accountable. I appreciate all of the hard work that Representative Johnson has put into this bipartisan bill, and I urge my colleagues to support it.”
A 2016 OIG report regarding the Department of Justice (DOJ) National Security Division found that DOJ lacked a comprehensive enforcement strategy and the tools necessary to address abuse of foreign lobbying efforts. H.R. 4170 addresses the ambiguity in the existing law and increases transparency and oversight in DOJ enforcement efforts.
Governor Northam vetoes legislation that would divert state and local law enforcement resources for political purposes
RICHMOND—Governor Northam today, March 19th, vetoed Senate Bill 1156, which would force local law enforcement agencies to use precious resources to perform functions that are the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies. The Governor’s veto statement is below.
Summary of bill: Sanctuary policies prohibited. Provides that no locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy intended to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
March 19, 2019
Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, and after consulting with law enforcement and local stakeholder groups, I veto Senate Bill 1156, which imposes an unnecessary and divisive requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
This legislation would force local law enforcement agencies to use precious resources to perform functions that are the responsibility of federal immigration enforcement agencies. It also sends a chilling message to communities across Virginia that could have negative impacts on public safety.
Localities have the right to determine whether to expend the resources and voluntarily enter into an agreement with the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. Police divisions across the Commonwealth have a long tradition of engaging in community policing strategies, and many have determined that it is more important to develop a relationship with immigrant communities in order to keep safe all of those who live within the locality. This legislation would strip localities of that autonomy, and force them to divert money and manpower away from their core public safety functions.
Were it to become law, this bill would send a clear message to people across this Commonwealth that state and local law enforcement officials are to be feared and avoided rather than trusted and engaged. The safety of our communities requires that all people, whether they are documented or not, feel comfortable reporting criminal activity and cooperating with local law enforcement investigations. This bill would make it harder for the men and women who keep us safe to do their jobs.
There are many actions we can take to support law enforcement and keep Virginians safe. Placing new unfunded mandates on state and local public safety agencies in order to make a political point is not one of them.
Accordingly, I veto this bill.
Ralph S. Northam
Sixth District Perspectives with Congressman Ben Cline: March 16th
This week, I was pleased to see legislative language I introduced in the 116th Congress signed into law by the President. President Donald Trump signed a bill into law on Tuesday which would designate the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington.
In Virginia, we remember George C. Marshall as a remarkable leader and public servant as well as a graduate of one of the country’s most storied military schools. His contributions to world history are unparalleled, which is why designation as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library on the post of VMI will bring a renewed interest in Marshall’s work and life for a new generation.
After the appalling debate this legislative session on a bill in the Virginia House of Delegates which would essentially allow infanticide, I was honored to join my colleagues in the U.S. House of Representatives this week to demand a vote on the Born Alive Protection Act. This legislation would extend legal protection to children who survive an abortion attempt. We have asked Nancy Pelosi 17 times to bring this bill to the floor for a vote and to stop giving in to the most extreme members of her party. I will continue demanding this vote and standing for the lives of the innocent.
The House also took up legislation this week calling on the Mueller Report to be made public. In my time as a Delegate and now as a Member of Congress, I have advocated for transparency in government. The Mueller Report should be no different. Over the previous two years, millions of dollars have been spent on this investigation and the American people deserve to know the findings. It is my hope that Attorney General William Barr will release the report for the country to see.
I enjoy seeing constituents when they come to Washington. This week included a visit on National Ag Day with Virginia FFA President Ethan Jackson of Bedford County and State Secretary Kendall Knicely of Rockingham County. Agriculture plays a leading role in the economy of the Sixth Congressional District, the Commonwealth, and the nation. Ethan and Kendall brought that message to legislators and highlighted the importance of supporting our next generation of leaders in American agriculture so the industry continues to thrive. On Friday, students from Rockbridge High School visited the Capitol and got to see history up close. They are a wonderful group of students who asked thoughtful questions on the role of government.
Before a week of legislating, committee hearings, and meetings began on Capitol Hill, I visited Warren County High School to speak with government students. Recent stops at high schools in the Sixth Congressional District have left me encouraged by the students’ interest in and enthusiasm about the political process. I want to thank students and administrators for participating in these great visits.
Virginia’s high schools provide a broad education for students, allowing them to explore not only core subjects such as government, but also creative interests. That is why my office is participating in the Congressional Art Competition. The high school arts competition is an opportunity to recognize and encourage artistic talent in The Sixth Congressional District.
The Congressional Art Competition is now in full swing and is open to all high school students in the district. The winning artwork will be displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol. The winning artwork is also featured on House.gov’s Congressional Art Competition page. For more information on the Congressional Art Competition and how you can participate, visit cline.house.gov/services/art-competition.
As your Congressman, I am tasked with the responsibility to represent your values in Washington. I have prioritized an open line of communication between myself and the constituents of the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia through town hall meetings. Next week, I will host two town hall meetings in Bath and Warren Counties. As with my previous town hall meetings across the Sixth Congressional District, these town halls will allow me to engage with Bath and Warren County residents and take their views back to Washington.
If you are unable to make one of the town hall meetings, please know that additional town halls will be added to the schedule in the coming months. However, members of my staff hold community mobile office hours throughout the district, as well. A staff member will be available to meet with citizens to assist with problems they might have with a federal agency and hear their views on current issues before Congress. For a complete list of casework staff mobile office hours and to register to attend a town hall meeting, visit cline.house.gov/about/events to find an event near you.
Grottoes Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 – 9:30am
Grottoes Town Hall (Council Chambers)
601 Dogwood Ave
Grottoes, VA 24441
Forest Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 – 10:00am
Forest Public Library
15583 Forest Road
Forest, VA 24551
Waynesboro Casework Staff Mobile Office
Tuesday, March 19, 2019 – 11:30am
Waynesboro Public Library (First Floor Conference Room)
600 South Wayne Ave
Waynesboro, VA 22980
Front Royal Casework Staff Mobile Office
Wednesday, March 20, 2019 – 10:00am
Samuels Public Library (Baxter-Bowling Conference Room)
330 East Criser Road
Front Royal, VA 22630
Lexington Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 21, 2019 – 9:00am
Rockbridge County Administration Building (Second Floor)
150 South Main Street
Lexington, VA 24450
Woodstock Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 21, 2019 – 9:30am
Woodstock Town Hall (Council Chambers)
135 North Main Street
Woodstock, VA 22664
Buena Vista Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 21, 2019 – 11:00am
Buena Vista City Hall (Circuit Courtroom)
2039 Sycamore Avenue
Buena Vista, VA 24416
Strasburg Casework Staff Mobile Office
Thursday, March 21, 2019 – 12:00pm
Strasburg Town Hall (Council Chambers)
174 East King Street
Strasburg, VA 22657
Here’s your Warner Weekly Wrap-up
Our hearts go out to the victims of the tragic terrorist attack in New Zealand today. Sen. Warner expressed his condolences and solidarity for the victims this morning, saying:
My heart breaks for the victims of the terrorist attack in New Zealand. Let’s keep the Muslim community in our prayers and stand against the hateful ideology that is behind these attacks on places of worship.
Here’s your Warner Weekly Wrap-up:
This week, Sen. Warner continued his fight for improvements to conditions in military housing. On Monday, Sen Warner held a housing roundtable with military families in Newport News. On Thursday, Sens. Warner and Kaine traveled to Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper. While on base, the Senators visited military family homes and listened to servicemembers and their families at a roundtable discussion.
For months, Sen. Warner has been sounding the alarm on substandard housing conditions in military housing units run by private contractors — following pervasive allegations of health hazards – including lead poisoning, cockroaches, mice, mold blooms and water leaks.
Last week, Sens. Warner and Kaine introduced the Ensuring Safe Housing for our Military Act, which would create stronger oversight mechanisms, allow the military to withhold payments to contractors until issues are resolved, and prohibit contractors from charging certain fees. It would also require the military to withhold incentive fees to poorly performing contractors.
Provisions of the bill include:
• Basic allowance for housing: The installation commander shall withhold payment of a service member’s housing allowance until a military housing official has inspected an environmental, safety or health hazard, verified that appropriate remediation has taken place, and the service member concurs that the remediation is satisfactory. In the case that the hazard requires the service member to leave the housing unit, the housing company will pay all relocation costs.
• Housing costs: Ensures service members don’t have to pay a deposit, and any fee or penalty related to ending a lease early, except for normal wear and tear. The bill also requires contractors to reimburse service members for damage to their private property caused by a hazard.
• Withholding incentive fees: Requires the Secretary of Defense to withhold incentive fees to any contractor who persistently fails to remedy hazards.
• Common credentials: Creates standard credentials for health, safety and environmental inspectors across services, and including contractors, to ensure consistent inspection practices.
• Additional transparency for service members: Requires the Defense Department to establish an electronic system so that service members can track and oversee their work orders.
Sens. Warner and Kaine have been outspoken advocates for service members and their families, pressing the Defense Department to address the health and safety hazards on military bases across Virginia. In August, Sens. Warner and Kaine asked the Army for a plan to address the dangerous conditions found on its bases, including Fort Belvoir in Virginia. In February, Sen. Warner met with Secretary of the Army Mark Esper, pressing for steps the Department plans to take to resolve serious health hazards in military housing.
In February, the Senators wrote to the Secretaries of the U.S. Navy, Air Force, and Army, urging each branch to make improving military housing conditions a priority and requesting more information on the existing contracts with several private companies that manage thousands of family housing units at military bases across Virginia. In November, Sen. Warner also wrote to then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressing what the Senator termed “unacceptable conditions” in the homes, and demanded a briefing from the Defense Department on the situation as well as a plan from the Defense Department to ensure the safety of military families residing in private housing moving forward.
This week, Sen. Warner announced stunning new numbers highlighting the crumbling state of national parks in Virginia. He continued to emphasize the need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act – bipartisan legislation endorsed by the Trump Administration – to address the maintenance backlog at national parks across the country.
These numbers from the National Park Service (NPS) show that despite completing more than $671 million in needed repair work in the 2018 fiscal year, the national backlog of deferred maintenance needs grew by more than $313 million last year, bringing the total cost of overdue maintenance needs at NPS sites across the country to $11.9 billion. In Virginia alone, the backlog grew by $100 million last year, leading to a $1.1 billion shortfall for Commonwealth’s park sites.
One of the major increases came from deferred maintenance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. This week, Sen. Warner met with Parkway superintendent J.D. Lee at Warner’s office in Washington, D.C. In the meeting, Warner and Lee discussed the fact that deferred maintenance on the Blue Ridge Parkway increased by more than $46 million in 2018, bringing the total for the parkway to $508,077,342, including $212,702,891 in Virginia alone. Sen. Warner also reiterated the need to pass the Restore Our Parks Act.
The Restore Our Parks Act has widespread support among legislators and conservation groups. It would reduce the maintenance backlog by establishing the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” and allocating existing revenues from onshore and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury, not exceeding $1.3 billion each year for the next five years.
Sen. Warner reintroduced the Restore Our Parks Act in February along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Angus King (I-ME). A similar bill was introduced in the House by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA), and has the backing of more than 120 cosponsors.
VA National Park Deferred Maintenance as of 2018 is available here. The chart below reflects VA data for FY17 and FY18.
FY17 Deferred Maintenance
FY18 Deferred Maintenance
|Appomattox Court House National Historical Park||$1,998,224||$3,263,249||$1,265,025|
|Assateague Island NS||$2,774,577||$2,545,865||– $228,712|
|Blue Ridge Parkway||$186,619,608||$212,702,891||$26,083,283|
|Booker T Washington National Monument||$1,370,913||$1,418,420||$47,507|
|Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP||$327,072||$823,242||$496,170|
|Colonial National Historical Park||$421,872,932||$433,899,266||$12,026,334|
|Cumberland Gap National Historical Park||$1,848,864||$1,805,537||– $43,327|
|Fort Monroe National Monument||$2,280,548||$2,495,127||$214,579|
|Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Mem NMP||$10,371,731||$12,688,403||$2,316,672|
|George Washington Birthplace National Monument||$1,306,614||$1,648,576||$341,962|
|George Washington Memorial Parkway||$233,441,316||$293,494,667||$60,053,351|
|Harpers Ferry National Historical Park||$64,760||$498,101||$433,341|
|Maggie L Walker National Historic Site||$531,648||$702,422||$170,774|
|Manassas National Battlefield Park||$6,516,560||$8,186,965||$1,670,405|
|Petersburg National Battlefield||$11,754,041||$8,924,807||– $2,829,234|
|Prince William Forest Park||$18,619,932||$24,148,020||$5,528,088|
|Richmond National Battlefield Park||$6,581,205||$5,261,371||– $1,319,834|
|Shenandoah National Park||$79,208,621||$88,765,195||$9,556,574|
|Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts||$31,149,289||$34,175,868||$3,026,579|
Some highlights from Sen. Warner’s busy week:
• GALLING: On Monday, Sen. Warner responded to the President’s budget proposal and highlighted the draconian cuts to critical programs like medical research, education, environmental protection, transportation, and health care, as well is its provisions that single out federal workers.
• SCAMMERS: This week, Sen. Warner and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced the Securities Fraud Enforcement and Investor Compensation Act, bipartisan legislation that would give the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) power to seek restitution for Main Street investors harmed by securities fraud.
• CLEARANCE: Along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Warner introduced bipartisan legislation to protect the integrity of the security clearance process and ensure that it cannot be abused for political purposes.
• IT’S POLITICAL: Sen. Warner took Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger to task for her efforts to gut consumer protection rules concerning payday loans.
• FOOD DESERTS: This week, Sen. Warner reintroduced bipartisan legislation to increase access to grocery stores in areas designated as “food deserts.”
• INTERNET OF THINGS: Sen. Warner reintroduced the Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2019, which would require that devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements.
The Senate adjourned yesterday for its March recess and will return on Monday, March 25th.
Warner & Kennedy introduce bill to help investors harmed by fraud
WASHINGTON – On March 14th, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Kennedy (R-LA), members of the Senate Banking Committee, introduced the Securities Fraud Enforcement and Investor Compensation Act, bipartisan legislation that would give the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) power to seek restitution for Main Street investors harmed by securities fraud.
The bill would give the SEC a broader range of tools to seek compensation for investors who’ve lost money to Ponzi schemes and other investment scams. It also extends the window of time for which the SEC can pursue a claim on an investor’s behalf from five years to ten.
“As Bernie Madoff demonstrated, financial fraudsters can sometimes go on for years, even decades, before they finally get caught. They shouldn’t be able to rip off investors just because some arbitrary five-year window has expired,” said Sen. Warner. “This bill will give the Securities and Exchange Commission more time and additional tools to seek restitution for everyday Americans who fall victim to investment scams.”
“Investors who are scammed by con artists like Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford lose their life savings. All too often, the victims of financial fraud aren’t wealthy people,” Sen. Kennedy said. “They’re middle class Americans who lose every penny they set aside for their retirements. Because of a narrow window of time for recouping stolen investment dollars, fraudsters are actually incentivized to keep the shell game going for decades. This bill addresses that problem.”
On June 5, 2017, the Supreme Court in Kokesh v. Securities Exchange Commission ruled that the SEC only has five years to bring disgorgement claims against bad actors to try to compensate harmed Main Street investors. Although the SEC strives to bring cases as soon as possible, sometimes well-concealed frauds are not discovered for many years. (As an example, Bernie Madoff was able to defraud investors for decades before his investment fund was revealed as Ponzi scheme in 2009.) Under the Kokesh precedent, clever fraudsters can manage to retain any ill-gotten gains from outside the five-year window.
The implications of the Kokesh ruling limiting the SEC’s enforcement window to five years have been significant. The SEC’s 2018 enforcement report noted that “the court’s ruling in Kokesh may cause the Commission to forgo up to approximately $900 million in disgorgement, of which a substantial amount likely could have been returned to retail investors.” The Securities Fraud Enforcement and Investor Compensation Act addresses this problem by expanding the range of tools available to the SEC to pursue compensation for scammed investors, subject to a 10-year statute of limitations.
Today, the SEC typically compensates harmed investors by bringing disgorgement claims, which allow the SEC to recoup any ill-gotten profits from the perpetrator and turn them over to the investor. Sometimes, the profits are small, and the compensation can represent just a small fraction of the overall loss to the investor as a result of the fraud. Under the terms of the bill, the SEC would retain the power to bring disgorgement claims for up to five years, but would also gain the authority to file claims of restitution, which would increase the amount of compensation available to make whole harmed investors. Rather than limiting the compensation to just the profit margin of the perpetrator, as with a disgorgement claim, restitution would allow the SEC to recover from fraudsters and refund investors the full amount of their losses, up to ten years after the fact.
Bill text is available here.
Warner & Collins introduce bipartisan legislation to establish transparent standards for security clearances
WASHINGTON – On March 14th, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), joined with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the Committee, to introduce bipartisan legislation to protect the integrity of the security clearance process and ensure that it cannot be abused for political purposes.
“Americans should be able to have confidence that the security clearance process is being used only to protect our nation’s greatest secrets,” said Sen. Warner. “Our bipartisan bill will make clear that security clearances are not to be used as a tool to punish political opponents or reward family members, but to ensure personnel are thoroughly vetted to the highest standards.”
“The security clearance system is critical to protecting our country from harm and safeguarding access to our secrets. Americans should have the utmost confidence in the integrity of the security clearance process,” said Sen. Collins. “This bipartisan bill would make the current system more fair and transparent by ensuring that decisions to grant, deny, or revoke clearances are based solely on established adjudicative guidelines.”
The Integrity in Security Clearance Determinations Act will ensure that the security clearance process is fair, objective, transparent, and accountable by requiring decisions to grant, deny, or revoke clearances to be based on published criteria. It explicitly prohibits the executive branch from revoking security clearances based on the exercise of constitutional rights, such as the right to freely express political views, or for purposes of political retaliation. It also bans agencies from using security clearances to punish whistleblowers or discriminate on the basis of sex, gender, religion, age, handicap, or national origin.
The bipartisan bill also codifies in statute the right of government employees to appeal decisions to deny or revoke a security clearance, and requires the government to publicly publish the results of such appeals – providing transparency, accountability and basic due process rights in an otherwise opaque and irregular process.
The legislation aims to enhance the rigor and accountability of our security clearance process and to prevent abuses. It complements other reforms the executive branch is undertaking to modernize how the government processes clearances, and was developed with input from a wide range of experts across the government and in private law practice.
A copy of the bill text is available here.
President signs bill designating National George C. Marshall Museum and Library
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump signed a bill into law Tuesday (March 13) which would designate the George C. Marshall Museum and Research Library in Lexington, Virginia, as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library. The facility is located at the Virginia Military Institute.
Congressman Ben Cline (VA-06) introduced H.Con.Res. 14 on Tuesday, February 5. Language identical to Cline’s legislation to designate the national museum was included in a package of bills signed by the president this week.
Marshall served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army from 1939-1945, Secretary of State from 1947-1949, and Secretary of Defense from 1950-1951. He is largely credited with formulating the Allied victory in Europe and the subsequent Marshall Plan to rebuild the continent after World War II.
“In Virginia, we remember George C. Marshall as a remarkable leader and public servant as well as a graduate of one of the country’s most storied military schools,” Cline said. “His contributions to world history are unparalleled, which is why designation as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library on the post of VMI will bring a renewed interest in Marshall’s work and life for a new generation.”
“The designation as the National George C. Marshall Museum and Library recognizes our organization, with its vast collections of artifacts and records from Marshall’s career, as the ultimate authority on Marshall’s life and times, thereby encouraging those who wish to learn more about Marshall and his impact on world affairs to visit us and access our considerable resources. Simply stated, it further promotes our fundamental mission to ensure that General Marshall remains in the public consciousness and inspires future leaders,” said Russell Fletcher, Marshall Foundation Chairman of the Board and Acting President.